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Priorities

Yesterday I cleaned my house (the front rooms, anyway) until it was sparkly. Then I hosted the homeowner’s association, of which I am the secretary and thus took all the notes.

I also made cookies and brownies.

I kept the children from bothering my husband, who was working at home all day in the study (writing.)

I paid a bunch of bills.

I spent a lot of time with the little ones, supervising their play outside, reading books, playing legos.

I fulfilled my duties at an online forum for which I am a moderator.

I walked and fed the dog, helped my husband edit his writing, made sure my daughter made it to the school dance, fixed a lovely lunch, and planted the fig tree my husband bought from the nursery.

Yesterday evening, my husband, who never makes a peep when the house is a complete wreck, which is most of the time, thoughtfully said, “The house looks amazing. It feels really comfortable.”

To which I responded, “Today was the first day all year that I didn’t write a blog post. When the house is clean, I’m not writing.”

And here I am today, before anyone wakes up, hoping I can get this last sentence in before the insanity starts.

Playing Their Game vs. Survival Mode

A few weeks ago, after we received our tax return, I came up with a very reasonable, responsible plan to pay off some of our credit card debt with a substantial portion of the amount. I even projected my plan into next year with the goal of eventually paying of our debt entirely.

I’m sure my current position as budgeting instructor has contributed significantly to my fabulous life strategy.

Playin’ the game to win, baby.

But here’s what happened.

Real life and the cyber world conspired to place within earshot one too many conversations about the end of civilization as we know it. Since making my brilliant plan, but luckily not yet sending in the check, I’ve heard lots of talk of global warming/peak oil consumption/terrorists getting nukes/ and other nail biting scenarios in which the fire pit out back becomes the hearth of our home and whatever seeds a person happened to buy for their garden lately is what they’re gonna eat for the next, well, forever.

My thought has shifted to: I’m gonna waste the bird we have in our hand on something pretend like a credit score?

A game changing world event could come along any second. And if it does, are the credit card people going to be banging on my door? No, they’re gonna be in their own corner of the planet, trying to build a fire pit in their backyard. Wishing they’d bought seeds instead of another yacht.

So I can blow a wad on paying them back, or I can spend that money on real items that might help my family survive in our own corner.

Even more than the actual money is how I FEEL about each decision. When I was in the mind frame of paying a lot toward credit cards: trapped, small, controlled, sad, resigned, low. I’m never going to win the game. It’s definitely rigged. Once you’ve agreed to play, you’ve lost. You can lose more or less, you have some control over how far you’re gonna bend over, but you’re gonna lose.

Once I entertained the possibility of continuing to pay a bit more than the monthly minimum (after all, I’m not out to default on my agreements) and invest the rest in our life and our actual future: alive!, powerful, engaged, real.

I’m sure the credit card companies would be thrilled with this plan. After all, the longer it takes me to pay them off, the more they get.

But if the ship goes down, I’m swimming away without looking back. They can keep their numbers and their scores and we’ll just call it good.

And even if it means paying more in the long run, it might be worth it to buy this feeling of control.

Apple Trees

We went to a local nursery and bought a couple of Gala apple trees, which I planted in front of the house.

I tried to take a picture of them, but they are so spindly and without leaves that they are quite unimpressive and hard to distinguish in a photograph.

I think I probably killed the decorative cherry when I moved it, but it was one of the things Habitat had already planted, and this poor thing had been butchered multiple times so that it is like a big fat trunk with a few thin branches poking off the top. I do hate to kill plants, but I couldn’t just leave this orphaned, deformed thing in the perfect spot for one of the apple trees.

Skimming through advice online for apples, I read that if one doesn’t employ some type of pesticide, one’s yield will be of very poor quality, so at some point I may have to investigate organic types of pest repellants.

If anyone reading this is experienced with apple trees and wants to share a few hints, I’d be most grateful.

Otherwise, think appley thoughts for us, that we might enjoy a decent harvest in a few years.

Sacrificial Lamb

The day before yesterday when I was jonesing to get out into the garden, get my hands dirty, when I was anticipating enjoying the fruits of my efforts, I had a visceral understanding of why people would traditionally make a sacrifice to the gods to ensure a good harvest. Obviously for them it was more a matter of survival than it is for me, but just the feeling of being willing to do anything, look, I’ll even slit the throat of this cute little lamb and leave it on your altar, anything.

Yesterday I went first thing and bought myself a couple of new tools and then prepared a raised bed. Shored up with concrete blocks the far end which slopes down the hill. Used the shovel A LOT.

This morning, I realize what the sacrifice has been. My body. It’s hurtin’. Definitely not a cute little lamb, but something I’m apparently willing to put on the chopping block, in a manner of speaking, to make the garden happen.

I hope it is enough of a demonstration of my commitment to convince the sun, rain, soil and seeds to cooperate.

Lettuce Away!

I loved it last year when my husband would go out on the deck to pick some lettuce for the lunch he was packing himself. Thinking of him eating homegrown, organic lettuce in his lunch, which he might eat really far from home, covering some news story that was stressing him out and making him believe even more than he already does that the human race is f***ed… it makes me feel like I might be contributing to the good of the world.

Maybe he will taste hope. Maybe he will taste the love of a wife, the warm care of the sun, the solid affection of the dirt, the tasty freshness of lettuce grown on your own porch.

Maybe it will be reflected in his story, which many will read, and the love will make it through the labyrinth, somehow, and feed the world.

Such tiny seeds. Such big dreams.

NOT lettuce, obviously, but I am reusing the big black containers... also I like to remember my basil...

Homemade hot pockets?

My first attempt at "hot pockets"

I’m probably not even allowed to say “Hot Pockets” because of copyright infringement, am I? What if I spell it “Hawt Pawkets?” What if the pocket of my jeans is actually on fire? And then I put some filling in it, a little cheese on top?

Well, anyway, pirating of colonized bits of the English language aside, I know my peeps love the real thing. And it didn’t seem that hard to do.

Well, as you can see, my first attempt resulted in an explosion. They are more like “Sloppy Joes” (can I say that without risk of prosecution?)

These particular ones contain BBQ chicken and cheddar cheese. I made a basic dough recipe, then rolled pieces out pretty flat into circles, put the filling on, twisted up the edges, turned them over and cooked them seam side down.

Possible errors: Rolled dough too thin? Filling was pretty warm already, so maybe it made too much steam too quickly? Should have somehow allowed more room inside (but the dough was yeasted, so should have expanded to accommodate, and I didn’t pack it really tight…)? Should have baked it on a lower temperature (I did 375) so that the outside wouldn’t firm up right away and halt expansion?

Not sure. But they were hella tasty, I can guarantee that. And maybe if they’re ugly, fewer people will be tempted to eat them, and then, more for me!!!

Gave in… Fingers crossed.

I couldn’t take it anymore. It’s such a gorgeous day outside, and the winter has been so mild, I figured I’d gamble a couple of bucks, go ahead and plant the carrot and radish seeds I bought weeks ago in breathless anticipation.

Sure, they’re calling for snow tomorrow and Monday. But you know, they do that occasionally, and 99 times out of 100 it’s a bunch of hooey.

I may have jinxed us for a blizzard.

Either way, carrots or snow, I’ll be happy!

Compost Buckets With Flair

Our Compost Bucket -- "Party Mix - For People You Hate"

My husband decided to customize our compost bucket. He’s a good one for covering all contingencies, such as finding oneself burdened with undesirable company. Just offer them a delightful assortment of rotting lemon rinds, coffee grounds and slimy egg shells with an ever-so-delicate sprinkling of half-chewed toast!

Reminds me of when I was a kid and my father would just happen to take out the compost bucket while I was eating dinner (my parents like to pretend they’re European and eat at 9 or 10 o’clock at night, but I, being comfortable with my Americanness, preferred to eat at the more civilized hour of 5 o’clock, so it was always me dining solo.) He’d sneak up behind me and waft the bucket under my  nose, inquiring politely, “You want some of this?” then chuckle as I squealed in horror.

Come to think of it, my husband and my father have pretty much the same sense of humor.

I’m not going to extrapolate the available information and consider the possibility that my father saw me as an unwelcome guest. After all, there was nothing written on his bucket.

But if you’re visiting my house and you think my husband’s about to take out the compost… you might want to brace yourself.

Healthy Snacks

We are big snackers here. I want to revamp the meals I fix as well, but I want to start with what is available to munch on because I think we usually have too much junk.

Guiding principles: homemade, low sugar content, whole grains, fresh whole foods when available/affordable, nutritious and delicious!

(Another secret goal that I will never admit to so “I’m just speaking hypothetically…” *nervous whistling*… is, if my child snacks too much or too close to mealtime and isn’t hungry for dinner, I won’t stress about it. Because heck, if my kid has just munched on an apple, some cashews and a homemade oatmeal cookie, I’m thinking that’ll get ’em where they need to be.)

So here’s my sketched up list of…

Snack Staples

  • cut veggies (usually carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, bell pepper)
  • cheese (sliced by me or string cheese)
  • hard boiled eggs
  • muffins or cookies (loaded with whole grains, nuts, dried fruit, or other tasty nutritious ingredients)
  • homemade granola (again, whole grains, nuts, etc.)
  • soy milk
  • fruit (in season and as we can afford it, although we almost always have a bag of apples on hand)
  • dried fruit
  • nuts
  • homemade bread or roll (whole grains/nuts) with some kind of topping (peanut butter, nutella, cinnamon & sugar, etc.)

I’m hoping to come up with some new ideas of things my kids will love (and forget about how much they loved the pre-packaged stuff.) If you’ve come up with something fabulous that your kids love, please share it in a comment! We could come up with a huge wonderful list of awesome snacks!

Here’s a pic of my “Breakfast Cookies” which are as healthy as can be! For the recipe, read this post: New Project

Renewed Commitment to Health

There are lot of reasons I periodically feel the desperate urge to “start all over” and be healthy from here on out. I think we all do this from time to time, inspired by the new year, a recent bout of ill health, watching yet another documentary about how crappy we eat and how it’s killing us, or whatever shifts our consciousness to realize the imbalanced lifestyle we’ve been leading.

So what’s different this time?

For starters, this isn’t a “time.” Instead of seeing this as “from this day forward,” I see myself as simply moving forward in my lifetime quest for optimal health. I may spend another period of time being unhealthy in the future, but at least I will have taken care of myself pretty well for a while, and maybe I will learn some new things and pick up one or two good habits that will stick with me and make the unhealthy times a little less harmful.

I find it quite unhealthy to put lots of pressure on myself to “be perfect forever.”

Another thing that’s different is that everything will be phrased positively. I was going to make my motto “Don’t don’t work!” then realized I was being negative. Maybe it could be, “Do the do!” as in, “Do eat fruit every day!” and “Do take the stairs!” Keep it positive.

Yet a third thing that is different in my current approach is a deeper understanding of the balance between physical, mental and spiritual health. I think in the past I’ve tried to just change one thing or another, but I can see things as being interconnected now and I understand that all apparently separate aspects of my being need to be considered, and that caring for one can care for all in a pinch.

I’ll write more specific details in the future, but for now I just wanted to lay out the groundwork philosophy of this “continuation” project of living in health and happiness.

I will put all decisions through the 3 filters of : Humility, Compassion and Harmony. Am I in a humble state of mind, tapped into my compassionate nature, ready to harmonize? Did my choice come from humility, does it use compassion, will it lead to harmony?

These three states of being lead to three actions: Receive, Embrace and Transform.

Receiving input of all kinds from any available sources, including but not limited to: information, intuitive feelings, sensory perceptions, other people’s perspectives as well as my own assessment of “The Big Picture.” I believe health begins with an honest and humble look around.

Embracing what is, accepting reality, acknowledging the circumstances and other people’s participation. Using compassion to open my arms, heart and mind to Life, to meet fully the insight and power involved in every moment. Health is a beautiful relationship with the world, a loving, mutual embrace between my being and the All.

Transforming the situation by working in harmony with it. Not forcing, not struggling, but instead waiting for the wave and riding it. Health is not a moment of perfection frozen in time but a path, a journey, a string of an infinite number of moments each appreciated for what it is, each synchronized with to the best of our abilities.

This spot right now, as my fingers ticka-tack letters on a keyboard, is the moment I recommit to exploring healthy ways to walk in balance. If you’ll share the wisdom of your journey as well, we can have some fun and companionship along the way!