Saturday, January 24, 2015

Making Your Own Sunshine, i.e. Ham, Potato and Cheese Casserole

We're still up here in the panhandle of Idaho, where it is cold, and as soon as a little patch of grass peeks through it snows again. Once in awhile the sun breaks through and we see blue and big puffy white clouds, but mostly it's that gray that coats everything so that the houses and the fences and the trees and everything looks - if we're honest - a little blah.

So happy has to be in our hearts right now.

Because attitude is everything, especially when everything is gray outside.

A few days ago I was walking Miss Lily, mid-morning, on yet another gray day, and as we made our way down the sidewalk the smell of fabric softener filled the air. That smell that comes out of the dryer exhaust vent, so that the entire world, or at least the ten square feet you're standing in, smells like dryer sheets.

And it made me smile. There's something so soul-restoring about doing laundry, taking yucky towels and sheets and clothes, dumping them into a machine, and two hours later they come out fluffy and soft and smelling great.  I envisioned stacks of folded towels going back into the cupboard, socks into drawers, pajamas ready to be worn that night.

Sometimes it's the little things.

Often it's the little things.

There are days I'd like to stuff me in the washer, pour in some good-smelling laundry soap, set a cycle, and two hours later I pop out clean and wholesome and ready to bless someone. To turn a phrase from My Fair Lady, "Oh, wouldn't it be loverly?"

So in this grayness of the northwest, where we'll be for another ten days or so (how fast our time here went!), I defeated the definition of eternity:

Two people and a ham.

Sidenote:  “Eternity is two people and a ham" is an old quip from the days when a ham was huge—far more than two people could finish. Irma Rombauer mentions this line in her famous cookbook, The Joy of Cooking.”

I took that ham I'd cooked the day before, and instead of re-serving it for a solid week, I chopped it up, and turned it into supper to be shared with our daughter's family, and as we sat around the table, I soaked in all their faces, smiling and talking and shoving in bites, and I was thankful. Even more thankful than I am when I walk across the smell of fabric softener passing over the sidewalk I'm on.

And here is what ham, potato and broccoli casserole generally looks like....

Cheesy Shredded Potatoes and Ham (from More Healthy Homestyle Cooking, page 164)

two cartons of dehydrated shredded potatoes or one 24-ounce bag of frozen hash browns
two cups or so of ham, chopped into bite-size pieces (can substitute chicken)
1 jar pimentos, drained (I didn't have any so we skipped)
1 Tbsp parsley
1 Tbsp italian herbs
1/4 tsp ground pepper
Handful of dehydrated onions, or 1/2 cup chopped onions
1 can cream of something soup, I used reduced fat cheddar broccoli
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 soup can of milk

Spray 9x13 pan with cooking spray, then line bottom of pan with hash browns (rehydrate if you used the dehydrated kind). In separate bowl mix together ham (or chicken), pimentos, soup, milk, cheese, herbs and pour mixture over potatoes.

I also added a bag of frozen broccoli, which I zapped in microwave and drained before adding. Because we are big broccoli fans. If you are not, skip this, or use peas or corn or whatever you are a big fan of. The broccoli gives it a bit of color so the whole mess doesn't look like Idaho's sky right now.

Bake in 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes. Find people you love to gather around table, and dig in. Add good conversation, perhaps little ones dancing to music in background rather than sitting at table, and throw in a loaf of some kind of bread with real butter. This meal doesn't technically need another carb but my take is winter calls for lots of homemade bread and you can switch to healthier eating when the sun comes out in April or so. Guaranteed to fill tummies and souls at same time.

If you want to really live outrageously, bake up a box of brownies at same time, and devour as soon after casserole as humanly possible, adding ice cream highly recommended.

Sometimes it's the little things.

Often it's the little things.

Back soon with what I'm reading, seeing at the movies, sewing, knitting, and such.  Stay warm and make your own sunshine!


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A craving for real, not virtual

Getting situated the first of the year takes me forever, and that's when everything is rosy. January 1 rolls around and we're busy with parades and all-day-pajamas and football and hams and such; not much gets accomplished that day.  If I spent January 1 alone, in a cabin in the woods, I'd get the year all set up, but that's not happening. I hate cold, I'm scared of bears, and I love family so....

Then comes January 2. Normally. This year the flu came instead, but also a grandchild 2000 miles away who got hurt on a trampoline, and is currently in a huge cast, riding around in a wheelchair. She's going to be fine, but something I didn't see coming as a grandparent - when your kids' kids get hurt you hurt and fret and worry and wring hands and pray your heads off, just like you did with your own kids back in the day, not that any of that except the praying helps a whit, but you do. And it takes every ounce of energy out of you til you know they're going to be okay.

We sent her a wheelchair, cast and bandages for her doll, Joy and that seemed to make it a bit better, til we can get back to Texas and love on her ourselves. If you have to be in a wheelchair, with a heavy cast, then obviously your doll should be too.

Right after we knew our granddaughter would be okay, we got slammed with the flu, not at the same time, but rather a lovely handing the baton off when the first one finished the race. As soon as I knew I'd survive he started with it. Which brings us to now.

This past December I bought Whitney English's Day Designer, 2015 version, and am still trying to fill out the first core sheets, where you figure out what makes you tick, what your goals are up to when you take your last breath here on earth. Then you figure out how to put climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro or becoming a Rockette onto your yearly, monthly, and daily schedule. I'm at that part now. The designer seemed a bit pricey ($59 plus s/h) but that's about 17 drinks served through the local coffee drive-up, which most of us don't hesitate over. If we're honest, most of us have our own '17 drinks of coffee' thing that is much like money falling through an unknown hole in our pocket. Ultimately it cost me one month's allowance, and so far I think it's worth every penny. Whitney only opens her shop at certain times of the year, as each designer is made specifically for the customer. I believe she'll be producing more in May of this year.

During the free webinar that comes with the planner, Whitney mentioned a book, "Strengthsfinder2.0. Reading the book takes 30 minutes, then there's a list of 34 'themes', which are names for categories of strengths. The book comes with a sealed one-time-use code, allowing you online access, to the strength assessment. The hardback cost $15.18 at Amazon, or $13.99 on kindle.

Taking the assessment can reframe how we work, play, or plan. Tom Rath, the author, asserts that people generally work on their weaknesses, trying to get better where they're not naturally inclined, rather than figuring out what they are naturally gifted at and building on that. Interesting perspective. So rather than me studying math til I'm blue in the face, so I can volunteer to do people's taxes for free, perhaps study art or writing or find a place to serve that requires extra measures of empathy.  I'll be interested to see what my top five 'themes' of talents/strengths are. Results are not based on education, experience, acquired skills but rather natural bents. Supposedly who we are at around 3 is the same as who we'll be when we're 26 - not sure if that's heartwarming for all the young moms out there....

Whitney's webinar encouraged us to ask ourselves a question: 'What will make a better version of you?" After rolling it around in my head for a few days, wasting time checking statuses online, I decided to change to checking Facebook once a day. If today was to be my last day on earth, I doubt I'd wish I'd spent much of it online, seeing what everyone is eating, cooking, watching, where they're going, who they're with, etc. I can see myself weaning away even more in days to come. I don't want a virtual life, I want a real one, with real people, breathing the same air I am. I want to be in this life thing with real people, those who will care when I'm not here anymore.

In the relational category of my resolutions/goals, I wrote this:

'Be present in the moment, not the media.'

This past seven days I've knit two hats, made a cake from scratch, had coffee with my daughter, wine with my  husband, walked the dog most days while our boots crunched down the snow on the uncleared sidewalks, soaked in scalding, scented bubble baths while reading a book, pieced a table runner, held grandchildren on my lap, helped teach children's church to K-5 and watched them worship freely, talked to a child about not seeing his Daddy for the past 8 years because he's in prison, organized my pantry, scrubbed floors and toilets and put fresh sheets on the beds, took muffins to our neighbors, called my best friend and talked for an hour; all of which made me feel alive and vital and engaged in the world, loved, honored to be alive. Facebook / Instagram has never done that for me, and likely isn't going to start now. I don't want to finish this life having won the highest level of whatever virtual game is on its sidebar. I want a skin-to-skin life, touching real people and being touched back.

So how about today - wherever you are, just a teensy bit more of being truly in the moment, and not in the media, because what we're all craving out of this life is not virtual, but real. Touch something, touch somebody, talk to someone, hug someone, feed someone, share a meal with someone, touch the actual pages of a book, stir some soup, fold some fresh laundry, kiss chubby cheeks, smell the top of a baby's head, and spend some time alone, not at a screen.

We don't have any guarantee of tomorrow, just today. Today I'm off to do laundry, finish the table runner, play at recess and have lunch at my grandson's school, sip homemade coffee with a daughter, when I might get to snuggle my newest granddaughter, then to the movies with Cub Sweetheart where we'll plow through an entire bucket of buttered popcorn - cholesterol be damned, then home for wine-thirty, lasagna and garlic bread, a little knitting of a scarf for an upcoming birthday, before I head to the tub to enjoy the last pages of my book. I plan to go to bed tonight filled up with touching and being touched, talking face to face, cooking and eating real food rather than just pinning it to a board.

If today was my last day, that's likely about how I'd choose to spend it, so that's what I'm actually going to do. And not a moment more today of seeing life through a screen, but not actually living it myself.


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Conquering the flu, but not bears and black ice

Hey everybody! Hi there, I've missed you all! Felt like there's been a party going on, and I wasn't invited. I've been under a big ole rock for days, but I'm out!

Has anyone else noticed that there's a lot of talk, book-writing, preaching going on now about conquering our fears? Or is it just fearful me? Is this what the New Year brings out? I've heard - never checked - that 'fear' is referenced 365 times in the Bible, one for each day, so maybe we're all just a fearful lot? Who knew there was so much to be afraid of?

My middle daughter tells me I'm not afraid of anything, and of course that's not true. I'm as afraid as the next person, but my list is different than hers, and I generally push through whatever is scaring me, do it anyway. I'm more the John Wayne school of thought on fear:
  • "Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway." 

(Sidenote - this reminds me I'm a little bit afraid of big ole horses!).

I've always loved that quote. And mostly lived by it, and mostly because I didn't have much choice, so I don't know if I get to call it courage or life necessity.

I'm not sure we're all SO afraid, but we each have our list. Those things that completely throw us off kilter, freeze us in our tracks, keep us from going forward. And we tend to let them move in and take up residence, accept that they're going to be with us forever. Permanent residence.

Off the top of my head, here's my quick fear list:

grasshoppers, the bigger the scarier!
frogs when they hop
lizards, any size
aggressive, protective roosters
other people's dogs, if they're very big and don't wag their tail at me
swimming in the ocean deeper than my knees
driving on black ice
bears not in zoos
being separated from others when traveling which can sometimes mean Walmart's aisles
jumping out of an airplane or bungee jumping

That's my big list. Very scary stuff as you can see. I mean, everyone knows someone who has been taken out by a grasshopper, or lizard, so I know this is a completely rational list.

Here's what I'm NOT afraid of:

snakes - poisonous or otherwise
dogs that wag their tails at me, even if they weigh 200 lbs
driving across the country alone
staying alone (my favorite actually)
bridges - any size, any height
flying, any size plane (my favorite way to get there - fast!)
other people, even strangers unless they look really, really questionable
trying new things
swimming in lakes, even when they're 1000 feet deep

This year I realized I have a seasonal fear - getting the flu. THE FLU, not a stomach virus, but the stuff that lays you flat for a week, alone in a dark room, where the air smells like mentholatum and used kleenex and wadded blankets and no fresh air. And that's what happened. In spite of getting the flu shot, and in spite of Cub Sweetheart getting the flu shot, we both got the flu. THE FLU.

And it wasn't so bad.

It did take a solid week of each of our lives, we bought our share of over-the-counter meds, and have been sleeping in separate bedrooms long enough that the dog thinks we're doomed for a breakup,

but we survived.

I've gotten the flu shot every single year forever, would never miss, because I like to be sure and control all I can (don't we all?), and getting the shot usually protects one from getting the flu, so I did that, but this year it didn't. So all my efforts to prevent, avoid something that scared me didn't work, and I was rotten sick for several days. My teeth chattered around that thermometer, I took three baths a day to try to get warm, I stayed in pajamas and ate very little, slept like a baby, and that's all. I survived and it wasn't so bad.

On the backside of having to actually deal with something that scares me, I feel empowered. First of all I won't get it again this year. Come on February and March and April - I'm ready! But mostly it's empowering to know I handled something I was afraid of, even if I didn't willingly volunteer.

Frogs, lizards, dogs on walks, oceans, roosters - watch out! Here I come!

Black ice and bears in woods - you still win. For now. 

Friday, January 2, 2015

Being brave.......

Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. –JOHN WATSON
After five years of being gone, I've forgotten what it felt like to live in Pennsylvania during the winter. Those times when the snow would come down at a hard, heavy slant thru the night all night - how snug and cozy our beds felt while we slept - and we'd wake to white wonderland. We would pull on snow garb, grab shovels and head outdoors, joining the neighbors all around us, and the crisp, cold air would carry the clunking sound of metal hitting concrete as paths were cleared. A few particular times, when I had a cold, I'd come in with frozen mess down my face from doing what had to be done, and there was nobody else to do it. Colds and flu had little to do with driveways needing cleared or there was no going out.

Generally the men started up and ran the big red contraptions, with magnificent blowing arcs of snow flying through the air, while we women cleared paths to the front door, then sprinkled everything with a layer of salt to keep it clear. When the job was done we'd all head back inside, peel off the wet, cold layers in a dripping pile at the door, and head to hot showers to thaw out. 

There was a particular weekend when the snow came down in feet rather than inches, and we dug ourselves out, bundled up, braved the roads and headed to church. Only a small group of us made it, but the camaraderie of that service still sticks with me years later. We were an army who had just won a battle! We hugged and patted each others' backs, drank coffee and cocoa together, and considered how much more white stuff might come down. We sang and prayed and listened, then bundled back up to head home. I don't remember a word of the sermon, or precisely who was there that day, but I do remember feeling brave for having pushed through, not letting circumstances stop us. Little House on the Prairie come to life!

This year I want more of that, and not just with snowy roads. I want to live brave this year, to trudge through, do the hard things, drive the icy roads so to speak, then gather with those who were also brave to get where they are going. I want to choose that rather than huddling together with those who would talk about how scary life is, what we are all trying to avoid, how overwhelming it all seems. I want to BE brave, and be WITH brave. 

On an given day there is so much of this life that requires a bit of bravery, like...

....a child with disabilities? addiction that keeps raising its ugly head?
....a struggling marriage?
....broken relationships?
....finances stretched to the limit?
....possibility of a lay off at work?
....wanting to be married, but not?
....unexpected singleness, for whatever reason?
....those once held dear, who now wound?
....limitations aging brings?
....making choices to change, stop, start, go a new direction?
....speaking up about what you believe to be true?
....setting healthy boundaries with those who tend to run over you?
....starting over, again?
....reaching out, when you were rejected the last time you did?
....admitting being wrong, and asking forgiveness?
....seeing others through new eyes?

Today, here in the panhandle of Idaho, beautiful, fat, fluffy flakes of snow are coming down furiously, and the roads and sidewalks are disappearing under a blanket of white. We'll take Miss Lily out for her daily walk, trying to find spaces that have been cleared enough for her short, little legs, then we'll come back to our little home, where I plan to bake bread, start knitting a snow cap for someone, and clear out the kitchen pantry. I'll consider how brave looks in my own daily life, and how those I love and hold dear are choosing to live brave lives now, and I'll think of one to call and encourage, and be encouraged by.  Perhaps you too?


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Less is More

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”
― Boyd K. Packer
Does anyone else feel hung over from Christmas? The shelves I saw in Target yesterday, beautifully arranged only a few weeks ago, are stripped B.A.R.E. There is literally not a single string of lights, or roll of paper. Tags, bows, doodads all bought and taken home to be stored for 11 months.

I feel like the discount stores of the world are taking over. This past fall a new one opened blocks from our home, literally across the corner from another competing company; both buildings' shelves were filled with, besides laundry detergent and kleenex, junkola in every shape and size and color.

I'm the pot calling the kettle black - as guilty as the next person of having too much stuff in my life - balls of yarn, and the needles and books of patterns, and gadgets; piles of fabric and patterns and thread and trims; papers and scissors and glues and stickers and cutters; bags and bags of elastic and snaps and hooks and buttons and stuffing and batting and ratty garments needing mending and that is just my craft room.

There is also our office with bookcases full of books I can check out at the local library, a certain section of them ironically on simplifying life.

An entire closet with decor for each season; bins of photo frames, too many coats and boots and gloves and caps; appliances we don't use; movies we don't watch; toys and board games nobody plays with; gardening tools we no longer use; extra sets of dishes that food rarely touches. Headbands and hair clips and earrings and scarves and shoes and handbags and it has begun to all feel like too much. Til I want to shove it all out on the sidewalk and shut and bolt the door behind it all.

I'm at an age where if it's not time to be honest with myself, then when? A look at family members, the genes we share, and the tendency towards overdoing, overbuying, overeverythinging is glaring. My oldest brother had acquired so much stuff, but faced nowhere to live with it all, so he chose death over life. And when he died, his son had to clear out three storage units, and a rented house whose halls were filled with stuff. That gene is scary.

If Angelina Jolie is brave enough to have a double mastectomy due to her genes, perhaps I can be brave enough to at least take a look at mine.

Dollar Stores and Big Lots and TJJ Maxx and - dare I say it? - those bins at the entrance of every single Target in the world -  much of the stuff on the shelves is inexpensive so we can buy three instead of one and drag it home and store, but rarely, use it. I have visions of wads of white lights, stored in bins, but they haven't been hung on our house in over five years. Why do I have them? I'm completely confident Cub Sweetheart would vote to get rid of them, asap!

My daughter got a beautiful cookbook for Christmas, and there was one recipe in it that looked fabulous. (There's a reason most cookbooks have beautiful, color photos.) For a change, instead of ordering the cookbook for $20.50 and having to store it either here in Idaho or drag it back to Texas, I checked it out of the library. Before we fly back to Texas I'll return it to the library, so someone else can check it out - borrow it. By then I should, if I've actually made the recipe, remember it well enough to store it in my brain instead of on a shelf.

I found this blog, quoting that familiar saying. My mother-in-law, who passed away seven years ago, used to tell us she recycled before it was cool. She also had a gazillion mayonnaise jars in her basement canning closet, so there's a balance to go after. But she used up what she had, wore out stuff before she replaced it, made do and did without.  I'd like to be more like that, to emulate her attitude. Because stuff can make you feel like you're drowning in it, or spending all your time maintaining it, or acquiring it, or cleaning it, or arranging it, or storing it.

When we arrived in Idaho we were without heavy winter coats. Today the high is 16, and it got cold enough last night that we left the cupboard doors below the kitchen sink open overnight. I went to Goodwill and bought a coat for under $20, and our son--in-law lent Cub Sweetheart one for the duration of our winter stay. I'm knitting myself a wool hat from yarn I brought out of my stash, and my red boots were a Christmas gift back when we lived in Pennsylvania. My 15 year old snow pants will come in handy for shoveling snow, walking Miss Lily and sledding with grandkids. All of that feels so good, to buy used or borrow and make do, rather than buy new to be used rarely.

Yesterday, driving down the main street that cuts through a neighborhood we saw a wooden structure built next to a roadside mailbox. It had shelves inside and a clear door over the front, and a little sign that said, "free library.' The inside was crammed full of books, and you could take what you wanted and leave some behind. I LOVE that! Someone who gives away their excess and chooses their reading material from what's left at the curb. So Abraham Lincoln! The person living in that house would be interesting to meet. Perhaps I'll drop off a handful of books and knock on the door.

The shelves of the stores are already packed with stuff for Valentine's Day. Aisles of red and pink and white stuff, and the jewelry stores will surely soon start all the guilt commercials, so men feel they need to buy us gifts. Oh my goodness! What if we didn't buy and instead wrote love letters, with pens, on unlined paper, to those we hold dear? What if we went through our stuff and regifted what isn't being used by us, but would bless someone else?

My MIL used to stuff dolls and animals and such with chopped up panty hose. She used the liner in the bacon as a mini-cutting board, or the insides of the potato chip bag. Pickles and stewed tomatoes, grown in her garden, were canned in mayonnaise jars. One of my daughter's most prized dolls, growing up, was not an American Girl doll, but rather Phyllis, purchased for 15 cents, and Grandma Atrel washed and curled her hair, then sewed her clothes from her scrap bag.

So I'm not going to go overboard on not going overboard. I'm not planning to start a co-op garden, give away every single thing I own, or vow to not buy a single thing in 2015. But I am going to focus on 'making it do, doing without, using it up, and wearing it out.' Goodwill, be on alert, I'm coming your way, with a car full of stuff I don't need or want or use, but hopefully someone else will.' 

Monday, December 29, 2014

And we've got resolution categories...

Cub Sweetheart, when asked about resolutions, always, always, always tells me he's never made one. I personally think that counts as making a resolution not to make resolutions. Whatever.

I, however, love resolutions enough for the both of us. I don't know if it's environmental or genetic or a little bit of both tossed in for good measure. My mother has always jotted them down on pads of paper she leaves out by the telephone. Just a few days ago, when I asked her, she said, "Oh, I have some really good ones!" I love that at almost 82 she's still at it, this self-improvement thing.

Woodie Guthrie, back when he was 31, made a list and it's fantastic fun. You can read it HERE.  My favorite of his is #23. HERE'S a list of the most popular if you're interested.

Over the years I've leaned towards categories - Creative, Spiritual, Physical and Relational.

Here's my 2015 list:


#1  - improve photography skills (which may be tricky with a crummy cornea, as seeing clearly is relatively important when looking through a lens)

#2 - improve knitting skills, i.e. socks should fit humans, not Shrek.

#3 - make quilts for last two granddaughters.

#4 - write. just write. Max Lucado says the hardest thing about writing is making your rear stay in the chair.

#5 - read. as much as possible. I thought about the 52 books in 52 weeks, but when you read Anna Karenina it should count as 5 books, first because of length and second because it's B.O.R.I.N.G.  My goal, instead of 52 in 52 is 15,000 pages which equals about 52 books at 300 pages each. There may be days when People magazine read in the bathtub counts too, because we all have those days.


#6 - Tackle reading the Bible again. Right now I'm behind about three months, but that means I made it through nine months; I'll tackle it again, January 1, coffee in hand, reading Genesis 1:1 "just feels so right" to me, thank you Debbie Boone.

#7 - Attend the Sally Clarkson conference in February.

#8 - Quiet time more days than not. Mornings have begun to feel right, coffee, Bible, journal and a daily devotional reading, followed by prayer time. I try to pray for my 'list' daily, and concentrate on each of our kids' family needs one particular day a week.


#9 - Get stronger, more limber, and rest consistently. Stronger has become more important than a flat stomach. Being able to hold up to the tasks of the day, not get injured, and be able totake a hike or walk at the zoo is important. I turn 60 in June, so that seems a good goal. Because really, a six-pack at my age seems a little creepy. Showing it seems more so.


#10 - Call my parents every other week. Weeks, or more, go by between calls to them, my Dad more than my Mom. I don't call them nearly enough. I'll see my Dad this July for his 90th birthday party, and we'll have my Mom visit us at least once, but consistent, regular phone calls are becoming not only more important to them, but a priceless, fleeting gift to me.

#11 - Time with girlfriends. I want to be more intentional with investing time in relationships. No matter how close you are to your adult daughters, you need other girlfriends, for their sake and for yours.

#12 - Be present in the moment. How novel would it be to soak in the moment, rather than take a selfie, or a photo to put on instagram, thinking we're connecting, but with WHO? And certainly not with those we're with. So my goal is to have my phone become more of a tool than a crutch.

and a last, new category - what have I put off forever, keep saying I'll do but don't?


#13 - Photographs. Boxes and organizers and piles and stacks, and a computer hard drive full, not only of ours, but my parents and his parents, til they are looming up at me, and both my girls have said, 'Mom, do NOT leave the photographs for us to deal with!" So I'm going to set aside one day a month when I do that - starting with deleting or throwing away half of them. Remember when we used real film, and took three shots in case someone's eyes were closed? Well, I have all three, including the eyes closed ones, so hopefully I can start deleting and cut the horrid collection in half. Then give all those blasted stickers and dooliedads to my grandkids to make fun stuff with, and make photo albums online, never touching a drop of glue, or cutting out a single flower.

These 13 feel good to me. When Cub Sweetheart asks me, on January 1, during the Rose Bowl parade,  (and he will, with that look on his non-resolving face), 'so have you made any resolutions?', I'll wipe the icing from the canned cinnamon rolls off my lips, take a sip of coffee, and tell him, 'a few'.

How about you? Do you make them? Do you keep them? And what's your one dreaded that keeps coming up on your list but doesn't get done? Maybe this year?

And if you want to tell me your photographs are a dismal failure too I won't hate you for it.


PS I did buy the 'Day Designer, the Strategic Planner & Daily Agenda for living a Well-designed Life" by Whitney English (you can find her on Etsy), and it was pricey, but looks like a great way to get some of this accomplished. "Fail to plan = plan to fail!"

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Running to the finish line....

Isn't this just the B.E.S.T. time of year? Christmas was wonderful (hopefully yours too), but it's behind us, and I know that for a fact because I was at Target yesterday and the only gift wrap left was Pepto Bismal pink or just plain ugly. So ugly that Cub Sweetheart said to me, when I considered buying it anyway, "Bev, that's really not very nice." Which may have meant he didn't want any of his packages wrapped in Pepto Bismal pink next year. Understandable. The shelves, full only days before, had all apparently been attacked by a hoard of locusts, til they were picked completely to the bone.

So I bought a few garlands of white things and brown things, to decorate for winter. Which will stay up in Idaho until May, and in Texas til March 1, which explains why we spend most of winter in Texas instead of Idaho..... March decor in Texas involves beach towels and flip flops and such.

Both of my daughters have earned reputations for stripping the house of anything Christmas at the earliest possible moment, and sometimes that's in the waning hours of December 25. I'm more of a 'leave it til mid-January' unless life is packed too full, and the stuff around me begins to get under my skin and the need for cleared out spaces takes over. Which likely explains why my daughters, with six  kids between them may undecorate so quickly. When I was at their stage of life, and it all started getting to me, I generally gave away pets and toys. They undecorate.

As of today I've got five days to finish up anything 2014, and one of them doesn't really count since it's New Year's Eve and that day will be spent baking and cooking for a get-together still to be planned I suspect.

Here's what's left:

Finish reading the Bible, and the books left would normally take three months, but I'm determined to finish. It's much like, in a very sacrilegious way, accomplishing the first few of the eating challenges on Survivor, only to quit when they get to live bugs or cow blood. If you can't make it through the whole challenge, then why did you eat the first few bugs and such? So I'll be reading the Bible every chance I get for the next five days, trying to finish. I'm thinking that I've already read Leviticus and Revelation (my two least-favorite books) will help ensure success.

Knit the rest of this stocking cap, which was coming along swimmingly until I left the pattern in the back of the seat in front of me on the plane, because someone was trying to escape her on-board crate. After a mere two hours of searching online, which could have been spent reading books of the Bible or knitting said hat, I finally, finally found it, and have learned to save patterns to my Ravelry library. I'm thinking this hat will stay on my head, but not smash my hair so that when I remove it I appear to have been on the deck of a boat, blasted by lake mist for hours on end. For any knitters out there it's called Sarah's Highlander Beret Knit Hat, knitted and designed by Catherine Basten - free on Ravelry and easy peasy to knit up. If you don't lose the pattern.

Spend several hours fretting over the fact that one of our Christmas boxes has yet to arrive, in spite of spending $45 to ship it through the post office, with tracking and insurance, which so far has not helped a whit to ensure its delivery. I sent the post office an email this morning, and they assure me they will respond in three days, and I have complete faith in that, based on their great service so far.....

Spend a few more hours trying to remember what was in the lost package, so if and when it doesn't arrive I will be able to file a claim and figure out how to show the value of my 20 year old snow pants, or all the hand-made gifts I spent hours making. Not bitter. Not crying. Not cursing.

Read Shepherd's Abiding again. When I'm not reading books of the Bible, because it is the perfect read between Christmas and New Year's. After meeting Jan Karon earlier this year it's an even more special read, so I'm copying my cyber-friend, Becky who rereads it every Christmas.

Make a starting list for books to read in 2015, half fiction and half not. Santa gave me Wild, and a book I think is called Me Before You, plus I've got a Shauna Niequist, two of Sophie Hudson's and Sally Clarkson's new book is coming out any day too. So many books, so not enough time.

Figure out my new phone, while being thankful for my new phone, rather than make noises under my breath while my face is scrunched up in an unattractive fashion.

Bake. Bake peanut butter blossom cookies because they're basically the easiest holiday cookie out there - especially when you start with a bag of peanut butter cookie mix. That and a bag of hershey kisses makes the house smell good, husbands and other various relatives happy, and I can at least say I baked something this holiday season.

Go to Goodwill and buy a hot air popcorn popper, and pop buckets and buckets of popcorn, then turn them into popcorn balls using my mother-in-law's recipe. Because my dear, sweet Cub Sweetheart firmly believes his mother's recipe is unique and makes the best popcorn balls and holidays are not complete without them. So I will make him a tin full, and when he tries to not share them with anyone I will not judge him, but rather love him all the more for his loyalty to her memory.

Hopefully there will be some time spent playing in the snow with our grandchildren, building snowmen and pummeling each other with snowballs, and making snow ice cream in spite of any harmful particles that might be in the air, because really how can that be worse for us than breathing in second-hand smoke outside the stores? And everyone needs to eat snow ice cream now and then.

Take a gift to our Idaho neighbors, our newly made friends, to thank them for running after our lawn chairs as they flew across the grassy area between us, watching over our place, and being the kind of neighbors people used to have, and used to get to know, and because we do and we did, we feel very blessed by them.

Fill in my new calendar, (and there it is in all its beauty), and thanks go to my daughter-in-law who told me about Whitney English . I love all things involving New Year's and planning and writing lists and making 50 resolutions or maybe 12, of which only 2 or so will stand a chance, but those two are better than none, so her planner was a treat to find, and I'm excited to sit down and fill it in. Riveting stuff for me, not so much for others? 

Call my Dad. 

Call my Mom. 

Because I am blessed to still have both of them, and need to hear their voices during the holidays. 

That's it for me - how about for you? What's left on your to do list for 2014?