Tuesday, November 22, 2011

More thoughts on celebrating Christmas

I think this is the last post I will be making about my choice to celebrate Christmas...  Since I started looking at the origins and symbols of the holiday, I've found I have many friends who have, after studying the same material, chosen not to celebrate.  I understand and respect their choice and appreciate their concerns and insights and reasoning.  For myself, however, I've come to the conclusion that I can assign my own personal symbolism to Christmas and the decorations I choose to use in my home.  As long as it reminds me of my Savior and helps me to mindfully draw near unto Him in a personal relationship then it is a good symbol for me.  I've been long taught that ALL things testify of Him... if we look for that meaning. We ask people not to judge us based on our past, because it is the past and not who we are any longer.  That's what I choose to do with my Christmas celebration.

Long before Christ's birth, in the Old Testament we find prophecies of his coming and the light it will bring to the world.  Isaiah  chapter 9:
2The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.
6For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
In John chapter 1, we read of this coming true:
1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2The same was in the beginning with God.
3All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
4In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
5And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
 To me, all of the strings of lights both inside and out, can be symbols of this truth.  They serve to remind me to keep Jesus Christ as the light of my life.  Also appropriate to this thought would be candles placed on the table.

I think I've decided to look to the triangular shape of the evergreen to create my symbol for Christmas.  It's like an arrow, pointing us heavenward... toward God.

As we go about decorating the tree, wouldn't it be a sweet tradition to use the ornaments to tell the familiar story of Jesus' humble birth?  Perhaps placing them on the tree as Lake chapter 2 is read aloud.

Candy canes could symbolize the shepherd's staff during verse 8.  Ornaments made like angels added at verse 10.  Trumpets with verses 15-17 as they made known abroad the miracle they had just witnessed.  Heart shaped ornaments at verse 19 to remind us to be like Mary and keep Him in our hearts and ponder His teachings there.  And doves, a symbol of  sacrifice, at 24.  And pictures of Him at verse 26 (watch for a great craft idea in the coming days!).

Does that not sound like a simple and lovely tree and a wonderful family tradition?  Especially if the gifts we give each other are also representative of the ultimate gift He gave each of us?

Yes, I will still celebrate but it's going to be scaled back.  And I will work to make my focus remembering and serving Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior, every day of the year.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Do you feel it, too?

Food for the hungry cannot come from empty shelves.  Money to assist the needy cannot come from an empty purse.  Support and understanding cannot come from the emotionally starved.  Teaching cannot come from the unlearned.  And most important of all, spiritual guidance cannot come from the spiritually weak.  -- Marion G. Romney
It wasn't raining when Noah built the Ark. -- Howard Ruff
Let us be in a position so we are able to not only feed ourselves through home production and storage, but others as well. -- Ezra Taft Benson, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and LDS Church President
There is a wise old saying, "Eat it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without."  Thrift is a practice of not wasting anything.  Some people get by because of the absence of expense.  They have their shoes resoled, they patch, they mend, they sew, and they save money.  -- James E. Faust
Our emphasis on this subject is not grounds for crisis thinking or panic.  Quite the contrary, personal and family preparedness should be a way of provident living, an orderly approach to using the resources, gifts and talents the Lord shares with us.  -- Victor L. Brown
The time will come when gold will hold no comparison in value to a bushel of wheat.  -- Brigham Young

Each of these quotes has come to my attention over the past week either through the wonders of Facebook or a post on a blog that I've read.  You may notice that the quotes are predominantly LDS leaders... but the sources I where I saw them quoted were not.  Two things I find striking about all of this... first, as a Mormon I'm pretty comfortable with the counsel to be prepared, have a food stock and grow a garden but I see a growing trend toward others feeling the same pull toward this simple and common sense life-style and second, I believe that the more often counsel is repeated, the more we should be paying attention to it.  All of these quotes in the same week make me believe that the time to prepare is drawing to an end.  It's an urgent need now and the time to be prepared rather than preparing.

Generally I avoid news programs on TV and the internet.  The negative sensationalism is just too much for me.  I see threats of war in the Middle East and wonder how that's going to effect transporting food from growers to grocery stores if (or probably when) it disrupts the oil supply.  I see news of impending economic collapse and wonder if the meager amount of money I do have saved will have any value at all in a year.  I see a policeman pepper-spraying college students engaged in a peaceful protest and wonder if there will be any legal protections, or protectors, left.  It's easy to imagine the world becoming a very scary place to live even I don't want it to be that way.  And so I keep preparing a bit here and a bit there and I hope, when the time really does come, that I've done enough...

Friday, November 18, 2011

Rose Hip Soup

A few weeks ago when my friend, Rikard - who lives in Stockholm, was feeling sickly, he told me about a Swedish "treat" given to make you feel better.  It sounded so yummy!  Amazon has a listing for individual serving packets of  Rose Hip Fruit Soup... but it's out of stock. And if it's anywhere near the blackberry one they do have in price, it's a little out of my budget right now.  So I went searching for a recipe to make my own.

You need:
1 quart rose hip juice or puree (fresh or canned -  or you can make the juice)
2-4 Tbl honey (to taste)
1-3 Tbl lemon juice (to taste)
1 Tbl cornstarch

Heat the juice or puree, honey and lemon juice.  Adjust the honey and lemon juice to arrive at a tart/sweet and lively, fruity flavor.  Mix the cornstarch with just enough cold water to moisten and stir in.  Cook until soup thickens slightly and clears.  Makes 6 servings.

The recipe suggests floating a spoonful of yogurt or sour cream on top of each serving.  But, I like Rikard's idea better!  Float a scoop of vanilla ice cream on it.

Now that is a treat worth getting sick for!!

To make your own juice, soak 1/2 cup dried rose hips (or use 1 cup fresh) in 1 quart of water for a few minutes then cook until soft.  Mash with a fork and strain.  Reserve liquid.  Add 1 cup of water to the pulp and bring to a boil then strain.  Discard pulp.  Combine the juice from both strainings to make your soup.

To make into a pudding, use 5-6 Tbl cornstarch to make it thicker.  I imagine this is quite similar to what I grew up knowing as Danish Dessert and use to make fresh strawberry pie.

Guess who'is going to be collecting and dehydrating rose hips next summer?  Me!!!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Home remedies for the common cold

'Tis the season to... sneeze and sniffle.

Yes folks, the cold season is here.  I really hate how the common cold can just lay me low for a few days.  I'm totally zapped of energy and my head feels like a gigantic ball of snot.  It's miserable and I just want it to end.  Like yesterday!!  And it's not like your doctor can help because it's a virus so a visit there and your $25 co-pay will just garner you the advice that "it needs to run its course and to come back if you don't feel better in a few days."

Here are 10 things you can do at home to feel better and hurry things along:

  1. Drink plenty of clear fluids to help break up the congestion.  Good choices are water, juice, sports drinks,  herbal tea (I especially like mint) or ginger ale.  Avoid caffeine because it tends to dehydrate you and milk because it makes your body produce more mucus and alcohol because it inflames the tissues in your nose and throat even more than the cold already has them inflamed.
  2. Inhale steam slowly through your nose to help ease congestion.  Doesn't matter if it's a humidifier, boiling a pot of water on your stove, a steamy shower or holding your head, draped with a towel, over a sink of very hot water.  It's all steam.  I like to add a few drops of tea tree oil to the water.
  3. Blow your nose often, but do it right.  Both snuffing it back in and blowing hard only pushes that nasty infected goop into your ears where it causes you more grief and discomfort.  The best way to blow your nose is to press a finger over one nostril while you blow gently to clear the other.
  4. Stay warm and get extra rest so your energy is directed toward recovering.
  5. Use a saline nasal spray to break up congestion and rinse virus particles and bacteria from your nose.  A simple recipe is 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp baking soda to 8 oz of warm water.  Use a bulb syringe or nettie pot and hold your head over the sink or a basin to flush nostrils one at a time, using your finger to press the other closed.
  6. Gargling with warm salt water relieves a scratchy sore throat temporarily.
  7. Drink warm liquids like herbal tea, beef or chicken broth, or hot cider to relieve the inflamed membranes in your nose and throat.
  8. Try a small dab of mentholated salve under your nose.  Menthol will help clear inflamed nasal passages and the salve will help with the raw painful skin you get from wiping your nose so much.  I make my own with a dab of Vaseline and a few drops of tea tree oil.  Pine needle oil, eucalyptus, peppermint or camphor might be other good choices.
  9. Sleep with an extra pillow under your head.  Raising your head slightly may help you breathe better during the night.
  10. Try herbal remedies like zinc or vitamin C supplements,  echinacea, or my favorite... honey and cinnamon blended together (1/4 tsp cinnamon to each 1 tsp honey).  Take 2 tsp followed by a glass of water twice a day starting with the first sniffle.  Honey, on it's own is effective against a cough, and both honey and cinnamon have antibacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal properties.  You can also stir the honey/cinnamon mixture into your herbal tea or use as a fruit dip.
These tips should keep your cold symptoms bearable and speed your recovery along!!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Got pine?

Having a guest blogger was so much fun, I've asked someone else to contribute.  Today's post comes from Sheila Stevens.  She describes herself an an amateur naturalist and uses many homeopathic remedies to care for her Rochester MN family's minor illnesses.  And with 5 school-aged kids at home, I'd imagine every winter brings on plenty of stuffy noses and fevers...  Whenever I sneeze, the first thing she says to me is the get the pine needle oil.  Here, she explains why.

As the holidays get closer many of you are thinking of where you will put your fragrant Christmas tree this year, for others they might be deciding whether or not they will be using a live or artificial tree but either way, is it not the familiar smell of the tree itself that puts you in that over all holiday mood?

The answer to question may vary by person, but that’s not really the point of this literary admission; the point is actually the scent.

The beloved conifer holds much value. It's more than just a simple place to show off our holiday decorations.  It's a means to improve your health as well!

• Blood pressure problems
• Common cold
• Cough/bronchitis
• Fevers
• Inflammation
• Infection

Pine can be used internally but out of the 232 species in the pine family, only specific varieties can be ingested, and it will say on the packaging whether it’s intended for internal use or external only. DO NOT CONSUME Pine Needle Oil UNLESS IT SAYS IT’S FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION!

White Pine, for example has been used to treat a variety of respiratory conditions, including coughs, sore throats and colds. It’s rich in vitamin A and vitamin C and is obviously edible and ready to be used when your looking for a quick recovery!

Pine Needle Oil is antiviral and antibacterial.  When using the pine needle extract I run my bath first, I make it almost as hot as I can take it, when the water is almost to the level I want –which is usually full, I add about 12-16 drops to my water and mix. Make sure to have your water still running when you do this so it breaks up the carrier oil into smaller beads so you don’t have blobs of oil floating about your tub.

DO NOT apply it directly to sensitive regions directly, like under your eyes, on your inner arm (where your forearm connects to your upper arm) and certainly NOT your genitalia… Trust me on that one, you want to make sure its mixed into the water before sitting down!!! Ouchie if you don’t.

If you'd rather not take a bath, add 6-8 drops to 4 cups of simmering water on your stove to fill your whole house with scent.

When you begin to sneeze chances are you just inhaled some bacterial hitchhiker, or worse, virus. Sure it could be dust, but why take chances? This is the time you want to take that pine needle bath or simmer that pot. It actually decreases your chances of getting sick, I have tried out this theory time and time again, it works great! None of my 5 children get sick as much, in fact, after a bath in this, they aren’t sick for long.
Remember that you need to not freak out if you or your child gets a cold or flu, it’s a good thing as every time you get sick, your body takes a snap shot of (a.k.a. builds a resistance to) that particular strain so it recognizes it as a bad guy in the future.  The pine needle oil simply speeds it up so it’s less miserable.
Internally, Pine Needle Oil (the one that says it’s intended for human consumption) is a valuable commodity. Blood cleanser and more, I would encourage you to read up on the many benefits Pine Needle Oil has to offer!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

FREE is my favorite word

Sharing links I've found to FREE stuff...

Intriguing offers for fee land to those wanting a rural lifestyle:

Myself, I plan on trying out some of the free plant offers this coming spring working on the yard:

Food... I'm also going to try 'some' of these:
http://carlsfriends.net/ (sourdough starter for baking, just send SASE)

Other places you might find free stuff that interests you:

Falling through the cracks

We've all grown up thinking that if the bottom falls out of our world there's a safety net to catch us in the welfare and charity systems society has created over time.  More and more people are finding that isn't true.

I've been out of the paid workforce, and therefore without health insurance, since February.  About a month ago I needed to get my thyroid prescription renewed.  My doctor insisted on an office visit to do that but with no money I resisted.  I reasoned that having no income for nearly six months should qualify for a visit to one of the so-called free clinics that operate here in Salt Lake City.  Afterall, it was just a simple office visit... listen to my heart and lungs, check blood pressure, draw blood to test TSH and write the prescription... the same prescription I've taken for nearly 20 years.  Simple, routine, no big deal... right?  Wrong.

The first clinic I went to wouldn't see me because I'm not pregnant.  The one they referred me to wouldn't see me because it was an urgent care facility and their doctors won't write a prescription for a maintenance medication.  The next wouldn't see me because I live 3 blocks outside the demographic area they serve.  The next two wouldn't see me because I don't have a job so there's no pay stub for them to base their sliding scale fee on.  The next wouldn't see me because I'm not homeless.  And so on and so forth...  Every single one told me that in some way I did not meet their criteria for care.  Impressive safety net, huh?

In the end, I had no choice but to suck it up and pay cash to see my own doctor, who, after I got there told me that I had a credit balance because they had overcharged my co-pay by $5 on every previous visit.  I must have been there at a time when they weren't booked quite so back-to-back because he had plenty of time to sit and chat.  Though experience has shown me that I often know as much (sometimes more) about thyroid issues than the doctors I've seen, this doctor surprised me and admitted that medical school did not teach him about on-going care for a patient with a thyroid issue.  The initial diagnosis and treatment (if it required surgery or ablation) was part of the curriculum but not what happens after that.  He's on staff at the University of Utah Medical School and said it still isn't covered in today's schooling.

That admission sent me home to write a self-help booklet about living with hypothyroidism.  Unless or until it gets picked up by a publisher, I'm going to offer the same deal here as last time.  $1.95 and I'll email you the .PDF.  Leave contact information in a comment that when I moderate I will NOT publish for public view just use it to send you my address for payment.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Being aware

How good are you at noticing things that happen right in front of your face?  Well, here's a little test.

I have to confess, while  I nailed the first part, I totally missed what I wasn't looking for.  And it makes me wonder how many other things I miss because they're just not what I'm looking for.  Is there a new way of looking at the resources I have available to me and thinking about new ways to use old stuff?  New ways to generate an income...    New ways to approach my goals of building a simple, sustainable lifestyle...

Friday, November 11, 2011

Christmas follow up - Part 2

Sometimes the simplest phrase catches my attention and sends me searching for new information.  Talking about the origins of Christmas, it was this sentence:  "For many years, people observed Christmas as a religious festival only."  I realized I didn't actually know what a religious festival was or how it was observed.  Paraphrasing slightly on Wikipedia's definition... a religious festival is a time of special importance marked by adherents to that religion and commonly celebrated on recurring cycles in a calendar year or lunar calendar.

That doesn't tell me much.  So I started asking questions of my dear friend, and practicing Messianic Jew, Sheila Stevens.  In simplest terms, I gleaned from that conversation that the Sabbath is perhaps the most common Jewish festival day.  It is marked by rest from worldly work, prayer, feasting, quiet worship, and family time.  Other holidays are marked with specific prayers and rituals and designated meals in response to God's commandments in the Torah (which the Christian world knows as the first 5 books of the Bible).

If you want to know more about the Jewish feasts and traditions, here are some links Sheila provided that you'll find interesting to explore:

As a practicing Christian, I don't feel bound to celebrate these Levitical feast days of Israel.  Consider Paul's words to the people of Colossius:
Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of any holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:
Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.
Colossians 2:16-17 KJV
While I don't feel bound to celebrate, I do think there is value in studying the Jewish feasts as a way to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of Christ's death, resurrection and promised Second Coming.  It will take much study and soul-searching thought for me to decide, within myself, if the symbology someone else attaches to an item has any bearing on me.   Right now I don't know what I'm going to do about Christmas either this year or in the future.  But I'm asking questions like what festivals am I really celebrating?  Who am I celebrating?  How will I choose to celebrate?  And perhaps even more importantly, why am I doing it?

Origins of Christmas

I've been doing a little research... and in all honesty, it's kind of making me feel more than a bit sick. Following are several excerpts pulled from hope-of-israel.org. Of the several websites I have looked at, it seems to be clearly written, well documented,with an easy to follow progression of thoughts and is concise enough to read in one sitting. I know nothing about the organization, or it's mission or leadership, and I'm not endorsing it - just offering the link as a starting point for your own research.

"The exact date of Christ's birth is not known. The early Christians did NOT celebrate His birth, because they considered the celebration of anyone's birth to be a pagan custom. The first mention of the observance of Christ's birthday appears about A.D. 200. For many years, several dates were used. December 25 was first mentioned in 336 AD. (December 25 is the date given for the birth of the Roman Sun-God.)

For many years, people observed Christmas as a religious festival only. But they gradually adopted more and more customs unrelated to the Church. Most of the customs originated in cultures that existed before Christianity..." (Worldbook Encyclopedia article "Christmas")

It seems that all the popular customs and traditions surrounding Christmas were celebrated at pagan mid-winter festivals in cultures from all over the world. What we have today is a polyglot of these traditions lumped into one big celebration.

One of the most common customs of Christmas today is bringing home and decorating a 'Christmas Tree.' Where did this custom come from? "Most people have heard that the Christmas tree originates in the tannenbaum and is some sort of vestige of Teutonic vegetation worship. This is partially true. However, the custom of using pine and other evergreens ceremonially was well established at the Roman Saturnalia, even earlier in Egypt. (Coffin, The Book of Christmas Folklore, p. 209)

"The custom of burning the Yule log began with the ancient Scandinavians, who once a year burned a huge log in honor of their god Thor. After the Scandinavians became Christians, they made the Yule log an important part of their Christmas ceremonies." (Worldbook Encyclopedia "Christmas")

And these two customs are even more tightly connected.

"The Christmas tree, now so common among us, was equally common in Pagan Rome and Pagan Egypt. In Egypt that tree was the palm tree; in Rome it was the fir..." both denoting a Pagan Messiah (Baal-Tamar in Egypt and Baal-Berith in Rome). The mother of Adonis, the Sun-God and great mediatorial divinity, was mystically said to have been changed into a tree, and when in that state to have brought forth her divine son. If the mother was a tree, the son must have been recognized as 'Man the branch.' And this entirely accounts for the putting of the Yule Log into the fire on Christmas Eve, and the appearance of the Christmas tree the next morning..." (Alexander Hislop, The Two Babylons, p. 97) 

"This idea of decorating homes on holidays is both worldwide and age-old... So the Saturnalian laurel, the Teutonic holly, the Celtic mistletoe, and the Mexican poinsettia have all attached themselves to [it]... Many of the plants used at Christmas are symbols of fertility. Holly, with its pricking leaves, white flowers, and red berries symbolizes the male reproductive urge. In fact, in the English carols... the holly is the male and the ivy is the female. This use of the plants was most likely borrowed by the Christians along with other customs of the Roman Saturnalia." (Collins, Christmas Folklore, pp. 22-23)

What about Santa Claus? Even he has a not-so-benign origin. Many people assume that the original Santa Claus was a bishop by the name of St. Nicholas of Asia Minor in the 4th century, but this isn't really the case. Although his name, 'St. Nick,' and some of this good deeds have been borrowed, the tradition of leaving special gifts dates thousands of years earlier. Among Scandinavians, it was Odin (or Woden) who left special gifts during the Yuletide season under an evergreen tree. The evergreen was his sacred tree.

"In newly Christianized areas where the pagan Celtic and Germanic cults remained strong, legends of the god Wodan were blended with those of various Christian saints; Saint Nicholas was one of these. There were Christian areas where Saint Nicholas ruled alone; in other locations, he was assisted by the pagan Dark Helper (the slave he had inherited from the pagan god Wodan). In other remote areas...ancient pockets of the Olde Religion controlled traditions. Here the Dark Helper ruled alone, sometimes in a most confusing manner, using the cover name of Saint Nicholas or 'Klaus,' without in any way changing his threatening, Herne/Pan, fur-clad appearance. (This was the figure later used by the artist Nast as the model for the early American Santa Claus)" (Tony van Renterghem, When Santa Was a Shaman: The Ancient Origins of Santa Claus & the Christmas Tree, page 96).

My mind is reeling...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Some thoughts on keeping Christmas

Yesterday on Facebook, I posted this link to a post on the blog New Life on a Homestead about this particular family's decision to stop celebrating Christmas.  She makes a sincere and well-thought out explanation about the pagan roots of so many of our Christmas traditions by citing examples from the Old Testament about times when people have introduced these themes into their worship.

For example, the Golden Calf of Exodus 32.
"Moses had gone up onto the mountain to speak with God (and bring down the 10 commandments), but he took so long in coming that the people began to wonder what had happened to him. They asked Aaron to make a golden calf for them to worship, and he did so.
But, and I thought this was fascinating, in verse 5 of that same chapter Scripture says, “And when Aaron saw it (the golden calf), he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, Tomorrow is a feast to the LORD.”
Do you see what he was doing? The people had fallen back into pagan practices, and were worshiping an idol, yet saying it was to honor God!!
The next verse goes on to say, “And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.”
Wow. Sounds like they were having a very fun celebration, huh?! Did the Lord look at the rejoicing of their hearts and feel honored? Let’s find out…
In verses 7-9, YHWH speaks to Moses and tells him what the people are doing. He says that they have “corrupted themselves”, and “turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them”.
Then in verse 10, YHWH says, “Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them…”
He was SO ANGRY! He was ready to destroy them all! Evidently, He was not pleased at the way they were trying to honor Him… mixing worship with pagan traditions. Mixing the holy with the unholy."
Mixing the holy with the unholy... Wow!  That does sound a lot like society's current holiday celebration with its rampant commercialism - the push to spend way too much money on things we don't need and don't want while speaking of it as a way to celebrate the birth of our Savior.  And when I look at my storage room and the 2 full-sized and 6 smaller Christmas trees and 10 or so boxes of ornaments and other decorations... I'm not sure I like what that says about me.

As of right now, I haven't decided if I will continue to celebrate Christmas (and many other holidays).  It's something that I'm still studying out and pondering.  At the least, however, I think it needs to be simplified and scaled back so that the real intent of my heart is evident to all who enter my home.  One doesn't need garish displays of ornamented greenery to keep thoughts of Christ in the forefront of conscious thought and give gifts that meet the needs of friends and family.  Truly, if serving God and emulating His love for mankind is my focus... isn't every day Christmas?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Preparing for the End of Life

In early December I will be leading a 1-hour discussion as part of the series of Pursuit of Self-Reliance classes my Ward has been holding all this year.  After my Mom passed away in July I had commented that there were times when I could step back, almost take myself out of the situation and just observe and that it was such a learning experience.  Those experiences are what we will be talking about.

It also led me to write a booklet that I'll be using in the discussion and hopefully (cross your fingers for me folks!) publishing soon as an e-book.  Today I want to share my introduction to the book.  I've had a few people proofread the manuscript and they've all said that it was powerful and moved them because I included not just the scientific facts about the dying process but real examples from my own experience.  The feedback was that it took some of their fear away and helped them know what to expect.  Researching, writing and talking about it is a very healing thing for me to do.

This time I'm not going to offer it to you free, but I will make you a great pre-publication deal if you'd like to purchase a copy for $1.95.  (Not sure yet what the pricing will be after publication or if I'll still be able to offer it here, so this may be a very limited time kind of deal.)  Simply leave your email address/contact information in a separate comment that I will not make visible on the blog.  I'll send you my address and, once payment is received, email you the book in .PDF format.  Do likewise if you'd like to discuss having me make a presentation to your church group or civic organization about preparing for the end of life.

And now for the excerpt:

Death is a subject we all naturally shy away from.  It’s an uncomfortable and emotional thing to talk about… But it’s going to happen to every one of us.  Somewhere in that secret place deep inside we all have a goal to die well.  And each of us has a different definition of what that means and see it as a daunting task.  After all, dying is something we only do once.  We don’t get to practice for it.

That doesn’t mean we can’t do some things to prepare.  Just as each of us must come to terms with our own mortality, we also have to face the death of our loved ones.  Sometimes, as in my case, that comes with such a treasure of knowledge.  Knowledge is power.  Knowledge is freeing and can provide huge amounts of relief and assuage any guilt you may feel.  That’s why I choose to share my experience with you.

I’m going to focus on the 5 main areas that provided me with the greatest learning experiences and share information and insights that I gained as a full-time caregiver.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Subway Art

Today I tried my hand, for the very first time, at creating a subway art picture...  If you like it, you can download free and use as you wish on the Crafts and Other Downloadables page.  Look for the link part way down your right hand bar on the blog under the section called "And still more stuff..."

I'm planning on framing it to hang on the door with a second small frame below displaying the house number in place of a wreath.  If you want one with a colored background and/or different color text or personalized with your family name, please leave details and contact information in a separate comment from any praises/critcisms or other general comments.  I won't publish comments containing email addresses, but I do need a way to get you your special copy in .PDF format.

Pumpkin spice and someone very nice!

Today I want to introduce you to  my good friend, Jodi Webster, who graciously agreed to do the very first guest post here and share her new yummy warm drink recipe.  She describes herself as a stay at home wife and mother of 4 (with just 1 left at home these days).  We went to school together in Shelley, Idaho then life took us each our separate ways and Facebook reconnected us about a year ago.  Since then, we've found we have a lot in common as adults, too.  Jodi enjoys taking care of her home and family and does a lot of 'from scratch' cooking and baking... partly to save money and because she enjoys experimenting with new flavor combinations and also because there aren't many choices to eat out in the small Colorado town where she's currently living.  I think Jodi is completely wonderful!!  And I look forward to more guest posts and other collaborations with her this coming year!

Since the weather has turned chilly and we're all busy gearing up for Thanksgiving, Jodi shares this post:

How many of us try a product off the grocery shelf and think, "I can do way better than this?"

I bought a can of Stephen's Gourmet Pumpkin Spice drink mix... mixed it up and said this is good, but I think can make better.  So, I thought to myself... my family always made homemade hot cocoa mix, and with this knowledge in mind I set off to create my own tasty, hot, spicy drink.

When I had finished mixing it up and sat down with my first cup of heaven... I sat back with a smile on my lips (partly hidden by sweet pumpkin foam) and wondered what else can I (or any of us) do to improve or use something in a different way?  Get your imaginations going!!

Warm Pumpkin Spice Drink
3 Boxes of Jello Brand Seasonal Release Pumpkin Spice Instant Pudding.
3 C powdered coffee creamer (any flavor you feel would compliment)
1 C powdered sugar (or sugar-free equivalent like Splenda)
1 C powdered milk
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

In large mixing bowl combine all ingredients. Mix thoroughly . Add 3-4 TSP of mix to a mug of hot water and stir, add as many Kraft Pumpkin Spice marshmallows as you like and sit back and enjoy!

Added 11/9:  Some of you are reporting difficulty finding the Pumpkin Spice Instant Pudding.  Jodi says she found it at Walmart in the seasonal baking area.  Albertson's (if you still have them in your town - sadly we don't in SLC) may also carry it.  But it sounds like it's not on the shelf with the other pudding mixes... look at the seasonal baking displays, too.

Saturday, November 5, 2011


He that tilleth his land shall have plenty of bread: but he that followeth after vain persons shall have poverty enough. Proverbs 28:19 KJV

Another Bible version (sorry, which one wasn't specified where I read this quote and I didn't search it out) puts it this way:  He who works his land will have abundant food, but the one who chases fantasies will have his fill of poverty.  I like the image this verse provides.  I like the idea that doing something, building something, creating something is important work.  And fulfills God's purpose for man.

From the very first verses in our Bibles we learn that God is creative and since we are created in His image, it is only logical that we are also creative beings.  We were made to do and make tangible things.

I've been reading lately about the Law of Attraction and its relationship to creating wealth and abundance in one's life.  The fundamental principle to this working is to CREATE and DELIVER real value.  Find a way to give people what they really need or want.  And that makes a lot of sense to me.

Creating value means you need to express your talents and skills in a way that can, potentially, benefit someone else.  Hopefully many someones.  Delivering value means that other people are receiving and benefiting from the value you created.  If you don't do both you won't generate a sustainable income no matter how hard you work or what kind of wonderful thing you create.

The correct strategy for increasing your income is to focus on creating and delivering more value.  That's what generates a sustainable increase in income.  Think about it.  What is money?  It's just a medium for exchanging value... something you receive in exchange for the value you create and deliver. Increase your outflow of value and you increase your inflow of money.

So now how to apply this to me... I know I'm creative and I think it has value.  But how to deliver it?

Friday, November 4, 2011

More Planned-Overs

...and some not so planned.

Surely you've heard the word 'leftovers."  In some households it's almost a dirty word.  Not in my house!  I plan for leftovers.  So much so that I've started calling them planned-overs.  This week's example is the white chicken enchilada dip I made yesterday in the slow cooker.  Yes... it's party food.  And no, I wasn't having a party.  It sounded tasty and since there's no one else around to force me to act like a grown up responsible adult, when I want party food for dinner I make party food for dinner.

But the recipe kind of made a lot for one person.  So today I made it into creamy white chicken chili.  And to borrow a silly made-up word from Rachael Ray... yummo!

Here's how I make white chicken enchilada dip...

Place 1 chicken breast in the slow cooker and  cook until the meat is cooked through.  Break it into small chunks or shred right in the pot.  Then add 1 pint green salsa, 1 can cream of mushroom soup, 1 can diced green chiles, appx. half a package of dry ranch dressing mix and 1 brick of cream cheese.   Add a bit of water if it is too thick as everything melts and starts to bubble.  (My green salsa was home-canned out of green tomatoes... same recipe as red tomato salsa, just used the green ones.  It's not as liquid as what you buy in the store.  It's not as liquid as my red salsa either.  I guess green tomatoes don't have quite as much water content?)   When it's all come together nicely, I add 1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese and stir it in until melted and incorporated.

This dip is yummy with corn chips or Ritz crackers or (and this is my favorite) a crusty extra-sour sour dough bread broken into bite size chunks.

To turn the leftovers into creamy white chicken chili all I did was start the dip warming up again and add 4 cups of pre-cooked navy beans (depending on how much left over you have, you might need more or less beans) and enough chicken broth to get the consistency where I wanted it.  A cup of corn would have also been a good addition, as would sliced mushrooms and finely diced zucchini.  And a sprinkle of chopped green onions on top would be a pretty garnish along side some cheesy garlic bread, again made out of sour dough.  Something about the pairing of green salsa flavors and sour dough bread seems extra good!

Yummy food for early fall!  And cheap, too.  All my ingredients cost around $6 and I'll end up with 5 complete meals.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The 10 Commandments of Responsible Living

A long time ago I used to always make it a point to pick up a free local magazine named Catalyst each and every month. Then it dropped out of view. At least it dropped out of my view.  Not sure if they are still publishing or not... But going through the junk from my storage room where all the stuff I didn't want to deal with when I moved got stashed I found some clippings I'd kept from old Catalysts. The following is from the one in February 2007 where they quoted from a book, You Can Change The World: The Global Citizen's Handbook for Living on Planet Earth by Ervin Laszlo, published in 2003.

Ervin Laszlo is (or was) the president and founder of the Club of Budapest, a little known association of creative world leaders in art, literature, and the spiritual domains of culture.  It was founded in 1993 and dedicated to the proposition that only by changing ourselves will we be able to change the world.

Live in a way that satisfies your needs without detracting from the opportunity of other people to satisfy theirs.
Live in a way that respects the right to life and development of all other people, wherever they live, and whatever their ethnic origin, sex, citizenship, and belief system.
Live in a way that safeguards the right to life and a healthy environment of all the things that live and grow on this Earth.
Pursue happiness, freedom and personal fulfilment in consideration of the similar pursuits of your fellows in the community, country and culture, and in the global community of all peoples, countries, and cultures.
Do your best to help those less priviledged than you to live without hunger and penury, whether they live next door to you or in another part of the world.
Join like-minded people to preserve or restore the integrity of the environment so that it can generate and regenerate the resources esential of human life and well-being.
Help children and young to discover sustainable ways of thinking and acting on their own.
Ask your government to deal peacefully and cooperatively with other nations and cultures, recognizing the legitimate aspirations for a better life and life-supporting environment of all the peoples, countries and cultures of the world.
Patronize businesses that produce goods and offer services that satisfy your needs and the needs of other people without impairing the environment and widening the gap between rich and poor in your community and the world at large.
Give preference to newspapers and magazines, television and radio programs and internet sites that provide regular and reliable information on the trends and events that affect your life, and help you and others around you make informed decisions on crucial issues affecting your future.

Not a bad code of ethics for living...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The $12 beef roast

Grocery shopping yesterday, I purchased a nice beef roast with the challenge in mind to see how many meals I could stretch it into.  The purchase prince was $12.06 at my local Walmart Super Center.

Final tally:
3 meals with roast beef, steamed vegetables (potatoes, carrots, celery, onions) and gravy
2 packages of slices to each make a BIG roast beef sandwich
1 package of shredded beef mixed with BBQ sauce (easily 2 sandwiches worth)
3 very large dishes of beef stew
3 packages of beef broth for future soup making (like French Onion Soup later in the week!)

All but the one meal of roast beef, vegetables and gravy that I ate for dinner last night went right to the freezer.  Counting it... that's 13 meals from the one roast.  I think that's pretty darned frugal!

And in all honesty, the beef stew dishes are big enough that I could easily scoop out about 1/3 and add some more vegetables and a topping of pie crust or biscuit dough and make an additional pot pie meal from each of them... stretching my grand total to 16 meals.  Not a huge fan of beef pot pie though so we'll have to wait and see if that happens.

Yes, I am only feeding 1 person.  If you have a family, you'll obviously need more of everything but should be able to achieve the same per portion cost results.

How did I do it?

My slow cooker is the key!  (It's similar to a crock pot except it will brown meat and is a little smaller overall.)  I came home from shopping and got it hot enough to brown the roast on both sides.  Next, on top of the meat, I filled it with onions chopped into approximate 2 inch pieces, baby carrots and celery stalks cut to about the same size as the carrots.  When these vegetables were partially cooked, and there was room to add them, potatoes cut into approximate 2 inch pieces went on top and I filled the cooking chamber up with water.  Added a spoonful of beef base for flavor and let it all simmer for a few hours.  Oh... it smelled so good!!

When all was cooked, I removed almost all the vegetables to a bowl and set the meat to rest on my cutting board.  Then I used my hand blender to puree the remaining vegetable pieces, added more water to the slow cooker and seasoned the broth to my liking.  While it was still relatively cool, I ladled out 3 zipper bagsful and put them in the freezer.  While the remaining broth was reheating to a boil, I cut, divided and packaged the meat and vegetables.  Then I added a slurry of cornstarch mixed with water to the boiling broth and spooned out gravy on the 3 meals of roast beef and vegetables.  Then I added the portion of cubed meat back to the pot with the remainder of the vegetables, a couple of chopped tomatoes (probably the last of the season from this year's garden) and some frozen peas and corn, and let it simmer while I ate my dinner.  After the stew cooled I packaged it and added it to my freezer stash.

Now, I get to reheat and enjoy the fruits of my labor over the next month with frugal, healthy, tasty, quick meals.  Hard to beat that plan!!

Next up I'm going to try it with the $10 family pack of boneless, skinless chicken breasts I found on sale for cheaper than a whole chicken...

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

What does it mean?

Or is a dream just a dream?  I very very rarely remember dreams.  I can easily count on my fingers the dreams I remember from my entire adult life.  Sometimes I wake up aware that I've been dreaming but I don't recall what it was about.  Early this morning, however, I did have a dream that I remember.

It was mid-day, sunny with a light breeze.  Typical summer day.  I had been working inside my house... when I happened to notice that it didn't look right out the front window.  I walked over and saw a crowd of people in the yard and sitting on my steps.  They had cut down the red-leafed plum tree in the front yard!  I was so upset!!

I woke up thinking about what I'd do if it was really true... really practical things like grab my camera and take pictures of their faces, the sad little tree stump, the license plates on the cars and grab the cell phone and call the police to have them arrested for trespassing and vandalism and anything else I could come up with for tree murder.  These were my thoughts as I jumped out of bed and ran to the living room to peek out the window.  Yes!  The tree was safe.  It was just a freaky dream.

Later a friend suggested that all dreams have meaning and sent me this link to look up the different elements of my dream:  tree, red, summer, people, anger.  Here are some excerpts that resonated with me.

To dream that you chop or cut down a tree indicated that you are wasting your energy, time and money on foolish pursuits.
To see a falling tree in your dreams means that you are feeling off balance and out of sync. Perhaps, you are off track and headed in the wrong direction.
To see a withered or dead tree in your dream indicates that your hopes and desires have been dashed. You are experiencing some instability and setback in your life.
...is and indication of raw energy, force, vigor, intense passion, aggression, power, courage, impulsiveness. The color red has deep emotional and spiritual connotations. Alternately, the color red in your dream indicates a lack of energy. You are feeling tired or lethargic.
Red is also the color of danger, violence, blood, shame, rejection, sexual impulses and urges. Perhaps you need to stop and think about your actions.
To dream about summer represents growth, knowledge, high productivity, tolerance and maturity. You are expanding your realm of understanding. It is important to keep your hope alive.
To see people you don't know in your dream denotes hidden aspects of yourself that you need to confront or acknowledge.
To dream you are holding or expressing anger symbolizes frustrations and disappointments in your Self.
I'll give credit where it's due.  Those are pretty darned accurate descriptions of where I'm at right this moment.  Now what to do with it and about it...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I'm an Amateur

Hi, I'm Kathy and I'm an amateur blogger.

I often wish I was a pro.  But I'm not.  The scant statistics here show that only a tiny handful of friends and family ever visit to see what I have to say.  On one hand this is depressing.  On the other it's kind of freeing.  As a professional blogger I'd be tied to one niche to maximize sponsorships and advertising.  As an amateur I can post about whatever my heart desires here for just the pure pleasure of putting thoughts into words.  But then again as a professional, I'd see an income stream from my efforts while as an amateur I scramble for every dollar.  It's a trade off that sometimes works for me and sometimes doesn't quite so much.

Today is a not quite so much day.

And so, to the very few of you who actually do read this, I am posing some questions.  Your answers will determine not only the direction of my blog, but possibly its continuing existence.  I want something tangible for all the effort that's going into it.

  • Are the ads between pages relevant?  Or do they just annoy you?
  • Have you ever clicked one?
  • What type of content/subject matter do you most enjoy reading?
  • Would it help you find things if I used Labels?
  • Would you be willing to promote it to your friends via email/facebook/twitter/a link on your blog?
  • Is blogspot the right medium to continue using?
  • Does Google Docs work well for you to download the documents I've posted?

I've spent some time reading today about being a successful professional blogger and some of the activities it takes to get there.  I'm going to try implementing those suggestions for the next month and then assess where things stand.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Gift of Hard Times

Things can get rough in life... and it's often a humbling experience that makes us more likely to seek out the Divine.  We approach our Maker seeking escape from whatever troubles us.  Sometimes it could be money or ill health or a child bent to follow a more difficult path than we want to see them on.  Other times it may be the selfish temptations that come with our society's abundance that we look to Him to help us avoid.

I wonder if that's really what He would have us do?  I can understand asking for the strength and perception to overcome these follies, just not the avoidance of the experience.  Isn't that why we are here... to gain experience?
Consider these version from James, Chapter 1.
2My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
3Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
4But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
Is God not saying that holding to faith and working past life's temptations and trials is what refines us and makes us fit servants to return to His presence?
That's the most precious gift I can seek... not something to avoid.

Special Needs in Emergency Situations

People with disabilities or who have access or functional impairments, and their families or caregivers, need to take extra precautions to prepare for a disaster.  What if a usual caregiver is not available to help?  Plan for a buddy to step in.  Practice with them now if it is at all possible.

Also, join the Special Needs Registry in your state and keep your information updated if you move or the need changes.  In Utah, you can register at www.specialneedsutah.org.

Also think about the extra supplies needed in your 72-hour, or bug-out, kit:

  • Prescription medications
  • A record of dosages and the frequency taken
  • Prosthetic devices
  • List of medical devices including styles and serial numbers (a photo might be nice to include too)
  • Any items needed for cleaning or maintenance of prosthesis and medical devices
  • Extra eyeglasses and the prescription
  • Extra oxygen
  • Extra pillows and bedding
  • Medical insurance and Medicare/Medicaid cards
  • Backup power supply or generators for heat or air conditioning
  • Extra wheelchair batteries (or a backup manual chair)
  • Hearing aids and extra batteries
  • Extra personal care items like adult briefs, wet wipes, chux pads

But people aren't the only family members with special needs...

Don't forget about Fido and Fluffy!  Pets are also important and need some extra planning for their care.  Emergency shelters do not typically allow family pets, only certified service animals.  Now is the time to find hotels and/or motels outside your immediate area that accept pets, ask family members or friends if they could, and would, keep them for you, and check into which boarding facilities, veterinarians or shelters could be used.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Emergency Sanitation

Let's say there's just been an earthquake.  And the sewer lines were broken.  Where are you going to go to the bathroom?  I mean... there is a limit to how long you can cross your legs and keep up the pee-pee dance. At some point, no matter what the facilities look like, you will have to go!

That's kind of a scary thought that can cause some tension...  especially if you haven't given it consideration enough before-hand to be prepared.

Supplies you will need on hand if the toilet isn't working include:
    Medium-sized plastic bucket with a tight lid.  (5-gallon storage bucket)
    Household chlorine bleach
    Toilet paper
    Heavy duty plastic garbage bags and ties
    Soap, liquid detergent, hand sanitizer

If sewer lines are broken and your toilet bowl is usable, you can place a garbage bag inside the bowl.  If not, you'll need to build a makeshift toilet:
  • Line a medium sized bucket with a garbage bag.
  • Make a toilet seat out of two boards placed parallel to each other across the bucket or use an old toilet seat or buy a toilet seat made especially to fit those 5-gallon storage buckets.
  • After each use, pour a disinfectant, such as bleach, into the container.
  • Be sure to keep the container covered tightly when not in use.
To dispose of this waste, you'll need to bury it.  With human waste, especially, it's important to avoid spreading disease by rats and insects.  To do this, dig a pit 2-3 feet deep and at least 50 feet downhill or away from any well, spring or water supply and bury the bags here.

I'm thinking about the 5-gallon bucket with the made to fit toilet seat for my emergency supplies.  I like the idea that I can easily store a small bottle of bleach, a few rolls of toilet paper and a roll or two of plastic bags inside.  Everything is compact and together so I don't have to search for all the parts (think of the added stress in an already stressful situation!) when I need it.  Friends who go tent camping use one as their camp toilet... and that's a great way to be in practice of using it.  And, if you have small children, it's a great way to get them used to the idea because it isn't going to look, feel (or smell) like the bathroom we are accustomed to using now.

Disclaimer:  the link above takes you to a retail site where emergency supplies can be purchased.  This is just one of many sources to obtain the materials you need.  I have no financial interest in this company or experience with their products or service so I cannot endorse them.  The link was provided solely to show an example of an emergency toilet made from a 5-gallon bucket.

Monday, September 5, 2011

A Parable for the Simple Life

Also known as The Tourist and the Mexican Fisherman... author unknown.

A boat docked in a tiny Mexican village and an American tourist stopped and complimented the fisherman on the quality of his fish.  Then he asked how long it took to catch them.

"Not long" answered the Mexican.

"But then why didn't you stay out longer and catch more?" asked the American.

The fisherman explained that his catch was sufficient to meet his needs and those of his family.

The American tourist asked, "What do you do with the rest of your time?"

"I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, stroll into the village in the evening where I sip wine and play the guitar with my amigos.  I have a full and busy life, señor," the fisherman replied.

The American interrupted, "I have an MBA from Harvard and I can help you!  You should spend more time fishing, and with the proceeds you buy a bigger boat.  With the proceeds fishing from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats and eventually you could have a fleet of fishing boats.  Instead of selling your fish to a middleman, you could negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own plant.  You can then leave this little village and move to Mexico City, Los Angeles or even New York City!  From there you can direct your huge enterprise."

"How long would that take" asked the Mexican.

"15, perhaps 20 years" replied the American.

"But what then, señor?"

"That's when it gets really interesting," answered the American, laughing.  "When your business gets really big you can start selling stocks and make millions of dollars."

"Millions, señor?  But then what?

The American replied slowly, "Then you would retire!  Move to a small coastal village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your grandkids, take a siesta with your wife, stroll into the village in the evenings to sip wine and play the guitar with your amigos."

The moral of the story... Happiness isn't found in all the stuff we can acquire, but rather in simple moments and time spent with the family and friends we hold dear.

Emergency Preparedness Plan

September is Emergency Preparedness Month.  The brochure in yesterday's mail tells me so...  Actually it is quite interesting information and includes many tips that just make good sense for a sustainable and self-reliant lifestyle.  I'm going to share some of their information and some from other places and from my own ideas and experience this week.

Earthquake.  Tsunami.  Tornado.  Fire.  Flood.  Drought.  During much of 2011 world news headlines have been dominated by natural disasters and the toll they take on lives and infrastructure.  No matter where you live some type of calamity can strike.  In Utah, we know earthquakes are possible even though there hasn't been a major one in 350 years.  And we know geologists continue to tell us that it's overdue.  White wait, we have floods, fire and winter storms to keep us company.

Be Ready Utah is a government agency providing tools to help us be ready for a disaster.  They've defined 4 basic steps:
  1. Make a plan.
  2. Get a kit.
  3. Be informed.
  4. Get involved.
Simple steps that, once embraced, change the way we live.  We can live without fear because we are prepared.  We can live ready to act when nature throws it worst at us.  We can live knowing that we will be able to also help others.

Make a Plan

By their very nature, emergencies strike when you don't expect them and the disruption can become a nightmare if you aren't prepared to react and recover from them.  Every home should have a plan to deal with emergency situations that includes information about communication, evacuation, emergency supplies and an out-of-state contact.  Here is a simple form you can use to record your information:  Family Preparedness Plan.  Use it while you:

  • Discuss preparedness with your family.
  • Pick 3 meeting places - one just outside your home, another location in your neighborhood if your property isn't safe and a regional meeting place if you can't return home.
  • Identify an out-of-state contact in case your family gets separated.  Long distance calls may still work when local calls do not.
  • Teach children how and when to dial 911.
  • Post emergency numbers near all phones in your home.
  • Teach children how to use a cell phone.
  • Store food and water adequate to each person's needs for 2 weeks.
  • Learn about sanitation in emergency situations and gather the materials needed for your family.
  • Teach your family how to open window screens and determine at least 2 escape routes from each room in your home.
  • Teach your family about drop, cover and hold onto heavy furniture.
  • Plan for pet care.
  • Learn where the lines are located and how to shut off shut off utility service to your home.
  • Practice and improve your plan.

Use today to check out Be Ready Utah for more great information and ideas to get you started on your plan.  Tomorrow we'll tackle emergency sanitation and special needs in more depth.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Rural Dreams

Salt Lake City is a big city.  To a small town girl like me it is, anyway.  Different neighborhoods here have different names and almost individual identities.  I live in Rose Park, for example.  Technically Rose Park doesn't start until 2 more blocks north of my house putting me in the Fairpark neighborhood, but I identify with Rose Park much more readily.

Yes this is the dreaded 'west side' of Salt Lake.  Such a laughable myth...  I love my neighborhood.  I feel safe here.  With my neighbors I have an eclectic cohesiveness here that I didn't see when I've lived in other parts of the city or in other places.  Yesterday's mail included a little newspaper that was recently resurrected with the aim of enhancing that eclectic cohesiveness.  It's called The West View.

A couple of stories in the center spread caught my attention.  One is titled Urban Growth Garden and features a garden, and a gardener named Gina Zivkovic, located about 3 blocks east of my home.  She says, "This garden always centers me -- it's a magical place."

Making the point that the history of the neighborhood was rural and that we need to return somewhat to those roots, the article states:
"When Brigham Young and his band of nomads settled the Salt Lake Valley more than a century ago, they, like Zivkovic, were cognizant of their relationship to the earth and the land.  The pioneers turned an arid valley into a blossoming city seemingly overnight.  Yet, Zivkovic notes that more than a few residents have neglected the relationship their forefathers forged.  "Historically, all this was filled with farms, orchards, fish hatcheries," Zivkovic said."
The second article is City dwellers cultivate rural flavor in their own backyards and it begins with a few sentences I find somewhat profound.
"It begins with dirt. 
Then soon with enough labor and love seeds will sprout, plants will grow and a garden will ripen. 
Gardening is, as most gardeners see it, a way for people to reclaim their connection to food and deepen the relationships that are built around the table."
It makes me wonder anew how many of life's problems could be solved with less technology and more time outdoors.  How many of my problems could be solved the same way?

Dammit Kathy!

You've fallen back into that same old trap...  Wasted days with absolutely nothing to show for living them.  What is your problem?

For all my good intentions at making a lot of positive changes in my life, I've slacked off and got back into the old routine that left me feeling unhappy, disconnected and unsatisfied.  I've been putting off my happy life again!

Why is it so hard to just do the things I know will make me happy?  Where has all my discipline gone?

I know I'm a pretty simple and basic kinda girl.  I don't need a whole lot of 'maintenance' kind of things or attention either from someone else or myself.  But maybe that's where I'm derailing myself time after time.  Maybe I need to demand more maintenance.  Maybe I do need structure and goals and a daily schedule.  Maybe working on that is where I need to spend my time today...

Okay, so not maybe.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Skinny Girl Finds a Voice

Somewhere deep inside of me resides a Skinny Girl.  She's not often heard.  Fat Girl has bullied her for so long that she hardly dares to utter a word.  But last night Skinny Girl mustered up all her courage and spoke.  It was almost a tentative and frightened whisper... It kind of surprised me, too!

I discovered that Old Mission 96% Fat-Free Whole Wheat Tortillas are... actually really good.  Seriously!  I can hardly believe I'm admitting this, but I think they taste even better than the fully larded white flour ones.  And they have a pleasant, almost indulgent feeling texture when I chew them.

That's saying a whole lot for a tortilla!

It made me wonder about other ways I might nurture Skinny Girl and coax out her ideas.  I think she might have a lot of good things to say if I will just make her feel like she's being heard.

But then again...

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Put on the Big Girl Panties

Why is it that most often it's men that make me want to say this?

I had an agreement with a guy to keep his restored Hudson and a motorcycle in my extra garage for the next year in exchange for the labor to put up a very simple new roof on my patio.  He agreed a couple of weeks ago and since he's never showed up, never called to find out anything more, and can't be reached by phone as no one answers and the voicemail is full I finally sent an email to his mother asking what was going on.  He still wasn't man enough to face up to it himself and tell me that he couldn't keep our agreement.  He hid behind mommy and let her worry that his failure would poison our friendship.  And it doesn't.  She's dear and sweet and wonderful.  But I did tell her that I'm disappointed... in her son.

So I'll deal with the roof problem another way.  It's such a basic structure, basically just a grid of 2X4s to be covered with plywood and shingled, I could ALMOST do it myself.

After all, I am a big girl and I'm not afraid to wear my big girl panties!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Move Toward Simplicity

Awhile back, thinking I was getting a steal on laundry detergent, I bought a giant bottle of liquid fabric softener.   I have never used liquid fabric softener in my entire life and I don't have even the first clue what to do with it.  But, perhaps, it was providence giving me a nudge.

Yesterday I happened on a "cheapskate" tip.  The website said to take a small piece of fabric... a tea towel or washcloth for example, and soak it thoroughly in liquid fabric softener then wring it out and allow to air dry completely.  Then just throw it in the dryer like a dryer sheet.  Only re-usable instead of disposable.  Supposedly one cloth is good to soften 40 loads of laundry.

Heck, I've got the stuff.  I'm game.  I gave it a try.  If I guess-timated well on how much softener the cloth soaked up and my mind didn't boggle on the math, I figured I could dry more than 2,500 loads of laundry from that one $7 bottle of fabric softener.  Not enough to break the bank by any means but that's a tiny fraction of what dryer sheets would cost.  Even buying an off brand.

And I'm happy to tell you the first load came out great.  Soft, smells nice, no static problems.  Will my washcloth-turned-dryer sheet stand up to 40 loads?  I have no idea.  And it will take a long time for me to have 40 loads of laundry to find out!  If it works, it's a pretty easy little step toward greener and cheaper living.

And speaking of small steps, here's something else to think about...

Friday, August 26, 2011

Shelley Idaho Memories

An old neighbor and high school classmate recently shared a digital library of photos and information about Shelley, Idaho... the community where I grew up.  This is an image from that library that brings back memories.  It's the old Shelley First Ward Chapel.  I remember going with my mom to Relief Society quilting bees and laying on my back under the quilt watching the needles create their designs.  And I remember being so sad, almost violated, and crying when the building was torn down and replaced with a newer model of chapel.

Other classmates shared more pictures of old Shelley:

An aerial shot of the Shelley City Park circa 1960.  The roadway along the right edge of the picture is the highway that went into Idaho Falls northward and Blackfoot going south.  For the few blocks of downtown Shelley, it was also Main Street.

From the northwest corner of the park, just off center in the photo at the end of that long line of Cottonwood trees, you can see my old house on Oak Street.  The white one on the corner belonged to Edith Hanks.  We lived in the next one, also white, until I was 8.

And the old library in the log cabin at the park... one of my favorite places in the whole world!  There were tables and chairs just the right size for kids painted a green somewhere between lime and mint in my memory.  Books were checked out by noting the titles on a steno pad and during summer break from school there was a reading contest.

The merry-go-round in the foreground was another source of fun times.  You could get on when it was at a dead standstill and "pump" by leaning in and out to get it going.  Pretty soon it was creaking like crazy and going so fast that gravity nearly pulled you off!  I also remember trying to stand in the center while it whirled round and round.  All of the playground equipment was in a line along this edge of the park and it was all metal equipment set right into the grass.  Next was a slide where, in the heat of a summer's sun, many of us kids left burned off skin from the backs of our legs.  Then a swing set where we'd dare each other to swing the highest and jump from the swing at the peak of the arc.  I also remember the monkey bars and a big fire pit.  Sadly, I understand that all of this is gone now.

Before the house on Oak Street, I lived in this one.  It was a school house (first one maybe in Shelley) converted into 2 living quarters.  We lived downstairs and my grandma Clarke lived upstairs.  I remember helping her make Potato Chip Casserole and Peanut Butter Cookies in that little kitchen.

Shelley has a history of schools burning.  The old Junior High burned during the last week of school the year before I started there.  Conveniently, the school board was in the process of deciding what to do with it as the new building was nearing completion in the field behind.  Years later, after the schools had been shuffled and the building where I attended High School was being used as a Junior High, it also burned at the same time the school board was meeting to decide what to do with it because a new building had been erected.  Surely an odd coincidence of timing for that happen twice in such similar circumstances.

And while this last photo was taken a bit before my time, that is very much the way I remember Main Street.

They say you can never go home.  In some ways that's true.  Shelley has changed very much from the nostalgic, almost Saturday Evening Post illustration worthy, place of my childhood.  But finding this treasure of old photos and remembering makes me feel like I've gone home.

Photo credits:  First Ward Chapel, Old Frame School and Spud Day in the 1950s from the North Bingham County District Library collection as presented on the digital collections from the J. Willard Marriott Library at the University of Utah.  Aerial view of Shelley City Park from private collection of Dana Mallard.  Log Cabin Library from private collection of Val Carson Darrington.  Junior High Fire scanned clipping from The Shelley Pioneer.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Dirty little secrets

I discovered that it takes exactly one week for my kitchen to go from pretty nice to "a herd of filthy pigs live here?" when I dug in and started cleaning up this morning.  Yeah... makes me a little sick, too.  And I have no excuse for not unloading the diswasher and putting newly dirtied plates and silverware back in there as I went along.  I was just plain lazy.

Well, the dishwasher is going now.  And the sink has been scrubbed, counters wiped off, fridge cleaned out, floor swept and two big bags of garbage have made it to the trash can.  Order is restored out of the chaos.

But I'm almost certain it will happen again.  Maybe not in the kitchen but somewhere in life I will be lazy and let things slide then scramble to restore what once was.  It makes me think about the dirty little secrets we all carry with us.  Not the big stuff like personal betrayal or criminal activity - that's a whole different kind of dirty secret - but the little everyday things we carry around.  The things we try to cover up so others won't think we are as imperfect as we really are. 

Generally, I'd say I'm a pretty good person.  There are details, however, that might point to a different conclusion.  Actions I'm seeing as details might include racing down a different isle at the grocery store to avoid the chatty neighbor who will stand there and talk an hour because she's desperately lonely or choosing not to answer a phone call when I see who it is or telling a telemarketer to stick it where the sun doesn't shine or Febreezing the heck out of those pants that have been in the laundry basket for a week.

Philosophers say God is in the details.  So is the devil.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Cricut or Silhouette?

I have several projects already in mind...

Price-wise they are within about $50 of each other for the base machine.  From the descriptions and reviews it seems like the Silhouette offers more flexibility and a smaller investment to get the cuts you want.  Silhouette is computer tied, much like a printer, or works off an SD card for travel.  And you can download just the designs you want.  The reviews say some are free and others can be purchased for as little as 99 cents.  Cricut requires investing in cartridges where you need to purchase the entire cartridge even if you only want one design on it.  Estimates I've seen say the cartridge library can run another $500-$1000.

I'm leaning toward the Silhouette but I've never actually used either machine.  Have you?  Which would you choose?  Why?

Cricut Expression(R) Machine