Wednesday, May 17, 2017

A Different Way to Give

Have you ever wanted to give or do something charitable for someone
when misfortune struck?
Then because the scope of the situation was just enormous
and your inability to write a check that would alleviate the burden,
you end up doing nothing and in turn feeling guilty for the lack of doing?
Maybe that's just me.
Well, last February was pretty rough on the heart around here.
In addition to losing my friend Bob who was kind enough to share 
(and a year prior his wife,  Shirley who was one of my best friends ever,) 
we received the news that some friends' 4 year old little pixie of a daughter
was diagnosed with leukemia and was to the severity that her first treatment was scheduled three days later.
We of course sent what we could 
and actually continued to do so for a few months.
Isn't it strange how it seems so huge coming out of the account
but so insignificant when applied toward medical bills?
It was about that time that I was needing to get my hair cut.
But with all that was happening 
(There was more that happened that month, but we won't dwell on that.)
I just didn't have time.
Then the pictures of J. started being posted on Facebook 
as she began to lose her hair and gain that starchy, puffy appearance.
J's mom shaved her head so she wouldn't feel alone.
I was inspired to actually let mine grow.

I found an organization called
Wigs For Kids. 
Unlike other larger, more popular organizations,
Wigs For Kids doesn't charge for their wigs.
They do however require at least 12 inches of hair rather than 10.
That translates to extra growing time. 
This was actually a good 13" but was beginning to dry and curl a bit.
I realize that I'm not the only one to do this (thankfully!)
But when I hear folks say, "I have nothing to give," it makes me wonder.
We all have something to give. . . 
whether it be hair, time, encouragement, or yes even money.
I personally think money gets too much credit.
It amazes me how someone can lose a loved one in an accident
and people think the immediate solution is to throw money at it
when what the person probably needs most is a hug.
Everybody has enough to give a hug.

Little Miss J. is now on the road to recovery.
She looks more like herself once again and her hair is growing back.
Her trials are not finished, but she's made it over a huge hurdle.

So with all that, I would like to encourage you to ask yourself,
"What can I give?"


Saturday, May 6, 2017

Taking Notice

Over the course of the past few years, 
I have continually made and effort to work plastic out of our home.
I began with the kitchen since I really didn't want to be eating 
whatever mystery chemicals were being leached from plastic containers.
Some things are easier to replace or do without than others.
I haven't used saran wrap for years, but one of my favorite pitcher bowls
with handle and snap on lid - well,
I still have that.
So it's a slow process, but it is moving forward.
The easiest rooms to unplastic have been the living room,
the main bathroom, and our bedroom.
But it seems there is still some trace of plastic even in each of those.
The computer, the shower curtain, the alarm clock...
I have figured out not to get worked up over such things but just do what I can.
The computer is actually in a closet, so I can shut the door when it's not in use.
The shower curtain is needed and used.
The alarm clock - I would love to do without, but. . . 
Maybe it's just me, but I feel more grounded and relaxed 
in rooms without plastic.
There is a certain "calm" that is present when plastic is absent.  
Maybe it's the modern rush that plastics seem to trigger in our subconscious.
And so. . . .I continue.

Recently, I decided that our bedroom needed some attention.
Of all the rooms where one would want calm and repose, 
this should be up there on the list.
Not that there is a lot, but it's there, 
just hangin' out, sayin' "Hey look at me. Ha! I'm plastic so take that."
How rude!
Doesn't it seem odd how we don't really see what we are used to?
I was straitening up and actually noticed all the plastic in the closet.
Yep, in the closet.
I've de-cluttered the closet (my clothes) before.
It was when Mr LB said we to buy more hangers.
Instead, I went through my clothes and got rid of a bunch.
After that initial purging, it's much easier to get rid of clothes that are stained, damaged, or just don't fit right.
It seems funny now. 
Why was I so afraid to get rid of them?
How ridiculous.
Now even though there are far fewer clothes,
there are still too many and all hanging proudly from white plastic hangers - Ouch!
How did that happen?
The really sad part is a couple years ago when my grampa passed away,
Mom asked me if I wanted their wooden hangers.  
I said no so she took 2 black garbage bags to the thrift shop.
At the time we were getting so much "stuff" we just didn't want more.
The good news is I called the thrift shop.
Patty said, "Come on in.  We'll see what we can come up with."
So I went in and got wooden pant hangers - 
the good sturdy ones!
There were a few regular ones for shirts, which is what I needed most of.
There was also a basket of the ones that were crocheted.
You know the ones.
I asked what she did with them.
She said they usually go in the garbage - so I got them,
knowing what they were.
Once home, I began with the pants.
As I took each pair off the plastic and put it on the "real" hanger,
they gained something.
A couple pairs didn't even go back in the closet.
I don't have fancy, expensive clothes,
but there's dignity in being well cared for.
If I ever get to retire, half the clothes in there will go away.
Until then, I have office clothes and home clothes.
I'm not through the shirts yet, but have already eliminated about half dozen.
What about those crocheted hangers?
Well, I have scissors and have cut the yarn off 
to reveal the treasure hiding within.  
Some of them are wonderful reminders of times past.
It was a little tedious, but they were free so a little tediousness is okay.
I'm grateful for them.
I could go out and buy all new hangers, but I would be out the money and probably wouldn't have the same appreciation for them as I do this way.
Now when I walk in the closet, I notice - really notice.
It's strange how things invade our lives and we don't notice.
More and more, I'm trying to notice those little things and 
create an "intentional environment."
As I do, I take care of whatever it is and gain another level of peace.
That saying (cliche) "A place for everything and everything in its place."
There's wisdom in that.
Peace in it.
We still have a long ways to go, but each step closer lets us know we are headed in the right direction.
The less we have, the easier it is for that to happen.
Even using all these words, 
they seem inadequate to express the feeling I'm after.
But have you ever visited someplace, and upon walking through the door,
you feel like "Ah yes, this is it.  I'm Home."
You feel like you could just pick up your life and live there?
That's how I want our home to feel.

How 'bout you?
Is your home your sanctuary?
Or is it someplace you dwell?
I'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter.


PS~ About this time of year, I like to put a little cedar oil on a rag and run it along the bar of the closet and the underside of the shelf.  I also take my sweaters and put them in the dryer for a few minutes with a few drops of cedar oil on the dryer balls.

Friday, April 28, 2017

One Pan Wonder ~ Pesto Chicken

Ah yes, those meals that dirty only one pan.
Gotta love 'em.
One of my favorite is Pesto Chicken.
I will delve right in and let you get to cookin'.
First start by putting a generous amount of butter 
in the frying pan on medium heat.

(Note: this can be done in the oven and is equally delicious, but more difficult to take pictures as I go so I used the stove top this time.  If you use the oven, it would be a hot oven about 400 degrees.)
Then, add the chicken and sprinkle with garlic salt and pepper.
Once you turn it, wait until the second side is about half way done.

Then spread pesto over each piece.
The one piece here was thicker so wasn't quite ready.
Then add either sliced fresh tomatoes or canned diced tomatoes.
I have lots of diced and no fresh tomatoes at the moment 
so I used diced. 
This part really is better in the oven because 
the tomatoes become "oven roasted."
That translates to oh deliciouso!

Let the chicken finish cooking and tomatoes heat up.
That should give you just enough time to get your plate
and a good handful of spinach.
When the chicken is cooked through,
use a spatula to place it on the bed of spinach.
This is one of my favorite one dish wonders (meals using only one pan.)
I like to make extra in order to take some for lunch the next day too.

And one other little note:
I could probably eat pesto from the jar.
That song "You had me at hello" I sing as "You had me at basil."
I am hoping to make my own pesto this year if my basil cooperates.
That means I have to not eat it when I'm in the garden:)
That said, use as much or as little pesto as you desire, 
keeping in mind it does get milder as it cooks.

Also, I'm having some issues with photos and preview on my computer
so these photos are unmarked and unedited~ sorry.
I looked up the issue online, and there was some colorful language
describing the problem so hopefully I can get it figured out soon.

Monday, April 17, 2017


Well Hello there~
Before we get soaked, let's go inside.
It's been raining the better part of two weeks,
even had a couple of snowy mornings.

Can I put the kettle on for you?
You should stand by the wood-stove to warm up and dry off a bit.
I'll be right there.

There we go.
Now, I wanted to show you something.
I began doing this years ago,
but you know how some things just kinda slip by 
until you have a project on your hands.
It's these buttons, you see.
I've always kept my buttons.
I know lots of folks say they're not worth keeping,
but I keep 'em.
Whenever I go to cut a shirt for rags or a quilt,
I take the buttons first.
I haven't bought buttons in years.
They come in handy.
Mr. LB is constantly loosing buttons.
I just go to my dish of ugly, man buttons and find one the right size.
That doesn't sound very nice, but that's what I call them.

I was recently pulling some shirts apart for a project and pulled these.

Then what I do is get safety pins and string the buttons on those.
If there are too many, I just use a second pin and hook them together.

Then certain colored buttons go in various jars.

When I need buttons for a project, I just go to the jars.
This is the part that's slipped.
I have buttons in the bottom of this little basket,

and that wooden box,

and a variety of little dishes sitting around.

And there are more yet in jars that are in need of sorting.

So now it's a project~
gather up all my buttons and put them to right.
I might need bigger jars.

Oh listen, the water's hot.
Why don't you pick which cup you want to use,
and we'll sit and chat.
By the way, how are you at sorting buttons?


Sunday, April 2, 2017

Making Do in the Garden

It's almost spring!  Yay!!!
I enjoy all the seasons, but we've had such a harsh winter
that spring is impatiently awaited around here.
Last weekend, Mr. LB was able to run the rototiller through the garden
(with only minimal mug-bogging:)
We spread the previous year's compost over the garden in fall 
then till it in spring.
It's been a pretty wet spring so far.
This early in the season, 
there are a couple of "tools" that are indispensable to me.
The 'Old Farmer's Almanac," a blank calendar page, and a pen or pencil
for making notes all over the page.
This is how my weekly "to-do" list is formed.
With my seeds handy, I jot down dates for planting each item in my seed box.
We are right on the border of two zones.
This year I am going with the earlier planting schedule 
and will see what happens.  I can always replant these few items as I have plenty of seeds.  If I was scarce on seeds, I wouldn't be so risky.
I plant by the moon signs figuring I need all the help I can get.
So far I've planted spuds, Brussels sprouts, celery, kale, and spinach.
You can see what I use as garden markers and how to make them here.
The next couple of weekends are now all planned out.
Since we can finally begin to get outside a bit, 
there are a couple of repairs I'd like to share
just for the sake of putting ideas in your head.
Just because an item breaks, which newer tools in particular seem to do,
doesn't mean it needs to go to the dump.
Both of our spring rakes had broken handles.
Rather than purchasing new handles, Mr. LB used some PVC
that we already had on hand along with a couple of screws
and made the rakes usable again.
(Obviously, I should practice using it.)
The other is my little hand fork that I purchased about 25-30 years ago.
The plastic handle finally gave out.
I had the leg of a broken foot-stool so drilled a hole in the end,
added some gorilla glue, then the metal fork, 
and now have my favorite garden fork again.
I probably use it more than any other one tool, especially come weeding time.
The frogs have began croaking in the last couple weeks which is the first sign of spring around here.
I love listening to them as I close my eyes at night.
I figure they know better that we do when it's safe to hatch.
If they hadn't started croaking, 
I probably wouldn't have been quite so antsy to get out in the garden
since it is still pretty chilly out there and I am a wimp in the cold.

Have you began planting where you are?
I'd love to hear what tips/tricks or signs you use.


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Beyond the Pantry Shelves

How often have you given or received a gift in a jar?
There's just something special about it no matter which end you're on.
Here and here are a couple of examples.
As wonderful as that all is, imagine something that's even better.
Here, let me show you.
You see as a home-canner, we seldom think much past the immediate:
wash the jars, heat the water, how long, what pressure, how much produce?
Of course, we know we are nourishing our family, 
securing food for winter, and usually saving money.
We tend to get stuck in those niches without giving it much more thought.
But there's more~
something deeper that we can't see.

Recently, my mother-in-law asked if I wanted some canning supplies.
They aren't doing that any more.
Of course, I said, "Sure."
They live in a small town not too far off, and Mr. LB and I work in two different towns each of the three about an hour's drive from the other. (Crazy I know.)
My M-I-L called one evening and asked 
if Mr. LB could drive the pick up the next day. 
They would be in town and would bring the canning things.
She didn't think it would fit in the car.
I laughed and asked if she was sure - note: never laugh at M-I-L.
She said, "Well, I think there are 16 boxes, 1 tote and a water canner."
I think I was still laughing not thinking she was serious -
note: quit laughing at M-I-L - she's serious!
It gets better. . .
Mr. LB drove the pickup to work and brought home the bounty.
When I saw it all and remarked that I couldn't believe how much was there, not even blinking, he said that they had already give 21 boxes to a grand daughter!
He is the youngest of five.
I can't imagine how much food was prepared for each meal.
His response to my shock was a casual, "Yea, Mom used to can a lot."
It was the weekend before I was ready to tackle the pile of boxes.
Within one of the boxes were these beautiful old blue jars~
the good ones with air bubbles in the glass.
Even some of the clear glass jars were old and had bubbles.
I think it was during the second load in the dish-washer 
that I called to thank her.
That's when she asked, "I think there were some blue jars in one of the boxes."
"Yeeeesss," I answered slowly as I looked at them drying on the counter.
They were the first ones washed.
She continued, "Could I have just one of them back?"
They were actually her grandma's (Mr. LB's great-grandma's.)
She didn't need it, and I would get it back some day, but she would like one.
(Actually, I think I laughingly said I would think about it just 'cause I'm ornery."
But THAT'S what it is - whatever 'that' is.
That invisible thread that ties generations together
just by being and doing, by feeding the family, 
and by sharing the "pay" of your labor.
There's something so special in that.

Since then, I've rearranged, moved, and reevaluated things in the pantry.
I've decided the blue jars will be for herbs.
The herbs will be protected from the light, and
 it will be a "gentle" use of the jars.
And there is still one sitting on the counter - waiting:)

Below is a recipe for a meal in a jar~
a special gift,   from me . . . to you.
(In this one, I put the pasta in a plastic bag and then in the jar.) 

Chicken Noodle Soup (in a jar)
1/3 c. dried carrots
1/3 c. dried celery
1/4 c. dried onion
1/4 tsp. ground thyme
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/8 tsp. celery seeds
1/8 garlic powder
1 bay leaf
2/3 c. pasta
1 pint jar 
Layer ingredients in jar.  If you lay the bay leaf on the top of the dried items, the pasta will stay on top better - depending on what pasta you use.
In crock pot add jar ingredients to: 
8 c chicken broth or water
 and 3 c. chopped chicken.
Cook all day on low.
PS~ Sometimes I'll add dried peas or peppers or rice instead of pasta.
If you've been around a while, you know I have recipe issues.
If you're new to the site, 
you should know I consider a recipe as a general guideline.


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

$ I Failed $

Back before Christmas, 
I shared this post and told how I was planning to basically 
go on a spending fast.
I made it through January and was doing well in February
until that last week.
I'd bought no magazines nor coffees.
I have taken my lunch to work everyday this year.
No new clothes or diamond jewelry - just seeing if you were paying attention.
So what was my demise?
It was a bowl.
Yep, a bowl.
Sounds too simple doesn't it?
Not just any bowl, but a terra-cotta bowl.
I have a bit of an affinity for terra-cotta cookware.
It can go in the fridge/freezer or the oven safely.
When using the roasters, food stays moist and cooks evenly.
If you must know, my actual thought when I saw it was~
"Yes! I can set it in the oven to heat, and it can keep mashed potatoes warm."
Evidently with me, it's all about the spuds.
I did struggle even in the shop where I found it, knowing that purchasing it would mean breaking my promise to myself.
This being the first terra-cotta bowl I've ever see in a thrift shop, I got it.
So how much did it cost?
It was $3.00.
Now, you might be laughing at me and thinking,
"All of this over a three dollar bowl?  You're nuts!"
You can think I'm nuts if you like, 
but I will explain what this $3 bowl really cost in my mind.
You see, Mr. LB and I have some financial "goals," (as well as other goals)
 a magic number to hit at which point we feel we can retire and be okay.
By retire, I don't mean quit working, but quit the 8-5 with an hour drive on each end of the day, five days per week.
We are working towards that goal.
There is a sorta financial cliche that says,
"$10 in an interest baring account in 10 years will be $1000."
Yes, I am completely aware of all the variables and conditions that can make this statement false.
But it is a really easy thing to stick in my little ol' brain as a guideline.
With that, I felt like I was robbing my future self of $300 
by purchasing this bowl.
Does it make a little more sense why I was struggling now?
I am cognizant that this is how all those little things add up over time
and impact us in the long run.
I've made peace with my decision though.
How on earth did I do that after what I just said?
Well, just after I got the bowl washed, hadn't even used it yet,
I set it on the table rather than in the cupboard with the other bowls.
I am careful with it.
I look at it and appreciate it as a $300 bowl.
In my eyes it's beautiful (will be more so full of spuds!)
Maybe that sounds like a lame excuse to some folks,
but there are so many people who struggle with debt and trying to save.
Perhaps if they thought of it in the 10 year way, they too would struggle with small purchases, be it a cup of coffee and a muffin or a news-stand magazine.
Do they really appreciate those things?
No denying, I am still a little disappointed in myself.
I'm on another decluttering run (more on that later,) and this was something
coming into the house rather than going out.
So now I'm back to no spending.
I'll see if I can make it through March and go from there.
In the mean time, we'll continue to inch towards our goal and continue trying
because that's how we learn ~ right? ~ by practicing.
Does anybody get it right 100% of the time?
I suppose it's a mark of my humanism, humaninatiy, humanness???
I'll just try to behave.
I just wanted you to know since reading declarations online such as~
then you hear nothing as far as follow up, can make you wonder.
I suppose I can look at it like I failed, but guess what.
We have saved money over the past couple months.
If we look at it in perspective, even with that one failure,
the success is great and far out-weighs the failure portion.
So I'm choosing to focus on that.
If you are trying to save, maybe focus on what you've done right 
rather than what you've failed to do.
By honing in on what we are doing right,
we can do it more and more often,
in return become more and more successful.

So far, one week into March, we're doing it. 
I guess you could say practice is going well.