Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Ideal Day

ideal adjective existing only in the imagination; desirable or perfect, but not likely to become a reality.

Some women's idea of an ideal day is one filled with activities. Maybe lunch with girlfriends, shopping, a spa treatment, more shopping and probably chocolate. I can agree on the chocolate for sure. And the spa treatment, shopping and lunch with girlfriends is great, but those things would not be part of my ideal day.

This is my ideal day: It's raining hard enough that I can hear it on the roof and windows. I sleep until I feel like getting up, maybe 7:30 or 8. (Because it's my ideal day and I don't want to spend the whole thing in bed.) I get up to a spotlessly clean house and do my 30 Day Shred DVD work-out, eat some breakfast, drink some water, check my e-mail, and then take a shower. I get dressed in a comfy pair of jeans, long sleeve shirt and some very cozy socks. Then I grab my fuzzy blanket and some chocolate and a stack of books and start reading. Oh, did I mention there is a fire in the fireplace? After a few hours of reading, I might doze off for a nap. Or not, if the book is really exciting. Then I would read some more. I might have a salad for lunch sometime around 1 or 2, then go back to reading. I would go out to dinner with the family (just because this is ideal and going out to dinner with the family is most definitely something that exists in the imagination these days.) Then I would come home and get ready for bed and read until I fall asleep.

Doesn't that sound wonderful?

Everything I do, I do to reach that ideal. I clean, I make freezer meals, I try to be efficient, and I don't schedule too many outside activities, all in hopes that I can get closer to that ideal.

I was under the impression that when school started, I would have that ideal day, at least 2-3 times a week. (Well, not the going out to dinner part, and the rain part is pretty much just icing) I thought after the first few days of reclaiming the house from the summer chaos, I would have hours, upon hours of time to read. I even had a stack of books from the library, ready to go in anticipation.

Now, I am just finishing week 3 of the school year and so far, I have yet to find my big block of time. I just don't understand how I could be so busy? And for the life of me, I can't even tell you what I've been doing. And it hasn't been Facebook because you know I haven't been doing that for the last 2 weeks. It's just a lot of little things and they add up to me not seeming to reach my ideal.

Today, I thought, would for sure be a day of leisure. There is nothing on the calendar, except an orthodontist appointment for Ethan. But running errands became a lot more complicated than I thought it would be, and took a lot more time.

The good news is, all those errands are out of the way which leaves tomorrow as another potential ideal day. And if not, then I'll surely get one next week.

Although something tells me, it's not likely.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

In Which Looking at Pictures of Baked Goods Does Not Fix My Writer's Block

I'm thinking, I'm thinking, I'm thinking.

I'm supposed to be writing--fine tuning the first 25 pages of my work in progress to submit to a contest that I've been meaning to enter since January.

I'm also supposed to be writing because it's part of my 2 hours a day for the Game On! diet. I love the Game On! diet. Love it with the heat of ten thousand burning calories, I do.

Instead, I'm looking for google images of "writer's block" and trying to see if pictures of pumpkin cheesecake brownies will inspire me to figure out some dialogue that doesn't sound completely stupid. I'm also listening to my 12 year old hum Christmas Time is Here in his bed.
He makes it so easy for me to tell when he is feeling melancholy.

But I'm not getting actual words down on the page. There is no revision happening. It's just a lot of thinking. And being stuck. But I'm pretty sure this still counts, right? I can't be expected to type 80 words per minute for 2 straight hours. (Yes, as a matter of fact, I can type 80 words per minute). Part of the "2 hours of writing" has got to be thinking. I am working on it. I'm for sure going to get my 25 pages submitted by Friday. This Friday. I mean it.

Still, I'm stuck.

Because I don't want to scrap the whole scene and come up with something different. But I might have to. So I guess I'm kind of putting off the inevitable. However, it's still possible that my inaction will fix the problem. Isn't it?

I've got about 30 more minutes of my 2 hour writing block and I'm NOT going to spend it looking at recipes for Nanaimo bars. Because that would really not be using my time wisely and, did I mention I love the Game On! diet?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I Forgot

This morning I've been watching a 9 month old little boy for a neighbor while she gets 2 hours of dental work done. I'm not sure who is in more physical pain.

OK, I'm kidding. I'm sure it's her.

He's been crying for about 90 minutes. He stopped crying long enough to poop, then started up again. He seems to cry more when I approach him or look at him. He's exhausted. I don't know why he doesn't pass out on the floor.

I've been armed with Craisins and cheerios and frozen baby yogurt in tubes. He wants nothing to do with any of it. I've shown him Hot Wheels and Rescue Heroes and books and blocks. No luck with those either. I've walked him around the kitchen-familyroom-livingroom loop like 20 times in a row, doing my special bouncy walk (registered with the Ministry of Silly Walks) and that only resulted in me getting a snotty, slobbery spot on my shoulder.

There is a mental shut down that takes place once all logic fails. Once you've tried everything, and despite it all, the baby is still screaming. For the stay-at-home mom, this mental shut down is a life saver. A happy place, so to speak where you can actually tune out the crying and find some level of peace for a few precious minutes. It's a tenuous peace, almost like a soap bubble, floating through the dog park with hundreds of snapping dog jaws vying to be the one to break it.

I forgot about that mental shut down. It's not only self-preservation at its best, it also helps preserve the species. (I'm not afraid to say it).

At first I was gratefully surprised at how, after all these years, my mind was able to so quickly shut down. That glossy look probably returned to my eyes, and I was able to answer phone calls with a cheeriness that bordered on creepy. (Because shouldn't I sound a little more harried with a screaming baby in the background?)

After a little introspection, I realized that happy place had been visited by me more recently than I'd first thought. I recalled last Sunday and the Battle For The Sticky Hand which had lasted for hours and never come to a resolution. At the end of the day Robert mentioned how awful it had been with all the fighting and arguing and crying. "Had it?" I thought. I'd spent the morning in bed, reading and quite enjoyed myself.

Maybe the mental shut down is why women live longer than men.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Speaking of Banning Books

I ordered Soup by Robert Newton Peck from Amazon to read to my boys. I seem to remember my mother speaking highly of this book and my brothers loving it. I was sure it was a classic boy book that my boys would love as well.

The Amazon reviews might have said, "A True American Classic" and "Whimsical and Amusing," but I found myself having to explain more and more to my boys, and even getting a little shocked at this book set in rural Vermont in the 1920's.

Here's how it went:

Chapter One:
Me: See, in the old days, parents used to spank their kids with a leather strap or belt.
Kids: (Eyes huge) Parents can't do that now, right?
Me: Well, they probably shouldn't. And also, sometimes, when you went to school, the teacher could spank you or hit you with a ruler.
Kids: (Eyes huge)
Me: And sometimes, a neighbor could spank you if you made the neighbor mad, or they could just grab your head and shake it hard.
Kids: Really?
Me: It was the old days. And evidently the school nurse--they had school nurses in the old days too--used to have to check your head for lice every day and ask you if you pooped. "Moved your bowels" is the way they said poop in the old days.

Chapter Two:
Me: In the old days, little boys used to carry knives. You are not to carry a knife.

Chapter Three:
Me: Please don't ever stick bugs up someone's nose, and you probably shouldn't tie people to trees either. And you should NEVER tie a rope around someone's neck. Ever!

Chapter Four:
Me: I can't believe I'm reading this to you! You are not to carve out acorns to make pipes, ok? I can't believe I just read about how a 10 year old boy learns to make his own pipe and smoke!

Chapter Five:
Me: (Self-editing on the fly so I don't have to say, "The old man told Ally Tidwell that it was alright to put a stone in the middle of a tinfoil ball and cheat old Diskin, because it wasn't really so bad to cheat a Jew." Not doing a good job at self-editing.)

I was somehow under the impression that I was raising free range children. I let them explore and play outside until dark and make up games and climb trees and get dirty. But I make them wear helmets when they ride bikes and insist that they treat others kindly and definitely not smoke! And what kind of idiot would give a 10 year old boy a pocket knife? If he accidentally brought it to school, he could get kicked out.

It's easy to romanticize the old days, but when I think about all the spanking and pipe smoking 10 year olds, and the idea that it was OK to cheat someone because of their religion or heritage, I think I'll take the politically correct 21st century.

On the other hand, I am getting tired of all the knee-jerk reactions society has to issues big and small that bring about Rules For Safety that end up limiting most everyone and only ever provide an illusion of safety.

Can't we have a good old fashioned bake sale where moms actually make baked goods instead of being required to purchase store bought, prepackaged garbage?

Let's get our kids Pen Pals (and not just in the classroom down the hall) and make them write actual letters, with pens. On paper!

Don't ban paper airplanes at school. Has anyone EVER had their eye poked out from a paper airplane?

What else should we bring back?

Friday, September 24, 2010

How To Write Compelling Characters

Oh dear! I've signed up for something and it appears I'm way out of my league.

Monday I discovered Elana Johnson's blog. It was a fabulous little discovery that lead to many other little discoveries that has turned into quite the mother lode of writerly information. Ms. Johnson had issued a writing challenge for this Friday (that would be today!) to blog about writing compelling characters.

Since I've made a goal to write for at least 2 hours a day, and since I thought it would be great to have something to write about, and to read other blogs that had written about the same thing. I signed up. Then I forgot.

But then I remembered, and as I read the posts of the other bloggers participating in the challenge, I realize (gulp) that I am sure I don't know what I'm talking about. My fiction writing is in it's infancy. More than that, it's in its embryo stage. A stage where I look at what I've written, edit, edit again, order style manuals from Amazon Marketplace and edit again, and then decide that what I have, in the words of Steve Martin, is pure drivel.

So here I am, feeling a bit silly as I'm not a published writer, or even a writer with a finished manuscript, (at least not one that I'm not considering heaving into the mucky duck pond down the path). Still, I'm going to give it a shot.

One character I happen to love is DJ Schenck from the young adult series, Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock. DJ is flawed. She's got this shyness that is at times, paralyzing. She's not to hot with the communication skills either. It seems she will do anything to avoid the spotlight.

What makes her so compelling is that DJ is forced to face these flaws because she's a gifted athlete and hard worker who is respected and admired by just about everyone who knows her. Not a great way to stay out of the spotlight.

Throughout the series, I found myself aching for, shouting at, sympathizing with, and cheering for DJ all because of this conflict between her flaws and her strengths.

When a character can get me to be that emotionally invested, that's when I'm compelled.

Things I Learned Today

1. Newsies is going to be a musical. Wait. I thought it already was a musical. The best musical ever. I guess they are making it a Broadway musical. Cool. But it won't be the same with out Christain Bale and super cute David Moscow. Sorry, but it won't. (College roommates, how much do you suppose we spent at the dollar theater seeing this movie?)

2. Sesame Street is just starting it's 41st season. I do not see how this could possibly be true because Sesame Street's first season was the year I was born, and I'm not...oh. Yes, I am. Here's my all time favorite clip from Sesame Street. I wanted that doll house, but especially the 2 little spoons.

3. You may know that a group of crows is a murder and a group of penguins is a parcel, but what about a group of trolls or mummies? Fear not! Geekologie has posted a list of supernatural collective nouns. And it's disturbingly thorough. Now I know that it's a malevolence of trolls and a liberty of mummies. Also super good to know: a group of Jedi is a jake. But why do they list the Yeti in the Wildlife Class, but Bigfoot in the Monster Class? Furthermore, why do we need to know that the collective noun for a group of Bigfeet is a ruminance. Sorry, there's only one Bigfoot. No need for a collective noun OR a plural designation. (Even if there were more than one Bigfoot, everyone knows they are solitary, shy creatures and would never go around as a group.)

4. Morning naps are fabulous. I see no need to elaborate.

5. The book Where's Waldo is a banned book. It's banned books week and our library has a poster with lots of pictures of banned books. I know about Harry Potter and Catcher in the Rye and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn being banned books. But Where's Waldo? The link I included earlier explains it, but this list from Amazon has even more banned kids books and the reasons why. Some I can understand, but banning the dictionary because it contains objectionable words like bed, knockers and balls? Some people have too much time on their hands. However, I totally agree with the crazies for banning The Giving Tree, just not for the reasons they state.

6. After 7 seasons, The Office has still got it!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Poor Locavore

It happened gradually, but it appears I've turned into a locavore. I'm not 100% locavore: I still buy some food, like cold cereal, that is made in a factory several states away. But slowly, I've been adding more local, whole foods to my family's diet. And I'm not sure how this happened because I was not a big fan of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. I found it elitist and impractical. Maybe it started when I read Michael Pollan's Food Rules, a moderate, common sense look at how we should eat.

I remember the spinach recall from 3 or 4 years ago. At the time I was eating fresh spinach daily and the fact that I could not find a fresh spinach leaf to save my life really threw a wrench in my day. Of course getting e coli from a tainted fresh spinach leaf wouldn't have been too hunky dory either. I realized that it would be very simple to grow my own spinach at home. I'd have an endless supply and I'd know exactly where it came from, all for around $2 for the cost of seeds.

I'm not a proponent of organics. I think its fine if farmers use pesticides to increase crop production. Sometimes it seems the term "organic" is simply another way of saying, "more expensive." In addition, organic food production ultimately ends up adopting the same practices of the big food companies because you simply can not produce food on a large scale and use small scale farming and production practices.

I'd rather have my food come from a local, responsible farmer than be organic.

I just want my food to be real food, not from a factory. And if my food is grown or produced locally, I know I'm getting the freshest, best tasting, most healthy food for my family.

Don't come running over here to open my pantry and point out that I'm a hypocrite because I have Jell-o and a box of graham crackers. And lots of cold cereal. Like I said, I'm not 100% there and I probably won't ever be 100% there. It's not important to me to make a statement with my locavoreishness. I don't care what you eat in your home. I don't want to judge you, just like I don't want you to judge me for putting Uncrustables in my kids lunch boxes from time to time.

I have come to enjoy knowing where my food comes from, and knowing that it didn't get made in a factory. (Tip #19 in Pollan's Food Rules, "If it came from a plant, eat it. If it was made in a plant, don't.)

The problem with being a locavore is it can get pricey. Take, for example, my milk (pictured above). This is a half gallon of 2% milk, pasteurized once, not homogenized, in a glass bottle (did I also mention I am trying to get away from plastic mixing with my food?) and delivered once a week. I might be a bit of a romantic, but when that milk comes on Wednesday afternoon, I like to think that it was from a cow that was milked that morning. It makes me happy thinking that I have a local, fresh product.

Now here is the shocking part.

For 4 half gallons of milk, I pay (I'm having a hard time admitting this) sixteen dollars. $16!!! And since the minimum order for weekly delivery is $18, I usually add on a dozen farm fresh eggs for $5.

How can I afford to keep buying this milk? I feel absolutely crazy for buying it and every week I think I'm going to cancel the service, turn in my glass bottles and be done with it. But then I think, "I'll cancel next week."

I know that $8 a gallon is not too astronomical for organic milk. And it's delivered. But I don't care about "organic." I just like that it is local and fresh and not over processed and not in plastic.

I just don't think it's worth it anymore.

It's too expensive to be a locavore.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Oh! The Drama!

Seems like a blog post title about drama should have a healthy dose of exclamation points.

I've had a dramatic morning this morning. It makes me realize that I quite prefer boring monotony, thank you very much.

It started with my e-mail. Frontier bought Verizon and has been warning for several months that my e-mail address would change. I thought I'd preempt the change and show them a thing or two by switching to g-mail. The only problem was that while I could receive g-mail I could not figure out how to set up my inbox to send from g-mail. I thought I had until the end of the year to make the switch completely, so I was taking my own sweet time to work out the bugs in my little system.

Now, I'm not really getting very much e-mail, and sending is right out. It might not have been too big of a deal, except the Game On! diet (yes, I'm going to use an exclamation point every time I write it, OK) requires communication to earn daily points. Without e-mail, communication becomes more difficult.

What's that you say? What about using the phone?

Yes, I could use the phone, and I have, but the real problem is that today is the day to turn in scores. All the teams are sending ME their team scores and I'm sure, eagerly awaiting the results for the whole group.

While was trying to get the e-mail situation fixed, and by "trying," I mean checking my inbox every few minutes to see if the problem had magically resolved itself, the phone rang. It was the title company helping us with our home refi. (Super low rates now, don't you know!!) Refinancing has been a bit like a pregnancy: you wait and wait and wait and all of a sudden your water breaks and everything becomes quite urgent.

We signed what we thought were all the papers on Friday, but evidently, some got added at the last minute. And by last minute, I mean we had an hour to sign and fax them back, or forfeit our rate and go back to square one. Thank goodness Robert was home, working on his bike in the garage and not at work. Or that I wasn't over at the school volunteering (don't laugh, it happens) because we would not have made the deadline.

I printed out the papers and we were in the middle of signing and getting ready to run them over to the UPS store to pay $1 a page to fax them (are we really the only ones left with out a fax machine in our house?) when we got a call from the middle school.

This dramatic development has a bit of back story:
On Friday of last week, I got a phone call from the vice principal letting me know that school enrollment was higher than predicted and they were able to bring on an extra teacher. They needed kids to move from Orange Hall (Ethan's current hall) to Green Hall to reduce some class sizes while building the class of the new teacher. Unfortunately, this seems to be Ethan's educational lot in life: Whenever there is a new teacher, he is always asked to move. Well, not this time.

Luckily, the school only needed 15 volunteers to move and asked the parents to notify them if their student wanted to stay. I called and left a message on the Principal's voice mail letting her know Ethan wanted to stay in Orange and thought that was the end of the story.

It was moving day and the school had a list of students moving to Green Hall. Ethan was on the list. This caught him off guard and he explained that he was NOT supposed to move to Green, that his mother had called had said he was staying in Orange. There was probably a grumpy school employee who said something like, "Sorry schmuck, but you're on the list. You gotta move now. So get your stuff. We're going to Green." (I'm just guessing.)

Ethan, confused and overwhelmed and definitely not wanting to move, ended up in the office in tears. My friend Christine called and gave me the low down. (I highly recommend having a friend in the middle school office!) She told me exactly what to do. Evidently they needed the request in WRITING. She gave me an e-mail address and told me to send an e-mail right away, which I did. She helped Ethan calm down, clearing out the health room, dimming the lights and suggesting he say a prayer, which he did. She just called to say he felt much better and was going to math.


Here's hoping for a very boring, very predictable afternoon.

The afternoon was not predictable and not boring. I found out from an understandably upset mother that I'd neglected to recognize her missionary son at an activity last night. It was a HUGE error on my part and I felt completely awful about it.

Then, when Jonah came off the bus he was crying and said he'd been kicked, punched and poked in the eye. Witnesses corroborate the story and it appears he did not deserve the attack.

So far, Isaac is the only one to avoid the drama of the day. However, he did get a little dramatic when his after school snack was not immediately forthcoming the minute he walked in the door.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Soccer Mom?

Am I a Soccer Mom if only 1 out of my 3 kids is playing soccer?

Am I a Soccer Mom if I don't actually stay to watch soccer practice?

Am I a Soccer Mom if I don't go to games when it rains?

Am I a Soccer Mom if I don't bring a snack for my child to have after the game?

Am I a Soccer Mom if I look forward to the end of the season?

Am I a Soccer Mom if I drive this?

When conditions are just right, I am actually quite fond of soccer. The sun has to be shining, the game location can't be more than 10 minutes away, the soccer-playing-kid needs to be enjoying himself, my chair position on the field needs to be unobstructed, the game can't be longer than an hour, and it doesn't hurt if I have a few parent friends to chat with while watching the game. These were the very conditions for Isaac's first Kick and Chase soccer game.

He had a great time and loved playing with 2 of his favorite buddies. One of them even made an amazing header play off a corner kick. It went in the right direction and everything. (Way to go T!)

The second game (last weekend) was rainy. In Oregon, very little gets canceled because of rain. Sometimes things are canceled because of heat, and if we get a dusting of snow, heaven help us! But we do everything in the rain. I've sat through many rainy soccer games. I have a giant sports umbrella, rain pants and rubber boots. I've done my time in the rain. I just don't want to do it anymore.

Plus, it's much more fun to be in a warm cozy house reading a book while it's raining. Especially if everyone is gone to a soccer game!

Ethan is reffing Kick and Chase soccer this year. He gets $10 a game and is scheduled to ref Isaac's games this fall. He doesn't get to do it every week because there are so many kids who are signed up to ref. But he should get to do at least 5 games. He's saving to buy something big and exciting on Black Friday.

Only 6 more games until soccer season is over!!

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Jell-o Project: The Game On! Gelled Salad Mold

I must give credit to my brother Jason for inspiring this latest Jell-o mold and my return to The Jell-o Project. Last week as part of the Game On! Diet I'm playing with my friends, siblings and their friends, Jason jokingly asked if flavorless, colorless, sugarless Jell-o might be OK to eat on the diet.

I replied that it would be, as long as you counted it as a protein and only had a palm sized serving. (I also might have mentioned something to him about ground up horse hooves, but we don't need to go into that here.) His mention of Jell-o got me thinking about what a Game On! worthy Jell-o salad might look like.

I can not vouch for the tastiness of the salad (pictured above), but I can guarantee it will not lose you any points in the diet by eating it, as long as you do so as one of your 5, approved meals.

Jason's Mold
1 pkg. plain gelatin
3/4 cup hot spinach water
1/4 cup water (room temp)
2 tsp diced celery
1 TB diced turkey bacon

Sprinkle gelatin over 1/4 cup of water and let it dissolve for 3-5 minutes. Add 3/4 cup of hot spinach water (left over from cooking spinach) and stir. Refrigerate for about an hour to thicken the gelatin. Add bits of celery and turkey bacon (kangaroo meat will work as well) to the thickened gelatin and spoon into a 1/2 cup mold and return to the fridge. Unmold on a lettuce leaf and serve to your Game On! opponents.

The possibilities for gelled Game On! salads are limited only by your imagination!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Game On!: No Snacking Means No Snacking

One of my favorite things about late summer is the wild blackberries that seem to grow everywhere. For weeks and weeks the picking is plentiful and free. I'll be the first to admit that blackberry picking can be a dangerous pursuit. The thorny canes almost seem to reach out and grab you get close enough to pick. And of course the best berries are always require the most physical sacrifice on the part of the picker to acquire.

But it's worth it.

The route I take on my daily power walk takes me right by a productive patch of blackberry bushes. Ten months out of the year, they are useless and not even very pretty. But when those blackberries ripen, they offer something for every one of the senses. On warm mornings I can literally smell the berries as I speed walk by. It's intoxicating!

This summer I decided I would literally stop and taste the blackberries. So mid walk, I would scan the bushes for the plumpest, most delicious looking berries, stop, grab a few and continue on with my walk. It was just a berry or two, but the romantic in me felt strongly about experiencing to the fullest the natural world around me. I needed to enjoy the blackberries before they were gone.

All was well with this plan.

Until the Game On! Diet.

This morning on my walk I passed the heavily laden bushes and noticed a berry I could NOT pass up. One berry. I grabbed it and tossed it in my mouth and continued on my way.

"I should really have the kids pick me some berries for a blackberry crisp," I thought to myself. Quickly, I realized that blackberry crisp did not have any part of my 5 daily approved meals. This made me realize that by eating that one, little blackberry, I'd snacked--a major no-no in The Game.

A 10 point deduction in The Game.

I was devastated. How could I do this to my team? And it was 7am! I had the whole day ahead of me and had just started it off with snacking.

I then remembered the 100 calorie rule. I can have 100 calories of anything I want during the day, as long as it is consumed all at the same time. I could count my one blackberry as part of the 100 calories and still potentially have a perfect day. I was saved.

Out of curiosity, I googled how many calories one blackberry had when I got home.

One blackberry has one calorie.


It's OK. I'd rather give up my 99 calories than take a 10 point deduction and let the Super Ninja Bootie Busters down.

That's our team name.

Pretty awesome, no?

Friday, September 17, 2010

I'm Done

My 2010 Canning Season has officially come to a close. Finally.

About a month ago I picked up a box of pears and set them out on the counter to let them ripen. I thought it would only take a week or so, but I was wrong. A few pears were ripe around week 2, so I made pear cranberry jam (7 half pints) and carrot cake jam (5 half pints, 2 pints). A few days later there were enough ripe pears to make ginger pear sauce (4 pints).

The next week I canned pears in syrup (14 quarts ) and finally, today I did another batch of ginger pear sauce (4 pints.)

I will be quite glad to scrub out my canner and put it away for 9 months.

I will be thrilled to get my counter space back that has been, for a month, taken up by actual pears, or pears in jars.

I will not be glad to finally clean the drip pans on my stove top, but it must be done. For some reason, my giant canning pot does bad things to my stove top. Easy Off oven cleaner will be required, but I'm not under the illusion that anything will come "off easy."

I was so excited for canning season back in June when I got my fresh strawberries. There is something about making and storing my own food that brings out the giddy obsessive compulsive in me. I could look at all my jars of preserves lined up on the shelves in my garage for 10 minutes and not get bored. Through out the winter and spring, I'll spend time re-organizing them as we use them, moving things up that need to be used first and taking inventory of jams to prepare for the coming season.

See? Just a little OCD.

Now, however, I'm ready to be done. I've worked hard this canning season and have used almost all my canning jars. This, by the way, is my OCD dream: to have every single canning jar that I own filled with some kind of preserve at the beginning of Fall. I have yet to see this dream fulfilled because we keep using up preserved food and returning clean, empty jars to the garage.

Here are all the preserves in my food storage from the 2010 harvest. (I should note that I did not grow any of these foods myself, which is unfortunate. Last year I canned all my own tomatoes that I grew myself, but I still have so many tomato preserves on the shelf, I will easily get through next summer with what I have. I did, however, pick all the fruits I canned myself, with the exception of the strawberries and the pears, which came from Salem and Medford.)

June - strawberry jam, strawberry lemonade concentrate, strawberry sauce (for ice cream and waffles, and no, it's not failed jam, it was an actual recipe for strawberry sauce.)

July - cherries in syrup, cherry chutney, black forest macaroon compote, apricots in syrup, apricot jam, apricot butter

August - peaches in syrup, peach almond conserve, apple sauce, red hot cinnamon apple slices in syrup

September - pears in syrup, carrot cake jam, pear cranberry jam, ginger pear sauce

No wonder I'm a little burnt out on canning.

If you would like any of the recipes for the things I've mentioned, I will tell you right now, I'm not going to type them all out for you. You may borrow my incredibly awesome canning cookbook (but not during canning season), check it out from your local library, or buy your own. Although I think my strawberry lemonade concentrate recipe is here.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Here's What's Going On

Last spring I participated in the Game On! Diet, which is much more than changing ones eating habits. It's about overall health and well-being. On top of that, it's also a competition. You play against friends, or strangers, or anyone who's butt you'd like to kick. In a totally healthy way, of course.

After completing the 4 week game, I thought it would be great to play with my family. We are spread out from coast to coast and I hardly ever get to see them. I thought this would be a fun way to connect and encourage each other to be healthy. OK, I'll say it: I wanted to lose a few pounds after a summer of copious snacking. (But I only snacked like crazy because I knew I'd be working it all off come September!)

Part of the game requires you to choose one bad habit to get rid of and one good habit to adopt.

My bad habit is spending too much time on Facebook. So I am giving it up for 4 weeks. It's going to be hard because my little fingers sometimes have a mind of their own as they fly across the keyboard. I made it yesterday without checking Facebook once, but I had to catch myself several times when I just reverted to my habit.

My good habit is going to be writing 2 hours a day. Writing has been a goal of mine for a long time and now that all the kids are otherwise occupied for about 7 hours a day, I think it's time to stop making excuses and get to work. Ideally, I will be writing things that could eventually be sold for money, but this blog should expect to see a little more action too.

So, gentle blog followers and readers, I hope you enjoy the increased postings here at OMM. Feel free to leave comments telling me how awesome I am, because, you know, that would totally help me out with this competition. Did I mention there is cash prize at stake? Cash!

My sister in Virginia has a team of 4 players.
My sister in California has 2 teams of 4 players each.
My sister in law in Ohio has 2 teams with 5 and 4 players each.
And I have 2 teams of 3 players each.

Game on!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Snips, Snails, Puppy Dog Tails, and Really Dirty Socks

Back in July of this year, Ethan participated in a Pioneer Trek with other 12-18 year old youth from our church. The experience is meant to give kids a greater appreciation for the sacrifices our pioneer ancestors made crossing the plains to get to the Salt Lake Valley, but also to give them a sense of accomplishment. There were all kinds of challenges the kids overcame to complete their approximately 20 mile trek. Along with the physical challenge, many kids were stretched emotionally and spiritually.

The only emotion Ethan found being stretched was his strong desire to never, ever do a Pioneer Trek again. Although he ultimately had a good time (and I know this because he was very excited to attend a family reunion with his trek family last month), the journey was physically very difficult for him. Emotionally and spiritually he has a bit of maturing to do, so any big life lessons in those areas pretty much went over his head.

Still, I thought this was a fabulous picture. There was an official Trek photographer who took over 7000 pictures over the 4 day experience and then put together a wonderful slide show for a youth fireside last Sunday. This was one of the pictures in the slide show, and it got a big laugh from the 200+ kids and their parents in attendance.

It is interesting to note, that Ethan's supply bucket where he kept all his stuff during Trek, has not been unpacked since July due to a misunderstanding about when and where to pick it up. We actually just retrieved the 5 gallon bucket after the fireside on Sunday. It's currently in the back of the car. The thought that these socks are somewhere in that bucket makes me want to dump the whole thing without even opening it.

At the very least, I think Ethan should be the one to open and unpack the bucket. But these socks will NOT see the inside of my nice washing machine.

Garbage day is tomorrow.

Friday, September 10, 2010

I Lost 21 Pounds in One Day!

For years I've been saving old blue jeans with the idea that I would one day use them to make darling quilts for my boys. Whenever Robert or any of the boys wore out a pair of jeans, they got stacked on the shelf in a closet. Wednesday I looked at the shelf and asked myself an important question: Am I really going to take the time to cut up each of these pairs of jeans into useable squares that can then be used to make a quilt?

The answer was a resounding NO!

The decision to part ways with the stacks of jeans (a 21 pound stack of jeans, no less) was quite freeing. I no longer had a dreaded project hanging over my head and I was about to get a whole closet shelf back. It felt great.

However, I didn't want to throw the jeans in the garbage. It seemed like such a waste to relegate the stack to a landfill. And I couldn't give them to Goodwill. As if someone would actually pay money for jeans with holes in the knees! I decided to offer my stack to my Facebook friends, but shockingly, there were no takers. (Well, I did have one friend from Wyoming express interest).

Finally I posted them for free on Craigslist and I found a taker.

I was surprised that I didn't have more interest in my 21 pound pile of jeans. After all, there are a plethora of crafts one could make from old jeans. The word du jour is "repurposing." Or, if you prefer, "upclycling."

A quick google search turned up online instructions for using old jeans to make not just quilts, but wallets, purses, a kindle case cover, a notebook cover, a lunch sack, baby bibs, an apron, Christmas stockings, a vest (or at least that is what she's calling it), and this amazing, but very heavy looking dress.

I was impressed, however, with all the footwear you could make repurposing old jeans.

These slippers seemed pretty comfy, but for the life of me I could not find directions to make them. (Not that I'd have any old jeans for the project anyway...)

Not sure what to say about these slippers.

For the baby in your life, these cute little booties.

For sale on Etsy, these cute mary janes.

I could get excited about these, maybe. But again, I'm all out of old jeans. 21 pounds lighter!!!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Thank You

Thank you to those who called or e-mailed to make sure I was doing OK. Apparently my not blogging for a few days is unusual enough that some of you worried I had spiraled down into a abysmal state.

I have not.

In fact, with the start of school I've been relishing my kid-free time. I've also been repeatedly walking by the bathrooms and marveling over the fact they are still sparkly clean and fresh smelling. (The happiness this brings could keep me going for months.)

I spent the last few weeks of summer vacay reading up a storm. Now that school has started, I'm cleaning up the house from the mess that was created while I read and blissfully ignored dumped out legos, unflushed toilets, and unfortunately, piles of wet towels.

Don't worry though. The blog updates will start shortly. Maybe even today.