I learned to love the combination of fresh linens, clean pajamas, and a freshly scrubbed me when I was a kid. My Mom always made sure that on the day she changed sheets, my siblings and I also had a set of clean pajamas to climb into after our evening baths.
Then, into our clean linens we'd climb at bedtime. Even as a kid I loved that feeling of cool sheets, soft flannel, and the residual warmth of my bath. I still love that combination.
These are simply, simple pleasures that I enjoy whenever I can and an important part of my ongoing search for simplicity and personal nurturing!
With a simple notebook or journal and a pen or pencil we can, by taking stock of our lives, plan ahead, outline goals, make lists, free associate, record our dreams, make resolutions, decide how to stock a pantry, plan a garden, shop, write a letter, start a novel, and doodle.
I'm a "list" person. I make lists for all kinds of stuff. To-do lists are a near daily affair with me. I get satisfaction by ticking off various items on my to-do list each day.
The type of "taking stock" list I'm talking about asks the questions,
"Where am I?'
What do I love about my life?
What would I change or delete?
Where do I go from here?
How can I become a better person?
How can we create more free time, less work?
When shall we start a family? (Doesn't apply to me, but perhaps it applies to you!).
When? Where? With whom? (Again, not applicable here!).
The weeks and months after the New Year are a good time to take stock of all kinds of stuff. So are birthdays, changes of Season, anniversaries, and the years leading up to retirement.
Each Spring is a good time to look forward but also to look back and see what worked and what didn't, where we fell short or succeeded.
Dream journals, goal-oriented journals, gratitude journals, journals filled with my best thoughts and those of others. I fill journals with gardening ideas and decorating ideas. I even have a journal I fill with clipped and copied herbal recipes for healing, health, and body care using herbs I grow in my gardens. I simply love a bound book filled with lovely blank or lined pages waiting for me to write, draw, or paste something!
Simple, ordinary tools of paper and pencil, and ink, can help us refine and define...and Find our best life, truest self, perhaps discover our life-quest!
Don't forget about or discount the power of napping! A brief nap, when the urge comes upon you, unleashes the subconscious.
Dreams can be a compass to what's going on in your psyche. Dreams speak through symbols - sometimes goofy, even occasionally frightening images - that when we stop to think (or journal) about the ideas and feelings they evoke, can help us to take stock of our lives and direct them into more creative channels.
My taking stock - via list-making and journaling - followed on the heals of a major clutter-clearing and refining of my possessions. First the outer, then the inner "clearing"!
Simplifying, clutter-clearing, and taking stock of our lives is an ongoing labor of love and life. This year I'm steeping myself in all these aspects. Whatever years I have left to live, I want to be the most productive, creative, and pleasurable.
As to making stock?
Living a frugal, Cottage Live-style philosophy, I adhere to the adage, "Waste not, want not". Not having more than you need or love; spending less and saving more; using what you have or can barter for (or find on sale or used) and creatively refurbishing it; being grateful for what you do have...all these add up to a life simply and creatively lived and a relatively stress- and anxiety-free life. This is especially so because living intentionally frugal and simple alleviates the tension caused by credit card debt and living beyond one's monetary means.
So...following is a simple, frugal way to have homemade stock for soups, stews, risottos, and more!
All you need is a freezer, a gallon-size Ziploc bag and some scraps and trimmings from meal prep.
Whenever you clean, peel, trim, and prepare vegetables save those parings! Slip them into a gallon-size Ziploc and store them in the freezer. Keep adding until the bag is filled.
Then, empty the frozen contents into a large stock pot. Add water to cover, bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Cover the pot and simmer for 30 minutes.
What kinds of items can you add to make your broth bag?
Celery trimmings, carrot parings, onion trimmings (no skins, please, they add a rich color but also an unpleasant flavor), clean potato peelings from red, white, or Yukon golds (not russets...they add a "dirt" flavor), parsley stems, parsnip parings, garlic pressings, pea pods, herb stems, apple peels and cores, asparagus stalks, leek stalks, sorrel stems, cabbage cores and leaves (in moderation)...
Generally, cauliflower, broccoli, kale, red beets, and mustard greens can add too much of a "sulfurous" or "earthy" quality to your stock that will carry over into your prepared dish. I usually don't use these veggie trimmings, preferring to add them to the compost pile, instead.
You can also save and freeze meat trimmings and bones to make various meat stocks. I don't usually do this as my freezer space is limited and I mostly use vegetable stocks in my recipes. When I need a meat stock I'll use vegetarian "meat" stocks or the powdered or cubed beef and chicken stocks.
Taking stock and making stock! Two ways to create a simple, successful and savory life!
At present my goal is to make my gardening simpler, easier. I've done the obvious straightforward thing...hire people to help! Yet, I want to ready myself physically for gardening and other enjoyable aspects of physical life.
Yoga and light weightlifting are my present choices. When the weather warms and ice melts off the roadways, I'll add a walking regimen, too. These exercises - and others such as Tai Chi, stretching, swimming, etc. - aid in strength and flexibility. Moderate exercise is important to preventing injuries, sore muscles, strains, sprains, and keeping joints mobile.
There are many sources - books, DVDs, on-line information - on the subject of yoga and gardening. Simply run "yoga for gardening" in your computer's search engine!
Working smarter instead of harder is one of my simplification goals so that I can spend more time enjoying my gardens instead of working in them!!!
Life is good! Just not perfect. Love and live the good life as it is this very moment...
Sacred verses, words of wisdom, axioms, sayings, "old saws", inspiring words, scriptures, prayers. All contain words to live by. Live, Love, and Let Live!
This is a good "company" recipe. It's easy to prepare and looks and tastes like you've spent hours in the kitchen! NOT!
For this recipe I cut the pork chops in half to reduce cooking time. I was hungry! And impatient!
I'll give the recipe as I created it. Then, at the bottom of the post I'll give variations so you can use what you have on hand, or ingredients you can get or shop for.
Recipe: Pork Chops & Plums: (Serves 2 to 4 and can be doubled)
2 large, boneless pork chops, rinsed, patted dry, and halved
Seasoned salt (I like Lawries Original)
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1/3-cup water mixed thoroughly with 2 heaping tsp corn starch
Olive oil to lightly cover the bottom of a skillet (about 1 - 2 TBS)
1 pint of sliced, canned plums in syrup
1 sprig fresh rosemary, about 3 inches long (about 1-1/2 tsp fresh - use 1/2-tsp dried)
Over medium-high heat, preheat a skillet with olive oil to coat. Meanwhile rinse and pat dry the pork chops. Cut them in half and season with the seasoned salt and pepper.
When the oil is hot place the pork chops into the pan seasoned side down and salt and pepper the upper side of the chops. Allow the chops to sear to a rich golden color then turn and sear the other side.
Pour the canned plums and liquid into the pan with the chops and about 1/4-cup water. Bring to a healthy simmer. Strip the rosemary from its stem and sprinkle over the chops and plum slices. Add the 2-tsp of butter. Lower the heat to a low simmer and cover the pan. Simmer for 25 to 30 minutes.
With a slotted spoon remove the chops and plum slices to a heat proof plate and place in a warm oven.
Turn up the heat under the plum liquid and bring to a low boil. Allow the liquid to reduce for about 10 minutes. Pour the corn starch mixture into the liquid and bring to a strong simmer/ low boil. Stir constantly until the sauce begins to thicken. Turn off the heat and cover the pan.
Recipe: Pea Almondine Pilaf (serves 4 to 6)
If you're going to use long grain brown rice (I did) you will want to start this part of the meal before you start the pork chops because brown rice takes much longer to cook - up to 60 minutes as opposed to only about 16 minutes for white rice).
1-scant cup rinsed, drained long grain rice, white or brown
2-TBS thin spaghetti broken into inch-long pieces
2-cups water (1-3/4-cups for white rice)
1/4-cup slivered or sliced raw almonds
2 TBS butter, plus 2-tsp olive oil
1 shallot, minced
3/4-cup fresh or frozen green peas
1/4-tsp ground pepper
1-tsp powdered chicken bullion, or 1 cube
Add the oil and butter to a large sauce pan. Heat the pan on medium heat to melt the butter. When the butter is sizzling, add the almonds and stir to coat. Stir the almonds in the butter for about three minutes. Add the drained rice and continue stirring every 10 or 15 seconds. The rice will blanch and begin to look a little chalky. Add the shallot and continue cooking and stirring until the shallot is translucent.
Add the water (2 cups for brown rice, 1-3/4 cups for white rice. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook the rice (55 to 60 minutes for brown rice, 16 minutes for white rice).
When the timed cooking of the rice in complete, turn off the heat. Lift the lid and stir in the peas. Cover and allow to sit about 10 minutes. Remove the pan lid and stir and fluff the rice. Cover the rice and let stand until you're ready to serve the chops. If you need to reheat the rice you can remove it to a serving bowl and give it 30 to 40 seconds in the microwave oven. Or, add a couple TBS of water and allow the rice to reheat on low.
To serve, place one or two pieces of pork chop on each plate. Drizzle with plum sauce. Spoon sliced plums to one side of the pork chops. Drizzle the chops with a bit of the plum sauce.
Add a large spoonful or two of rice and serve. Pass the plum sauce which is good on the rice, too, giving it a risotto-like yumminess.
You may use fresh, sliced plums, too. You'll need to add about 1/4-cup agave syrup or honey and 1/2-cup, or more, water to simmer the chops in.
You can use your own home-canned plums (I used home-canned Italian prune-plums in a medium syrup). Canned plums and even dried plums, reconstituted with water, will work.
Canned apricots with two or three sprigs of fresh thyme will work beautifully. Canned peaches with spearmint, or canned apples with a couple teaspoons of slivered sage are another option. Of course, any of these fruits in fresh form will work, too.
For a down-home Sunday dinner you can substitute thick-sliced, smoked ham for the pork chops, and use chunk-pineapple with a pinch of whole cloves.
This recipe is very versatile! Farm- and Cottage-folk who live a good distance from town have to be creative and versatile with ingredients. I only live eight miles from the nearest grocery store but don't want to hop into the car and drive into town because I lack an ingredient, or two...or even three! Improvisation is the key.
I find that I adapt nearly every recipe I try out to fit the items I have on hand. It's a fun and creative way to cook and makes recipes your very own.
Improvisation doesn't work each and every time but over the years I've gotten a "feel" for what can be substituted for creating a fine-tasting result!
Love the cake stand but once the cake or tart - or my peach galette - is cut there's no top dome to keep things fresh.
What to do?
Woo Whooo! Problem solved!
The salad bowl-dome will cover up to an 8-inch cake or galette...but not a nine-incher. So, there is a limitation to my great idea. But, as I have both 8- and 9-inch cake pans, if I want to use my cake stand, I opt for the 8-inch cake pans. As to pies...Well, the rims and handles on both pie plates - both the 7- and the 8-incher - prevents them from fitting under the salad bowl-dome.
However, as I have an old Tupperware pie safe, pies are not a concern. Maybe, I can look for a larger salad bowl to fit 9-inch cakes?
On February 1, 2013 in the early hours after midnight our Hero transitioned from this world into the Great Mystery. He will be mourned and missed by all who knew and loved him.
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"Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
"The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And, cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home..."
Was it a coincidence that during the hour of his passing I was up and wide awake? Maybe. Maybe not. Yet, I like to think that what awakened me that early, early morning was that he had passed through my home and consciousness for one last goodbye.
I am comforted also that not many days before that last "goodbye" I was able to tell him that I loved him. I cannot begin to relate all of the things that he was and did for everyone...and those that loved and respected him. What I can do is share some of my own memories that I have of him and with him. Each of us carry our own memories. Here are a few mine...
Camping in the Colorado desert with my Uncle Ed (near camper), my Aunt Peggy (sitting at table), Wilma (standing) and Clifford Base... my dear friend Mo (not in the photo. She has since passed away on Sept. 2nd, 2012)...and me, behind the camera.
"The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem,
Apparell'd in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.
It is not now as it hath been of yore:
Turn whereso ere I may,
By night or day,
The things which I have seen I now can see no more."
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I like to think, to believe, that Mo and other loved ones who have passed on were on hand to meet Uncle Ed when he crossed over into that Eternal Land.
Uncle Ed supported so many of my endeavors. From my career choice to my "earthy" hobbies of rock hounding and gold prospecting.
Here we are at a rock and gem show standing next to my display case that held Pappy's (Ed's Dad and my Grandpa) drywasher, gold pan and other gold prospecting equipment.
When Uncle Ed retired from the Pomona Fire Dept., there was a huge party in his backyard in Claremont, CA.
A joyful retirement day that filled that quiet Claremont neighborhood with fire trucks and emergency vehicles with lights flashing and sirens - howling - all to give my Uncle a glorious retirement send off!
Some of my fondest memories are of Uncle Ed and me gold prospecting. I don't remember if we got any gold on this particular trip but we had fun and spent some great quality time together.
My Uncle always made time for family and friends and many of us were well-hosted and feted guests at his cabin on the peninsula at Lake Almanor.
This is one of my favorite photos of my Uncle Ed. He seems to be gazing at something far distant among the trees...as if he alone, could see and sense something the rest of us could not. In this photo he reminds me of Pappy. I think Uncle Ed and I both inherited an interest in gold prospecting from Pappy.
In the words of a dear friend of my Uncle's,..."He's answered the last bell, the last call...
"But yet I know, where ere I go,
That there hath passed away a glory from the earth..."
William Wordsworth (1770 - 1850)
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