Sunday, October 01, 2017

A Fresh Calendar Page

When I turned the calendar over to October, the page was nearly blank.  Two long doctor appointments for the girls, and a weekend for Gary and Andrew to go off together.  That's it.  Oh, sure, there's the regular: choir and Bible class and making supper.  But that goes without saying.  The calendar is emptier than I've seen in ages.

I knew months ago that September would be a bit stressful because five days were blocked out before anything else even began.  But as we got into the month, things snowballed.
10 days: three out-of-state trips.
5 days: secretarial work at church.
1 day: out-of-town company here.
1 day: a conference.
3 days: computer died and had to be replaced.

That's 20 days.  No wonder the house is dirty and I feel like it's been too long since I cooked-for-real.  But still, look at some of the good  stuff!

October looks restorative.  A month with only two days blocked off -- it's beautiful!

Fingers are crossed that Mr Murphy doesn't get wind of this and decide to "fix" the situation.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Right to Die?

It's one thing to sit in the living room and debate living wills, assisted suicide, and medical treatment at the end of life.

It's one thing to recognize that medical technology can extend life when it ought not do so.

But how do we avoid "assisted suicide" (aka, murder) while also avoiding unnecessarily prolonging the life of someone who is suffering and dying?  Sometimes it's very hard for those who value life to make sense of when to stop providing life-prolonging treatment for a loved one.

Lutherans for Life has a page about "advance directives."  One statement is especially helpful:
The problem we see in the so-called "right to die" movement is that there is a shift in the discussion.  Instead of discussing whether a treatment is excessively burdensome to a person -- that is, whether it is doing more harm than good -- more and more people are discussing whether the person is a burden.  They advocate removing or stopping treatment with the intent of killing the person.
That's the crux of it.
Is the treatment excessively burdensome to the patient?
Or is the patient a burden to the caregivers and society?

Furthermore, "burdensome to the patient" is not about quality of life so much as it is about whether the treatment "does more harm than good."

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Asian Spaghetti-and-Meatballs

I've been too busy to cook.  The last months have been insta-food, burgers, pizza, and even [gasp] eating out at restaurants.  I did it again today: I stayed at church far too long working and then rushed home to drive Mag to work and do some errands.  And then it would be time to eat -- boom.  Having eaten way too many hamburgers recently, I snatched up some Aldi ground turkey for a variation on our burgers.  My brain was thinking I might throw in some grated onion, carrot, and celery with a teriyaki sauce for the burgers.

Problem 1:  Teriyaki sauce was gone and I had to whip up my own sauce.
Problem 2:  We're nearly out of bread.  The grain would have to be noodles or rice.
Solution:  Get creative.  Besides, I hadn't had the fun of cooking creatively for months.  Pad Thai was the starting point.

Cut veggies:
about 5-6 cups slivered cabbage
about 1 cup julienned carrot
about 1 cup slivered onion
(Slaw mix with some onion would work nicely, if you have it.)

1.5# ground turkey
lime juice
2 eggs
1/4 sesame seeds
1/4 cup flour or fine bread crumbs
extra flavor: garlic, onion, chili powder, pepper, salt

Stir-fry the veggies.  I used a blend of coconut oil, olive oil, and sesame oil.  Remove from skillet and set aside.

Set a large pot of water to boil.
Start frying the meatballs in the skillet.
(Option: bake meatballs in the oven instead of cooking them in the skillet.)
Mix up a sauce of  soy sauce, lime juice, brown sugar, pineapple juice, chili-garlic paste, and garlic.
When meatballs are done, remove from skillet.  Pour sauce into skillet and use whisk to loosen meat-bits.  Return veggies to skillet and simmer for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook in the boiling water:
8 oz dry spaghetti, broken into 2" lengths

Add pasta to the veggies and sauce.  Mix well.  Top with meatballs.

When Gary asked what I was making for supper, I told him what I was inventing.  He put on a brave face.  I was a bit leery too.  But I liked it.  As for my poor guinea pig of a husband, after a few bites, he declared, "Hey, this is pretty good!"  Success!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Loss of Patience

Once upon a time, a homeschool mommy had to decide on curriculum in May.  June at the latest. You had to place your order by 4th of July to be certain of having your books by late August or Labor Day.  With Amazon Prime now, people don't want to wait a week for an order to arrive.

Once upon a time, there were no answering machines.  If you phoned someone who was on vacation, they didn't answer, and you couldn't leave a message.  And you certainly couldn't call them where they were.  You waited until they came home to ask your question.  Now we tend to freak out if someone hasn't responded in 10 or 15 minutes.

Once upon a time, people had to go to the bank.  And they had to do it during "bankers' hours."  No direct deposit.  No ATMs.  No taking a picture of a check to deposit it via your Smartphone.

Once upon a time, you paid the doctor yourself and filled out the paperwork to be reimbursed someday by the insurance company.

Once upon a time, when you wanted to watch TV, you had to turn on the set and allow it to warm up for 3-5 minutes before you could get sound and a picture.

People today seem impatient.  People don't want to stop at red lights.  People don't want to wait in lines.  People don't recognize that political or economic policy-changes take a while before they have an effect.  People drive up to a window, hand over some cash, and expect a bag of dinner to be presented to them in less than two minutes.  People think that the doctor should be able to provide a pill or treatment that will improve the problem in a matter of a few hours and cure it within a couple of days.

We used to have all sorts of little, inconsequential, unimportant matters in which to practice patience.  Technology has erased many of those things.  (And it sure is nice to be able to talk easily and cheaply with someone who lives a continent away.)  But technology has also made us extremely impatient with the concept of patience.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Katie's Birthday Cake

There is a certain time of year when neighbors are trying to foist their excess zucchini on friends, co-workers, family, and even enemies.  Imagine your birthday falls at that time of year.  Somehow, inexplicably, this ends up as your birthday cake year after year. 

I may have been terrible at Making Memories (TM) and Establishing Traditions for my kids, but this cake is a tradition we stumbled onto.  Because zucchini.  August.  Chocolate.  Delicious. 

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Preheat oven to 350.
Grease your pan: either a bundt pan or a 13x9.

Combine in mixing bowl --
2 eggs
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup milk
1.5 cups sugar (maybe 1 cup or 1.25 would be sufficient)
1 tsp vanilla

In another bowl, sift together --
1.25 cups ww flour
1.25 cups white flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt

Grate --
3 small zucchini (or whatever you need to yield 2 cups grated zucchini)

Alternate adding the dry ingredients and the zucchini to the sugar+egg+oil mixture.
If 13x9, bake about 45 minutes.
If a bundt, bake about 60-65 minutes.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Pad Thai

I don't know if this is how Pad Thai is supposed to taste, but we enjoy this recipe and could eat it frequently.  This serves 4 of us.

Set large pot of water to boil for pasta.

Prepare vegetables:
4 cups thinly sliced cabbage
1 cup julienned carrots
maybe also include:
~ sliced mushrooms
~ bean sprouts
~ thinly sliced sweet bell peppers
~ thinly sliced onion halves (particularly if the green onions called for later in the recipe are unavailable)

Sauté vegetables  in olive oil and a small amount of sesame oil for extra flavor.

Prepare sauce while veggies are cooking.  Mix:
4 Tbsp soy sauce
2.5 Tbsp lime juice 
2 Tbsp pineapple juice*
1 Tbsp chili-garlic sauce
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp fish sauce (optional)

To cabbage and stir-fried veggies, add:
16 oz shrimp
Cook briefly until shrimp is nearly cooked (or heated, if using precooked shrimp).
4 cloves garlic, minced
and the sauce.
Simmer 4-5 minutes.

While meat and vegs simmer, cook
8 oz of vermicelli or angel hair pasta
(Break uncooked pasta into pieces about 2-3" long before cooking.)
(Also cook eggs now if you're making a larger amount.)

Drain pasta.  Add to veggies.  Toss.

Beat 3 eggs in small bowl. 
Shove pasta/veggie mix aside and cook the eggs in the skillet.
Mix eggs into the cabbage and pasta.
(Depending on the size of the pot and how much vegetables you prepared, you may wish to fry up the eggs in a small skillet, and then crumble into the pasta/veg mix.)

3 green onions, sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 Tbsp peanuts

Toss.  Serve.

* You can substitute orange juice for the pineapple juice if necessary.  I found that it works to drain the juice off a can of pineapple and freeze it in ice cube trays.

Friday, October 21, 2016


Maggie encountered a virus the first week of school.  She starts to cough, and the coughing causes asthma problems, which results in more coughing, which exacerbates the asthma, and thus goes the cycle.  So she coughed her way through the month, missing most choir practices, a few church services, and several days of school.

Maggie applied for a part-time fast-food job not far from the house.  It seemed that they were interested in finding a spot for her.   Because they had just hired lots of newbies, they said they wanted to hold off for Mag until the end of October.  So she'll need to be getting in contact with them again soon.

Gary and I attended the symposium at the St Louis seminary.  Topic was catechesis, and we at CCA have some familiarity with the subject.  It took a huge amount of work to prepare for the trip.  Deacon had a truck when he went on trips; we have a compact car.  Deacon usually had several tables; we had one 6' table.  Gary wanted a brochure to hand out.  There was a lot of rethinking of how the CCA could be represented.  Then there was the loading, the trip, and the unpacking.  The trip consumed much of my September.

Gary's dad died.  He had been failing slowly over the last year.  But as he quit eating, he became much weaker.  (Or maybe it's the weakness which makes a person quit eating?)  When Gary visited early in September, his dad was already becoming disinterested in this life.  When we visited as we traveled to St Louis, we figured he couldn't continue very long as he was.  He is baptized, and we were thankful that the pastor could be with him as he lay dying.  (Dad's kids were called and told, "Come now," but the distance meant that they didn't make it in time for a final goodbye.)

Most of the grandkids were able to attend the funeral.  There's that weird thing about funerals: in the midst of mourning, there's the joy of family togetherness and fun.

About a week after we returned from the funeral, we headed out for a beautiful drive to Minnesota, enjoying the fall colors.  We attended a most-awesome wedding and saw loads of friends.  And we visited with Paul, Mandy, and baby Henry (who seems to remember me ... and like me ... even though this was only the fifth time I'd seen him).  Paul told us how his new job is going and helped us understand the pattern of his [somewhat odd] work schedule.

The secretary at church is currently out on medical leave.  Several of us are dividing up her responsibilities, taking different days to man the office.  I have bulletin-prep day.  Add to that the other projects (secretarial, CCA, and my usual volunteer tasks) and I've been volunteering at church about 30 hours a week since we returned from St Louis.  No wonder the house is messy, the grass long, and the garage not yet ready for winter.  A few of the big pressing projects are now completed.  So things should be less stressful starting next week.

Maggie and I took one day this week to tackle some projects.  She cleaned bathrooms and living room and washed some windows.  I vacuumed the car, washed all the window-screens, and scrubbed the eaves which were starting to mildew.  Sore muscles the next day.  But boy, it feels good to start catching up on some of those projects that have been delayed since my hospitalization over two years ago.  I have my fingers crossed, hoping we can finish up the most critical pre-winter outdoor jobs this weekend.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Glorious New Hope

Gary bought a new lawnmower last night.  When he told me what he spent, I was aghast.  But he chose it, and that's the way it is. 

I used it today to finish the second half of the lawn that I began mowing yesterday.  It is beautiful.  It is awesome.  I love this machine.  A couple of times while I was out there mowing, a few tears of joy leaked down onto my cheeks.  I am absolutely elated over this lawnmower.  This is so worth the price-tag.

I didn't realize until this afternoon how horribly bumpy our yard is.  Yes, I've known it's not smooth.  But the chipmunks and the sandhill cranes have done quite a number on it this year, and it's wretched.  Pushing a mower up and down the hills in our yard --especially over all the divots and hidey-holes-- takes a huge amount of effort.  This new mower has rear-wheel drive that's variable based on how fast you want to walk.  It is amazing.  I mean, really, it is amazing. 

We have been toying with the idea of moving into a condo in an old-folks' community.  We have considered moving into the village (where the water is nasty and the neighbors are too close) just to have a smaller yard.  We have considered hiring someone to do the mowing for us.  After an hour with the new mower, all those [overwhelming and unwelcome] ideas are out the window.  Even if this mower is cruddy and doesn't last, so that we would have to buy a new one every year, we are still way ahead financially over moving or hiring a lawn service.  And it IS that easy -- the mower pushes itself, and all you have to do is walk along with it.  No man-handling it.  No trudging up hills.  No fighting those blasted holes that the critters made in the yard.

If I can mow the yard in a day by myself and not be completely wasted by it (as opposed to spending ALL my energy for three days every time I mowed), I might have time to do wild and crazy things.  I could work on overseeding parts of the yard.  I could clean house.  I could do more projects at church.  I could tackle the mess in the basement.  I could [gasp] read a story???!

I love this mower.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Seal-Coating a Big Driveway

Wear your old glasses.

Those shoes you were going to throw into the trash?  Set them aside for seal-coating, and then throw them away after the job.  If that's not an option, buy a cheap pair of flipflops or a pair of tennies at a garage sale.

Have a hand scrub (like Mean Green) or a scrub brush in the shower for when you finish the job.
Likewise, make sure Softscrub is on hand because your usual frugal, enviro-friendly cleaners are not going to get the shower clean when you're done.

Don't buy the 8-year blacking.  Buy the 4-year.  It's got some longevity but seems to dry hard in less time.  With the 8-year, the coating was being ripped (still!) three weeks later whenever someone turned their tires.  The container said 24-72 hours without vehicle traffic.  Even with the 4-year, allow at least a week with no parking on the driveway and no changing directions (such as turn-arounds on the parking pad).

Buy extra pairs of cheap work gloves.  Whatever you use for the job will go into the trash afterwards.

When you're blacking, have a bucket of warm soapy water with a couple of rags outside with you.  Also have a couple of large dry rags.  You shouldn't need any of this.  But you know Murphy's Law.  If you don't have something for insta-clean-up, you will splash something somewhere that you regret ... and that you can't fix an hour later.  

So that I remember for next time:
Patch cracks and holes in June.  Fix more holes than you think you need to.  In particular, fix the seam between the driveway and the road.  Give it a month to cure.  
Edge driveway.  Remember that it takes only about 5 days for the grass to grow back from where you edged before it begins sneaking back onto the driveway.
Clean and scrub driveway.  Rinse well.  Let dry.

Temperature requirements make this is a July or August job.  Each time you apply blacking, you need two days without rain.

With a driveway the size of mine -- do NOT follow the instructions that say to do the job all at once, starting at the house and working your way down the drive to the street without stopping.  The reason they advise this is because it's important that the blacking Not Begin To Dry at all before the squeegee comes back with the next stripe.  That's impossible when it's August and there's a section of the asphalt that is 37' wide, especially when you have to stop to open and stir a new bucket.

Next time, the first job will be to do the edges.  I will need a smaller squeegee, maybe 8" or 10".  I will need a pitcher or a bowl to dip from the big bucket -- partly to control splashing, partly to get into the corner by the house, partly to reduce strain from lifting and pouring from such a large bucket.  It would be wise to put paper on the nearby house walls in case of accidents. "Doing the edges" for me means a 12" stripe along all edges of the driveway as well as the corners by the stoop and the walk-through garage door.  There should be a good amount of blacking allowed to spill over the edge of the driveway, so as to seal-coat the side of the asphalt.  After all, the grass and weeds and crumbling attack from the edge, not from the middle.  This needs two days to dry, but it doesn't prevent us from using the driveway.

The next step, if necessary, will be to put down a first coat of blacking on any especially worn areas.  This will require on-street parking and another two days without rain.

Next step is to seal-coat the parking pad.  That will take two days to dry, but the driveway is available for use.

The rest of the driveway can be done in two halves or all at once.  If done in one swoop, have a helper sweep the driveway first, as well as being available to open and stir buckets.  If doing the job alone, blacken half the driveway, leaving enough space for the cars to fit in the driveway overnight.  Then do the second half after the first half has had two days to dry thoroughly.  It's a good idea to use duct tape (as masking tape) to make a straight edge by the garage door and by the street.

My plans that nobody else cares about:
In 2016 I used 7 buckets.  One in spots as a first coat.  One from the garage to the first stripe in the parking pad.  Two more buckets across the drive and parking pad.  One to finish the parking pad and head down the driveway.  One near the plum tree.  One near the road.
Next time I expect to use a bucket to edge, although I probably won't finish the edging.  Then two buckets: blacken the parking pad, finish the edging, and if there's anything left in the bucket, do the section immediately in front of the garage door.  Three buckets won't be quite enough to do the rest of the driveway.  So four buckets will allow for two layers of blacking in some spots.
Also remember to lock up the cats so that we don't increase the number of black paw prints on the floor of the garage and on the deck. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Living on One Income

Some young folks think it's unfair that families need two incomes to get by today.  They point to the 50s and 60s and wonder why it worked for Dad to earn an income and Mom to stay home with the kids.

Government intervention (health care, college, welfare, housing market, Cash for Clunkers, etc) has certainly driven up costs.  But there's also been a change in the standard of living.

What was different 50-60 years ago that costs so much more now?

We have more toys now.  Then you could not watch a movie at home.  Then there were three TV stations (or fewer, depending on where you lived), and no way to record what you missed.   If your family had a television, there was only one.  No computers in the home.  No cell phones.  No answering machines.  No video games.  People had one coat and one dress-up outfit.  Only one or two pair of shoes.  Big events -- such as concerts or plays or major-league ballgames -- were available, but you'd attend only one every year or so. 

Safety and health.  No car seats or bicycle helmets or airbags or anti-lock brakes.  No baby monitors.  No lawsuits if you were injured.  Few people had gym memberships.  Cancer was feared because it not only meant death, but a painful death.  Nursing homes were drab and miserable.  People seemed old at 40 or 50 because they didn't have the therapists and the medications and supplements and the treatments that we have today that keep us well.

Creature comforts.  Furnaces did not work so well.  Windows were cheaper, but let in drafts.  No air conditioning.  If your family had a car, there was only one for the whole family to share.  Houses were smaller, but more people (including multiple generations) lived in the house.  Less traveling (and not by air).  Long-distance calls were expensive, so you didn't often talk to people outside your local area.  Smaller fridge.  No microwave.  No disposable diapers.  Tools required muscle -- no weed-whackers, no power drills, no sanders, no leaf-blowers.

Most stores were closed on Sundays and in the evenings, which helped keep costs down for the store owners.  It also made for less "recreational shopping."

College has become more expensive, but is considered "necessary" for jobs that really should be available to people who don't even have a high-school diploma.

Fifty years ago, a young person could move out on his own without a car and without a TV.  Today the world has changed.  Even for people who live more simply than most, there are still government requirements (such as health insurance and children's car seats) that dig into a family's pocketbook.  Plus if frugal folks want to function in society, there is a need for phones, internet access, car(s), computer, and more.

So why is it so stinkin' hard for families to live on one income now?  Partly because the government has "helped" us.  And partly because we* expect to have so much more.

*And by "we" I mean we as a society.  Even
if a particular person or family has different
values, the societal greed has an impact on all
of us.