Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Grass Is Always Greener on the Other Side!

My neighbor, Lowell, takes excellent care of his lawn.

I want to rip mine out of the soil and compost it into fertilizer.

It's not that I hate to mow grass. I don't mind it a bit. But if you've spoken to me in the last year or so, you know that I have some kind of tic in my brain against useless landscaping. Hence the day that I enlisted half my neighborhood (without meaning too) to dig out a 15 foot square patch of groundcover that had been growing and spreading for some ten years. USELESS stuff - did nothing but harbor bugs, collect garbage and take over my patio with it's spring growth. In it's place is my punkin patch - which is growing in much the same way - but I have four little pumpkins growing with those giant, conquering vines. I feel the same way about grass!

I don't have children and my pets stay in the house. Most of the time.

I have no need for a lawn, and even if I did have children, I would want them to get to explore our tiny yard like a jungle. Lawns don't allow for exploration. There's a park down the street with wide open stretches of grass. The kids can play baseball and tag there - if I ever have any kids. The 'jungle' offers new and exciting colors and places to see and learn about. Why do those corn stalks have tassles? How long do I have to wait for the green peppers to turn red? What happens when I pull the dead flowers off the plant?

I woke up this morning out of a partial dream about what I'm going to do with the back half of the side yard that runs along the patio, and the small piece of front yard that isn't completely hidden by shade. I've decided I pretty much don't care a bit about what the neighbor's might say, and Alex will NOT mow grass.

I need an excavator. Thank goodness I have a strong back and a sharp shovel!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

An Actual Conversation

I try not to judge. I really do.

An actual conversation I had with a man while standing in line:

Man: Excuse me ma'am, but may I say your feet are very attractive.

Me: Oh, well, thank you. I don't hear that very often.

Man: You take good care of your feet. Some women's feet look like they been climbin' trees and flingin' poo. It's just nasty. But you, you have nice feet.

Me: That's nice of you to say.

Man: In fact, if you was a black girl, I would ask if I could kiss those feet.

Me: Um.....

Thank God in Heaven that at that moment the cashier greeted me and asked for my preferred customer card so that I didn't have to answer the creepy foot fetish guy.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Some News From The Garden

.It's obviously been a busy week between the theater production and my job. (Not that I've been working TOO terribly hard at that.) But somehow, I've managed to find a few moments to wander through the vines and bushes and pull a few weeds out.

This morning I found itty bitty pumpkins (aka puntkins if I'm in a playful mood) in the pumpking patch! That made me cheerful.

The tomatoes are so laden with fruit that the cages are bending and falling over under the weight of them, especially the Juliet Romas, which are sweet as can be. Back in April I lost a large amount of tomato seedlings due to a windstorm taking my greenhouse and flinging it into the neighbor's yard. But there was one lone survivor! I found it, 4 inches tall, about a month ago, peeking its way through the dead groundcover and weeds, and have been nurturing it to grow. It's about a foot tall now, and has the beginnings of flowers. Although I'm not 100% sure, I think that it is a red cherry variety. I was hoping that it would be one of the slicing varieties that I had planted, but honestly, after the planting problems I had this spring, I am happy to have much of anything!

I made my first ever batch of pesto today as well! I was not aware of the amount of basil that must be harvested for pesto, and the pine nuts are at rediculous cost right now. I talked to the woman at the health food store about it and apparently they're becoming more and more scarce. The reason she only keeps very small bags of them in the case now is because the last batch she ordered cost her nearly $40 a pound. So the half cup of pine nuts I purchased today cost $7.06. I'll have to rethink this recipe. That is not sustainable. I made one pint jar full from half of my large basil bush and two big fat garlic cloves and a cup of EVOO. It's a bit strong with the garlic. I probably could have made do with one garlic clove.

Speaking of garlic cloves, a couple of mine are starting to sprout, and so soon it will be time to plant them in the garden to harvest for next year! Plant them, right from the grocery store, toes up and let them winter over and next summer you can harvest them.

I started to sketch a diagram for next year already, based on the successes of this year, but I already need to re-draw it. I put the tomatoes and potatoes right next to each other, and according to Louise Riotte in her great gardening wisdom, that is a big no-no.

The butternut squash look healthy and are crawling over the soil towards the ornamental tree that is the bane of my backyard. Maybe they'll strangle it with their squashy little vines. I AM so looking forward to butternut and acorn squash soups this autumn. All of my various squashes have been putting up male flowers, but my zucchini don't look very good. Their stems looks as if something has been eating them. I'll have to keep an eye out. There might not be an zucchini this year. It's already later than I'd like to admit and I'm not very happy that the single female flower I saw on one plant shrivelled up and died a couple days later.

I've been trying to weed gently around the fragile little leek shoots that finally appeared. The weeds seem bent on their destruction, for there is no worse spot in my whole garden for that conquering army, than right there around those tiny shoots.

I haven't mowed grass in a month. Only the weeds in the lawn are growing anyway in this heat. So I take the weed-b-gone out and spray them to death. I don't even want grass. If it was within my magical prowess to do so, I would blink all of the grass gone and replace it with vegetables and fruits.

A heavy rain over the weekend damaged the onion tops, but it was almost time to bend them over anyway. The potatoes are flowering too, so it will soon be time to dump their pots over and collect the spuds. I was surprised that the russets I stuck in those pots actually worked. You know, you hear about people who just plant stuff they bought at the grocery store and making it work, but you don't really expect it too. Well, it worked for me!

I'm thinking about planting cabbages for winter too. I've been going over it in my head for a week.
I hope we have a lovely, dreamy autumn, full of sunny days and crisp nights.

If I May Offer A Rebuttal....

I just posted the South Bend Tribune's obnoxiously vague review of our show, "Rent".

There's a rumor running amongst the cast that the reviewer is actually a homophobe who didn't like the show, and since you can't pick on the homosexuality without being sued for hate speech, decided to pick apart the tiniest, most insignificant things in order to fill a quota of words.

May I, Jordan Gamle?

I believe you need to actually get out of your office once in awhile and go see a few real stage shows. Try the Morris Performing Arts Center, just down the street. There's a delightful little group called the Broadway Theatre League - I'd like to see you write a review like that for them without having done some research on the show beforehand.

So you thought the music was too loud and pounding? Some of that can be blamed on the poor audio system that we have. "Iffy Sound"? We know. We have to work around it every year. Instead of making inane remarks about the quality of the audio, we you at least listening to the quality of the music? There are six extremely talented musicians - backstage no less! - who are mic'ed and can't actually see what's going on out there. Have you ever played for a Broadway musical where you don't get to see what's going on, and have to rely on monitors and an ancient televisions screen for your cues? Furthermore, "Rent" is a rock opera, a retelling of Puccini's opera, La Boheme. You don't hear a lot of dialogue at the opera - and rock operas are no different. We're terribly sorry that we didn't rescore the entire show to suit your taste.

You stated that the show got off to a weak start. The show got off to the same start that occurs on the big stage productions. It's the start that is written in the libretto. Lagging pauses? WHERE? The music and dialogue are non-stop from the moment the show begins. Furthermore, you also stated that the show moves slowly until the first big number. How is that possible? It's approximately 5 minutes between the opening lines and the start of "Rent", the first big number. Oh wait...... have you been watching the movie, Jordan? Because it's a little different.

Wait! That explains everything! You're a movie watcher! You've never seen "Rent" before, so you went to Family Video and picked up the watered down, school friendly version! I can tell, because all of the comments you made about how the show progresses, or how dark and emotional the actors portray their characters reflect the exact moods of the film. AIDS, drugs and homelessness are dark and emotional topics - it's actually rather self-detrimental to try to make light of those things, even for a stage show.

Try to keep an open mind. I don't for a moment think you're stupid or a bitch - you should hear what the cast thinks of you. Their opinions could get you fired. I just think you went into your viewing of the show without doing any research outside of watching the film. One of the director's said you came with a "Rent-head" friend. Did that friend have anything good to say? Or is she/he also a fan of the film?

You picked apart the shakiness of the stage while complimenting the ability to perform the entire show with one set. Thank you for noticing. It isn't easy to do so.

Thank you for complimenting our best actors, and bruising the egos of everyone else. Especially Josh Griffin, who plays Collins. He's actually one of the best. You stated that he got off to a shaky start as well, which we don't understand because Collins in being mugged in his opening scene. Did you want him to act like he was happy to be mugged? Were you also aware of how lucky we are to have him at all? Josh has performed with operas in several cities out west, including San Fransisco and Santa Fe. Yes, we know you complimented his voice. After you said he was off-kilter and compared his acting to Alex Leachman's. Two different men are going to have two different styles in the portraying of their characters.

Overall, if I was to give your review a grade, it would be a B-. You didn't really say anything terrible about the show, but you commented on some things that were a little odd. It's obvious to us that you didn't care for the show itself, and that's okay. It takes a certain kind of person to 'get' the importance of "Rent". Perhaps the Tribune should send their reviewers on some other night than opening night?

I just think you watched the movie and compared our performance to it. And that, Jordan Gamle, is a BIG no-no in theater world. Personally, I don't know what else you do, what else you have written or reviewed, or how talented a writer you are, but I don't think this review was your best work. I would like you to come back and see the show again after you've done a little more research.

South Bend Tribune's Review of "Rent"

Impressive cast overcomes slow start in Civic's ‘Rent'


Tribune Staff Writer

Don't try to recoup your safety deposit too soon after sitting down for South Bend Civic Theatre's production of “Rent.” It just takes a little while to get settled into the neighborhood.


Alex Leachman rehearses for the South Bend Civic Theatre's production of "Rent" on Monday, July 19, 2010.The show gets off to a clunky start with lagging pauses and stilted singing. It's difficult to discern whether the disjointed feeling is because the actors are out-of-sync with each other and the orchestra or if it's just the fault of the musical as it's written.

The performance seems to hit its stride with the first big number, “Rent,” which brings in the impressive ensemble. These actors, some of whom are understudies for the major characters, all get their chance to shine in the show's numerous solos and memorable bit parts.

Unfortunately, the combination of layered lyrics and iffy sound balance often swallows these individual performances and spits out a bunch of unintelligible noise. This is a problem in several of the large company songs, such as “Rent” and “Christmas Bells,” and in some of the smaller numbers, such as “Happy New Year,” where information about plot development is lost somewhere between other characters' lyrics and under the weight of an overly-loud orchestra.

In other songs, such as the rowdy “La Vie Boheme” that closes the first act, many of its fast-paced puns and allusions are lost in the din of pounding choreography and rock music.

The simpler songs, if the multi-part harmonies of “Seasons of Love” can be called “simple,” fare better, probably because all other commotion stops for straightforward singing. The result is a heart-wrenching, beautiful song that has people onstage and in the audience tearing up.

Director David Case actually missed a chunk of rehearsal time because of illness, but with the help of assistant directors Jenn Rozmarynowki and Emily Case, he still produces some moving performances from his cast.

Stephanie Salisbury is clearly having the time of her life playing the melodramatic Maureen. She enters the performance by flinging herself into the hilariously surreal protest song “Over the Moon,” and she is amusingly flighty when dealing with Maureen's lovers past (Mark) and present (JoAnne).

John Raab probably has the most thankless job as Mark, the show's ostensible narrator. He doesn't get any love ballads, that's for certain, but Raab is the glue that holds the show together, and he sings his guts out in every song.

Raab's performance of “Tango Maureen” with Laurisa Le Sure (as JoAnne, Maureen's new girlfriend) is probably the most pristine number in the whole first act, riding on Le Sure's vocal and comedic chops along with Raab's acerbic delivery. In fact, Le Sure brings her strong voice and quick retorts to her whole performance, and rarely has an unsteady moment.

As Roger, Alex Leachman falters at first, and his “One Song Glory,” is strained rather than a poignant rock ballad, and he seems stiff in his stage movement, especially in this song. His performance – and singing – loosen up just a little bit later, with the introduction of Roger's love interest, Mimi.Amada Rivero-Aguero is both vulnerable and sultry as Mimi, and her chemistry with Leachman crackles from their first duet in “Light My Candle.”

Like Leachman, Josh Griffin starts out a little off-kilter in his role as Tom Collins, not quite jelling with the music or the other actors in his first few scenes. He and his pleasantly sonorous voice finally connect in a pair of songs, “Santa Fe” and “I'll Cover You,” the latter being the character's duet with his lover, Angel.

Belting his heart out while expertly traipsing around the stage in high heels, Fernando Gonzalez is fantastic and affecting as Angel, the cross-dressing street performer who holds the group of friends together.

Sound balance issues aside, the show's live orchestra, as conducted by Anthony Beer (who also serves as vocal director), gives the production its memorable musical punch.

David Chudzynki's detailed yet abstract stage design has enough eclectic grunge accents to evoke New York City without becoming cluttered.

There do seem to be some unsteady elements, however. In “Out Tonight,” Rivero-Aguero swings around, over and under the set's balcony pieces, and it is a fiery song except for the moments when pieces of railing wobbled and put a stutter in her groove at Friday's opening night performance. The same happened in “Today 4 U,” when Gonzalez seemed to lose his balance as the same piece of railing shook under his grip.

It could be the actors were just too forceful on opening night, but the set should be prepared to take quite a beating during the production's run. Judging by the performance's rousing finale, the initial pacing problems might have been opening night jitters. Don't expect this radiantly enthusiastic cast to let up in the coming weeks.

“Rent” continues at Civic through Aug. 8.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

METRIC "Help I'm Alive" - a Deco Dawson short film

Alex turned me on to Metric today, and this video is pretty sweet! I didn't realize they also did a video for the new Twilight Eclipse soundtrack as well.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Little Daydreams

Waking up
Cups of hot coffee with cream and sugar
The goodbye kiss from my husband
The morning stroll through the garden
Finding ripe little somethings to pick
The first phone call of the day
The first text message from my sister
The second cup of coffee, and the third
Who's doing what on Facebook?
Rain or sun or clouds today?
Planning lunch
Planning dinner
Planning errands
Sitting down to read
Thinking about running away to an island in the Indian Ocean
Thinking about how funny that would be
Wandering if my grandpa ever looks down on me from Heaven
And if he is proud of me
Asking God for strength
And Peace
And Prosperity through the odds
Another stroll through the garden to
Remind myself of sowing and reaping
Little seeds do not become mighty trees overnight.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Funny Quote From Brittany

One of Avery's friends asked why I wasn't doing anything on a certain day. Avery must have replied that I didn't have enough to do with my spare time.

Brittany promptly answered, "Well, if she would hurry up and have a baby, she'd have plenty to do."


What Do You Do Really Well?

As I am struggling right now with my inability to focus on ONE task at a time, I took it upon myself to sit down and think very hard about what I truly do well. Oh there are lots of things I like to do, but nothing that comes to mind as something that I am great at.

Now I know some of you who know me are thinking, Lindsey, you are GREAT at the piano. That's because you've never been exposed to people who actually ARE great at music. I am average. I don't practice enough and I've been known to shy away from gigs because the people are too demanding or make me feel uncomfortable. I'm a pretty good teacher, but I'm kind of soft on my students because I'm too nice to yell or make a big deal out of mistakes. I'm afraid of hurting feelings and making people hate me.

I love to sew. I am not great at it. I get impatient and do all of my projects halfway. I like to start them, and invested a ton of money into starting a lot of different projects and finished a third of them. Not a good way to run a hand-made business.

I LOVE my garden. But it takes work, like all things. I go out and pull weeds for an hour, just the big ones. Then I get bored and do something else. Sometimes I get sidetracked for weeks and return and things are dying or already dead. Not a good way to be self-sufficient.

I am lousy at my insurance sales job. 'Nuff said about that.

I like to clean and care for my house. But when I get tired, I stop and let things pile up.

I'm GREAT at wasting time. Who isn't?

I'm a good writer. But I didn't spend enough time working on that in college and didn't see the value in it. Now I don't use it at all, and it's something I could be really good at.

I'm pretty good at doing what I'm told without a fight. I'm definitely a follower and not a leader.

Are there any good jobs out there for shy, introverted, easily-intimidated young women who willingly do as they're told?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Peach-Lavender Butter....mmmmm

My youngest sister, Avery, came over yesterday to hang out and we decided to take the leftover peaches in the fridge and turn them into a delectable, spreadable fruit butter and then seal them up in Ball jelly jars. It was pretty much awesome, if I do say so myself.

The best thing about this is that you can make a lot or a little, and fruit is so inexpensive right now! The recipe called for 3 pounds of peaches, but once we got down to the actual measuring, 3 pounds of peaches is more accurately described as 7-9 whole peaches. We used 6 and got a good amount for us, were able to fill and seal 4 jars, with a little leftover to pour, still steamy and warm, over blueberry muffins.

I am always looking for fruit sales. These peaches were 88 cents/pound at the local supermarket. I don't usually recommend that. I usually go to the farmer's market down the street and pick up a pint or two, but the best kind of peaches are not quite ripe yet, and sometimes I get impatient. I will probably go pick up more peaches next weekend if I have the time between work, piano lessons and the theater.

Yes, I used my new favorite book (as shown above), and even though we didn't quite follow the recipe to the letter, we were pretty pleased with the outcome.

To make peach lavender butter, you need:

Several soft, fresh, ripe peaches
2 tablespoons of dried lavender buds
Boiling water (lots of it, and several pots and pans)
4-6 jelly jars, lids and rings
2 c. granulated sugar
Juice from one lemon

The first step, as with any project like this, is to blanch your fruit. Now, if you don't know what blanching is, like I didn't before I read this book, this step is VITAL! DO NOT skip blanching! Fill a large bowl with water and some ice cubes and set a pot on the stovetop to boil. Score the bottom of the fruit you are using with a knife. Just a small little 'X' will do. Boil water in a pot and using a slotted spoon, drop one piece of fruit at a time into the water for 30 seconds each. You should see the peach skin start to pull away from the 'X' you cut into the bottom.

After 30 seconds of boiling, pick up the peach with your slotted spoon and put it in the ice bath for 30 seconds. After that, the skins should practically fall off the peach on their own, but go ahead and peel those skins off anyway.

Remove the pits from the peaches. (This is IMPORTANT! Cut ALL signs of pit away from your peaches! Peach stones are toxic and even a small amount can make you very sick.) Chop the peaches into small pieces and put them into a pan.

Put those dried lavender buds into a tea bag and drop them into a third of a cup of boiling water and let them steep for about ten minutes. Try to resist the urge to make more than this small amount of water, because I practically decided to make a pot of tea and later had to use corn starch to thicken things up a bit.

After the lavender has steeped for a bit, remove the tea bag and pour the water into the chopped peaches. Squeeze as much juice as possible out of a lemon and stir it all up. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and stir occasionally. Let it simmer for 15 minutes, or until it is thick enough to stick on a spoon.

While the peaches are simmering, put the canning lids into a small pot of water and bring to just a boil. Remove from heat and set aside.

Once the peach mixture is thickened, put it all into a food processor, or a food mill, and process it into a nice creamy puree. Put it back into the pan and completely dissolve 2 cups of granulated sugar into while bringing it back up to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 25 minutes. If you would like an herby and unique texture to the butter, add the lavender buds that you used to make the lavender water out of.

Should you have trouble with the thickness of your peach butter, you can mix 2 tablespoons of corn starch into a little cold water and pour it into the butter while it is boiling.

Using canning tools, fill a few jelly jars with the butter, but reserve a little for immediate use. Put the lids on top of the jars and screw the rings around them loosely. Drop the jars one by one into a boiling water bath and process them for 20 minutes. Remove them with a jar lifter and allow them to cool. You will know that your jars properly sealed themselves if you can remove the ring and lift the whole jar by the lid only. If you can't, process in the boiling water for a few more minutes.

Go on! Try it! Our house smelled like summer and deliciousness and my Grandmother's kitchen all at the same time. We were so happy with this recipe!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Ah, the Theatre.....

Alex and I are currently rehearsing for what looks to be the best musical theatre gig of our marriage. RENT is opening at the South Bend Civic Theater this weekend!

Alex is playing guitar, and I am NOT playing the piano. I am playing the bass guitar, and also some keyboard stuff too, like trumpet sounds, tubular bells, gospel organ and sythesizer pad. It's so much fun. Despite the issues that are going on out on the stage, behind the scenes, the band is getting along really well, and I am so glad we signed on for this. We are working with some very talented and professional people in the orchestra. I don't know how they feel outside of the pit up on the stage about the actors. Ha!

It's MY first real theater gig, but Alex has been working with the Civic for ten years now. He's done shows ranging from Music Man to Oliver to High School Musical. Last year he did Grease, very guitar heavy, but the director edited the show to death, and so it received poor reviews. This year, to make up for the fact that they butchered a perfectly good show, the powers that be determined there would be no editing of Rent - not even the 'school editing' that was done for the film. It will be performed in all of it's raw, gritty, dark and emotional glory.

Some parts do bother me, I will admit it. It's a lot on my rather sensitive spirit because I feel very deeply towards people who makes choices to live a certain lifestyle, and the characters in the show chose to live on the street, do drugs, and live promiscuisly enough to contract AIDS. But since it's a show, I don't have as much of a connection as I have with the people playing those roles, and some of them ARE living that lifestyle.

My mom asked me the other night if the late nights at the theater and the dark content of the show was the cause of my emotional state of mind lately, and I admitted that some of it probably was. And we're just getting started! We haven't even opened the show yet! Long late nights have never been my cup of tea.

Well, I want my friends to come and see this show, especially if you are inclined to be bothered by 'R' rated materials, because I think it's important for Christians to realize how people DO live. Here in the Midwest we judge others in a terrible way because we don't see as much exposure to it as other parts of the country do. We have our homeless shelter, drug problems and lifestyle choices, but it isn't something that is broadcast out in the open. And pray about what you see, and if God is leading toward these people that HE LOVES as much as any person in a church on Sunday morning, ask Him what you can do to minister that love. Just because it's a stage show doesn't mean it doesn't represent the lives of real people.

And the music is pretty fabulous too. :)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Carrots and tomatoes, sittin' in a tree.....

Most of my knowledge comes from books. And my grandmothers. But mostly books that are recommended from Amazon or friends.

Has anybody ever tried companion planting? I haven't gotten into it too deeply yet, but it's actually kind of fascinating! It's just more proof to me that God gifted us with the ability to care and nurture His creation.

 Louise Riotte was a gardener who wrote 12 books  and several dozen articles on North American farming lore and gardening advice and ideas. According to her book Carrots Love Tomatoes companion planting is really the only way to achieve the space needed for successful planting and harvesting and truly great produce.

It works like this:


 For example, like the title of the book says, carrots and tomatoes get along with each other famously because they help one another to grow. Tomatoes repel carrot flies, and carrots provide essential nutrients to the roots of the tomato plants. Isn't that amazing? However tomatoes and potatoes inhibit each others' growth by absorbing too many necessary nutrients. Tomatoes also dislike cabbages and broccoli, but thrive well with onions.

This year I planted 20 onion sets between my tomatoes and my herb garden because onion repel bunnies and other little critters that might try to eat my harvest. Herbs are natural bug repellant. And tomatoes are just wonderful no matter what! :)

Success According to Whom

I have been struggling internally for a couple weeks with my own person.

Sometimes I have nervous breakdowns. They are never pretty. Last night I had one. Clearly I was overtired, because that is not my normal behavior. My poor husband didn't know what to do with me, as I was curled up on the floor in a fetal position, sobbing and screaming, so he called my mother, who talked me back down off the ledge and reminded me that I am God's beautiful child, precious in his sight and created to do great things for Him.

The problem is that I don't know what those great things are. And no matter how much I remind myself of these wonderful things, I still feel the nagging voice of some inner demon telling me that I am a failure at most things in life and mediocre at best. Somewhere inside of me, I do not believe those things that this demon is whispering to me, but my faith feels battered and worn and those beliefs that should be my lifesong are almost inaudible.

I cry out for help, but I don't get the kind of help I want. It shouldn't be that way, I'm sure. If I were drowning, I would want ANY help. But when you're drowning and exhausted and frightened, hearing someone in a boat yelling "SWIM! SWIM!" at you isn't much help at all. That's what it feels like to me right now.

My definition of success is completely opposite to the world's definition. I am a very content person for the most part, and very satisfied to sit back and remember that my life, strength, hope and resources do not come from man, but from God. I don't want to keep up with the neighbors. I don't care whose house is bigger than mine, who has a bigger television, who makes more money or who gets to take more vacation days. As long as the bills are being paid and we have food, I am satisfied. (And I have been growing a lot of food these days anyway.) I see success as being who I have shown God's love to, how many times I have resisted doing something to hurt someone else, how many children I've taught and given hugs to, how many times I have proven myself reliable to a friend.

Since we're about to open a 3 week showing of 'Rent' at our local theatre group, I have to recall the song "Seaons of Love" because it accurately describes my outlook on life. How do you measure life? How do you determine how much someone's life is worth? I would measure it in love - not minutes, hours, days, weeks, months or years. How many people have I shown love to? How many people can come to me for love and support? I hope that I have been successful according to GOD'S definition and not the world's definition.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Do-It-Yourself Cleaning Product #1

As I mentioned previously, I recently purchased a small, self-published, hand-written and illustration book called Make Your Place by Raleigh Briggs. . It's small, inexpensive and one of the best purchases I've ever made. If you are ANY type of DIY-er, order this little piece of wisdom.

The middle of the book is full of recipes for homemade cleaning solutions. The reason I am putting this up is two-fold.
1 - I am not a germaphobe. I am so strongly against bombing your home with chemicals that destroy germs and bacteria that I can't express it enough. If you are bombing your home with cleaning products like bleach and extra-strength anything, you are killing bacteria that is vital to the success of your immune system. You NEED exposure to some germs in order to be able to avoid becoming sick! The killing of germs is not what prevents viruses. Your immunity to the germs IS, and you cannot become immune unless you've been exposed to protective bacteria and germs in small amounts. (Also take your Vitamin C!)

2 - Cleaning products are FREAKING EXPENSIVE. Alex and I regularly live on $50 per week for groceries. But if we have to add ANY kind of cleaning products - window spray, floor cleaner, dish detergent, laundry detergent, bathroom cleaner - our budget immediately jumps $20 or more. Bathrooms cleaners run on average $4-6 per bottle. Glass cleaner is $3. Add an additional dollar to those prices if you choose to purchase the 'green' cleanings products, which I promise you, are a scam.

On the other hand, you can get a box of baking soda for .75, a bottle of white vingar for $1.29 and a bottle of lemon juice for $1.99 at the local grocery store - all store brands too, of course - and clean ALMOST every room in your house for a month. You do the math my friends. And guess what green living fans? It's ALL NATURAL - a gift from Mother Earth herself.

Today I decided that I've had it with my kitchen sink. Since we have moved into our house I have been unhappy with it and have always had it in the back of my head to replace it someday. The bottom of the sink has always been stained a nasty dark brown. Sometimes it looks better with a good scrubbing but most of the time my usual cleaning products have no effect on it's filthy evils.

I wish I had thought to take before and after pictures my friends. It would have been a genius of an idea because that sink is now almost it's actual color of 'almond' porcelain. I couldn't believe it! Now, I had to SCRUB. I'm talking about serious elbow grease here. But it actually worked better than what I normally use - which is usually Soft Scrub or Scrubbing Bubbles. But I took this idea onward to our equally filthy stove.

As you have already read, yesterday I had a rather unfortunate mishap with my first attempt to make strawberry jam. My stovetop was coated with sticky scorched fruit. Although it took 5 times longer than it should have (because I had to wear rubber gloves, which cause my hands and arms to break out in a rash due to my latex allergy so I kept stopping every 5 minutes to remove the gloves and rinse my hands before continuing), I did eventually get all the goo and burned on crap off of my stove top! So, feeling pleased with myself, I might just go ahead and scrub down the rest of the kitchen. That will please my hubbers when he gets home.

One thing I will say about myself - I don't ever just sit around at home watching soaps and snacking all day. Even useless experimentation has a purpose in my daily routine.

The recipe for today's cleaning experiments goes as follows:

Make a concoction of equal parts of vinegar, lemon juice and water and put it in a spray bottle.

Sprinkle baking soda over ever attainable filthy surface.

Spritz and spray the vinegar solution alllllll over the baking soda.


And may you have as much success and be just as happy with the outcomes as I am!

Depends on your definition of 'work'.....

I've had a fairly lousy week and I have been feeling rather sorry for myself and depressed. So to combat the blues, I decided to make strawberry jam - which didn't jell and I practically destroyed the kitchen in the process.

Rather than continue to feel sorry for myself today, I will recant the tale, link a book from, and perhaps give you a chuckle.

A couple of weeks ago I purchased these two books from and I love them both. The first is Homemade Living: Canning & Preserving with Ashley English: All You Need to Know to Make Jams, Jellies, Pickles, Chutneys & More and the second is called Make Your Place: Affordable & Sustainable Nesting Skills. Both are right up my alley.

Last Saturday I had some success in canning peaches, so I decided to turn a frozen bag of strawberries into strawberry jam and can that as well. The recipe clearly stated that if you boil the strawberries, sugar and lemon juice long enough, it will jell on it's own. My friends, my jam did not. (Later I was told by my aunt about a delightful little product called Sure-Jell.)

I let the strawberry/sugar mix sit and coagulate in a bowl for a couple hours and then put it in a saucepan and started to boil it. I watched and watched and watched......

Then I saw an ANT on the floor and two of my cats started going after it. I started laughing and grabbed my cell phone to record video. I did that for exactly 23 seconds, and then I heard "sqwooooshhhhhhhhhh!!!!" from the stovetop, followed by the smell of scorched fruit.

Well, I decided not to leave my post again after that, no matter how cute the children were being. I stirred and watched and stirred and watched and the mixture thickened and so I tested for jelling by putting a small amount on a plate that had been sitting in the freezer for a couple hours. No jelling.

So the answer to that dilemma is to boil for 5 more minutes. So I did. And tried again, and still no jelling, but it was better that time. So I boiled some more and then just put the mixture into the jars and processed them. Imagine my "surprise" this morning when I found that it hadn't worked or come close to jelling whatsoever. In fact, I am pretty sure my brain is more the consistency of jelly than that strawberry jam is. At least my jars are properly sealed. I know that I can at least seal a jar to preserve food for a few months!

I'm not discouraged yet. I'll try again with something else soon. I have plans to make apple butter and peach lavender butter, grape jelly in September when the grapes are ripe at my dad's, and tomato sauce when the Romas are ripe. Like I said, I know how to seal a jar - the stuff in the jar is simply a matter of consequence.

Someday I might actually work my 'real job'. But not this week. :)

Thursday, July 15, 2010


I took a new job back in April. I worked very hard for it. I interviewed with the regional director, I studied for my insurance producer's license and passed on the first try, I went to sales school for training and have been trying to introduce Aflac to the public ever since.

I was never this depressed when I was creating. Never. I had moments where I felt like I was a failure, but not like this.

This job is practical and easy to get behind. It's a great product and it pays. It helps people every day. But the world is so hateful. Everyone has pre-determined feelings about the way people are, and I'm really fearful of these people.

I have always been a kind of child. I am independent and I know how to live on my own and care for myself. But I fear the adult world. I am easily intimidated by people and I am afraid of this job.

The disappointments are huge. Just this week I expected to have great production due to a fairly successful consultation last week. It was pathetic. I felt like my heart broke. And it occurred to me why the company has 80% turnover of their agents, because I was ready to quit right then. I feel like I have taken on something that is too big for me. There are too many expectations and too many consequences.

Every day I look out into my garden and into my office, which used to be my sewing room, and I regret putting everything aside to focus on work. I was never this unhappy when I was creating. I need to be creating again.

I do not feel abandoned by God or by my family. I just feel alone, all the time.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Simple Musings on Living Simply

My mother's family is from LaGrange County, IN. If you aren't familiar with the area, it is the home of the largest Amish community in the state, the famous town of Shipshewana, and the respected Howe Military Academy. And that's about it. It's a farming community. What led the family there all those years ago is unknown. Maybe it was all that wide open space upon which to plant corn and soybeans?

When Alex and I were first married I was a typical newlywed bride. I hadn't live out on my own yet. We were both 23 when we got married. I was a lousy cook and housekeeper. We spent more time laying on the couch than contributing to society. But I always had this desire to make the weedpatch next to our patio turn into something productive. I've had that desire from our first apartment to our rental house to the house we live in now - which, by the way, is now an overflowing jungle of growing things.

Every year I take inventory in January of what I NEED to grow, what I'd LIKE to grow, what I KNOW will grow and what might need to be put off for another year. I know that I will always have basil and chamomile and tomatoes for example. Those 3 things never change. I usually try a few new herbs every year - this year I planted lemongrass, lemon verbena and golden sage. They've done very well. I also planted more squash than I think I will be able to handle, and I tossed a couple potatoes from the pantry into a pot full of dirt and got some decent little plants out of them. And come October, there should be pumpkins! That's pretty exciting to me.

Simple living means a lot to me. I hate the idea of having to keep up with the neighbors or have better things than our friends. I'm not fond of having to leave my house for trivial things either. If I can make it, I would rather do that. And boy have I got a knack for making! Food, supplies, clothing, blankets.... the list goes on. I have even started looking into homemade cleaning supplies and first aid. My children are gonna hate me. :)

My garden is my pride and joy. I have been journaling about it pretty regularly now. I also absorb farming lore like a sponge. For example, I am going to find some cabbage seeds today because I read that if you start cabbage from seed in July and then move them to the garden in October and then cover them with a cold frame in December, you can harvest fresh vegetables in January. I really want to see if that works! Supposedly leeks also benefit from frosty weather. I can see myself now, bundled up and trudging out into the snow on Christmas Eve to pull leeks out of the ground for soup. Romantic, right?

Anyway, I've been questing to live in a more simple way for four years now. We've reduced our debt and our grocery bills substantially. With any luck at all over the next year, we'll completely defeat our credit cards and build up a savings account too. Then it's on to defeating the student loans. When those are done, I may never work a 'real' job again. No, I'm kidding. When those are done it will be time to have babies. :)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Time Began In A Garden...

I think I have a definite tendency to blow things out of proportion. Everything always feels 100 times worse than it should be to me. I shouldn't be unhappy - EVER. I have a great life and a great husband. But I am sad because I can't do what I love to do more than anything in the world and still make a living.

I love being a housewife. I love to come up with creative ways to care for my husband and my household. I don't even have children yet. I don't think I even want children. I just love to care for my home.

I have been studying many different books about gardening and homesteading and mini-farming. It's been fascinating and disappointing at the same time. For some reason, all books that have been written and published regarding self-sufficient living have been written by political-environmentalist-liberal activist who live in Los Angeles and encourage guerilla gardening - which apparently is the art of destroying someone's personal property without their permission and turning it into a vegetable patch. The people who write these books are city people who are proud of being able to grow their food and keep chickens on their property - and they should be. What they should also know is how rediculous they sound to those of us who live in the Midwest. Why live in California at all if you want to live a Midwestern lifestyle? Oh wait, because they don't. They just want to play pretend.

I want to truly live a homesteader's lifestyle. Unfortunately I married the wrong man and live in the wrong time for that. My sister and I were 'imagining' this morning what life would be like if we had a small farm. She would care for the livestock and I would work in the fields. Our youngest sister would work the farm stand and sell goods, but we haven't told her that yet. We would have seperate house to live in, but one great big building that would be our kitchen and our dining room. We would collect eggs and bake bread and preserve our harvest. It would be hard work but we would love it because it would be our own.

And then reality sets in. No one can truly be self-sufficient anymore - thank you, federal government, for consuming our freedoms and lives by the way. We wouldn't be able to pay farm taxes - which are exorbitant. Dreams are so fun while being in them, but reality is a terrible thing. No wonder so many people develop alternate realities.

We do have a small garden. I do have huge plans for my yard to increase it's productivity. I do believe that grass lawns are wasted space. Nothing gives me more pleasure than pulling vegetables out of my garden and chopping them up and turning them into dinner. I've been teaching myself the ancient art of food preservation and it's been a lot of fun. I go out and pull weeds because it's therapeutic and gives me something to attack on blue days. I journal the growth almost daily because it give me such joy.

I wonder how many of us are NOT political-environmentalist-liberal-activists, who truly want to be self-sufficient, exist? I wonder if anyone besides myself gets tired of hearing about global climate change and carbon footprints and would just like to know I can rely on God and the sweat of my brow to get us through this season?