January 29, 2006

Sunday, January 29, 2006
Posting on Wednesdays and weekends

Life Lessons: Learning Patience

I tend to deal with almost everything head-on and full speed ahead, not always the wisest approach to challenging situations, people, or perhaps even life in general. Somehow, I thought that mellowing would come with age, but, ahhhhhh, not so! I find I want to fill the faster-moving days with even more... and more.

Now I love to knit, not being able to stand idle hands when we're on the road, or even watching the evening news. A few weeks ago I started a top for my daughter Hannah, a vest with a fairly intricate pattern for the first 35 rows of 196 stitches per row. It will be a gorgeous garment, knit in a luxurious and expensive silk yarn.

I got three rows done and realized there was a mistake. Rip out. Start over. Cast on 196 stitches. Got to ten rows. Unknit. Check the pattern every so often. Six rows. Rip out. Start over. Cast on 196 stitches. Tediously count the stitches at the end of each row. Fourteen rows. Scream! Rip out. Cast on... And so on through eleven attempts. I worried that I was wearing the poor yarn out, that the top would look used before it had ever been worn. And I was getting more and more impatient.

The pattern was in multiples of ten stitches plus six more stititches divided between the beginning and the each end of the row. So I decided that the only way I could conquer this project was to slow down (oh, NO!) and make sure that each 6-stitch beginning and end, each ten-stitch pattern, and each row of 196 stitches was right. UGH!! At that point I just wanted this vest done so I could move on to the next project on my knit list.

I am now on row 24, and moving along oh-so-slowly, but surely. I have had to unknit maybe one or two rows, but have done that most patiently instead of just ripping out the whole damn thing and starting again. And, I love the way this vest is going to come out!

Taking my time has been a hard lesson for me, one I'm sure has not been learned for the last time! But slowing down, even just a little bit, even when I've dropped a stitch and have to un-do/re-do, is a lesson I hope to knit into other areas of my life, because life, with all its ins and outs, ups and downs, hard work and beauty, is certainly the most intricate pattern I'll ever attempt!

I hope you'll share your life lessons with me. You can leave a comment by clicking below on Comments. You don't have to be a blogger, register, or even leave your name.


January 25, 2006

Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Postings on Wednesdays and weekends

Soup and Stew Weather...

Last week, it was spring-like here on the coast of Maine, but this week winter has returned. Not a deep-freeze but the every-other-day pattern of light snow, perfect weather for soups and stews, meals that are hearty, tasty and decidedly frugal.

Let's look at some mix-n-match possibilities

Soup/Stew / Salad/Side / Bread

baked bean soup / chunky applesauce / cornbread

rich carrot soup / spinach with goat cheese and toasted pecans / biscuits

chicken stew / four-bean salad / dumplings

beef 'n' gravy / cole slaw / focaccia

All of the soups/stews can be left simmering in your slow cooker and all salads/sides can be made ahead of time or by that child or spouse who gets home ahead of you. The cornbread, biscuits and dumplings make up very quickly while the focaccia does take some planning ahead.

If you've made focaccia or other bread on a weekend, hopefully you've put some in the freezer for a mid-week supper. Or you can always take whatever bread you've got handy (French or Italian is super good), spread with butter, sprinkle with garlic salt and a heavy layer of parmesan cheese and toast.

The recipes mentioned about are in The Frugal Family Kitchen Book, but if there's one you especially want to try, just send me an email (marywebb@maine.rr.com) and I'll send it on to you.


January 22, 2006

Sunday, January 22, 2006
Posting on Wednesday and weekends

Do You Remember...

When someone says that, don't you find yourself leaning toward them just a little, anticipating the connection of either a shared memory or a memory question you might well be able to answer. "Do you remember" is such a wonderful invitation!

We've talked over the past few weeks about the power of shared memories in strengthening connections and building community, and we've acknowledged the conscious effort it takes these busy days to make new memories. But it is in the reinforcing, the "Do you Remember-ing" that we see the true beauty and bounty of a shared moment or past.

Consider for a minute one situation with two outcomes, both of which I bet you've experienced:

You are driving down a county road in the springtime with a friend when you see a big snapping turtle lumbering across the road, probably pregnant and looking for a spot to nest on the swampy side of the street. You swerve around the turtle and go a little further before you screech to a stop saying to your friend, "You know the next people coming along this road, just may not miss that turtle." You back up, both hop out and head toward the slow-moving turtle,nothing but kindness on your mind; you'll help her to the other side and safety.

But of course, you also remember that snapping turtles can be well, a bit tetchy, to say nothing of vicious under the right/wrong circumstances. Somehow between the two of you, with great seriousness and much laughter, you... encourage... the turtle to hurry a bit. Then just as she starts down the bank on the far side of the road, you slip down that same banking ending up mud-covered from neck to knees. But, still laughing!

You get back to your car, get brushed off, cleaned up as best you can, still talking and joking about "rescuing" the turtle who's probably back in the swamp telling all her friends about you. And you head off, back on your way to wherever you'd been headed.

Now, here are two scenarios you may have experienced after an incident such as this: You and/or the friend re-inforce the shared memoriy with a small bobblehead turtle for the other's dashboard, or send a silly email, or make it a point to tell the story when you're both with a group of friends. All these things make you feel... how?? That the time with you hada been valued? Do these little follow-ups re-inforce the spirit of fun, connection, and even community you felt. Do these reminders bring you a bit of warmth all over again?

Or, have you experienced the second scenario... you have an experience like this with a friend, nothing world-saving or earth-shattering, but with the makings of a good shared memory, and yet, it's never mentioned again. "Oh, it's just something that happened..." Yes, that's true, but it can be much more.

So, this week, send a note (email or snail mail such a delight to receive these days!) to someone asking, "Do you remember..." or "I was thinking about you the other day and remembered..." Even better, do you have a shared memory involving two or three people who have somewhat fallen out of touch with each other? Send each that note, and maybe even end it saying "We've really got to get together and make some new memories as good as the old ones!"

Most of all, if you know someone who lost a person (or even a pet) this past year, please take a minute and send them a shared memory. Connection, community. Some things truly are priceless.


You can leave a comment on this posting by clicking on Comments below. You don't have to be a blogger, or register, or even leave your neam. Keep in touch, I'd love to hear form you!

January 18, 2006

Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Postings Wednesdays and weekends

One Small Step At a Time...

In a recent posting, we talked about not trying to climb the mountain all at once, but rather taking small steps, one foot in front of the other. One small step whether that mountain is weight loss, saving money, managing your time better, or some other goal you truly want to accomplish.

Very strange how these things happen! Shortly after I wrote that I was at the library (absolutely one of my favorite haunts!) and a small book caught my eye and came into my hand: One Small Step Can Change Your Life - The Kaizen Way by Robert Maurer, Ph.D. I'd never heard of it, but it is a gem, and I strongly recommend it if you're having trouble getting those mountains down to molehill size so you can start climbing.

One Small Step is a very pragmatic, practical little book, its focus entirely on the do-able, no matter how small that may be. One major change I'm making is when I think of a project or something I want to do and find that my immediate reaction is, "I can't do that!" Now, I keep asking what Maurer calls "little questions" until I get down to whatever tiny, trivial part of the project I can comfortably do, the itsy-bitsy step where I find myself saying, "I can do that!" and then I do that tiny bit. Period.

Just discovering what kaizen is and how the concept evolved is valuable for shifting thinking from the big impossibles to the gadzillion possibles. And that alone makes reading this book well worthwhile!

Another rainy day here on the coast of Maine, very cosy but quite unusal for mid-January. While we may often have a mid-month thaw, this year we have no snow cover after a series of rainstorms. I keep telling myself ahhhhhh, less snow to shovel, less deep frost in the ground, less heating , but still I'd love a soft swirly snowstorm, the kind that hushes the whole world.
To leave a comment, click on the word "comments" below. You don't have to be a blogger, register, or even leave your name to leave a comment.

January 15, 2006

Sunday, January 15, 2005
Postings Wednesdays and weekends

Building Community Through Shared Memories...

"So," a friend asked me after reading last Sunday's posting, "since you're talking about "shared memories" as a working definition for "community," what's the difference between a shared experience and shared memories?" What a great question!

To me, a shared experience means people and a commonality: perhaps in the same place, perhaps at the same time, perhaps doing the same thing, perhaps even interacting. But, I think a shared memory goes a step further and includes the concept of connecting.

Beyond a purely personal sense, think about the explosion of the shuttle Challenger. What takes that from shared experience to shared memory is the ways in which we connected at the time, and how we continue to connect through memories of the event whenever it comes up. The same is true of other "cohort" experiences that cross all socioeconomic considerations, events that we as a people have lived through together - for an older generation Pearl Harbor, for baby boomers the assassination of JFK, and most recently for all of us, 911. For many, these shared memories provide a powerful sense of community.

But how about our daily lives, often rushed, filled with unending demands on our time and energy, demands that make maintaining familyships and friendships a challenge. We need to make memories, share memories, treasure memories, and of course reinforce them. But, HOW?

Making memories would seem easy, but keeping-in-touch has come increasingly to depend on email, the telephone and other, well... not-really-shared togetherness. So, first off, we need to re-commit to actually seeing people, getting together. And, that's never as easy as it sounds, is it? I cannot believe what it took a few weeks ago to "negotiate" a date for dinner with two other couples!!

So, think about it... with whom would you like to strenghten your connection, your sense of community?? Someone in the family, a group you've lost track of, a few old friends you realize you miss? Now that the "who" is firmly in mind, how about the "what?" Something as simple as a walk, a few games of cards, working together on a small project? Okay, got an idea? Good! Now... the biggie... WHEN?

Let's check in next week and see what we've both come up with. Then we can look at wonderful ways to build on this, or to use it to re-connect... Community is so very valuable and so well worth a little time and thought. Don't you think??

See you Wednesday! Mary

January 11, 2006

Wednesday, January 11, 2006
Postings Wednesday and weekends

Where Do Recipes Come From...

No, no, this won't be that kind of a posting, but rather a look at recipes do get around!

Several years ago my friend Paula shared a recipe for broccoli salad, a tasty dish filled with chopped raw broccoli, onions, bacon, raisins, and sunflower seeds all in a mayo-vinegar dressing. This is a recipe I've served often since, a dish that has never failed to get rave reviews, a recipe much requested. Now Paula had gotten the recipe from another friend of hers, and I thought that person had "invented" it. Hmmmm....

Reading last Sunday's paper, I happened on an article about the chef to the first President Bush, and how/what this chef cooks for the former first family. The article made mention of Mr. Bush's well-known aversion to broccoli and Mrs. Bush's subtle attempt to slip it onto his plate via... you guessed it... a broccoli salad, one which certainly sounded about like the above. Hmmmmm

Have you ever had this happen? A recipe often comes to you handwritten, maybe on an old 3x5" card. You've never seen anything quite like it, and it's really good. Months later, you A) see it in a magazine; B.) find it featured on a tv cooking show; C.) discover it in an old cookbook; or most interesting of all, D.) get a copy in the mail from a good friend half a county away who just "knows you'd like this."

There's a website where you can keep track of the circulation of a dollar bill... wouldn't it be fun to see how a recipe makes the rounds! Of course considering today's recipes, concoctions that combine unlikely ingredients in truly unusual ways, I think it's the old standbys that are most like to be passed on.

Let me give you that recipe for broccoli salad, in case you missed it. I've included some of the modifications I make, and I do hope you'll experiment with some of the ingredients. This is NOT just a summer salad, but a great addition to the winter table too.

Broccoli Salad

Dressing - Mix and let set at least two hours

1 c mayo (I use 1/2 to 2/3 c)
1/2 c sugar (I use 1/4 c)
2 TBSP vinegar (try different kinds)
1 medium onion, chopped (try vidalia, red, etc.)

Add dressing to the following, tossing well to moisten all ingredients

2 large heads raw broccoli, chopped (great way to use stalks that you might otherwise discard)
1 c sunflower seeds
12 pieces bacon, fried crisp, well-drained, and crumbled

Now as a vegetarian, I really don't want the meat, so I mix everything except the bacon, then add that to 3/4 of the salad, using a few fake bacon pieces for the rest if I want that smoky flavor. Delicious, nutritious, and pretty inexpensive!


January 8, 2006

Sunday, January 8, 2005
Postings on Wednesdays and weekends

Longing for "Community"...

Some time ago I took an American literature course during which the professor asked us to define "community." Our answers were probably similar to what you'd say... "physical area with its own government" ... people who live near each other and have similar values"... "a sense of place and people where you belong"... How would you define "community?"

It turned out that that professor's definition of community was a concept none of us had remotely considered: "Community," he said, "is shared memories." Shared memories. Yes, that fits.

A town becomes a community when it faces a common crisis nd those memories tie that town's people together forever. Or it may be a more fleeting shared experience, a small child's antics that bring a uniting glance and smile to the surrouding adults. Or it may be the myriad small memories that bond a family instead of just tieing it together.

Shared memories, in a larger sense, are also a basic thread of our communications, our efforts to build a sense of community with others. (It is no coincidence that the two words share a common root.) Isn't it shared memories, common ground, we seek when we meet someone new? We all have our own repertoire, but it usually goes something like this:

"You new around here? "
"Yes, we've just moved up from Massachusetts."
"Oh, whereabouts in Massachusetts?"
"Great Barrington, out by Worcester. It's a small town, you probably never heard of it."
"Wow, you're kidding! I had a friend in college whose roomate was from there. Did you know a family by the name of Derosiers? Lived near the high school, I think."

And so on though those six degrees of separation, those commonalities that connect us, each and all. We seek a commonality of time, of place, of background, some reference point, some shared memory so that we can connect to another, feel a sense of community.

(And in a more universal sense, Christian churches throughout the world and the ages have celebrated Communion (same root word!), and isn't that a sacremental shared memory?)

We all need to belong and we need to offer that sense of belonging to others as well. How? How can we find, and offer, that sense of community? Make meories, share memories, treasure memories, and reinforce memories, in our personal lives and in the greater world. And just how to do that?

Well, I hope you'll let me know what you think about this, and next week we'll look at some how-to's. By the way, to leave comments on this blog, just click on the comments at the bottom and write away. You do NOT have to be a blogger, you do NOT have to register, you do NOT have to leave your name, but I'd love to hear from you!


January 4, 2006

Wednesday, January 4, 2006
(Postings on Wednesdays and weekends)

WHAT are you buying at the grocery store??

Soooo... how are you doing on those resolutions? Did you put losing weight, eating better, or saving money on your list? I hope so, because doing each will help you do all !

You KNOW what losing weight is all about. No matter what miracle this, or gimmicky that you're considering, you KNOW what it'll take. Yup, eating less and moving more! Okay, so how about that "eating better" thing? That will add buying lean and cooking light to your eating less and moving more. AND those four things can add up to serious savings at the grocery store.

Before we get more specific, let's look at just what you are spending your grocery dollars on, and I don't mean just meat, milk and munchies. Are you buying time with pre-pared, pre-cooked foods? Are you buying convenience with mixes and ready-to-eats? Is there an emotional slant to your spending? Are you buying candy for lonely nights and ice cream for empty hours? Are you winning over your kids with the latest snack foods or wooing your husband with a thick steak? Or serving "homemade" not quite made in your own kitchen? You need to think about these things, really, really, REALLY!!

Why? Because to lose weight, eat better and save money, you need to be buying good health, balanced nutrition, and colorful, flavorful foods. No, no! You can't make drastic changes, not all at once! This is where we all seem to fall apart on the resolution keeping: we see our goal out there somewhere and try to make it one mega-leap. One change in one area. Period! A reasonable goal.

So, decide... will you cut back on meats - buying leaner (usually less expensive) cuts, cooking lighter by stewing or simmering, eating less by watching those portions, AND saving money by doing all of these things? OR, maybe you'll buy one bag of apples to substitute for one snack food you usually buy? OR, perhaps you'll get real orange juice instead of an orange "drink" or soda?

Think about it... just one change... Mary

January 1, 2006

Thank you

for ordering The Frugal Family Kitchen Book by Mary Webber.

Check back to the Blog for new information or to leave comments or ask questions.

Thanks again!
Mary Webber