Sunday, November 28, 2010

Christmas Countdown Chain

When I was a kid we always made a paper advent chain to count down the days to Christmas. I've made paper chains for my kids, but between the environmentally UNfriendly heavy use of paper, and the fact that one tug from a baby = busted chain, I decided to make a fabric version.

I was inspired by this tutorial, but I adapted it for what I had.


I made my own tutorial here.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


"We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures." ~Thornton Wilder

If you don't remember it, or haven't read it recently, take the time to read President Monson's talk on gratitude from last conference. If you're not going to do that (be honest), then at the very least watch this little video

"Our minds have a marvelous capacity to notice the unusual; however, the opposite is true as well. The more often we see the things around us--even the beautiful and wonderful things--the more they become invisible to us. That's why we often take things for granted...because we see things so often, we see them less and less."

Now let's all go out and follow President Monson's counsel to "cultivate an attitude of gratitude." ☺

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Same Old (Stupid) Things

When I was a kid we had dogs. We also lived in the woods. And one year there were porcupines.
One dog in particular, Bibs, apparently had an irresistible urge to investigate those porcupines.
I remember at least a dozen occasions that year when we had to pull quills out of his nose. The first quill wasn't so bad, because he didn't know what was coming, but the second quill (and all subsequent quill-pulling-endeavors) involved multiple people holding him still so that someone could grab the quills one by one with pliers and pull them from his face.

I seem to have a propensity for burning myself in the kitchen (or occasionally at the iron). I have a phobia about the oven door flipping up and burning me (even though that has never happened), but maybe it's not an irrational one because I have found a lot of other unexpected ways to burn myself, so who knows, it could happen. Just a week ago I severely burned my finger tip making fudge, and while the blister is now gone, there is still a funny-feeling spot there, and it keeps me in mind of other burns I've had. Hot oil splashes, steam, toaster oven doors (that was just days before the fudge)...  The thing is, I'm not a generally accident-prone person, so it seems odd that I should burn myself so often.

But no more odd than that an otherwise not-unintelligent dog should stick his face into the wrong end of a porcupine again and again.

These thoughts have put me in mind of something that I think we all do, and that is to get stuck in a rut--a habit even--of doing the same stupid thing over and over. Perhaps it's yelling at your kids. Perhaps it's speeding on the highway. Perhaps it's neglecting your prayers. Perhaps it's procrastinating your homework. We know that these things are not good. We all know what we could (or should) do instead. But we don't do it.

So I have a challenge for us all today. Stop sticking your nose in the porcupine's tooshie. Pick one of those stupid things that you keep doing, and knock it off already. It takes time to bust a bad habit, I know, so that's why we're just picking one.

I'm not picking the burns by the way. I've got bigger things to worry about. Although if you ever hear of any burn-proof kitchen gloves (they'd have to go up to the elbow!) let me know, would you?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Reflecting on Rhythms

A friend of mine has recently become interested in food storage and home-food preservation. We had a conversation on the day after I had finished processing (and freezing/canning) our halloween pumpkins, and she noted that pumpkins were on a great sale at the local grocery store so maybe she'd pick up a couple to preserve. The next day she joyfully reported that she had indeed bought the pumpkins, but that she wasn't going to be able to get to them for a couple of days, so she was putting them in her garage where they would keep longer.
Two weeks later she told me that she'd noticed a soft spot on one of them, and figured she'd better get to them right away before they rotted. (Oops!)

I think that anyone who has ever done their own food preservation has been through the experience of having something rot or spoil before you got it processed. I had several pints of raspberries grow mold literally overnight this summer. I had to cut a soft spot out of one of my pumpkins. I had to throw away several whole peaches. Food does not wait to be processed, any more than it waits to be picked. And yet we often set it aside, and, in doing so, we lose it.

Why is this? My friend commented that she really wanted to get to the pumpkin, but that she knew the processing was going to take up several hours, and she just couldn't find the time for it.

I processed our first two pumpkins on the monday after halloween. The last one had not been carved, so I knew it would keep a bit longer, and they were big pumpkins, so it took me several hours to process the two. So I saved the third. I had planned to get to it on the weekend. On friday morning I got up with the intent to clean my house and make three pies (for our pie night that night). But that pumpkin had started to grow fuzzies along the stem...I knew it could not wait. So my day's plans suddenly adapted to include processing a huge pumpkin and canning it as well. They adapted because they had to. I didn't touch the computer all day, I didn't answer the phone, I did change diapers and make meals and wear the baby on my back for a while, but otherwise I simply did what needed to be done, even on a day when I "didn't have the time." And 6 quarts of beautiful home-canned pumpkin puree are on my shelf now because of it.

I do not mean to belittle my friend in any way. She is new to this for one thing, so the whole project will be slower for her than it is for me who has been doing it for years. She has good intentions, and is just still learning how to make these particular kinds of intentions fir into a routine that she's had in place for years. Old habits die hard (and I am eternally grateful to my mother for teaching me the habit of food preservation so that I didn't have to learn it on my own!)
There are dozens of things filling the average day. Errands to run, meals to make, kids to care for, phones to answer, projects to plan, internet to suck up my time...I find it's quite easy to keep very busy all the time and yet get very little done. And, in all the whirlwind of things to do, something ends up sliding...


Just as food will not wait to be processed, so children cannot wait to be shown love and respect, and the joyful moments of life will not wait until you have time to sit down and notice them, they have to be caught (and enjoyed) on the fly.

There are so many things we COULD be doing, so it is vital to tune into the rhythms and sense of what we SHOULD be doing at a given time. In motherhood, some days are so long, and yet the years are short. We will be happiest, I believe, when learn to live in the present, and to be flexible as we follow the ebb and flow of life, take each day as it comes, and just roll with it. If there is much to do, get it done. If there is little to do, enjoy the rest. Do not seek to fill your life with things--even good things--if it is at the expense of the better things.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Couple's Journal

I mentioned this gift idea in my post about frugal gift ideas, and thought I'd explain it a little more thoroughly. Or, rather, I think I've explained it...I thought I would share some ideas of what to put in it, to get you started in case you'd like to do one too. ☺

  • What is your dream date?
  • What is your dream vacation?
  • What is your dream car?
  • Tell about your dream house.
  • If you were an animal, which one would you be and why?
  • If you were a kitchen utensil or appliance, which one would you be and why?
  • What are some of your favorite traditions?
  • If you had one year to live, what would you do?
  • If you had one month to live, what would you do?
  • One week to live?
  • One day to live?
  • One hour to live?
  • What is your favorite scripture story?
  • On a scale of 1-100, how good of a driver are you? How about your spouse? What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • Where have you always wanted to go?
  • Share your testimony
  • What attracted you to your spouse first?
  • What frustrates you most about your spouse?
  • Have you ever thought you were going to die?
  • What things make you happy?
  • What are your favorite parts of your body? Of your spouse's body?
  • If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
  • What are your greatest fears?
  • What are some of your goals for your life?
  • If the adult you met the child or teenage you, what would your younger self think of your adult self?
  • What do you think your kids would think of you if they met you as a kid?
Just write one question at the top of each page, then leave the rest blank... We have spent some date nights passing the book back and forth, each writing our answers to some questions (we just flip open to pages at random)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Frugal Friday: Gifts

Two years ago I shared some frugal gift ideas for kids. Today I have more kid ideas, plus some ideas for adults and other friends.

For anyone
  • Coupon for a backrub, foot massage, doing the dishes or some other chore when it's 'their turn.' When I was a kid my mom used to do our chores on our birthday, and we always thought that was awesome.
  • Experiences--a day at the park, a hike, a bike ride together, a picnic, a day at a museum or zoo, a movie night out (or a movie night in!). When my brother was about 9 I gave him the christmas present of renting him a movie of his choice, or taking him to a new disney movie that had just come out--just the two of us (I was in college). He chose to go out, and we had a blast.
  • If you know how to sew or knit, watch sales so you can get the materials inexpensively, then make them something. Jammie pants for kids can be just a couple of dollars and are very simple to sew. Mittens, hats, and slippers are all small items that can be made with minimal materials. One year I made my husband a fully-lined fleece vest for about $8.
  • Watch thrift stores. I found a great round-bottomed wok (with a lid) for $2 once. I have collected all my pyrex bread pans to the tune of $1 each at thrift stores. I've also found some stainless steel pans/lids in thrift stores. We found a bop-it for one of our sons for $1. My sister found a child-seat for a bicycle. Thrift stores are also good place to find books, canning jars, little containers, toys, and big pieces of fabric (or old sweaters) that can be used to make something else. 
  • Also keep an eye on freecycle and craigslist, you never know what will turn up.  
  • Make an audiobook (this is something my grandparents did for us as kids--so they could read us bedtime fairy tales even from another state!) For kids, get them a picture book and record yourself reading it on the tape, then give them the book and tape. For an adult who likes audiobooks, record a book that hasn't been made into an audiobook yet!
 For a spouse (or possibly a parent)
  • A "couple's journal"--a notebook with a question at the top of each page. Maybe put a fancy pen with it. Then take turns writing answers back and forth to each other in the book.

For friends/extended family
  • Herbed olive oil is easy to make and yet a very classy gift. Save condiment bottles all year (tabasco bottles, berry syrup bottles, and of course oil bottles are all pretty). If you need tips to get started, here are some recipes.
  • Homemade jam
  • Family photo and a newsy letter (Grandmas usually like this better than anything else anyway).
  • Recipe in a jar (cookies, cocoa mix, soup, etc)

For kids
Even the baby knows what to do with a noodle sword

  • Noodle swords!! Get a swim noodle (they are cheap in the summertime, yes this does require planning ahead), then cut it in half. Voila, a pair of swords, soft enough for safe indoor play. If you are wanting something a little more elaborate, put a piece of PVC piping up the noodle to give it stiffness and a handle (here's a tutorial), but you really don't need that.
  • You can also make swords with paper towel tubes (these are pretty cool--this whole blog is full of fun ideas actually, I could lose hours just browsing there!)
  • A wooden dowel with some ribbons, or a little decorated ball can become a marvelous wand or dancing accessory. You can even cover them with foil and pretties.
  • dancing rings
  • felt (or felted) or knit/crochet foods (search on etsy, there are lots of ideas to try!) These are small enough that they can be easily hand sewn, and your imagination is your limit... felt is cheap and small pieces can make a lot of food. Here are some foods I have (I traded for them, didn't make them myself...)
  •  all the stuff I mentioned before, puppets, beanbags, and dress-up clothes
  • Felt advent calender (cut out shapes, glue or sew or pin them on...My mom has one that is a Christmas tree and each day we would safety-pin a little ornament onto it. I'm working on making a nativity scene one for my kids where they can add a character to the scene each day)
  • <--- Plastic canvas blocks (cut six equal-sized squares of plastic canvas, fill them in with stitches of yarn, whipstitch the sides together to make a block--you can also put a little jingle bell inside some of them! It's a great way to use up little leftover scraps of yarn)
  • Never underestimate the value of passed-along things: legos, army men, card games/board games all stay good for years.☺

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Why I Like Facebook


I went to my friend L's facebook page  after commenting on her link, because I have not caught up with her in a while. I scrolled down through a few of her recent status updates, and saw that on last friday she had posted about eating pumpkin pie fudge.

Wha? Pumpkin Pie Fudge?!

Status update, 8:26am
Thanks a lot L, now I want pumpkin pie fudge. That just sounds like a great idea.

Several comments ensued, including one around 1pm from J, agreeing that that did sound good.

J posts a link to a pumpkin pie fudge recipe.

I see the link, and repost it on my page, for the benefit of all my friends who saw my morning post.
3:33pm, friend H comments that she made that recipe last week, and it was "awesome."

6:30ish pm
After dinner, I have Hubby read off the recipe to me as I make it (for the record, if you want to make it, I recommend reducing the butter to 6Tbs instead of 8Tbs...I'm a good fudge-beater and still ended up with a slight oily sheen on top, so it definitely didn't need quite all the butter. Also, the recipe calls for a little corn syrup...which you can substitute with maple syrup if you don't have or don't like corn syrup.)

I'm eating awesome pumpkin pie fudge. And I never would have even thought of such a thing if it weren't for facebook. (Granted, I also would not have burned my finger really badly and have a pea-sized blister if I had not been making fudge and spilled a little on the counter and tried to swipe it up with my finger...oops, hot fudge is REALLY hot... but then again, I'm pretty burn-prone. I'm sure I would have found something else to burn myself on. And the fudge is really nummy!!!)

My Family or My Family?

My brother is getting married a few days before Christmas, and I won't be there.

I don't blame him for the timing. He is in school and is coordinating people from multiple states and the holiday break is simply the best time to hold the festivities. Christmas is a fine time to get married.  My own wedding was December 20th!

I live 2500 miles away from where the wedding will be, and flying at Christmastime is expensive and harried, but I considered it anyway. My dad had some airmiles saved up that we thought I might be able to use for a cheaper ticket, and I spent some time looking at the logistics of trying to make the trip.
I saw my brother (and met his fiancee) a few weeks ago, but I was especially excited at the prospect of seeing my east-coast-dwelling sister, because I've seen the rest of my family twice in the last year, but haven't seen her in over three years. I also would have gotten to see my grandparents, whom I have not seen in over two years.
However, due to the expense of the plane tickets, (and our unemployed/broke status), if I went down to the wedding I would be going with just my baby (in my lap), and my other children would have to stay behind with Hubby. It's not that I'd be worried about them (although of course I'd miss them), and at another time of year I might have decided to go ahead and make the trip... but December 19-23 are as much a part of Christmas as December 25th is, and I don't want to spend them away from my children.

But it's my brother's wedding! He's only going to do this once, I want to be there! Christmas comes every year, doesn't it? But my kids will only be 1 and 3 and 10 once, and I want to be here too.
As I thought over these things, a verse came to mind:

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife. (Genesis 2:24 )
My brother, my sister, my family of origin are important to me. I love them, I enjoy seeing them, I am grateful for modern technologies like email and long-distance telephone and skype that allow me to keep in touch with them. However, I have another family now, the family I have made with my husband, and if it has to come down to choosing between them, the choice is obvious for me. My kids will always come before my siblings, just as my spouse will always come before my parents.
And I think that's the way it's supposed to be.

Monday, November 15, 2010

My Storage (Nov 2010)

First off, the food:

My freezer has:
  • about 40 meal-size packs of salmon (caught ourselves, some smoked--also ourselves)
  • about 20 meal packs halibut (caught ourselves and from friends)
  • about 17c pumpkin puree (from our halloween pumpkins)
  • peaches (bought on sale)
  • raspberries (local, free, picked ourselves)
  • 36 cups rhubarb (local, free from a neighbor)
  • apricot marmalade (about 8 jars, but they're little repurposed babyfood jars)
  • 5 jars chicken bone broth (homemade) 
  • about 15 pkgs of bear (some ground, some roasts/steaks)
  • a turkey, a ham, a couple of pork roasts (they were on sale), a couple of whole chickens, some chicken breasts and quarters...just stuff bought when it went on sale.
  • juice, butter, sausage, spinach, some other little stuff...
  • No moose this year, but there will be a half a beef before the end of the week (I'm going to have to do some serious rearranging to get it all in there!)

On the shelves (all left-to-right):

Top shelf--mostly supplies/tools
pressure cooker, yogurt maker, ice cream maker, steam canner, food strainer, dehydrator, and popcorn popper (I also have a wheat grinder but it's somewhere else).

Second shelf (legumes and grains)--
beans (dry and canned), lentils, nuts, peanut butter, grains--rice, cornmeal, hot cereals, pastas, crackers, baking supplies (baking powder, cocoa, etc).
Third shelf (fruits, meats, condiments)--
peaches (homecanned), apple pie filling (homecanned), applesauce (homecanned), dried fruit (craisins, etc), some other canned fruits, coconut milk, fireweed jelly
Tuna, canned chicken, spam, and homecanned chicken bone broth
extra bottles of various condiments and spices we use, just purchased when they were on sale. It's not comprehensive, but it's the stuff we use the most

Fourth shelf (veggies, miscellaneous)--
pumpkin puree (homecanned), olives, beans, corn, white bin with potatoes, garlic, ginger, onions, tomato sauce, stewed tomatoes, diced tomatoes (I have done these homecanned when I have a good garden...right now we are buying it)
a case of top ramen, powdered milk, baby food, my recipe box, my big ceramic bread mixing bowl...

Bottom shelf/floor
dog food, bulk jars of olive oil, corn oil, coconut oil, vinegar, and molasses, big bags of salt/sugar/flour/wheat/rice/oatmeal (it'll all be in buckets soon), and charcoal, and my crockpot (it's heavy so I keep it low!)

5 gal Buckets
4 for wheat
4 for white flour
2 for sugar
1 for white rice
1 for rolled oats
(I need to get one for salt)

Behind the buckets is some water storage--we have a 5 gal container and a 7 gal container that we use camping, so we keep them full. We also have several plastic juice jugs. The recommendation is to have one gallon per person per day for a week, and we do not have that much. However water is readily available in our area, so we store some water, but also have purification tablets so that we can utilize found water if necessary.

I also have a cupboard where I usually keep a couple of jars of spaghetti sauce, evaporated milk, chocolate chips, baking stuff, flavorings, spices, sweets...
There is also the little freezer on my fridge, which has about 15lbs of frozen veggies, some more frozen chicken broth (in 'ice cubes'), several pounds of cheese, some more frozen fruit (the opened packages  I draw on for smoothies), and a few packages of shredded zucchini that I have leftover from last year and need to use soon.

Bathroom undersink cupboards
One is stuffed with toilet paper--and yes, I've watched, that is a 6m supply for us. There is also a big package of baby wipes in there (this is part of the reason the tp lasts so long--several family members prefer the wipes).There's also a bulk-size bag of baking soda, which I use for cleaning and for deoderizing the diaper pail in there. (There's the basket of cloth 'kleenex' on the counter, so there's that year's supply)
The master bathroom cupboard has the bag with all my feminine pads (year's supply right there, cloth again for the win!) and there's some tp in there also.

In regard to how much of a storage this is for my family of 5...I think we have enough to go completely without buying anything for 2 months. We'd run out of fresh foods within a couple of weeks, but we have

enough frozen and canned that we'd be able to eat pretty normally (except for needing to go to powdered milk) for probably a month. The second month would be a little sparcer, but we'd still have pretty balanced meals, they just might start to get boring. By 2 months in we'd be feeling it, but we would still have enough food that we could make do, or (if we bought just a few perishables) we could easily go another month. The 4 buckets of wheat would get us about 6 months if that was the only flour we were using (and it's not, so it will last longer)
I do much of my cleaning with baking soda, vinegar, and salt--thus buying all those things in bulk. I'm pretty sure I've got a years worth of those.
I've observed over the course of this last year, and discovered that one bottle each of shampoo and conditioner lasts me a year, therefore, an extra bottle of each is my year's supply.

See that 6pk of paper towels in front of the shelves (I hadn't put it away yet). That's a 2 yr supply at least. I never buy that big a package because we use them so slowly.

So, does it feel a little less overwhelming, and a little more possible now?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Eagle Turns One

Bear said that it would be good to have a car cake. Then he went and fetched one of his toy cars for the cause:

The road is made with crushed graham crackers and edged with chocolate chips (and if you're an engineer don't look too closely at the road where it goes around the edge on that little hill, ok? I know, it's totally undrivable, shhh!!)

Unfortunately some of these photos came out a bit fuzzy (wiggly boy!) but they're still cute, and they show him for the gleeful little boy that he is:

Happy First Birthday Kiddo!!

Friday, November 12, 2010


Jenni is very very grateful to be a mother; for the maturity and patience and laughs that come with parenting my boys, for the opportunity to adopt, for the empowering experience of giving birth, and for the fulfillment of watching my children grow and achieve. 
(My facebook status this morning~I've been posting things I'm grateful for every day leading up to Thanksgiving)

When I was a little girl, my sister and I used to play "baby." Other little girls may have played "house" but we played "baby." We started off by stuffing our dolls up our shirts and being pregnant for a while. Then we'd lay on our beds and give birth (because everyone gives birth laying on their own bed, right?! It's all we'd ever seen!) Then we would nurse our babies, use blankets to make slings to carry them around, change their (cloth) diapers, nurse them some more, and rock them to sleep in our little rocking chairs.
In other words, I have been looking forward to (and practicing) motherhood since I was too small to say the word.
Me with my dolly Polly, next to my mom holding my little sister.
We are 18 months apart, so I would have been about 2 in this photo.
Yes, I'm wearing a cloth diaper.
Through high school and college I looked forward to motherhood. My mother periodically reminded me to enjoy living in the season that I was in--to do what I wanted to do, because soon enough I would have a family to care for, and then it would not be my time anymore, but theirs. I did spend a lot of time focused on the future, but I did spend time on myself as well: I got a college degree and traveled to Europe among other things.
When I got married at 22, a toddler came with the package. (In fact, I started parenting him while we were still engaged--I stayed with him during the days while my then-fiance went to his college classes, rather than my finding a job and then our paying a babysitter.) So I never had that child-free 'newlywed' phase of  marriage. That has never bothered me, because motherhood was always what I wanted anyway, and I didn't mind the head start on it. Sometimes my husband has been saddened by missing that though, I think because he did have that phase with his first marriage, and he knows what we missed. He has expressed from time to time that he looks forward to our empty-nesting stage, when we will finally have time with just us.

Recently we've been talking about our family, and whether we will have more children. We have mixed feelings on this issue right now (and have not made a decision), but the possibility of being done having kids is on the table, and I am struggling with it. Sometimes I feel peace about the idea, but sometimes I feel a gaping hole inside, and I've realized that it's because I identify myself so completely as a 'mother' that I don't know what I will do with myself when that phase is over.
I realize that I have a while (although Wolf is 10!), and I know that I will still be a mother, no matter the age of our children. I know that there is a lot more to life than babies. But still, it's hard to think of letting this phase pass. Perhaps it's because biological motherhood did not come easily and so I treasure it an extra little bit? Perhaps it's because motherhood itself--both the physical processes of pregnancy, birthing, and breastfeeding, and also the emotional processes of raising my boys--fulfill and empower and complete me as nothing else ever has.
I have been thinking about this an extra lot this week, leading up to Eagle's first birthday (today!) and thinking back to his birth day and how it has affected my life. I know there are many ways to feel fulfilled, and I don't know that one is better than another. But I know that my experience of giving birth last year was transformative and climactic for me. I felt tuned-in to nature, to my body, to my soul, to God, to time, and to eternity. I learned to let go and let God, to surrender to the natural cycle of things, and felt all the more powerful for it. That experience has significantly affected and shaped me, my perceptions of life and spirituality, and my way of living. Motherhood in general--and that birth in specific--have made me who and what I am. Is it any wonder then when I say that I find my greatest fulfillment in motherhood?

And, for anyone who missed it last year, I just had to post this again (Happy Birthday Eagle!)

(I'll have party/cake pictures to post tomorrow or after the weekend)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Prepare Every Needful Thing

Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; 
and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, 
a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, 
a house of order, a house of God;

Mormons have a reputation for a number of things, but one of the big ones is food storage. Perhaps you've heard--the year's supply? Here is the full truth--lots of mormons don't do it. BUT, we are asked to, and yes, a lot of us do do it. Today I thought I'd take a few minutes to share some thoughts about why we do it, and something about how we do it (in other words, how you can do it too, if you'd like). I'm thinking I'll write further on this topic, so pepper me with questions, I love talking about this stuff. ☺

If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear.
My freezer
My 'pantry' 
Many Christians share the belief that we live in end times. They expect massive calamaties to befall us in the coming years as we await Christ's return. What I think a lot of people miss is the idea that you don't have to wait for earthquakes or epidemics or economic crashes to benefit from being prepared.
Imagine for a minute, that as of tomorrow you are unemployed. Or, imagine that there is a terrible storm and all roads are closed for a few days--just a few days--but enough that there will not be anything in the grocery stores for a week. What if you lose electricity for 24 hours?  in the middle of winter? What if a water main in town breaks and you are without running water for a day? Or several? What if the credit card company reduces your credit limit? How about if your tire blows out or your spouse breaks his (her) leg and your grocery budget for this month is shot on paying the bills?

Preparedness--including food storage--is not about waiting for 'emergencies' so much as it is about establishing a system whereby you always have a buffer and a backup; a system whereby you need not ever fear.

Twice in my youth my dad was unemployed or changed jobs and my mother found herself without a grocery budget. I didn't realize that until I was much older though, because nothing really seemed to change...we went on eating food from the pantry as we had always done. It was getting depleted more than usual, but we were not eating 'survival rations' or anything like that. Our storage allowed us to go on living normally in spite of financial setbacks.
When we lived in Pelican, it was common during winter months to go for a week without anyone being able to get in or out of town. The planes were supposed to come several times a week, but in winter they were not reliable. Each winter that we were there, there was at least one three-week stretch with no planes/ferries. Three weeks. No mail, no groceries, as often as not the phone and/or internet would go out for a few days too (gotta love winter in the bush!) Of course, all of this was not a big deal, as I rarely relied on the planes, and my groceries still came reliably on the ferry once a month. Actually, due to the cost of transport, I tried to order groceries only every other month. When friends from other states heard how we lived they almost always responded with "wow, you must plan ahead a lot" or "I could never do that." I was always a bit befuddled by their comments, because the truth was that I didn't learn to do that while living in Pelican--I learned to do that by having been raised to do it.

♥ Preparing every needful thing is not a matter of hoarding food. It is a matter of considering what you use all the time, and then stocking up a bit: food, toiletries, clothes, etc. When something goes on sale, get extra. When something is a better price in bulk, then buy in bulk. When coats go on sale in the spring, buy them a size up for your kids for the next winter. Plan ahead, store ahead, never fear.
♥ Preparing every needful thing means examining yourself and your lifestyle, and determining what is NEEDFUL and what is merely wanted. For example, we have flashlights, batteries, and kerosene lanterns for power outages. We do not have a generator. We have a lot of foods. We do not have cute matching labeled containers for it all.
♥ Preparing every needful thing also means preparing ourselves. No amount of stored flour is going to do you any good if you don't know how to make bread with it. No amount of stored wheat will help if you can't grind it! Seeds will not help if you cannot raise a garden. Knitting needles and yarn are no good if you don't know how to use them. An entire hospital supply room is useless if you don't know any first aid. We should know how to grow, prepare, and preserve food. We should learn how to maintain our clothing and vehicles. We must learn to budget, to save, and to take care of what we have.

Here are a couple more links on the subject:
"Prepare Every Needful Thing" sermon by Bishop Victor L Brown (1980)
"Prepare Every Needful Thing" (a collection of quotes) (2003)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Happy Samhain

Samhain occurs on October 31-November 2 (depending who you ask) and has its roots in ancient Germanic and Gaelic festivals. As one of the 8 sabbats on the pagan wheel of the year, it is commonly thought of as a pagan holiday. However, the things it celebrates are things that many of us celebrate, and since I'm always up for a good celebration, we decided to have a little Samhain at our house this year.
At Samhain, the Wicca say farewell to the God even though he readies to be reborn at Yule. This grand sabbat, also known as Feast of the Dead, Feast of Apples, All Hallows, and of course Halloween, once marked the time of sacrifice. This was the time when animals were slaughtered to ensure food throughout the winter. The God fell as well to ensure our continuing existence. This is a time of reflection and coming to terms with the one thing in life which we have no control - death. Wiccans feel that on this night the separation between the physical and spiritual realities is it's least guarded and it's veil the thinnest. It is a somber holiday, one of dark clothes and thoughts for the dead, and a time of remembrance of our ancestors and all those who have gone before [link].
Samhain is a Gaelic harvest festival held on October 31–November 1. It was linked to festivals held around the same time in other Celtic cultures, and was popularised as the "Celtic New Year" beginning in the 18th century. Samhain marked the end of the harvest, the end of the "lighter half" of the year and beginning of the "darker half". It was traditionally celebrated over the course of several days. It has some elements of a festival of the dead. The Gaels believed that the border between this world and the otherworld became thin on Samhain; because so many animals and plants were dying, it thus allowed the dead to reach back through the veil that separated them from the living. Bonfires played a large part in the festivities. People and their livestock would often walk between two bonfires as a cleansing ritual, and the bones of slaughtered livestock were cast into its flames.
In Scotland the dead were impersonated by young men with masked, veiled or blackened faces, dressed in white. Samhnag — turnips which were hollowed-out and carved with faces to make lanterns — were also used to ward off harmful spirits [link].
 (This site also has a lot of information if you're interested in reading some more)

Other traditions that have taken root in Samhain are All Saints Day (Nov 1) or All Souls Day/Day of the Dead, which celebrate or reverence those who have gone before. I felt like the idea of Samhain really incorporated all those Christian holidays and then some (with the harvest/sacrifice/thankfulness), and therefore opted to use both the traditional name and some of the older traditions in our celebration.

Samhain feasts traditionally include fresh meat (giving thanks for the harvest and the sacrifice of the animals to sustain us through the winter). Pork was common, or wild meat. Potatoes were also common as, of course, was pumpkin. (Ironically I was thinking 'last harvest festival' and didn't think about the hunting side of it, so I neglected to thaw out any of our frozen bear, and we had a vegetarian meal featuring pumpkin soup.)
I took an idea from the Mexican Day of the Dead and made little breads. I didn't make them with skull shapes--the bread rose slowly and I ended up rushing to try to get it cooked in time for dinner. So I just took a knife and poked in little people shapes in the top of each loaf.
"Ancestor Bread" (something like the Mexican "pan de muertas" aka "dead bread")
As we ate dinner, we talked about some of our ancestors. Well, at least we intended to. We ended up having two boys who thought that pumpkin soup was not a cool food, and who made great moanings about it while explaining that they would be just fine with a dinner consisting entirely of bread.

So this year's celebration was something less than stellar, but hey, there's always next year, right?!


Wolf carved both the faces--the one on the right has its mouth sewn shut (apparently he remembered "Hocus Pocus" a little too well?!) and I LOVE the eyebrows on the guy on the left! (He looks a little stressed out, maybe he realized he had a fire inside instead of a brain?)

Yes, I used a stencil. I'm still pretty darn pleased with myself though:
Behold, the Celtic Tree of Life!

I also made one with (a simplified version) of The Amethyst Network's logo

Monday, November 1, 2010

For the record:

Wolf's costume is a sackperson

Not the dude from "9"

You can see it, right?

  He even has a button that says "I ♥ Little Big Planet" so it's totally obvious!
We haven't even seen "9,"  Hadn't even heard of it in fact, until people kept saying that they thought that was what Wolf's costume was from
(although now we've gone and watched a preview and decided to put it on our netflix queue...)

But he is a sackperson. And don't you forget it!!

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