Tilly’s Law of the Multiplying Multiplicity of Leftovers

My goal for the past year has been to throw out less leftovers. Waste not, want not – that is the saying, isn’t it? For some reason though, no matter how hard I try or how often I serve leftovers in one form or other, at the end of every week there are more glass bowls filled with leftovers lining the shelves of the fridge than I started with.

Don’t over simplify this and suggest I just make less initial food so there wouldn’t be any leftovers in the first place. That isn’t an option. Grace takes them to work, Zeb takes them to school, and I do get some really great ‘Leftover Makeover’ concoctions that in some cases turn out better than what I first started with. So less is not the point. The point is the quantity of leftovers in my fridge increase the more I use them.

Now I am the first person to take responsibility when I do something wrong, or at least I try. But, I don’t believe I should take all the blame for this. I’m not certain and I certainly wouldn’t quote me on this, but I do believe there is some sort of “Law” out there about the Multiplying Multiplicity of Leftovers. But if for some strange reason this hasn’t been discussed/discovered yet, I am right now taking claim to it – Tilly’s Law of the Multiplying Multiplicity of Leftovers.

Tilly’s Law of the Multiplying Multiplicity of Leftovers states that the harder you try to get rid of leftovers–the more effort you put into using up what at first try didn’t get eaten, the more leftovers you will accumulate until eventually they spoil and end up being thrown out, thus canceling out any intentions of the initial goal to get rid of your leftovers before they spoil.

I know, I know! You are probably wondering how I ever came up with such a thing. After all, correct me if I’m wrong…isn’t the point of cooking with leftovers, to “eliminate” the leftovers – not to make more?

That’s what I thought! I knew I couldn’t have been wrong all these years, but then again I admit that 9 out of 10 times when I cook with leftovers, I end up making even more leftovers. This obviously doesn’t happen when I “reheat” leftovers and serve them in their original form. No, then, and pretty much only then, I truly do either eliminate or at the very least make a dent in them. The trouble starts when I use leftovers in a “makeover” dish. This is when I find myself adding to the ever growing stacks of glass storage dishes layered one on top of another as high as the eye can see on every shelf of the fridge.

Let me share with you my latest example.

Thursday I made corned beef with boiled potatoes and fried cabbage for dinner. At the end of the meal I had three bowls to go in the fridge. One bowl with the extra corned beef, one bowl with the leftover potatoes, and a small bowl of fried cabbage. Plus I had half a head of cabbage still in the fridge that I didn’t use for dinner.

Friday I decided to try to use up the corned beef in a new meal. I made Chicken Reuben Roll-ups with Mornay Sauce. Plus I used the leftover boiled potatoes and made a Mashed Potato Casserole. Perfect, I could use up two of the leftovers in one shot. Well, things didn’t work out quite as I planned.

At the end of the meal we had leftover Chicken Reuben Roll-ups, Mornay Sauce, and Mashed Potato Casserole – three new bowls. Two bowls came out of the fridge, three bowls went back in. I was already losing ground.

Oh, and just when I think it can’t possibly get any worse, it does. Many a time when I use leftovers to make a new meal (a ‘makeover’), I don’t even use up all the old leftovers in the process. This leaves me with not only all the new glass storage dishes to hold the makeover leftovers, but also all the old ones holding the original leftovers. Albeit some of the old leftover dishes are possibly half empty or may have been transferred to smaller dishes, but that doesn’t change the fact that there are more leftovers now than there were in the first place.

So, back to my Chicken Reuben Roll-up makeover meal. In the process of making the Chicken Reuben Roll-ups, I didn’t use up all the corned beef so there was still that dish. Oh, and although I did use up all the boiled potatoes in the Mashed Potato Casserole, the casserole called for 6 slices of cooked bacon. I couldn’t very well just fry up 6 slices, so a pound of bacon got cooked and crumbled and what didn’t go into the casserole, went into another glass bowl.

So, I started out with 2 glass bowls coming out of the fridge to use up, and put five back in. It’s no wonder there’s never any space in the fridge and this does justify why Hubby can never find anything in there either (and here I just thought that was a man thing – don’t tell him that though, I’d never live it down).

But, not to be discouraged, today I decided to use up the remaining corned beef and the rest of the cabbage in Corned Beef and Coleslaw Sandwiches. At the end of the meal there was one sandwich left and some coleslaw. Two bowls came out, two bowls went back in. Okay, no gain, but then again no loss either.

Now, there aren’t enough leftovers for a meal for the four of us, so guess what? That’s right, tomorrow I’m making something new. Sure Grace will take some of the leftovers on Monday to work and Zeb might be persuaded to take some to school, but that will just make the leftovers even smaller, thus not enough for a meal for three, then not enough for two, then Everyone Will Be Sick Of Eating Them And They Will Get Pushed To The Back Of The Fridge Until Weeks From Now I GET SO FRUSTRATED WITH HAVING NO SPACE TO PUT ANY LEFTOVERS THAT I TEAR EVERYTHING OUT OF THE FRIDGE AND FIND THEM ALL MOLDY AND GROSS AND END UP THROWING THEM DOWN THE GARBAGE DISPOSAL CURSING UNDER MY BREATH THE WHOLE TIME ABOUT ‘WASTE NOT, WANT NOT!’

Whew! Well, I feel better. Sure I didn’t really solve anything here today, but at least now I can blame it all on Tilly’s Law of the Multiplying Multiplicity of Leftovers and perhaps come to accept that some things are just never going to change. And hey, I got five great new recipes out of my corned beef and boiled potato makeovers, it doesn’t get much better than that. And for this I am – Simply Grateful.

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Finding Fulfillment in Eating Healthy

Why is it whenever I see a recipe for something “healthy,” I immediately think “tasteless, boring, yuk?” And it’s not that I don’t eat healthy and don’t enjoy most of it. It’s just this predisposed belief makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand straight up whenever I hear things like “whole wheat,” “whole grain,” or how about “low-fat.” Ewwww, a chill just went down my spine.

Still, eating healthy isn’t a choice as you get older, it’s got to be a life style. The alternative would be a regiment of prescription medications, continual doctor visits, obesity, and probably a long list of ailments just waiting to put you 6 feet under. I have been painfully aware of this for years because I’ve watched as my parents have let themselves go and have become slaves to their ailiing bodies and forced into a sedentary life because they neither have the energy or ability to get around like they used to. I do not want this to happen to me or Hubby.

For these reasons I have been making life-style changes for years that have kept us fairly healthy, very active, and pretty fit. I cannot say I could run a marathon, or around the block for that matter, but I do exercise, walk regularly, and make sure I am not sitting on the couch eating bon bons more than is reasonable. Hubby is far more disciplined when it comes to the workout, so he might be able to run around the block, but then what would that really prove. What’s important here is that we are healthy and able to maintain the life we currently enjoy throughout the next 30 or so years.

One thing that works a bit in our disfavor is that I really love to cook. And when I say I love to cook, I’m not saying that I like making dinner every night. No, I like to get in the kitchen, try new recipes, work with unique ingredients, duplicate meals that intrigue us when we go out, and really go all out when I make anything. Not many people know this, but when I was contemplating what to study after high school and planning my college schedule, the one career that I truly wanted was in culinary arts. Well, choices I made and paths that I followed did not allow this to be. I moved out on my own and needed to work full-time which left no time for taking classes in culinary arts.

Looking back, however, I realize that I never gave up on this dream. Not that I took cooking classes or anything, but from the day I moved out on my own, one of my favorite things to do has been to cook and I taught myself as best I could. I had a cookbook collection of more than 100 books that I accumulated and studied over and now I can honestly say that one of the most fulfilling aspects of my life is cooking for my family. I cannot imagine that cooking in a restaurant for strangers would be more fulfilling. How could it? My family means more to me than anything and being able to share with them something that I truly love and have them appreciate it — well, it don’t get much better than that.

This aging thing though has been putting a bit of a damper on my cooking. So many recipes, so little time. Well not really. What the problem is, is there are so many recipes that threaten to make us fat, and I want to make them all. Yes, everything in moderation and yes, sometimes I even have to break down and make something — dare I say it — healthy. Ewwww, there goes that chill again. But in order to maintain a healthy life we need to live a healthy life and that includes eating healthy.

One healthy ingredient that I don’t mind using (especially in cookies) is oatmeal. So when I saw a recipe for a refrigerator oatmeal for quick breakfasts, I knew that one day it would end up in my arsenal. Just a few weeks ago I finally played around with the recipe a bit and found that I really liked it. It was easy to make, easy to eat, and very tasty. If you’d like to check out how to make this, I posted the recipe on Simply Grateful Cooking https://simplygratefulcooking.wordpress.com/2016/02/24/overnight-refrigerator-oatmeal/.

I have noticed that in the past couple of years when I find a recipe I want to try, I look at alternatives to some of the not-so-healthy ingredients of some of them. This way, even if the recipe might not start out the healthiest, I can make it healthier by changing it up a little. Actually though, just by eliminating eating out, eating processed food, and keeping junk food to a minimum, our health levels have improved drastically, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Catching Up Is Officially Out Of The Question

I want a secretary!

NO, I NEED A SECRETARY.

I am either the most incapable blogger out there or maybe I’m inept at everything I do and blogging is finally bringing to light the fact that I really don’t have any potential for success at anything.

Why is it I have more blog posts on my “Blogs To Do List” than I’ve got posted on my blog since I began nearly two years ago? There really doesn’t seem to be an end in sight here. No sooner do I finish a post, than there are at least two more I want to post from what I’ve done or what happened that day.

I literally have a file box filled with 3 x 5 index cards, each with an idea, recipe, or happening for a post. At the same time I started blogging, I started this box. I thought I would keep ideas in this box on the slim chance I ran out of current ideas to write about. Well, it turns out that I haven’t run out of things to write about. The only thing I’ve run out of is time to write my posts.

If I were to write one post every day I might catch up by say 2018, late November or early December, but then we’re going on the assumption here that nothing else happens or no new recipes are explored between now and then. Plus, I’d have to commit to write a post each and every day, come hell or high water. The chances of this happening…well, I’d put it right up there with the chances of me EVER catching up on my blog posts.

What’s worse is that many of the notes I’ve made, recipes I’ve tried, posts I decided just had to be done, are history. Yep, history. I can’t remember the gory details of what I was doing at that particular time. My scribbles might be illegible, my notes cryptic, or my recollection gone. I swear I’ve read a few of the note cards and if I didn’t recognize my handwriting, I’d swear someone just threw it in there to confuse me — like I need any help there.

This could be frustrating, if it wasn’t so scary. I mean, where in the world did all these ideas come from anyway. Some cards have just a word on them, while others have both the front and back completely filled with teeny, tiny writing, and still, I haven’t a clue as to what I was thinking. I suppose I must have jotted down a word in a rush, assuming it would spark a memory that at the moment seemed clever or useful, but a year or more later it’s just a word without any meaning attached to it.

Of course there are a lot of note cards that have great meaning, wonderful meaning, meaning that if I had the time — or that darn secretary — could become a great post. But here I am wallowing in self-pity over not having the time or at the moment inclination to play catch-up.

I’m not a complete loser though. I did make a post this evening on Simply Grateful Canning for Canning Fresh Enchilada Sauce that I put on my to do list back in August 2015. It is definitely a “catch-up” post, but also timely because it relates to the post I made yesterday for https://simplygratefulcooking.wordpress.com/2016/02/08/roasted-pork-tamales-a-dish-not-to-be-taken-lightly/ on Simply Grateful Cooking. Perhaps that’s how this is going to have to go. When I have a current post related somehow to a post on my “to do list,” I can pull out my note card and finally do it. Otherwise, I fear I’ll be throwing out all these cards because sooner or later I’m going to forget what each and every one of them is about. Of course I’m working on the assumption here that I can actually remember that I have a post on my “to do list” that somehow relates to a current event. Yeah, like that’s going to happen on a regular basis.

Oh, and by the way, the file box I have for my note cards is only wide enough to hold about 300 cards, but I have a stack at least 300 cards thick sitting on top of it as well. Granted, some of the ideas take up more than one card, but honestly! Do I really have that many interesting recipes, stories, or epiphanies to share? I guess I must have thought so at the time, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have wasted the note cards on them. Looking at them now however I can’t imagine anyone being that full of useful information.

For now I’m going to take the file box and stack of file cards on top of it and stick them in a drawer. Having them sitting on the table staring at me, mocking me, reminding me of what now seems like an impossible task, is not doing anything for my mood. It has however inspired me to dream about putting an ad on Craig’s List for a secretary. Really now, how nice would that be?

Dreams are what keep us going and dreaming of my very own secretary that I could dictate my blog posts to as I meander through my day — wouldn’t that be wonderful, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

A Christmas Lesson

Twas just days before Christmas

And so much to do

There’s no time to make merry

This place is a zoo.

With still shopping and wrapping

Not checked off my list

I drove around searching

For presents I’d missed.

The roads were congested

The parking lots too

The store shelves near empty

My choices were few.

I rush down every aisle

And grab what I can

Not thinking about wishes

Or having a plan.

Who cares if they like” was my thought

Or want what they get.

As long as there are presents

They should be all set.”

My shopping cart brimming

With things no one needs

I push on to the checkout

To finish the deed.

The car spilling with presents

I hit the road home

Cutting off angry drivers

As I chat on the phone.

I turn into my driveway

Pop open my trunk

And wonder for a moment

What is all this junk!

Not a bag has a present

That means anything

Not to me or who gets it

No joy will it bring.

Sure these things filled my quota

I checked off my list

But there’s really no reason

Behind all these gifts.

When you buy just to buy

Your heart fills with doubt

You miss out on what Christmas

Is really about.

Yes, a gift can be special

And spread Christmas cheer

But that’s not what’s remembered

The rest of the year.

So this year no boxes

Or wrapping you’ll find

Bought because it’s expected…

No gifts of that kind!

I won’t be checking off lists

or dollars I’ve spent

I’ll reflect on the season…

The joy that I’ve sent.

This heartfelt message to you

And all those you know

Is a lesson on Christmas

And one that should grow.

Make the most of this Christmas

And each new day too

Don’t get caught-up or stressed out

If you haven’t a clue.

There’s no magic in buying

A gift for someone

When you’re heart isn’t in it

To say that you’re “DONE!”

Gifts of guilt, obligation,

or tainted with greed

Have no place in the season

Should be this year’s creed.

Giving time and attention

To family and friends

A Christmas message of love

You really should send.

It’s not presents or cookies

Ornaments or song

That help us to keep Christmas

In hearts all year long.

There’s a feeling at Christmas

That doesn’t compare

To any celebration

Or season we share.

Each day holds new blessings

So hold this thought dear,

Keep the Love that is Christmas

Throughout all the year.

Merry Christmas – Love, Tilly

Something As Simple As Tying A Tie – A Random Act Of Kindness

Having a son with special needs can be challenging, heart-wrenching, bittersweet, and sometimes just downright difficult. Yet, most of the time I’d have to say it is no different than having a “normal” son. Although I have never had a “normal” son, my daughter does not have special needs so based on my experience with her, Zeb is “normal” in most senses of the word.

Probably one of the most difficult aspects of having a son with Down Syndrome is watching how other people react to him. Supposedly our society is now being conditioned to be “tolerant.” What is that, really? Well, from my experience I can tell you that tolerance when it comes to Zeb means ignoring or avoiding him. When this isn’t the case, he endures staring, pointing, laughing, or worst of all that “pity” look with a little shake of the head.

I also just love it when I get that “look” from people as if they “understand.” They understand nothing. Unless they have had a child with a handicap, and even then every one of our experiences are different, they have no idea what life is like for a person with a disability, let alone the family that takes care of them.

Zeb though is very lucky. He does well for himself. Although we do not believe he will ever be able to live on his own completely, he can go out to movies by himself and nearly every Saturday night I drop him off at Barnes & Noble where he sits in the cafe for about two hours listening to his iPod, drinking pop, and enjoying some independence away from mom and dad. Many young adults his age with special needs will never be able to do even these seemingly simple independent acts.

When I drop Zeb off at the bookstore, he goes in by himself, finds a table, and gets himself settled. I do not go in with him or even check on him until I pick him up a few hours later. He has a phone that he can call me on if he has any trouble, but (knock on wood) for the past several years he has not had occasion to do so.

For the most part there have never been any problems leaving him by himself. Once or twice when I picked him up he was quiet and withdrawn. When I talked to him about it I found out that either people at another table were staring at him making him uncomfortable or teenagers had made rude comments to him. I comforted him and explained that some people are just mean or rude and tell him to do his best to ignore them.

What else can I do? The world is not going to change and I cannot expect it to. I have done my best not to force my son on the world, but at the same time I don’t think it is fair that I keep him locked away. He has a right to experience as much of life as he can, regardless if people accept him or not.

Fear is a terrible thing. It hinders a persons ability to think, reason, and understand. There is nothing worse than walking through a store with Zeb next to me and watching as a mother grips the shoulders of her child and pulls them far out of our path, as if their child might catch “it.” Thankfully Zeb doesn’t understand their actions or pretty much even notice. A case where ignorance is definitely bliss.

There are occasions, wonderful occasions though when a person will come up to Zeb and strike up a conversation or stop him to comment on how nice he looks. This absolutely makes Zeb’s day/night and he floats on Cloud 9 for hours and remembers these experiences for days. He refers to the people that take the time to acknowledge his existence as his buddies or even friends.

At Barnes & Noble there are several “regulars” that Zeb sees week after week and some of them have taken to stopping by his table, shaking his hand, asking him how he is, and engaging in conversation with him for a few minutes. They are sure to say goodbye to him when I pick him up and smile and tell me to have a good night. No pity, no fear, no tolerance, no difference. These experiences touch me and prove that there is understanding and acceptance out there.

Saturday night when I went in to Barnes & Noble to pick Zeb up, I noticed that his tie had been tied incorrectly. Hubby ties it for him, but ties it while it is hanging on a door knob. The back portion of the tie was hanging about 4” past the front portion of the tie. I looked at him and said, “I’m sorry Buddy, I didn’t notice that Daddy hadn’t tied your tie right.”

He just shook his head and began putting his iPod away. I went on and told him that I’d fix it for him, but I didn’t know how to tie a tie, but I would go on YouTube next week and figure it out so this wouldn’t happen again.

Zeb smiled and told me, “That’s okay.”

As I stood waiting for Zeb to put on his suit coat a young man at the table behind us asked, “Would you like me to fix that for you?”

Surprised we both turned and looked at the young man. Zeb is quite shy when it comes to most strangers, but with men he is more comfortable than women. He looked at his tie and then shook his head yes. Overtaken by emotion I nearly choked when I said, “This is so nice of you.”

The man was in his early 20’s, from the books and papers on his table I assumed a college student, and by himself. He stood up and accepted the tie that Zeb had removed from his neck and handed to him. The young man put the tie on his neck, over his t-shirt, and began tying it. It took him two tries to get the lengths of the tie right (this tie is very difficult to judge because it is a thicker tie) then carefully loosened it from his neck, pulled it over his head, and helped Zeb fix it back around his neck.

This random act of kindness that young man performed for Zeb means more to him than anyone could possibly understand. The first thing he did when we got home was to run in the house and show Hubby how his tie looked. Hubby looked at it and said, “That’s not how I tied it.” Hubby had tied a Windsor knot and the young man hadn’t.

I explained to Hubby what had happened. Hubby told Zeb to take the tie off and offered to retie it. Zeb grabbed onto the tie and held it close to his chest defensively and flatly said, “No.” To Zeb, that tie will never need to be retied. He will leave it tied as the young man tied it because it meant that much to him.

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What that man did for Zeb goes much deeper than just tying a tie – he treated him with kindness, with compassion, with respect, things that Zeb never takes for granted. This made Zeb’s night, and probably his whole week. For me this act will be something I remember always because for one moment Zeb wasn’t ignored, pitied or feared, he was accepted for who he is and seen as a person – not as someone with Down Syndrome, and for this I am forever – Simply Grateful.

The Rantings Of A Burned Out Canner!

Every morning when I come downstairs from a restless nights sleep, I know exactly what is waiting for me, and it’s not a pretty sight.

Canning season has been in full swing for what seems like FOREVER now and the house, the kids, Hubby, and especially myself are really starting to suffer for it. As I trudged down the stairs this morning, dreading what I knew was waiting for me in the kitchen, as well as every other room in the house, the first thing that popped into my head was:

I want a clean stove!

Is that really too much to ask for? Can having a clean stove be something I will only dream about or is it something that might actually, possibly, just maybe happen some day in my life before we have to replace it for the third time because I’ve burned yet another one out?

Don’t get me wrong, I do clean my stove. Not as often as I should, or probably as often as most people do, but it does get clean. The trouble with cleaning it though is that gosh darn it if it doesn’t just get completely dirty again. And we are not just talking a spill here or a drip there. No, we are talking totally and completely unrecognizably stained, burned and splattered.

I don’t think I’m a messy person. I wouldn’t consider myself to be flippant when it comes to cleaning up messes, but my stove is NEVER, and I don’t use that word lightly, clean. Even when it’s clean, it’s not really clean. There is always just a subtle streak, a tiny spot, or because this stove is now several years old those black marks that just won’t come off there to mock me. Is it a curse? Am I the only one who can’t seem to have one day when her stove is clean for more than the ten minutes between meal preparation, canning projects, or kitchen endeavors?

Realizing that a clean stove just might be too much to ask, I began to think about all the other things that I want, and the list was HUMONGOUS!

  • I want a kitchen floor that I can walk on barefoot and not have to worry about crunching, sticking, or slipping.
  • I want kitchen cabinets without food drips all down the front of them.
  • I want empty counter space. Yep, either the counters are filled with full canning jars, empty canning jars, stacks of dishes to be cleaned, pots and pans to be scoured, or food to be processed.
  • I want a kitchen table without crumbs all over it because no one thought to shake out the tablecloth after the last five dinners I made.
  • I want a kitchen sink that isn’t already full of dishes soaking or stacked so high you can’t even use the faucet.

Then I moved from the kitchen:

  • I want coffee and end tables that aren’t covered and stacked with recipes, note books full of notes on future blog posts, gardening books, and all sorts of papers strewn on every table and taking up every cushion on the couch.
  • I want to know what color my carpeting is. I think we have navy blue, but for all the dust, lint, dog toys and hair, and other paraphernalia all over it I just can’t be sure. Doesn’t anyone around here know what a vacuum is – oh yeah, that’s my job. Okay then, I want my carpet vacuumed.
  • I want to know what watching television without a ½ inch of dust on it is like.
  • I want to know who keeps putting all those cobwebs in every corner and in every crevice imaginable.
  • I want the stack of ironing sitting on the fireplace to magically be done and all the baskets of unfolded laundry folded and put away.

Moving upstairs:

  • I want the sheets on every bed to get a washing that is too long overdue.
  • I want all the work that needs to be done in Zeb’s room behind me: The border on his ceiling needs removing, the walls need to be primed and repainted (including the ceiling and closet), his videos, trophies, and anything on his dressers or bookshelves need to be boxed so we can throw out his old “little boy” furniture to make way for his new bedroom set being delivered in a couple of weeks, we need to remove the old carpet and put in the new, and I need to find new bedding, make a new window treatment, and all the finishing touches a remodeled room requires. I want it done before he turns 22, which is in a few months, but in reality I have less than a month to get all the prep work done before the furniture arrives.
  • I want to wash my windows. Yes, you read that correctly. I WANT to wash my windows. I hate washing windows but at this point the prospect of washing them appeals to me. I basically only streak them, but I want clean windows so I’m willing to streak them as only I can and clean the tracks too! Of course the reason I want to clean windows now, when it isn’t really a priority, is probably because there is no way in the world I’m going to do it. When I actually have the time for such a project, I will hate every minute of it, but if I went upstairs right now and started cleaning any window, I think I’d find some sort of distorted comfort in it.

Miscellaneous:

  • I want a fresh cup of coffee. I have been drinking out of the same pot of coffee, just reheating it, for the past three days now. A fresh cup of coffee sounds so good right now, but a luxury that cannot be – BECAUSE I’D NEED A CLEAN SPOT ON THE COUNTER IN ORDER TO MAKE IT!
  • I want all the shoes that everyone just tosses off and leaves in the entrance to the laundry room put away where they belong. Let me qualify that by saying “put away by the people who tossed them there” and not by me!
  • I want someone to walk Bell. Although it does give me a reprieve from everything overwhelming me here in the house, it would sure be nice to have someone else take her for a change.
  • I want dinner done. No matter what I do all day long, dinner is the one thing that absolutely, positively, without fail has to get done TOO! Not in leu of, but along with. How nice it would be to actually spend a day just making dinner and not have to worry about everything else on my perpetual to do list.
  • I want the gardens to be cleaned out. The cucumbers and peas are done and need to be cleared to make way for spring crops and there are several gardens that need revamping for next year as well.
  • I want all the peppers and tomatoes waiting to be harvested picked and processed, the pumpkins pureed and frozen and the corn dried. Actually at this point I just want the peppers and tomatoes to STOP. The peppers especially seeing as I can’t figure out anything to do with them and there are at least a few hundred more peppers out there to pick.

Is all this really too much to ask?

Oh, and I want a stocked, full pantry. Wait. I forgot…the pantry.

Yes, this is stocked and overflowing. A testament of where my time has gone, what I’ve been doing, and why everything else in our house seems to be in complete upheaval and an utter disaster. So is this the price I have to pay for a full pantry?

The argument could be made to pace myself. How??? Fruits and vegetables wait for no one. The window of opportunity for preserving is so short that it is impossible to stop and smell the roses. So the only thing to do is push forward and keep telling myself “this too shall pass.”

Still, what I wouldn’t do for a fresh cup of coffee right about now, and with that I’ll sign off – Simply Grateful.

Computer Headache

Whereas yesterday and the day before I concentrated on canning and thoroughly enjoying the process, today I have been pulling my hair out all because of “computer problems.”

I hate computers.  I really do.  For all the wonderful things computers do for us, they can certainly bring on far more grief and stress.  Every year at least once but more often twice or three times, we have issues with our computers.  We have two desktop computers and two laptops.  One of the desktop computers is a fairly good one that is used for work; the other desktop is older and mainly a backup.  One of the laptops was purchased by me about four or five years ago and was used by Grace and me until my mother gave us one of her old laptops last summer which Grace claimed ownership of.

For several months Grace enjoyed the luxury of having a laptop all to herself and I enjoyed not having to fight for time on mine.  Then it happened.  Somehow, she has no idea how, no explanation, it must be an act of God — Grace’s computer started having issues until finally it wouldn’t work at all.  She tossed it aside and came right back to using mine.

I didn’t give this much thought, until the day after Christmas when I was journaling and decided that I wanted to add something to the prior days entry.  When I went to open my file, I found it was corrupt. In fact, all of my entries for December were corrupt.  Panic does not begin to express what I felt.  I went from file to file desperately trying to open them, but nothing.

Typing in the error I got, I learned that these files were corrupt and although the data was lost forever, I might be able to resolve the issue from happening further.  What!?  Lost Forever?  I sat in my room heartbroken.

What of all my other months of journaling?  You see, I am not very good at printing off my journaling as I go.  I typically print it off two or three times a year.  I know this sounds asinine now, but for the past five or six years there has never been an issue.

I began testing my November entries and discovered that about half of those were also corrupt.  Now the tears started.  So when was the last time I printed anything off?  I couldn’t even remember.  I went to my closet where I keep my printed journals and found that March was the last time.

Now the only silver lining here is that when I started blogging in March of last year, there was a period of time when I wasn’t journaling because the blogging was taking far too much of time.  So, printing off my blog posts (yep, haven’t done that since May) would help fill in some of the blanks, but not everything.

For an entire day I mourned the loss of my journaling.  Not that I’m not still mourning, but after the initial shock, I started researching how to possibly recover my writing.  After a few days I finally came across one website that offered a glimmer of hope.  Copying all my files onto a zip drive I moved them to my old desktop computer in the office.  Working slow but sure I managed to open one of the journal entries.  Unfortunately along with the journal entry, there was about 8 pages of code mixed in for every page I’d typed.  Fun!

For over an hour I worked at deleting the computer code and in the end was left with a page and a half of my writing.  Relief isn’t exactly what I felt — frustration, anger, hopelessness — those are getting closer but still not there.  How in the world was I going to find time to decipher through months and months of journal entries to recover my daily rants, recounts, and regaling?

By this time I was reaching yet another plateau of coping with this situation, I was now entering the “How could this have happened?” stage.  What caused my computer to suddenly corrupt my files and what other dangers were lurking among the files and folders on my hard drive?

Well, come to find out, Grace not only brought her lovely self back to my computer when she somehow ruined the one my mother gave us, but she also brought along a lovely little bug of some sort.  So although not to the stage of complete devastation that her computer was, it looked like my computer was heading for the same fate.  And…wait for it…guess what?  Do you have any idea what I did when I copied all those journal files onto my zip drive and then copied them onto my desktop?  This just keeps getting better and better.  Oh, and by the way, Zeb also used that same zip drive to copy some songs from my  laptop and put the zip drive into our good desktop that is used for work.

WOW!  Could things get any worse?  Before you answer that…

So Grace decided in the afterglow of my tirade when I discovered what had begun this snowball effect that she was going to buy herself a new computer.  She did this and according to Hubby is banned for life from our computers.  Too little too late, but the sentiment was certainly there.

After Grace got her computer though, Hubby decided to see if he could figure out what virus she had infected the first laptop with so we might not completely lose everything on the remaining three computers.  He spent an entire day working on it and finally at 11:30 at night he removed the virus, but all the files that it had corrupted — documents, pictures, video — were lost forever with no possible way to recover them.  Not even the trick I had found for my journaling files.

Knowing how to remove the virus is only half the battle.  The damage that the virus leaves behind is what is always the real problem.  Still, Hubby went from computer to computer and removed all possible files where this virus might lie in wait.

Content that we were safe from total annihilation for another day, I went back to journaling on my laptop. I did print off the pages I wrote for the first couple of days, but fell quickly back into a false sense of security.  Still, I left the journal files open on the computer so I could print them easily, just in case they became corrupt when I saved them.  Not good enough unfortunately.

Last night, right after I posted my blog post for the day I shut my computer and went out to the kitchen to work on some canning.  About 10 minutes later I returned to my computer, opened the screen, and nothing.  It was black.

Okay, I thought, this happens every once in a while.  All I need to do is turn the computer off and then turn it back on.  So, that’s what I did.  Um, nothing.  The computer screen was black, the fan started then stopped, and the caps lock light and power buttons blinked mockingly at me.

This couldn’t possibly be happening, could it?  I ran to one of the computers in the office and typed in the symptoms and followed the steps to diagnose the laptop.

FRIED!  Yep, for all intense purposes my laptop is fried.

So how many days of my journaling did I lose?  Six.  Hubby’s ever compassionate suggestion, “Can’t you just rewrite it?”  Well why not?  I’ll just plop down here on the couch and…oh wait, what is it again that I’m going to use to type my journaling on?

Hubby pulled out the supposedly fixed laptop that Grace had messed up and although it now turns on and will allow you to navigate between programs without a 30 minute delay between keystrokes, the internet does not work and there are some very suspicious things going on with the mouse and other functions.  Do I dare try to use it?  Plus, how am I supposed to make any blog posts?

It’s not like I sit down and write a post from beginning to end in one sitting.  No, my days are such that I write a little in between loads of laundry while standing at the kitchen counter, or type a few lines between vacuuming up Bell’s dog hair for the tenth time this week and sweeping the cobwebs out of the bathroom corners.  I keep my laptop handy so that I can just pop it open for a few minutes whenever I find the time or inspiration.

Still, living without a laptop isn’t the worst thing in the world, but if my laptop is now toast, how long before our other two remaining computers follow suit?

What is very frustrating in this whole situation is that we do have antivirus programs on our computers, the best being on our work computer. Unfortunately these are not foolproof.

Well, Hubby worked all day today to try to get the other laptop up and running but so far has not had any luck.  We did get the internet to actually open, but it will not allow me to sign in to WordPress or my email accounts.

Right about now I am ready to just run away and leave the technological world of computers far behind me, never to return.  I am crabby, frustrated, sick about my journaling, terribly bad company, and have a headache that will not go away.  The family has decided to leave me alone though.  Here I sit in the office, alone, with no fear that anyone will approach me — not if they want dinner tomorrow at least!

So rather than end this rant with my usual Simply Grateful line, the best I can muster is I’m Simply Here!

Maybe I should go make some jam or something — anything would be better than staring at this computer screen and the constant reminder of things lost!

Michelle Chamuel Concert In Ann Arbor

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As my children get older, I find that I derive more happiness through their happiness than when pursuing my own interests or dreams.  This may not be true 100% of the time, but for the most part, when Zeb and Grace are happy, I’m happy too.

A couple of months ago Grace found out a favorite musical artist of hers, Michelle Chamuel, was coming to Michigan to perform a concert in Ann Arbor.  Ann Arbor is about an hour and half from our home, but I told Grace we would definitely make the trip.

This morning at 9:30 Hubby drove Grace, Zeb, and me to Ann Arbor so we could be among the first people there for the concert.  Arriving a little after 11:00, we parked and headed straight for the stage.  The park in front of the stage was already quite full, so we positioned ourselves on the curb just to the left of the stage.  As the street began to fill with people, Grace and Zeb left Hubby and I on the curb and headed towards the stage.

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For nearly three hours Zeb and Grace stood in front of the stage watching.  They watched the sound-check, the opening act, Michelle’s performance, the encore, and then, the icing on the cake — the meet and greet.  Yes!  Grace actually got to meet Michelle, have her sign her shirt, and even take a “selfie” with her.  She was so nervous, but when it was her turn to meet her, Michelle admitted that she too was nervous.  Grace was on Cloud 9.  Next, it was Zeb’s turn.  Michelle took his shirt, signed it, and was sure to tell him to be sure to iron the signature or it would come out in the wash.  Finally, she let me snap a picture of the two of them.  How great is that!

I am not much of a concert-goer.  In fact, since the Michael Jackson concert tour of 1985, I haven’t been to a concert.  Back then, yes I am going to sound like an old fuddy-duddy here, but back then concerts did not seem anything like what the youth of today have to contend with.  My vision of concerts these days consisted of drugs, booze, foul language, and inappropriate behavior all of which is glorified in the loud, nearly indecipherable lyrics and actions of the performers.  Sure I know my parents said the same thing about the music of my generation, but they were just disconnected from the reality of the situation — right?  Nevertheless, after today, I am going to have to revise my thinking.

Michelle was genuinely real.  She was down-to-earth when interacting with her band and stage hands, cordial and friendly with the crowd — truly connecting with them, and her music was refreshing.  Grace shared many of her original songs with me prior to the concert which were all very good.  And we both enjoyed her performances on The Voice a couple of seasons ago.  Not that having a 46-year-old appreciate her music is any indication of how good she is, but being able to connect with more than one generation has to say something.

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Grace told me today was the best day of her summer — even her life.  Granted she is only 18, but don’t take her comment lightly.  She has a list of people she wants to see in concert.  This list has only two people on it.  Number two is Pink.  Can you guess who number one is/was?  You guessed it, Michelle Chamuel.  Also, at the beginning of the summer she made a “Summer Bucket List.”  On that list she had — Do something truly amazing, experience something new. Grace told me on the walk back to our car that this was fulfilled today and far exceeded her greatest expectations.  She had wanted to put on her list Meeting Michelle Chamuel in person, but thought she was dreaming too big.  Even that which was thought to be out of reach came true today.

The thrill and excitement Grace felt was contagious.  I was so happy for her that I felt I would burst.  Her happiness made today one of the best days of all our lives. The best part was that we were able to share this experience as a family. Hubby and I stood in the shadows watching as Grace and Zeb enjoyed the concert and then relived every moment of it through Grace as she regaled how much she loved every minute of it — especially getting to meet and briefly talk with someone who she has come to admire as a person and an artist.

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With all the tabloid horror stories and nightly news casts reporting suicides, drug/alcohol abuse, and other degenerate behavior, it is nice to know that there are still artists out there who have stayed true to who they really are and not fallen victim to outside influences. I am so happy that we were able to share the gift that Michelle Chamuel brought to Ann Arbor today and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

 

A Hair-Raising Experience At Great Clips

This morning I need to start the day by spending a few minutes writing a rant. Last night Grace and I had an experience that I can not come to terms with as of yet. I thought that by letting it rest for the night, sleeping on it if you will, I would somehow feel better, less upset, but alas it is not the case. I still feel very angry. Be it the “don’t mess with a mama’s cubs” mindset or pure unadulterated justification in feeling like I want blood — I have to get this off my chest. Writing for cathartic reasons has been somewhat helpful in the past, so here I go again.

Last night Grace decided that she wanted to get her hair cut. She has wanted it done for some time now, but with her work schedule, she has very limited options as to when she is available to go. We do not go to a “salon” where you make an appointment. We try to get away with spending very little in the way of haircuts and yet for the past 16 years that I have been taking Grace for haircuts, this has never been an issue. (Yes, she’s 18 but the first couple years I let her hair grow out.)

For the past four or more years we have gone to the same shop, a Great Clips near the grocery store we frequent three or four times a week. It was convenient, yes, but at the same time we have been very fortunate in having friendly, satisfactory service without incident. That is, until yesterday.

There are several people who through the years have remained a constant at this location so when we’ve dropped in for a haircut, most of the time we’ve had the same people cutting our hair. On occasion there were new people who with the luck of the draw we ended up with, and we either put them on the list of those we liked or would avoid. If no one that we liked was available when we showed up, we would ask for the schedule of one of those we did like and come back another time.

Last night when we arrived the woman who cuts my hair was there, but the person that Grace really liked was not. Still, there was a woman with very long beautiful hair, a new person, cutting hair and Grace decided that if she got her, she would be fine with that. As it turns out, that is exactly who she got.

I have always tried not to hover when Grace gets her hair cut, even when she was much younger. I believed in allowing her to cut her hair the way she wanted. There has only been one time that she regretted what she had done, which took two years to completely remedy, but for the most part she knows what she wants.

Grace showed the woman a picture of how she wanted her hair to look after it was cut and the woman told her that it was no problem. Watching from my seat in the waiting room, I noticed how this woman just whipped Grace’s long hair into sections, dragged a comb through the tangles and began to cut — and cut a lot. Before she got to the second layer of hair I couldn’t contain myself and walked over.

I hate to embarrass Grace in public at all so I tried to be very diplomatic in my comments. I prefaced my comments by telling Grace that I had to pull the “mom” card and make a comment before the haircut went much farther. I told her how short the back layer was, reminding her of the little incident that devastated her four years ago when she got it cut short. She told me it was fine. I apologized for interrupting and went back to my seat.

The haircut continued and I watched as this woman used a razor to cut several layers of hair, a tool which I know from experience is not the most pleasant. Then I watched as the woman used the razor to trim the ends of the hair on the back of Grace’s neck. She was quick and what I considered rough, but before I could say anything, the haircut was over.

Grace was very happy with the new style. She had about five inches of hair cut off the back but it tapered down long in the front. Very stylish. Trendy as Grace put it. We paid and left.

The moment we were in the car Grace began complaining about the woman who cut her hair. She told me that she thought the woman was going to pull all of her hair out. She’d been poked in the eye so many times that she thought for sure she was going to have a black eye, and the razor thing she did was like torture. I told her that this was definitely going to be someone we put on the list of stylists we were not going to allow to cut our hair.

Once home, Grace wanted to style her hair, but decided to shower to wash off all the hair this woman had managed to get completely down the front and back of her shirt. When she got out of the shower she came downstairs complaining that the back of her neck felt like it was on fire. I pulled up the hair on the back of her neck and there along the entire base of her neck was a red line. The woman had cut her completely along the back of the neck. This wasn’t a little nick. It wasn’t just a scratch. This was almost as if she’d been sliced.

Immediately I got some alcohol and put it on the red mark. Grace screeched. I blew on it to sooth the sting and repeated with more alcohol.

Needless to say, I was livid. What type of person does this? This wasn’t some sort of mistake that a hairdresser makes. A mistake is an occassional scratch or nick, not a five-inch slash across the neck.

Now I absolutely hate confrontation, but when it comes to my kids, there isn’t anything I won’t do. I immediately went to the computer and got the phone number for Great Clips and called. The woman who cuts my hair answered the phone. I told her who I was and explained to her what had happened. I told her that I didn’t want anything, but I thought they should know. She agreed and told me to hold on because she was going to get the manager. The manager got on the phone and I relayed the story to her, telling her how rough the woman had been and about the cut completely along the nape of Grace’s neck. Again, I reiterated that I wasn’t looking for anything other than I felt she should tell this woman what she had done. I also explained to the woman that we had been coming there for years without incident and had always been satisfied, but this was not a good experience at all.

The manager apologized for the poor service, thanked me for calling, and hung up.

I didn’t feel any better. I don’t know what I expected, but I was still angry, hurt, and truly wanted blood. I don’t know what I want out of this situation, but for some reason I am just not happy with a mere apology. Getting our money back isn’t going to change what happened. Actually, nothing can change it, but I am angry and still stewing about the whole situation.

This morning when Grace got up she told me that her neck was still very tender and sore. I lifted up her hair and this is what it looks like:

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Absolutely despicable. I know that we won’t go through this again because that woman will NEVER have the opportunity to cut Grace’s or my hair ever again and yet I am don’t feel any better.

I am waiting until it gets a little later this morning so I can call Hubby, he’s working a 24-hour shift, and tell him about this. I know that he will probably say something wise and comforting to make me feel better or suggest another course of action to resolve this situation. For now I am sitting here in the backyard, enjoying the morning sunrise, listening to the birds singing, and trying to calm myself down enough to start canning some pickles.

It is a beautiful day, the humidity is supposed to dissipate by noon, the sun is supposed to shine and the temps are going to be in the upper 70‘s to low 80‘s. Deep breath.

My garden looks wonderful in the morning shadows and I look forward to harvesting more cucumbers and tomatoes later in the day. Grace is safely at work, sharing her experience with all her co-workers, Zeb is at school, and Hubby is probably still sleeping. I have almost four hours before I pick Grace up for lunch, enough time to get the pickles made and perhaps hang a load of laundry out on the line.

Deep breath. Bell is sleeping between my legs as I calm myself here on the lounge chair on the patio. It is a gorgeous day and despite the tension I feel and the lump in my throat I still am — Simply Grateful — or at least I’m trying.

Ride-On Vacuum

I’m not going to vacuum till Sears makes one you can ride on. — Roseanne Barr

It’s only fair, you know. Why is it that men get all the really cool toys. Cleaning house takes a lot of tools, more than mowing the lawn. And do you see them coming up with tons of gadgets to make a housewife’s life easier? Me neither. Excuse me if I don’t equate a bag-less vacuum to a ride-on mower. Not quite the same thing.

Men get self-propelled mowers, mulching mowers, tow-behind mowers, and the ever popular ride-on mower. What I wouldn’t give for a vacuum that could do any of those things. I suppose some vacuums are self-propelled, but until they make one that does it without me having to tag along, it’s not self-propelled enough.

What I’d really like though would be a vacuum with a mulching attachment. No more worrying about those pesky dog toys getting caught up underneath or a shoelace tangling itself in the wheels. They’d be chewed into mulch in seconds. So much for having to pick up discarded candy wrappers or that ever popular Kleenex that’s taken up permanent residence on the great room floor.

How about a tow-behind vacuum so I’d have some place to throw all the stuff that I have to pick up and put away. Instead of having to make thirty or more trips from one end of the house to the other, I could just toss it in the back and ride from room to room dropping stuff off as I went. It’d be great as a way to carry all that laundry too. No more struggling to lift the over-full laundry basket and I wouldn’t have to make more than one trip.

My favorite though would be the ride-on vacuum. This would be the ultimate in-house cleaning gadgets. There could be cup holders, a built-in iPod dock, GPS, designer colors, — everything. Not that I’d need GPS, but if you’re going to get a ride-on vacuum, you might as well go all out and I really want it in lime green.

And no, my house is not that big, but have you seen how small the lots are that some of the these men that have ride-on mowers are. I swear my kitchen is bigger. Plus, typically our lawn gets cut once a week, whether it needs it or not. Vacuuming needs to be done around here daily — not that this happens, but if I had that ride-on vacuum, it would have a far better chance of happening.

So, fair is fair! If men can have ride-on, mulching, self-propelled, tow-behind mowers for taking care of the outside of the house, I see no justifiable reason women cannot have the same features in a vacuum for taking care of the inside. And don’t get me started on how helpful it would be to have a dust blower, just like my husband’s leaf blower. I can see me now — protective goggles in place, work gloves on my hands, and a 195 MPH gas dust blower on my back. It’d have to be a backpack model and how about giving that a vacuum feature too. This way when the kids leave that dirty laundry all over their bedroom floors and the towels all over the bathroom, I could just suck them up and drop the bag in the laundry room.

I am really going to have to spend more time in the lawn and garden section at Home Depot. The possibilities are endless. At the very least, they should come up with a vacuum that has a cord long enough to get from one end of the house to the other, a hose that has enough suction to pick up a bowling ball, a crevice tool that can get under the couch and behind the refrigerator without me having to move them, a bag that never bursts, and a belt that never breaks. Having someone to operate this vacuum would be nice too.

Until vacuums catch up with all the advances of lawn mowers though, I’ll marvel at how far we have come since the broom and dust pan were our only options, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.