One of the dreaded calls

My post this week will be only the fact that my dear Mom has been in a car accident and has some injuries, so my mind is understandingly on more pressing matters. I am so far away!


It wasn't the summer for gardens this year. Oh, we got some good tomatoes and a few beans, but everything else just withered. Not having a green thumb, I don't know if it was too much rain, not enough rain, wrong temps, lack of sun, too much sun, not enough good dirt, or some or all of the above. Whatever the reason, we were disappointed in our attempt to grow some of our own food this summer.

The sunflowers, though, came right on cue, thank goodness. Sunflowers just make me smile. Their colors are so vivid and bright, they stand so erect, even under their own heavy weight, and they grow as if they just want to be noticed. "Hey - Here I am!"

Sunflowers make me smile. I need to smile these days. Every time I turn on the news and hear the dire reports about the failing economy, natural disasters, and the lies being told in the presidential election, I either get mad or depressed. We certainly need more smiles in the world.

I laugh a lot, too. I laugh at corny Readers' Digest jokes. I laugh at my son imitating a horse (or memories of that!), or hearing him tell a story of going to the wrong airport in Chicago. I laugh at Baby Blues and Pearls Before Swine comic strips. I laugh when I talk to my cousins in Arkansas. I laugh when Rachel calls to tell me something funny the grandkids have said, or tells me of her "senior moments" at age 30. I laugh when my son-in-law Chris tells one of his hilarious stories. I laugh at daughter-in-law Sarah's expression when Ed does something stupid or inexplicable. I laugh with my sister; the kids always say that they love to be there when Joy and I get togther, as we laugh all the time. I laugh at "headlines" in the tabloids ("Abraham Lincoln was really a WOMAN!" - this with a doctored picture of Abe in a wig and bonnet, with a promise of "Bonus picture inside!" which I mistakenly read as "Bogus picture inside!"). I laugh at caricatures of chickens. Laughing is great for the abs, great for the heart, great for the spirit.

But some days are devoid of the hearty laugh, and that's OK. I compensate with things that make me smile. Memories of the kids when they were growing up. (Memories are dependable smile generators.) A tasty homemade meal made by Ed, bursting with flavor, or a crisp York apple straight from Virginia. A finished quilt. Talking to a friend on the phone. Working with beautiful fabric. My CMT certificate. Seeing a photograph of my dad. Going through my "past" box. Autumn with its brisk air, pumpkins, and football games. High-speed Internet. The pleasures of transcribing a clear dictator. Memories of getting on those airplanes last month and surprising my mom. Thinking of a birthday present my friend Sally sent me, wrapped and waiting for the 27th, and apparently another surprise on the way from my friend Audrey.

And, of course, those sunflowers.

I hope you have many, many smiles today!

The Pleasure of Food

Yum! It’s time for apples, pumpkins, and all the delicious food of fall. Ed and I are doing pretty well trying to eat local, seasonal, and fresh food and baking our homemade bread. We also enjoy reading about food. I thought this week I would list our favorite books on the subject. The listings below are from These books are informative, funny, well written and are a veritable joy to read, especially aloud. Bon appetit!

The $64 Tomato: How One Man Nearly Lost His Sanity, Spent a Fortune, and Endured an Existential Crisis in the Quest for the Perfect Garden (Paperback)
by William Alexander (Author)
Key Phrases: stirrup hoe, corn bed, sod webworms, William Alexander, Christopher Walken, New York (more...)
  (47 customer reviews)

Joie de Vivre: Simple French Style for Everyday Living (Hardcover)
by Robert Arbor (Author), Katherine Whiteside (Author) "I LOVE BREAKFAST..." (more)
Key Phrases: New York
  (27 customer reviews)

Plenty: Eating Locally on the 100-Mile Diet (Paperback)
by Alisa Smith (Author), J.B. Mackinnon (Author)
  (1 customer review)

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (P.S.) (Paperback)
by Barbara Kingsolver (Author), Camille Kingsolver (Author), Steven L. Hopp (Author)
Key Phrases: United States, New England, Appalachian Harvest (more...)
  (300 customer reviews)

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (Paperback)
by Michael Pollan (Author)
Key Phrases: industrial food chain, killing cones, steer number, George Naylor, Joel Salatin, General Mills (more...)
  (447 customer reviews)

In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto (Hardcover)
by Michael Pollan (Author) "If you spent any time at all in a supermarket in the 1980s, you might have noticed something peculiar going on..." (more)
  (168 customer reviews)

Old Time Wisdom

We are quickly losing the wisdom of our grandmothers, and it makes me sad :(

I was reading my old Betty Crocker Cookbook recently, and I read this tip: to make peeling boiled eggs easier, roll the egg in your hands a few seconds before peeling.

This past weekend, I seeded about 100 pepper. I read all the warnings in the cookbooks to use gloves to "prevent burning", but I thought it was just scare tactics to keep dummies from getting peppers on their hands and then rubbing their eyes. But guess what? It's REAL. I burned my hands so bad that I couldn't sleep that night. It felt like a chemical burn, and it HURT. I called my incredibly country-wise friend, Leanne, and she told me to wash my hands in Apple Cider Vinegar. The burning stopped IMMEDIATELY, and after 3 washes was gone for good.

But I thought about some of my more "modern" friends. First of all, they wouldn't have been making pepper marmalade in the first place. Most of them have no idea that processed foods are bad for you and hold no value in good, homemade foods. But for the sake of this writing, let's just say that did seed some peppers and get that burn. What would they have done? I suspect they might have spent their $20- $40 insurance co-pay and went to the doctor. And what would the doctor have done? I really don't know, but I suspect they would have written a prescription for something. Then my friend would go to the pharmacy and fill it for $10-$20. All that time and trouble, and they would have never known that they could have solved their burn with $3 and a bottle of ACV.

I think about all the other "home remedies" that have been lost through the ages. All the little tricks and tips that moms used to teach their children and their children taught their children. Those remedies are dying. My friends don't know those remedies anymore.

I read recently in the book In Defense of Food by Michael Pollen that we have to turn to our Grandmother and even Great-Grandmothers for the knowledge of real food. That is so true. Most of our mothers (my mother is 68) have lost the old knowledge. They were so seduced by the marketing of processed foods that they don't even have an idea what "real" food is. I know my mom doesn't. She thinks it's just "crazy talk" when I tell her that real butter is better for you than margarine.

So where do we go from here? I encourage all of you with "old time" wisdom to WRITE THAT WISDOM DOWN! Write down your home remedies for medical issues. Write down your recipes for whole, local foods. Write down your tips for natural home cleaning.

I find that usually, the simplest of knowledge is the hardest to find. And yet, the smartest.

Some figures for your Consideration

From the latest 7th Generation newsletter:

  • Average number of pounds of paper used annually by every American: 680
  • Number of trees required by every American to meet their yearly demand for paper and wood products: 7
  • Percent of the U.S. waste stream composed of paper (by weight): 35
  • Gallons of petroleum saved by recycling one ton of paper: 380
  • Number of trees saved by recycling one ton of household printing paper: 24
  • Number of annual pounds of carbon dioxide absorbed by those 24 trees: 353
I choose to use cloth in my kitchen and toss them in the wash with my other laundry. It doesn't take any extra water or energy that I wouldn't normally be using. I have 4 kids... I do a lot of laundry, there's always room to toss in a cleaning cloth or cloth from my bathroom. I buy ONE roll of unbleached 7th Generation paper towels about every 2-3 months. That's it. I can't even imagine how much paper I've saved from our local landfill. Yes, it's biodegradable, but that's not the point. I believe we have a responsibility to conserve our resources and energy. Period.

Living on High Speed and Commercials

It's been a week now since our cable Internet/TV was installed, so I thought it would be a good time to report on how we are handling it and how it has affected our journey to simplicity and if it has tempted us to waste time.

I've always chosen to look at the TV and the Internet as two different services, which they are, so I'll have to write about each one individually:

INTERNET: All I can say is WOWEE! I remember a TV commercial for high-speed service that asked the question, "Where do YOU want to go?" My friend Sally says that sometimes she gets online, and decides she really doesn't want to go anywhere and would rather be doing something else, so she logs off. Surprisingly, that has been true for me as well. After all, with music and quilting (I'm working hard, Sarah and Matt!) and everything else in my life, I don't need to be on my home computer to keep me pleasantly occupied. There are some days I check e-mail, check into a couple of transcription sites, and I'm done. But on the days when I do actually want to "go somewhere," my new Internet speed is like taking a plane to Memphis instead of driving. Whoosh!

I pay lots of bills online - what used to take 15 minutes now takes about 1 minute. I can actually send and receive pictures by e-mail. Rachel sent me a video of Caroline getting off the school bus on the first day of kindergarten and I actually got to see it!! Apple notified me that I had updates to my computer, and lo and behold, I didn't have to pack up my computer and take it to one of my kids' homes to use their cable connection in order to download the updates!

I have a software program called Delicious Library for organizing all my books. I haven't been able to use it for a year and a half because when I scan the books' bar codes in, the software looks up for the information, and dial-up wouldn't cut it. Already I've entered 2 shelves of my 5 shelves of quilt books.

Oh, yes, the Internet is even better than I remembered it.

TV: We got high-speed just in time to watch most of the Democratic convention and all of the Republican convention. That was really cool. I still can't get over how clear the picture is after using "rabbit ears" for a year and a half with poor results. I'm watching just a few shows that I used to watch - What Not to Wear on TLC, for instance. But I usually save these shows for my weekend, which is the time period we used to watch our videos together (when I could stay up late).

There is one major shock, though - COMMERCIALS! Have they gotten worse in a year and a half or has it always been this bad? Good grief! It seems like 5 minutes of show followed by 10 minutes of commercials! We've been watching videos for a year and a half without, of course, commercial interruption. It is so annoying to be subject to them again.

So, one week into our experiment into major culture reinitiation, so far, so good. We've still been reading on Teddy Roosevelt's biography together, so we haven't been sucked into a new addicting technologically rich/priority-poor lifestyle. It is our hope that we can stay aware of when we use these technologies so they don't become purely mindless entertainment or unproductive distraction. I hope, if we do see ourselves slide into a downward spiral of wasted time, we will have the guts to cancel the TV part, at least.

I think awareness has everything to do with the journey to simplicity. Being aware of what we are eating, what we are buying, what we are spending time on, how we are impacting the environment - awareness is the key.