Going Old-School: Meal-planning

The first harvest from my lawn

I finally used dandelions in place of store-bought greens. It came about the usual way: An online discussion of gardens segued to cooking and then to family recipes using whatever is on hand. (Or underfoot.)

Wild leeks, burdock, and easily-identified safe mushrooms are unavailable in my region. But dandelions? There’s a PLETHORA of those.

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Spring Cleaning and Clearing

The garden is slowly, slowly coming along. Weeds, especially creeping charlie, loved the excessive rain last summer. I peeled back some of the fabric in the back yard, simply because the mulch was riddled with weeds.

I have moved 1/3 of the daylilies from the dark plot between the oaks to the back garden near the chain-link fence. I broke up the shade-loving sedum from two of the small pots and moved them to openings between the trees.

This weekend, I bought a new electric mower.

I liked my previous mower, a Toro with a Briggs & Stratton motor. It was multifunctional and started easily. However, it filled half the shed and was too heavy to easily maneuver up/down the step. Last weekend, Big Bro and my youngest nephew picked it up.

I tried the new mower. Wow! It’s so quiet and the bagger works even better than the old one.

What to do? What to NOT do?

Just popping in to say I’m still alive. But life has become a balancing act of what I’m willing/able to do with my time.

Work has become ridiculous. I had one of the best evaluations IN YEARS from an administrator who observed my class. However, I’m paying a terrible price to meet everyone’s expectations: unsustainable levels of time spent preparing, reading, editing, and conferencing with individual students and/or their parents. The thankless part is creating “retake” forms of assignments and assessments for the same 8-12 students who often fail multiple times. (The easiest of multiple-choice quizzes reveal memorizing aka “knowing it by heart” is a lost art.)

On the writing side, I have rewritten the beginning of the novel three or four times in the last few months. Is it better than the pre-Covid version I sent to my Beta readers? It’s certainly LONGER. I’m considering hiring a professional editor to read the first chapter. But first, I will rewrite it ONCE MORE to include the transition between Favius’s and Argenta’s POVs. To be honest, I’m afraid the editor will hate Argenta because she’s a scaredy-cat in contrast to Favi’s boldness. The crisis occurs when boy-hero realizes how ignorant he is the world and his life depends on allying with Argenta.

I had to rework The Budget. The cost of everything – gasoline, groceries, and dining out – has risen. I packed more lunches when cafeteria prices rose to $5 (January), but I still indulged in Tim Hortons coffee and an apple fritter when running errands. Not anymore. I can still buy a bag of potatoes or apples for less than the price of take-out.

Luckily, La Casa de Tontería is no more expensive than usual to heat and light. The utility companies’ reports show it uses less energy than “efficient” homes in the neighborhood. I credit my love of wool socks and sweaters (“jumper” or “poolohvayr” – not sure how to spell the latter but that’s how it sounds to me in French).

April Update: Minimalism Edition

I finished the 12-week Uncluttered course. It was interesting, motivating, and irksome.

Interesting: Seeing how other people live. Despite demographic and geographic differences, I had a lot in common with a widow in a tiny NYC apartment and new parents in a UK two-up-two-down house. We minimized cherished belongings to free time and space for the here-and-now.

Motivating: The weekly goals and participation helped a lot, particularly when another participant would confess, “I’m behind.” Plus, occasionally someone would balk at a weekly assignment and other attendees offered work-around ideas.

Which leads me to…

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Minimalism Progress Report: Week 5


I just started the fifth week of the 12-week class Uncluttered, run by American minimalist Josh Becker. It’s the wardrobe clean-out week. I figured I could skip it after the autumnal closet-cleaning.

Looking again, I found scarves and a thermo-insulated gloves that other people could use. I also tossed a beautiful blue-and-pink sweater. It’s comfortable, warm, and matched other articles of clothing. I have worn it weekly since December, but keeping it presentable is too much work. Every single time I wore it, let alone washed it,  loops of yarn came loose and had to be pulled to the reverse side with a crochet needle. 

It’s interesting to see photos of other people’s homes and swap stories. Many people thought all Americans live in big houses, until a “shutgun house” owner and a NYC resident posted photos.  I will say this: we like big living rooms even in small homes. 

An Englishwoman explained what “two-up-two-down” means. When we compared our respective square footage, we weren’t surprised that mine is bigger – but not by much.  Our proportions differ greatly. My kitchen is luxuriously spacious; her two bedrooms are larger than my three (one of which is technically a nursery).  

When I posted “after” photos of the guestroom (above), everyone commented on the black-white-and-red color scheme. Evidently, oxblood is unusually bold. 

 A funny aside:  The more we minimize our belongings, the more we rationalize purchasing more.

Our instructor and our peers reminded to hold off on buying anything – organizers, paint, etc. – until we finish the course.  The impulse was certainly running through in our group, like a bargain-hunting phantom. 

I’m glad I committed to another year of Mindful Buying. Temptation was trying to talk me into  purchasing a really nice belt to replace the cheap ones I threw out. I already have a nice belt. Just not a REALLY nice belt!

The Importance of Word Choice

When yesterday became too dark for gardening and too Friday for housework, I decide to watch a movie from my half-forgotten watchlist. I chose Inception, a ten-year-old blockbuster I hadn’t seen. As usual when watching music-heavy videos, I put on closed captioning. It certainly helped in certain scenes. However…

*spoiler ahead*

As the story reaches the climax, the protagonist holds his dying wife in his arms and gently kisses her face. Or as the caption puts it: Smooches.

Smooches? Smooches!

After I stopped laughing long enough to stop the film and go back, I watched it in a completely different state of mind . Disbelief, suspended until then, came roaring back with its drinking buddy Hilarity.

“Kisses tenderly” or “gently kisses her face” or plain old “kisses” would have been better captions. Why use a word completely out of keeping with the mood?

July 2020 Progress Report

Mindful Spending: Despite the triumphant feeling of paying off the mortgage, the month ended with a “dog ate my homework” moment when I realized I shredded July’s  purchase list and receipts instead of June’s.

However, I know the biggest lapse in Mindful Spending: about $40 for costume jewelry. Perhaps it displays a terrible shallowness, but I successfully combatted the Shutdown Funk by forcing myself to dress up every morning. Call it “Slob Prevention,” if you will, or “Getting Dolled Up,” in the lingo of my grandmothers. By any name, it helped – and revealed the sorry state of my jewelry box. (Some people have Sock Gremlins taking one of a pair; I have an Earring Gremlin.) Continue reading

Saturday Night Check-in

Writing: Meh. I spent a lot of time sorting files, looking for handwritten notes on the next chapter. I have  a LOOOOTTTTT of notes. As a result, only about 1500 original words this week.

Work: Two weeks after the contractual end of the year, The Factory finally closed for two months. I’ll be heading back early. The second week of August is a training session in, ironically, Kagan Cooperative Learning.  So far, the CDC guidelines for reopening schools don’t allow students to be facing each other and advises that social distancing be maintained in the classroom.

Garden: A single radish plant has supplied me with three harvests of seedpods. The first squash blossoms have appeared – on the plants grown from the last-minute seeds carelessly tossed into a sinkhole, naturally. A dearth of landscape fabric forced me to use cardboard boxes as weed-block around the shed, which looks terrible but can’t be helped.

La Casa de Tontería: Inside, the house looks like a cyclone hit. I returned the last box of work material to The Factory, except for two boxes of reading materials I purchased to supplement a class. This weekend, I’m tidying and deep-cleaning – a real chore.

Mindful Spending: I was privately messaged about this, but a blog-answer is best. I stopped posting monthly updates because the Shutdown changed the cost and availability of everything. Not to mention a new category of expenses appeared: working-from-home. I begin July anew.



Project Complete: Reindeer Glasses-Holder

This project grew from disparate things:

  1. Paint pens from a going-out-of-business sale
  2. A badly-painted “freebie” Christmas decoration
  3. An online ad for an outrageously-priced eyeglasses holder
  4. Recurring incidents of “lost” or knocked-around glasses



    Christmas decoration (after removing plastic wreath from neck).

Despite lumps of epoxy and nicks in the paint, it had promise. Its weighted legs meant it wasn’t going to fall over when I bumped the nightstand, and its well-felted feet meant no worries about setting it on furniture. 

It was a perfect project for brain-frying quarantine, particularly during the dreary days of flooding rain. I  laid out junkmail flyers on the table next to my daily workspace. Between bouts of staring at the screen,  I played around with the paint pens.

It took me roughly four weeks to finish. 

Voila! A deer for all seasons. 

Be Concise

The Boss figured out that we need regular “office hours” every day, rather than compulsory check-ins multiple times throughout the day. He also set a class schedule for our young humans, so they know when lessons become available and when they’re due.

I’m grateful.

Too bad we can’t figure out a platform, or how to get me access to my locked Google account (which was locked 6 years ago and I’ve been using another school account). Another day, another vexation.

Last week I started getting blinding headaches, the kind in which water seems to be streaming down in the corners of my eyes and slowly moves forward until my vision blurs completely. Something similar happened a few years ago and I was told it was a migraine.

Why now? I have work to do! Continue reading