Goals – inside, outside

It’s summertime – the approximate ten week period that passes for a “break” in our oddly outdated agrarian school calendar. In the old, old bygone days, students would help at home on the farm in spring, summer, and then harvest season in the fall. School terms might be limited to winter or some of the town and city kids might come in early fall while the farm families kept their children home to work the land.

But I digress.

It’s summertime, and the living is relatively easy. I can sleep in, but I don’t. My body clock is set firmly between 6 and 7 A.M. I’m up and at ’em, coffee cup in hand. Up and at what? That’s where the goals come in.

I’ve decided to make one indoor goal and one outdoor goal. Daily tasks such as loading, running, and emptying the dishwasher don’t count. Watering the garden and the containers doesn’t count, either. It’s a necessity.

Yesterday the outdoor goal was to fix up the rock garden. That entailed getting rocks and sculptures and misc. from the garage and placing it strategically in the rock garden. Inside? Clean the bunny cage & replace used litter box with clean box.

The goals are a minimum. I don’t stop there. Having definite goals, no matter how small, keeps me from feeling overwhelmed. “I must get more done! Must accomplish! Must do, go, achieve!” Nope. It’s a long break, and it’s a break. Setting and meeting goals is good for my mental health. Meeting goals allows me to let go of the gotta-get-it-done attitude and relax.

That said, here are today’s main goals. Indoors: laundry. Outdoors: lift pallet garden to a steeper angle. Chuck helped with that one.

And now, while I wait for the first load of laundry to rinse and spin, I can relax.

Readers, do you set goals? Give yourself permission to take care of yourself? Leave comments. I’d like to know.

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Cleaning the Classroom – Encore

I attended a graduation party for a former student, a girl I’d taught in fourth grade. She had just graduated from high school (my alma mater, no less), and was preparing to head off to college. I reminisced on the way home. 

One year my fourth grade class decorated the chalkboard with flowers during the last few weeks of school. I liked it so much that this year, I assigned them the task. We were gearing up for a field trip to see a play based on the book Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman. I helped prepare them for the story by reading about urban gardens, learning about plants, planting their own tomato plants in little pots made from toilet paper rolls, and more. One day I presented them with several shades and lengths of green construction paper, told them these were their stems, and challenged them to create flowers using our bin of paper scraps.

They outdid themselves.

The flowers were lovely, each as original as its creator. My young students (ages 9-10) decided to write their names on the board to claim their work. They wrote and drew and made more flowers, and I was glad to say Yes to saving their work from the cleaning staff. I knew Di, the cleaner who keeps my room spotless, would love the classroom flower garden as much as I did and would be glad to leave it untouched by rag or vinegar cleaning spray.


When a student moved the week before school let out, she made sure to pick her flower from the board. On the last full day of school, plucking the flowers was a high priority for the young paper gardeners. By then the chalk was getting dusty, but the paper work was as unique as ever. High art? Nope. Just right? Absolutely.

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Rhubarb Season!

It’s that time again. I hadn’t been able to get to the rhubarb patch due to illness followed by bad weather followed by the siding project. By the time I got to it, harvesting and weeding were all happening at the same time. I ended up with about 5 – 6 cups of the delicious tart fruit, and I searched my cookbooks for an easy way to use it.

Daisy’s Rhubarb Compote

  • 4 cups fresh rhubarb, cleaned and finely diced
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce to medium heat and cook for 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Rhubarb should be soft and sauce thick. Serve either warm or cold, but my recommendation is to serve it warm with a dollop (you choose the size) of whipped cream. I suppose vanilla ice cream would do, too.

This compote, like a thick applesauce, had a nice tasty kick to it. I might try adding orange zest or ground ginger to my rhubarb barbecue sauce next time I make it.

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Spring Memories

 

A few years ago, and not so far away, I had a papasan chair that masqueraded as a large pot for plants. We’d noticed it tipping, leaning to the right, and it needed help to get upright again. Nobody leans to the right for long in Daisy’s household. Trust me. 

It looked like this from the sidewalk.

It looked like this from the sidewalk.

Close up, it looked even worse.

Close up, it looked even worse.

I wrestled, pulled, pushed, and eventually slid the top off its base. Then I reached for the camera – and I laughed out loud. Any neighbors lucky enough to witness the event surely think…trust me, I probably don’t want to know.

It's all about that base.

It’s all about that base. Whoa.

I tipped and balanced the planter part until it seemed stable, and then added a cinder block to help keep it in place. The base went out to the curb for Excess Garbage Day. Convenient timing, wasn’t it?

That papasan bit the dust the following fall, but I got lucky. Chuck sent me a text one night on his way home from work. There’s a papasan out on the curb a few blocks from home. Do you want it?

Of course! I tell you, folks, the man’s a keeper. He saws holes in old chairs just the right size for pots of flowers. He picks up an aging papasan chair for the same purpose. When the planting is done, I’ll share photos.

Readers, can you suggest a few unusual planters? Chairs, buckets – the sky’s the limit.

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The 40 Bags in 40 Days Project Ends

I could have ended the post title with “unsuccessfully”. I did not manage to remove from the house something significant each day of 40. I did, however, manage to pare down quite a bit and learn a few lessons from the project.

Lesson 1: Any project that requires daily participation has the risk of failure. Between teaching, handling Amigo’s schedule, adjusting to Chuck’s new job, and life in general, there will be days that I simply can’t invest the time and energy in a side project.

Lesson 2: Projects are easy at first; they get harder. The Purge the Clutter project, as I nicknamed it, started to get more challenging about 15 days in. That makes sense, too; the easy excess was easy to toss. I had to search and think through later pieces.

Lesson 3: Major pieces in the project took more than one day. The piano, for example. We’re still working on it. Expect updates along the way.

Maybe I didn’t succeed in tossing or donating bags of goods every day. I can’t feel like the project failed, though. I did clean out quite a bit, and I set aside a batch of items for a June garage sale. Eventually, I’ll take to clearing spaces again, but without the Each Day Every Day pressure.

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Snow Day – Ice Day prep

We had an inkling that a day off might be in the works. Toward the end of the school day, we saw an email from downtown – the Powers That Be had cancelled all after school and evening events, and the morning wellness appointments had been rescheduled. I slid a little in the parking lot; the freezing rain had begun.

By the time I saw the announcement that our local schools would close the next day, I had already prepped for the possibility of power outages. Sometimes, the two go together. Ice, power outages, kind of like chocolate chips and cookies, Romeo and Juliet, or birds of a feather. It’s not a panic situation, but we’d rather not be forced to travel the slick roads in search of eggs or bread if the trip can be avoided.

Our pantry is pretty well stocked as a general rule. A quick stop for bunny food on the way home from work, and we can feed everyone under our roof.

Blankets: if the heat goes off, we’ll need to double up on blankets. We have plenty, and at any given time most are reasonably clean. Most.

Bean bag chairs. Just kidding – sort of. Amigo has several. Bean bag chairs plus blankets equal a cozy corner for relaxing and keeping warm.

Firewood: Bring in a good stack of dry or relatively dry wood. If the heat is off, we’ll huddle up in the den near the fireplace with bean bag chairs and blankets.

Charge everything that needs a charge. That’s probably the biggest challenge on the list. If I can’t plug anything in during or after a storm, I need to be ready to keep the major tools of life charged. To give you an idea, here’s a list.

  • Smart phones – three
  • Kindle
  • Laptop
  • FitBit (it keeps my vibrating alarm on time!)
  • Is that all? No, but those are the high priority items.

I don’t have a battery operated coffee maker. If we lived in a place where power outages were more common, I’d probably get one. A generator for the freezers would be useful, too. Our two chest freezers are full of vegetables from last summer and meat purchased on sale and a full stock of soup broths (haha). In a short outage, we just leave the freezers closed to maintain their temperatures.

So, folks, how did I spend my bonus day? Power stayed on. Heat stayed on. I relaxed on the couch, watched some HGTV and DIY (no news; after I had the closing confirmed, I didn’t want to see any more news), put a loaf of bread in the bread machine, cleaned a little, sipped my coffee, ran the dishwasher, and a whole batch of small chores. A day like this is a gift, when we’re prepared for it.

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Playoffs! And the Giants are Coming to Town!

The New York Giants are coming to the Frozen Tundra sometime today for a game tomorrow. No snowstorm this week, so Eli Manning and company won’t have to worry about sliding off the runway like Minnesota did two weeks ago. In fact, Amigo remembers a weekend many years ago when the opposition (he’s pretty sure it was the Giants) was snowed in and had to spend a second and maybe third night in their hotel. Maybe it was this game.

Then there was the year when word got out that Manning’s favorite television show was Seinfeld, and the local Fox affiliate decided to show something else in place of the usual rerun on Saturday night. In an attempt to psych out the visiting quarterback, they played an ancient black and white special on Vince Lombardi. Only in Packerland, my friends, only in Packerland do we take our football so seriously that it changes the television schedule – on Saturday.

We’re planning to Eat the Opponent with a choice we’ve made in the past: Jersey Bagels. We’ll be supporting a local business, getting something delicious, and showing our Packer spirit at the same time. The Giants play their games in New Jersey, after all, not New York.

I’m dressed up in one of my warmest and coziest Packer sweaters with a green/yellow patterned turtleneck underneath. It’s cold, cold, cold tonight. The Giants will face temperatures not quite as bad; the thermometer is due to rise above zero Fahrenheit tomorrow. Highs might even reach the teens. Go! Pack! Go!

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Busy, Busy, Busy!

I haven’t posted lately because we’ve been – yep, you guessed it – very busy. Let’s skim the high points.

Chuck has a new job! He’s no longer making sure the news gets on the air. He is no longer driving and running and repairing live trucks and satellite trucks. He is now installing electrical components in brand new fire trucks. He’s been training for a week now, and it looks like this job is a fabulous fit for him. His official title is Electrician, Fire Truck Division.

Maybe he’ll actually enjoy the NFL playoffs this year instead of huddling in a corner crying out “No, no, don’t send me on the road again!”  

In other news, it’s Christmas concert season for Amigo and the barbershop chorus! He’s already sung in two shows in two weeks, and the third comes up in a few days. He looks very festive in his elf costume, and his sense of humor keeps rehearsals light.

For example, consider the following. Dress rehearsal at the restaurant that will host the Barbershop Bistro. Risers are set up, guys are in place, lights are adjusted. Director scans the chorus and asks, “Is there anyone who can’t see me?” Think on this for a minute.

Amigo, he of the white cane club, gleefully raised his hand. The chorus members were beside themselves with laughter. When I picked him up two hours later, the guys were still chuckling. He livens up a party, all right, my Amigo.

My holiday shopping spreadsheet is in place, and I’m filling in the blanks. Wrappings and trimmings and trappings are organized and ready for use. The Christmas music CD collection is accessible – those albums not on my desk at work, that is.

The O.K. Chorale is settled in for the remainder of December. The blog might even reflect that – when I have time.

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To-do, Ta-dah! and Doo-bee-doo-bee-doo

To do tonight: Visit Kwik Trip. Fill minivan’s gas tank, pick up a dozen eggs, and buy a snow brush. Mine disappeared last time Chuck borrowed the minivan for a weekend.

Ta-dah! Chuck starts his new job tomorrow! He’s no longer in the television industry. He’ll be building fire trucks instead. He’s looking forward to the change, and we are, too.

Doo-bee-doo-bee-doo: It’s the most wonderful time of the year to share my holiday music collection at work. My coworkers have been very accepting of my playing Christmas music as performed by brass groups, pop singers, a capella  singers, and just about every genre that plays or sings the songs of the season. Only one puts on his headphones as soon as I arrive. Scrooge. I turn off the speakers and put on my headset as the clock approaches official work time.

I’ve also had fun sharing videos with my virtual students. I use a safe-tube service to eliminate comments and ads (you’d be appalled to know what kind of garbage is out there), and I’m respectful of  my students’ many beliefs. In sharing music, my goals include encouraging my students to log into class on time, quieting the chat before class, and starting class on a positive note.

To-do: I haven’t logged into my school account during the weekend. I like to get some grading done at home whenever I can. I have to balance that, however, with my own need for rest and respite, a.k.a. sanity. This item may or may not become a Ta-dah!

Meanwhile, Amigo is helping Chuck get supper ready. The Packers won, and we’re looking out over the first snow of the season. Life is good.

Readers, what’s a ta-dah! in your life?

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