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Archive for the ‘intentional living’ Category

I live in a really awesome town.

Many of my readers are from Goshen, and know what I’m talking about. For the rest of you, you’ll just have to take my word for it.

I’ve lived in several places in Indiana, Michigan and Tennessee. Goshen is by far my favorite place to live.

Goshen is the right mix of hipsters and homebodies; progressives and conservatives; and ludites and techies. Goshen is home to Amish, Mennonite, Hispanic, and other communities.  Elkhart County is home to creative folks including artists and entrepreneurs. We have a vibrant artist community with guilds for pottery, jewelry, photography, painting, and woodworking. We have a rich culture.

While our economy was in the dumps during the recession, Goshen was growing it’s downtown with tons of new stores opening up on Main Street. How many communities can say that?

My husband likes to say this of Goshen, “We have one of everything you need for a good place to live: one great bookstore, one great bar, one great coffee shop.”

You get the picture.

I am not a rat.

Here’s what I really love about Goshen: We aren’t in a rat race around here.

People always wave you on at four way stops–sometimes to the point of ridiculousness. What’s so great about that?

It’s a symbol of being neighborly, friendly, and kind.

When you wave on another car, you aren’t judging their political position, their race, their religion, their gender, their job, their place in society. You’re just being friendly and putting someone else before yourself.

I like that people around here are okay with losing the five seconds that it takes to let someone else go first.

Bridge the gap.

So, my friend Claudia and I have been talking some about social capital. Claudia explained to me that social capital is the value or benefit that communities gain from cooperating and supporting one another. There are two types of social capital: bonding and bridging.

The way I understand it, is that bonding is within groups that already have something in common. Claudia and I became friends as we carpooled together, ate together, and shared recipes. We are friends and have the bonding type of capital.

The value here is that we know we can count on one another. I watched her dog one day while she was out of town. When she wanted to immediately make up for it, I said don’t sweat it, because friends give and take. Sure enough, we had dinner at their house a few weeks later–social capital.

The other type of capital is bridging capital. Bridging social capital is when groups of unlike people come together, give and take, and find common ground. Goshen has a variety of rich cultures represented, but we are often floating around in our own inner circles.

Bridging capital is waving on stranger and putting them first.

Since Claudia introduced me to the idea of bridging capital, I’ve been intrigued. I keep trying to think of more ways to bridge the communities within our community. Each community has a richness to it. Our community is already pretty great. Imagine what it would be like if our micro-communities started sharing our strengths with one another.

We’ve already proved that we are a resilient community as we continued to grow together through a recession. But there were still people hurting and isolated–and that hurts us all in the end.

What would this community look like if we start reaching outside of our comfort zones?

What if we invite an English as a second language speaking neighbor to dinner? What if we help a neighbor rake his yard even though there was an opposing political sign out front? What if we find questions to ask people when we first meet that don’t depend on their job or status and cut to who they are as a person? What if we take time to listen?

How can we be intentional of expanding our own social groups to include others that aren’t exactly like ourselves?

This way of looking at the world has been kind of fun. In the last few weeks since Claudia and I had our conversation about social capital, I’m finding myself slowing down and listening to others.

What do you think? How can we build social capital in our communities? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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This photo doesn’t begin to show how yummy these were. I used the biggest ones for the first meal. Most of them were about 1/2 – 2/3 this size. (Let’s pretend I didn’t take this picture.)

My folks were on vacation, and I was in charge of harvesting from their garden while they were gone. I came home with about a dozen zucchini, and no plans for it. I will eat sauteed or grilled zucchini, but I don’t like it too much.

If I could find a recipe that would let me hide the zucchini, use up some of the several dozen banty eggs from our hens, keep the meat out for “Meatless Mondays”, and will keep in the freezer for several more meals, it would be worth a try.

I discovered recipes for zucchini ravioli. My experience with ravioli is ala Chef Boyardee, which I loved as a kid. Homemade ravioli must be ten times better than anything from a can. So like a good cook, I first chose a 104 degree day to start this new cooking adventure! My plans were to flash freeze all of them because it was too hot to cook. But as I smelled the filling, I couldn’t help but fire up the oven and try them out the first night.

I started with this recipe as my guide, since I had never made pasta before. The how-to photos are very helpful:

http://www.savvyhousekeeping.com/zucchini-on-zucchini-raviolis/

While I’m sure this recipe is very good as written, I just can’t leave well enough alone. I always change recipes. Besides, the zucchini from this recipe was a little bit too visible for my picky self. I also had my heart set on marinara sauce.

So the variations to the recipe were as follows:

For the dough:

I use primarily whole wheat flour, although I did use a cup of white to help with the texture. We added rosemary and garlic directly to the dough. In our family you can’t have too much garlic. I also tripled the dough recipe. I don’t have a pasta maker and had to roll it out. I guess if I had a pasta maker, the dough would have gone farther.

Filling:

1 extra large onion

1 1/2 heads of garlic

thyme, oregano, savory, rosemary

1 c. of pesto that I had frozen from last year

4 medium zucchini, shredded with the water squeezed out as best as possible. A cheese cloth would work great for this, but I used a strainer and my fist.

1/2 parmesan cheese

2 c. ricotta

2 c. mozzerella

a little bit of salt

This made a ton of filling. I think I would scale back a little bit on the cheese, but it is cheese after all. I still had at least a cup of the mixture left at the end of the process, so I dumped it into the marinara sauce. Yum! More cheese.

My goal is to trick the kids into liking this ravioli with the cheesiness. As they grow to like it, I’ll add more zucchini and scale back on the cheese. I’m also thinking that spinach would be tasty in the mixture too, but I didn’t have any.

Two or three raviolis with sauce and a salad made a delicious meal. I made a meal for 3 the first night, and had enough left-over ravioli for 2 gallon size freezer bags. If you flash freeze them and then store them in the freezer bags, you can pull out just what you need for the evening meal.

The process was time consuming, it took about 3 hours start to finish. Some of the time was letting the dough rest. But I love it when I can make more than one home cooked meal at a time. The process was fun and would make a great project with a couple of friends cooking for an afternoon, and splitting the bounty at the end.

The ravioli were pretty inexpensive too. I buy flour in bulk, used eggs from my chickens, herbs from my garden, and zucchini from my folks. The only pricey thing was the cheese which probably cost about $4-7. I think in the end I made about 70 medium/large raviolis. All of us were satisfied with 3 for the meal so that works out to about 40 cents per serving. I cheated a little with the sauce. I used sauce from the grocery at $1.49. By the end of the summer, I’ll have homemade sauce for free and for more yumminess.

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I gave away lots of love-in-a-mist plants. It’s a reseeding annual that is just now blooming. They are very easy to grow.

Last week, some old friends and a few new ones, gathered at my house for a potluck of sorts.

The instructions were to bring at least two of the following: wine, dessert, flowers, seeds, or more flowers.

At seven o’clock, ten of us gathered, for what will be the first of many dessert and flower potlucks.

Jane and Molly brought Scotcheroos. Rachel brought a Rhubarb and Raspberry coffee cake with coconut ice cream. Claudia brought rose water cupcakes with pink icing swirled on top. I made a flourless chocolate cake with strawberry sauce; and Marlys brought a terramasu coffee liquor torte –yes, it was amazing.  All of it was amazing.

Anika and a couple of others brought wine. Mary and my mom brought a double share of flowers.

After sitting on the back deck sampling the desserts, we took a tour of my veggie garden and flowers.

And then it was time to share flowers.  There were dozens of plants to be traded.  At least three of the attendees were relative newbies to gardening, but they provided treats and desserts, so we provided them with flower starts and gardening advice.  Any experienced gardener knows, that you shouldn’t have to buy basic hostas, stella doro daylilies, or coneflower, as these all spread pretty well.

Everybody left with at least a few new plants for their gardens.  The newbies probably ended up with the most, but that’s fine.  We got them off to a good start.  Now they can spend their extra gardening budget on unique flowers for next year’s exchange!

I fully planned on taking photos of the dessert spread, and of handing out plants, but I got so engrossed in what I was doing, I completely forgot.   You’ll just have to imagine a gaggle of happy gardeners (and future gardeners) high on too much sugar and giddy with their new flowers.

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Last fall I was going through a lot of soul searching about job stuff that I couldn’t really post publicly.  It was all consuming; which explains why my blog has been dry for so long.  I tried to write some vague posts, but they were bland.  

My friends and family listened to my decision making process, but it wasn’t the type of thing that I could alert my boss or coworkers to at the time.  I’m in a different (and better) spot now, and I’m more free to share some of the struggle from last fall.  The struggle of “what the heck to do with your life” is universal.  I’ll share now what I can, in hopes that it makes someone else feel not as alone.  

This post was written back in November.  

November 11, 2011

The Cylons spent most of the Battlestar series trying to figure out what it means to be human, just like us humans. (This is not a photo of me, just in case you were wondering).

Just like the Cylons in the Battlestar Galactica series, we all wrestle with the question:

What does it mean to be human?

Hmmmmm…

I’m almost 20 years out of high school, and I think I’m finally coming to terms with what it means for me to be human.

It’s not my job, or my hobbies, or my family, or my wealth.

It’s about a balanced life.

About a week ago, I went to the doctor.  She said that I was about 30 pounds overweight and that I should exercise more.  I almost cried in the office.  I feel stretched so thin (that’s a stupid phrase because when I’m stretched and stressed, I get fat) already, how on earth would I find time to go for a walk?

I spend almost 2 hours a day commuting back and forth to work, and another 2-4 hours per week, taking my daughter back and forth to her dad’s house.  There is laundry and cooking and gardening and pets and helping with homework and trying to get a small business up and going.

Meanwhile, my house is falling in around me.  I don’t have time to clean, take my car in to get fixed, or even time to stop to get a haircut.

Sounds like lots of people you know.  I’m sure.  I’m not alone.

I could cut out some things I suppose.  I could buy some frozen meals or give up gardening.

But those are the things that make me human.  I can’t cut those things out of my life because they strip away who I am.

I want balance.

Listen friends!  I’m stamping my feet now and throwing a mid-life tantrum.  I want…I want…I want my life to be in balance!

I want time to cook and clean; time to garden and freeze the food I harvest.

I want to help with homework and comb my daughter’s hair before school; to take the dog for a walk and sip hot chocolate in the evening with my honey.

I want to find a way to make some money to pay bills, and be home when the kids get off the bus.

My husband says I’m greedy.

But I’m greedy for time with the ones I love.

I’m greedy for wanting time to connect.

I’m greedy for wanting to spend time doing the things that make me human.

The last two weeks, I’ve started living more like a human.  I’ve been making time for some of the most important things.  But, it’s reshaping the way my life is going to look.  This may mean some financial changes, which can be sort of scary.

But I like finding out that this Cylon might just be human afterall.

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I haven’t yet taken any time to talk about some of my favorite blogs.  I mention them from time-to-time, but I’d like to do a formal introduction.  That way you don’t miss out on important, useful, or useless but funny information.  I follow several, but we’ll start with these…

Jennifer by a table that Steve made for her (photo from The Common Milkweed)

The Common Milkweed

This is a great site for gorgeous photos of nature and gardening, for getting ideas of how to repurpose your junk, and to watch the transformation of a little rundown country house into a dream homestead.  The posts are simple, full of great ideas for living simply and green, and for inspiration.  They’ve linked back to my site, and I get daily traffic from them.  If you enjoy my blog, then you definitely need to head over to check out theirs.

I met Jennifer and Steve exactly one time at a teeny craft sale where we were selling our wares.  We became facebook friends, checked out one another’s etsy sites, and started following one another’s blogs.  Even though we only know one another through the blogs, I’m pretty sure they’re part of my tribe.

Photo from Chicken Nugget Lemon Tooty - Visit this site for a smile 🙂

Chicken Nugget Lemon Tooty

This is a blog that features the artwork of children.  Their dad is an artist that encourages his kids to be creative, and creative they are.  I was introduced to this blog through the friendly rock street art his kids were doing.  It’s a joyful little blog that makes me happy.

My daughter also likes the shadow puppet theatre that his kids performed for the book, When the Mountain Meets the Moon.

The Marvelous In Nature

If you love nerdy nature notes, then this is the blog for you.  Seabrooke Leckie is an author and illustrator for Peterson Field Guides.  She just finished a new guide on moths. Her blog documents her daily walks.  Her curiosity leads the reader into new discoveries.  Recently, she has shortened her blog posts, but still worth reading if you are a nature nut like me.

Stay tuned for more blogs that I love!

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Tsk. Tsk. Tsk.

Her house is a pigsty.

Where would you like to sit? Let me clear a spot for you.

There is cat hair on the sofa the dog hair in the carpet. Half of a pair of dirty socks is rotting on the coffee table and its mate is on the stairs.

Fruit flies party around a bruised tomato on the counter. A mysterious red goo clings to the floor by the waste basket.

There is a funny ring around the sink in the kitchen, and the shelf in the fridge is sticky.

There is so much stuff on sitting surfaces that you’ll have to pile it up to find a place to plop.

There are kids drawings on the fridge and bulletin board; and games piled up on the table. Stuffed animals are stuck in between the couch cushions. Books pages are marked with old envelopes.

This is my house.

I know. I’m a slob. But there are only so many hours in a day, and I’ve finally stopped beating myself up about my messy house.

Quality time with my daughter and step-kids is more important than shiny floors. After a long day at work, if I come home and clean for an hour, there won’t be enough time to just hang out with the kids: helping with homework, watching Cosby show reruns, reading together and playing games.

Cleaning up before someone comes over to my house is lying.

I spend 95%* of my time in a messy house. I know I should try to put my best foot forward. But when I spend hours scouring the house, I get stressed, and still feel the need to make excuses for the mess that’s left.

My messy house is embarrassing.

But I’ve decided that other than running the vacuum and making sure there’s a place to sit at the table and the couch, I’m not going to stress myself out anymore before people come over.

Since I’ve stopped making a major production of cleaning before company, I’ve actually gotten compliments on my house.

Not, “Oh your house is so lovely,” but “your house is so homey.”

My friends feel pretty comfortable in the clutter, I think.

It takes the pressure off them to feel like they need to clean before I come over.

After all, most of us have messy houses 95% of the time. We either have kids, or dogs, or busy jobs, or occupying hobbies. All are more important than a clean house.

Now, I am in no way slamming anyone with a clean house. Some people are great at cleaning. They are efficient cleaners. They feel better when their living space is organized. Some people find cleaning, meditative.

If you love to clean, go for it.

I’m too A.D.D. to keep a clean house. I spend hours trying to organize a countertop. I am completely inefficient. As much as I love an organized space, it takes so much energy that I spend way more stress trying to maintain the organization, than the stress the clutter causes.

I’ve decided that the best friends are the ones you don’t have to clean up for; the ones that you’re not ashamed to bring into your messy house for coffee.

Typical state of the dining room table

Seriously, do we really want our friends to waste time fretting over their messy house for us?

Nah.

I want to be the friend that you’ll invite into your house when the counter is full, and you have to push your junk onto a pile on the floor for me to sit down.

I don’t care about your clutter.

I care about you.

*all percentages are completely made up, but I think they’re pretty accurate anyway.

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The Store

We have three tween girls in our family.  Two age 9 1/2, and one age 11.  Trying to find clothes for all of them could break the bank, but we came up with a solution.

All summer long, I shop at garage sales and second hand stores.  Hubby and I watch for half-off sales and 75% off tags at Good Will, collecting cute clothes for $.10 to $2.00.

I have learned to hit the jackpot by driving slowly past garage sales, looking for  a stylish teenager guarding the money box.  Often their clothes have been worn once or not at all, or they have too many, so they practically give their unwanted threads away.

Right before school starts, and in the spring, we pull out the clothes and set up a store.

The girls take turn trying on and choosing items they love.  Lucky for us, the three girls have very different taste, and slightly different body types, so there isn’t a lot of competition.

This is the oldest in her "not quite polished mis-matched, but look at me I'm cute" look

The oldest sports a polished look.  The middle is a traditional preppy girl, and the youngest digs more of a Punky Brewster style.

Any clothes that are still too big get boxed up for the next season.  Unchosen clothes will make their way back to one of the thrift stores.

As they get older, I’m scared that they won’t want to shop this way anymore and my money saving plot will be foiled.

But they are still excited to pick out outfits.

Each of them will get a little bit of spending money to buy the school clothes that they didn’t find on shopping day.  We’ll go to the box stores and to the second-hand stores.  They’ll decide how to budget their funds to fill in their missing wardrobe.

I spent about $80 on the clothes and shoes bought this way.  Each of the girls is getting $40 to spend at the regular stores.  Any leftover money will be set aside if they want to buy something later this fall.

The girls are learning how to budget their money.  They’re learning about the value of reusing and recycling.  And heck, clothing three girls in really cute, full wardrobes for less than $200 total, works for me.

The three girls, youngest to oldest in their favorite outfit of the day


A Note About “The Boy”

My step-son is going into high school.  He is substantially less picky about his clothes.  I find nice shirts for him along the way, and his dad will take him to buy blue jeans and socks.  So far, so good.

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