Yesterday, Parade Magazine published a piece called “America’s Bucket List 2011.” They said it was a list of “essential experiences every American should have.” I must be a good American because I’ve done all but four items on the list, but I probably won’t be adding those to my bucket list any time soon. The four I’ll skip are:
- #2 Watch a lawn mower race. I know people who go to lawn mower races. Does that count?
- #10 Volunteer to be a poll worker on election day. I won’t rule this one out forever. However, in my precinct the poll workers are all pushing 80 years old. I’ll wait another 25 or 30 years and then volunteer so I fit the demographic.
- #14 Learn the second verse of our national anthem. Why? My brain is tasked with keeping track of more vital information. I don’t need any trivia to keep track of.
- #26 Write a gratitude letter to a teacher. This one has value. Unfortunately, the only teacher I would have anything worthwhile to say to was my college adviser and speech professor who committed suicide a couple of years after I graduated. He showed me that I really could do what I wanted and that technology wasn’t all bad. I’ll have to sit and chat with him in another life.
To replace these four items, I’ll add four of my own:
- Live in the Florida Keys. It’s a beautiful place to vacation, but vacations are too short. Someday I want to send all my winter coats to the thrift shop and never buy another one. I want a wardrobe full of nothing by shorts, tank tops and flip flops. I may have been born in “Almost Heaven” West Virginia, but the Keys sound like heaven to me.
- Live “off the grid.” And I want to do it without moving to the middle of nowhere. Surely there are ways even city folks can transition from reliance on traditional utilities to more self-sufficient means? If I lived in the Keys I’d be able to cross home heating and cooling off the energy consumption list. Water and electricity would be the only needs to conquer.
- Learn Spanish. A useful skill whether living here in Oklahoma or in the Keys. Sorry, but I can’t get on the English-only bandwagon. Isn’t it odd that the U.S. is the only advanced nation whose educated classes don’t know how to speak another language? Yesterday, after the French Open, I listened as Roger Federer, a native German, addressed the crowd in perfect French; Rafael Nadal addressed the crowd in English and then in his native Spanish. American arrogance contributes to American ignorance. We shouldn’t wonder that our schools churn out a bunch of spoiled, half-literate young people.
- Win a ribbon at a county fair. I don’t know what category or what fair. But I think it would be a lot of fun!
It’s almost Easter; what better time to get some new chicks? I picked up 3 Rhode Island Red pullets at the feed store today. They’re about a week old. I’m getting absolutely nothing done because I keep going to check on them!
So far, they seem pretty content in their new home. They’ll be in their brooder in the garage for another 4 to 5 weeks, and then I’ll set them up in a corner of the pigeon loft until they are big enough to join the older hens. I hope these girls are more reliable layers than the Auracana and Turken I currently have — those girls would be stew if I wasn’t a vegetarian!
Make apple butter. It’s not hard, but it does take 3 to 4 hours. I made a batch yesterday with the following recipe that I’ve perfected over the years. This works for apple butter and also for apple-pear butter. I’ve never tried it with just pears, but I think it would still work.
Here’s what you need:
Notice I didn’t give measurements for the spices, you’ll have to adjust the amounts based on how much apple/pear pulp you end up with.
- Cut the apples/pears into quarters. You don’t need to peel or remove the core. You should remove the stems. Place the cut fruit in the pot.
- Add the apple cider vinegar and the water. Bring to a boil and cover the pot. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer. Cook for 30 to 40 minutes or until the fruit is soft and easily separates from its skin. Remove from heat.
- Place the sieve over a large bowl. Ladle the fruit mixture into the sieve a little bit at a time. Use the wooden spoon to force the fruit mixture through the sieve, leaving behind the skin, seeds and any tough pieces of the core. Discard the skin, etc. (add to your compost bin!) as you go along. You should end up with a bowl full of fruit pulp and liquid.
- Measure the fruit pulp back into the pot. You need to know how many cups of pulp you have in order to add the rest of the ingredients.
- Sugar: Figure 1/2 cup sugar for every cup of pulp. Then, figure the amount of white sugar to brown sugar in a 3:1 ratio. For example, if you have 8 cups of pulp you will need 4 cups of sugar. Three of those will be white sugar, and one will be brown sugar. Confused? Just used all white sugar!
- Salt: 1/4 teaspoon up to 8 cups of pulp. Never add more than 1/2 teaspoon.
- Pumpkin Pie Spice: 1 teaspoon for every 4 cups of pulp.
- Add the sugar, salt and pumpkin pie spice to the pulp and stir to dissolve the sugar. Bring the mixture to a bubbling simmer. On my stove, this requires medium heat.
- Stir the mixture frequently to prevent burning. Continually scrape the sides and bottom with the wooden spoon to prevent sticking. Cooking will take anywhere from 1 to 2 hours, depending on the liquid to pulp ratio of your mixture. The butter is formed as the excess liquid evaporates.
- After an hour, test the butter to see if it is the thickness you desire. The easiest way to do this is to spoon some out and let it cool for a few minutes. If it’s still runny, it’s not ready. If it stays thick and spreadable, it’s ready.
Once your apple/pear butter is ready, you can ladle it into hot, sterile jars and refrigerate. If you want to keep it for more than a couple of weeks, you’ll need to properly preserve it in a water-bath canner (process for 10 minutes).
Questions? Just ask!
This question of where were you on 9/11 keeps popping up today. I was at work. I watched the terrible events unfold on a big screen TV in the conference room. I knew my life would never be the same.
We had already been through the Murrah Building bombing here in Oklahoma City in 1995. That was enough large-scale, man-made tragedy for me to witness in this lifetime. 9/11 eclipsed that horror on a massive scale. It was a crystallizing event that changed the way I looked at life.
The last eight years have been a journey from corporate employee to real estate agent to writer/educator/pastor. It’s been a journey complete with wrong turns and lost luggage. Most of all it has been a journey towards living an authentic life of peace, simplicity, and justice. Not an easy journey in a society enamored of celebrity, wealth, and power.
I, like everyone else who was old enough on that day, remember where I was. But these days I’m more interested in remembering where I am and where I’m going. I believe it is the changes wrought in us by such events that propel us forward into a life lived more honestly. So maybe I would ask, Who were you on that day and who are you now?
For some reason I woke up this morning thinking about Corrie Ten Boom. If you ever read the book or saw the movie The Hiding Place, then you know her story. She and her family were Dutch Christians who helped hide Jews during the Nazi occupation. They were all eventually arrested and Corrie spent time in concentration camps until her release in 1944.
When I look around our American society of incredible wealth and abundance (and, yes, it is still wealthy and abundant even when the economy is slowing), I wonder how we’ve become so spoiled and apathetic. We know nothing of sacrifice or struggle. We may think we know these things when we can’t afford a brand new, over-priced car, but in reality we do not know what it means to give our all, even our lives, in the pursuit of what is right and just.
I don’t know why Corrie Ten Boom was haunting my dreams and on my mind this morning. Perhaps, it’s a reminder that all I think I have is really nothing. The valuable things in life are intangible and can never be taken from me. As a result, the pursuit of all those concrete, material items is a waste of time — the time should be spent pursuing the simple, lasting values of life.
Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, said this in his Easter sermon today:
The present financial crisis has dealt a heavy blow to the idea that human fulfilment can be thought about just in terms of material growth and possession. Accepting voluntary limitation to your acquisitiveness, your sexual appetite, your freedom of choice doesn’t look so absurd after all as a path to some sort of stability and mutual care. We should be challenging ourselves and our Church to a new willingness to help this witness to flourish and develop.
Oh, that I could have said it so eloquently myself! It took me a long time and a most unpleasant change in life circumstances to come to this conclusion at a personal level. It’s unfortunate that a worldwide economic crisis may be the trigger that makes many more people come to this conclusion.
I was talking with a friend about how the downturn in the stock market was impacting people who have built up wealth mainly via relying on their (seemingly) every-growing portfolio of investments. I commented that people who choose to live simply are essentially unaffected by such a troubling market. Choosing a life a voluntary simplicity means you’ve already chosen to live humbly below your means. You don’t rely on phantom dollars. You rely on concrete calculations of income and expenditures. Your income is diversified and so are your savings. And lo and behold on the heels of this conversation I find this article in the 2009 March-April Simple Living News: Recession-Proof: Voluntary Simplicity As The Key To Living Well Even In A Recession. The author closes the article with this comment:
I think Henry David Thoreau summed up the key to living recession-proof when he said, “A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.”
How true that is. The more we leave alone, the more we can enjoy the truly valuable things in life.
The Myth of Multitasking: How “Doing It All” Gets Nothing Done by Dave Crenshaw is an excellent book demonstrating how multitasking, or switchtasking as he calls it, actually slows us down, reduces productivity, and cheats our coworkers, friends and families.
One of the most refreshing features of this book is that it is a story about a consultant and a client who is overwhelmed with too much to do. Instead of talking about himself and how fantastic his ideas are, Crenshaw allows the reader to learn right along with the characters in the story. In addition, The Myth of Multitasking is a short book. I read it in an evening. Some worksheets are provided at the end to help those who recognize themselves as inefficient multitasking addicts to get on the right track.
Essentially, Crenshaw demonstrates how much time is lost every time we switch from one task to another. In effect, we are not really doing two or three things at once. We’re really doing one thing at a time for short periods of time with precious seconds or minutes lost every time we switch back and forth from task to task.
I already believed multitasking was a hoax, so this book simply quantified what I had already come to understand. If I’m writing, I’m writing. If I’m answering emails, I’m answering emails. If I’m on the phone, I’m on the phone. If I try to do any of those things at the same time, each task suffers. If another person is involved, then my relationship with the person suffers because I’m not fully present with them and the conversation — my mind and my attention are fragmented.
The client in the book discovers that both her employees and her family respect her more and are happier and more satisfied after she quit trying to multitask when dealing with them. No more reading trade magazine while spending time with the kids. No more answering emails while meeting with an employee.
Seems like common sense to me. Live in the present. Give your full attention to the task (or person) at hand. I highly recommend this little book!