Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Are You Running Yourself Ragged?

Imagine if you will for a moment a piece of cloth
woven with warp and weft.
Now carefully pick one thread from anywhere on the cloth
and give it a gentle tug.
You can make an unsightly loop or even pull 
the thread entirely from the cloth.
If you were to pick threads randomly from both sides wither and tither, 
you would end up with a pretty tattered and ratty
looking piece of cloth.
The cloth in this scenario is of course, our heart and soul,
our character, our physique, and our being.
Every person we encounter, task we tend to, errand we run, 
and decision we make are all tugs at the fabric of who we are.
Obviously some are menial and with a rub of the thumb
can be smoothed back into place.
Others require a bit more effort to work back into that even weave.
And yet others, well, we might just need a new thread
and our darning needle to repair.
Like anything, it's better to keep at things before they get to that point.
But it can be difficult.
We have demands being made of us at a rather alarming rate
if you think about it, and we don't even realize it.
In addition to the big ones: get to work on time, perform said duties,
kids to school, etc. there are thousands of others.
Car- fill me with gas or I won't run.
Phone- answer me or I'll keep ringing.
Critters and garden- water (feed) me or I'll die and won't feed you.
grocery clerk- pay me or you can't have your items.
Most of these are just understood, but they are still a tug.
They are not necessarily bad or harmful, but when too many 
rain upon us at once, we can be left
'hanging on by a thread.'
Equally important is the fact that we need time to be alone with ourselves
and keep our souls smooth.
There are times when we don't want to go anywhere or talk to anyone.
Time alone at home talking and listening to God and just being
seems necessary.
I think He made the seasons the way they are for a reason.
Just about the time we have run ourselves ragged,
the days start getting a little shorter and
the nights longer and colder.
It seems to go against mainstream society,
but He is almost pushing us back inside come evening-time saying,
"Rest up."
Like most children, we don't always listen as we should.
If this is where you are,
I would like this post to serve as that gentle voice that says,
"It's okay.  Take a breath."
Take a few moments to smooth out those little loops and
remember winter will be here soon, and we'll have more time
to spend with that darning needle.

Until next time,
Nimble Fingers and Even Stitches

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Autumn Checklist

What a beautiful and busy time of year.
As we are pulling in and processing the tail end of the garden produce,
the leaves are changing, and Mother Nature is preparing for a change.
Isn't it peculiar how when the temperature begins to dip down to chilly
at night our nesting instincts kick in and give us 
that little boost of energy we need?
I'm not sure if we are ever really 100% ready for that first snow.
We always seem to forget something.
I am notorious for leaving hoses out until the snowfalls.
Then I have to go out and try to make sure they are drained
and put away while it's snowing on me.
Since I work best from a list and I know quite a few others
who share this same 'quirk,' 
I thought it might be a nice thing to share.
Of course, depending upon where you live and your situation,
your list might look a little different.
This might contain an item or two you forgot to add.
And if there's something on your list that you don't see here,
please share in a comment.
This is meant to help all of us.

In No Particular Order:

* Take stock of pantry~ What do you have in abundance, and what are you short on?
* Critter Feed~ Weather it's bunnies or beef, do you have enough feed (or a dependable source,) tank heaters, power  cords, anything needed for birthing (which will always be 2 AM of the coldest week of the year.)
* Heat Source~ Is the wood in? Propane tank filled? If electric or gas, do you keep a back up source?  Is your chimney clean?
* Equipment~ Lawnmowers, weed-eaters, chainsaws and any other form of small engine should be serviced before storing it for winter.  Why are we so good at this for our cars but not for smaller items?  My small engine repairman suggests using "seafoam" so that's what we use.  I don't know if there are other similar products of different brands.
* Tools~ From hammers and screwdrivers to pitch forks and wheelbarrows, how are the handles?  Is the metal clean?  Are they where they belong?
* Garden~ Put the garden to bed or plant your winter crop depending on where you live.
* Hoses!~ Geesh, I almost forgot to even put it on the list.  Drain, coil, and put them away.
* Blankets and Winter Clothes~ I don't store seasonal clothes, but if you do, you might locate, air out, iron if necessary, and ready them for wearing.  I like to either hang my blankets that have been folded up all summer on the line for an hour or two or give them a tumble in the dryer.
* Automobiles~ Have an emergency kit in each rig.  Check your tire pressure and the condition of the tires, antifreeze, fluids, wipers, etc.
*House~ Check windows and doors.  Are they sealing properly?   Are the leaves off the roof and gutters clean?  Do you wrap certain pipes for winter?
* Barns, Sheds, Fences and Gates~ In good repair? Is there a broken board that would be easier to fix now?
* Christmas~ Don't shoot!  I put this here, because if there are certain gifts you are making, you probably don't want to put it off until Dec. 1st to get started.
* MOST IMPORTANT~ How's your fire pit? Don't forget to take time to observe the beauty around you, jump in the leaves, roast a marshmallow and drink some hot chocolate or apple cider.  If you make it through even a portion of these things, you're ahead of the game.

Is here something you do each fall that's not listed here?
Let us know.

Until next time,
Nimble Fingers and Even Stitches

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Using Borage

What is borage?
That's usually the first question people ask when it's mentioned.
Some folks have it in their "butterfly" gardens since it has beautiful
purple flowers that bees and butterflies alike are drawn to.
Attracting pollinators in itself is a worthing reason, but there's more.
It's edible!
Believe it or not, those prickly leaves are the secret ingredient
to so many delicious dishes.
You can of course use it fresh during summer months,
but you can also dehydrate it to use during the cold months.
And, how do we use it?
Around here, I try to keep a couple of quart jars of the dried leaves
in the pantry.
We add it to spaghetti - chopped up, in addition to your regular herbs.
If you are making a pot roast, toss a couple whole leaves in
on top of your usual seasonings.
A couple leaves added to the crock pot of stew sure doesn't hurt anything.
And, our latest favorite is -
Mr. LB chopped some up and added it to his homemade sausage.
I think he has just about perfected his recipe - Yum!

What it does~
Some claim it tastes like cucumber.
I can't imagine eating it in a salad.  The leaves are furry/prickly.
When cooked, it's similar to most greens and is no longer prickly.
When used in addition to your favorite herbs and spices,
it seems to meld and enhance the flavors.
It's like the sound of an orchestra when the members are
warming up individually vs. the sound when they play together-
only in flavor rather than sounds.
It doesn't seem to add it's own distinct flavor, 
but brings out the best of all the others.
How it grows:
In our garden, it has become a blessed weed.
We love it, but it drives us crazy.
The first time I planted it, I (foolishly) planted a row in the garden.
It was beautiful, but we had way more than enough.
So, the next year, thinking I was smart,
I planted 4 seeds.
When they came up, so did a bunch of "weeds" that looked identical.
Yep - borage. 
For the past couple years?? I've not planted any borage seeds.
We have beans and borage, tomatoes and borage, chives and borage-
you get the picture.
Plant a couple seeds somewhere you need a whole patch of 
pretty purple flowers, but probably not in your garden.
Borage is one plant we will probably always have around.
We can't imagine cooking without it.
Maybe give it a whirl and let me know what you think.  

Until next time,
Nimble Fingers and Even Stitches

Monday, September 7, 2015

Decluttering Benefits ~ Dos and Don'ts

A few years back, I went through and did what I referred to as 
"cleaned to the corners"
at which time, I did get rid of quite a bit of 'stuff.'
It felt good to know things were clean and in order.
But there was always more.
Since then, we have inherited items from passing grandparents,
been gifted items for holidays, and brought other items 
into our home just by breathing in and out it seems.
Generally speaking, our house hasn't appeared really cluttered
with knick-knacks and dustables, 
but to us it began to feel that way.
A few months ago, a phrase came to me.
I don't know if it's something I once read or if God just put it there,
Make room in your life for the things you desire.
it has stuck with me like PB on the roof of my mouth I might add.
Please note, I am not a minimalist (nor a hoarder)
and have no desire to be either.
I don't want to live in a tiny house or only own 100 items.
My canning and food preserving items would make short news of that number.
But like I said, something clicked or resonated.
I began to "look" at items - really seeing them.
I have items from my youth (they aren't either antiques!)
They serve me no purpose, and I just keep them packed.
Why?  Because that's what I've always done.
I had middle school year books from before we moved out of state.
I don't even know those people, but I've packed those books around
for however many years.
They simply went in the garbage.
My high school year books, I didn't want to just throw away.
Within a week of getting them out, I ran into a classmate
I hadn't seen in a long time.
He was a transfer-in about our junior year so I asked if he would like them.
He was thrilled.  He said his ex-wife had taken his.
That's just one example of many.
I now have space between my clothes, several empty shelves
in the kitchen cupboards, as well as more floor space, and only enough 
books to fit in the bookcase.

A couple of scenes of the
"during" stage.
You'll be glad to know,
it no longer looks like this.

So what is so remarkable about all this?

Think for a moment if you will about how many organizing and cleaning
solutions you routinely encounter in the way of products, books, magazines, containers, paid professionals, etc.
When you have only the things you love and use,there really is no organizing to do other than keeping like with like.
(Clothes in the closet, food in pantry and so forth.)
Things just seem to fall into place.
Clothes make it onto hangers or into drawers,
dishes get done and put away, surfaces are clean,
and within, there is a peace that is difficult to explain.
The never-ending and foreboding to-do list gets such a haircut,
it's the whole "weight off your shoulders" cliche.
Picture a counter top piled with stuff.  If your mission is to wipe off the counter,
all of that stuff must first be dealt with.
Now picture a cleared counter top and think how easy it is to wipe it off
with the damp towel as you go to throw it in the hamper.
That's the difference physically, mentally, and emotionally.
If you're having troubles getting rid of certain things 
you know you don't need, try asking yourself,
"If I had a friend who lost everything and I knew he/she wanted it,
would I give it to him/her?"
If yes, then deep down, you are really okay with letting it go - for free even.
If you sell it for even a fraction of it's worth, you are doubly ahead.
One other thing that is often promoted in books about decluttering
is that if you are undecided about something,
put it in a box and if after 6 months you haven't opened the box
then get rid of it.
Do not try this!
It will just become a box of clutter and it won't bring you peace because, 
you will dread the day you have to decide weather or not to get rid of it.
If there is truly an item you are undecided about, set it on the kitchen table.
It will be there with you at every meal so you will really have to 
recognize your ownership of it.
If you love it, you will keep it.
If you don't, it will go and you will be okay with it because
you made that decision.
You will be at peace, because you have made the decision
and don't have to dread making it 6 months from now.
 If you are feeling like you are up against road blocks, look around.

Are you making room in your life for the things you desire?

Mr. LB and I have goals and things we enjoy both together
and as individuals.  Removing the barriers allows us to focus
more thought, energy, resources, and time on those things we deem important.
We had a huge yard sale this weekend (it poured all day.)
I have a car full of things to go to the bargain counter.
There are some larger items still out in the shop.
Mr. LB asked if I wanted a couple of the things back in the house.
It was hard not to yell "NO!"
It's all going one way or another.
Some decisions have been more difficult than others,
and I still have a few more things to go through,
but it's manageable and doesn't seem so overwhelming.
Now our house can breath, and 
we too can breath.

Until next time,
Nimble Fingers and Even Stitches