Just Life

Inspired by My Refrigerator

Earlier this summer, the inside of my refrigerator reached The Danger Zone.  No longer functioning as an efficient storage place for cold foods, my fridge had become home to partially-used jars, uneaten leftovers, and god-knows-what lurking in the far corners.

Something had to give!

I spent a couple of summer afternoons pulling everything out of the fridge, assessing, dumping, recycling, cleaning, and reorganizing.  (It's a shame I took no photos, because the task was Herculean - and would have looked very impressive.)

In the end, I dumped a whole lot of uneaten, wasted food.  Much of it came in partially-used jars.  Things I bought to make a specific recipe.  You know how it goes . . . you need half a jar of some exotic ingredient and a couple of teaspoons of some specialty mustard and almost - but not quite - a whole jar of some sort of marinara sauce.  Anyway.  Being frugal, I always save the leftover stuff -- because I'll just use it next time I make the recipe! 

What always happens, though?  Well ... by the time I make that recipe again, I forget I have the stuff in the back of the fridge.  Or it's been in there so long it's now a Petri dish.  Or I remember I have it . . . but don't have enough, so start the cycle all over again!

So.  There was a lot of wasted food in jars.

There were also quite a few leftovers of uncertain origin squirrelled away in the depths of my refrigerator.  Now, Tom and I have gotten much better at regularly building leftovers into our weekly dinner menus, so this situation has improved quite a bit over the last year or so.  But, still.  Leftover waste -- and plenty of it!

I'm happy to report that my refrigerator is clean, organized, and functional once again!

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But.

I remain disgusted by my own food waste -- and I am all the more determined to buy only what we need, use everything I buy, and eat leftovers!

One thing I've stopped doing is weekly grocery shopping.  I used to have a system where I planned out all of our meals for the week in advance (based on what our schedule looked like for the week).  I made a big list based on that meal plan, and I shopped on Sunday afternoon.  Filled the pantry and the fridge every week.  This system worked quite well when the kids lived at home because our schedules were busy and predictable.  Back then, I was working and needed to be super organized.  (Besides . . . I had growing kids always looking for more to eat.)

When it became just Tom and I at home, though, everything changed!  Our schedules were much more apt to include spontaneous dinners out.  We had more leftovers.  We tried more exotic recipes that required more exotic ingredients.  Our lives and eating habits had changed -- but my old system of weekly shopping excursions had not!

To discourage food waste here at home, we changed two things:  First, I let go of the weekly shopping and now make several quick runs to the grocery store to just pick up what we need for dinner.  Second, we've made a commitment to eating our leftovers.

It's been working . . . but there is still food waste.  Mostly from partially-unused jars of ingredients -- so that's my next target!  I'm trying to be more discriminating about recipes I make -- really considering if I need to make something that requires me to buy several exotic ingredients that I wouldn't normally store in my pantry.  This is harder than expected -- because I really like trying new recipes, and the "exotic" always appeals to me.  But I'm working on it.

I decided to try one of the online healthy meal delivery services, too.  (Here's a quick run-down of some of the services out there.)  After doing some research, I signed up with Blue Apron.  Three meals per week.  Fresh ingredients.  Original recipes.  Perfectly proportioned meals -- so no waste.  

Our first box arrived last week.

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I was totally impressed to find . . . real, fresh ingredients packed into my box of three-meals-for-two-people.  Everything was pre-measured and packed (when packed) in recyclable materials . . . right down to a single farm-fresh egg!

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The recipes are clear and easy to read, and include photos, cook prep/timing details, and step-by-step instructions.  Because everything is pre-measured and included in your box, all you need to do is . . . cook.  (The only things I've needed to grab from my own cupboards are olive oil, salt, and pepper.)

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So far, I've prepared two of the three meals - steak and fish, each with a fresh vegetable side dish and some sort of potato. Both have been excellent -- really tasty.

But.  I would also say that both meals have been a bit more . . . fussy and involved. . . than I would normally prepare for a weeknight meal.  Lots of pots and pans and bowls.  Lots of overlapping steps.  Prepping one thing while cooking another.  Yes . . . everything was THERE and available -- but there was still prep and staging and managing to be done.

I actually found it to be a bit stressful -- and I'm an experienced cook!  (I was considering giving a Blue Apron subscription to Erin and Keith -- but decided against it because it would just be too overwhelming for them at this stage of their cooking lives.)

I'm going to give it another try -- now that I know I need to plan my own prep-steps -- because the quality was great.  The ingredients were fresh, the recipes were interesting, and the meals were really good.  I also really like having just enough to prepare a meal for Tom and I.  We have plenty to eat -- and no leftovers.  It really is perfectly proportioned.  And . . . it's super convenient to know exactly what you're going to cook for dinner --AND that you have everything you need to cook it.

How about you?  Have you ever tried one of the meal delivery services?  Do you have any suggestions for avoiding food waste?

Because I want to keep my refrigerator looking like that. 

 

 

 


It's Friday and I Need an Opinion

I'm having a decision-dilemma.

I can't decide which shoes to wear for Erin's wedding.

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I'm hoping y'all can help me choose!  

I'd prefer to just wear my flip-flops (or - better yet - no shoes at all!!!), but I think I'm going to have to go with mother-of-the-bride respectable for this one, and put on Real Shoes.

Here's my dress. . .

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After shopping (in stores and online), I remain uninspired with my shoe options, but I've narrowed it down to two pair.

What do you think?

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Disco feet? 

(These somewhat sparkly silver sandals are comfortable and - as a surprise bonus - they do not highlight my extreme flip-flop tan lines.)

OR . . . 

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Neutral putty peep-toes?

(Also comfortable and nearly invisible - but my god . . . that flip-flop tan line is rather extreme.)

OR . . . 

Should I keep shopping?  (And, if so, for WHAT . . . exactly?)

What do you think?  Opinions, please!  Help me decide. . .

 

 

 


A Real Non-Event

On Tuesday I had my annual check-up with my oncologist.

NINE YEARS!

(Of course, I will mark and celebrate these nine years many times over the next several months.  Nine years since my diagnosis.  Nine years since my "port" was installed.  Nine years since my chemo began. Nine years since my first clean scan.  Nine years since the end of chemo.  Because . . . really . . . there are so many anniversaries to "celebrate.")

Anyway.  The appointment.

All. Good.

A-OK.

See you next year!

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So.

Other than the appointment being a Big Life Marker . . . it also made me realize something I never-ever imagined possible in those raw-and-shining days just out of chemo . . . 

Having cancer is just not something I think about much anymore.

This is unfathomable to me.

I can go days now . . . maybe even weeks . . . without thinking about cancer or treatment or that I had it or worrying that it might come back.

I can hear about someone else (or someone's sister) (or someone's sister's ex-fiance's mother-in-law) (or someone who just happened to be a friend of someone's sister's ex-fiance's mother-in-law) (etc.) being diagnosed with cancer without that trap-door opening and sucking me down into the depths. 

I can think . . . I am a nine-year cancer-survivor.  And just be grateful for that -- without feeling guilty because of all the other cancer survivors who never made it to nine years. 

I can allow myself to trust in a future again, as much as any of us can.

THIS IS A BIG DEAL.

I've passed some huge milestone of "survival" somewhere along the way to nine years.  I'm not exactly sure when or where I did that . . . but I did.  I'll never kid myself.  My experience with a diagnosis of non-Hodgkins lymphoma back in the fall of 2008 changed me . . . forever and for good.  

I have no illusions.  

I know that every day is a gift.  

And that life can change on a dime.

But after nine years . . . I'm grateful that my annual oncology check-up is just routine for me now.

A real non-event.


Deadheading: Good for More Than Gardening

In gardening, deadheading is a particular maintenance practice that prolongs blooms, prevents seeds from spreading where you don't want them, and keeps things looking neat and tidy in the garden.

Basically, it means pinching or snipping off spent blooms -- those blooms way past their prime.  (My favorite gardening mantra:  If it's brown, cut it down.)

Some gardeners hate this chore, but I love it!  I find it very meditative and centering -- and it's a great way to keep in close touch with what's happening in my garden.  

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(That's a look down into my bucket after a good deadheading session last weekend.)

So, last weekend - as I was deadheading my perennials and containers - I started thinking about the value of getting the spent "stuff" out of the garden.   

It certainly makes things LOOK better.  (Because a clump of dead daisy heads is really not attractive, y'know?)  

And when you pinch off dead-and-dying blooms, you provide more energy for the plant to produce NEW blooms -- or to grow deeper roots if the blooming period is really over.  (Roses respond especially well to deadheading.  And those daisies?  Once I deadhead the dead daisy heads, I get a second round of blooms.)

And deadheading allows you to gather seeds to share or to plant where you want them.  (Rather than the wild self-seeding that can happen with some plants if you're not careful.)  (I'm talking to you, Japanese anemone.)

All good things . . . for the garden.

But.

Isn't the same true of our lives?

Perhaps we should also be doing some "life-maintenance" once in a while. . . deadheading out the "spent" stuff in our lives.

Relationships.
Situations.
Habits.
Notions.

With regular deadheading, we can create space and energy for our own new growth.  We can keep old, negative seeds from spreading and growing where we don't want them.  We can keep our minds neat and tidy . . . and ready for new blooms.

Deadheading.  Turns out it's good for more than just garden maintenance!


Perspective from a Shoebox

Tom has been going through shoeboxes of photos and clippings and . . . stuff . . . that he's been carting around and storing in closets ever since we've been together.

I can't believe some of the stuff he has squirreled away in his shoeboxes!  Amazing things.  Newspaper clippings from high school races.  Race programs.  School papers.  Every single issue of his high school newspaper!  Certificates.  Ribbons.  Prizes and awards.  Things printed with that purple ink of ditto machines.

Seriously.  The stuff time capsules are made of.  

He's sorting through things and tossing most of it.  But, along the way, we're enjoying all these treasures from the past.

Back when he looked like this . . . 

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Yes.

Let's go back to the time of this photo.

1975.

Tom was a senior in high school.  A runner - cross country and track.  Also a good student with a great sense of humor and a penchant for satire.

We found this paper (among many) in one of his boxes . . . brittle now, and faded by years of storage.

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He can't exactly remember why he wrote this particular paper.  Maybe a class assignment?  Maybe a submission for the school paper?  Maybe just inspired by . . . current events of the day.  Whatever the reason, though, it's fun to read -- and especially because while it was written in 1975, it resonates today.  (In a way I'm sure 1975-Tom would never imagined.)

I thought you all  might enjoy reading it, too, so here it is -- Tom's unnamed article from 1975:

In the beginning God created heaven and earth, the United States of America, Washington D.C., baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolets.  The government was without form and void, and the spirit of '76 was moving over the face of the land.  And God said, "Let there be government."  And from the anarchy rose a government of the people, for the people, and by the people.  And God separated the executive branch from the judicial branch and the legistlative branch, and the house from the senate, and all of that he separated from the church.  And God saw that it was good.

And the Lord said, "Let the govenment put forth a constitution yielding laws and amendments according to their own kind.  And let there be taxes, a budget, and the C.I.A."  And it was so.

And God said, Let the earth bring forth living creatures."  And God made the birds and the beasts and the fishes of the seas, and bugs, and the common American.  After all, somebody had to pay the taxes.

And finally the Lord made politicians, Republican and Democrat he made them, good, bad, and ugly he made them.  With gleaming white teeth, receding hairlines, and non-tiring tongues he made them.  And God blessed them saying, "Be fruitful and multiply, fill and subdue the government."

And God gave the politicians dominion over the birds and the beasts and the fish of the sea and the bugs and the common American.  The Lord also gave him executive privilege and tax shelters.  And after hearing the campaign speeches, the Lord voted that it was all good.

And on the next day, seeing it was the 4th of July, the Lord rested and had a barbecue and afterwards shot fireworks.  And the Lord blessed that day saying, "Thou shalt not campaign on the Sabbath day."

And things went just dandy for almost 200 years excpet for a few wars, assassinations, riots, depressions, etc. nothing too unusual.

Now the president was more subtle than any other politician.  And he said to the other republicans, "Did the Lord say that we should not bug the other party's campaign meetings lest we die?"  And they said, "Yes, mister president."  And the president said, "Pardon me, but I beg to differ.  We will not die, but get me re-elected."  

And so the republicans bugged the other party's campaign meetings, and they won the election.  But then someone blew the whistle and told the Lord.  And the Lord made the president resign and banished him to some dreaded place in California.  And he cursed the politicians saying, "Graft and corruption shall fill your lives, and the people will trust you no more."

                                                                                                Tom Mulhern, 1975

Indeed!

We laughed when we read it -- this reminder that the more things change, the more things stay the same.  (And now . . . back to the shoeboxes!)

 


February. It's the New April.

I can't even . . . with this weekend.

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Record-breaking warmth.

Sunshine.

Almost flip-flop weather.

Rather unnerving . . . to be out in the garden.  

In February.

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Totally unexpected . . . to be driving around with the sunroof open.

In February.

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So surprised . . . to be throwing together impromptu snacks-on-the-patio.

In February.

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And yet . . . here we were.

February.

(It's the new April.)

==========

We interrupt this blog post to bring your this special NEWS FLASH!!!

These two . . . 

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(today celebrating 7 years of "coupledom") announced this . . . 

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It's Breaking News, people:  Erin and Keith are engaged!  

(Isn't that a fun way to start the week.)

 


Finding the Good

So.  As I mentioned the other day, it's been a rough summer.  And August, in particular, has been Truly Crappy.  Usually, as the month wraps up, I put together a "Right Now" post.  But this month?  Not so much.  (Although you can be assured that I'm . . . drinking, reading, and dreading . . . every day.)

It's really easy to get swallowed up by the overwhelming tough stuff of life -- especially when it sweeps you away suddenly.  And completely.  

So I'm trying to find the good.  

Because it's still there.  Under all the crap and maybe hiding in the corners.

Like . . . despite my absolute breakdown in the gardening department, flowers are still blooming.

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And Erin came for a visit.  She even extended her stay by several days to offer help and support, which was lovely.

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Tom and I quietly celebrated our 35th anniversary earlier this week.

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A new gelato shop opened in my neighborhood!

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And tomorrow, thanks to a lot of last-minute problem-solving and a bit of magic (thanks, Di!), Tom and I are heading to Boulder for a quick visit with Brian and Lauren.  This trip has been on the books for quite a while -- and I'm very happy to not be canceling.

So.

There is good.

I just have to keep finding it.

Have a great weekend, and I'll be back after my trip.


Time to Lean In

"The next time you lose heart and you can't bear to experience what you're feeling, you might recall this instruction:  change the way you see it and lean in."
                                                                                                              --- Pema Chödrön

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It's time for me to do a little . . . leaning in.  

I'll be back when I can. 

(I took this photo at an incredible garden we visited in Belfast, Northern Ireland.  Someday, I'll tell you all about it.)