When “The Best We Can” is Good Enough ~ by Sam

Yesterday, I found myself (again) lying around on the sofa with my foot propped up, and I happened to look around the house (again) and find myself feeling very discouraged ~ almost defeated, in fact.  The house was a mess.  It was dusty, furniture wasn’t where I wanted it to be, paperwork was piling up ~ mail I needed to sort through, finished homework for which we had not yet created a file, magazines, fundraising information ~ laundry needed to be folded, laundry needed to be washed, the rugs and the furniture all needed to be vacuumed, the hard floors all needed to be swept and mopped, the bathrooms needed to be cleaned and organized, so many half-finished (or not yet started) projects ~ painting, putting up shelves, hanging pictures…And here I sat, with my foot propped up on a stack of pillows, doing absolutely nothing.  Again.

Let me make one thing abundantly clear: Shane and the kids help a lot with the housework, even when I am not injured.  Its just…well, let’s face it: I’m the one who is home all the time.  I used to feel like I was somehow failing my kids if I did the lion’s share of the housework.  I want them to have life skills, to be responsible.  Nevertheless, if they are home for only a few hours each day ~ during which time they are required to complete homework assignments, practice their music, dance, lines for a play, etc. ~ well, it makes sense that, since I am here for many more hours each day, I can do a little more work around the house.  So, I have struggled to strike a balance.  The kids are expected to keep their rooms clean, clear their dishes, and pick up after themselves, and they do about as well as any kids, I think.  They also help with things like washing dishes, cleaning the litterbox, taking out the garbage, doing laundry, sweeping, vacuuming, dusting.  However, since school started, everyone has been exceedingly busy, and I really am the only one home.  The fact is, there are some jobs no one but me thinks to do. So those things tend to go undone.  And, most likely, no one but me notices.  But I do notice, and it bothers me.  As a result, I was feeling like a bit of a failure.  I mean, I know I can’t do much right now, but it was starting to feel like I am NEVER able to do much.  It seems there is always something that gets in the way of my ability to complete home improvement projects, or even just keep up with the housework.  I thought, “Geez.  Why is this so hard?  Other people manage to do this all the time, right?”

It’s true.  Other people do manage to keep up with the housework, and complete home improvement projects.  In fact, I have always managed to do those things fairly well.  So, what was the problem?  Because, really, it seemed like, since we moved in to the new house in mid-December of 2012, I just could not manage to keep up.  Was it because we were doing more projects than we had in the past?  Well, that might be part of it.  The thing was, it seemed like I had been doing so well.  We had painted at least 6 room, built shelves, done extensive work in the garden…I had helped with all of that.  I’d done some of it all by myself.  So…what was going on?  Why couldn’t I just manage to keep up?

Well, I got kind of frustrated, and sort of lost it here at the house all by myself yesterday.  Shane was work, kids were at school, and I was looking at everything that needed to be done.  I got up off the sofa, washed slipcovers, vacuumed all of the floors (rugs and hard floors alike), cleaned bathrooms, washed all of the mirrors, put away a bunch of the clutter… And then, when I was taping a plastic bag over my cast so I could bathe, it occurred to me.  I did some math, and, lo an behold, I found the answer:  For at least 6 of the past 18 months, I have been in a cast or brace of some sort that has dramatically limited my mobility and, therefor, my ability to complete even the most basic household tasks.  So, for the remaining 12 months, I have been in recovery mode.  I have spent some time recovering physically from my time in the cast ~ regaining strength and dexterity, so I could once again function at a relatively normal level ~ as well as time “recovering” simply in the sense of getting back in to my normal routine of household maintenance.  Or, perhaps more accurately, trying to establish a new routine, since I feel like I never really got in to the swing of things at the new house before that first injury, just 2 months after we moved.

So, now I get it.  Now, I won’t be quite so hard on myself.  I did pay for getting up and doing all of that stuff.  My foot swelled up to about twice its normal size, which is not at all comfortable in a cast.  And, so, today, here I sit, again on the sofa, with my foot propped up on a pillow mountain.  Today, however, scented candles are lit, the slipcovers are fresh, rugs and furniture are not covered with cat fur, and, if I felt like getting up and walking over to one, I could see my reflection in any mirror in the house.  Next time, I will try to pace myself, and not do it all in one day.  Next time, I will remember to let myself take the time I need to recover, and not feel guilty about it.  Will I still be frustrated by my lack of progress on those unfinished projects (like the 1/6 of that one room that is not yet painted!!!)?  Oh, you better believe I will.   But at least now I know WHY.  I can cut myself a little slack, just like I cut the kids a little slack because I know they are busy and doing the best the can.  Because that’s what it comes down to, really: I’m doing the best I can.  At the end of the day, isn’t that all we should expect from anyone?  I am always so eager to give others the benefit of the doubt.  Why not myself?

Today, I will rest.  And maybe I will throw in one load of laundry.  And then, I will rest.  And then, maybe I will clear up the clutter on the sideboard.  And then, I will rest.  And it will be okay.

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AC Bucket

by Shane Ross

Last March, when it was raining in Los Angeles…seems so long ago…rain water poured from our roof onto the sidewalk by the back door.  This being an area where water is a rare commodity, my wife and I figured we should get a rain barrel (plastic garbage can) to collect this runoff and use it to water the garden.  Well, the day I bought it, it filled up half way and we used it the next couple days to water the plants.

But ever since that day, it has not been used as a “rain barrel,” as we have had very little rainfall.

Cut to July…middle of a dry spell, and we are running our air conditioning a lot.  My wife went to spend time in the new Alice Garden and noticed that by the little door at the end of the rock path, there was a jungle of green plants. Our grass was dying due to lack of water (we are in a drought and therefore have watering restrictions)…yet back in an area that we don’t want any plants, we have a small rain forest.

The cause of this was the runoff from the condensation from the air conditioner.  It was pouring off of the roof.

Hmmmmm…the gears were beginning to turn.

I ripped up the unwanted greenery, and put the rain barrel in their place.  Yes, it really ruins the look of the Alice Garden, but it was so hot, we weren’t spending time out there anyway. I just wanted to see how much water I could get.

photo 1

photo 2

After 3 days…it was full.  This is a 20 gallon garbage can.  So that was a LOT of condensation and runoff. No wonder, the AC was on often.  I grabbed a small bucket and scooped out the water, and watered all of our fruit trees and other garden plants

So now we have an AC barrel.  Now I just need to divert the water so that the barrel isn’t squarely in the Alice Garden.  Gutters, or something up on the roof.  I’ll keep you updated.

Homemade Dairy-Free Coffee Creamer — by Sam

Recently, a friend was asking about homemade coffee creamers.  I have made some over the years, but it’s never really been a thing I did on a regular basis.  I am not sure why, to be honest.  I prefer making my own food, because I want to know what’s in it, I am allergic to milk protein (which is an ingredient in so-called “non-dairy” creamers), and I am not all that fond of commercially available soy-, almond- or coconut-based creamers.  So, why not make my own?

Today, I decided to do it.

I started with my favourite brand of almond milk.

AlmondMilk

It’s local, and the only ingredients are filtered water and almonds.  I am sure I could make my own almond milk at home, and maybe, someday, I will try it.  For now, this works for me.  I like the creaminess and the texture of almond milk, and love that it contains a healthy dose of calcium, which my bones desperately need, as well as Vitamin E.  You can use another type of milk, if you prefer.  In fact, I am pretty sure you could use whole milk, if you’re not allergic to it, but I’ve never tried it that way.  Naturally, you can use your favourite brand.

I decided to sweeten with honey, because it is one of my favourite sweeteners.  I happened to have some raw honey, which I thought fit the bill nicely.  Next, I added vanilla.  I whisked the whole thing together, and it tasted great.  The I decided to add some cocoa, because I love iced mochas.  After cooking, tasting, and adjusting the sweetener a tad, I sort of wish I had a) stuck with the vanilla, and b) not added more sweetener to compensate for the cocoa.  However, it’s not bad, and I think it’s a little better than the commercially available dairy-free options I have tried.  It does have a rather pronounced almond flavour, which I don’t mind.   Nevertheless, I think I might experiment with a coconut milk beverage as the base for this recipe in the future.  It does not taste like the usual “non-dairy” creamers that come in so many fabulous flavours, but actually contain milk protein (I am still confused about their “non-dairy” status), but I think it is a good jumping-off point, so I decided to share it.  Next time, I will make vanilla.  I am thinking about making a variety sweetened with brown sugar, too.  I’ll keep you posted, and share the best recipes.  For now, if you are looking for a quick, easy, homemade option, give this a shot.

Vanilla Creamer:
2 cups almond milk
1/4 cup honey*
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
dash salt

Chocolate Creamer:
2 cups almond milk
1/4 cup + 2 TBS honey*
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup cocoa powder
dash salt

Whichever recipe you choose, proceed as follows:

In a small saucepot, whisk together all ingredients over low heat.  Continue to cook, whisking often, until the mixture boils.  Cook over low heat for 5-7 minutes, whisking constantly, then allow to cool completely before pouring in to a jar or bottle. (I used an old creamer bottle I had saved)  Store in the refrigerator.

* After tasting the chocolate creamer in my iced coffee, I felt it could easily have been less sweet.  You might want to start with less sweetener, if you don’t like your coffee sweet.

The purpose of boiling the mixture is to reduce the amount of liquid, so it is more concentrated, like commercial flavoured creamers.  I noticed that, after I added the cocoa, it tasted like a really good hot chocolate.  If I had just turned it off as soon as it was hot and added it to a cup of hot coffee, I think it would have made an excellent hot mocha.  On this hot day, however, I chose to enjoy it iced ~ just a tiny glass, to make sure it was palatable.  It’s not half bad.

coffeecreamer

That’s all.  I’m  off to chase away the stuck-in-my-house-with-a-bum-foot-on-a-hot-day blues with a tiny iced mocha and some banjo picking.  Just thinking about it makes me feel better.