Friday, May 29, 2009

Baby Planning -Food

You know that advice that baby books and magazines give to moms-to-be about making and freezing extra meals for reheating in the post-partum days? This is my second summer baby and I learned the hard way that I need a better option. In the heat of summer I just don't feel like heating the house up with the oven or eating soup. Still, I am going to be tired and finances do not allow for a lot of take-out, so I need a plan that lets me make meals I actually want to eat without hassle. Here it is.

-I plan on making good friends with my grill. I stocked up on a few favourite spice mixes from Penzey's, which seems expensive on the surface, but they have great flavour and go a really long way. Even on a tired day I can toss a few bone-in chicken pieces on the grill. I'm getting a grill pack from the butcher shop and some sausages from Kramarczuk's, a nearby specialty sausage maker. Their Morroccan Lamb Sausage and French Apple Sausage are to-die for and very reasonably priced. Some of the meat will be marinaded before freezing so all I have to do is defrost it and cook it. Thanks to Tracy for that idea!

-Lots and lots of raw veggies with dip and berries. All of us love the farmer's market veggies and instead of coming up with new and interesting ways to cook them this year, we're just going to eat them raw. Fresh from the farm cherry tomatoes, broccoli, ground cherries, salads, strawberries and raspberries. Maybe the odd half melon filled with cottage cheese. Does it get any better than that?

-Sandwiches. Good cheeses, good produce and maybe a summer sausage or two? Sounds like dinner to me.

-Pasta salads. There are so many variations on these, Italian, Thai, Chinese, Tuna, Grandma's Chicken Curry pasta salad. They are easy to throw together and you can make a big batch to last a few days.

-On bad days PBJ, crackers, cheese and fruit or grilled cheese is a perfectly acceptable dinner. It doesn't have to be gourmet.

The bonus of most of these ideas is that they are not only easy to make, but easy to clean up, which is essential to me in the sleep-deprived post-partum period. Hopefully by keeping things simple I can avoid the call of LeeAnn Chin and Pizza Factory and save both my sanity and our hard-earned money.

Tote Bag Organization

I have an addiction to tote bags. I love them. Up until now I've been very haphazard about their use, grabbing one when I want to go somewhere, filling it with what I need and then forgetting to empty it and leaving it on the hooks in the entry way. No more. I have decided to organize and pre-stock my tote bags.

I started by making two lists of things we like to do, one for winter and one for summer. Then I listed all of the things we usually take with us on a given activity and packed those in the bags. Here are a couple of examples.

Pool Toys
Floaties for Bella

Coffee Shop:
Card games
Small Board Games
Colouring Book

Colouring Book
Picture Book
Small toy

Bug Spray
Letterboxing Notebook
Mini first-aid kit
Water bottle

There is some overlap here, for example there are several bags with sunblock in them, but I think the duplication is worth it. I'd rather have three sunblocks than get where I am going and realize I've forgotten it. With three fair skinned people in this family the sunblock will be used one way or another.

Finally, to more easily tell the bags apart I labeled each one with one of these round tags I had laying around.

This system has really made getting ready to go someplace easier. No more hunting around for the goggles or the bug spray. We just grab the bag and go.

The Real Thing

When I was a kid I really wanted an Easy Bake Oven. Every Christmas and Birthday I would circle it in the catalogs, point it out to my mom in the store and daydream about it. In her infinite wisdom my mom told me time and time again that she wasn't going to buy some plastic box with a light bulb and expensive mixes when the actual oven did the same job better. Of course I thought she was being mean, but then one Christmas my friend got an Easy Bake Oven and invited me over to play with it. We spent the afternoon making messy, sugary, low-quality cakes and I was over my infatuation with the Easy Bake Oven. I could see what my mom had meant.

When I told my mom that I wanted to learn to bake she was very receptive. At first we baked together and she showed me how to measure ingredients, explained why the ingredients were mixed in that order and taught me how to use the oven responsibly. My solo flight happened when I was about 10 years old and my mom had run to the store for a gallon of milk. I broke out a box of brownie mix and began to mix it up. I got a little stuck when it came to the vegetable oil. All we had was Canola and olive oil and I didn't know what Canola was, but it didn't sound like a vegetable. I went with the olive. The brownies tasted a little off, but my mom and I had a good laugh about it and in the end we were both proud of my accomplishment anyway. A door had been opened to me that day and it occurred to me that I could make almost anything. I perused my parents cookbooks. Bread! I could make my own bread! It didn't have to come from a store. Candy? Are you kidding me? I can make my own candy? It was too cool to be believed. I still get that little shiver in my spine when I make something I've never made before.

Kids need some "real" experiences. They need to know the thrill of baking a cake or, as Cheyenne did at her friends birthday party last week, making a picture frame using a real hammer and nails. These kinds of things, the brilliance of real watercolours or the rush of joy at a fish they caught themselves, are vital. The excitement this stirs up in them, the love of learning is an invaluable asset they'll carry into adulthood. It gives them confidence in their skills and the drive to keep going and keep trying. Play is a wonderful, essential part of childhood. It's the beginning of learning, but there's a bridge that at some point needs to be crossed between play and real experience. It helps them make the connection between cause and effect and teaches them that they are capable of creating change and making a difference.

I'm thankful that my mom saw that and challenged me to do more than I thought I could. The lesson of the Easy Bake Oven continues to be a blessing even to this day.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Spring Cleaning- Laundry

Photo courtesy of playingwithbrushes

Laundry has been my arch nemesis ever since I had kids. I just can't seem to tackle it with anything resembling competency and it ends up piled in heaps in closets until at last we run out of clean clothes. In different homes there have been different challenges. At our apartment in Pasadena there was the coin laundry, which we never had enough quarters for and required lugging two babies, a pile of clothes and some detergent outside and around the building. Here the problem is stairs. I live in a house that is split into six levels and in the 23 years since my family bought this house I can count on my fingers the number of times the laundry has made it up the stairs to my bedroom.

For a long time I tried to solve the problem with self discipline. You just have to get better at doing these kinds of things, Stephanie. Stop being so lazy and haul the laundry up the stairs, will you? It's taken 30 years, but I have finally come to the realization that organization isn't so much about self discipline as it is about putting things where you actually use them. Since family members have been getting dressed in the basement since the 1980s I decided it was time to build a dressing area there.

Two days ago we went to IKEA and bought some of their Antonius mix-and-match shelving units to build a laundry storage system. The system consists of a mix of shelving, baskets and clothes hanging bars. Each family member gets three baskets, one for shirts, one for pants and one for underwear and accessories. There is also a basket for kids socks and a basket for adult socks. The kids' baskets will be on the lower shelves so they can get their own clothes. In addition to that, each person gets a small clothes-hanging bar, the kids hung at their height and the adults hung at ours. I want to encourage the kids to be independent with dressing.

On an adjoining wall there will be a laundry hamper for each member of the family, a chair and a full-length mirror. Each person's clothes will be washed individually with cold water to prevent running, folded immediately and put back in their baskets. Because the laundry won't be piling up this should take very little time. Once a week Cheyenne, my five-year-old will be responsible for bringing linens downstairs for me to wash and carrying them back up. Each person is responsible for making their own bed, with help, of course, for the little ones.

If all goes as planned this will revolutionize my daily life. No more hunting around in baskets for outfits for the kids and me. No more mountain of laundry to tackle on a Saturday, and best of all, no more guilt.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sailboats and Daydreams

Zach and I have had a daydream for a long time. When the kids are grown and out of the house, we want to use Zach's 6 months off a year to go sailing to far flung places. It's one of those dreams we quietly nurse, doing a little research, learning a new skill that might help us on our adventures, talking to people who've done what we want to do. We don't talk about it much to our friends and family. I don't know why. They'd (almost) all be supportive of us.

When we hatched this dream we were newlyweds, 20 and 24 years old sleeping on the floor of our itty-bitty one bedroom apartment because we couldn't afford a bed and driving around in our rusted out 1977 Dodge van, at least when it was working. On a whim we'd drive up the coast or out to Arizona to see Zach's dad who was, I kid you not, prospecting for gold. Life was simple and spontaneous.

We've lost a little of that since we had kids. Most people do. Don't get me wrong, I love our life, and we've made some unconventional choices. We have learned to live on very little money and value flexibility and time together over financial security and status. But for the last five years there's this voice in the back of my head (a voice that sounds remarkably like my grandma) that follows me around telling me, "You can't do that, you have kids now" or "What would people think? You need to get your life in order." We didn't set out to be conventional, but time and other people's expectations have worn us down.

Then last night, as I sat down to fold a load of laundry I turned on the TV to find Ice Blink, a documentary about a family of five who sails around the world. Both Zach and I sat there, riveted and inspired by this family and their story. While we have no intentions of taking off into the wild blue yonder ahead of schedule, it did help us to see that the spontenaiety and fun-loving
spirit that defined our early years isn't something we have to give up just because we have a family. Within the framework of our stable, loving home, a little adventure could be a good thing for our kids. Life is full of the unexpected. That's what makes it so interesting, whether it's white-water rafting or "Night Waffles" at a 24-hour diner at 3AM.

Read the biography of any great perosn. A dose of audacity, a little self-confidence and a healthy trust that God will provide have proved time and time again to be essential tools for a fabulous life. I know they have been essential to me.

Memorial Day

It was the perfect weekend. A morning to myself with my favourite indie craft store and a little Otis Redding. I even had a $5 gift certificate.

An afternoon on the lake. This is how weekends should be. We even caught a fish. Of course, it was too small to keep, but since we haven't learned to clean them yet, it was better that way.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Baby James is not quite ready to come out yet, but this weekend marked an important milestone. We are now officially ready for him. There are a few "extras" we'd like to get but the basics are in place. If he came home today he'd have clothes, a bed, a car seat, food (whether breastfeeding works this time or not), diapers and a family who loves him. Really, what more could a baby want?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

54 things I want my kids to learn before they leave home

I got this idea a long time ago on a message board I frequent. Someone posted a list of 100 things they wanted their kids to learn before they left home. I don't think at the time I even had kids yet, but the idea stuck with me and Zach and I have been slowly working on a list ever since. We're up to 54, listed in no particular order.

1. Research answers to questions using various resources (library, internet, other people)
2. Balance a checkbook
3. Avoid credit card debt
4. Cook a meal
5. Play Euchre
6. Fish
7. Sew a button
8. Sew a garment
9. Basic gardening
10. Laundry
11. Wash dishes
12. Basic toilet repair (I called a plumber when I first moved out for a stuck chain. I'm saving them that $50 mistake)
13. Clean up after themselves
14. Ride a bike
15. Drive a car
16. Take public transportation
17. Build a fire
18. Use a compass
19. Make coffee
20. Manage a grocery budget
21. Save for big purchases
22. Change the breaks on a car
23. Change the oil on a car
24. Change a tire on a car
25. Replace a headlight
26. Replace a fuse in the car
27. Hold their own in a debate
28. Snake a drain
29. Replace an electrical outlet or switch
30. Replace a light
31. Play spades
32. Play solitaire
33. Play Nuts
34. Play hand and foot (a survival skill in this family)
35. Think critically
36. Pray
37. Use an iron
38. Make a bed
39. Play chess
40. Paddle a canoe
41. Take responsibility for their own actions
42. Treat people with respect
43. Solve conflicts
44. Basic pet care
45. Tune up a bike
46. Change a bike tire
47. Fix a bike chain
48. Weld
49. Basic computer repair
50. Use a camera
51. Write effectively
52. Speak effectively
53. Fix a leaky faucet
54. Resist peer pressure

I figure if I turned them out the door knowing all that they'd be pretty well prepared for life. Any ideas for stuff we've missed? What skills were you glad you had when you ventured out into the world? What did you wish you had known?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Hanging Out

Photo courtesy of BrotherMagneto

I don't like the word "Entertaining" as it applies to the concept of getting together with friends and family. It conjures up images of a Martha Stewart perfect table, perfect meal and well-ordered life. I picture well-dressed ladies gathering around a garden table for a luncheon or an overstuffed holiday meal with a million relatives in Christmas sweaters and a host so stressed out from the effort she'd rather be napping than socializing.

I don't like the pressure to clean the house, make a gourmet feast and essentially put on a show. I love Ina Garten, but I don't live in the Hamptons and I don't employ a florist. That style of entertaining is not where I'm at in life. Don't get me wrong. I love to cook and I love a fresh bouquet of flowers and a nice table setting. There are times I like that sort of thing, but it's not a prerequisite for time spent with friends.

Some of the strongest friendships I ever had happened when I was a kid, when Hanging Out was the order of the day and Entertaining never crossed our minds. A couple of years ago, in the throes of isolation due to a move and two babies, I decided that I didn't want to entertain or be entertained, I just wanted friends to hang out with. People to roast marshmallows with over a bonfire or sit on the back porch with drinking a beer and discussing theology, politics or the weather. I was lonely and isolated, complaints I hear from a lot of moms. I wanted friends, not just dinner guests.

I was thinking about this last night as three of my old childhood friends and I sat around a bonfire with our families eating hot dogs, sharing stories and discussing the nitty-gritty of Life, The Universe and Everything, to borrow a phrase from Douglas Adams. I feel so grateful to have these people in my life. People I don't need to impress. People who have seen the worst of who I am and still love me. People I can hang out with. There's a real sense of security in that.

This, I think, is the good stuff in life. The stuff I want more of, more nights spent reading each other the latest passage from our homemade novels, more days spent swimming in the pool or lounging at the beach or drinking coffee on the couch in my less-than-perfect living room free of pressure and pretense. This is the life.

Childhood as it should be

Paper boat races, baby ducks, tree climbing and rock skipping. Who could ask for a nicer day?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Flower Pressing

Crabapple blossoms are among my favourite flowers. They are just so extravagant in their beauty with big, thick branches heavy with the weight of sweet smelling pink, red or white flowers. I've been waiting since March, when I bought Cheyenne her flower press, for the crabapple blossoms to be ready.

I found this adorable little flower press at a thrift store for $1.50, one of my best thrift store scores fo the year. I've been a fan of flower pressing ever since my parents bought me The Anne of Green Gables Treasury, a book of projects and recipes my favourite storybook heroine might have enjoyed when I was about 12. In past years I have pressed them between sheets of paper in heavy books, but I have always wanted a real flower press.

Cheyenne arranged the flowers delicately between the sheets of cardboard and Bell helped my screw the top down to "smash" the flowers. A week later we have nicely pressed flowers, ready to use for a craft project. The girls aunt and Godmother both have May birthdays and I think we are going to glue them onto a bookmark, laminate them and give them as birthday gifts.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Pickle Bucket Boat Races

OK, I thought this looked like fun when I saw the sign and thought I'd check it out online. I assumed that pickle bucket boats would be small toy boats made of pickle buckets. Not so my friends. The contest is to build actual, human carrying boats made of pickle buckets. How cool is that? There's a human powered boat race, a creativity race, a kids race, a 5-man team race, a battery powered boat race and a race for civic groups.

We are definitely attending this one! Hopefully in future years we can put together a team and participate. In my kooky circle of friends finding enough people for a pickle boat racing team won't be much of a challenge.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Fishing Guide

While we were out fishing it occurred to me that, other than sunfish I would have no idea what I had caught unless there were other kind souls around to inform me. I decided to borrow an idea from Valerie at Frugal Family Fun. She made a handy little field guide to birds for children and I thought it would be useful to do the same for my family using fish. I printed off pictures of common local fish from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website. Next I will cut out the pictures, laminate them, punch a hole in them and put them on a ring. It should be small enough to fit in the tackle box and an invaluable resource should I ever manage to catch something other than lake weeds. Now all I have to do is learn to clean a fish. I'd imagine it shouldn't be too hard to find a teacher. I doubt you could swing a dead cat in the state of Minnesota without hitting someone who knows how to clean a fish. If that fails, there's always YouTube.


Today was the first 80 degree day of the year here in the Twin Cities, so we decided to blow off our afternoon obligations and go fishing. I'm not going to lie. I'm no expert at fishing. I used to go frequently with my grandparents, aunts and uncles, but I'm pretty sure I took the Isabella approach to fishing and sat there reeling in my hook (Look Mommy, I caught a worm!) and eating cookies for hours on end. In fact my only childhood memory of catching a fish was in Alaska with my Aunt Wendy and Uncle Roger. The fish was big and green and spiky and I was utterly impressed with myself, but for some reason or another it had to be thrown back. That put me off fishing for a while.

Two years ago we attempted ice fishing with the same aunt and uncle and I "got the skunk out of the boat" as Roger said and caught a small sunfish. Of course Cheyenne, who was three at the time, caught one first.

We stopped at Tally's for some bait before heading to the dock. For some reason Isabella has a fondness lately for colouring her nose black. I don't know why. Just ignore it.

It was not a novel idea, but fishing seems like a great way to meet friends. The kid with the backpack rode up on his bike and started chatting with Zach about various kinds of bait and what he's seen work out here lately. He borrowed some red squid looking thing and spent a little time fishing before heading home. By the time he left we were buddies.

Then there was Jacob and Suzanne, a mom and son team. Jacob is heading to Greece for the summer in a week to do some grad school research and he and his mom were getting in one last day of fishing before his departure. Cheyenne took an instant liking to them.

And their bucket of live minnows. You have to love a girl who can name her bait Anna and still skewer it on a fish hook without batting an eyelash.

Alas, it was a fruitless (or fishless) day, but a nice one. Good company, plenty of sunshine, cookies and minnows. It's what childhood was made for.

Spring Cleaning- Getting the Kids Involved

I so do not want to end up like my mother, calling a "family meeting" once a month to complain about how I am the only one who ever does anything around this house and can't we grow up and clean up after our own messes? And who do we think she is anyway, our maid?

I know my mom is not the only one ever to feel like that, and I have been giving a lot of thought as to how I could do things differently with my kids. I've been asking around both online and in real life and here is the strategy I have come up with.

1. I am starting them out young. They've been responsible for picking up after themselves for a while, but at 5 and almost-4 I have begun to assign them chores that benefit the household. Cheyenne is my dishwasher and Bella is my dish dryer. Bella feeds the cats and Cheyenne is responsible for getting everyone's laundry from their hampers to the laundry room. Both girls help with the dusting. I specifically chose some chores that benefit the entire family, not just them because I want them to get the idea that we are all in this together.

2. I am taking the time to teach them. This is something I wish someone had done with me. My grandma tried, but she wasn't around often enough for it to stick. Cleaning, housekeeping and cooking are skills and kids need guidance. It takes a bit of work upfront, but hopefully it will pay off in the long run.

3. I'm letting go of perfectionism. There is nothing less motivating than making a real, honest effort at doing something new and being criticized for your imperfections. I'm trying to be encouraging.

4. I am not attaching a reward to helping out around the house. As a kid my allowance was based on whether or not I did my chores. As a lazy kid, I often decided I'd rather not clean and forgo the money. The carrot/stick approach was never all that successful with me. I think it would have been more productive to calmly and matter-of-factly let me know what was expected of me as a member of the family. It's worth a shot anyway.

5. Consistency. Consistency. Consistency. If I want this to stick I can't wimp out because I am having a tired day or a bad day. Sure, there are really bad days now and then when stuff won't get done, but overall I need to set the right tone and both demonstrate and expect a certain amount of consistency.

Inspired by this post from the Soulemama blog I made this chore board.

Each kid (including James because I hope to have this board for years to come) has a pocket with cards on it for their daily chores. When the chore is done it is taken from their pocket and put in the "done" pocket. It's like a to-do list, but more effective for my little kinesthetic learners. There is also a pocket for chores that can earn money. This is not in use at the moment, but when they are older I plan to let them earn extra money by doing extra chores, like cleaning out the fridge or changing the oil in the car. OK. Admittedly that last one is a few years off, but someday....

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Green Hour Digging in the dirt box and other ideas

My friend Martha called today to invite us to spend the afternoon at her place in her wonderfully huge backyard playing in the sandbox, or rather, in the dirtbox, as the sand won't be delivered until Saturday. There is nothing the girls like better than digging in dirt. It always amuses me to watch the seriousness and vigor Cheyenne applies to her task, as though she were working on a project and not merely moving dirt from one place to the other.

Isabella and Christopher are not quite as hardcore.

Cheyenne eventually took a break to look for pictures in the clouds with Daddy.

An proving once again that he understands the minds of small children better than I do, Zach spent a full half hour playing fetch with the kids and their plastic gardening tools. That would never in a million years occur to me, but the kids thought it was great fun and ran until they were absolutely worn out.

As Martha and I sat on the logs by the fire pit watching this madness we chatted about some other ideas for getting the kids outdoors to play, both this year and in the future. Some of my favourites:

-Hiding stuff in the sand and having an archeological dig. This was Martha's bit of brilliance. She used to be an archeology student.

-Getting some friends together for The Great American Backyard Campout. We'd have a bonfire, make some of those hobo pies (also known as pudgy pies), toast some marshmallows and sing some campfire songs. We're participating in this event by camping on our deck this year, as the event occurs right around my due date. I'll be keeping solidarity on the couch.

-Backyard ballistics. Martha has a book about this. Of course, this year the kiddos are too small for this, but hey, they grow up fast, and I know in our circle of friends we'd have no shortage of dad's interested in making a potato cannon or a trebuchet.

-Log rolling. Why not?

The Prize at the Bottom of the Cracker Jack Box

Or in this case, under my bathroom sink. Apparently for the first time since we moved in here a year ago, I decided to clean out under the sink in the master bathroom. It wasn't too scary, just some bags of hotel soaps and shampoos my mom saved from her travels, a few bottles of lotion and whatnot, but at the very back of the cabinet hidden in a corner I found this coaster. Isn't it pretty? The ring around the outside is silver and, obviously, needs to be cleaned, but I just love this little blue bird. It's such a cheerful little thing. I am keeping this at my desk to set my morning coffee on. It feels like my prize for being a good girl and cleaning my room.

Frugal Cooking/Family History Part 3 Biscuits

I haven't been able to track down my great-grandma's biscuit recipe yet, but we decided to do a little reenactment of family history without it. The girls donned their vintage aprons and I broke out a cookbook by one of my favourite children's book authors, Tasha Tudor. If I can't have great-grandma's recipe, Tasha Tudor at least evokes the sort of American history feel I was looking to create.

Biscuits turned out to be easier than I expected to make. They are a little messy, but totally worth it. The girls had fun rolling and cutting the dough. We talked about Grandma's stories of making biscuits with her grandmother every day after school and what life must have been like. I actually knew my great-grandmother, so I talked a little bit about my memories of her too.

One of Grandma's favourite memories was using the leftover dough to make "baby biscuits" that fit perfectly on the plates of the Victorian china tea set Grandma Jennie owned. Of course, we had to make some baby biscuits of our own.

Both "mommy biscuits" and "baby biscuits" were delicious served with a batch of sausage gravy. In the future I will try making a double or triple batch and freezing some.

Here's the recipe:

1 egg
1/2-3/4 c milk
2 c flour
4 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/3 c shortening

Preheat oven to 475 F and grease a cookie sheet.

Break egg into 1 c glass measuring cup. Mix with a fork. Add milk to the 3/4 c line and mix again.

In a large mixing bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt. Lightly mix in the shortening with your fingers. Stir in the milk mixture. Do not overwork the dough. On a floured surface, roll the dough to 1/2 inch thickness and cut with a biscuit cutter or a drinking glass. Place biscuits 1 inch apart on the cookie sheet and bake 10-12 minutes until nicely browned.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Spring Cleaning Part 1- A Mental Shift

Since nature seems to be doing a fair amount of spring cleaning this week (it's raining) I thought I'd get in on the act. I come from a family of neat freaks, in some cases bordering on obsessive compulsive. My grandma used to have her garage carpeted with white carpet. Yes, she parked the car in the garage and yes, the carpet was still spotless. While others in my family aren't quite so.....committed, many of them still manage to keep perfectly ordered, beautifully clean homes.

Sigh. I am definitely the black sheep of the family in this area. I don't really like cleaning most of the time, although I have gotten much better about making myself do it. For years I've sort of accepted that this is my personality. I told myself that I had better, more creative things to do, but I'm beginning to think I could use an attitude shift when it comes to housework and organization.

I really do love it when things are clean and organized. I love being able to find something because, surprise, it's in its place. I get a sense of peace when the house is in order and I find that my brain is clearer and more focused. I am a calmer, more reasonable wife and mother. My creative pursuits are enhanced because I can give them my full attention instead of feeling guilty for indulging in them. I find that Zach and the kids enjoy a clean house too. With the new baby coming, Cheyenne heading for Kindergarten and Bella heading for preschool this year organization and order will be even more important for holding back chaos in our day-today lives.

Every year I set a goal for my birthday in October. Sometimes it's something concrete, sometimes, like this year, it's more of a spiritual discipline. This year is The Year of Love and Joy. In the spirit of that goal I am attempting to look at housework as an act of love for my family and myself. I want to look at it the way I look at my cooking, baking, sewing and writing, as a way of making life richer and more beautiful. Instead of looking at it as a big, tedious to-do list, I want to see it as a way to carve out a sanctuary in this hectic world. It's a tall order, but I think I can do it.