Guess what I’m writing about over at Segullah today? Everybody’s favorite calling!
This is a repost of a post I did years ago, but it’s a story I think of every Ash Wednesday. And who doesn’t love a good Ash Wednesday story?
There is a low-point in everyone’s High School career and mine was Algebra 2 with Sister Evangeline. I went to High School at a convent despite being a life-long Mormon and about half of our teachers were nuns (who, I was disappointed to find out, did not wear habits–only skirts and very frumpy shoes.) Sister Evangeline was one of those people who had a perfectly mathematical mind and simply couldn’t understand that not everybody else had the same. She would explain a new mathematical concept the same way over and over again. If you didn’t get it, she would just give you the exact same explanation but in a meaner tone of voice.
Every day a few unlucky girls were chosen to put their homework problems up on the board. Not being the kind of person who believes in homework, I never did mine. Ever. Instead I would copy the homework of Carla who sat behind me. She was too sweet and softspoken to ever refuse, even though I could tell she hated to do it. But I figured that if Carla didn’t have the gumption to say no, then I would continue to copy. It never struck me that this was cheating (it’s only cheating if it’s a test, you know. And I never cheated on tests. I failed miserably every time and couldn’t have cared less); copying Carla’s work was merely a more expeditious way of getting things done.
Algebra was my first period class and one particular morning Sister Vange came in with a giant blob of dirt on her forehead. Nobody took any notice. Nobody said a word. I looked around the room; the other girls looked bored as ever. No one was snickering or pointing. What in the world was going on? How did Sister Vange get a huge smudge on her forehead at 8:00 in the morning and how could she not have noticed? Well, if nobody was paying it any attention, then I supposed I wouldn’t either.
On the way to my next class I noticed a classmate with a smudge of dirt on her forehead. Only it wasn’t just a blob, it was in the shape of a plus sign. Hmmmm. The plot continued to thicken. I finally pulled one of my Catholic friends aside. “What is going on?” I demanded. She gave me a bored look, “it’s Ash Wedensday, Dummy.”
Aha! That holiday I’d seen every year in my little square Hallmark datebook! That wasn’t mud on their foreheads, it was ashes! And it wasn’t a plus sign, it was a cross! I’m sure we had a special liturgy at school for Ash Wednesday, but like most everything about Catholicism, I never quite figured out the idea behind it.
We Mormons don’t observe the little religious holidays. Things like Epiphany and Palm Sunday just pass us right by. I guess they’re too “Catholic” or something. Or maybe the idea is that it shouldn’t take a special day to make us think of the Lord. I don’t know. But I had never come across someone observing Ash Wednesday before that day at school.
Every year on Ash Wednesday I think about Sister Evangeline, my inability to do math, and how much I enjoyed going to school at a convent despite the fact that I have never been, and have no desire to ever be, a Catholic.
So Happy Ash Wednesday, everyone, even though I still don’t know what it’s about!
We’re already on week six! How is it going for you? Are you playing along? Have you managed to buy a little something extra every time you go to the store?
This week we’ll be working on adding fruit to our pantries and freezers. I’d like you to get mostly canned. This shouldn’t be a problem: most everyone can stomach canned pineapple or mandarin oranges. I always have frozen fruit on hand too; it’s great for smoothies or muffins. Keep in mind, though, that we don’t have nearly as much room for frozen foods as we do for canned foods. You can store canned food just about anywhere: under beds, at the tops of closets, in the back of hard to reach shelves. So it makes more sense to have more canned goods on hand. Plus you don’t need to worry about losing power; you’re not at the mercy of your freezer if most of your fruit is in cans or jars.
Get 5-10 cans per person. For my family of eight that’s somewhere between 50-80 cans. Holy crap, that’s a lot of cans! Since I go to Costco every week I’ll just load up several 8-packs of fruits and call it good. Shall we consider olives to be fruit? I think technically they are. If your family is like mine, they can never get enough black olives so throw some of those in your shopping buggy too.
Remember, just get it done. Don’t put it off and don’t over-think it. Just buy extras whenever you go to the store!
P.S. I’ve put a box up on the sidebar to remind you of past items in case you missed a week. ——>
In case you haven’t noticed, Tuesday is working out better for me for posting new items. So wrap your mind about checking in on Tuesdays. Remember, this is supposed to be easy and do-able. Just buy as much of these items as you can afford/have room for each week. No comparison shopping or waiting for a trip to Costco. Just get it done!
This week we’ll be buying rice. 3-5 lbs per person is a beginning amount. I recommend putting smaller bags in a larger ziplock bag to keep out the weevils. They love rice! If you ended up getting a giant 25 lb bag, then that’s obviously not a possibility. Just pray for no weevils!
Did you know that the shorter grain of rice you get, the stickier it is? Long grain is nice and fluffy and is great plain or in pilaf. It’s the traditional kind of rice that Americans prefer. Medium grain is the kind of sticky rice you find at Chinese restaurants (it’s my favorite!). Short grain rice is the stickiest and is perfect for things like sushi.
Feel free to get brown rice too, if that’s something your family likes. We buy Texmati as well as medium grain. I’m going to throw some quinoa in my cart this week too.
I have a real love-hate relationship with cleaning ladies. On one hand I love them because who wants to clean their own house? (Hint: not me.) On the other hand, it’s expensive and what kind of lazy bones can’t clean her own house? What am I so busy doing that I can’t scrub it myself? Or make my minions do it? (Oh yes, I’m being a mom to six kids and a Relief Society President). Sometimes we’re too broke to have a cleaning lady. Sometimes we’re desperate enough to pony up the money. Lately it’s been the latter. Also, I’m the only person in my neighborhood who cleans her own house. Seriously! But then I watch Downton Abbey and they don’t even do their own hair, let alone scrub their own toilets. So then I feel totally cool with it.
Mister is not a big fan of my lackadaisical housekeeping skills. I’ll scrub toilets til the cows come home–there is nothing grosser to me than a stinky, dirty toilet. Even if I’m about to throw up I’ll be madly scrubbing the toilet first. But my floor mopping schedule is a little more–how shall I put it–elastic. So Mister finally insisted that I find someone to come in every week or two to do the dirty work.
In the past we’ve always managed to have really sexy cleaning ladies. They always come in sweats, though, not in French Maid outfits. Although one time our Russian maid, Tanya, came dressed in teeny tiny hot pants and high heels. It looked like she was going to go dancing afterwards, but those Russians–they can dress oddly at times. On that particular day I walked into the bathroom while Tanya was bent over scrubbing the tub and wow! Did I ever get an eyeful. I can now say with absolute assurity that that woman did not have an ounce of cellulite anywhere. It’s probably a good thing that Mister wasn’t working from home.
We had Flavia after that. She was a Brazilian girl with a rocking bod. She’d wear skin tight cropped tank tops and sweatpants rolled down to just under her pelvic bone. Flavia always wore her thick wavy hair cascading down her golden brown shoulders. It was almost waist-length and she never wore it in a ponytail. I can’t imagine that it was very convenient but it looked really pretty while she was wiping off my appliances. She was a real butter-face, though. You know, everything is fantastic but her face. She was as sweet as sugar and loved babies which I had about a million of at the time.
This week I finally got around to finding a new cleaning lady. Carmen came highly recommended by one of my friends. And she also sounded pretty cheap. Definitely a bonus. Carmen speaks Spanish and that’s all. She didn’t even know the English word for broom or mop–definitely a handicap in her profession, I would think.
The way our cleaning ladies have always worked is that they charge by the house, not by the hour. So cleaning my house is always X dollars, whether it takes them two hours or five hours. Their first visit always lasts a little bit longer since they have to do everything. They won’t be dusting the blinds and cleaning the baseboards every time, but they start out the first visit by getting everything done.
So Carmen (who is not even slightly sexy) came over on Wednesday morning right after my kids left for school. After pantomiming a list of what supplies she needed I scurried off to fill her order. It took three tries of bringing back the wrong item before I figured out she needed a step ladder. All those years of French have really come in handy. Not.
I let Carmen get to business while I spent most of the day planning my trip to Europe in a couple of months. Hmmm, I guess I’m more of a spoiled American than I thought. After three hours Carmen was still in my room. Slightly humiliating, I guess. My room was apparently dirtier than I thought.
It got worse. I told Carmen only to vacuum the kids’ rooms. Their dressers are piled with all sorts of random kid crap and some of their beds weren’t made. But of course she made everyone’s beds, straightened everything up, dusted and vacuumed. I half expected her to leave their towels folded into origami animals like when you go on a cruise. The lady didn’t even take a break and was still at it when Mister got home from work.
All in all Carmen was there for eight hours. Eight hours. She did a great job but compared to our regular cleaning lady (me and/or my slovenly children), it didn’t matter much. I’m not that picky. As long as I’m not the one doing the cleaning, I’m happy. I got over my shame of hiring a cleaning lady right quick. Now I just need to figure out how to say “mildew” in Spanish.
I’ll be buying this outfit for Carmen, of course.
Our item this week is vegetables (canned and frozen). This is where a lot of your vitamins and minerals will be coming from so stock up as much as you can.
A lot of young children may not care for veggies by themselves, but remember that canned tomatoes make great salsa and pasta sauce, canned carrots or peas, although mushy and gross on their own, taste fine in a casserole or pot pie and nearly everyone likes corn with a big dollop of butter. Think outside the box too; we eat a ton of green chiles in various dishes, so I’ll be sure to buy a bunch of those.
A few people have asked me if it’s OK to buy all frozen veggies because canned don’t taste as good. I generally prefer frozen but it’s incredibly important to have a shelf-stable supply of vegetables. You know how easy it is for the power to go out? Just imagine what’s going to happen to all those frozen veggies if the power stays out for more than a couple of days. Goodbye freezer!
Buy at least five cans of vegetables per person (I’ll leave quantities of frozen items up to you. It really depends on how much room you’ve got in your freezer). For my family of eight people, that’s at least 40 cans. It’s going to seem like a whole bunch when you load up your cart, but it really isn’t that many.
Our food storage item this week is the bean.
In case you are thinking “what the heck do I want a bunch of beans for? I never eat them!” then I have just the thing for you. I got this great book on amazon. All you ever wanted to know about beans, featuring some yummy recipes. All for about $20. It’s no good having a bunch of stuff that you don’t know how to cook in your food storage.
You ought to get a mixture of dried and canned beans. Get a variety or just stick with the kinds you always eat. This is a great excuse to try some varieties that you’ve never used before. For today let’s consider lentils to be beans too, even though they’re technically legumes. Maybe get some chickpeas to try your hand at homemade hummus (ridiculously easy! But you need a can of tahini for that as well.)
Get one bag of dried beans or three cans per person (or a combination of the two) in your family
Is it just me or is everybody pregnant? Wait, that makes it sound like I’m pregnant. I am NOT pregnant. My eggs are shriveled and dried up. But everyone else, it seems, is very fertile. (If you are struggling with infertility, I’m really sorry. You are probably very aware that everyone but you is pregnant. Sucks.) But I was thinking back to the stone age (mid-90′s) when I had my first baby. That baby is about to jump ship and go to college. We actually can’t talk about that because I still feel like she’s still about eight years old and why the heck is she leaving already? Also, I was just in college about fifteen seconds ago myself. I swear!
But I remember when I was pregnant and working at this super ritzy photo studio (how ritzy? An 8×10 was $400. Gag.) and one of my coworkers, a mother of two,* said to me, “don’t worry if you don’t love your baby right away.” I thought this was probably the most bizarre and uneccesary thing I’d ever heard. Hadn’t I been watching A Baby Story non-stop for months? Everyone on the show always said how they fell in love with their baby the second she was born. I shook my head and thought my coworker was key-raaazy.
Fast forward a couple of months and here I am with this newborn and although I feel a fierce protective instinct, I can’t exactly say that I love this little bundle of joy. All I really feel is tired and my boobs hurt soooo much. I started to feel like I’m one step away from Charles Manson. Or at least a crack whore. Who doesn’t love their baby? There must be something wrong with me. But I remembered those words from my coworker. And I felt peace. Like maybe I wasn’t crazy after all. Maybe there have been other mothers who were a little slow on the love-uptake.
And when my sister-in-law volunteered to watch baby India overnight (thank goodness for breast pumps!) when she was merely six weeks old (India, not my sister-in-law), I jumped at the chance to stay at a hotel with Mister. And you know what? I missed that baby. And, dare I say it, I actually felt love. You know how the grinch’s heart cracks open and starts growing? That’s exactly how it felt. And within a few weeks I loved that wee little lass like crazycakes.
I ended up loving my baby and loving being a mom so much that I could not wait to have another one. I started trying for my next baby (and got pregnant right away) when India was only seven months old.
So the moral of the story is 1) it’s OK if you don’t love your baby right away. You will eventually. Cross my heart. And 2) sometimes you really do get good advice when you’re pregnant.
Have you gotten any really good or really horrible advice when you were pregnant?
P.S. Yep, that’s a photo of me and India on the day she was blessed (christened). Appearances to the contrary, I wasn’t 15 years old. I was actually 24. And isn’t it about time for vests to make a comeback?
*Sadly, my coworker was murdered a couple of months later when she went home for a lunch break. We all suspected who did it but he never went to trial. Crazy, huh?
Hey everyone! How did it go with the peanut butter? (If you don’t know what I’m talking about you can read my original post here.) Here we go with this week’s assignment!
Fat is your friend.
At least in cooking it is. It’s pretty hard to cook without using oil, butter or shortening. Those are one of the Big Four must-have items in anyone’s food storage. No matter whether you are trying to stockpile for a year or are just hoping to get a couple of week’s worth of food, you need fat.
This week we’re going to concentrate on oil and shortening. Get whatever oil you prefer. Make sure you don’t get just olive, though, because that tastes awful in baked goods. I like to split my oil up between olive (my preference for cooking), coconut and peanut.
Also get some shortening. I rarely use shortening because, well, it doesn’t taste that great (although it does add volume and a nice texture to some baked goods when it’s combined with butter. Like in snickerdoodles. My recipe here is excellent.) But it’s very smart to have on hand as a substitute for butter. It stays good for over a year, whereas butter must refrigerated and it lasts for only a couple of months.
The problem with all items that are high in fat is that fat becomes rancid with 18 months. Sometimes earlier. So nuts, chocolate, oil, peanut butter and anything else that’s fatty will need to be rotated regularly. Fortunately these are the best-tasting items so using them up is not a big problem. We just need to be aware.
I recommend half a botttle of oil per person, and half a can of shortening per person. So if you’ve got four people in your family, you’ll get two bottles of oil and two cans of shortening. If you have enough room in your freezer I’d recommend getting some extra butter, too. It freezes beautifully.
Remember to Get it done! It’s not about looking for deals or comparison shopping; It’s about buying a few extra items every time you go to the grocery store.
You know how I finally figured out that listening to an audiobook is the key to painlessly getting your yucky chores done? I know. I can’t believe it took me so long to get this through my skull. I normally prefer reading an actual book (I’m a visual person) but there is nothing like being read to to make the hours fly by (thank goodness for Harry Potter and Jim Dale or we would have killed each other on The Confederate Car Trip last summer). All that cleaning and organizing I talked about yesterday? I owe it all to Augustus McCrae.
Yesterday as I was organizing my shoes I finally finished Lonesome Dove on audiobook. You guys. There are no words. My poor heart. You just have to read this book. Or better still, listen to it. I know it was made into a miniseries a couple of decades ago but there is so much going on inside the characters heads that it seems a pity to only see the screen version. Lee Horseley (who used to be on this TV show called Matt Houston back in the day) is an excellent narrator. He does such an outstanding job giving the dozens of characters a voice.
This book had me gasping, it had me crying, it had me sitting perched on the edge of my bed holding a paper towel and a bottle of Windex for half an hour because I was so into it that I could barely move. I thought Lonesome Dove was just some cheesy Western and I was in the mood for something like that when I started. This ain’t no Louis L’Amour. I mean, it won the Pulitzer Prize for pete’s sake! This book features some of the best characters of all time.
The book is 900 pages and the audiobook is 36 hours. Quite an investment of time. And honestly, the story starts off a little slowly. But I’m temped to start the audiobook all over again now that I understand the characters. It would mean so much more this time.
Lonesome Dove definitely earns it’s place into my top 10 books of all time.