I Need a Real Trash Can (on Simplifying My Life)

Snow Dunes

Maybe it is the snow. (And the snow, and the snow, and the snow.)

But I am feeling overwhelmed these days. So when Cheryl Smith started her mission to simplify, I was right there with her.

For the past two weeks I've been thinking about this issue of simplification, and I decided it comes down to simple things, like this: I need a real trash can. That little gray stripy thing on my Mac screen? Just not cutting it. I need a real canister I can throw real, unneeded, cluttery getting-me-down stuff into.

I need to throw away unsorted papers, empty pens, hair bands that have lost their elasticity.

You know what I mean, right? There is something greatly satisfying about transferring concrete objects from the counter to the can. Figuring out how to keep these things off the counter in the first place (and out of the sanitation system) is another matter.

But for now, I'm taking just 10 minutes a day to see the canister with the foot pedal as my friend. Maybe I will work up to the Indy 500 of Trash-Can Competitions. Though if you're going to challenge me to it, please make the entry form simple. :)


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Rustling Up Relationship

Tomato Soup

"to the women who rustled up a bit of hope each time they set the table"

— Deidra Riggs

Mealtimes are some of the loneliest moments these days— a reminder that our four-chair table is often only filled to three-quarter capacity. My husband's hours and rigorous travel schedule mean I often choose to sit in "Daddy's chair." Somehow it fills the emptiness just a little bit, to move from my regular place over to his.

I do this for the children's sake as much as for mine. And when it it possible, I invite someone else to fill my own place. Yesterday it was Dave Stradling, after he spoke at our church. The day before it was a young lady my girls have been making friends with.

The young lady made me smile when she dipped into the tomato soup I rustled up to provide lunch.

"Did you make this yourself?" she smiled softly.

"I did! How could you tell?"

"It's really good," she said, and went on to tell how her mom makes potato soup with shredded carrots and potatoes. I learned a new way to make potato soup in that moment. In our ensuing conversation, I learned something about the Mandarin language... that it has no formal words for "yes" and "no." (It works more like a dance, using mirror sentences to affirm or negate.) I also learned sweet little details of our guest's life.

In the end, I am trying to see the empty chair as an invitation— a chance to rustle up the hope of deeper and wider relationship that otherwise may not have been.

Quick "It's Really Good" Tomato Soup

Saute until light brown:

• 1/4 onion, chopped small

Add and saute for a few seconds:

• 1/8 tsp dried oregano
• 1/8 tsp dried basil

Add and simmer for 3-5 minutes:

• 1 28 oz. can organic Muir Glen tomato puree
• 1/2 - 1 cup water (based on desired consistency)
• 2 TB butter
• 1/2 tsp salt
• fresh ground pepper to taste
• 1 TB vermouth
• 1 tsp sugar (I like evaporated cane juice)

Over at TheHighCalling.org, we're reading The Spirit of Food. Join us? :)

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Let Them Use Knives

corn pancakes 3

Recently I was somewhere (can't remember) and another adult was about to hold back the privilege of letting my kids use a sharp knife.

"I think we're past that," I remarked.

And as you see, it's true.

Corn pancakes with black bean salad, fresh salsa, and sour cream— compliments of my 11- and 13-year-old daughters :)

corn pancakes 1

You can find the recipe in Williams Sonoma Vegetarian. Well, maybe not, since the only link I could find appears to be a different edition.

corn pancakes 2

Or you could just make cornmeal pancakes with...

1 1/4 cups flour (use whole wheat pastry flour, if you need a healthier version)
1/2 cup corn meal
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 TB fresh lime juice
1 1/2 cups milk
3 TB oil
2 eggs
fresh ground pepper

And add to the batter...

2 cups of corn
6 spring onions
1/4 cup (or to taste) jalapenos from a jar, or fresh
2 cloves garlic
1 red bell pepper

For the salsa (which you will grab 1/4 cup of later and add to two drained cans of black beans, along with 1/2 tsp cumin, olive oil, red wine vinegar and salt and pepper for the black bean salad), you can use:

1 1/2 cups diced tomatoes
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 jalapeno (from the jar, or fresh)
2 TB fresh lime juice
5 TB cilantro
salt and freshly ground pepper
olive oil (a few good pours)

And if you are up for an adventure, you could let your kids make the meal. Why not let them use knives? :)

In reading The Spirit of Food this weekend, I was struck by the final words of Karen Baldwin's essay. She says, "Stephen has a stirring memory (pun intended) of me cooking one day, entirely absorbed in my medium. All of my senses were engaged—the sight of food browning, the sound as its moisture content changed, the smelling, tasting, and touching of the food. This day he heard me muse quietly, unconsciously perhaps, yet oh so rightly, 'When I cook, it is worship.'"

Yes, then, why not let our children use knives...


We're reading The Spirit of Food together at TheHighCalling.org. Join us?

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