Saturday, January 27, 2018

Geeking out on organizing my bookshelves

My philosophy and commitment is to tiny living with low consumerism. Last month I wrote a piece about re-using what you already have to solve a problem, rather than running out to buy something new. The issue arose because I'd been gifted with a bunch of books, but living in a small apartment which I like to keep uncluttered, I'd run out of room and was unwilling to start making piles of books around. I looked at what I had and decided to use a CD tower I'd put outside for a plant stand, and bring it in and make an additional bookshelf. Problem solved.

That was the issue about the books in my Theology section of my lovely home library- too many for the bookcases. But half my books are secular.

I received a book about the early days of Winston Churchill I'm really looking forward to reading, and I bought this charming book from 1945 at the second hand store the other day. I had no room to put them on the shelves.

All my books are organized by topic or theme, including the secular ones. I have an Education section, Natural History, Reference, Novels, The American West, Medieval & Renaissance, and so on. My bookcases are all pretty well organized except for one, the one in the bedroom that I don't use a lot. This had become the catch-all, sadly. I also had not emptied and dusted it in quite some time. (OK, never). Every time I went into the bedroom I'd see it and my stomach would clench and the passing thought arose, "I really have to get to that."

Today was the day. I decided earlier in the week to make a fun project out of it and use the time not only to clean and organize but re-organize the topical sections that had slowly been split up as I carelessly tossed a book here or there.

Why is this important?

Because when you live tiny, everything has to have its place. Secondly, when you accumulate stuff, you have to know what you have, and you have to be able to put your hands on it when you need it. Those are basic Tenets of Organizing.

I have 5 bookcases in the living room, and two in the bedroom.

Below, Mythology, Poetry & Opera, Renaissance & Medieval. Some random Natural History and American West orphaned from the rest in the bedroom. This is untenable.

Below are theology books that could not fit in the main bookcase. And router and modem so I don't have to look at them. These are about church life, missionary biographies, discernment.

Main bookcase. It dominates the living room. Top shelf: Conchology, Art. The rest are theology: commentaries, devotionals, church history.

Below are a few theology books I can't fit into the other two bookshelves.

The bookcase in the kitchen next to my work table has my Bibles, the printer, pens and other office supplies, books I'm reading now, scanner, binders of notes from online classes, and pads of paper. It's all within reach so it makes for a very efficient work station.

Reference books. Big ones! This was the CD Tower/Plant Stand/Bookcase problem solved issue I mentioned up top.

So this afternoon I started with the top shelf and worked my way down.

I reunited the orphaned books and it feels so good. The basket on the middle shelf holds eye glasses and eyeglass cases, plus some hosiery that tends to get lost in the sock drawer. However, if I need the shelf space later I can always find new homes for those smaller items and put the basket in the garage until I need it again.

The books aren't so packed in that I can't even get one out. I threw away a few and made a pile of cookbooks and two others to take to school and give away or put on the swap shelf. A few things I put in the bin I have in the closet. The closet is for deep storage. When you live tiny, you want the available space maximized for things you need to touch more often. This calls for some decision-making, which is why I 'scheduled' it for this weekend instead of the evening after work.

Best of all:

The house is orderly. I've gone through my books so I've refreshed my mind of what I have. This is good if I need to reference something, or if a friend states a need and I can fill it by giving one away. Like, "I really want to read 'To Sir, With Love' but I can't find a copy." I can say, "Oh! I have one I can give you!" Also, the bookcase has been cleaned from top to bottom.

This blog post might seem unnecessarily detailed and/or mundane, but it's my part in attempting to promote the philosophies of tiny living/respecting and using what you have, and how to keep a home organized.

After I got done cleaning/organizing/re-shelving I took a nap. Of course.

Have a good weekend everyone!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Frugal cooking: When it doesn't work out

I'd mentioned that a friend gave me a huge bowl of veggies for Christmas/Birthday. Mostly they were root vegetables, which keep. I've used all of it except for two turnips. I'll make something out of them tomorrow.

I used the acorn squash last weekend. I'd looked up a recipe to use it in a different way than the usual 'cut in half-scoop out seeds, roast' kind of cooking.

So I cut it in half, scooped out the seeds, and then sliced it into crescents. THEN I roasted! LOL, kind of the same but different. I thought the slices would make a nice side dish of portions that would be easy to drop in my lunch bag each day.

I followed the recipe, but maybe I sliced the cuttings too thinly, because they came out sort of dry. Hmmm. What to do.

The other day when I was home on a snow day, I peeled the skin edges off and I was left with a mound of dry-ish squash slices. I decided to make a soup. I had some good chicken broth left so I put a sliced onion into the pot and cooked until it was translucent, added an already baked potato, cut up into cubes, and the squash. I simmered that at very low temp with some spices. I put half of it into the blender when it cooled, and left the other half to make a texture of smooth chunks. It was very good! Saved the squash, I'm brilliant!

I then promptly ruined it by adding some milk (as the recipe suggested). It just tasted funny to me, squash and milk. It wasn't good like a bisque or a chowder. It was just funny. So I saved my squash only to ruin it again. I'm an idiot! I should know when to quit while I'm ahead! LOL.

What will I do now that it didn't work out, twice? Why, eat it of course. No waste. I'll live, it only tastes a little bit funny. Maybe I'll add a melted bouillon cube broth to it to think the milkiness of it. Anyway, tomorrow I'm making lentil soup. Back to familiar ground.

I'd bought some tilapia and I baked it a few days ago. I had one slice left yesterday. Without being able to eat bread, I couldn't make a sandwich out of it like I enjoy doing, with cheese and a tomato. (mmm). Just a slab of fish meat doesn't really appeal to me all that much. I decided to use my last two mushrooms and the rest of a tomato and make a little salad with the fish, cut up. I added Italian dressing to it and a bit of salt, and voila, a chilled salad that was easy to prepare, tasty and healthy. I enjoyed it. I'll do that some more. Tilapia is usually low-cost and available at the grocery store.

I still love a fish sandwich though, one of my favorite lunches.

I'll make the lentil soup tomorrow, and I have some green beans and tofu that I'll make into a stir fry with rice noodles. I also have a good bit of fruit which includes fresh pineapple, and with the ripening bananas I'll make two-ingredient banana-oatmeal cookies.

After an unusually frigid period of temps in the low teens and wind chills in the single digits, we have a reprieve of temps in the 60s. It is going to be a nice day. I went outside at sunrise and took a few photos of my yard.

This is my favorite view. I LOVE this birdhouse.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Musing on moonlight

I live in a rural county where there are no street lights to speak of. When I go outside at night in my yard, I can see lots of stars. This is a nightly delight for me. The changing positions of the constellations, the different locations through the seasons of the planets, all combine to make the sky dynamic and ever-changing palette of a portrait of glory.

The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.

(Psalm 19:1-2).

The moon is a special pleasure. It pulls the major weight in making the night and morning sky dynamic. Its phases and nightly rising and setting are also captivating to observe. When there is a supermoon or a blue moon or a strawberry moon and such, I go outside and try to take photos. Well, I DO take photos, but what I try to do is take good photos. I don't have a tripod so the photos invariably turn out just OK or sometimes not very good at all.

Here are a few of my favorite moon photos-

Strawberry moon

Clearest shot I ever got. And I've tried many times over the years! At least
I have one, lol

Pink dawn & moonset behind chicken houses

When I was in my traveling period, one of the most wonderful experiences I'd had was attending the McDonald Observatory Star Party. McDonald Observatory is part of the University of Texas at Austin but 450 miles west of the campus, in West Texas at Fort Davis. Yes, it's remote. All of West Texas felt remote, a feeling helped by the fact that the landscape at times even looked like the moon!

At the Star Party, visitors enjoy night sky constellation tours and views of celestial objects through a number of telescopes, with scientists and astronomers standing by to explain what you're seeing. I was privileged to see Saturn and its rings through the observatory telescope!

There's something about moonlight that just tickles my fancy. As a kid I was entranced by it. Truth be told, as an adult I'm pretty fond of moonlight, still. When the moon shone in my window at night, I'd lay bathing in it and dream of fairies sliding down its beams. I'd bask in the delicate light washing me with exquisite daintiness. I was always amazed at how the moonlight appeared on my bed, washing my coverlets with elegant light so distinct from the glow of the sun. The moonlight was more austerely silver, sliding across my pillow and like quicksilver, drifting away no matter how hard I tried to hold it close to me.

David Bowie's song Let's Dance contained the phrase 'serious moonlight' which, given the ephemeral quality of moonlight is something that would be as far as serious as possible, but that's the joy of poetry - mind-bending juxtapositions.

Van Morrison's Moondance, with its verse

And all the night's magic seems to whisper and hush
And all the soft moonlight seems to shine in your blush

Seems more in keeping with the qualities of moonlight.

Now, here's a thoroughly drenched atmospheric beginning to a poem, The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes,

The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding—
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.

Oh my, 'ghostly galleon' is a turn of phrase I envy his mind to think up! And tossed upon cloudy seas brings to mind the exact photo above of the moon in its clouds. How wonderful are poets and writers!

Here is a classic poem by Lucy Maud Montgomery called Harbor Moonrise. I love its charming evocation of the harbor particularly with the mother-o'-pearl edging of the harbor of all the lights twinkling at night, like a woman with a lustrous necklace. The moon as the pilot ship of unknown seas, similar to Noyes' ghostly galleon upon cloudy seas. Ah, when language is used well, it's a joy.

Here is a page of classic poems about the moon

As the moon rises and sets in its course each night, look up. Remember the men who sailed there in their own rocket ships, not on wings of poetry but in metal tanks of gas and hope. They landed, walked, admired, and came home having truly bathed in the beams of the distant but close companion of earth. Each night we look at the wandering pilot ship of the skies, the eternal dance among stars and planets, celestial bodies which our God has made.

Harbor Moonrise by Lucy Maud Montgomery

There is never a wind to sing o'er the sea
On its dimpled bosom that holdeth in fee
Wealth of silver and magicry;
And the harbor is like to an ebon cup
With mother-o'-pearl to the lips lined up,
And brimmed with the wine of entranced delight,
Purple and rare, from the flagon of night.

Lo, in the east is a glamor and gleam,
Like waves that lap on the shores of dream,
Or voice their lure in a poet's theme!
And behind the curtseying fisher boats
The barge of the rising moon upfloats,
The pilot ship over unknown seas
Of treasure-laden cloud argosies.

Ere ever she drifts from the ocean's rim,
Out from the background of shadows dim,
Stealeth a boat o'er her golden rim;
Noiselessly, swiftly, it swayeth by
Into the bourne of enchanted sky,
Like a fairy shallop that seeks the strand
Of a far and uncharted fairyland.

Now, ere the sleeping winds may stir,
Send, O, my heart, a wish with her,
Like to a venturous mariner;
For who knoweth but that on an elfin sea
She may meet the bark that is sailing to thee,
And, winging thy message across the foam,
May hasten the hour when thy ship comes home?

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Overanalyzing my soup

Oh, happy weekend. What a restorative, wonderful thing a weekend is. Not that I had such a hard week at work. Half of it was at home due to the lengthy Christmas holiday break. Wednesday was a teacher work day, so we didn't even have kids. It was a quiet day working and preparing. Thursday and Friday the kids came back and we resumed our regular schedule, but not totally. We won't have reading groups until Monday and I wasn't doing any interventions my first hour. So, again, a slower day.

Even so, the resumption of work in an elementary school after a two week time off always hits me like a ton of bricks. Regular readers know that I value quiet time (look at the title of my blog, after all). I get easily overwhelmed and overstimulated with all the hubbub at school, so I restrict my sensory input while I'm at home in order to try and maintain a balance and to recover so I'm fit for public the next day.

This morning I arose at 5 am, because I'd gotten 7 hours of sleep and that is when my body wakes me up. I love the regularity with which my body stays on schedule. 7 hours on the dot. So I got up and started the coffee and did a little cooking and then took out the trash. By then the sun was just poking up over the horizon, and the sky was azure laced with pink.

The half moon was blazing brightly and starkly down upon a still earth. No traffic. No people. Peaceful. Just the ever present rooster crowing next door, the whisper of a light breeze stirring in the magnolia tree, and a few sleepy birds chirping hopefully.

Just the way I like it.

I made a black bean chili with onion, corn, and roasted red peppers. I added some rice I'd had left over. It will be topped at serving with sour cream and avocado slices, as the chili will thicken through the week.

I also popped some potatoes in my crockpot, and as mentioned I had cooked roasted red peppers, and roasted carrots, baked tilapia and salmon, and roasted carrots. Those are my meals for the week. I also have yogurt and fruit in the fridge for desserts and snacks.

It ended up being a huge pot of chili, but that's OK, I'll eat it for lunch every day. My style of cooking doesn't suit unless you don't mind eating the same thing every day. I like that. I know what I'll be having and I don't have to put any mental energy into deciding, preparing, or buying something.

Samantha Craft has an autistic son and is an autistic person herself - as she discovered later in her life. She wrote a book called Everyday Aspie, and it's getting good reviews. I read her blog (now retired since she wrote her book) and this checklist for Females with Aspergers is phenomenal. It helped me understand some things. Many, many things on this checklist are true for me. Not all, but many. This one especially resonated:
  1. Analyzes existence, the meaning of life, and everything, continually
I do analyze everything continually. I analyze the most efficient way to organize a schedule of tasks, and then whether to perform them clockwise or counterclockwise in the room. Say, making the bed, putting away the clothes, and so on. I analyze the most efficient way to make the meals for the week, which to do first, next, last, in what order and how big to cut things and so on. I do all this in my mind in two to three minutes. I do the same in the grocery store. If I forget an item I won't backtrack. I leave it. If it's a critical item for cooking I adjust my menu. I analyze where to put things in the car depending on how I plan to park it when I get home. Sometimes I edit a sentence three ways before saying it as I'm saying it. Whatever I do I analyze first. I expend significant amounts of mental energy analyzing, assessing, and deciding everything at every moment. It's not unconscious, but nearly so. My brain whirrs at high speed, all day. If I can suspend one decision by cooking something and sticking with it all week for lunch and not have to decide, all the better.

The 1981 movie The Four Seasons starred Alan Alda and Carol Burnett. I liked it back then. One of my favorite scenes is when the three couples are relaxing on a yacht, psychiatrist Alda breaks the peaceful mood by analyzing something aloud. They all throw shells at him and tell him to shut up, that he overanalyzes everything. Peace is restored, but only momentarily. Alda breaks the silence again, saying "But do you know why I analyze?" That's me.

I'm enjoying the book Run with the Horsemen by Ferrol Sams. The book blurb says Ferrol Sams was a physician, humorist, storyteller, and the bestselling author of eight novels rooted in the oral tradition of southern humor and folklore. He lived in Fayetteville GA. He is a good writer who brings the between-the-wars time period of red clay Georgia to life. One reviewer said Sams was like a modern day Mark Twain. I agree.

Also I'm liking a Philip Graham Ryken book called Art for God's Sake: A Call to Recover the Arts. Book blurb:
The creation sings to us with the visual beauty of God’s handiwork. But what of man-made art? Much of it is devoid of sacred beauty and is often rejected by Christians. Christian artists struggle to find acceptance within the church.
It's only 64 pages so I expect to finish it today after church. After that I have no idea which book I'll select next. There are so many I have to choose from!

I hope you all have a wonderful week. It is supposed to warm up finally later in the week. No more tens for overnight temps and highs in the mid to upper 60's Georgia comes through for my climate enjoyment again!

Here are a few photos to leave you with-

Winter in the back yard

Hot tea in Aynsley Louis XV bone china tea cup

Murray enjoying the fire