Tag: New Year’s Resolutions

December 2018 Wrap-Up

December 2018

The last month of the year has come and gone. December 2018 provided a chance to travel and see family. Additionally, I acquired the last of my six learned skills for 2018. Furthermore I successfully kept my 2018 New Year’s Resolution. All in all I am quite content with the outcome.

My focus this winter is quilting. Soon I will post about the baby quilt I am working on. The little guy is expected any day. I want the pattern to be a surprise and since my niece is a reader of this blog the arrival date is delaying the article. Then I will move on to quilting the one pieced for the baby due in June. I also have a larger quilt to work on.

We have been enjoying the fruits from last summer’s labor in the garden. A serious dent has been made in the supply of canned goods. A recent cold snap made trips to the grocery store dreaded and delayed. Ratatouille pressure canned (one of the six learned skills) last summer made a great meal from storage.

Reading List

The cold weather also provides opportunity for reading. My reading list continues to grow. In addition to books, I am busy reading recent issues of both The Smithsonian and National Geographic. Both are good publications even if I don’t always agree with the editorial view point.

Several works of non-fiction are on my list in addition to my favorite genres. The current economic book I am reading is interesting and perhaps a bit controversial. Everything for Everyone by Nathan Schneider in the early going presents a case for cooperatives. I will keep you posted.

Resolutions Kept

Perhaps the best thing about December 2018 is that the month was completed with a final skill. Some of my millennial readers will shake their heads and claim it doesn’t count. But I am counting the downloading of a share riding app, installing and using that same app at 2:00 A.M. at the end of a 22 hour travel day as a skill. No one coached me even via text. And the travel circumstances are incredibly hard to believe. I am now a convert of this type of transportation.

Of course a successful year of keeping resolutions makes me want to try for a repeat. The problem is not knowing what to work on. I need to improve in many areas. As I wrote in Econogal’s Tips to Keeping 2018 New Year’s Resolutions, specifics help. I am stuck on the specifics for what I would most like to improve. The desire to articulate is a priority. But just how can one measure improved communication specifically? I also would like to carry on with the goals from this year, but I don’t think any carry-over should count as new resolutions.

Happy New Year Everyone!

Learning New Skills

Green beans piled in front of a pressure cannerMy New Year’s resolutions for this year included learning six new skills. At my age, learning anything new can be tough. Both the body and the mind tend to prefer the status quo. But the benefits are great. New skills stimulate the brain cells in a positive way.

The raised row garden has provided one outlet for learning. Just establishing the garden took research. This compilation of new knowledge definitely made the brain waves dance. Constructing the rows took a lot of labor too.

Furthermore, maintaining the garden has generated a few new skills as well. I learned how to make organic bug killer when battling the flea beetles. For the first time I used an inoculant on my peas. Now I am about to add pressure canning to my list of skills.

I have been canning and preserving for years. But I have only used the water bath method or frozen the produce. To be truthful, I find the idea of pressure canning downright scary.

Water Bath Canning

Jams, jellies, salsas and pickles tend to be quite acidic and thus lend themselves to processing through the water bath method. Some of the items have natural acidity. Others are put up using an acidic ingredient which helps make the recipe safe. Some of my lower acid fruits have lemon added and the pickles and salsas recipes tend to have vinegar added.

My favorite canning book Small-Batch Preserving focuses on water bath method recipes. This type of canning utilizing highly acidic ingredients reminds me of my Pennsylvania Dutch ancestors. I seldom worry about spoiled food put up in this fashion.

New Skills- Canning Low Acidic Foods

However, low acid foods and recipes intimidate me. I worry about food poisoning, specifically botulism. So I am about to learn a new skill. I bought a pressure canner. Plus I have researched several websites such as the Wells Can and the Ball and Kerr sites. I also consulted Better Homes and Gardens Complete Canning Guide. Since visiting their test garden I wrote about in Destination Des Moines, I feel very motivated and slightly less nervous.

My raised row garden is yielding multitudes of green beans. So that will be the first vegetable I put up. Check back on the blog when I post the July 2018 Wrap-Up to see and hear about the results!

Cooking for Two

Root vegetables  in a cooking pan.
Just enough for Two!

Some individuals struggle with empty nest syndrome, others are ready to celebrate. I was closer to the latter, but that may be due to a schedule that included full-time work, studying for a Master’s degree in management and training for a marathon. Frankly, I did not have time to feel morose. My biggest struggle was suddenly cooking for two.

Our offspring seem like sets. The two oldest were born in the same year. Then the third did not arrive until the first two were about ready for school. The last was a few years behind the third. But the last two left home at the same time. This caused a big shift in cooking habits.

When we were six at home, we seldom had leftovers. The meals consisted of generous portions and necessity dictated quick to prepare recipes. Four kids meant a lot of activities. Each was allowed one sport and one non sport activity plus school and Sunday school. Of course there were guests around from time to time as well.

Empty Nester Cooking

The portions are now quite a bit smaller and even then we have leftovers. Sometimes we go for more complex recipes but I still like to keep it simple. One of the best parts of this empty nest cooking style is the impromptu aspect. Such was the case recently when I decided to prepare Roasted Root Vegetables for Two.

Even though we have had more than a handful of 100 degree days, we enjoyed a cool front (complete with 3/10 an inch of rain, Yahoo!) Since I harvested a rutabaga that morning which had survived the flea beetle attack along with beets, I decided roasting the vegetables would be a nice change. We added some store-bought potatoes and carrots. Garden onion and garlic were also utilized. I am including the recipe below.

The life style change has impacted our kitchen preparations. Pancakes are seldom on the menu and I do not recall when I last made goulash. Yet when the kids were at home both were weekly occurrences. Now, each weekday lunch is centered on a smoothie. No mac and cheese or other quick order meal for the high school kids on their lunch break.

Dinners have been the biggest change. I no longer plan out the meals a week in advance. In the summer, meals are decided last-minute based on what the garden has yielded that day. Favorite meals are homemade pizzas, cold soups, and grilled everything. The colder months feature crock pot meals or casseroles. Both yield lots of leftovers.

Solutions

There are some things one can do to offset the challenges of cooking for two. First is freezing. Often part of the meal is put in a freezer container. This relieves the boredom factor of eating the same thing for three or more days. Second is creating or finding recipes such as Roasted Root Vegetables for Two. This helps eliminate the overabundance of leftovers. But perhaps the best way is to share the meal.

Sharing a meal with other couples, neighbors or family members is no longer commonplace. However, I think as a society we need to revisit this custom. When the kids were little neighborhood gatherings were commonplace. Perhaps not every weekend but more than once a month. However, that no longer seems to be the case. Now the occurrences are once or twice a year.

Since one of my New Year’s Resolutions is to socialize more, I plan to host some gatherings once the outdoor building project is completed. In my case it has been easy to retreat once the kids left the nest. I enjoy being at home since I am a bit introverted. Entertaining takes time that could be spent on other activities. But I do think it is important to keep resolutions so neighborhood cook-outs are on the docket. Let me know how you adapt to cooking for two!

Roasted Root Vegetables for Two

1 rutabaga
2 beets
2 potatoes
1 onion
2 carrots or 1 cup baby carrots
1 TBS olive oil
4-6 garlic cloves
Salt to taste

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut vegetables into small chunks and spread out in baking pan. Drizzle olive oil over the vegetables. Stir every 15 minutes. After 30 minutes sprinkle the garlic cloves among the vegetables. Resume stirring every 15 minutes. Test for doneness at one hour by piercing rutabaga with fork. Salt to taste and serve. Note: If rutabaga not included cooking time may be reduced to 45 minutes.

Econogal’s Tips to Keeping 2018 New Year’s Resolutions

Resolutions are tough to maintain. Often the same ones are made each year and seldom last more than a month. Of all the resolutions I have made over time, only one has lasted years. In 2010, I gave up drinking colas. This particular resolution may not seem like much, but I drank cola the way others drink coffee. I think it is a Southern thing, some of my cousins also opt for a coke each morning.
In my case, I had two compelling reasons to keep this resolution. First, my insides were finally showing signs of no longer handling the ingredients. Second, and more persuasive, the carbonation gave me problems whenever I ran more than ten miles. Since I was training for the 2010 Marine Core Marathon, I regularly ran long distances. Thus, it is possible to conclude resolutions can be kept if there is a concrete goal and a reward for fulfilling the pledge.

Specifics Help

The more specific one is about the resolution, the more likely the goal can be attained. A popular New Year’s resolution is losing weight. People who are successful at this tend to have more specifics tied into the goal. For example a certain amount of weight, or an action plan such as giving up desserts or increasing the number of workouts. Those who are unsuccessful often try to go to an extreme. For instance, it is hard to transition from a couch potato to someone working out 8-10 hours a week. Furthermore, a radical change in exercise habits should be supervised by a health provider. Specifics help the most when they provide realistic goals.

Sharing Resolutions

While each individual will have distinct goals, sharing those goals leads to greater success. For example, if you want to increase the time you spend exercising, it helps to have a work out partner. Even verbally sharing goals with a friend or relative helps. Posting the list on the refrigerator or besides your computer is also beneficial. However, the best way to keep your resolutions is to make them meaningful.

Econogal’s 2018 Resolutions

1. Post a minimum of twice a week to Econogal. This is a very specific goal that I am sharing with all of you. The difficulty will be staying ahead on the book reviews. Not every book I read do I want to recommend.
2. Learn at least six new skills. This resolution ties into the goal of maintaining a healthy brain. My concern is not knowing in advance what skills I will learn. However, as you can read in my original post, keeping my brain cells as active as possible is of utmost importance to me. Six skills translates into one every other month. Since I have a new pressure canner which I need to learn how to use, I really only need to discover five skills.
3. Socialize more. I realize this is a strange resolution. But I have noticed I do not get out as much as I did when I had a house full of kids. I am a bit of a homebody with quite a few hobbies which tend to be solitary; gardening, quilting, reading and running. However, it is also important for brain health to interact with others. I am not sure how to make this a concrete goal so if you have any ideas please leave them in the comment section.

Good luck to all in creating and keeping resolutions for 2018! Feel free to share your goals.