In My Dreams

 I’m glad you made it here to my old blog… I’m late to admit it hasn’t been updated in years – because I started posting at eBlogger.

I still have the ‘dirt road dream’ though, so…please continue to my other site to find me pursuing a path toward making my farm dreams real, at:

I hope to see you there!



Artful Purpose

Now that I’ve started at the end, lets go back to the beginning!

What I mean is, it’s helpful to organize when you’re restructuring your life.

I started with the dream of a pantry, then moved to a new state that required a new lifestyle, then got hit by the empty nest syndrome… which came with it’s mandate to reinvent myself! We all have our reasons to restructure and reorganize. But it’s helpful, and fun, to see what others have done/are doing, so I’ll share some of my strategies beyond just menu planning.

Toward Pantry planning, I started with a box of recipes that I had to paw thru to find anything (somewhere in this pile was that quiche recipe, right?) Needing accessiblity, I decided to organize them into a binder. It’s been a year-long process, but I’ve only worked on it on gray days because opening the project is like opening a present each time and makes the day brighter!

I started with re-organizing the pile into piles of sub-topics (breads, vegetables, sauces, salads…). Then I went online to find pictures that I thought were beautiful and appropriate for food-related titles. And I picked a font & colors to use that matched the tone of the illustrations (like those of Linda Paul).

I don’t just have recipes anymore, I call it my Pantry Book– that gives me the feeling I’ve actually created something Big and Authentic – and worthy of passing down.

Here’s a PDF of the inside layout via the table of contents  – so you can see how I arranged the recipes and how I added all kinds of our life-needs into this one project, making it a complete resource for myself & something I enjoy referring to.

Table of Contents recipe keeping organization

In this binder I have information, and lists, costs and other useful things – everything with it’s pretty Title page of course, organized like chapters in a book.

The Larder Inventory“ (section or chapter) is not just a food list-  pages on differences of different oils, salts, beans, rices, etc… for someday when I have a harvest and have learned to can food in jars. Things I would like to make in BULK so that it’s as available as opening a store-bought bottle. Things like these:

  • Blackberry reduction sauce (for lamb, beef, duck)
  • Juniper-pepper beef reduction sauce (for venison, elk)
  • Bottled Hell and other hot-sauces

The Hard Times Café “ is a resource on frugality and other basic survival topics. What to do if. It’s how to cook outdoors, and whatever else you would need to store for emergencies from batteries to the Canned Goods List, to where to get and how much for a hand-crank pump for the water well, to homemade household cleaners, bug repellants, and medicinals.

So, first collecting things which either inspire, enrich, inform, to secure my life in some way,  then organizing it all, then making it pretty!

Regarding the Business chapter- it’s basically a Creative Project File with some foody goodies;  a running list of projects for gifting when the opportunity presents itself.

It includes detailed planning pages for artistic endeavors, timelines to complete, pictures, clippings and other resources, materials & supplies lists, and vendor phone numbers). So far it works best to start gathering materials for the project ideas all year long, assembling them in the month prior to a new quarter so that I can finish one aspect of the project each week with a deadline.

We survive on the income produced by our service business, that has been successful from the outset largely because of ‘word of mouth’ referrals, and our town is small enough that we might run into a client of ours when we’re out, so every little thing can count. So when, for instance, our drive-thru bank sends back a few dog biscuits with the deposit receipt (which they do when they see the dogs in the car), they get a goodie bag in return.

Because of this popular practice in our town (dog biscuit treats), I began to create a giveaway gift bag / treat either during the Christmas season or at the end of January just for ‘winter’ cheer (because winter seems to drag on and on). The intention is to enhance business relations, and is somewhat specific on what clientele is intended –because we have well over 2,000 clients – I can’t make that many cookies!  For that reason, certain projects might be more geared to our vendors, our business clients – or maybe just our seniors or to those who have made referrals… or just to anyone we run into & do business with until the supply runs out (I always attach a business card and a tiny bell to the packaging). The point really, is simply cheer and sharing.

It might be a selection of little clay ornaments (made to hang on a tree, door handle or rearview mirror), or several large pieces of assorted gourmet nut brittle… always something unique, as this tourist town has a plethora of gourmet shops, and most of us tend to be kind of spoiled.

I’d like to expand this to every quarter- every season – because sometimes we don’t have a season to ‘celebrate’ as much as one to commiserate – like a real good ‘mud season’!

Next time around we’ll go over Seasonal Menu Plans!



2011 Resolutions

I’ve made 3 resolutions for the year:

1) follow my dreams and do everything in my power to bring them closer to reality

2) no despair allowed

3) organize and restructure: my day (my life, myself), my home (my corner of the world/environment)

-toward resolution #1:

a) In order to focus, there must be minimal distraction and minimal amount of time spent on mundane chores (housecleaning, searching for things, getting stressed over finances, etc.)  I want what I do in a day elevated to smooth running efficiency, and pursuits worthy of my time, to bring elegance in aesthetic appeal and practicality. That means getting rid  inefficiencies in my routines. STREAMLINING – which is the purpose of resolution #3.

b) I have actual goal steps to follow which are flexible since one things leads to another… There are many avenues to that end point, so if plan A doesn’t pan out, then on to plan B, or even plan C. I’m flexible! Be flexible and everything is much easier to handle.

-toward resolution #2:

a) I bought a pair of rose-colored sunglasses. I can see them even when not using them. I use the color pink/rose on things I do everyday (like graphics and font color, even bullets on lists) to elevate my mood when I’m at my desk (I work 9am to 7pm at a desk job, but it’s a home-office).

little mood elevators

b) Also, if I stay focused on the task at hand, and have many tasks, then I don’t have time to dwell on the “what if’s” that can become overwhelming. Of course, I have no power over what happens to the economy or things in nature, so it does little good to despair, worry, or fear, the future. I can only control my own little corner (to the extent it’s possible). It starts with my attitude, and THAT is my intent.

-toward resolution #3:

a) I’m redesigning everything – from the landscape to meal planning, to my personal wardrobe.

It’s a tall order, but I’ve discovered the best strategy to move in the direction(s) I want to go.

I follow a structure for myself that took a year to develop, that I call my personal “BootyCamp”. It has expanded to include much more than just improvements to my self image and fitness level. Every aspect of my life and the things I am in charge of … Oh yeah, there’s LOTS of “etc.”

b) I like to organize the way I live — kind of circular, by the seasons, or in a more literal sense,  in Quarters. I like to do my planning in segments of 3 months at a time- a season.

However, I use a system called “12 Folders” which breaks the year down into monthly segments.

I haven’t yet discovered how to combine the concept of  Monthly and Quarterly yet- so I’m sticking to the shorter monthly agendas.

Each month covers a specific topic or aspect of my life/life that could use better focus, and creates less stress in the Overwhelming Dept.

It’s always got to be attractive to look at too.

I’ll share this later.

I’m already pretty organized and follow loosely structured days with a very flexible routine that I can tweak to my liking, but I want my time better spent for better results, more toward certain outcomes.

First, I’ll share my CURRENT systems.

Long ago I implemented something called the Home Management Binder. Lots of women employ this tactic and are efficiently using them along with their blackberry and a wall calendar and electonic/digital calendar, to track the kids Dr. appt’s., post their menu plans for the week, keep track of important papers and track stuff they have to do on a deadline (like pay bills).

I use several Binders for record-keeping and chore outlines and use the Outlook calendar (with alarms when nec.), and on Sunday I create a daily page on the PC desktop of the weekly to-do list. (The list is full on Monday and I cross things off as the week goes on).  I try to do menu planning for the quarter (shopping bi-weekly), and use the 12 Folders I spoke of (I PROMISE, more on that later).

I also whip up an all-inclusive Annual Agenda for myself for New Years, so I can see the BIG PICTURE, and what all my little goals and tasks are for.

I love lists, but for practical purposes, not so much- they serve better as an outline for an overall picture before creating necessary STEPS to implement them.

Yeah, it’s a lot! But it’s useful, it’s worked for me- and I enjoy it because I add graphics, special fonts and colors (like pink pearlized bullets).

THIS time around tweaks are required to amp it up. I’m almost 50 and I’m running out of time, and steam, right?

I love my home management binders’ usefulness. Everything related to the house in one place.

The Managing Paradise binder – here’s a summary of it’s content:

1) Vendors we use and their Business Cards- plus notes where useful. The Chimney sweep we last used, the Septic company, Gravel delivery, Firewood suppliers, auto Mechanics, etc. Every vendor has come by referral– I get 2 or 3 referrals, so no cold calling. (Your business reputation precedes you in this town- and word of mouth will make, or break you!)

2) A home-maintenance  Master Chore List (chores by need and season – seasonal/annual, bi-annual, monthly, etc.)

This is loosely followed, as finances have been too tight to follow as diligently as recommended for some items. Currently, I need to sand and refinish our 8’ wooden front door… but that’s on account of laziness. Anyway, you get the gist of it.

Here is the cover (clear sleeve cover so I can insert a page/decorate the front and spine):

(This is part of the view from our living room couch).

Another view from the couch:

Sometimes there are up to 5 Eagles in the tree- one swoops down and lands, a little bickering and another one takes flight. It’s breathtaking. But only one sleeps in it overnights for months on end every year.

Anyway, back to the subject at hand…

No wait, one more!

Ok, that’s out of my system. Sorry to digress, sometimes I really can’t help myself!

I love binders! ….hmm….I could change out the cover picture with the seasons! Yes, I really like that idea- it could in fact even make the 12 Folders obsolete? I’ll have to think about that.

Anyway,  like a photo album of sorts, I can really keep track of things in a binder.

I had a Binder dedicated to tracking every issue of concern with my horse, Cherihuka – The cover is the painting I did of him (for his previous owner) which shows both profiles of his face, because he was a paint and had two blue eyes. [It’s my AVATAR pic.]

The  painting contains a bright blue feather I found hanging from his mane to balance the blue of his eyes.

The binder all the feed suppliers, farriers, vets I (used and recommended), medication records and schedules feed and tack receipts, costs, the horse trainers, riding instructors, and tack suppliers (recommended and used). A segment on round-pen games to play with the horse, and horse training guides, and a segment on how to take the best care of him, like natural fly wipe recipes, notes about hay nutritional values, signs to watch for illness, info on worming, trimming his feet, etc. A few photo pages of him with different bridles and a journal of notes to follow progress on our relationship. It’s FULL.

I have a length of his mane which I had to cut out after a winter of it twisting up and entwining with ice… and another strand braided… he had a beautiful long black mane and tail when I released him back to his previous owner after 2 years.

Receiving him had been such a dream come true, and in letting him go back to his herd, I felt such defeat, much loss, and I missed his handsome face and beautiful eyes! I finally went out to tear down his corral. I found a tiny birds’ nest on the ground that was bound together with long strands of his mane. Then winter came and went, and I was out there one day just testing my senses, to see how it felt to walk through the empty space. And I spied a teeny tiny nest on the ground. Yes, another one with long strands of his hair. Such a bittersweet gift!

Bird nest collection – the tiny ones on top contains his hair:

You’ll can barely make out a couple of egg-shaped rocks. I to collect rocks too, but I’ll deny it if you ask again, lol.

Back on topic, I keep a Finance binder – it’s the thickest one and currently falling apart from being overstuffed. The cover says “Finances” and touts an oversized $1 bill that gradually becomes a $50. on the other end of it. (It came in the mail as a coupon prompt.) Easy to recognize, no reading necessary!

It stores the bills, receipts, account and policy details, notice of changes, and agreement ‘small print’, statements, of all our obligations for the past 5 years. Way too much. It’s time to go through and clean it out- but remember, keeping some records is essential in tracking things. Sometimes you want to know how much you’ve paid for a utility over time (a one page list of annual totals would do the trick, right?) Sometimes you want to know how much something has increased over time, like insurance policies. So just tossing out-dated material isn’t the best strategy for organization.

If you’re good a Excel you could track things that way- but I’m not (nor do I especially want to learn that). I use tables in Word when I want to track something. For instance, I’ve got a 3-month table that tracks our meat purchases, to become enlightened about how much we actually spend on meat over time (3 mos.x 4 would be an annual average), and what kinds. I expect that information to inform me on the value of buying meat in bulk, like “1/2 a cow” kinds of things- and whether a special freezer would be a good investment. You know, someday.

I have a Recipe binder now, divided into sections with pretty fonts, colors, graphics (art from the web).

It includes  menu plans divided by season (3 months each season).   I’m still working on improvements toward frugality and better nutrition, using more homemade items (like salad dressings), and using dried beans more often, etc.

That’s enough for now though, don’t you think?

 Share a link to your New Year ideals!