Tuesday, January 25, 2011
I read that the phrase 'to be at sixes and sevens' is an old English phrase, and relatively unknown in the US. Mebbe so. I certainly heard my elders use it when I was a kid, and no one in our family was a British import. (At least, not within known generations.)
Today I've been at sixes and sevens. Everything seems to be jumbled and confused and in disarray. I made a dozen false starts to work on some things and abandoned every one, sometimes only minutes into the job.
And in another few minutes, I'm packing it in. I don't like wishing time away, but I'm glad to see the back of this day, and I fervently hope tomorrow is a better one.
It did occur to me that Minnie Paws might be at fault. I thought I was past that, being 58 'n' all, but...
Monday, January 24, 2011
Names have been omitted to protect the innocent - you know who you are...
The other day one of my fellow Sparklers wrote a blog about her struggle with temptation and a craving that just would not be laid to rest. Ultimately, she got out a brownie mix, baked them, then ate several of them.
One of the comments I made was that she might want to try not keeping any of the 'goodie' mixes around. That wasn't really feasible for her household. I then suggested she buy ones she doesn't like but that she can quickly make up if family members or guests are around and want a treat. She likes most baked desserts, so that wasn't very workable either. Hence, her yielding to temptation.
This blog is not about that. I told you that story to tell you this one.
Today I cleaned out a kitchen cupboard. (Bear with me, there's a point.) (Eventually.) It's a sort of 'pantry' cupboard where I keep foodstores I seldom use but like to have on hand. Although there are cake mixes in the UK, they are few and far between. The only American imports tend to be a brand that, ah, I didn't used to buy. No product plug intended here, but I prefer Duncan Hines mixes. My mother always bought them, and after I left home and tried some of the other national brands, I always returned to DH. Duncan Hines is not the brand sold here in England.
On international flights you are allowed by the airlines to take two large suitcases (per person) for the hold, and one carryon plus handbag in the cabin. My habit is to use one large suitcase for my clothes and the other for gifts: I have a friend who grew up in England and she pleads for some of the bottled Indian curry sauces. Another friend likes 'Allsorts' (a licorice kind of candy that does nothing for me, lol) so a couple bags of those go along. My children want some of the British 'goodies' so I pack them. And depending on the time of year, birthday or Christmas presents, advent calendars, Easter eggs - you get the idea.
This leaves me with one full suitcase and one empty one to come home. The empty one? Oh, it's filled to the brim with stuff I-gotta-have. A peek inside:
--two cans of Libby's plain pumpkin
--two bottles of Hershey's syrup, one lite, one 'extra dark'
--Jif peanut butter (Extra Crunchy!)
--boxes and boxes of Jello SF-FF instant pudding, every flavor
--boxes of Jello SF gelatin, every flavor
--two new pairs of Hush Puppies
--Levi's, two pairs for Himself, two for me
--Penney's underwear (well, what can I say?)
Again, you get the idea.
I also used to bring back about a half-dozen DH cake mixes, a few brownie mixes, and several Jiffy biscuit mixes. (Boy, you really give yourself away when you disclose the contents of a kitchen cupboard, doncha, lol...) I haven't made any of these in a long time, so I haven't been bringing any back with me for the last couple of trips because I knew I still had some.
Anyhow, today on the Organizing Life forums I read something about cleaning out kitchen cupboards. The 'American foods' cupboard is high up and difficult to reach, requiring a stepladder, and when things aren't right in my face all the time I can forget about them. I thought, I really could use the space up there for some of the large use-them-twice-a-year pans and such. Why don't I get that cleaned out? I'm not even sure what all is in there.
What was in there, among other things:
--two boxes of DH Strawberry Supreme cake mix
--two boxes of DH Spice cake mix
--one box of DH Lemon Supreme cake mix
--one box of DH Butter Golden cake mix
--one box of DH Classic White cake mix
--one box of DH Orange Supreme cake mix
--two boxes of DH Wild Maine Blueberry muffin mix
--one box of DH Caramel Turtle brownie mix
--one box of DH Chocolate Marble Swirl brownie mix
--two boxes of DH Chewy Fudge brownie mix
--one box of Jiffy Apple Cinnamon muffin mix
--two boxes of Jiffy Buttermilk Biscuit mix
--two boxes of Jiffy Corn Muffin mix
...plus about half a large canister of Jiffy's baking mix, and a few odds and ends of assorted stuff. Two noteworthy items were Reese's peanut-butter-chips, which were one solid lump in the bag, and an equally-solid bag of Heath's Bits o'Brickle pieces.
Wasteful? Oh, totally. Did I NEED to throw it out? Considering the 'youngest' item in there by expiration date died as of March 2007 - yes, I needed to.
Was I tempted to bake or eat any of them? Well... you know, it crossed my mind. Of course. But I remember having a semi-rancid mix years ago, so I know they WILL go off, especially if they're not entirely 'dry' and have any fat at all in them, as some of the cake mixes and biscuit / baking mixes do. So when I thought about that, the desire sort of went away. Added to the reality that I risk a lot, health-wise, to indulge in anything with a lot of sugar.
Bear in mind this stockpile doesn't reflect one trip from the US. They have accumulated over the course of three or four return trips (we used to go back and forth two or three times each year), plus a couple of them were things Americans brought as hostess gifts when they came to visit. (I've never been very shy about telling people what I like, lol!) But with a latest-date of nearly four years ago it's obviously been a while since I stocked up.
If the best-by date was March 2007, when did I buy it? If the lead time is two years, then... 2005? Earlier? You see what I mean.
I've mulled this over most of the afternoon. Part of it is I feel tremendously guilty for throwing all that food - all that money - away. Part of it is a small amount of pride, for resisting the temptation to make and eat some of it. (It occurred to me that I could take a hammer to the brickle-bits.) But mostly what I've been pondering is - WHY did I have this enormous cache of cakes mixes and sweet stuff in the first place?
I think (she typed tentatively) it could be that they represented a bit of 'home.' I've been here over ten years, and in my thoughts now, generally, England is home. But five or six years ago... Given that I was in better health, in better shape, and didn't have to worry so much about the kinds of things I ate... and since 'nothin' says lovin' like something from the oven,' maybe it's understandable that American brownies = home.
The major reason, though - and this has come to me slowly - isn't comfort food, as such: it has more to do with 'security blanket.' What if I had to, just HAD to, have chocolate cake? Now? Mix it up, lick the beaters and the spoon, maybe forty minutes - what's that? I'd have to let it cool before diving in? Hah! Not a chance. I would've inhaled half of it while it was still nearly too hot to eat. I had to know I could, even if I chose not to.
One conclusion I've drawn from this is... I might owe my Sparkler pal a pat on the shoulder, if not an outright apology. I wasn't being insensitive, and I thought the suggestions were sound ones. But now I realize if I was shopping in an American supermarket and wandered anywhere near the cake-mix aisle, it's possible all my good plans would (sometimes) fly right out the window. The fact that I can't get those goodies here, and the fact that my small supply was so old as to be just so much garbage, takes temptation squarely out of my hands. Thank goodness.
In other words, I understand, perhaps too well, what it's like to have these things calling to you, and that no craving can be outwitted by little realities such as needing the car to go to a grocery store.
They can, however, be undone with a faulty memory, an inconvenient cupboard, enough time, or a 6000-mile round trip.
Maybe there's a saving grace after all.
Sunday, January 23, 2011
Not to delude you, but this isn't the 'G' blog, even tho it starts with G.
I was surfing the 'net (as has become my habit, lol) and came across this:
The young man who developed the concept (apparently inspired by a book) and designed the website is Alex Southmayd. At the time he started this ball rolling he was a junior in high school. It appears to have been about three years ago, so presumably he is around 19 or 20.
The idea behind G.I.F.T. is deceptively simple: do something nice for someone, and ask them to 'give it forward' - in turn, to do something nice for someone else, and so forth. It becomes a sort of 'pyramid scheme' of human kindness.
Alex came up with thirty ideas you could use to help someone else. He mentions doing one kindness each day. Some may not work for you, for reasons of time or money. But surely somewhere on this list will be a few suggestions that will 'spark' you, that you can use to do a favor for someone else, a neighbor, someone in your family, a friend, a total stranger. And of course you may think of others that you can use.
1. Forgive someone who might have wronged you in the past. Go out of your way to do them a favor.
2. Search out someone who may need some real financial assistance. Maybe someone had their lights turned off because they could not pay the bill . You could be the light that they need.
3. Visit an elderly person in need of assistance or a visit.
4. Give someone your car.
5. If you provide services for a living, give your services pro bono.
6. Pay someone’s mortgage for a month — or a year, for that matter.
7. Help a student with their tuition.
8. Help with an inner city project.
9. Be a mentor.
10. Walk someone’s dog.
11. Shovel someone’s walkway.
12. Babysit for free.
13. Have a fund raiser at your school.
14. Clean someone’s house.
15. Drive people around.
16. Rake someone’s leaves.
17. Play music for the elderly.
18. Leave a huge tip next time you go out to dinner.
19. Give a lottery ticket to a stranger.
20. Treat a police officer to a cup of coffee.
21. Bring some goodies to the fire station.
22. Pick up someone’s tab the next time you dine out.
23. Pay the highway toll for the person behind you.
24. Invite the less fortunate for Thanksgiving dinner.
25. Donate food, clothing, or money to the needy.
26. Buy the movie ticket for the person behind you.
27. Mow someone’s lawn.
28. Cook a nice meal for a friend.
29. Help a homeless person find a home.
30. Read the book, 365 Ways To Change The World, by Michael Norton, and then give the book to a stranger.
One last thing: as a courtesy to Alex, I will point out his website is copyrighted, and use that here, even tho I have not copied his page in its entirety.
© Copyright 2008, Alex Southmayd, All rights reserved.
If you think the world has gone to pot, perhaps his work will give you new hope that good things are happening and all is not lost.
Alex, from his website...
Saturday, January 22, 2011
Very busy day today, with a lot of to 'n' fro, talking to family in the States, plus the usual stuff around here.
I wanted to thank all of you for reading the 'F' blog. I so enjoy your comments and thoughts about the topic of the day. Most of all, I am so touched that many of you find something helpful, or inspiring, or motivating, in what I've written.
I started out writing these for myself, to try to fill out a plan and have some ideas I could use to achieve my goals. It's so gratifying when I can share these things and they are useful to somebody else.
You're a great bunch, Sparklers, and I can't tell you how glad I am we're on this journey together!
Friday, January 21, 2011
Another in the continuing series...
"Remember the two benefits of failure. First, if you do fail, you learn what doesn't work; and second, the failure gives you the opportunity to try a new approach." --Roger von Oech
We are embarrassed by our failures. We want to hide our blunders and mistakes, to sweep them under the carpet of the subconscious. We pretend they never happened. That, in itself, is a mistake.
There's nothing shameful in failure - or in owning up to it. The important thing is to analyze it. Study it. Learn from it.
You fell off the healthy-eating wagon? Spent two days in a mindless binge? That's okay - we've all been there. This isn't the time to deny your lost weekend; it's the time to look at it, carefully, and see what you can learn from it.
Ask yourself WHY this happened. Was there a triggering event? Did you have a bad day, and it took you another two days to regain your momentum? Was there something especially tempting - a birthday cake, homemade lemon meringue pie, a box of chocolates - that you just couldn't resist? Perhaps you let 'I want it NOW' take over your thinking even as it blotted out your goals and affirmations.
Once you have 'why' try to figure out HOW: in response to 'why,' there had to be a point wherein you acted. You went to the store and bought the very unhealthy foods you want to avoid. Or perhaps you hit a fastfood drive-thru. Maybe you enlisted a friend or family member - 'Want to go out for some ice cream?'
The third, and crucial, lesson to learn after 'why' and 'how' is to develop a PLAN. Use what you've discovered to help you figure out a defense. If you've had a bad day, what might make you feel better? A massage, a pedicure, a bubble bath and a new book? How about an 'emergency kit' of your favorite bath oil, facial masque, and the perfect scrubber - you could even include a scented candle to light while you're in the tub.
If your 'why' started with a commercial on TV and you just couldn't resist temptation, use that to help you design a contingency plan. Perhaps you could keep two 'Skinny Cows' in the freezer and use them for just such a craving. Or if pizza is a weakness, make sure you have a frozen 'litestyle' pizza on hand. Rice cakes... air-popped popcorn... Jello SF-FF pudding cups... have some treats on hand to satisfy the gotta-have-it cravings.
Despite your good intentions, you might fail again. But each time you make it through a rough patch by relying on your plan, your re-focused determination and your willpower strengthen. The important thing is to strive to succeed, but if you fall, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start again.
"Failure teaches success." --Japanese proverb
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