Archive for the ‘time’ Category


Things I Won’t Be Doing Any Time Soon: Alphabetizing My Canned Goods, Ironing My Socks And Underwear So They’ll Take Up Less Room In The Dresser, Making Edible Paint From Avocadoes And Peppers, Pureeing Parsnips, And Sautéing Brussels Sprouts In Duck Fat

July 6, 2010

The trouble with simple living is that thought it can be joyful, rich, and creative, it isn’t simple. • Doris Janzen Longacre

Katie Brown strikes again while we eat breakfast. I’d promise that I will never write about her again, but since I’ve only seen part of her show–Next Door with Katie Brown–twice and this is the second post she’s inspired, I suspect that there will be more KB in my bloggish future.

She’s decorating serving platters (mirrors) with squeeze bottles filled with three colors of edible paint made from avocado and red and yellow peppers. I missed the avocado paint, but the yellow pepper paint she made took two cups of olive oil and she told us to repeat the instructions for deskinning red peppers and making them into a decorative vinaigrette too.

That’s four cups of olive oil, folks, making this recipe neither simple nor cheap. That’s a lot of plate paint. (Her website slogan, you may remember, is “Keep It Simple.”) And all this effort is for decoration that will be messed up the moment someone removes one of the carefully placed hors d’oeuvres from the carefully decorated mirrors. Squirty stuff for the crowd. At least on an individual plate, the goodness can be smeared and savored.

I’m reminded of something I wrote down while watching Martha Stewart the day before Thanksgiving 2005. A woman asks Martha what she can fix ahead for the next day. Here are Martha’s suggestions: Brussels sprouts sautéed in duck fat and parsnips pureed with pears. These would not be crowd pleasers at our house even if we could find the duck fat. We love veggies, but parsnips and Brussels sprouts aren’t hanging around in our fridge.

You might wonder how this is related to anything I do since I have made it pretty clear that I don’t dust very often and I seldom cook any more, having gotten that sort of thing out of my system in my years of writing a cooking column, imagining that I would major in home economics, and sublimating my creative talents in service to making home.

The homes I write about now are mostly classroom homes, although The House of Stuff still gets my attention since our living space is a retreat into a world of our own creation. Here’s something I know about creating home. It isn’t about serving fancy food or making sure the house is spotlessly clean. It isn’t about culinary (or lesson planning and delivery) perfection. For me, it’s about surrounding myself with things that make me smile and things that make me think. It’s about being welcoming and relaxed and enjoying the people I’m with, whether they’re friends or family or students.

This is also good advice if you’re a student who wants to cultivate friends and study buddies plus it’s peripherally related to my research into procrastination since I’m pretty sure I’d be very good at putting off making edible paint for the next party I give.

Each of us things we choose not to do in order to make more time for the things that matter most to us. What are your left-undones and your must-dos?

Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.
• Lin Yutang


My Head Is Too Full Of Ideas Right Now, Many Of Them Unrelated To Things I Absolutely Must Finish Immediately; It’s Impossible To Bring Coherence To Anything But The Necessary And That Requires Ruthless Dedication, Leaving Little Time For Frivolous Frittering (Although There’s Always Time For Allitering)!

June 17, 2010

For Wednesday, June 15, 2010

Dream small dreams. If you make them too big, you get overwhelmed and you don’t do anything. If you make small goals and accomplish them, it gives you the confidence to go on to higher goals. • John H. Johnson

Is a blog a confessional? Sometimes it seems to be. It’s tempting to talk to the screen and confess your sins to the silent and quickly erasable electronic page. No judgment from the computer. It just sits there, no matter what you write. This is comforting. It’s also frightening because it’s so easy to blurt your woes and weaknesses to an invisible audience.

The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection. • George Orwell

I am, however, wary. I confess cautiously. Today I am in the midst of a mess. The syllabus I’m working on is the equivalent of the closet you’ve been meaning to clean out for ages and when you finally get to it and get everything pulled off of shelves and racks and sorted into piles you aren’t sure what to do with—well, you wish you’d never begun. I’m teaching a course I didn’t plan to teach again until summer 2011, and I’d hoped to organize the syllabus into a syllabook that could be printed to use as the text before I taught it again. I’ve been adding materials to the files for two years.

Try as hard as we may for perfection, the net result of our labors is an amazing variety of imperfectness.  We are surprised at our own versatility in being able to fail in so many different ways. • Samuel McChord Crothers

Alas. It is still a syllabook, but despite a prodigious wrestling match that took all day, it remains a work in progress. A 57,692 word work in progress. I have had to accept defeat. I must quit when I am not ready to. I do not like this at all, but I tell myself that it is good for me. I have other courses that begin on Friday that need work too. And many miles to go before I sleep.

A man [or a woman] would do nothing if s/he waited until s/he could do it so well that no one could find fault. • John Henry Newman

Letting go is good. Letting go is good. Letting go is good. Perhaps if I write this enough, I will believe it.

Always live up to your standards—by lowering them, if necessary.• Mignon McLaughlin (1966), The Second Neurotic’s Notebook

What do you have to let go of because there just isn’t time?

Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing.  • Harriet Braiker