co-pilot

Tom Bihn Co-Pilot in Aubergine 525 Ballistic and Northwest Sky 200 Halcyon.

Dimensions: 11.8” x 10” x 4.9”, 10 liters, 1 pound

My first reaction upon opening the box was, “Wow! That’s really tiny.” In no time at all I was pushing stuff into it just to see what would fit. And I was AMAZED!

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After the amazement wore off, I began to think more deliberately about what should go in this bag for a short trip. Here is the list of what fit and in the picture below they are laid out in the same general way they went into the bag.

  • Total weight packed:  8 pounds
  • Main back pocket: jeans (size 8), 3 t-shirts (size small), yoga pants & tank top (PJs), 3 pair of socks, 3 pair of underwear, 1 bra, barefoot sandals
  • front left pocket: 3-1-1 bag
  • front middle pocket: water bottle
  • front right pocket: Iberian cube with comb, soap, deodorant crystal, toothbrush, prescriptions & supplements, flashlight, floss, mini first-aid pouch,
  • back zip pocket (this is so cool, it unzips to create a sleeve that can go over a roller bag handle or it is a open top pocket): Aubergine Cubelet with technology stuff (charger, stand, earbuds) and my Kindle

In my purse, also Tom Bihn, are my glasses, wallet, phone, etc . . . normal purse stuff.

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Below are pictures of the bag completely packed. It’s not too bulgy. I added the Co-Pilot to “The List” because it is just that amazing!

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thinking through a capsule wardrobe

More Simple . . . Less Stuff meets my Closet!

I have tried eight ways to Sunday to make my life and closet fit into the 333 parameters. You know what? It won’t. To lump April, May and June into one season in southeastern Indiana is pure folly.

Why, you ask? Because it might be 40* on Sunday and 84* on Monday. Our temperatures and humidity vary so widely from day to day. Six years ago (the day of our tornado) we had a Friday high of 82* and a tornado at 3:30. That night we got 4 inches of snow. No power, no windows, no roof — and snow! It was a mess.  Truly.  By Saturday afternoon the temperature was back up in the 50s.

It is late March and I have taken all my warm weather things out of their storage tote, washed, hung to dry, and spread out over my bed in piles. I have created some questions and done some research on body shapes, color analysis, and spent way too much time reading style blogs.

Here are the results —

Step One:

Body Shape and Type:
1. I am petite (under 5’3′).
2. I am “busty.”
3. I am a figure 8 if you look closely at my lines: shoulders and hips are the same number of inches, clearly defined waist (although it is also where I hold weight).
4. I am equally proportioned head to leg-break and leg-break to floor. Within that I have a long neck, short waist, and long shins.

Best Colors to Wear:
1. I am a cool (veins in my wrists look blue not green).
2. My hair has definite ash tones (Courtney, who cuts my hair, says I am going silver not gray.)
3. I have pink tones in my skin and I blush something fierce!
4. I look better in clear, rich (saturated) tones. Pastels and yellows make me look ill. Although, I look pretty good in my neon yellow bike shirt. I used to wear a lot of brown (before my hair started turning), but now it makes me look tired, especially if it is a tan or orangish brown.
5. Black and pure white look pretty good on me. I always get compliments when I wear a bright emerald green, cobalt blue, or some reds.
6.. I “think” that makes me a winter. — Cool Winter probably, but it might change a bit as my hair continues to gray.

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My Lifestyle, Roles, and Activities:
1. I am a stay-at-home gal: cleaning, gardening, reading, writing, coaching clients, etc
2. I exercise: walks, yoga
3. I run errands, go to church, go to my Spiritual Companion Group, doctor appointments, lunch out with friends/family
4. Also as my vision loss continues, I need everything to match everything else. No outliers to trip me up and make me look like I got dressed in the dark.

What Do I Like, Dislike?:
1. I like comfort, natural fabrics, flat shoes, cardigans, weather appropriate, soft, fitted (but not tight).
2. I dislike: buttons (arthritic hands), to feel constricted, anything stiff, anything itchy, tags, being hot or cold, deep V necks, deep scoop necks, heels

I want to be . . . My favorites make me feel:
1. I want to be: tidy, clean, down to earth, steady, calm, neat, capable, friendly
2. My favorites make me feel: slim, confident, comfortable.

Therefore my basic style is relaxed and casual. With proper accessories and a few special pieces relaxed and casual can be chic when appropriate.

Step Two:

Dressing as a busty 8: 
1. Keep details above my waist.
2. Vertical details below waist.
3. Keep lower half straight (with a slight flare below the knee if at all).
4. large chunky jewel-line necklaces or a grouping of smaller necklaces.
5. All volume above bust.
6. Thin, lighter scarves
7. soft, knit blouses and sweaters
8. Shirts stop at natural hips
8. Best neckline are V-necks and crew neck (below collar bone): no high buttons, no high crew necks, no thick cowls, no pockets on chest, no turtlenecks.
10. Think columns of color : black pants, black cardigan, colored t-shirt or blouse, and black shoes. Dark wash denim pants, navy cardigan, colored t-shirt, blue shoes). Also reverse columns — although to this newbie, this isn’t as easy to recreate with a limited wardrobe size, which is a priority for me.

Closet Time
1. Take everything out. Everything!
2. Try on everything. Everything!
3. Ask: Does it fit? Is it in good shape? Is it one of my colors? Is it right for my body shape and type? Is it right for my lifestyle? Do I love it?
Any NO means it goes in the donate pile! Although I kept a few things that were “no” for garden work.

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That’s enough for today. I’ve done all the above and now it is time to hang everything up and have dinner. More next week when I get practical.

 

living small

Living small . . . because there isn’t enough time to do it all.

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I have a category here on the blog that I call living small. I’ve used this term to mean living simply and living with less, but I’ve never been satisfied that those two ideas are “exactly” what I mean. It is a word that often comes to my mind when I read about people living big lives — doing big things, writing big books, having a big following on their blog or on social media.

Maybe it is the way I’m wired (INFJ, 5w4), maybe it’s my family situation (adult son with autism), maybe it is my health (auto-immune disorder), maybe I just don’t have ambition . . .

Maybe. Or maybe it is because I am not called to live a big life. Maybe I am called to living a small life— but living a small life really well.

I think it is what was stirring when I decided to blog about my family’s journey. I think it is what I was reaching for when I decided to long-form journal and blog. I think it is what I was sensing when I decided to stop living life so “quantified.” I feel like exploring this idea and seeing where it takes me.

I’ve chosen a few areas where I want more, where I want depth, where I want to focus. And I’ve chosen a few areas where I want less — less distraction, less luring me away from mindfulness, and less novelty of the new.

I want more:
* wellness
* simple-ness
* language
* favorites

I want less:
* confusion
* stuff
* social media
* novelty

 

**Photo taken by me in New Orleans, right outside the aquarium.**

 

Epiphany 2018

6 January 2018
Holy Day:  Epiphany
Chalking the Door
A traditional way of doing this is to use chalk to write above the home’s entrance, 20 + C + M + B + 18.
  • The letters C, M, B have two meanings. They are the initials of the traditional names of the three magi: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar.
  • They also abbreviate the Latin words Christus mansionem benedicat, “May Christ bless the house.”
  • The “+” signs represent the cross and 2018 is the year.
 Dreikönigskuchen–3 Kings Cake
Ingredients
  • 4-4 1/4cups flour
  • 2 tsp dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 tsp orange zest, thinly stripped
  • 1 1/2 tsp lemon zest, thinly stripped
  • 1/2 cup raisins, cherries, cranberries (whichever your family likes best)
  • 1 whole almond
Egg wash
  • 1 egg, beaten with 1Tbsp water
Coating
  • 1/8 cup apricot jam
  • 1 Tbsp hot water
Instructions
  1. In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat together all ingredients except for the almond, egg wash, and coating.
  2. Once a soft, smooth ball forms, set it aside to rise until doubled in bulk. About 2 1/2 hours. Be sure to cover it and place in a warm spot.
  3. Divide the dough into 8 Pieces, one a little larger than the rest.
  4. Roll each piece into a ball and arrange the 7 smaller balls around the slightly larger one on a sheet pan, forming a flower.
  5. Let rise another 30 minutes, then brush with the egg wash.
  6. Preheat the oven to 375F.
  7. Prepare the glaze by mixing the apricot jelly with a tablespoon of hot water.
  8. Bake the rolls for 30-40 minutes, or until deep golden brown.
  9. Brush with several coats of apricot glaze and sprinkle with the coarse sugar
  10. Once the bread is cool enough to handle, poke an almond into the bottom of one of the rolls.

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Morning Office:  Psalm 46, Psalm 97, Matt 12:14-21
Vespers: Psalm 96, Psalm 100

Weather: 14-23 degrees F, sunny, waning gibbous moon. Sunrise-Sunset = 8:00-5:35

Reading, Watching, Listening . . .
Celtic Book of Days, Commonwealth, Every Earthly Blessing
Star Trek: Voyager (rest time) and Fringe (family time)
Harry Potter 6 (as I fall asleep)

 

Christmas 2017

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O God, you have caused this holy night to shine with the brightness of the true Light: Grant that we, who have known the mystery of that Light on earth, may also enjoy him perfectly in heaven; where with you and the Holy Spirit he lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.  Collect for the Nativity of our Lord, The Book of Common Prayer, 1979.

Our family has been enjoying a smaller, slower paced Christmas season since adopting the church calendar.  Instead of a monthly run-up to Christmas, we have the waiting and preparing season of Advent.

All our baking, shopping, and cooking are done during the weeks of Advent. This year we did sugar cookies for neighbors and the post office/UPS drivers during week 2. Biscotti and brownies for us during week 3.  Chili, turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing were all prepared on the 23rd.

Our plan for Christmas is:  on Christmas Eve day, we clean the house and finish putting up the decorations.  We don’t put up much, but it seems just right to us.  Chili is prepared and put in the crockpot to be eaten after Christmas Eve service at church. When we return home, we eat our chili and open gifts.  Christmas Day is usually very slow, very quiet, and everybody just does their own quiet thing. Breakfast is waffles and turkey sausage, lunch and dinner are leftovers. We usually watch a movie.

Another of our traditions is to put 12 candy canes on the tree for each person.  Each day of Christmas a candy cane is taken off  — sometimes eaten, sometimes just saved for a later day.  I think this might be Michael’s favorite part of our traditions.

Hannah’s work means that every other year she works on Christmas. This year her schedule had her working a 12 hour shift on Christmas Eve so we opened gifts on the evening of the 23rd and had our chili for Christmas lunch.  Unfortunately that also meant we missed Christmas Eve service.

During the 12 Days of Christmas we will light the white Christ candle during Vespers, eat foods a bit richer than normal, and prepare for Epiphany (which is also Kelly’s birthday).

 

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Some of our favorite recipes —

Chili

  • 5 pounds ground beef or ground turkey, browned
  • 5 cans chili beans, mild
  • 3 green peppers, diced and sautéed
  • 3 onions, diced and sautéed
  • 2 – 28 oz diced tomatoes
  • Place all ingredients in crock pot, on high for 4 hours, then low for 4 hours.
  • We put the chili powder in each bowl (to account for some of us liking it super spicy and others preferring a milder bowl).
  • We serve this with Fritos, crackers, rolls, cheese . . .

Katharine Hepburn Brownies

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 stick butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup broken up walnut or pecan pieces (for better flavor, toast the nuts at 350 F for about 5 minutes)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt
  • Bake 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes

 

Biscotti

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon almond extract
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.
  • In a medium bowl, beat together the oil, eggs, sugar and anise flavoring until well blended. Combine the flour and baking powder, stir into the egg mixture to form a heavy dough. Divide dough into two pieces. Form each piece into a roll as long as your cookie sheet. Place roll onto the prepared cookie sheet, and press down to 1/2 inch thickness.
  • Bake for 25 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, until golden brown. Remove from the baking sheet to cool on a wire rack. When The cookies are cool enough to handle, slice each one crosswise into 1/2 inch slices. Place the slices cut side up back onto the baking sheet. Bake for an additional 6 to 10 minutes on each side. Slices should be lightly toasted

Punishments

1 1/4 sticks (5 oz; 140 g) salted European butter

Slightly rounded 1/2 cup (125 g) sugar

1 large egg, at room temperature

2 cups (280 g) all-purpose flour

1. Put the butter in the work bowl of a food processor* fitted with the metal blade and process, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until the butter is smooth. Add the sugar and process and scrape until thoroughly blended into the butter. Add the egg and continue to process, scraping the bowl as needed, until the mixture is smooth and satiny. Add the flour all at once, then pulse 10 to 15 times, until the dough forms clumps and curds and looks like streusel.

2. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and gather it into a ball. Divide the ball in half, shape each half into a disk, and wrap the disks in plastic. If you have the time, chill the disks until they are firm, about 4 hours. If you’re in a hurry, you can roll the dough out immediately; it will be a little stickier, but fine. (The dough can be wrapped airtight and refrigerated for up to 4 days or frozen for up to 1 month.)

3. Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

4. Working with one disk at a time, roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface until it is between 1/8 and 1/4 inch (4 and 7 mm) thick. Using a 1 1/2-inch (4-cm) round cookie cutter, cut out as many cookies as you can and place them on the lined sheets, leaving about 1 inch (2.5 cm) space between them. (You can gather the scraps into a disk and chill them, then roll, cut, and bake them later.)

5. Bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes, or until they are set but pale. (If some of the cookies are thinner than the others, the thin ones may brown around the edges. M. Poilâne would approve. He’d tell you the spots of color here and there show they are made by hand.) Transfer the cookies to cooling racks to cool to room temperature.

Do ahead: The cookies can be kept in a tin at room temperature for about 5 days or wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 1 month.

You can skip softening your butter. Whether you make cookie dough in a stand mixer, with a hand-mixer or (my favorite) in a food processor, you can save time by cutting your cold butter into chunks and letting the machine bang it together with the sugar until soft. It will be bumpy at first and you’ll need to scrape a few times to make sure no nubby cold bits remain but within a minute or two, the butter just right for the rest of the ingredients. It doesn’t just save time, it makes for a cooler, firmer dough that’s going to take less time to chill.

You can skip the refrigerator chill. And…

You can skip flouring your counter. As soon as my cookie dough is made, I roll it out between two large sheets of parchment paper to the desired thickness and it’s a total breeze. No flouring (which can toughen the dough). No pre-chilling (which takes so much more time). No fighting the cold dough flat (which makes us grumpy). Then, I slide this onto a baking sheet and pop it in the freezer for 15 minutes (or a day, or a week, or months until needed), until firm and cut the cookies in clean, sharp shapes from this. I then use these parchment sheets to line my baking sheets. (No waste!) Extra dough scraps can be easily rerolled and re-chilled the same way, with no erosion in dough quality because it doesn’t absorb extra flour. Bonus: No floury mess to clean up.

A couple extra tips: As you roll your dough between parchment sheets, some creases will form; pull the sheet loose so they don’t etch into the dough. When you remove your “board” of dough from the freezer, gently loosen/peel the sheet that will be the underside of the dough before placing the dough back on it. This bit of air ensures that your cookies, once cut, will come right off with no “peeling” needed. (Although even if peeling is needed, it too is a cinch with cold dough on parchment.)

Advent

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Advent marks the beginning of the church year.  It comes at the darkest time of the year, surrounding us with hope, peace, joy, and love.  It invites us to anticipate the arrival of Jesus and the light he brings into the world.

Advent gives us a chance to step back from the cultural norm of gift lists, shopping, a frantic pace, decorations that overtake the house, and an expectation of “more.”  Advent, for me, is not just a time to count down to Christmas, it is a time to prepare my heart and my home for a deeper connection to the Christ.

Our Advent traditions are pretty basic because I like to keep it simple.  My first step is always to clean the house and look for things to donate.  While I’m cleaning, I put away all the knick-knacks that normally sit around our house. I usually buy new cloth napkins (white and blue, see a thread?) The advent wreath is given a place of honor.  I really like to use blue candles and I’ve contemplated using all white candles.  This year I’m using 3 purple, 1 pink, and a white Christ candle that were part of an Advent activity at my church.

Each night during my Vesper devotions, I light the appropriate candles, say the Vesper service, and read the scriptures (I use the Book of Common Prayer for my daily reading) and finally I conclude with the week’s collect from the BCP.  This adds less than a minute to my normal Vespers routine.

 

 

faith journeys

Our co-priests are on sabbatical (May 14-Sep 3) and our parish is having all sorts of fun, educational, and just plain cool forums and presentations. Thankfully most of them do not involve “stuff” that I would have to bring home.

This project did. However, it has a lot of meaning wrapped up in one simple stained glass cross.  It’s small enough to tuck into any corner of a suitcase. Every time I look at it hanging in my window I am reminded of the lessons I am learning during this journey with my beloved parish.

moving light

Our sense of adventure is really being fueled this week with lots of excitement and anticipation of what 2-5 years might bring our way. There is much to research, much to hope for, much to let go of . . .

I’ve been thinking about our earliest days both in Germany, Turkey, and Georgia. All those moves required sending our stuff ahead of us. All of those moves saw us living out of suitcases and backpacks  for extended periods of time. The move between Ohio and Germany was 8 weeks without the majority of our things (weight limit 4000 pounds) and 2 weeks without our  “express shipment” (weight limit 1000 pounds) which mainly consisted of kitchen stuff, books, and more clothing.  The move between Germany and Turkey was a total of 14 weeks without anything that didn’t fit in our suitcases. Our things left Germany, went by boat to New York, then by boat to Turkey. It was a crazy thing that had to do with customs and other weird rules.

I often think back to those days and how carefree things seemed. We weren’t weighed down by an abundance of stuff. We weren’t always cleaning because suitcase living really only requires a broom and a dust cloth. In each place, we bought beds and bedding within a few days of having a home. We used our stainless steel camping plates and mugs for weeks on end — one for each of us. One cast iron pan was enough to cook anything and everything.

One thing we did in each place was to find a toy store in the local towns. Each child picked out 2 new toys. They agonized over the decision because they knew all they had to play with was these 2 new toys, along with their favorite doll/stuff animal, paper and crayons, and the 2 toys that had fit inside their backpacks for the plane ride. Germany saw the addition of Playmobil people into our lives as both kids were enamored of the little people.  See Week 3 post . Turkey brought geometric shapes (Tangrams) and more Playmobil for Michael and a collection of plastic horses and more Playmobil for Hannah.