Making time, finding time, saving time

Action shot at in the Houseproud homestead's kitchen of beets getting prepped for roasting.

Action shot in the Houseproud homestead’s kitchen of beets getting prepped for roasting.  I’m using kitchen scissors to snip off the beets’ long “rat tails”.

Hello, my pets.  In hopes of encouraging Ma Nature to give us a wetter, greener spring, I’ve spent the last few days taking down February’s decorations and putting up touches of green.  I’ve been busy working on projects for Houseproud Industries and on general unrelated kitchen mischief, so I haven’t had time to make the green throw pillow cases that I’ve been threatening to make for the last six weeks.  Life’s like that:  there are the things you’d like to do, there’s the time in which you have to do them, and sometimes the place where those two things meet is insufficient for your needs.  And that, my dears, is what this post is all about:  it’s about finding time to do the things that you want to do. 

This Sunday's batch of fruits and vegetables from the Alameda Natural Grocery.  Clockwise, from the top left, there's a bag of navel oranges, a few tiny cumquat/Mandarin crosses, dandelion greens, lemons, flat leaf parsley, a bulb of fennel, green onions, carrots, a red onion, and a bag's worth of pink lady apples.  Hidden under the parsley are new red potatoes and a few small yellow onions.  There in the foreground is a steaming bowl of "clean the fridge" soup ...

This Sunday’s batch of fruits and vegetables from the Alameda Natural Grocery. Clockwise, from the top left, there’s a bag of navel oranges, a few tiny cumquat/Mandarin kumquat/mandarin crosses, dandelion greens, lemons, flat leaf parsley, a bulb of fennel, green onions, carrots, a red onion, and a bag’s worth of pink lady apples. Hidden under the parsley are new red potatoes and a few small yellow onions. There in the foreground is a steaming bowl of “clean the fridge” soup.  It took me about two hours to get everything prepped and put away this week.

Let’s talk about saving time first, shall we?  In my last post I suggested that you keep a stash of minced parsley and onion tucked away in your fridge.  I pointed out that you could make the mixture while you were putting away your groceries on marketing day.  That’s an example of what I mean by saving time, you see.  How so?  Let’s say I’ve had a very long day, I’m rather tired and cranky, and I don’t have the energy to fuss over supper.  With a stash of minced parsley and onion, I can make a light salad with grated carrot or shredded cabbage in about five minutes – ten minutes if you include the time it will take to clean up afterwards.  If I have leftover grains or beans, I can put together a hearty salad in mere minutes by tossing the leftovers with the parsley and onion mix and adding a vinaigrette.  I could add a few healthy spoonfuls of the parsley and onion mixture to a bowl of tomato soup or chicken broth, make some buttered toast and be well fed in under ten minutes.  Do you see what I mean?  I might spend 25 minutes making the mixture, but in so doing I will save many more minutes during the week, AND I will have no excuse not to eat good grub.

Still life with kombucha.  That's the mother in the shallow bowl in the foreground.  The fermentation jar has been washed & refilled with fresh (cold) sweet tea, and the measuring cup holds a cup of kombucha from the last batch.  I use that ENORMOUS tea ball to brew the tea overnight in the old Circulon pot that's in the background.

Still life with kombucha. That’s the mother in the shallow bowl in the foreground. The fermentation jar has been washed & refilled with fresh (cold) sweet tea, and the measuring cup holds a cup of kombucha from the last batch. I use that ENORMOUS tea ball to brew the tea overnight in the old Circulon pot that’s in the background.

Another way I make time is to split projects into small, easily managed parcels.  I started making kombucha whilst I was still gainfully employed, when I was quite the busy woman.  I have considerably more spare time these days, but I still make kombucha over the course of a few days.  I brew the sweet tea the night before I plan to bottle my latest batch of kombucha, as I am preparing that night’s supper.  If necessary, I will make syrup for the bottling at the same time as I brew the tea.  The following morning I bottle the most recent batch of kombucha, and start the newest batch brewing.  I have this stage of the process down to a science now, and it only takes me about 40 minutes (from prep to clean-up).  Some of that 40 minutes is waiting time – waiting for the bottles to heat up and then cool down; washing the fermentation jar and then waiting for it to cool down.  During the waiting time I can fix myself a cup of coffee, make the Mister’s lunch, eat my breakfast and/or make my own lunch.  Alternatively, I’ll steep the sweet tea in the morning and bottle / brew that night as I prep for dinner.

Super yummy fridge pickled beets!  I'd eat 'em all up at once, but they stain your teeth like you couldn't imagine ...

Super yummy fridge-pickled beets! I’d eat ’em all up at once, but they stain your teeth like you couldn’t imagine …

Pickled beets are made in a similar way:  I roast the beets one day, let them rest overnight, and pickle them within the next few days.  The roasting takes an hour, and happens while I’m making that day’s main meal.  The roasted beets sit on the counter overnight to cool off, and go into the fridge the next morning.  Within the next couple days, when my pickling mojo is blazing fiercely, I take the beets out of the fridge and make the pickles (the process of which takes about 20 minutes).  The pickles go into the fridge for three days to cure, after which they are sheer yumminess to munch on as a snack.  The pleased-as-punch feeling that one gets when serving home-cured pickles to pickle-loving guests cannot be matched.

Small glass votive jars on the Houseproud homestead's kitchen window ledge, filled with pretty glass I've found on my hikes.  The silver brooch was a gift from Tom, our neighbor, who passed away recently.  Rest in peace, Tommy - I picture you in a cafe right outside heaven's front gate, giving St. Peter and the folks coming in all sorts of trouble as you sit there sipping coffee, smoking cigarettes, and making friends with the passing dogs.  Save me a chair at the cafe up there, sweetheart.  Miss you lots.

Small glass votive jars on the Houseproud homestead’s kitchen window ledge, filled with pretty glass I’ve found on my hikes. The silver brooch was a gift from Tom, our neighbor, who passed away recently. Rest in peace, Tommy – I picture you in a cafe right outside heaven’s front gate, giving St. Peter and the folks coming in all sorts of trouble as you sit there sipping coffee, smoking cigarettes, and making friends with the passing dogs. Save me a chair at the cafe up there, sweetheart. I miss you lots.

So there were three examples of the way in which I find the time to work on the things that I enjoy making.  But there are other ways to find time.  You can stop doing mindless things to make time to do mindful things (surfing the interwebs and watching the idiot box can be quite the time-sucks).  You can save time by doing things more efficiently (my showers are of epic length, and one of my Lenten goals is to take shorter showers).  If things are getting manic at work, choose one day every couple of weeks and leave work on time (use that free time to go see a movie with your bad movie posse).  Make sure you leave the house a little earlier every once and a while in order to have time to have a chin-wag with your favorite neighbor (the old guy who looks out for the ‘hood and knows who’s done what to whom).  It’s always a good idea to have enough time to stop and chew the fat with a neighbor – those errands can wait.

Hot simple syrup in glass bottles.  I made this batch of syrup stronger than I normally do - it's a 1:1 ratio (2 cups of water to 2 cups of sugar).  Because the syrup is strong, I won't have to use as much of it when I bottle up my kombucha for its secondary fermentation.

Heard bad news?  Make something sweet.  I made a batch of simple syrup last week, when I was in need of a little sweetness.  I used the syrup in my latest batch of kombucha.  That’s the Mister’s bag of sugar in the background.  He makes hummingbird food by the quart, that man does.

All of the methods listed above are ways in which I’ve carved out time to work on fun projects or spend time with people who make me feel happy and alive.  The world can be an ugly place full of awful news (locally, nationally, internationally: it’s been a rough week).  I say we strike a blow for happiness and life, my pets.  I say we make and save and find the time to do the things we enjoy with the people that we care about, and I say we do it now while we’re alive to do it.  That’s it for this installment.  Stay well and take care until next we meet, my dears.

Ever so fondly – your little munakins.

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