Thursday, September 18, 2014

Thing #38: Create a universal packing list.

As a friend of mine recently said, we don’t make lists to remember things; we make lists so we don’t have to remember things.

I love lists. I make lists of household chores to do every Saturday—not that I accomplish everything. As I said in my first “Thing” post, I make menu plans and use that to create a shopping list. I have a list of things to do at work (both immediate tasks and long-range projects). I have a three-column list for camping prep and packing. That's my favorite list of all time.

Yeah, I love lists.

I like to use a packing list whenever I take a trip. (I started doing this after the trip where I forgot to pack certain daily garments that prompted me to do a sink full of hand washing every evening.) While specifics change depending on the destination, climate, and purpose of the trip, my list helps me remember to pack the important things that must go with me every time. Here’s my list:

--Stop the mail. (We have wonderful neighbors who collect our mail for us when we’re gone.)
--Houseplants. (In the summer, I move them all to our downstairs bathroom so they are less likely to dry up while we gone. If our trip is longer than a week, I impose on those same generous neighbors to help us out.)
--Yard care. (We’ve eliminated much of this, but if something needs tending, our neighbors help us with this, too. I told you they were wonderful.)
--We don’t have pets, but pet care would certainly fit here.
--Take out the trash.
--Close windows.
--Open the dishwasher. (This ensures that I’m not leaving dirty dishes in there while I’m gone. That’s not a good thing. Trust me on this.)
--Care for food in fridge as needed.

--List what is needed for this specific trip.
--Dress clothes. (One time, some of the clothes we needed for a wedding didn’t make the trip, so I added this note as a reminder to pack any special clothes needed.)
--Jammies. (Sleepwear.)
--Dress shoes. (Same idea as dress clothes.)
--Walking shoes.
--Other shoes.

TOILETRIES [this varies depending on if I’m flying or driving]
I keep many of these things packed in a small travel bag, then just add the extras.
--Prescriptions. (I always pack enough for a few extra days, just in case I get stranded in Wyoming.)
--Night guard. (An appliance to keep me from grinding my teeth together.)
--Hair gel.
--Nail file/clippers.
--Bandages and first aid cream.
--Feminine care products.
--Pain relievers.
--Cotton swabs.
--Make up bag. (Keeping in mind the limitations of air travel.)
--Hair dryer. (Most hotels provide these nowadays.)
--Curling iron.
--Hair pick.

--Reading material..
--Cords for
·        Phone
·        Computer
·        Nook
--Games. (At least a deck of cards.)
--Driving directions/maps.
--Flight itineraries.
--Water bottle. (Pack it empty for plane trips and fill it after you go through security.)

Here’s a more exhaustive list from world traveler Rick Steves:

What else is on your list?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Things #32-37 Quick Tips

I better get on the ball of I’m going to complete 52 things this year! Here are half a dozen things that require very little commentary.

32.   Sit outside. Listen to the birds, breathe the fresh air. While you can, my friends. Winter is not far away.

33.   Add a ribbon to a bracelet to make a necklace. I have a charm bracelet from my teen years that sat unworn in my jewelry box for years. It was simply too cumbersome to wear on my wrist, especially when working on a computer, as I am known to do. When I saw this idea in a magazine, my charm bracelet was reborn. I've even added several new charms in recent years.

My charm bracelet became a charm necklace with the addition of a ribbon.

34.   Keep a box in your trunk to wrangle groceries and other roly-poly things.

35.   Put a terra-cotta dish in your brown sugar. You’ve probably seen the cute terra-cotta discs that keep your sugar soft. You can do the same thing with a 32-cent dish from the plant section of your local hardware store. Soak the dish in water for several hours, then put it in a sealed container with your brown sugar. Keeps it nice and soft.

36.   Use a slice of bread to soften cookies. If your cookies or brownies turned out a little crispier than you’d hoped, put them in a sealed container with a slice of bread. The bread hardens, the cookies soften. It’s like magic!  

37.   Keep a towel in the car to cover your clothes when you eat in the car. Because you don’t want to go back to work with ketchup on your shirt.

There! All caught up!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Thing #31. Never assume.

Never assume. This is a principle I learned from my journalism prof. If you failed to clarify the response to an interview question, don’t assume you know what he meant. Go back to the source and get all the information you need. Never assume.

It’s a motto that well serves the news business. But in recent years I’ve realized how much we need to apply this to each other as human beings.

It’s easy to assume the mom speaking a little too harshly to her children in the grocery store is simply a bad mother. But we don’t know that for sure. She may very well have been up all night with a sick child—as a good mother would—and is exhausted.

We can’t assume that every overweight person we see is unable to control their appetite. (There are lots of reasons people gain weight; overeating is just one of them.)

We can’t assume that the new employee who passed us in the hall without a hello is a snob. (She could be shy or distracted or worried.)

We can’t assume people who appear happy on the outside aren’t miserable on the inside. (Do I need to explain this one?)

We can’t assume that every homeless person we pass on the street is an uneducated drug addict.
(Their stories may surprise you:

Reserve judgment until you know the whole story. And if you can’t know the whole story, don’t judge.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Thing #30. Embrace the cloud.

I don’t pretend to fully understand what is meant by “the cloud,” but it has something to do with the great big world of interconnected computers. At least one element of the cloud the idea of storing things where everybody can access them. Sites like Instagram and Dropbox are part of the cloud, for example.

Our family is starting to make use of this idea by keeping certain documents (like spreadsheets, photos, recipes) in Google Drive. It’s especially nice when one member of the family lives in a faraway place like, say, MISSOURI. When the faraway family member wants her favorite recipe, the holder of the recipe can upload the recipe to the cloud. The family member living far away (with a smart phone) can even access the recipe in the grocery store. That is the genius of the cloud.

We’ve started putting photos there, too. It’s so much easier than making prints, or even emailing a photo, because it keeps all the photos in one place.

So, as your family members spread to the corners of the earth, consider sharing documents in the cloud.

Here’s one of my favorite recipes to get you started. It was easy for me to find. It was in the cloud.

(By the way, the proper expression is "in the cloud" not "on the cloud." A techie at work very kindly corrected me on that. On the cloud sounded pretty comfy to me.) 

Zucchini Bread
from Becky Grosenbach

3 eggs
2 c sugar
1 c oil
1 T vanilla
2 c peeled, coarsely grated, loosely packed zucchini
2 c flour
1 t salt
1 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1 T cinnamon
1 t nutmeg
1⁄4 t cloves
1 c chopped nuts
1⁄2 c raisins (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In large mixing bowl, beat eggs until frothy. Add sugar, oil, and vanilla to
eggs and beat until thick. Stir in zucchini.

Sift together dry ingredients and add to zucchini mixture; mix well. Stir in nuts (and raisins).

Pour into two greased and lightly floured 9x5x3-inch bread pans. Bake one hour or until toothpick inserted in the center of the bread comes out clean. Freezes well.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Thing #29. Live in awe.

The world is a wonderful place. Amazing, astounding, awe-inspiring. But it is possible to lose sight of that when life gets tough. When humanity expresses its ugly side, when men and women are hateful and cruel. Especially at those times, we need to be very intentional about seeing the wonder all around us.

One thing you could do is select a particular something that inspires you and collect all kinds of info on that thing. Then you can call those things to mind when you need to reroute your train of thought.

Maybe you’re inspired by flowers. Or mountains. Or broccoli. Okay, maybe not broccoli.

But how about elephants?

Yes, I have a fondness for the grand beast known as elephantidae.

Did you know--
  • Calves rely on their mothers for as long as three years.
  • Elephants can live up to 70 years in the wild.
  • They communicate by touch, sight, smell, and sound. Elephants use infrasound, and seismic communication over long distances.

And they’re adorable when they sneeze:


By noticing little snippets about elephants here and there, I have increased my sense of wonder about these grand beasts and their Creator. It’s like collecting tea cups or bookmarks, only I’m collecting information, facts that increase my sense of awe for our planet.

So try it. Try to live with a sense of awe about creation, and the magnificent God behind it all.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Thing 27.   Keep a folder called “How To” on your computer at work and at home.
For most of us, repetition is a good teacher. But how can we remember how to do those tasks we only do once in a while? My suggestion: Write it down, and keep it in a file on your computer/tablet/phone. Or a paper file of some kind.

I have such a file on my computer at work. Inside 
are instructions for how to find a specific document on a shared computer drive, how to restore a deleted file, how to do certain tasks on a project management system, how to change default settings on my computer. The instructions are very basic: “Click here.” “Select this.” That way I don’t have to ask Randy (our department answer man) every single time I want to do one of these tasks. (Though Randy is kind and gracious every single time I ask for his help.)

Thing #28.   Carry a notebook or electronic tablet for keeping track of ideas.
I used to carry a notebook in my purse with my calendar, address lists, family information, and a tab for “ideas.” I’d jot down ideas for articles, projects, gifts, trips, organization—any fun idea I didn’t want to forget.

I’ve since converted to an electronic version of my notebook, and I confess I miss the paper, pen, colorful tabs…. Stickers don’t work nearly as well on my Nook. But the advantages of the electronic device outweigh the tactile pleasures of my old notebook. I think I have even more notes now, some of them tucked away under a password protected program.

Some people prefer to dictate their ideas into a recording device. I heard a comedian once who said he used to keep a note pad and paper on his night stand so when he’d wake up in the middle of the night with an idea for a joke, he could jot it down. The only problem was, when he tried to write things down he was only half awake; his penmanship was illegible. So he switched to a recording device.

One night he put it to the test. He woke up in the wee hours and recorded his idea. The next morning, full of anticipation, he played it back. He heard, “Sm hmm wana blah mm mm. . . . “ Just as unintelligible as his pen and paper attempt.

So whether it’s paper or electronic, I encourage you to carry around a notebook to keep track of all your creative and original ideas. And then write about your best ideas in a blog!

Great idea, huh? Glad I wrote it down.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

In honor of Independence Day, here's a patriotic story from my book, Flying Cheese
(I don't know why the link isn't working here's the url:

Happy Fourth, everyone!
Mary Pickersgill's Flag
Pickersgill. It’s an unusual name. Unusual, but fitting, for Mary Pickersgill was given an unusual task.
In the midst of The War of 1812 between the British and the Americans, Mary Pickersgill, a widowed Baltimore flag maker, was asked to sew a flag. But not just an ordinary flag. Major George Armistead wanted a big flag, a very big flag, to fly over Fort McHenry at the entrance to Baltimore Harbor. So Mary and her 13-year-old daughter, Caroline, spent weeks in the summer of 1813 assembling a flag measuring 30 feet by 42 feet. That's as big as almost 30 ping pong tables.
By September of 1814, the British had burned Washington, D.C., and were bombing Fort McHenry from land and sea. An American attorney was watching the battle from aboard a British ship, having just negotiated the release of an elderly physician who had been taken captive. The battle continued into the night until the British abandoned the attack, judging it would be too costly to complete the task. As the smoke cleared and the sun rose, this attorney saw Mary Pickersgill's flag flying over Fort McHenry. He was inspired to write these words:
Oh, say can you see,
By the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilights' last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
Yes, Mary Pickersgill's flag became known as the Star Spangled Banner. The flag survives to this day and hangs in the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History. Mary Pickersgill's home has been converted into a museum called Flag House.
Pickersgill. It is an unusual name. But it's a name forever linked with The Star Spangled Banner, an unforgettable flag.
 Source: Honor Our Flag, David Singleton, The Globe Pequot Press, 2002

 (c) Rebecca K. Grosenbach