Life takes some funny directions. This winter I’ve found myself working on an ebook about my experiences as an Amish school teacher. I’ve come to realize that multi-tasking isn’t working well for me and I need to focus on one writing project at a time. So I’ll be taking a break from posting on this blog until I get the book wrapped up. I’m hoping I won’t be gone too long!
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I’ve been collecting a lot of material to share and will be back blogging soon!
A few months ago a friend Aaryne sent me a little booklet she ran across somewhere in her travels. It made her think of me, she said, which shows she knows me pretty well. It’s called Successful Baking for Flavor and Texture. The name alone is a giveaway that it wasn’t written recently. It was published in 1936 by the company that made Arm & Hammer baking soda.
I’ve marked out several recipes to try and today I decided to make the Applesauce Cake. I’m still working my way through bushels of apples so I’m always looking for ways to use my apple abundance.
While I was making the cake, I went to the pantry for raisins and realized I was completely out of them. However, I did find 3 bags of dates, so I probably should have made the fruit cupcakes (that called for dates) on the facing page. Another day. I was also short on walnuts but I thought the cake was just fine with the ½ cup I used. It would have been a much more rich, heavy cake with the extra nuts and the raisins.
I frosted it with a simple icing of 3 T. honey and 4 oz. cream cheese with a little splash of vanilla. I thought it was delicious for a 95 year old cake (recipe)! (And now I’ve joined the masses of women who have baked “for flavor and texture!”)
Sift, then measure the flour. Sift three times with the baking soda, salt, and spices. (I sifted once, just for that authentic flair.)
Cream the butter well. Gradually add sugar, beating after each addition.
Add the egg, beating well, then the raisins and nuts.
Alternately add the dry ingredients and applesauce, beating until smooth after each addition. Turn into a greased loaf pan or 9x9 pan. Bake at 350 until done.
Everybody is trying to get there first. It is just hurry-scurry from one thing to another. Everybody seems to be wanting something she doesn’t have, and is in a hurry to get it before someone else does. After we do get a thing, we never have time to enjoy it, but just start thinking about something else we want.
This sounds like a good description of 2019, doesn’t it? But this was originally written in 1933, during the Great Depression. In an era characterized by widespread poverty, I expected people would have been more appreciative of their meager possessions in light of others in a worse position. Somehow, I imagined more contentment and less running after the next thing. But people are people the world over. We covet the latest iphone, maybe they coveted the brand new board game of 1933–Monopoly or the latest record for the victrola.
It’s hard for us to separate material possessions from happiness. Even our country’s economy measures success by how much we’re spending. But many of us have come to realize that all this stuff hasn’t made us happy. The current minimalism trend is a reaction to the many years of economic prosperity which led to our unchecked materialism. But simply getting rid of everything won’t guarantee happiness, either. Happiness comes from within and consists of enjoying the things we have, which aren’t necessarily material things.
Work? Why be happy about work? Ask the man out of work what he wants most. Health? Why, of course. Yet few of us appreciate it, or try to keep it until we begin to lose it. Ask the invalid what she wants most.
The fact of the matter is we all want happiness, and happiness is just enjoyment of the things most of us have–work, health, home, family, and friends. Being satisfied and content with what we have: this is happiness.
I’ve been thinking about this year and what I can change to make it go more smoothly. To say there’s room for improvement is obvious. Of course the best plans never go the way you expect them to, but a modified plan has to be an improvement over winging it all the time, right?
More than anything else this year, I need to focus on….focusing. It’s kind of appropriate that squirrels are one of my favorite animals. I see them as kindred spirits, the way they dash around looking busy but in reality are just unfocused, trying to remember where they left their nuts. We’ve all seen what happens to a squirrel that loses focus in the middle of a road…
An article about prioritizing and simplifying a daily schedule recently caught my eye. In 1930, a woman living in Kansas wrote a letter to the editor of the magazine. She offered her organizational plan, hoping it might help other readers. Here’s her daily “schedule.”
Ten years ago I made a list of my responsibilities in order of their importance:
Work in hand for the day
“I’ve found a schedule won’t work, or else I won’t work one,” she wrote. “Every day I start at the top of the list and work through as far as I’m able.”
I like the way she simplified her life by following a consistent plan. She prioritized living things before objects, and the living things at home came before anyone outside her home.
Contrary to all the modern-day advice on self care and caring for yourself first, she lists self-improvement as her last priority.
As far as self-improvement away down at the end of the list, it was really accomplished in bedtime stories, ‘rithmetic problems, a ride with John, a letter written, a posy cultivated. But I like to do some special systematic studying when (or if) more important things are done.
But she doesn’t neglect herself completely for her family’s sake. I appreciate her creativity in following the list. “When I’m tired and cross, I can even conceive of a rest period for myself as a duty to husband and babies.”
You see how it works? I’m always sure that I’m doing the right thing at the right time. Then I do it to the best of my ability. What more could I ask in a schedule? Or anyone ask of me?
This 90 year old plan gives me ideas for focusing on the important things this year. Except I need #3 on the list. Because that would simplify my life, don’t you think?