Grandma Susan’s Almanac Calendar is an informal monthly journal that encourages homemakers to do more things for themselves - crafts, handiwork, “from-scratch” cooking, gardening, and other domestic arts.
Grandma's motto is: "Let's work together to improve our lives by simple living, self-reliance, maintaining our religious faith, and sharing the blessings of life with others."
New Years -- January 1
MLK Jr. Day -- January, 18
Valentines Day--February 14
Presidents Day--February 15
Ash Wednesday–-February 17
Spring Equinox -- March 20
Easter Sunday – April 4
Mothers Day -- May 9
Memorial Day--May 31
Flag Day--June 14
Summer Solstice -- June 23
Fathers Day--June 20
Independence Day--July 4
Labor Day--September 6
Fall Equinox --September 23
Columbus Day--October 11
Veterans Day -- November 11
Our Lady, Maria de Guadalupe--December 12
Winter Solstice--December 21
Christmas-- December 25
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A New Year's blessing
“Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Saying of the month
"To read a poem in January is as lovely as to go for a walk in June." - Jean-Paul Sartre
Recommended Reading for January
The Poetry of Robert Frost: The Collected Poems, Complete and Unabridged.
A New Year's blessing
Saying of the month
The kitchen: a space, a duty, a joy
Doing handicrafts is useful and fun
Keep an inspirational journal
"From scratch" recipe of the month - Spicey lentils
THE KITCHEN: A SPACE, A DUTY, A JOY
What follows is an explanation as to why the kitchen and how we relate to it have been singled out as a major topic in this blog. Here, we start from the idea that the planning, preparing and serving food and drink to ourselves, family members and friends (even our animals), are among the most important aspects of everyday life. For this reason, what we do in the kitchen is a reflection of our most intimate life experience.
We also know that females in our culture have the most responsibility for nurturing. Thus, for most women (and even for some men, undoubtedly), the need to nurture through the offering of meals is a lot of our identity, thus, "our kitchens, ourselves."
All this sense of responsibility is made operational by how we relate to our kitchens – by keeping it clean and organized, knowing where our favorite recipes can be found, producing appetizing and nourishing meals, in addition to sharing the table with our near and dear ones. We invest a great deal of time and energy each day to activities in the kitchen, and every minute of it is worthwhile.
For better or worse, it’s usually a women’s duty to see that the kitchen looks and works well. That’s why when our kitchens are clean, organized and attractive, we feel better. We feel guilty when we slight our activities in the kitchen. And when the kitchen suffers from neglect, everyone in the family, feels a little mistreated.
For all these reasons, we spend a lot of time looking for better methods to improve our activities in the kitchen and what we produce there.
Of course, it isn't necessary to have an elegant or "designer" kitchen, the investment we need is more about our time and effort, and even the smallest and simplest of kitchens can be neat and attractive. After all, what is produced in the kitchen, in the form of nourishing home made meals, doesn't depend on having the largest space, the most modern equipment or costly ingredients. Rather, it depends on our creativity and determination to offer the best meals we can -- that are satisfying to family and friends and that don’t strain our household budget.
Sometimes, and in certain stages of our life, there just don’t seem to be enough time to do all the things we would like to do in our kitchens. We know that there are more efficient ways to do what we propose to do in this context, but change, and the time to do research for change, aren't easy accomplishments. It’s at those times that we just have to do our best - although it’s a lot less than we would want - and plan for sometime in the future when we can do better. The suggestions that are included in these pages are aimed at helping us to do better in this important part of our lives, for now and in "better times" to come.
DOING HANDICRAFTS IS USEFUL AND FUN
Like many of you, my Almanac readers, I live on a small income. When I need something for my home, I first try to fix up another item to see if it can serve the same purpose. Oftentimes, that works and solves my problem. If it doesn't work, I consider making whatever I need. Can I make it? Can I design it and ask my husband to make it? Very often, I can, or, as likely as not, we can. That's one principle of Grandma Susan's Almanac - learning to be resourceful and independent, whenever possible.
Now and again, I want to give a gift to someone. Using the principles of self-reliance, I consider how much money I can spend, and it's usually only a small amount. That means that expensive gifts at up-scale shops, even regular gifts bought at big-box stores are often beyond my economic resources. I don’t let that stop me from giving gifts because I can make a lot of things by sewing, knitting, and crocheting.
When I was 10 or 11 years old, my mother told me that it was time for me to learn how to do handiwork. Girls in my family were expected to learn at least one handiwork skill. My mother’s skills were embroidery and simple upholstery. I wasn’t very interested in the skills in which my mother excelled. I wanted to learn handiwork from my aunt who was quite skilled in knitting and crochet. So, I spent a number of weekends with my aunt, and learned the basics of knitting and crocheting.
My aunt was a stern taskmaster and, by my aunt’s orders, I spent most of my weekends re-doing the handiwork that I had started. Fortunately, after several months of trials, I did finish knitting a simple vest, which was not really a flawless creation. I suppose my aunt knew when it was time to allow me to finish something, even with a number of obvious errors. I learned that hand-knitted or crocheted things did not have to be perfect and that at least some of their charm are the tiny imperfections that distinguish them from those that are purchased. Since that time, I've been a handicraft enthusiast. I enjoy making things with my own hands and recommend that all homemakers try to use their creative skills doing handicraft work.
The activities called handicrafts produce handmade items that may be worn or used in the home. Handicrafts are part of the decorative arts, but it's their utility that defines them. Handcrafters use traditional skills and simple tools to make such things as: baskets, rugs, all kinds of stitchery, knitted and crocheted things, candles, soap, pottery, carved wood, and bead work.
Pieces that are mass-produced are not handicrafts. Factories and machines produce standard goods that do not vary in quality or detailing. Each handcrafted item, on the contrary, is unique. The slight variations from some standard are part of their charm.
Normally, the people who make handicrafts are not considered to be artisans. Artisans do work to sell to others and expect payment. On the other hand, handicraft makers produce things mostly as a pastime. They seldom charge for their work. The great majority of handicraft makers are women. Most handicrafts require some dexterity and speed, but anyone, including older children, can learn to make them with practice and patience. You can learn the skills to make simple handicrafts in a period of days or weeks.
While I’m not an expert in any special handicraft, I enjoy using my abilities and have produced more than a few attractive items. The Almanac Calendar will describe some of the handicrafts that I’ve had the opportunity to learn about. The activities that I recommend are all simple ones that do not require either a lot of manual skill or study. You’ll feel a great deal of satisfaction displaying and using objects that you have handcrafted in your home and they are excellent giftsthat your family and friends will appreciate. Above all, you can be proud that you are doing your part to keep alive long-standing practices. When you feel confident about your skills, teach or encourage others, especially the younger generation, to adopt a handicraft and continue this tradition.
KEEP AN INSPIRATIONAL JOURNAL
It's not always easy to keep our spiritual convictions alive and well in our very secular society. One way to stay on course is to have an inspirational journal. What I refer to is a record of your experiences and thoughts that you write on paper in a notebook or journal. If you keep this journal faithfully for a period of months, it will be an effective way to track your spiritual path and to understand your personal choices and intentions. Here's how to get started.
Buy yourself a notebook or journal that suits you – a beautiful one or something simple. Be sure to choose a “special” pen (one that pleases you) and use it every time you sit down to write. Always begin with the date. Start writing. Write down an inspirational idea, or ideas, that have occurred to you during the day. Or simply, write a few lines about something positive that you experienced or encountered. It isn’t important that you do "fine" writing or use perfect grammar. It’s much more important to jot down your ideas as they flow through your mind.
Do this every day. Try to reflect on the positive parts of your day or things to be thankful for, even if some bad things have occurred. If you do some personal reading (especially from devotional material) during the day, you may have found some idea that seemed important for your current life or was relevant to something that happened in the past. Be sure to include those thoughts in your journal. Your entries can be at any hour of the day. Don’t wait, if the idea comes to you, jot it down. If you carry your journal or have near at hand, you can write an entry anywhere – on a bus, in the park, at work or in your bed at night before you go to sleep.
Keeping an inspirational journal will help you be more objective about your strengths and weaknesses, and will give you a better idea about your real goals in life. When you read your journal entries from week-to-week and month-to-month, you will inspire yourself to “count your blessings” and to share your positive attitude with other people.
"FROM-SCRATCH" RECIPE FOR JANUARY
Rinse and sort 2 cups of lentils. Place 6 cups of water and lentils in a pan. Boil on medium-high heat for 15 minutes with a touch of salt, until tender. Heat a skillet with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Stir in the following diced veggies: 1 large onion, 2 medium tomatoes, 1 hot chili pepper (optional), 4 garlic cloves. Add salt and pepper and cook veggies until tender. Drain lentils and stir in veggie mixture along with 2 teaspoons of chili powder. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 15 more minutes. Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro, more olive oil, and vinegar or lemon juice.