Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Eat Your Torte Out....

I have been very busy lately. Not with school, or with work, or with projects. Nope... I have been a blog slacker simply because I have been busy taking my own advice (remember my last post?) and doing the very important things in life with my free time. Cooking (some failures, some successes - thank goodness my family eats them both), snuggling on the sofa with Mr. 31, visiting family and catching up on my reading are just of a few of those things. (Pleasure reading for a change, not nursing textbooks!) Oh and did I mention cooking? I guess it could just be that time of year when I crave being in the kitchen, with a candle lit on the windowsill and my food splattered cookbooks piled around while the cold wind blows outside, or it could be be that I am getting more adventurous with my gluten-free, dairy-free restrictions and finding it easier to substitute healthier options, but whatever the reason my kitchen is happily getting lots of use these days. This recipe, which I made for my mom's birthday celebration is the outcome of one of those sessions.
I got the recipe from a friend - it is decadent, rich, thick treat and definitely not for the faint-of-chocolate-heart! Last minute I decided to add the sauce and whipped cream to bring an extra element of sweetness to the bittersweet chocolate - excellent decision! I even may have to confess to wiping the raspberry sauce bowl clean with my finger when it was all gone, just to capture that last drop of fruity tartness....    

Note: I generally try to stay away from refined sugars when baking and cooking, but in certain 'special occasion' recipes I have learned there really is no substitute for them. I would recommend using raw sugar when you can. The sugars can be skipped in the sauce and whipped cream recipes below, or adjusted to taste. Both recipes are very forgiving. 

Bittersweet Chocolate Torte

1 lb. unsweetened chocolate
1 c. coconut oil
Melt together in double boiler until smooth and mixed.

8 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 c. honey (plus or more to achieve desired sweetness. i used exact measurement and it produces a rich, bittersweet torte)
Beat until fluffy. Slowly add in chocolate mixture while beating until well blended. Bake in 325 degree oven in springform pan or 9-inch cake pan with a water bath for 35-45 mins.

Raspberry Sauce 

Raspberries (i used a package of frozen ones b/c i couldnt find nice fresh ones this time of year)
2 tsp raw sugar
Blend together in food processor until smooth - if sugar does not dissolve nicely for you, heat over low flam while stirring until well mixed. I added a splash of sweet moscato wine to my recipe but it isn't needed if you use sugar. Pour through  mesh strainer or sieve, pushing liquid through as needed to remove seeds.

Coconut Whip Cream 

1 can coconut milk

Put coconut milk in freezer for short while to make cold - I think I had it in for an hour. Do not mix or shake can - open and discard watery, thin layer of liquid- you will just be using the 'meat' of the coconut. (use the water in your smoothies!) Using hand blender beat until fluffy, adding vanilla and sugar to taste. I found powdered sugar works best but regular sugar does the job, too. I use about 5 tablespoons to create a sweet cream - less if the dessert itself if already highly sweet. Store in fridge. This is also super yummy in coffee as a dairy substitute!


Thursday, September 20, 2012

My Bucket-less Life

Well, summer is done.
I know, I know... some of you are screaming 'nuh-uh, nuh-uh, Meredith!' I get it - I mean, ooooffffficially, I understand that summer extends through some unknown (to me) date in the autumn. But, in my world, which seems correct on all accounts (to me), summer has packed up her bags, loaded her trunk and is rolling down the end of the driveway, waving a lazy good-bye through the back window at me. Once school starts, and the evenings grow dark by 7ish and I can wear my yoga pants and sneakers without sweating up a storm, I feel like autumn is right around the corner. I love autumn. In fact, I was going to make a list for you stating exactly what I loved about it but then I remembered that is pretty much everything, so a list would be tiring for both of us. But anyway, that's not really what this post is about.... cause seriously, who doesn't love autumn?
Since summer is nearly gone, it means one important thing. I am a year older. Yup, I turned thirty-one years old this summer. And that is huge. I mean, for those of you are reading this who are thirty, or maybe even younger than that (ugh, i am so jealous), it not a big deal. But for those of you who are thirty-two you feel my pain. See, turning 30 wasn't really a big deal to me. I said, 'it's just another birthday'. But, then I realized that after thirty I had to turn thirty-one and it suddenly was a very big deal.
I realized I haven't accomplished a lot (okay, most of) what I wanted to accomplish by this point in my life. Or, to be more precise, what I didn't want to accomplish but should have wanted to accomplish if I realized how I was going to feel at the age of thirty-one. And now, the sad fact is, I am just thirty-one years behind.
To quell my feelings of anxiety, I decided I would make a bucket list. I figured it was about time. So, I set out to wrote things on my list that were really exciting, really dramatic, really life-changing....
Item number 1 -  'keep my house clean'. Which, if you refer to the prior post here, you will see I am already successful in doing. Therefore, I felt very accomplished - I had already crossed off a bucket list item! So far this idea was going terrifically!
I added a few more:
 - 'have kids'. (Well, not in the near future because kids can be a screaming, messy, giant mess of a mess and I'm just not ready for that.)
 - 'go on vacation - somewhere romantic!'. (of course, not this year cause we didn't plan far enough ahead but maybe next year. Or the year after that. Or our ten year anniversary....)
 - 'make great financial decisions'. Hmm... I crossed that one off pretty quickly after I wrote it actually. Read here if you wonder why. Besides, who actually enjoys making financial decisions and aren't you supposed to be really excited about your bucket list?
Then, while I was mulling over what to add to the growing excitement of my list (parachuting? mountain climbing? auditioning for American Idol?), a thought struck me. Who needs a bucket list when you have life everyday? God has blessed me every morning for 31+ years by the fact that I wake up, put my feet on the floor, and stand up. I have more than enough to provide for a comfortable, happy life. I am healthy and I have wonderful family and friends.
So why am I trying to conjure up a list of big, grand-scale things I want to do? How about making the most of every moment I have and doing the little things that make life special everyday? Truthfully, at peoples funerals, how many times do you hear about vacations they took? Or how clean their house was? Never - and unless everyone in my family just had really dirty houses - what you do hear about is how they lived life fully. And that is bucket list worthy, in my eyes. 
So, I crumpled up my bucket list (lets admit it - it was only strolling down Lame-o Lane, anyhow) and threw it away. And I gave bucket-list-less life a try. I finally remembered to schedule a horseback trail ride with my favorite 9-year old whose been looking forward to it for weeks. I went to the market and stocked my freezer full of steaks and chicken and pork (and I didn't squawk about how expensive meat was) and every night this week made a home-cooked meal that Mr. 31 got excited about. Afterwards, when he wanted to snuggle on the couch I let the dishes sit on the table and didn't worry  about cleaning up right away. On Wednesday night I didn't open my books to study at all (hope my mom isn't reading this!) and instead I spent the evening taking a long walk with Mr. 31 and then we enjoyed a glass of wine on the porch swing and played a game of scrabble. It was delightful! Oh, and here's a really good one: I decided this weekend instead of scrubbing the hard water stains off the sides of my tub again, I am just going to leave them for another time. Maybe I'll leave them until they get so big they start to fuzzy my legs in the shower, who knows. But what I do know is I will be spending that time doing something I would be proud to write on my bucket list. If I had such a crazy thing.....  

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Blast from the Past

I know its been sad, and traumatic and scary. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel, my friends. A light I like to refer to as 'I'm baaaack!' Yup, for all of you who missed me terribly, have no fear, I am back in the blog-saddle now. Whoa, so much to try to catch you up on.... pretty safe to say it isn't going to happen. I mean, who could actually cram 4 months worth of life into one blog post? I will, however, catch you up on all the important things from the past few months.

(But first, a confession. I am clearly horrible at time management. For this I apologize. For several months, after my homework and house 'chores' were done, although I certainly had some time to blog I was unable to find it and instead flopped on the sofa and watched King of Queens with my husband. (Best TV sitcom of all time, hands down. If you don't know it, I am sad for you.) Anyway, glad I got that off my chest....please accept my groveling.

Okay, so important stuff you forgot that you were dying to hear: 

1.) I got an iphone. (Remember my old style technology?) I am now smarter in many, many ways. Mostly because I have a facebook app and a groupon app and a yoga app, which collectively means I can stalk my friends boring lives while doing the downward dog and checking for gotta-have deals on all sorts of things I don't really need. Genius.

2.) In the months that I wasn't blogging I took some time to clean my house. Not as in wipe down the counters or do the laundry (a commonly 'forgotten' thing at the 31 household), but I mean CLEAN. Like mop and shine all the floors, wipe down the windows and scrub the grout white again. My house is now sparkling, which I am sure makes all you readers feel much better. Of course, I can't guarantee how long it is going to stay this way because, as it turns out, it doesn't just continue to keep itself so shiny and clean. Very cruel trick.
Mr. 31 got on the cleaning wagon too. He rocks. But he does much harder things than me.... like while I was scrubbing the kitchen floor he was hard at work ripping all the soaking wet insulation out of our basement floor joists. Then he dug up the front yard and did a bunch of pipe and concrete work to fix the issue that caused the water leakage in the first place and then he scrubbed down all the mold that the wet insulation caused. So, I am very grateful because Mr. 31 does a lot bigger, a lot stinkier, a lot grosser jobs than me... and yet I still complain. (sigh) Which reminds me that we are never happy as humans and I really need to pray for contentment and pray that God makes me a more grateful person, because truly, it is a struggle for me.

3. I have completely embraced a paleo lifestyle over the past 9 months. Might be the single, best thing I ever did in my life. (hmmm...well, except for marrying Mr. 31). Since then I have decided I want everyone I know to also live this way and to experience such healthy awesome-ness. (When I figure out how to convince them I'll  let you know - in the mean time I guess I'll just blog about it.) Long story short I was miserable health-wise for years and, as it turns out, I have several nasty food intolerances - a.k.a what I was putting into my body was the issue. I have eliminated all grains, (exception: small amount of rice) dairy, corn and soy from my diet. Basically I consume nothing that is processed or sold in a bag or box at the store. What I do eat is lots of organic, fresh veggies and fruit (check out Suburban Organics!) and lean meats. Of course, woman can not live on healthy food alone and so I also consume hardy portions of Enjoy Life chocolate chips and a wide variety of 'yummies' that I am constantly experimenting with baking. Some recipes have been failures (but lets not lie, if it resembles chocolate I don't have many qualms about polishing it off ) but others have been fantastic. I'll share some soon. I still have fleeting moments where I miss bagels slathered with cream cheese, hot, gooey pizza and cheesy nachos, but the benefits of this lifestyle far outweigh a few tasty bites! Along with my health doing a complete 180 I have noticed loads of other benefits - to mention a few: 25 pounds lost, clear and soft skin, and no 'before meal' crankiness. (At least not crankiness that is food related....)

4.) Mr. 31 and I re-did the landscaping in our front yard. (We also finished the bathroom remodel. I promise to try and post photos!) In the midst of all our flower planting (and front porch swinging) we had some in-depth-about-our-future conversations and decided to really take the next few years to concentrate on our financial 'house'. Ugh. Financial conversations are just about my least favorite ones to have. I want them all to resolve themselves overnight and they just never do. They are probably friends with the why-can't-my-house-stay-clean gang..... Anyways, one thing that I do appreciate is the bond that talking through 'serious' issues like this creates between Mr.31 and myself. I love the experience of being partners in all aspects of life and the closeness that occurs when you are planning your futures together - emotionally, physically and intellectually. I think its very beautiful and powerful.

Think on that and go chat with your spouse or significant other. Oh, and pick some weeds while you are at it.... gardening is good for the soul, i think. Especially when you do it with your best friend.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Miss. Manners

Let's talk about age for a minute. Or maybe two. Because it might take me longer than one minute to get this rant out. Oh yeah, that's right. I am going to rant. Actually, maybe this rant isn't so much about age as it is about manners. I don't know - I just know it is annoying to me and I am going to share my feelings.
Okay, so, for the past two years I have gone to the satellite campus of my college for night classes. It is a great little campus located right in my neighborhood. Basically it's two buildings of classrooms, some offices, a little bookstore and a cafe. Most of the students in my classes are in the same boat as I am - they have families, full-time jobs, bills to pay, etc. We are all there for the same reason - to learn the info, get a good grade in the class and move on. All we see is the end goal of our education, and we want to reach it with as few distractions as possible.
Right... so, fast forward to this semester. To get the class load and professors I wanted, I decided to drive down to the main campus during the day and take a full days worth of classes. And this, my friends, is where the rant begins.

I am not old. Not in so many words, at least. In fact, lots of people would consider me young. My grandmother, for example. She is 92. And I am sure that there is any number of people I know who would love to be thirty again. Kind of the way I would love to be twenty-one again. But, it is what it is, people. And that's just the truth. (sigh)
Anyway, so yeah, I am not old. But when I step foot on that campus, I feel like I am. And it has nothing to do with the fact that I don't have a smart phone, or even *confession* know how to operate a smart phone. My phone is so far from smart it is sad. It might even fall under the category of dumb. No touch screen, no talking lady inside, no apps with fun games, not even a camera that works very well. Not having a 'hardcore' laptop doesn't bother me either. You know the kind that fits in a tiny bag and you can pull it out and set it up on your table in like 20 seconds? (and it bakes your dinner for you later, too, i bet....) If you have one of those snazzy things, you don't have to bother with writing notes in a 3-ring binder like I do. Apparently pens and notebooks are very old-school - in this modern era typing your notes is the 'in' thing to do. Or, if you are like the girl who sits in front of me, shopping for real estate and  high heels while you pretend to be listening to the teacher lecture about the reproductive system. But, that's a different story....
No, my lack of technology doesn't bother me. It also has nothing to do with being out of fashion either. I actually don't think I am..... after all, most people are wearing the same thing I am. (and yes, that would be yoga pants, sneakers, and a fleece. Never goes out of style, right?) I carry a blue backpack and tote around a plastic water bottle and, regardless of the wrinkle on my forehead that glares at me from the mirror every morning, apparently can still pass for being 19, as my math teacher has no qualms about pointing out. Yes, fashion-wise, I fit in no problem.

*Time-out:  Okay, while we are (loosely) on the subject of fashion, I would like permission to digress for a moment. Allow me to share with you a few styles that I have seen on campus over the past few weeks that I have decided I have problems with. Nothing personal - they just annoy me:
1.  wearing uggs with teensy-weensy (and i mean weensy, weensy!) jean shorts and a puffy jacket. Ok, maybe you saw it on some Kate Moss-a-like in a magazine somewhere but, if we are all being honest here, it didn't really even look that good on her.
2.  lace-backed shirts. The concept is cool.... very vintage, romantic. Definitely has potential. Just not so romantic or vintage when you wear a black bra underneath and no camisole. Yes, lace is see thru.
3. Two-toned eyeshadow in bright, mustard yellow and electric blue. Newsflash: even in the 80's when this was cool it wasn't cool.
4. Wearing your sweatshirt inside out. On purpose.... because how could that even happen accidentally?
5. Dark, raisin-colored lip liner drawn on darkly and not filled in. Hmmm.....my sister-in-law pulled this off okay in high school. 15 years ago.

Right, so, based on the information above, aren't you all thinking my yoga pants and fleece jacket look super snazzy right about now?

Okay, okay, back to the topic at hand. Do you want to know the real reason I feel old on campus? It's because nobody there has any manners. Seriously. My parents were kind of manner nazi's when I was young (not that I ever minded), but is it too much to ask that people teach their kids some basic politeness?  As in, if someone is walking right behind you don't let the door swing back in their face. And if you bump into someone in the hallway at least utter something that resembles 'excuse me'. Oh, how about this one? - if you use the community microwave in the cafeteria and your lunch overflows, wipe it up. You might think that no one will know it was you, but there is a line of people waiting thier turn behind you and - surprise! - they know it was you and trust me, they don't appreciate your leftover eggplant parm in its exploded form.
Here's a couple more. When the teacher is lecturing, please stop talking to your neighbor about your boyfriend. Or your dog. Better still, stop furiously texting every 30 seconds. Why, you ask?  Firstly, because vibrate isn't actually a silent feature. I still hear your phone bouncing around on your desk and yes, it is distracting me. And secondly, it's really just plain rude. (If I were a professor I would probably dock points for it. Just saying....) Oh, and along the lines of phone etiquette, when I am sitting in the 'designated quiet study area' please, please, please don't come in to study and then answer your phone when it rings. Okay, fine, go ahead and answer it but for goodness sakes, don't proceed to have an entire, loud, airhead-y conversation. Unless, of course, you are telling your caller that you can't talk because you are in a designated quiet study area. If that's the case, by all means, carry on.
To top it all off, the icing on the cake of manner-less college kids is my personal favorite - I call it the 'share the stairs' concept. Similar to the 'share the road' idea, but maybe parents don't teach that anymore either. It is quite simple, really. It just sounds hard. Okay - here we go: staircases are split in half. A set of stairs on the left of the railing and a set of stairs on the right. People going up walk on the right of the railing. People going down walk on the left. (which is really your right at that point, but you get my drift. And if you don't, just always walk on the right side and you will be fine.) *Review: Up=right. Down=left.* Got it? Good. Now try it. Trust me - it just works.
 And, if you already abide by the nice manners in the aforementioned paragraphs maybe you could come to my school and share them. There are lots of people there that could really use it. And, yes, my friends, those people are the future of our country. I know.... too scary to think about....

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Fishy Delishy

Had my first day of the semester today. Normally I am at the satellite campus near my house for night classes with a bunch of other full-time working adults like myself, but this semester I am going down to the main campus and taking classes during the day tuesdays and thursdays. Been a long time since I went to school during the day. And with 18 year olds. I am going to spare you the details about how old (and mature) I felt, but let me just say it was hard to deny it when I couldn't stop feeling intensely annoyed that the girl in front of me was repeatedly tossing her hair while lamenting about her boyfriend to the girl next to her. She was eating a lollipop while doing it, too! Honestly! I can't even make things like that up.
Annnnyway, after I sat through 6 hours of class and went to work for 2 hours, I got home without giving dinner even a moments thought, so I had a salad and a sweet potato and warmed up chili for Mr. 31. Simple and easy. But, to cheer up my bored belly, I figured I would post about the amazingly yummy and super-healthy meal I made the other night. You better grab a tissue now, because your mouth is going to be watering in .5 seconds.
I had seen a few recipes for fish topped with a fruit salsa and wanted to try it, but on this particular evening they all called for ingredients I didn't have, so I just decided to wing it. (One of the things I always have in the freezer is fish. I like the flash-frozen stuff they sell at Wegmans, but I am not a grocery store snob (especially not on our income!), so I am sure any fish would do in this dish. Sidenote: what do you do when you need to have double parentheses like that? you know, a thought within a thought? I don't know if using two sets is actually proper. Oh well.)  Back to dinner: I quick-thawed some tilapia and some flounder and seasoned them with a bit of EVOO (rachel ray anyone?) and balsamic fish rub I bought at Tabora Farm. While they cooked under the broiler - which is my new favorite cooking method! - I made the salsa. It took me less than 5 minutes, start to finish. I also cut up some broccoli and shoved it in the microwave to steam.
To serve, I just heaped the salsa over the fish and topped it with some avocado. It was superbly delicisioso! For lunch the next day I put the leftover salsa on rice noodles and chicken with fresh tomatoes. I kind of think the flavors were even better after they sat overnight!

Mango Salsa  (i didn't measure anything - I just added lots of what I like and added more vinegar per taste)

1 lrg. mango, diced
1 sm. red onion, diced
Handful of cilantro
green onions, to taste 
avocado, diced plus a few sliced for garnish

Mix together all ingredients. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and several tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. Mix.

Don't you wish you were eating this?

There would have been more in the bowl, but I was devouring it while the fish cooked!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Mouse's House

We had dinner guests tonight and so I spent this afternoon in the kitchen preparing the meal. Yes, yes, it was yummy, but that is not what this story is about. So, Mr. 31 got home from work around 4 pm and ran upstairs to take a shower. At just about that time I decided that I would put my homemade chocolate cake onto my cake stand. Okay, well, it isn't really my cake stand.... it is my friend Michelle's cake stand which she lent me for our wedding - two years ago - and I never remembered to give it back to her. I (randomly) remembered, while I was icing my cake, that it was still packed away in our 'scary closet' (you have one of those at your house, right? who doesn't...and I don't mean scary as in creepy. I mean scary as in where-everything-with-no-spot-gets-shoved-and-its a-giant-mess-and-you'd-swear-you-thrift-store-it-all-once-a-year-but-it-never-gets-any-better kind of scary). Anyway, I thought 'wouldn't that cake stand be a great way to display my handsome cake!' I didn't think Michelle would mind if i used it again..... that's just the kind of girl she is - kind, and sweet. and giving, and big-hearted. So, I head for the closet. In order to get to the back shelf - our 'scary closet' is a deeeeeep one - I had to slide aside a cabinet that is on wheels. I grunted, and puffed, and pulled and finally it rolled aside, making room for me to grab the cake stand and, also,...... revealing a small, taupe colored, dead field mouse! 
Oh, yeah, people. I said MOUSE. In my house. A MOUSE in my HOUSE. Dead.  (Deader than a doornail, actually, which I guess is what happens when you have two cats roaming the house. And you all know how viciously fierce my scaredy cats are.<eyeroll>)
I almost reached down for it thinking it was a cat toy, but then I remembered I don't buy my cat toys. ACK! So, long story short I yelled for Mr. 31 - who came downstairs in his towel and with a full face of shaving cream to be my hero and whisk away little-dead-man-mouse - and I spent a good ten minutes verbally freaking out about having a mouse in my house. A MOUSE in my HOUSE.

I mean, how did he get there!?!? (Don't answer that question. It's rhetorical.)

As I finished my cooking (sans the cake stand which I never got to in the midst of all the excitement) I starting thinking about the many other things that slip into our lives unnoticed. Things like television and its seductive commercials and addictive shows. We just got cable in October and, not gonna lie here, we love it. I get my fix of decorating and real estate shows and Mr. 31 has an entire history channel to learn new trivia from and endless sports channels.  But I do find myself, on a more regular basis than I prefer, zoning out in front of it. Watching nothing in particular. Flipping through the channels aimlessly. Looking past the language in a show I like, turning a 'blind' eye to the scads of infidelity that today's tv families portray as 'normal' and 'acceptable'. If the tv looked like that dead mouse, would I sit in the same room with it, giving it my attention every night?
Another "silent sneak" in my life is friends. I love mine, and certainly can not live without them. They keep me sane, and act as my sounding boards, and make my laugh. Seeing them often, spending hours over meals with them talking and confiding, is a crucial 'need' of mine. And I thank God for them. But how much more deep, more amazing, could my relationship be with God if I spent hours a week with Him, if I nurtured my relationship with Him as carefully, and with as much vigor, as I do those relationships with my girlfriends? I think of Asaph's writing in Psalms 73:23-25: "Nevertheless I am continually with You, You hold me by my right hand. You will guide me with Your counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but You. And there is non upon earth that I desire besides You."  Wow....
I can think of a dozen other things that have snuck in, unnoticed, to my life over the past months and possibly hindered me from spiritual growth. School, anxiety and stressing over minor, uncontrollable issues (why are they so hard to give to God?), shopping..... really, my list could go on. I don't want to bore you all though.
So, I guess I'll set some traps. Yes, real ones smeared with peanut butter and waiting for a little mouse nose to dare to come strolling along (because - as my loving hubby pointed out - 'where there is one, there is probably more'. oh, gag me!), but also theoretical ones to help remind me that I need to be more diligent of the mice in my life. Especially those that may be running around my feet being so silent I don't even recognize the destruction they could be causing.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Unto the Lord

I had dinner with my friend Sheri last week and, as usual, at some point in an evening filled with intellectual and mind-stimulating topics, the conversation turned to our husbands. She mentioned that she and her husband were currently in a 'debate' (read: heated, argumentative tiff) over who did more in the house. She joked that this happened every few months, which gave us a good laugh.
I knew all too well the scenario she was describing. In our house it happens (give or take a few details) like this: Monday night I make dinner and wash the dishes and do a load of laundry. The next morning I send Mr. 31 out the door with a kiss and a packed lunch and head to work myself. After work I run to the grocery store, come home and unpack bags, make dinner, and do the dishes. The next morning we repeat the kiss, lunch, work routine and after work I head to class at the local college. I get home at 9:30 pm and there is a pile of dishes in the sink! Just sitting there. At this point, I begin the 'angry banging'. (Come on ladies, you know what exactly what I mean.) I clean the dishes, and the kitchen, with deliberate force and noise. I bang each dish in the sink, slam the cabinet doors open and closed and stomp my feet till they hurt on the tile floor. Mr. 31 comes downstairs and looks at me, even (bravely) attempts conversation, which I respond to in short, attitude-filled, sentences. He gives up and goes back upstairs. Maybe I cool off before bed, maybe not.
This cycle repeats itself for several weeks - not always around dishes, mind you. Finally, at an undisclosed moment in one of these little hissy fits, Mr. 31 pointedly asks 'what is wrong with me?' and, well, you know how it goes. It's not a pretty scene. And, so, for a few days after that Mr. 31 goes out of his way to help around the house and I am content. But, as with all vicious cycles, it is cyclical.

Now, here is the thing. Mr. 31 works much harder than I do. He does physical labor all day long, and often on the weekends too, if I beseech it of him. I am a young, healthy individual and there is no sensible reason that I can't do the small amount of housework that is asked of me on a daily basis. The other thing is, Mr. 31 is always appreciate of me. He thanks me for meals (even when he doesn't like them) and he never minds if I am days behind on the laundry, or if there are dust bunnies running across the living room floor (ummm, not that this ever, actually, happens at my house, of course...). He thinks it is important that I take time to relax, and never thinks bad of me if I slack off of the housework to snuggle on the sofa with him. In all honesty, he doesn't put any pressure on me. And, since, there are only two of us in the house, I guess that leaves me putting all the pressure on myself. And unfortunately when I feel under pressure, when I think I 'have' to do something, it makes me cranky. And when I get cranky, I get moody and even less motivated to do the work. And there you have it folks, it is this enigma that truly creates the nasty cycle I mentioned earlier. Sadly, it is Mr. 31 that suffers. (Well, I guess myself, too. I mean, it is really hard being that cranky all the time, you know. <eyeroll>)

I was thinking about all this as I drove home after dinner with Sheri. And then I remembered something that one of my facebook friends had posted on her wall months ago. She had written that she was 'cleaning the house unto the Lord'. It stuck in my head, but in a different way than I think I needed it to. I had chuckled over it and thought how crazy that was - I hated cleaning my house. I certainly couldn't imagine doing it with a good attitude unto the Lord. (And I guess I could have done it with a bad attitude, but, let's face it, that would defeat the 'unto the Lord' part.)  Anyway, I decided to give it a try this week. I figured the worst that could happen is that I had to tell God I was taking the house chores back to myself.
Now, before I share this next part, lets just clarify one thing. I don't mean, in any way, that I have enjoyed  doing the dishes and laundry this week. Let's not get crazy here, people. But I do need to admit that I have noticed a bit of an attitude adjustment. Monday I decided I would take the time while I unloaded the dishwasher to pray. When I finished, I still had a lot I wanted to talk to God about, so I moved onto wiping down the counters and washing the pots in the sink. After that I figured while I was at it I might as well sweep the floor. Surprisingly (or not), it all took me less than a half hour and I didn't mind at all.
The next day I got home late and there was a pile of dishes in the sink. I felt frustrated for one minute, but than I thought about giving that pile of dirty dishes up to the Lord and a weird thing happened. The thought crossed my mind that if God wasn't blessing Mr. 31 and I so much in our lives, I wouldn't have a sink, or dishes to be sitting dirty in that sink. It was very humbling.
Tonight I came home, ate dinner, threw in a load of laundry and ran some errands. When I came home I remembered I had to go downstairs and finish the laundry. For one second I moaned abotu it, and then, in the next second I thought of a friend of ours named Dan, who has been paralyzed for over 30 years of his life from the neck down, due to an accident in his early 20's. I thought how he would probably give anything to be able to walk down to the basement on strong legs and fold the laundry with healthy arms. And here I was, griping about the 5 minutes it would take me! Wake up call again about how blessed I am. You better believe that I folded those jeans with all I had unto the Lord, and, just for good measure, threw another load in to wash!
So, maybe you could all send a prayer up for me (try doing it while you wash the dishes!) that I can make this new attitude a habit that lasts. I would really appreciate it! I think my pots and pans would, too - they sent me a postcard saying they're a little sore from all the banging around.