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Some tips on
Living Simply

Reality Check

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By Pat Mestern

Recently humanity was dealt a dreadful reality check. Unfortunately, it was executed with a large marker that left an ugly trail throughout the world. Most people quickly found out what was really important in their lives. It wasn't money; it wasn't possessions. It was love for family, courage, inner strength and loyalty. Many turned to survival basics - food, shelter, defense of community and country. It is to the credit of all North Americans that we functioned so well in crisis-mode. Through the trying times ahead we will display North America's greatest inner-strength, it's people.

Canada and the U.S.A. were founded on the humbling ambition of its citizens to provide permanently for adequate food, shelter and clothing for their families. Safety and defense was a fact of life, not an ambition. This ancestral survival mode might seem to lack credibility among those who subscribe to today's all-consuming society. But, in the aftermath of a tragedy, priorities return to basics. Things that seemed so important as to consume one's daily life, are set aside. New family and community-oriented priorities surface.

Our ancestors, for the most part, possessed loyalty and strong family values. They did not consume in an attempt to get rich or accrue material things. Nor did they scrimp and sacrifice for love of accumulating the mighty dollar. They knew what was necessary for survival, how to work and when to play. They kept worries in perspective and acted to alleviate them.

This may seem a trite statement, given current circumstances, but the true standard of living is the one that can be maintained with the least possible amount of worry. Some people are so caught up in the circle of crushing worry, and debt, that they have forgotten the basic steps for living. Yes, there is worry and there is debt, but you can balance all with love and caring for family, friends, community and country. Hug your children - a lot. Hold hands with an elder. Volunteer your time. Laugh much. Pay down that debt. You possess the ability to handle the worry, and to improve your life, through achieving a sustainable standard for family living, community values and monetary success.

Events and circumstances shape one's views about life. A tragedy brings people to the realization that being surrounded by loving family, community and friends is omni important. Just as poverty makes some people envious of others, an unhappy home situation or childhood can make people turn into themselves, and away from friends and community. There are seniors who have no family and who must now be very frightened. If you can, reach out to these people. They need your attention and assistance. Share your love, knowledge and experience.

Now is a good time to once again examine your own goals, to priortise and adjust strategies. You may be too young to have experienced anything like this before. Take it from a senior friend of mine. He says I must tell you that a light does appear when a situation seems blackest. There is always another day that dawns. There is hope in the bleakest of circumstances and laughter in the strangest of situations.

If you are unsure as to how to provide adequately for your family in severe and unusual circumstances, go to Living Simply and hit on the article that was written for Y2K. Most of the information is still relevant.

Because life must get back to some normality, here are some great suggestions, and one excellent recipe for your files.

SPICE RACK: A wooden spice rack with small bottles makes excellent catch-all. Hang it in a convenient place and use the bottles for odds and ends such as elastics, buttons, safety pins, paper clips, marbles. The rack hanging on my kitchen wall is really handy when a thumb tack, elastic or safety pin is needed, and it looks decorative too.

GARLIC: Plant garlic. It's known around here as the Rope Plant. Garlics long leaf fronds make great ropes for garden plants that need pole support. Just break the leaves off and use them in place of twine. They don't break. I don't take a ball of string into the garden but plant garlic in appropriate spots. Also, plant garlic with spring bulbs. Squirrels hate the smell of garlic. I planted more than 200 bulbs this autumn and didn't lose any to those pesky creatures.

LEAVES: Use fallen leaves as winter mulch on flower beds. Don't even rake them off in the spring. Let them rot into the soil. Your plants will poke through the leaf cover. I've been known to gather neighborhood leaves if people don't want them. As always, my favourite trick with autumn leaves is to run the lawn-mower over them and let them rot right into the lawn over the winter. They make excellent fertilizer. Wait until there's a carpet of golden leaves and choose a nice warm November day for chopping through them. The latest I've chewed through a foot of leaf cover was December 2 in a year with little snow. Neighbours thought I was nuts.

OLD FASHIONED BAKED BEANS: Mother's favourite cheap, rib-sticking dish was good old-fashioned Baked Bean-pot. She made the dish several times a month and always on a regular baking day to take advantage of the hot oven. She used to make the dish and do her baking on the coldest days of winter so kitchen heat, and wonderful smells, would circulate through the house. Baked Bean-pot always tastes better a day, or two, after baking. It is a good fridge keeper. Here's her recipe. You'll need 3 cups dry white beans or mixed dry beans. Soak beans overnight in cold water to cover. Pour off then add fresh water to cover and bring to a boil. Boil 10 minutes and drain again. Add fresh water to cover once again and simmer for one hour or until reasonably tender.

Remove from the heat. Don't drain. Add a 20 oz tin of whole tomatoes, juice and all, 2 chopped onions, ¼ cup brown sugar or maple syrup, ¼ cup vinegar, 12 slices bacon, chopped coarse, ¼ cup molasses, ¼ cup chilli or barbeque sauce, 1 teaspoon salt, a dash of pepper, 1 teaspoon of chopped garlic or ½ teaspoon garlic powder, 1 tablespoon dried mustard.

Put in a covered dish in a 350F degree oven early in the morning. Bake for at least six hours. When finished, Baked Bean-pot should be a deep brown colour and very saucy. You're allowed to sample lots and stir only once. Because some beans absorb more liquid than others during baking, if you feel that the dish will not be saucy enough, you can stir in additional water, ¼ cup at a time. Now that's food that really schmecks!

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