Zuppa Toscano (Tuscan Soup)

“To feel safe and warm on a cold, wet night, all you really need is soup.” ~ Laurie Colwin

Zuppa-Toscana-Copycat-Sausage-Potato-and-Kale-Soup-4-e1568972036854

The idea of Italian sausage and kale in a soup was not appealing to me.  Not at all.  But after seeing mention of it several times in the same day, I figured . . . eh.  So I looked for a recipe.  It still didn’t seem appealing. BUT . . .

how can I encourage the kids to try new things and step out of their comfort zones, if I’m not willing to do the same.

I was wrong.

Italian sausage and kale go well together in this soup and I believe it will be on the menu regularly, it is that good!  I used mild Italian sausage as I was already leery of the taste and I wasn’t feeling spicy lately.  To be honest, I supplied the ingredients but Savannah did the actual cooking.

Without further ado . . .

Zuppa Toscano

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

5 slices bacon

1.25 lb. mild Italian sausage

1/2 a large yellow onion, chopped

1 T. minced garlic

32 oz. chicken broth

2 c. water

1 1/2 lbs potatoes, diced

Salt and Pepper to taste

2 T. sugar

1/4 t. nutmeg

3 c. kale, chopped

2 c. heavy cream

Directions

Fry the bacon until crispy.  Crumble the bacon into the crockpot.  Brown the Italian sausage into the same pan and crumble while cooking.  Remove the meat and place in the crockpot.  Saute the onions and garlic in the bacon and sausage grease until tender.  Add to the crockpot complete with the drippings.  Add diced potato, salt, pepper, nutmeg, water and chicken broth.  Cook on low 6 hours.  During the last 30 minutes of cooking, stir in the chopped kale and the heavy cream.  Continue to heat and serve done cooking.

 

Shout to the Lord!

“My Jesus, my Savior,
Lord, there is none like You;
All of my days
I want to praise
The wonders of Your mighty love.

My comfort, my shelter,
Tower of refuge and strength;
Let every breath, all that I am
Never cease to worship You.

Shout to the Lord, all the earth,
Let us sing
Power and majesty, praise to the (King);
Mountains bow down (mountains bow down) and the seas will roar
At the sound of Your name.

I sing for joy at the work of Your hands,
Forever I’ll love You, forever I’ll stand,
Nothing compares to the promise I have in you.” ~ Darlene Zschech

seashore under white and blue sky during sunset

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I hadn’t heard this song in several years when it came on my random playlist on Spotify the other morning.  The memories that came with it were overwhelming and I was soon in tears as I drove.

I know that certain smells can cause memories to surface – when I smell honeysuckle it reminds me of the house we lived in with my mom near the Kansas City Zoo.  In the summer, with the windows open, there was honeysuckle growing wild along the fence behind our house and in the evening we could hear the sea lions barking at times.  We lived there until I was five years old.  I also remember swinging on the swingset in the front yard and singing the country songs I heard from the radio in the car.

This past week when I heard the first few notes of “Shout to the Lord” I instantly recalled driving down a very curvy section of Holmes Road in Missouri on a rainy night.  I had just recently moved to Drexel and things were rough — physically, financially, mentally, spiritually — anyway you could cut it, in any aspect of life, we were struggling.  Added to this was the time of year . . . it was summer, just a few days before the 4th of July which is the anniversary of my oldest son’s death.  I was at a low spot when this song came on the radio in 2002.

My comfort, my shelter,
Tower of refuge and strength;
Let every breath, all that I am
Never cease to worship You.

I was questioning whether I could worship a God that felt so far away from me.  When I closed my eyes at night to sleep, all I could picture was an open sea and sky.  No land in sight, no boats, no clouds even .. .. .. simply water stretching as far as the eye could see.  For someone who could not swim at that time and was afraid of water, this was not a comforting thought or scenario.  For whatever reason, this particular night, these words struck a chord with me.

Could I worship God when I felt so alone? With every breath that I had, could I rely on someone and something I couldn’t see to be my comfort?  Was I able and willing to give all that I was to do so? How did I get past the doubts?

I sing for joy at the work of Your hands,
Forever I’ll love You, forever I’ll stand,
Nothing compares to the promise I have in you.

What if I didn’t feel or agree that the work of His hands was cause for joy? I felt that I should have been celebrating my son’s 10th birthday, not the 10th anniversary of his passing.  Let me assure you, I had a full-blown pity party going on.

As the song played on the radio that night, I finally let loose with all those emotions and fears and doubts.  I wrestled with my thoughts and my emotions and by the time the song was over, I could positively say that I was able to sing for joy and worship Him with every breath in my body.  That evening in the car between God and myself cemented my faith and helped me overcome that particular low point.

To hear the song again in the present day and in my present circumstances was an awesome (albeit emotional) reminder of how far I’ve come since that night in 2002.

Baked Salmon

Picky eater

Having a child with Sensory Processing Disorder which is on the Autism spectrum, and having been a picky eater myself . . . I know that trying new foods can be a hit-or-miss experience.  When I find a recipe that is 1) simple, 2) nutritious, 3) tasty and 4) eaten by my picky eater, I HAVE to share it!  At first glance as I was cooking, Sam announced, “I am NOT eating that!”  When dinner was served, he took his required ‘no-thank-you-bite’ and before I knew it he had cleaned the plate and was asking his sister if she was going to finish hers.

Winner! Winner! Salmon dinner!

I may have even heard a heavenly chorus of angels singing “Hallelujah!”   Maybe.

Salmon doesn’t have to be super expensive.  I buy the family pack of individually-wrapped frozen filets from Aldi. I believe it was about $8 for five good-sized filets. The rest of the ingredients I already had on hand.

I like to serve asparagus with fish because I believe the flavors complement each other (and my kids love it!)  Sometimes, I serve it with homemade Hollandaise sauce.  On this occasion I simply seasoned it with a pinch of salt, butter and Parmesan.  If you’ve never attempted making Hollandaise Sauce, it is one of the easiest things to make, you just cannot leave it or wait too long to pour it.    You will note that patience is included in the list of ingredients.  I say this only because our society has beome an “instant” or “busy” society — we want to multi-task.  Hollandaise is not a multi-tasking sort of project. *Bonus — the recipe is below the Salmon recipe.

Baked Salmon

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

4 salmon filets, thawed if purchased frozen

4 slices bacon, raw

4 T. spicy brown mustard

4 T. honey

salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400.  Prepare the baking dish with a light spray of olive oil.  Rinse and pat dry the salmon filets. Place in the baking dish, skin side down (if the skin remains on the fish).  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Combine the spicy brown mustard and honey, whisking until blended.  Spread 1 T. evenly across each salmon filet.  Top with a slice of raw bacon.  (I place the bacon in almost a V shape to cover the top of the filet.)  Bake for 10-12 minutes.

Hollandaise Sauce

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

2 egg yolks (use the whites for an omelette the next morning)

1 T. lemon juice

5 T. butter (not margarine) cut in half

Patience

Directions

Using a small saucepan stir the egg yolks and the lemon juice together until smooth.  Add one half of the butter measured above.  On low heat, and I mean LOW, continuously stir the mixture until the butter is melted.  Quickly add in the remaining butter, still stirring.  As soon as the last half of the butter is melted, remove from heat.  Don’t just turn the heat off, literally REMOVE the pan from the heat and still stirring, pour it over whatever you’re serving or pour it into the serving bowl.  As it cools, it will develop a slight skin on it, but it just takes a quick stir.

I love to cook, and feeding folks is one of the ways I show my love and appreciation for them.  I also believe that food brings people together.  We ALL have to eat and food breaks down barriers and opens doors of communication.  One of my favorite ads below expresses this visually — take 2.5 minutes to watch:

 

Getting worked up over vegetables

“Hurry up and open it!” ~ Sam Rodabaugh

variety of vegetables

Photo by Adonyi Gábor on Pexels.com

With all the ‘box subscriptions’ available now, I am selective about what I’m willing to try.  It has to meet a few requirements:

  1. It has to be affordable. I don’t have money to waste on stupidity.
  2. It has to be something we will use.  See #1 above.
  3. It has to provide a good or service that I cannot get anywhere else for the same price point.

When I decided to give Misfits Market a try, I was curious as to how this would turn out.  Shipping a box of organic vegetables?  Will I use them?  Will I know WHAT to do with them? Will they be good when they get to me?

Sooooo. . . . .I gave it a whirl!

The website is easy to navigate.  You choose the size of box you want, set up the delivery frequency and enter your credit card or payment information.  You can also access your account to snooze a delivery, change the delivery frequency or suspend delivery.  I chose the smaller box (at the time it was just me) and scheduled it every two weeks to coincide with paydays.  The money is deducted on Sunday and my shipment arrives on Wednesday.

It was like vegetable Christmas when I got my first box.  It was packaged very nicely and sturdily.  Some of the smaller produce was bagged, it was wrapped over all in brown paper packing, with corrugated cardboard for insulation and protection as well as ice packs to maintain temperature.

The Misfits Market website states they promise at least 12 varieties of produce in each box — not 12 items, but 12 varieties.  I kid you not, they deliver on that promise.  I have received squashes, peppers, onions, potatoes, broccoli, eggplant, cauliflower, green beans, jalapenos, apples, lemons, limes, pears, collard greens, grapefruit, tomatoes, swiss chard, and other items — all delicious and fresh on arrival.

I had suspended the service after the kids arrived permanently because funding was a bit tight for a few weeks.  We resumed service this past week and the arrival date was a scene of hilarity!  I had forgotten about the delivery, and as we were settling in for the night, it dawned on me . . . IT’S WEDNESDAY!!!!  We have a box downstairs on the porch!!

We all three went rushing down the stairs, Savannah opened the front door and retrieved the box, and as she carried it into the kitchen, Sam was hopping along beside her.  As it sat on the countertop, Savannah grabbed the scissors to cut the packing tape and Sam was still hopping about like a grasshopper on crack.  Do anyone else’s children get this excited about vegetables???

Butternut squash, new potatoes, green beans, apples, tangelos, grapefruit, red onion, collard greens, broccoli, romanesco cauliflower, lemons, and green peppers — yep, 12 varieties.

romanesque_1

 

This by the way, is what a Romanesco cauliflower looks like.  If you ask me, it appears more like a sea anemone that would be found under the water surrounded by fish.

Do I hear strains of “Under the Sea” from the Little Mermaid movie?

 

 

Now for the downside of all this excitement: In the enthused response, as we were putting the produce away, I opened a drawer in which to place the potatoes and onions and proceeded to slam it into Savannah’s knee as she was squatting nearby.  With the resounding crack accompanied by “owwwww” and the resulting catapult backwards onto the floor, there was also a gush of laughter.  Immediately following this, there was karma, as Sam went to hug me and rounded about,  promptly placing his elbow into my left eye socket which produced another round of “owwww” followed by laughter.

Who knew that fresh vegetables could be physically dangerous to your health?

P.S.  Misfits Market in no way paid me to promote their service or website, I simply am sharing my experience for a service that I truly appreciate!

Creating Doesn’t Have To Be Big

“There is something in this world that every individual can do.  God has created all of us with something unique to contribute.” ~ Linus Pauling

person sewing a fabric

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

As an all-or-nothing, go-BIG-or-go-home personality who HATES to start anything she cannot finish in the same sitting . . . . I am learning that letting my creativity flow does not mean the project has to be big.  It doesn’t even have to be finished that same day.  This is almost mind-blowing for me.

Last year, before I moved, Sam had expressed an interest in sewing.  We went together and he picked out a pattern and fabric to make a shirt.  But then . . . I started planning the move, and then actually performing the move.  While the pattern and material did come with me, Sam and I never really had much of an opportunity to sit down and talk about sewing.

He mentioned the other night that he still wanted to make his shirt and I assured him that the makings of it were right here. . .in this house!  Tonight we began.  I taught him the machine from plugging in the power cord and the foot feed to how the wheel works, how to rise and lower the presser foot.  After learning some of the basic function of my sewing machine, he was ready to practice stitching along straight lines.  Granted, there was no thread in the machine, not even a bobbin.  But his cackles of glee made me smile.

This is going to be fun! A little bit of straight line stitching led to him sharing dreams about designing clothes which led to a conversation about how many of the most famous clothing designers are men.  This in turn led to a promise to look at the latest issue of Vogue magazine so I can point out which outfits were designed by men.  During this endeavor, Sam’s big sister called and on finding out our plans for this evening, she encouraged him to design clothes for her.  This brought out a huge grin as well as some jumping up and down.

Afterwards, he went to bed, and I stayed up for a bit to start a baby afghan.  Just two rows, but it’s a start.  And then I put it aside.  Which was one of the hardest things for me to do.

Baby steps, Karen.  Baby steps.

I’m Bored

raver.com

‘There’s nothing to do.”

“What am I supposed to do NOW?”

“That’s no fun, that’s boring!”

All these things (and more) were said to me when my son got his electronics privileges taken away.  Cell phone.  Nintendo Switch.  Gameboy.  Access to my laptop.  Television.

For over an hour, there was whining and wheedling and crying and screaming and yelling and attempts at bargaining and eventually . . .acceptance.

I have a whole slew of ideas of things to do:

  • Board games
  • Card games
  • Paints and markers and colored pencils
  • Spirograph and paper
  • Basketball
  • Raking leaves
  • Vacuuming
  • Baking cookies or brownies
  • Going for a walk
  • Going to the park
  • Riding bikes
  • Reading a book
  • Writing a book

All of these were deemed unsuitably boring and some of them (admittedly) were not feasible as it was beyond dark outside.  However, after the overinflated protests of injustice died down, there was an interest in baking cookies, which may happen later in the week.  The request to make fresh lemonade was granted with some guidance given in the kitchen and then a shower and off to bed.

Perhaps the next few days will become less boring and I’ll get some new artwork or creative gifts to display.

 

Carnitas Soft Tacos

“There should be an app like ‘Pokemon Go’ but instead of Pokemons, you find tacos.  Real ones.  That you can eat.” ~ Unknown

I am not particularly a fan of pork, but my daughter LOVES carnitas.  Far be it from me to fail to make one of her favorite dishes on occasion.  When cooked in the crockpot, this pork is fork tender, shreds easily and can be used for soft tacos, quesadillas or taco bowls.

The toppings are endless and entirely up to your discretion.  We like cilantro, cheese, black olives, red onion, sour cream, avocado, fresh squeezed lime juice from lime sections, guacamole, corn salsa, garlic aioli, or fresh tomato salsa . . . whatever your heart desires.  I often make a taco bowl to which you can also add rice if you so choose.

Crockpot Carnitas

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

1 small yellow onion, chopped

1/4 c. Cilantro, chopped

1 1/2 c. chicken broth

Juice of 1 lime

1 3-4 lb. pork roast

1 T. garlic powder

2 t. chili powder

2 t. salt

2 t. ground cumin

2 t. smoked paprika

2 t. onion powder

Pepper to taste

Directions

Place the chopped onion and chopped cilantro in the crockpot.  Add the chicken broth and lime juice.  Rinse the pork roast and pat dry.  Stir together the garlic powder, chili powder, salt, cumin, paprika, onion powder and pepper in a mixing bowl or plate.  Place the pork roast in the spices and coat thoroughly on all sides.  Place in crockpot.  Cook on low for 7 hours.

Remove pork roast from crockpot and shred into chunks using two forks.  Preheat oven to 400 while shredding the pork roast.  Place on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes or until edges of meat start to crisp.  Use as filling for soft taco, quesadillas or taco bowls.

Now. . . a word of wisdom.

You may be thinking that patting the roast dry is not really a BIG deal, but it is.  And here is why:  1) you should always rinse your meat after removing it from the packaging, this is just hygenic, 2) by patting the meat dry after rinsing, this gives the spices a moist surface to which they can stick.  If the meat is wet, the spices get wet and slide off the surface of the meat. defeating the purpose of seasoning.

As a bonus, I am also including a recipe for Garlic Aioli which is a condiment that provides a fantastic combination of garlic and lemon in a creamy mayonnaise base.  Better than sour cream, we can’t get enough of this when we have carnitas.

Garlic Aioli

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

1 T. fresh, minced garlic

Juice of 1 lemon

1/2 c. Hellman’s mayonnaise

Sprinkle of pink Himalayan salt

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together.  Serve with carnitas or any other meat that you desire.

Enjoy!!

Masquerade

“Being natural is incredibly empowering for women because it’s just who you are.  You’re embracing all the beautiful things about you from your head to your toes.  Because when you mask so much of your natural beauty, people don’t get to see that.” ~ Rozondo Thomas

We’ve heard about “body shaming” – that phenomena that real women get when their bodies don’t measure up to the model thin “perfection” that isn’t truly real, but tweaked and edited and photo-shopped to look like the finished product we see on the commercials and print ads.

But now . . .

NOW we have “face shaming” for lack of a better term.  The gamut of makeup that not only includes foundation and concealer, but now highlighter and contouring powder and color correcting cream and on and on and on.  My teen daughter spends more time on her face than I do.

Does the make-up contouring diagram below resemble an African mask to anyone besides me. (And no, I’m not picking on Africans or their masks, they are beautiful pieces of art, but I don’t want to resemble one when I go out!)

Make-up was meant to accentuate and enhance a woman’s appearance, not cover and blur the line of distinction between reality and societal expectations.  Pile on the make-up and then add in the filters available on the camera apps and the finished product resembles nothing even remotely similar to the person underneath and behind all that stuff.  And the false eyelashes? What is up with wearing eyelashes that are so obviously full and fake that you could use them to scrub the tub?  Ridiculousness, that’s what it is.

It’s one thing if it’s a professional photo shoot or a public appearance where there will be bright lights which can drain the color from anyone.  Even a public performance on a stage which is several feet from the audience, the make-up must be bolder to visualize the face of the performer.  Everyday wear though? No.

I know of a woman who posted pictures of herself on social media, including a dating website, that had been “enhanced” with filters.  When the gentleman she met online arrived, she opened the door to greet him.  He took one look at her and stated, “You don’t look like your pictures.”  After a few minutes conversation, he left.  Should he have given her the benefit of the doubt and gotten to know her?  Maybe.  At the same time, he may have felt like he had been a victim of false advertising.

Fortunately, a few celebrities have started wearing less make-up and asserting their natural beauty, even on the red carpet and in public photos.  Big names: Naomi Watts, Kate Winslet, Natalia Vodianova, Heidi Klum,  and Jennifer Lawrence to name a few.  I know the make-up industry wants to make money, but puhleaase . . . can we assure our daughters that they are beautiful and can you just look in the mirror tomorrow morning and tell yourself, “YOU are beautiful!”

 

Directionally Challenged

“Blessed is she who saves furniture from dumpsters, for she shall embarrass her husband and children but have AMAZING projects.” ~ Unknown

This desk did not come from a dumpster.  It was actually given to me by a friend almost 20 years ago — oh my gosh, has it been that long?!?!?!  For most of those years, I was mentally and emotionally in a place where I just did not have the energy or creative juices to give a whit what this piece of furniture looked like. At that time, my focus was on survival and keeping my kids safe.

However . . . the past year has given me an opportunity to embrace my creative side again, and this desk is one of my projects.

Structurally , the desk is in good shape.  It is sturdy and currently is sitting in the crafting/sewing room awaiting it’s fate.  The plan is for it to hold the sewing machine as it will allow plenty of space for fabric to rest while sewing.

The dilemma is:  What type of design element do I want to go with when I refinish it?

I could go the shabby chic route with chalk paint or a few layers sanded down to reveal the layers of color.

Perhaps like this:

shabby chic

But then again, the details, such as the sections of the drawer, and the turns on the legs present the possibility to lend it a little more personality.

I could go the whimsical route, a la Mary Engelbreit, and do a bang up job something like this:

So there we have it — the quandary that has been keeping me awake at night. (Not really, but it sounds good.)  Do I go for a sewing room of understated elegance and chic or do I go the route of colorful whimsy and creativity.

Decision and choices . . . oh my!

 

So Much To Do, So Little Time

“Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem.  We all have twenty-four hour days.” ~ Zig Ziglar

assorted silver colored pocket watch lot selective focus photo

Photo by Giallo on Pexels.com

If I had a penny for every time I’ve been told, “I don’t know how you get so much done!” — I’d be a very rich woman!  It’s really not rocket science, it’s just planning.

One of my favorite sayings is: Plan your work and work your plan.

I start every day by reading my devotional verses from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).  These are emailed to me and appear on my phone about the time I awaken.  My entire days seems to go better when I start with my Scripture reading and prayer.

I plan my meals by using a printed menu template that I created.  From there I plan the grocery list which is planned around my paydays.  Everyone gets to make suggestions as to what goes on the menu.  If a suggestion doesn’t get included in the present menu, it is added to the next one.

Cleaning the refrigerator is done on Sunday evenings as the trash goes out Monday morning.  Scrubbing the sink happens every evening after the dishes are done.  I absolutely hate coming downstairs first thing in the morning to a sink full of dishes and gunk.  Setting up the Keurig at night is also a staple event — when I’m stumbling to the kitchen each morning, all I have to do is push the buttons to get my wake-up Java.

I plan the housework by the day of the week or around the activities taking place.  Each of us has specific days to do our laundry.  Sheets and towels are done at the weeks end.

I plan my blog posts *gasp* – they are written on Sundays and scheduled to post on various days.  UNLESS . . . something comes up that would make a compelling post, then I may add it in and delay the next scheduled one.

Each week I focus on renovating a certain room of the house.  There is so much to do — some of it major tasks such as painting, some of it not so major such as deep cleaning and scrubbing, but when you toss it all together, it becomes a mish-mash of confusion and utter wonder at what to tackle next.  Each room has a “to-do list” of needs and if I can only spend 15 minutes a day it eventually gets done.  Some days I may spend more than 15 minutes, but that is the minimum and you’d be amazed at what you can accomplish in that amount of time. By portioning it out to one room per week, the work never gets old or  relentlessly mundane (such as pulling carpet staples out of wood floors).  Besides, I have found that taking a break from a certain area leaves me free to brainstorm and consider ideas for those spaces that I may not have considered were I to get boxed in and develop tunnel-vision.

I schedule time to read.  I am an avid reader but it goes in waves, either I want to sit and read and let everything else go by the wayside, or I get busy and end up having books gathering dust.

I plan time to create.  Whether it is sewing, or crocheting or photography or looking at paint colors, or simply wandering through Lowe’s to get ideas . . . that creative outlet is fed on a regular basis.

I plan major purchases.  I do my research and cost analysis and then plan for the purchase and set the savings goal in place.

I plan time to be silly and relax and play with my kids.  Whether it’s going to the movies, or thrifting, or staying home and playing card games or board games, family time is very important to staying connected and in tune with what’s going on in the kids lives.  One of my favorite times of day is when we do the dishes together — it gives me some 1:1 time with each one to listen to their thoughts and ideas.

I plan time for myself.  Going for a walk alone, exercising, taking a hot bath, pedicures or just applying a foot mask at bedtime — all these things contribute to a sense of well-being for myself.  I cannot be a good Mom, employee or friend if I am running out of steam.  Self-care is just as important as taking care of everyone else.

I plan time with my sister.  Every Monday evening we talk on the phone.  These calls are full of laughter, anecdotes, and prayer requests.  There is no bond quite like the one between siblings, and being 700+ miles away, this is our time to stay connected.

If you were not gifted with planning genetics, start small.  Plan a week’s worth of meals.  Then two weeks.  Then add something else.  Anticipation is the key.  Review what is going on so you can adjust your schedule accordingly.  This requires being able to stay on top of kids school schedules and work schedules.  Above all, remain fluid.  Do not get so locked into your plans that you become rigid and unbending.

For example: Our menu is set, but if we don’t feel like having X for dinner, we can switch it to another evening and substitute Y.  Why?  Because I have all the ingredients to make any meal on the menu at any given day during that two-week period.  Occasionally, about once in a two-week period, we plan an evening out.  Sometimes we know where we’re going, other times we’ll take a vote to see what we’re doing.

Every one one of us gets twenty-four hours in our day, it’s up to you to decide how it gets spent.