Last year at this time, I was declaring that 2020 would be a year in which we would enjoy a year free of toxic/abusive people, a year of peace and quiet and enjoyment, a year in which we would work on re ccovery and healing. Well, it didn’t exactly turn out that way. 2020 was the craziest, most insane year that I think any of us have ever experienced. I feel as if we should all get “I survived” medals.

Heading into this year, I am making no declarations about what I personally expect, hope for, or am working towards. I do have hopes, expectations, and goals, but I’m not declaring them. I will mostly see what unfolds each day and try to adjust.

As 2021 begins, we are trying to determine if there is a problem with our heating system. We have a geothermal system, which means that heating and cooling is done by exchanging heat with the ground. We have propane backup so if the outside temperature drops below 20(F) degrees, our house is heated with propane. Our house is cheap to heat if it uses the geothermal heat, but if it switches to the auxiliary system, it tends to gulp propane, which is why we keep the house a bit cool. We shouldn’t have a problem with our geothermal system since we just replaced it two years ago but it seems as if our auxiliary heat is kicking in before it should. EJ keeps checking the thermostat, trying to determine if there is a problem or not. Hopefully, there isn’t a problem with expensive repairs. It really feels as if every time we start to build up a little bit of savings, there is some “emergency” that drains it away. Every. Single. Time. The good thing is that we usually have just enough to cover the cost of the “emergency.” I would like to be able to have more than merely “enough” but it is a blessing to have enough. We have never been homeless, hungry, cold, or unable to pay our bills, and we have sometimes been able to buy a few extra things. The need to live frugally has also helped us become creative. So there is that.

On New Year’s Eve, I made homemade pizza while EJ drove to the local grocery store for a variety of chips for our “celebration,” which actually just involves eating and watching favorite movies or television series all day. In addition to the pizza, I also tried my hand at making homemade pretzels for the first time. They turned out well enough although I didn’t think they would because I didn’t think the dough rose enough–whether because, even in the best of times, we have trouble finding a warm enough place in winter to raise dough or because kneading dough is more difficult for me since I fell on the ice a couple of years ago and broke my wrist. We have begun using the dehydrator as a “proofing oven,” putting the temp at its lowest setting with a bowl of water in it to keep the dough moist. When EJ is available, I ask him to knead dough for me.

I told EJ that I ought to get a machine to roll out a sheet of dough for me–like those fondant machines I’ve seen on the Food Network. It would make rolling out dough for crackers more consistent and easier on my hands. Yesterday I thought, “Huh. I wonder what such a machine would cost?” Just for fun, I went looking at Amazon, and surprisingly, a simple model didn’t cost that much. In fact, such a device is actually a pasta maker so we could use it to make our own pasta as well as a sheet of dough for crackers. We could easily save for it. Making our own crackers and pasta would be cheaper and healthier in the long run than buying it from a store.

Then, since I was dreaming, I went looking for peanut butter makers. I have wanted to make homemade peanut butter for a long time, but machines are usually waaaay to expensive. I googled “best machine for making peanut butter” and the best noncommercial option was actually a powerful model of food processor, which several reviewers said they used to make a variety of nut butters. Again, making our own would be healthier. The recommended food processor wasn’t very expensive and we can save for it.

EJ said, “Look up air fryers for our Instant Pot.” He told me a co-worker has an air-fryer and LOVES it. I had trouble finding an air-fryer lid for an 8 quart Instant Pot so I went looking for an air-fryer appliance. I found a cool one that is an amazing 10-in-1 air fryer, toaster, convection, rotisserie, and dehydrator oven combo. The price was reasonable for what it is, but would take longer to save for.

I now have a list of dream machines.

I never considered myself much of a cook. Although I think my Mom was a good cook, she never really taught me or my sisters to cook when we were growing up. And when JJ was young, my time and energy went into homeschooling him. So cooking has been, for me, mostly a duty rather than a joy, even though EJ said he considers me a good cook. But I have had so much fun during the last year learning to use our Instant Pot, experimenting with different types of foods that I think it would be so much fun to have these other items and expand my home cooking horizons.

Tunisian technique.
Photo from tylcblog

For several months, I have been searching for a nordic pattern so that I could make various types of scarves. The patterns that I like require a technique called Tunisian. I thought it was merely a different type of stitch, but it’s actually a completely different branch of crocheting that I never knew existed. In normal crocheting, a person stitches a row, turns the work, and stitches the next row. In Tunisian crochet, the work is not turned after each row. Instead, each row consists of two “passes,” the first pass involves putting loops on the hook going from right to left, and the second pass involves taking the loops off from left to right. Because the loops for each stitch of a row stays on the hook–if there are 50 stitches, there are 50 loops on the hook–a longer Tunisian crochet hook is required. As a beginner, it seems very complicated to me but fortunately, there are how-to videos to show me how to do it. It might take some time, but these are the types of patterns I’d like to learn to create:

I bought this scarf pattern by Hayley Joanne Robinson.
I hope to learn this Tunisian technique, stitches, and patterns.

It appears that even though I’m trying not to have hopes, expectations, or goals for this year, I actually DO have them. Hopefully, I can accomplish these better than I did last year’s. Although, honestly, although 2020 was much crazier than expected, EJ and I have actually worked on recovery and healing so it wasn’t as unsuccessful as it appeared at first glance.

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