Sunday, December 2, 2012

The War On Panhandlers, Beggars, and Assorted Other Blight

Transparent LanguageMy community has recently begun a sort of war on pandhandlers.  On most major street corners and shopping areas there can be found someone (or someones) standing with a sign.  The signs generally inform passersby that they are homeless/unemployed/hungry.  Here's one such example from a local news website:

It seems many are being harmed by this display of need and feel a crack down must occur on this blight to our shopping society.  When the landscape of mall and Target is disturbed by reminders that some don't have the means to just wander in and buy a pair of shoes when the current pair is falling apart (or more than likely, no longer fashionable)....well, it's time to get rid of these folks.

There are missions we are reminded.  And food banks.  And occasionally a church.  These people have a place - and it's not anywhere near where we frequent.  The missions are located in the inner city far from our eyes.  The food banks are pleasant places to volunteer and also tucked away from the grocery store.

Yet this is what I tell my children:

Our response is the only thing we can be responsible for.  It is not for us to determine how hard someone has tried to get a job - if they are former convicts - if they have tatoos - if they will purchase donuts and beer with money we may hand them.  What we will answer for is this:  What have you done for the least of these. 

We will not be asked how we determined which panhandler was genuine in their need.  We will not be asked if we really weighed whether our extra $10 was going to a non profit charitable organization or to a potentially unreligious street corner sign waver.

When did you see me naked?  When did you see me hungry?  These were the questions asked of people when Jesus walked the earth.  When?  When we see someone standing on a corner with a sign as we drive in our comfortable car into Meijer to purchase some organic lettuce or a bottle of wine or a bag of whole bean coffee.  And we justified not stopping by telling ourselves the person was lazy....criminal....pierced....probably lying.

Consider next time what it would take for you to stand on a corner with such a sign.  There's a pretty good chance you know you'd be devoid of pride.  Self-worth would be zero.  Purchasing meat at the grocery store would be a luxury. 

So don't be so smug when you drive by and comment on the state of the social welfare programs in the country.  Instead remind yourself what it is to be human and that the lack of response from many have created the need for so many social welfare programs.  If you are Christian your thoughts shouldn't even run to all things governmental - instead just imagine Jesus sitting next to you in the Volvo...just what is it He would have you do?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Gold Rush!

In a world of economic ups and downs.  Some more of the latter for many, is it any wonder that there is a show that has some quirky characters engaging in what seems like a bit of a lottery but by the sweat of their brow rather than by the turning over of cash for a piece of paper.

Yes - I mean Toddlers and mean Gold Rush.

Not since California has the idea of a gold rush been more captivating.  And, thanks to television, I can now pretend to venture through Alaska and dig some holes hoping for a few pieces of the shiny bling.  Of course, we sit as a family and comment on things like:

"You know how much that piece of equipment would cost?"

     "I bet he was rich before he started this."

"Even if they don't find gold, they're getting paid to be on TV."

Yes, we are apparently a cynical TV bunch yet in spite of these comments I do love me some Gold Rush.  Maybe it's the idea that a fortune can come up from the ground, yet it comes with it the requirement that sweat and labor be invested?  Perhaps it's just the idea of watching people do things I would never do, yet I could watch Jersey Shore for that yet I'd rather have a hot poker to the eye than do that.  I think it's that drive that should be innate in all of us - that if we work hard enough and put in enough time we will reap something worthwhile (humanly speaking). 

I'm not sure - I just know that when Gold Rush is on we watch and wonder and wait to see if a little gold will be on the bottom of the pan.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Lazy Cake

There are days when my cooking (and definitely my baking) must be time...minimal ingredients on hand....better TV to watch....whatever the excuse....

On those days the cake comes from a box mix and it gets baked in a 9x13.  There is nothing wrong with baking a cake in a 9x13.  For most of my childhood I assumed this is how all cakes are baked.  Yes, I was sheltered.  But Martha Stewart was still married and far too busy to be making housewives feel inferior.

But lazy baking doesn't have to be blah.  Here's today's lazy cake:

Baked in a 9x13 dish, the frosting reflects the cake and it's quite fun (in spite of being lazy).

1 - Duncan Hines marble cake mix - mixed and baked as directed
1/2 - Betty Crocker Dark Fudge frosting (yes - just half)

microwave the 1/2 frosting for about 20 seconds

1/2 - Betty Crocker Vanilla frosting (yup - half again)

add to the previously microwaved - pop in again for about 15 seconds

Drizzle over top starting in middle - just let it move around on the cake.  Reserve a few tablespoons to cover empty corners (like the one in the lower left of the picture).

It will eventually harden a bit...the pretty look of a marble glaze - the taste (and ease) of plain ol' frosting.

Lazy Cake today....I don't think anyone here will be complaining.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Of Old Lady Backs

I'm laying (lying?  I always got those mixed) bed....the family is at church and my back won't cooperate.  My children have been enjoying the moments of me walking hunched over, calling me "old lady" and "grandma".  I would chase them down and pummel them if I could.  I'm not moving fast enough.  Lucky kids.

So I sit/lay with a laptop and I'm reading more facebook posts than is perhaps good for the spirit.  Well, good for me since my big mouth can translate into busy fingers and, really, I'm better just not saying/typing anything when I'm feeling a bit funkish.  But it does occur to me that more often than not we all see the planks in our neighbor's eyes.  The 'friend' who repeatedly posts about her bad health posted something that was supposed to be funny about whiners.  Not even thinking that most are probably reading the whiner thing as so very ironic coming from her.

The 'friend' who routinely espouses all that is Republican and enjoys a joke or two at the expense of those on government assistance is busy posting photos from his quick weekend trip somewhere warm - the kind of trip that no one living a truly middle class life is able to take.  In doing so he has espoused some of what people find wrong with the politics he enjoys supporting....a disconnect with what it means to be in need.

Just to be fair, a 'friend' of the Democrat persuasion is also busy posting photos of her recent world wind vacation with her family.  It's lovely.  It's the kind of trip I wish I could take my kids on.  The next week she posted about really needing health insurance for her daughter and wishing she knew how to find some she could afford and isn't it great that Obamacare is gradually making it better.  The disconnect between how many months of health insurance could have been purchased with the money spent on the vacation is not (I hope) obvious just to me.

This is one of the many, many inherent problems with airing a life on social media.  We are a people of short memories.  We may forget that we just posted about our financial woes...just a couple weeks before we posted about our shopping trip, new vehicle, great vacation.  We post lovely, deeply moving quotes from Scripture.....followed by weekend posts about how we had a bit too much to drink in the bar with our friends.  And don't forget that if we have told a friend we are too busy to go to dinner because we'll be out of town....well, if we then post about what we're doing in town on that very day....well, lying became harder to cover.

So this old lady with the back...well, she has time to read so many posts that her muscle spasm is groaning just a bit more.  My head is spinning just a bit.  My moral compass is spinning.  And I'm cleaning out my conflicting posts because the people whose posts I'm reading?  They're not the only ones openly contradicting themselves.  A little introspection is good for the soul (and back)....a lot of delete key is even better!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Chick-Fil-A...Americans can't stick to anything, let alone a boycott

Seriously? We've come to a point in the human race where gays and gay rights advocates are not eating a fast food fried chicken sandwich just to prove a point. Does anyone find that even mildly amusing? I mean, if any of the sterotypes are correct - and I watch enough TV to assume that all gay men are stylish, trim, and far more fashionable than I - well, they aren't eating at Chick-Fil-A anyway.

Yet, by all means, boycott away. It's your right.

In the 1980s my parents wanted to boycott Disney. I think probably McDonald's somewhere along the line as well. I remember them receiving a newsletter each month that essentially listed all the bad things various corporations were supporting - the trash TV they were advertising and thereby supporting - the newsletter scared me. Sometimes I'd try to get it in the trash before they saw it. Quite frankly, I didn't care that Disney had 'Gay Days', I just knew that it was the happiest place on earth and some newsletter was going to keep me from my cartoon nirvana.

It just doesn't work. I'm sorry.

There still exists some OPEC nations where the putting to death of known homosexuals is considered acceptable behavior. No one is boycotting OPEC - at least as far as I know - because even the mightiest Prius requires a little bit of liquid fuel from time-to-time. But that's work. Kind of like boycotting Disney (who at the time of my parents' newsletter owned at least ABC and had their hands in assorted other companies....)  And, yes, I am aware of my hypocrisy for I do not agree with this form of religious law, but I do buy gasoline on a very regular basis.  It is a necessary (expensive) staple in this 21st century life.

Feel free to boycott - but do it well and thoroughly or don't bother. I mean, if you're going to boycott, be the Olypmic boycotter, not the fat guy sitting home and eating a Big Mac while complaining about the defesive line of his favorite football team.  But in a nation where obesity is epidemic, we obviously aren't disciplined to stop eating fast food in its various forms - the idea that we have discipline enough to stick to a boycott is just a bit amusing.

Monday, July 30, 2012

11 Year Old Clothing....conquering mount abercrombie

I've been rather quiet as I have concentrated a lot of efforts on the spring cleaning I really, truly meant to do back...oh...around spring.  I've just had some new seasonal disorder...maybe it's seasonal confusion disorder?  Seasonal lazy disorder?  I'm sure there's a name for it somewhere that transfers at least part of the blame from my shoulders to a medical text book.

So I'm cleaning out closets and shoe baskets/drawers/shelves.  The hardest task is the cleaning out of my daughter's closet.  It's not particularly messy, but it is particularly young.  She is still just 11 but thanks to a growth spurt she now must shop where the girls are.....not 11.  Now I could write paragraphs.  No.  Pages.  Pages on dressing for the female crowd.  I may sound a bit like my mom....she had to fight the 80s trends of lace (everything), Madonna make-up, and denim mini (MINI) skirts.  Poor lady. 

Instead, I choose to point out just how difficult cleaning is when a mom knows she must replace the items.  Jeans.  Skirts.  Shirts.  Shoes.  These are all difficult.  Jeans are short inseamed, holey nightmares.  Skirts?  Well, for one thing, they are a vanishing breed.  And if we skip the skirt and go to a dress....well, let's just say I'm not ready to allow a skin display of that grand of a proportion.  Shirts?  A bit easier - though anyone notice they go between plunging super tight to goth-chick?  And shoes.  Well, shoes are a bit easier except that heels (of the high/wedge variety) are everywhere.  Quite frankly, I'm not ready for anything thicker than an athletic shoe sole.

So I clean.  I believe the medical condition I actually had was DENIAL.  If the tiny clothes from Gymboree and Justice and Gap Kids stayed put, I wouldn't have to conquer mount abercrombie.  Alas, I can see it looming off in the distance in all of it's ridiculousness (remember the year of padded swimsuit tops for the under teen set?)  Yet my daughter doesn't deserve to look like a Liz Claiborne ad either. 

Denial.  It may lead to some head butts.  And heads slamming (figuratively) against brick walls.  But it's almost time for back-to-school shopping and I must confront the mountain.  I will don my sensible shoes and my jeans that don't create a muffin top.  I will wear an ordinary T Shirt but maybe some funky accessories.  And maybe, just maybe, I won't have to fight the Madonna-like battles with my own daughter.

(Though maybe my mom would say I deserve to fight some of those know....justice.)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

An Ode To Paprika

She was just a little shaker - cute to be sure, but rarely had the screen time of her obviously famous parents.  She was thrust into fame as a baby, clutching bottle and rattle while being asked to perform with a big blue cartoon dog.  Forever upstaged.  Yet she was my favorite.


If your children were tiny when mine were, or if you had a love of all thinks Nick Jr. (regardless of age), you may recall a certain show named Blue's Clues.  Blue was a lopping big dog with a master whose condiments (and mailbox) were alive. 

Paprika.  My favorite spice of the summer, derived from the pepper, known often for its burnt orange/red color.  In the 1950s and 1960s it could often be found sprinkled liberally on deviled eggs or mashed potatoes.  Housewives did their best Betty Crocker and incorporated this lovely hue with things that perhaps didn't need paprika...but, really, that's like saying parsley is an unnecessary garnish.  Crazy talk.

Little paprika.  It has become my summer favorite, though, because it is invaluable in barbecue.  While 1970s children were generally raised in the Midwest feeling that barbecue chicken means cook it on the grill with a smattering of Open Pit, maturing barbecuers have figured that a good spice rub goes miles longer than a liquid sauce and can turn otherwise dull (and cheap) meat into something mildly impressive.  So next time the drumsticks are on sale for a crazy low amount of money, consider this rub....apply and truly rub it in (get your hands dirty - if won't hurt)...if you must, feel free to put some sauce on only after you finally remove the chicken from your grill.

I make this amount and use it on about 12 drumsticks:

1/4 c minus 1 T Old Bay seasoning
2 T garlic salt
2 T paprika
1 T onion powder
1 T cracked black pepper
1 T ginger

To adjust flavors, try adjusting garlic salt and replacing the same amount omitted with celery salt or onion salt.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Hands that need spackle

I realized this morning (the light must have been just 'right')...I realized how my hands are really showing their age.  The fat in my face is mostly staving off the wrinkles, and the fact that I'm freckled helps any other offending spots kind of blend in.  But my hands - those are hard to hide.  And there they are - a pattern of lines akin to an elephant's knee.

This particular glamour shot is my right hand.  It's not particularly attractive.  The fingers have always been a bit short and the nails are hardly ever long and polished.  (They are, however, momma raised me right.)

I see the shiny wrinkles - the crevices - the spots that I know are not freckles, but I refuse to use the term "age spots".  But my Grandma had them - Lil had overworked hands but years in a factory.  I remember the age spots and the sagging skin.  Her hands were far more pale in spite of her heritage.  I seem to have received the ability to tan and so mine look a bit more like sun stretched elephant skin.

My mom's hands were very sinewy - the tops bulged with veins and overwork.  They were pale but her fingers were longer and her knuckles bigger.  Yet they were always smooth on the top.  I remember touching them, even at the end, marking to memory the fact that her hands were so smooth in spite of years of keeping an immaculate house.  I think the sinewy part was from the other years - of typing like crazy long before the gentle stroke of a computer keyboard created written words.

When I was young I used to play with my dad's hands just because the skin was already so saggy.  I can remember sitting in church and making 'mountains' of the skin on the top of his hands.  The skin would stay in place after I pinched it together and it fascinated me.  I remember also being scared - because I associated that skin with the skin of age and I convinced myself on multiple occasions that he was going to be in heaven soon.  Instead, he was at my son's ball game last night - all 89 years of him and his still saggy hands.

This summer morning I listened to birds and frogs and familiar summer humming.  Those noises that seem more prevalent in summer that we tend to forget we don't hear as the seasons change.  Leaves that rustle and even the steady whack of a hammer from some building site.  It occurred to me that the hands I noticed this morning were around when I was very young and would lay in my bed on summer mornings listening for my neighbor friend to get outside and hearing my mom vacuum with the radio on just a bit too loud.  Only now these hands have had years of life - years of work and sports and wiping faces (and other body parts)...Each line and wrinkle represents something - good and bad, happy and side.  And while the summer sounds don't change, I expect my hands will continue to show the ever passing minutes and hours and days and years.  And, interestingly, my vision of the hand that has held me all these years - though I have humanized it at time - has never gotten wimpier or old or tired -  my Father's hand has stayed the same, in spite of the aging of my own.

I think I'll go lather on some lotion...maybe I can spackle some of these cracks....

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Summer Writer Oddities....of spotty mirrors & sauerkraut

It feels like the first day of summer vacation this week.  It's not really the first day - but it feels like it.
Because summer is for sleeping in and, in Michigan, jamming anything related to warm weather into about 75 days I have decided to randomly post some oddities about myself.  Why?  Because it was pointed out that they are oddities....not in the serial killer kind of way, but in that "wow - she seemed so normal" way.  Plus it's in keeping with jamming random things into a short (page).  So here if it didn't already appear that I'm on the edge of normal:

  • I unplug things.  Randomly.  A lot.  I envision electricity being spent on random things that aren't in use and I go a little batty.  Then I go to use my water boiler or coffee maker and for about 30 seconds I get frustrated because it won't work.

  • Spots on mirrors are a major irritation.  I blame my parents.  BOTH.  Using glass cleaner and paper towel in the bathroom was always a daily thing for them.  I've actually tried relaxing on this - and if I throw my hair in a pony tail and barely look in the mirror (which I should apologize for to those who get to see me after this)...then I can put off my OCD mirror cleaning. 

  • I like elevator music.  Muzak.  Orchestrations of formerly popular songs (violin-filled, wordless 'Like A Virgin' anyone?)  I grew up in decades when 105.7 was called 'WOOD-FM' and it was filled with such music.  My mom listened to it often.  This music takes me back to that kinder, gentler time.  Plus I think it doesn't require a lot of active listening - it's background music.

  • I can't do hair.  I couldn't do sausage curl rolls on the side of my face in the 70s, I could tease my hair in the 80s but it never lasted long, and I definitely can't straighten my hair.  In fact, putting any plug-in device near my head and expecting good results is insanity.  I don't wear pony tails and headbands almost all the time because I think they're stylish - I do it because I can't do hair.  Period.

  • Food - I thoroughly dislike mushrooms and black olives and cottage cheese.  In oddities I like column are green olives, Oscar Mayer Braunschweiger, sauerkraut, and the first couple of pieces of (again) Oscar Mayer bologna.  It must be the first couple of pieces - after that it doesn't taste the same.  And, yes, I know what's "in that stuff" and I would never eat the ingredients on their own.  But telling me what's "in that stuff" won't change anything at this point - I'm (ahem ) 40-something...if I'm not over it by now I will never be over it.

  • I can't sleep with socks on.  No matter how hot.  And I must be covered when I sleep.  And the doors must all be locked.  And, yes, I will get up even when sleeping - I will be awakened somehow - and check that doors are locked.  You only find it amusing until I have saved you from obliteration from the scary hockey-mask wearing guy outside your (previously) unlocked door.  You can thank me later.

  • "That don't impress me much"....I know too many people who are (were) in debt with their fancy car - who have left their family or ethics or faith when they "got pretty" (lost weight, had surgery, etc.) - and, sadly, I've seen people do stupid things with extra money.  Sometimes I do sit and wonder how they do it - or really want to know the inner workings of their decision-making process - but these inner musings aren't the same as being impressed.  I'm not easily impressed.  Just ask my children...I really should be more easily impressed in some areas of life...I better tell them today that I really love their outfits or something.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Our Favorite Hamburger

Yes, it's true:  I'm not vegan

I tried.  Once.  For about 48 hours.  I don't think it made me healthier because the crabbiness made my blood pressure soar.  I have sworn off veganism and I claim Biblical commands to subdue all of the earth just so that I feel better about myself when I eat meat.  It works.

To that end, our favorite hamburger for grilling at home.  And I did forget to take photos so you'll have to trust me that it tastes good rather than relying on food porn to convince yourself.

Quantity note:  This recipe is used to feed five people...two of whom are male teenagers, one an adult male, the other two are normal humans.  Adjust as needed...

2 lbs ground round
1 lb ground turkey (I use the middle of the road in terms of fat content)
1/8 cup A1 steak sauce
1/8 cup finely diced yellow could use dry minced - reduce the amount
1/2 T garlic salt
1/4 t cracked black pepper

I try to shoot for quarter pound patties just because the math is easier for me - meaning about a dozen balls of meat out of this which of course will shrink down on the grill or broiler.

ONION HATERS - note that the onion should be finely diced - not looking for big chunks here - it lends a lot of flavor and was not offensive to our resident onion haters.  If the very thought of adding onion in chunk form to anything makes you want to swear off vegetables, consider at least adding 1/2 t (little 't' here) onion salt. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

A Little Random Randomness

Randomness on this Memorial Day....

Marriages ending make me sad.  Regardless the reason.  I think we (the husband & I) may be entering that stage in life (noooo...not a divorce announcement)...that stage where couples we know determine to divorce.  These are couples with a religious leaning - not random 'heathens'.  We even asked the question a few days ago, "When couple friends divorce do we have to pick one - or can we never have the two over at the same time?"

Today's Facebook observation - people who insist on posting the restaurant they are at with whomever they are with are very insecure.  Creating a pseudo-life by posting that you just had a plate of 'shrimp' at Red Lobster isn't's kind of sad.  I'd be more fascinated by someone's life if they had the guts to post each time they were sitting in a bathroom somewhere (or standing...sorry guys)

We go through a lot of milk in this house.  But lately I'm noticing that we go through a lot of deodorant and disposable razors.

I don't like people making assumptions about my time.  I know - that's vague....  I don't feel like writing an entire post about the abuse of stay at home moms by the working outside the home does bother me when there are assumptions made about me having a lot of free time and the ability to quick do something at the last minute - whether it's work or volunteering or what have you.  I don't mind being asked....I mind the assumption that I will certainly have free time.  It's vague....if you're reading this rest assured there's a really good chance it's not about's just one of those observations that I feel compelled to type.

Sometimes I wish people could appreciate my children the way I do.  And typing this makes me realize I probably don't tell my children near enough that I appreciate them.

It's sad when people of faith are mean to each other.

I often wonder why people pay for gym memberships AND pay for housecleaners and/or lawn service.  Have they never realized how many calories are burned by cleaning or mowing?  (Of course they have - but it's not as impressive to post this activity on Facebook.)

Monday, April 9, 2012

Why Comerica Park & The Red Sox Was A Win....(In spite of a loss....)

Saturday found two excited kids and an equally excited dad driving to Detroit - home of the Tigers but, more importantly, temporary site of the Boston Red Sox.  It was a big game and it was some sort of hallmark for the children involved.

It's been a long hard road around here the past few years.  We watched a successful business crumble with the crumbling of not just an economy but, moreso, because of the crumbling of an arm.  There was fallout from that experience which we expected and didn't expect - ties that bind both strengthen and weaken in these situations.  We experienced both.  The weakening ties were hardest and most shocking but, in retrospect, it's been a good a thing.

There was a type 1 diabetes diagnosis which has forever changed our lives but, obviously, even more the life of the little girl living with it.  This has meant a life revolving around insulin and meters and doctors and hormones.  And it's meant that the weakened ties left her a bit alone during all of this - treated as if this all was rather inconsequential - 'no big deal'.

It's just been a lot.  So come April 2012 and a trip to a baseball was meaningful.  Our son said, "It feels like things are getting a little better".  Our daughter just beamed.  Non-stop.  And the dad that could do this for his baseball nutty kids may have grown just a bit himself - prideful - but in a good way...the kind a dad/husband should have.  This game - this occasion - this hallmark.  It felt good.  It felt solid.  And in spite of a Red Sox loss, it felt like a win.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Budget Burnout....

Spring often marks budget burnout season for me.

Christmas would be the logical time but, thankful, Christmas is the same exact time every year.  Isn't that marvelous?!?  And since Christmas starts around July each year, I have plenty of time to figure out that and the budget juggle.

Spring, however, marks new life and new fiscal challenges.  Certain things just 'happen' and I can't put away enough to be ready - this year, for instance:

  • BASEBALL...who knew that a child who never showed much interest would announce his intent to play.  Play ball!  Trying to find men's size 13 cleats at a resale store or on Craigslist is not easy.  Seems size 13s have joined some cult that pledges to not resell any footwear to desperate moms of bigfooted children. 
  • life....but some how the house just looks dirty.  I struggle this time of year with all the projects I want to 'quick' do and the funding that I know isn't there.  So I scrub and rearrange - hope for a good garage sale or two - and just try really hard to be thankful for a home.
  • SCHOOL....the goal is to have the tuition all paid up by now.  It's not always easy.  We work second jobs and do side jobs and sell what isn't needed.  But it's hard.  I'm glad when summer comes and we can start trying to squirrel more $ away for the coming year.  This commitment to train up our children in the Lord as constantly as possible is huge.

Living without credit cards is a good good thing.  Trust me.  We don't amass extra debt. 

We also don't take fantabulous vacations or shop a lot for the new outfits that are absolutely necessary.  And we pray for contentment - for us and our children.

So come spring we have fresh flowers, lovely green grass, birds and sun...and budget burnout....  But never fear...summer is a'coming.

Friday, February 24, 2012

JOY suckers

I have a word that hangs in various places around our house - it seems to move about and rest in a place where it's most needed. Sometimes it's right by our front door, a gentle reminder when we enter the house after a crazy day. Other times it's in the kitchen - it seems to land there right when Type 1 Diabetes is morphing into a monster as it does from time-to-time. Lately it has been hung rather precariously beneath our mantle, with family photos above a clock appropriately marking time.

Today my eye caught sight of "JOY" right after a joy sucking moment. You know those moments - those little bumps along the road of a day which suddenly take us from joy (or at least contentment) to irritation. It could be someone driving in a manner we don't agree with. It may be an off-hand comment that reminds us of a short-coming. Sometimes it's a little reminder that there are areas of our lives that need tweaking but we haven't had the gumption to tweak.

I have a few of those tweaks that are long overdue. None are enjoyable to engage in, though I do realize that the end result will solidify joy a bit more in my life. The tweaks will heighten my joy which will only increase the joy of the people currently perched in photos on my mantle. And as if to further remind me what dragging my feet is doing, the clock sits with a face staring at me....asking me why I'm just so dense....why I drag my feet....why pleasing people not perched on my mantle is taking precedence over increasing the joy of those photographed subjects.

Being joyful always goes hand in hand with praying continually. And the joy suckers also do a lot of the work keeping me from that continual prayer. So today, as I receive yet another reminder that I need to get to tweaking, I look at that lopsided - yet properly placed - "JOY" and pray...not quite continually, but with earnestness, that I can make the difficult decisions - the tough tweaks - thereby increasing the joy for the more important people in my life.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Hard To Help

Did you ever encounter a person that makes it hard to help them?  I'm sure that introductory sentence is full of copious grammatical errors.  It doesn't even read properly.  But I'm keeping it.  (And I'm keeping the two sentences following that begin with 'but' and 'and'.)

Here's the type I'm referring to:

  • Suzy has a lot of time on her hands.  It's a wonderful gift, mind you, she's a dying breed this stay at home mom, and many of us are extremely grateful to have Suzy around.  She is quick to volunteer and, by golly, when she volunteers she even offers to be President/Chairperson/Leader/Point Person (you get my drift).  This sounds awesome!  Way to go Suzy!  But then Suzy makes it really hard on everyone else.  It starts subtly with Suzy's complaints over how busy raising money for the first grade class is making her.  Then parents get the cutesy newsletters home with the not-so-subtle phrases about being the only person involved in this or that.  Soon we receive a list of donations "required" to pull off some function Suzy deemed necessary.  Finally, when a well meaning parent offers to bring something from the list Suzy counters with specifics on brand, type, exactly when the item must be delivered to "her function".  Oh Suzy.
The Suzys of the world can do a lot to kill the spirit of volunteerism in a group.  Whether it's a school, a church, or Girl Scout Troop.  Suzy, in her over-zealous desire to fill her hours and days, does suffer from burn out.  Burn out turns to full on martyrdom and, more than likely, Suzy already has some ego issues.

The sad thing is, Suzy is probably clueless over how her helping is actually hurting.  It is scaring some parents off from volunteering at all.  It is leaving her with work that could have been shared, had she let some people bring their own brand of potato chips, and it has rendered some fundraising stagnant because no one wants to donate to a toot-my-own-horn type.

Suzy is hard to help.  Suzy will probably always be hard to help.  Suzy, perhaps, needs to get a job for a while where she answers to people above her.  Or Suzy needs to be okay with barbecue potato chips, when what she really wanted was rippled. 

Don't be a Suzy.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Bean & Kielbasa Soup...the right kind of carbs for my little diabetic

Having a Type 1 diabetic in our home makes us all a bit more sensitive to carbohydrates. Not for vanity, but for being truly healthy. Eating a cupcake or a box of saltines is not the best use of carbs, eating legumes (beans, people) is a good use of carbs. In fact, they seem to help regulate our young diabetic's blood sugars in a truly wonderful manner.

And if they do this for her, they do it for all of us.

Now here's the thing - the moment legume/bean is mention many tune it out. Ewwww....I don't like beans......ewwww they're slimy....ewwww texture. I am a tough love kind of mom around the dinner table - I made it, I served it, you eat it. If I ask that of my children, asking it of adults doesn't seem unreasonable. PLUS with this recipe, there is some blending involved and some great flavor. So get over the EWWWWWW and embrace a good for you, good tasting soup....

2 cups chopped carrots
1/2 cup coarsely chopped yellow (sweet) onion
2 cloves garlic
4 cups chicken stock
2 large links kielbasa - cut in half and in chunks
3 cans great northern beans - rinsed
1 cup chopped fresh spinach
1 T oregano
1 T salt or garlic salt
1/2 T cracked black pepper

Saute carrots, onion, garlic in 1/4 cup of the chicken stock. Continue until the veggies start getting soft.

Add the cut kielbasa and saute again for a couple minutes.

Add the rest of the chicken stock, the beans, seasonings.

Let this simmer for a while. A while is about 5-10 minutes. At this point if you have an immersion blender use it in the pot, creating a creamy looking soup rather than the thinner version you have now. If you do not have an immersion blender, scoop 2-3 cups of the soup out and use your blender or food processor to creat that thicker texture - then put it back in the pot.

Final step, put in the spinach. Serve immediately. Store nicely in a freezer container.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Ina Garten...It's your birthday!

In CELEBRATION of Ina Garten (a/k/a The Barefoot Contessa) check out a kitchen worth drooling over.  Just don't drool in the food you're prepping.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Easiest - Bestest - Fiesta Chicken

Easy is great.  Best is...well, it's best.  Fiesta is a party.  Chicken?  Well it's this low-fat poultry that can be kind of boring.  But it's good for us.  And so we eat it.

This, my friends, is the easiest and best tasting chicken I've had for use in Mexican recipes calling for chicken.  We use it in tacos, enchiladas, on nachos.... 

And did I mention easy?  Very easy.

I use a traditional, round crockpot.  Not a small/mini, but not the super large oblong roaster version.  A very standard issue pot.  My ode to it, in fact, is the stuff of history.

Fiesta Crockpot Chicken
Clean the gunk from chicken breasts.  You know what I mean.  That gunky stuff left on the edges of boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  The leftovers you know we don't want to eat.

6 whole chicken breasts - put them in the pot after trimming
1 jar salsa - use your favorite
1 package taco seasoning - try to find the MSG free stuff...your body will thank you
1/4 T crushed red pepper flakes
Cook on low.  You'll know when it's done - probably a good 5 hours. 
Pull the chicken from the pot, keeping all the good stuff that's still in the pot.  And apart those chicken breasts.  (One hint - easy shredding can be had by cutting against the grain of the meat....opposite the direction you cut when you want those pretty slices from a roast or bird).  Put the shreds back in the good stuff in the pot to keep it warm. 

If you're not using right away go ahead and freeze everything or refrigerate for future use.  Make sure you do either including the chicken with the salsa-y stuff in the pot.


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Very Berry Kefir Smoothie

Finding a way to incorporate Kefir into life - beyond our everyday standard issue pour in glass, drink.

This was mixed in a very typical blender - used the 'liquify' button - resulted in a bit over 32 ounces of smoothie.


2 cups ice
1 cup organic strawberry kefir
1 cup organic diced strawberries
2 cups organic blueberries
1/2 organic banana - chopped (mine was previously frozen)
1 capri sun juice bag!  Yes...really...smacks the organic in the face but it's very low in carbs and the liquid was needed.  Any flavor will do.

Roast by any other name....

I adore this way of making a cheap cut of meat (chuck roast) taste a bit closer to a million bucks than the $14.36 it actually cost.  I'm an eyeball it cook and a precise baker.  The photo is as close to accurate as I get.  But one thing I missed - the canola oil.

Heat some canola oil in a big enough Dutch oven or simply use a deep enough chef's pan knowing you'll be transferring into something else. 

I used 1/2 the yellow onion - chopped.  Add it to the meat - which has been rubbed with salt, pepper, & CUMIN - as it's quick searing in the oil.  Throw in some of that garlic too...I like garlic....I LOVE garlic...and I love the convenience of organic in a jar.  I probably used the equivalent of four whole garlics! 

Transfer the meat to an oven-safe dish you can cover or keep it in the Dutch oven.  Add the can of diced tomatoes, 1 cup of raisins, a bit more salt & pepper.  If your canned tomatoes did not have much liquid, consider 1/2 cup of tomato juice.

COOK IT...Low...and....Slow....250F for about 2 hours for a 5lb roast.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Blame it on the Solar Flares

I have determined to blame my behavior on the recent solar disturbances.  The fact that I'm not tolerating certain behaviors is not because I'm judging (you?) - it's the environment I'm subjected to.  There - now I'm 100% American.

So some random (solar flare induced) observations:

  • If you don't want to be treated like a piece of meat don't wear words on your butt.

  • (see above) but don't wear T Shirts that are far too small with words on your chest.

  • Complain about the drains on government assistance only if you've never yourself been assisted.  And think hard before you assume you haven't - because if your company received a bail-out (and therefore your job was saved) congratulations - taxpayers saved your job...there are hosts of ways to be a "drain on government assistance"...think long and hard before you wade into that territory.

  • The concept of "fair" does not exist.  Get over it.  Move on.  Re-naming 'jealousy' as something other than it is doesn't make it so.  I tried re-naming 'fat' with 'slender'.  Didn't work.

  • Homeschooling your child for your own good will result in really bad homeschooling.  Homeschooling should be utterly inconvenient.  If you're doing it to save money, save time, take vacations in January, prevent germs...none of those are valid reasons and most can be de-bunked.  Just don't bother - there is nothing wrong with utilizing schools.

  • Whining is whining no matter how it's colored.  Call it informing - call it sharing - call it making people aware.  Doesn't matter.  It's whining.  Go ahead and whine.  It's your right.  Just call it what it is (see above re-naming).  And don't wonder later why you don't have friends.

  • Being a physically ill adult is awful.  No one wishes it on anyone.  (Okay - maybe they do - but we try not to...)  BUT if you had a life leading up to your illness that was free of illness.  If you didn't shoot up insulin at 7 or undergo chemo at 5.  If you didn't have a transplant at 12 or lose a limb when you were 10...well, it seems you are far better off than any ill child. 

  • Feel free to exercise and eat right.  Feel free to not share it with the entire human race until you have a proven track record.  I'm really just saving people from themselves here - because if you bought a $5,000 exercise machine, told us all about it....and never used it.  Well you'll just feel silly and get mad at the rest of us for asking how your workout program is going.

Remember - solar flares.  I can't help it.