Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Recently Aquired Interest

I am not a gun nut. I do, however, strongly support our Second Amendment.

I did not grow up around guns. I lived in urban areas and I think my dad had a pellet rifle to shoot stray animals, but that is about it.

I currently live in a rural area. We keep a few weapons in the house to use against pesky beasts. In the time we have lived here we have had skunks and mangy foxes in the yard where my children play. We have a .22 to use on small varmints if necessary. Also in the area we have coyotes, timber wolves, linx, cougar and bear. Some of these animals we or others have seen on or adjacent to our property; others we see within a few miles. We have a shotgun to use against these if necessary.

My kids are of an age to learn to hunt. Two of them have taken firearms training and my 13 year old, Matt, has purchased his own shotgun and was given one by his great-grandfather. If my children are handling weapons, I want to have more than a rudimentary knowledge of what they are doing.

So I have decided to learn about guns. This is something I have wanted to do for as long as we have lived here, but never knew where to start.

But thanks to the fictional Stephanie Plum and company I now have a starting point. In these humorous books that are set in Trenton, NJ, everyone carries. All the old ladies in the beauty salon haul out their guns to compare what they are carrying. The various other characters' guns are mentioned. But when I began reading these books last spring, things like semi-auto, .38 special, .9mm, .40cal. and .44magnum, meant nothing to me. Smith and Wesson, Glock, and other company names were just names.

But one thing I like to do while reading, that is so easy with internet access, is to check up on those things about which I am in ignorance. I started looking up each gun that was mentioned.

And lo and behold, pretty soon I had an adequate base from which to branch out. I have found a few web sites that are especially helpful for someone who is totally green with regard to weapon stuff. My favorite is Cornered Cat. It is put together by a woman who has many of the same thoughts I have. She addresses concerns regarding weapons safety in a family home and how to raise kids with guns. These are things with which I have no experience .

Soon we are going to purchase handguns. Both Joe and I have our permits to purchase. We have done our homework and gone to lots of gun stores handled many guns. We have spoken to handgun users. We have talked to friends and acquaintances with military and law enforcement experience. We are ready.

It is fun to start a new hobby.

But since beginning the research on this new topic I have become more aware of how guns are portrayed in the popular media. I will periodically post on something I've read. I feel like I should start with something from the Stephanie Plum books, but I don't have the books here for either of my favorite quote. They will have to wait.

Instead, here is a much different quote from the book, Final Jeopardy, by Linda Fairstein.
I never had a gun when I was in Hollywood. I always had gofers to handle my drug transactions. I never carried. But I moved to Maine when I detoxed--it was easier for me to stay dry in a new environment. Now I live on one of those primitive little islands off the coast--no highways, no airports, no police department. Just beautiful vistas and lots of wild animals. The island is crawling with moose and deer and woodchucks and skunks. I started hunting with the guys who live around me--not for sport, but when the animals got destructive or like the time a rabid woodchuck attacked my golden retriever.
I had to chuckle when I read this, because the kind of gun use the speaker engages in would hardly be called hunting in my book. It would fall under pest control or even self-defense depending on the situation.

And the other thing that got my attention was the contrast alluded to between this pest control thing that is viewed as acceptable, and all other hunting which is apparently merely for sport. I guess if you killing wildlife to eat is ethically inferior to killing a an animal that is bugging you.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Can I please see some ID?

Remember when it used to feel like an insult to be carded when purchasing adult beverages? About five years ago I stopped getting carded. It happened quite suddenly. I always kind of felt like saying, "Do you need to see some ID? Really, I don't mind."

Yesterday I picked up some Killian's Red in Wal-Mart. I was busy filling in my check and the check-out lady asked me something. I kind of tuned in just as she said, "...27 years old." Really, I just didn't hear what she said, so I looked at her a minute trying to recall what she might have been saying. But I must have had a dazed expression on my face because she said, "Nevermind," and that by the look on my face she could tell that her question surprised me.

Joe proceeded to clarify for me that she had said that she needed to see my ID since she didn't know whether I was over 27. (I don't know if this is the Wal-Mart policy or a state or national law, but apparently they must card anyone who looks younger than 27.)

Tasha, a gal who grew up near here, was behind us in line. We were all laughing by that time. Tasha commented to the Wal-Mart employee something about my nine children. I added that I have recently passed my 40th birthday.

The poor woman seemed very embarrassed, but I told her she made my day. It's been a long time since I was carded.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I am Artistically Challenged

I am married to a very artistic man. In lots of ways. He had two or three years of piano lessons and plays beautifully. I, on the other hand, had about 12 years of piano lessons and struggle to play the hymns for the Sunday School.

Joe had an art scholarship for college. He can draw, paint, carve, and mold; and the things he makes look how they are supposed to. I can not do this.

My kids have all inherited Joe's artistic talent. Some to a greater, some to a lesser extent. When they were young, I did my best to draw little pictures for them and it was good enough. As they have grown older, my artistic inability has been the source of many good laughs.

Sometimes the younger ones still want me to draw something for them. More often than not I send them to one of my more talented children. But occasionally I make the attempt. Often someone more artistic than I will come in, and "catch" me in the act. Which inevitable ends up with my work of art becoming the brunt of hoots and hollers and scathing criticisms. But, since I am well aware of my lack of talent, I just laugh along with them. The things I draw are usually pretty funny.

Today, the kids were playing playdough. In accordance with their varying talents, they were fashioning cookies and pizzas, snakes with forked tongues, a couch complete with a male and female couple sitting comfortable upon it, and many other realistic and fun things.

At one point in the afternoon, my two year old, Stella, needed a distraction from some mischief. Since she was carrying around a ball of playdough, I asked my very artistically inclined son, Matt, to make a dolly for her with the dough.

After shaping the clay a for a few minutes, he asserted that the dough was not the correct consistency to make a dolly. Instead, he had made the head of the Green Goblin of Spiderman fame. Yes, it was a very good replica of the Green Goblin.

Now Stella wanted her clay in a dolly, not the Green Goblin. So Matt handed the clay to me upon which to work my magic. Hehe.

OK. A ball for a head, an oval for the torso, and little tubes for arms and legs. I can do this. No problem. And I did. I really thought, "This is pretty good. This time no one is going to laugh at me." I handed Stella her "dolly" and had her show Matt. She proceeded to show him my work of art. As she handed it to him she said in her little two year old voice, "Here Matt. My monster."

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

GF Banana bread

My husband has celiac disease. For info see http://www.celiac.org/cd-main.php What this means, practically speaking, is that I must cook gluten free meals and snacks if I wish him to eat with the rest of us. I will periodically share GF recipe successes here for anyone else who has need.

My oldest daughter, Louisa, has been in a baking mood. It is sometimes hard for me to let my kids cook. I have to be either a) pregnant and feeling crummy enough so that I don't care what happens in my kitchen and am just glad to have food on the table; or b) feeling on top of things enough that I can handle any potential disasters. Yesterday I let Louisa bake. It must had been the latter contingency, because is sure as heck is not the former!

I had a whole mess of bananas that needed to be used. I suggested Louisa do a GF Banana Bread for us to use with breakfast this morning. I also said she could have the younger kids help if she wanted. Then I left for a walk. That is another thing I have discovered. If I leave or am otherwise incapacitated, the kids do a better job in the kitchen. I tend to micromanage their attempts and they are more likely to leave me with the mess afterwards.

I returned from my walk to find the bread in the oven and countertops cleaned off. Excellent job Louisa and other girls! And the bread turned out great. I will include the recipe below. It is basically just the Better Homes and Gardens (Red Plaid) Cook Book recipe substituting GF mix flour and additional xanthan gum. We use the stand mixer.

GF Banana Bread Makes 2 8x4x2" loaves. Bake at 350 for 55-60 min.

3 1/2 c GF flour mix*
1 1/3 c sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
2 c mashed bananas
2/3 c shortening or butter
1/4 c milk
4 eggs
1/2 c nuts (optional)

Mix dry ingredients on low. Add wet ingredients and mix on low until combined and then on high for 2 minutes. Add nuts if desired.

Pour batter into greased bread pans. Bake at 350 for 55-60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Remove from pans. When nearly cooled wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

*For my GF mix I use roughly
3 parts white rice flour
3 parts sorghum flour
2 parts brown rice flour
2 parts potato starch flour
1 part tapioca flour

I think I was out of the potato starch flour last time I mixed it up, but it still seemed to work just fine. I suppose some recipes are fussy, but the ones I generally use for pancakes or muffins or quick breads are not.

Monday, November 12, 2007

When you die...

Remember the movie, The Three Amigos? Well, we had it from the library a few months ago and some of my kids have also seen it while visiting the Grandparents Abrahamson. The movie must have made an impression on John, our four year old. He plays with the toy revolver we have around here, an imitation of one of the fancy schmancy Spanish cowboy ones, and calls it his Three Amigos gun. Various other references to the movie come out of his little mouth.

Matthew, my thirteen year old, related this recent incident to me.
The other day our Schwan's man, Chris, was here. As I had gone to get my checkbook, John apparently had asked Chris, "Can I have your watch when you die?" Quite shocking. Especially if you don't recognize it as a quote from The Three Amigos.

As Chris did not.

Fortunately Matt was there and could explain the reference to him. And they had a good laugh.

So if John has said anything similarly questionable to any of you, please assume he is quoting some movie. Of course he may not be, but at least we can pretend, right?

What we teach our daughters about marriage

Yes, once again a quote from the Stephanie Plum books. Actually two quotes. These are from Hot Six. The context of the first quote is Stephanie and Grandma Mazur eating their pie before their meatballs. Grandma is widowed, experiencing kind of a second adolescence. As we see in the quote Stephanie seems to attribute the "new " Grandma to her being widowed and therefore finally free to do what she wants.
When I was a little girl I'd never thought of my grandmother as the sort of person to eat her pie first. Her house had always been neat and clean. The furniture was dark wood and the upholstered peices were comfortable but unmemorable. Meals were traditional Burg meals, ready at noon and at six o'clock. Stuffed cabbage, pot roast, roast chicken, an occasional ham or pork roast. My grandfather wouldn't have had it any other way. He'd worked in a steel mill all his life. He had strong opinions, and he dwarfed the rooms of their row house. Truth is, the top of my grandmother's head comes to the tip of my chin, and my grandfather wasn't much taller. But then I guess stature doesn't have much to do with inches.
Lately I've been wondering who my grandmother would have been if she hadn't married my grandfather. I wonder if she would have eaten her dessert first a lot sooner.
And the second quote takes place the next day when Stephanie is visiting her mother.
"Do you ever eat dessert first?" I asked my mother.
She looked at me dumbfounded. As if I'd asked whether she ritually sacrificed cats every Wednesday at the stroke of midnight.
"Suppose you were home alone," I said, "and there was a strawberry shortcake in the refrigerator and a meatloaf in the oven. Which would you eat first?"
My mother thought about it for a minute, her eyes wide. "I can't remember ever eating dinner alone. I can't even imagine it."
In these novels, the main character, Stephanie, thinks she is in love. She is, however, unwilling to commit to her boyfriend. These quotes do a good job showing what part of her fear is. She is afraid she will lose her own personality if she gets married.

Does that happen in real life? Do we lose our own personality when we marry? I guess to an certain extent it does. But it does not have to be a bad thing. It is easy to become overwhelmed with family life. There are many demands on a mother's time and even her personality. As sinful human beings we don't always want to do what's right, but having little ones around us is motivation to try to do so. For me, being married to a pastor is additional motivation to "be good." And sometimes, I must admit, I just want to do something naughty. I just want to eat my dessert first.

For many of us, our marriages no longer include eating every meal with our spouse, as Stephanie's mother's experience reflects. But it is still easy to teach our daughters only the "law" side of marriage. As a Christian mother, I teach my daughters chastity and faithfulness and (try to) teach them submission to my husband. I try to care for them all. And, albeit bumblingly, I try to serve them with clean clothes and healthy, tasty meals. It would be easy for them to think of that being all there is to marriage. I don't spend much time talking about how fun their Dad is and how he enriches my life. Or what a good man he is and how much he does for us and how much he loves us.

Maybe it's important to find ways to "eat dessert first" on a regular basis. Maybe this would help our daughters see the fun side of marriage. The spontaneous side. I would never want any of my daughters to leave home thinking of marriage as a trap into which she wouldn't want to fall.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Beauty of the Blog

I know why this blog thing has caught on as it has. It gives some of us "windy" people a chance to just spout about whatever. It doesn't matter if no one reads it or if no one cares. I can write here for as long as I like and if the reader doesn't like it, he or she will just move elsewhere.

And from the reader's point of view, I have always found reading blogs to be a somewhat voyeuristic pursuit. I can read about complete strangers and all their hopes and dreams and opinions. And never have to identify myself or engage in any kind of interaction. It is like peeking into a stranger's life.


On Exercise

I used to be able to engage in physical pursuits. Athletic competitions. Active hobbies.

During high school, each year come spring, I went out for track. It is such a forgiving sport because one competes individually. Even when a person does not place, he or she always has a personal best time or distance to try to better.

Later I was on the cross country team when I was a freshman in college. I found it exhilarating to see myself able to run increasingly further and to continually better my time on the shorter runs.

I also did aerobics on and off during those years. I remember once being so pumped up during a work out that I was grinning ear to ear, as I imagined that I would never, ever stop exercising regularly. "It is just so much fun and so healthful. I don't understand how people allow themselves to get lazy."

Ah, those were the days, I guess. I have now reached the grand old age of forty. I have had nine babies. I have been either pregnant or nursing a baby for the last 15 years. I manage a household, albeit ever so haphazardly; and I home school my children.

I guess I have to admit that I have allowed myself to get lazy. At least regarding actual exercise. I am fairly active around the house.

Oh, one more memory. I remember at the time I was trying to decide on a career path, the biggest obstacle I kept running up against was, "How active can I be at this career?" I just never could imagine a job I had to be inside all day or sit still for any length of time. So I guess God led me to motherhood and it is a good fit as far as those qualifications go. I am busy all day long and often end up outside for chunks of the day.

But I find myself making a variety of excuses not to exercise. It is too cold. Too windy. I don't like indoor exercise. I don't want to change into exercise clothes. It's hunting season; someone might shoot me...And so it goes.

I have started (once again) walking and doing pilates. See, I have to tell people this to give myself some accountability.

I live in a very rural area. Very flat. One of the excuses I have used since I have lived here is, "It is soooo boring to just walk half a mile one way and then return."

So now I have a new goal. I would like to get to the point at which I can once again run four miles. Then I could have four choices, just thinking of the four directions I can go around a block (square mile) from here. And I could vary it more by some days going two miles one direction or the other and then return. Or I could go a mile in either direction and then turn either direction for a mile and then reverse my path.

And so I begin to get a whole lot of variety just by increasing my distance to four miles. But it has got to be at a pretty good clip. I just can't afford the time to pamper myself with a four mile walk very frequently.

And once a person can run four miles, it is easier to vary the distance also. So it is conceivable that I could even go further periodically for even more variation.

I guess it is a goal. Something to work toward.

Monday, November 5, 2007

For the sake of (pop-)cultural literacy

Those readers who know us know that we don't have TV. We only recently (maybe 2 years ago) got a computer with a DVD drive. What this means is that now we sit around as a family and view parentally approved DVD selections. But as you can imagine, this does not lend itself to much knowledge of pop culture.

A few years ago someone gave us a box of hand-me-downs "...for the boys or the dad. Just look through them and take what you want." You know. Typical hand-me-down admonition.

When I went through this box I found several black T-shirts; obviously of the celebrity variety. The kids and I were looking at them, very puzzled. One was this big ugly drooling bull. Two or three had the face of a very muscular guy with sun glasses and one eye-brow raised. Phrases like "Layin' the smack down," and "Those who are truly unafraid will never know fear." One of them said something about "The Rock." I was totally clueless. I just told the kids maybe he was a singer or something. We could ask their dad when he got home.

Well, Joe is much more tuned into pop culture than am I; although how he carries it off with our limited exposure is beyond me. But he knew that this "The Rock" guy was part of the WWE (otherwise known as professional wrestling). And Joe liked the shirts and still wears them. I have however warned him not to wear the big ugly drooling bull one when he goes to town. I think there might be some people who would be bothered seeing their pastor in such a hideous looking shirt. I mean this bull is pretty scary looking.

For a long time that was the extent of my knowledge of The Rock. At some point I looked him up on line and now know that he is also a movie actor, but I don't think I have ever seen any of the movies he has been in. And he comes from a three generational family of professional wrestlers.

The other day I stumbled upon his book, The Rock Says, in our local used book store. I jokingly showed Joe and he said we should pick it up for a friend who I will let remain nameless since he has not yet received this, uh..., keepsake. So I put it in our stack and we brought it home with our other finds.

But I can't let a book sit around not being read. That just isn't done. So I have spent my leisure moments this last few days reading The Rock Says.

Let's just say I learned a few things. I have added several interesting words and phrases to my vocabulary. I learned way more about professional wrestling than I ever imagined I would know when as kids we used to hoot over the Hulk Hogan commercials. After reading this book a person can't help but admire the multifaceted skills these showmen have to develop. I am only reading the descriptions of the various feats and am in awe of the athletic prowess they must have. And they need stage presence and other acting skills. These men and women must have immense charisma and stamina to do this night after night. Wow.

Now, in the name of cultural literacy, I kind of feel like I have to actually see some professional wrestling. My curiosity has been piqued. I first checked the DVDs available through our local library system. Not anything there that I could find. I then broadened my search to the entire MN library system. Again nothing.

So then I checked Netflix. Now I don't have Netflix, but have periodically considered getting it. For a variety of reasons. But have so far I not succumbed. There are a few WWE titles I found through Netflix. But not necessarily the ones that sounded the best after reading The Rock Says.

My next step was to check Amazon. Well I found a great plenty there, both new and used. WrestleMania XV was the one that sounded good after reading The Rock Says. That one starts at $14.62 used and $39.88 new. But after reading the customer reviews, it seems that the only good match was the final one with The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin. Well, I am not going to pay $14 for one match.

As I read some more reviews of the different matches, I learned that most hard core professional wrestling fans consider WrestleMania X-Seven to be the best. But that one starts at $36.90 used and $62.72 new. Hmm.

I guess my horizons will have to wait to continue to broaden in this regard. When the opportunity arises, I may just sit down and watch a contest or episode or match or whatever I am supposed to call it.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Easy Recipe

Any recipe that is easy appeals to me. But here's one I really like. And when I remember to prep it in time I use it quite a bit.

Crock Pot Refried Beans (I use my 5 qt crock pot)

6 c dried beans, sorted and rinsed
12 c water
One large onion, finely diced
2 pkgs taco seasoning mix

Put in crock pot on low overnight. Continue to cook throughout the next day, stirring occasionally. Add water if they seem dry. About mid-afternoon mash with a potato masher. They are now ready to serve. I usually turn them off at this time since they retain a lot of heat. If they are too runny prop up the lid of the crock pot and continue cooking until desired consistency.

This recipe makes enough for our family of eleven to eat for at least three meals. I usually use them for one meal and then freeze the rest in two in large cool whip containers. Sometimes there is a bit more left for current use. I would guess it makes maybe maybe about 8 -10 of the regular sized cans.

We wrap this in tortillas with cheese for burritos. You can make these ahead of time and freeze them. We eat the beans with tacos. We use them for chip dip. I put them in hotdish. And as a dinner time side dish.

Cheap and tasty.