Thursday, January 24, 2008

Isabel Dalhousie on Texans and their Guns

Isabel Dalhousie is a philosophical sleuth. She is the creation of Alexander McCall Smith; who also created Precious Ramotswe, of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Series. I have read the three Isabel Dalhousie books, and really enjoyed them.

I tried to get into the Ladies' Detective Agency stories, with no success. Perhaps I should give it another try; they seem to be very popular. But there is no shortage of books in the world that I really enjoy. Sometimes I try to challenge myself to read things with less interest to me, but I always have a good long list of those waiting for me, so it could be that I will never get to Precious Ramotswe.

Returning to Isabel Dalhousie, she is a Scottish lady, independently wealthy. By education she is a philosopher, by profession she edits The Review of Applied Ethics journal. These books are interesting to me because Ms Dalhousie enjoys Scottish poetry, orchestra music and art. I always come away from one of these books feeling like I have learned something and there is always something in the books I end up doing a little further research on. (Isn't that a great thing about the internet? Everything from William McTaggart to Arthur Waley at your fingertips.)

The other interesting thing about these books is that as McCall Smith walks you through the storyline, Ms Dalhousie is always thinking. Any given situation may trigger an episode of philosophical musing on her part. So the reader is constantly called upon to examine his or her own stand on any number of ethical situation. Makes for some good practice at applying ones' belief system to everyday situations.

Not all of Ms Dalhousie's musings take much work to think through however. In the following paragraph, from the third book in the series, The Right Attitude to Rain, she overhears a conversation in which a woman from Texas is telling about a woman murdering someone.
Why, Isabel wondered, had she shot him? And who was she? Women shot abusive husbands, in desperation, or husbands who went off with other women, in fury. It seemed unlikely, but she was talking about Texas, where guns, shamefully, were part of the culture. And that was an absurdity, she thought, and such a blot on American society, this little-boy fascination with guns and toughness. Something had gone so badly wrong. (p. 118)
I thought this stereotype of America and specifically Texas was pretty funny. I'm curious to know whether this is McCall Smith's opinion or only the opinion of his character, Isabel Dalhousie.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Excellent GF Pizza Crust

I originally stumbled upon this recipe on the website and can no longer find it on line. But I hope you give it a try if you want to make GF crust that really imitates wheat flour in consistency and flavor. I use a Kitchen-aid stand mixer.

GF Pizza Crust

4 c brown rice flour
3 c tapioca flour
1/2 c dry milk (I don't include this- still tastes fine)
6 T yeast
4 T xanthan gum
2 T unflavored gelatin
2 T Italian seasoning (I used 1/2 basil and 1/2 oregano instead)
1 tsp salt

Mix dry ingredients on low.

4 c warm water
2 T honey
2 T olive oil
2 T cider vinegar

Add liquid ingredients. Mix on low until combined, then on high for 3 minutes.
If mixer seems to struggle or bounce add water 1 tbs at a time until it runs smoothly.

Press into pan of choice by using very generous sprinkling of rice flour. Very generous. You want the flour sprinkled thickly enough so that dough does not stick to your fingers at all. Press in lightly and leave dough plenty thick. I use this sized batch for one 12" pizza and 6 individual; or one 12" and one jelly role sized pan; or three 12" pans if the crusts are a bit thinner. The
'GF-ness" is more noticeable on the thinner ones.

The original recipe suggests pre-baking at 425 for 10 minutes then add toppings and bake for 20-25 minutes more. I have never pre-baked mine.

Angela and the Baby Jesus

This book was recommended by A. Stafford in response to my Dec. 12 post. Thank you for bringing this nice title to my attention.

In this picture book, McCourt relates a story his mother told about her childhood. She had seen the Christ child in the nativity scene at church. He looked cold, so she stole him to keep him warm.

McCourt does an excellent job portraying the mix-ups that can occur when children act out of love according to their limited age and experience. The art work is appealing and re-enforces the beauty of the story.

There is one thing that might be a negative for some people. Because little Angela has a few mishaps while caring for the infant Jesus, it might seem disrespectful. The story is told in such a way that an adult reader and young children will hopefully enjoy the love shown by little Angela. An older child may react a bit boisterously at some of the mis-haps that occur during Angela's tenure as caretaker. But this, then, becomes a teaching moment.

Friday, January 18, 2008


When I was in Wal-Mart the other day, I was glad to see that on the exercise video shelf they had increased the proportion of regular compared to inappropriate selections (see previous post on this topic).

I picked up a couple of DVDs. When I finally got around to opening them, the Kathy Smith one had within it an offer for a free year's subscription to the magazine, More. This from their promo statements:
More is the only magazine that celebrates smart, sophisticated 40+ women's interests in fashion, health, beauty, travel, and self-reinvention.
What on earth is self-reinvention? And who does it? And what makes a new hobby or interest "self-reinvention" as opposed to just trying something new? If one is younger than 40 does one try new things, but after 40 one self-reinvents?

So perhaps my recent foray into contemporary literature is self-reinvention. After checking my "sent mail" folder, I see that I finished my first Stephanie Plum mystery seven days shy of my 40th birthday; and that book was really the beginning of the new reading direction for me. So I suppose I can say it is just a new hobby since it started prior to my birthday.

I guess my interest in fire-arms, which started in about September, must be self-reinvention. I was a 40+ woman at that time.

I also have been in the mood to shop lately. As anyone who knows me well probably know, I don't shop the way the stereotypical woman shops. I go to Wal-Mart and occasionally an alternate grocery store; periodically a hardware store or bookstore. Maybe twice a year, we plan a "family shopping day," which involves driving to either Grand Forks or Bemidji to hit the second hand stores. That's it. Since we moved to this area six years ago, I have been in a mall maybe four times, all with a specific purpose and an in-and-out mentality to get the one item I need and leave.

But suddenly, I want to shop. I want to spend a day wandering through a mall looking in the store windows, checking out clearance racks, and just spending money frivolously. I have been wondering about this "breech of personality." But now I know that it is because I am a 40+ woman. I am just engaging in self-reinvention.

About a year ago, Joe and I started to have a mixed drink when we went downstairs on Fridays to have "family movie night" with the kids. We have an Old Mr. Boston Deluxe Official Bartending Guide. And it has been fun to try some interesting adult beverages. But since that started before my birthday, I guess that, too is just a new interest.

Although, probably, we started that about the time of Joe's 40th birthday, so maybe men engage in self-reinvention when they are 40+ also. I wonder if there is a magazine just suited to their needs. Something like:
More, for Men is the only magazine that celebrates intelligent, suave, 40+ men's interests in technology, sports, prostate health, and self-reinvention.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Our Christmas Presents

For Christmas this year I got a Bersa Thunder .380 semi-auto pistol. And a nice Bianchi holster to go with it. If you want to know why, see my Nov. 27 post. Joe got a Springfield Armory XD

Although we are in the middle of a Northern MN winter and have had lots of sickness among our kids, we still have gone out to shoot several times a week. And we have had fun showing our guns to our friends.

But on Sunday, Barb and Kim came over to visit and plan a brunch the LYS (Lutheran Youth Society, ie, youth group) is hosting. So of course, after we had finished the plans, we had to get out our guns and do a little shooting with Kim. Barb stayed inside to visit with Joe's grandparents who were here for the weekend and to hold a fussing Donna. Thanks, Barb.

We use paper plates for targets; Joe draws a black circle in the center of each for a bulls-eye; we tape four onto an 18" x 4' piece of ply wood and stand it on end in a snow bank. Then several of us can shoot without changing the target. Those of us of lesser abilities do not always come clean regarding which of the four plates we meant to hit.

I am still getting the hang of it, but I had a pretty good day on Sunday. I figured out I not had been aiming consistently. Sometimes with one or another eye or sometimes both eyes open. On Sunday I concentrated on using only my right eye and it made a huge difference.

I think I hit all seven of my shots on the plate for which I aimed. At least six, but maybe all seven. Now this is standing only about 8 yards away, so obviously I still need to practice lots.

But it is fun to see progress.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

A Good Parent Story

From Fox News, reporting an ad from Des Moines, IA.
OLDS 1999 Intrigue. Totally uncool parents who obviously don't love teenage son, selling his car. Only driven for three weeks before snoopy mom who needs to get a life found booze under front seat. $3,700/offer. Call meanest mom on the planet.
Credit goes to my husband for pointing this out to me.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


Warning! The page to which the link in the following post directs you has content that may be offensive to many and definitely inappropriate for children!

When Joe and I began our family and talked about child rearing issues that were important to each of us, one of the things we decided was that we would not have a TV. We still don't, although we do have a DVD player on our computer which allows us to watch movies at our discretion. There were several reasons we decided to be television free. The two main reasons I can remember were 1) My husband turns to a vegetable in front of a TV. And 2) We agree with Neil Postman in Amusing Ourselves to Death, that overuse of television leads to shorter attention spans and a reliance on sources of pleasure outside oneself. Stated another way, that with too much TV, one will become addicted to constantly changing images and dependent upon other people's thoughts and imagination; and one will gradually lose skills like sitting still, focusing ones mind on something difficult, and of entertaining oneself among other things.

I realize now that there is another, arguably more important, blessing we have reaped because of our decision to be TV free. We have protected ourselves and our kids from the blatant sexuality that is so pervasive on TV. Everything from the sit-coms to the commercials, to the game shows and reality shows, to talk shows like Oprah; everywhere on television is a focus on sex or sexiness or sexuality or sexual deviance.

Sometimes I listen to talk radio host, Laura Ingraham. One of the things I really appreciate about her show is her support for traditional values and family values specifically. In that capacity, one of her frequent topics is the "pornification" of our culture, or the ways in which our culture has become "sexed up." She reminds listeners of things that have become normal that used to be considered taboo. She educates listeners on the many studies that have been done that show the long term effects, emotional and physical, that early exposure to sexuality has on children.

I think it was Robert Bork in his book, Slouching Toward Gomorrah, who used the phrase "defining deviancy down." In context, what he meant by this was that as we push more and more things into the mainstream that formerly were considered private or inappropriate or even sinful, we lower the bar on what is considered deviant behavior. Things that used to be considered very much wrong are now normal and things that were unheard of are now at least grudgingly tolerated.

I was at Wal-mart yesterday looking for an exercise DVD with which to spend some time during my long northern Minnesota winter. There were perhaps 8 or 10 videos there. I scanned the titles first for the names of the trainers or instructors to see if there were any with whom I was familiar. I noticed right away that several (five or six of the few they had) were led by the same person, Carmen Electra. I was at first disappointed at how few options I had. But after reading more carefully the full titles of the Carmen Electra DVDs, I was more than mad. I was livid! So, our teenage daughters can go into Wal-Mart and purchase exercise videos that teach erotic dance. Just what we need!

Now if you checked the above link, perhaps you noted the other selections recommended to those who might be interested in Amazon's further suggestions. There is apparently an entire corner of the exercise market filled with things that used to be euphemistically considered adult or more bluntly, porn. Even some of the cover poses on the suggested DVDs aught to be considered porn.

OK, as you can see, I am a little bit worked up about this.

Of course, as I said before, I have kind of sheltered myself from pop culture. But in so doing, I am able to see more easily how things have changed. When things change a bit at a time, it is easy to become inured to the changes and not really notice a difference monthly or yearly. But each time I have opportunity to watch a bit of television (once or twice a year) , I notice a marked difference. Much more blatant focus on sexuality. It is very pervasive. We are heading in the right direction if what we want is for our sons to consider only the sexiness of a woman when evaluating a future spouse or for our daughters to think they must market their bodies sexually in order to get the attention of a man.

Our sinful nature does not need any encouragement to think along those lines. It is difficult enough without that focus to keep our thoughts and actions pure. Constantly bombarding our youth with such offal is poisoning their hearts and minds.

I know one aught not to complain if one has no solutions. And no, I did not bring the offensive materials to the attention of the manager. Maybe I should.

And no, I really don't have any solutions. Just a plea to other parents to be aware of what's out there. Take a stand against the trend of defining deviancy down. Do it for your kids and their kids.

Be aware of what you yourself are watching on TV and of how you moms out there dress. Pay attention to what the kids are watching and wearing. Dads, is your attitude toward your wife primarily based on her sexuality? Maybe if each of us takes responsibility to address this blatant sexuality and sexualizaton of each aspect of our lives, we can effect what is sold in our stores and aired on our airwaves.

Saturday, January 5, 2008


There have been times in my life when I think I would like to live primitively. But the older I get the more I am glad for luxury and convenience.

Usually when we travel away from home for a length of days, I turn the heat way down. Like to 50 degrees or so. This year I was just not in the mood for deprivation. Who really wants to arrive home after dark, with 8 strung out kids, and then have to unpack and come up with some sort of supper, all when it is only 50 degrees in your house?

So I gave into temptation. I turned to furnace down to a toasty 60 degrees. I was thinking of this and looking forward to it when we arrived home on New Year's Day evening.

But alas, at some point while we were gone, the switch on the furnace itself got tripped. It occasionally happens when the wind blows strongly from just the wrong direction or if too much snow is drifted up against the vent. The furnace just turns itself off.

And so arriving home on a below zero evening, with tired and strung out kids, anticipating a toasty warm 60 degrees inside, we instead arrived home to a house that was a mere 41.

I had the older kids bundle second layers on the younger ones, we as quickly as possible got a supper that involved turning on the oven and included hot chocolate as a primary beverage. After 3 hours the temp was up to the nice and toasty 60 degrees. After 6 hours it was up to 68. By then, with all our layers, we really were rather overheated.

As I exhorted the kids while they shiveringly ate their supper, we can be glad we don't have to look up to see frost on the nails in the ceiling each night; we can be glad that our water pipes did not freeze.

When somebody commented on the cold toilet seats, I reminded them, "We can be glad we don't have to use an out house all winter." And that was followed by various jokes about needing to make sure the seat is dry before sitting when it is this cold so we don't stick to the seat.

I am glad to have the blessings we have!