Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Line in the Sand

I am firmly in support of the rule of law. Although very thankful for the America our founders set up, I even have trouble teaching my kids about the American Revolution. I'm not sure, had I been around that that time, I would have been able join the patriots. The powers that be are ordained by God, after all. Even the crummy powers. God has His own wisdom, to which we mere mortals are not always privy.

At the time of the American Revolution the citizens had to decide, each for himself, at what point their government had so broken the system as to warrant them having the right to break free. At what point is the line in the sand?

So today, many are wondering about our current administration and at what point the government has crossed the "too much" line. Lest anyone misunderstand, I'm not advocating revolution.

But there is an increasing number of people who have noticed that the system is broken. Our government, with all it's checks and balances, is being trod upon by the current holders of power. In all three branches of government.

We have for a long time had a judiciary that rules so as to change law according to their own ideals, instead of upholding the written laws as they stand. Not to mention a president who advocates this kind of judicial action.

We have a president who, among other things of questionable constitutionality, just recently gave an Interpol more freedom to operate in our country, with less accountability, than our own security agencies are allowed.

And we have a Congress whose two branches are in the process of passing into law a health care bill that seems to do nothing about the many health care issues it alleges to solve. Instead it tramples upon the rights of the citizenry.

Nancy Morgan's "line in the sand" article on the health care bill clarifies for me the worst parts of the current bill.

I heard the other day about the features within the bill that are attempting to disallow elimination or amending of certain parts of the bill should it be passed into law. I am appalled at the presumption of our leaders. What body of America governance may make a law that would prohibit future lawmakers from legislating within their constitutional capacity? Amazing!

And for a federal law to mandate its citizens to purchase a certain product? In this case health insurance. Imagine if the government suddenly ruled that we must all own a farm. And not only that, but that we must grow certain things on that farm and operate it within very specific guidelines. This would never be.

Or would it?

Saturday, December 26, 2009



I have started a new ticker before my old was finished. I had told myself that I would not start a new one until I finished the old. But I have written before about my love of tickers and I could simply no longer refrain from picking out my new one. I've been fleeing temptation for about 2 weeks now. I even started the new ticker process about 10 days ago, but made myself quit. "Naughty, naughty. You aren't done with the other yet, Mary."

But I can justify it. I really can. I didn't quantify what kind of done I had to be. Is it a calendar date done or a minutes of exercise done? So although not done in terms of minutes of exercise, I am done as far as calendar date. My ticker is expired, although my goal remains unattained.

But that leads me to another ticker related dilemma. Even if I finish my minutes of exercise, the goal is still not attained, because the goal included a time frame. I may eventually finish my minutes of exercise, but I will never be able to finish my minutes of exercise before Christmas.

Boy, I'm glad I'm not into this goal setting thing in a big way. One could really drive oneself nuts with it all. Perhaps if I had spent my time exercising instead of dreaming about new tickers, I wouldn't be having all these moral dilemmas.

This new ticker is for minutes of exercise before Easter. Ticker Factory wouldn't let me make a second exercise ticker without eliminating the old. So I had to use one of their other themes which did not label the same way as the exercise one. Once I actually accomplish my Christmas one, I'll redo the new so it shows the goal, too.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

And she brought forth her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Ticker Failure

OK, yes, I'm whining. But, alas, I don't see how I can meet my ticker goal by Christmas. I could, of course, put in 75 minutes or more of exercise each day between now and Christmas. But is it really important enough to me to meet my goal at the potential expense of neglecting other things that need to be done? Probably not.

I know, I know, I just would never get the award for the Power of Positive Thinking Society. Or the Just Go For It Club. Or the You've Got to Want It Conference. I don't work that way, I guess.

I take each day, week, and month as it comes with kind of, maybe, a plan for things I'd like to accomplish. Maybe this is a cop out. But I prefer to think of it as just being content with God's arrangements. It's my way of trying to live according to James who says in Chapter 4,
Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that."
Yes, I could probably have exercised more. Yes, I chose to feed my children and provide a home for them. But yes, I also read a few books here and there; I watched a few movies at night with my husband; and hard as it is to believe, I both read and wrote a few blog posts. So this is kind of a mixed bag. I guess I chose to fulfill my vocation before God. But I also chose my to use my discretionary minutes elsewhere. I just didn't want it badly enough. I will accept that responsibility.

I will be close. But I don't think I will meet the goal.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Jane Austen Quote for Every Family Occasion

I announced this evening that a friend was taking Clara, Sophie and Stella to bake cookies tomorrow. John piped in with something to the effect of, "Stella is not the next in line. I ought to go instead.

The murmuring heard from Clara, in excellent Pride and Prejudice accent, "Mother, I don't see why Lizzie should go to Brighten. I ought to go, too, since I am two years older."

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Venison Paprikash

14 small venison cutlets
10 oz chorizo
1 cube butter
2 medium small onions, sliced
1 small apple, sliced
handful of raisins
small handful dried parsley leaves*
1/2 cup sour cream

*The parsley is home grown, and dried as leaves. Not crushed. I don't know what it would be crumbled, but perhaps a tablespoon.

Melt the butter in large skillet. Squeeze chorizo into pan and break up a bit with a spatula. Line bottom of pan with venison. Kind of distribute the chorizo into chunks between the cutlets as you go. Sprinkle meat lightly with salt.

Brown one side of meat and then turn. Sprinkle on the sliced onions and apples, the raisins, and the parsley. Cover and simmer for 50-60 minutes or until cutlets are tender, turning once near the end of cooking time. Add a small amount of liquid if needed during simmering.

Remove cutlets from pan and lay in shallow serving dish or deep platter. Mix sour cream into pan drippings. Pour over venison.

Serves 8-10.

Note: In case you are wondering about the lack of paprika in the paprikash...My husband said, "Where's the paprika?" I said, "It tasted like paprika. I was describing the taste not the ingredients." Joe pulled out another roll of chorizo from the fridge and read the ingredients. "I guess paprika is the main spice in chorizo. Venison Paprikash if fine."

Greetings Earthlings (and also to those who trace their origins to any other celestial location)

I got this in my e-mail today, one of those things that goes around. I think it's cute. I took the liberty of changing Democrat to liberal and Republican to conservative because I think it's more accurate. I know many people who would consider themselves Democrats who would think the first wish as ludicrous as I, myself, do.

To All My Liberal Friends:

Please accept with no obligation, implied or explicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2010 but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere . Also, this wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishee.

To My Conservative Friends:

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Comfort Food

I have a topic off to the side I've called NT recipes. This acronym stands for Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon, I book I've mentioned a few times in my writing. And the acronym, in its strictest sense would mean cooking that conforms to the standards espoused by Sally Fallon: the use of raw, whole fat milk and dairy products, lacto-fermented foods, soaked whole grains, free range eggs, unprocessed fats and sugars, organ meats, organic foods, etc. I think the term traditional diet means almost the same thing.

I had a hard time deciding what to call this topic, since I rarely use completely NT methods and products. Economy of time and money forces me to use what is readily available. I try to avoid processed foods and have eliminated vegetable oils from my cooking. I try to soak some grains; I include whey or yogurt in this when I have it. I use whey for lacto-fermenting several kinds of vegies.

I have not eliminated regular sugars or high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) completely. I try to watch labels and stay away from things that are obviously full of HFCS such as pop and white corn syrup. I use honey and molasses for many things. And I buy some natural sugars. The kids didn't like the first kind I bought, so we mix half and half with regular. It tasted like black strap molasses and didn't dissolve or stir in as easily as white sugar. I have another kind ready and waiting, but I'm forcing us to finish up this other. I found this chart interesting, (scroll down at link) especially thinking of the fact that sugar, in it's natural form actually has nutritional value.

I buy organic only if it's convenient and cheap at this point. Our meats come from many sources, some of which are more closely NT than others.

With all of these things, food is food. And I try not to turn healthy eating into idolatry. Health wisdom changes so rapidly, there could be a whole new way to eat well in a few years.

Slow foods might be a better term for how I cook. But then, as a mother of many, that is not really my primary concern either. I make a few changes here and there and leave the rest in God's hands.

No matter what you call it, I made a true comfort food for supper tonight. I'll tell you what I did (roughly- amounts of everything are estimates).

Ham and Clams Over Rice
1 c diced ham
a diced onion
3 cloves slivered garlic (the little individual cloves, that is)
few tablespoons each, bacon fat and coconut oil
I put these in my cast iron dutch oven and let them simmer until the moisture had cooked off and the ham was starting to crisp a bit.

frozen peas, about 1 1/2 c
I stirred these into the pan and covered it and let it steam for about 5 minutes

2 small cans of clams with juice
about 1/2 tbs black pepper
about 1 tsp salt
Stir into pot

I also stirred in some corn starch, but I think I'd wait til the end if I did it again.

I poured over about 1/2 gallon of milk (make sure its whole, raw milk, preferable from grass fed cows if you want it to be truly NT. I used just regular grocery store whole milk, since my raw milk provider's cow is currently dry.)

Cut up 1/2 cube butter and stir it in. Stir in more salt to taste. I think I added another 1 1/2 to 2 tsp.

I covered the pot and put it on low for the milk to warm. My corn starch kind of stuck on the bottom and I ended up stirring it more than I would have just warming milk. But I heat the milk to boiling and then still had to add more thickener. Oh, well.

I had also put rice in the rice cooker before I started everything else.

My kids would have liked biscuits, but, alas, I have not mastered GF biscuits. Anything light and flaky is kind of out of the question. But the white sauce was really good over rice and I think everyone agreed.

GF Yeast Bread Trials

I used to make bread. Alot. I used to have it down to quite a science. I read about it. I dreamed of having a Bosch mixer and a grain grinder. I saved articles and collected books on bread making and on the use of whole grain wheat for baking.

Then I got the dreaded homemaking edict that I had to learn to cook Gluten Free. No wheat, rye, barley or most oats. (Oats themselves are not glutinous, but they are often grown on fields that rotate with glutinous grains and are processed on the same equipment.) Gluten is the protein in some grains that creates the nice elastic dough necessary for soft spongy yeast breads. So baking without this important grain component creates many challenges.

Since quick breads such as pancakes and muffins and banana breads are not as time consuming as yeast breads, I started my learning process with these. I quickly came up with several recipes that have become stand-bys.

Cooking regular meals is not hard, unless one is accustomed to using lots of processed foods such as creamed soups. The big thing for us was the pasta. We love pasta.

And here's the thing with Gluten Free cooking, whether baking or otherwise. There are many suitable replacements available. More and more all the time. But the gluten is what holds it all together, both literally and figuratively. For most people, eating is a gustatory and olfactory experience. But what you may not think of until it's gone, is that it's also a tactile experience. And nothing replace the gluten as far as the tactile experience.

Imagine perfectly cooked pasta. Think of the texture difference between corn meal mush and cream of wheat. Take corn and flour tortillas. The flour ones have a "melt in your mouth" aspect one can't attain with corn. Or the creaminess of gravy made with flour compared to the somewhat bodiless aspect of corn starch gravy. And finally, call to mind a hot and steamy loaf of Italian bread, crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside.

We've found that for the most part, we don't buy the special gluten free products to replace the glutenous ones. We prefer to do without.

I did use some Christmas money last year to get a tortilla press. We've kind of mastered corn tortillas. They are still not wheat flour tortillas, and they are a bit putzy, but they are oh so much better than store bought corn tortillas.

There are also two kinds of pasta I purchase. I like quinoa macaroni and we use the Thai Kitchen stir fry noodles, both in stir fries and as a doable replacement linguine or spaghetti.

But for yeast breads, ah, yeat breads. We mostly have done without for going on five years now. I could claim the dietary high ground of the current health trends and say we don't need the carbs anyway, but I kind of suspect that the low-carb trend will run its course in due time, only to be replaced by something else.

I'm obliged, therefore, to say that I have not yet taken the time necessary to master the art of making good gluten free yeast bread. Periodically Joe will buy a store bought loaf to have on hand for toast or sandwiches, but it's kind of like paying big bucks for cardboard. Not something we want to do often. I also have some Bob's Red Mill mixes I ordered at one point and I make one of those periodically. But again, big bucks for a final product that is slightly less cardboard-like. I suppose that is unfair. The GF Hearty Whole Grain Bread Mix is not too bad. But still, it's a mix! What would Grandma Eskew say? And it's not inexpensive, either.

I have recently started trying a few yeast bread recipes. I still don't have my Bosch mixer, but I do have a Kitchen Aid that does the trick. I have yet to perfect the recipe, but here's what has turned out best so far.
GF Yeast Bread

Dissolve Yeast
1 1/4 cups blood warm water or milk
2 packet active dry yeast (2 t)
In a small bowl, combine water and yeast. Stir to dissolve yeast. Let sit.

Dry Ingredients

2 1/2 cups Brown Rice Flour
2 1/2 c sorghum flour
2/3 c coconut flour
2 Tablespoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon salt
Whisk together dry ingredients.

Add Wet Ingredients and stir to combine
Dissolved yeast
4 Tablespoons softened fat of choice (I've been using 2 t coconut oil, 2 T olive oil)
4 large eggs
1 1/4 c potato water (I needed a bit of additional liquid; I'm not sure how much, perhaps a bit more than additional 1/4 c; I added it slowly until the mixer was not struggling so much; just until the dough no longer climbed the beater.)

Once the ingredients are combined, beat on high for five minutes.

Spread into greased bread pans and cover with greased aluminum foil. Let rise in warm location for about an hour.
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Bake loaves for about an hour covered and then until internal temperature reads 208-212 F. This takes about an additional 1/2 hour. The bread will be doughy if it does not reach at least 208 F.
The trick for me has been getting the loaves to reach the required internal temp. I decreased the liquid substantially after the first attempt. That one baked for about two hours and still would only get up to 205 F. And it was subsequently a bit doughy. But we were hungry and waiting on the bread, so we ate it anyway. But if one decreases the liquid too much, the bread will be dry and cardboardy.

Joe thinks the texture is more cake-like than bread like. He compared it to an angel food, but I think perhaps a pound cake or mock angel food. It has good flavor and holds together well. But it has a very thick crust after the extended baking time. I'd like to tweak it a bit more to get the baking time down, but I'm not sure what to do. The original recipe called for corn starch instead of coconut flour. I had the coconut flour on hand and have been wanting to find recipes in which to use it, so I just traded the two. Probably the coconut flour absorbs liquid differently than the corn starch and probably that is my dilemma. Perhaps I'll replace part of the sorghum or rice flours with corn starch. Or I'll go back to the original and use it as is and work from there.

I am reminded of my friend, Kristi, who when she was a young woman, would choose some culinary skill to perfect. She'd make the same thing over and over until it was just right. Tweaking an ingredient or process a bit each time. She is an excellent cook, too, I might add.

I tend to be more like this old poem, however.
Sad Recipe
I didn't have potatoes so I substituted rice.
I didn't have paprika so I used another spice.
I didn't have tomato paste, I used tomato sauce--
A whole can, not a half, I don't believe in waste.
A friend gave me this recipe. She said you couldn't beat it.
There must be something wrong with her--I couldn't even eat it.
I'm embarrassed to even admit my worst example of this. I was making black bean soup and I was missing several ingredients. I just threw in whatever. But the turning point was probably when I used herbal orange tea instead of orange slices.

What can I say, I was all of about 20 years old. And bold. Ah, yes, bold.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Uncomfortable Around Nursing Mothers?

apparently you're not alone. But hopefully you've never called the cops on one.

Having been either a nursing mother or a pregnant mother or both, non-stop for the last 17 years, I found this article interesting. I really appreciated Ms Harding's analysis about Target's PR use of the word continuing.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Quote from Vonnegut

I'm currently reading Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut. I've never read any Vonnegut. It is a new and somewhat strange experience. I took up the reading because my son, Jeremy, has to read this book for his HS English class. I don't read everything my kids have to read for school, but I do try to at least read a sampling. It gives me a launching off point for some commonality for conversation during these foreign teenage years.

I'm withholding judgment on the book as a whole. It is strange, is all I will say at this point. But Mr. Vonnegut does have a knack for metaphor. Here is one that appealed to me.
"Well, here we are, Mr. Pilgrim, trapped in the amber of this moment. There is no why."

Ghosts of the Past and Dingbats of the Present

One of the primary drawbacks of motherhood, particularly mothering a large number of people, is keeping some sort of order to the vast amount of information coming in. I, myself, do this very poorly. I have little piles and big piles and part way piles and totally disordered piles. I have bags and boxes of somewhat but not quite ordered stuff.

Last week Joe bought tags for two of our vehicles. After he got home, he got a call from the gal in Fosston who had sold him the tags. She reported that in the process of finishing up our paperwork, she discovered that we had already purchased tags for one of the vehicles. Shoot!

Ms Motor Vehicles said that she could temporarily hold the transaction and if we found the previously purchased tags could refund our money. Otherwise, she could run the transaction as a set of duplicate tags which would cost a portion of the full amount and she could refund most of our money.

Well, money being money, we decided to at least make an attempt at finding the tags. I had a vague memory of purchasing the tags. But I had no memory of doing anything with them. Shoot! I had recently re-sorted the piles on my kitchen counter, in an attempt to find a recipe for Thanksgiving. So I didn't think they were there. But I went through those piles first since they were mostly ordered.

After that I did not know where to start. I tackled some heaps in and around my bedroom desk. Ugh! What a disaster! I made some headway and still no tags. I got what I thought was probably all the piles that I knew to have accumulated within the applicable time frame done. Still no tags. Grr!

Oh, well, I guess we call Ms Motor Vehicles in the morning and ask her refund the mere portion of our fee. We got busy the next morning, and unfortunately calling Ms Motor Vehicles did not enter the brain of either responsible party. Ms Motor Vehicles had warned us that she could not keep the tabs out indefinitely, and that in fact, she was kind of bending the rules to allow us this much time. Again, shoot!

Over the weekend, Joe discovered the tags we had been so earnestly seeking. "Where?" you might ask. Ah, there's the rub. I am ashamed to say they were in the first place we ought to have checked and never thought to check. Firmly adhered to the appropriate license plates.

Rejoice with me for I have found my car tabs!

First thing this morning, Joe called Ms Motor Vehicles and told her the lost was found. Alas, according to her regulations, she had already run the paperwork and after all our searching, we end up paying the portion of the original fee for duplicate tabs.

I am chagrined that my life is such chaos. We live lives of so much ease and luxury. I picture my Grandparents Hinderer looking much like American Gothic. They lived very tough lives. They worked hard from sun up until sun down. Even in their later years, the years of their lives that I remember, they rarely smiled. They are part of the generation of Americans I think of as the Somber Generation.

I can't ever imagine them losing vehicle tabs. They were very proper and orderly and they held themselves to very high standards. I said one to my Mom, when discussing the idea of running late, "I'm sure even Grandma and Grandpa Hinderer were late now and then." Mom replied, "Never. Grandpa would not have allowed it."

That was, for me, just a glimpse into a kind of attitude that is entirely foreign to us today. "Grandpa would never had allowed it." It is hard for me to imagine. Did he take her out back to the woodshed for a good whooping? Did he not speak to her? What was the end result of his not allowing it?

I am sure I would be an abject failure in the eyes of my Grandpa Hinderer. He would never had allowed heaps and piles and disorder and he would certainly, I'm sure, never had allowed a dingbat wife to lose motor vehicle tabs directly on the vehicle for which they were purchased.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Quote for my Mood

[I've] been in high dudgeon all morning."

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Relativism and Politics: Are Both Sides Just the Same?

I have strongly held political beliefs. Some of these convictions stem from my Christian faith, such as an opposition to abortion. Human life is sacred no matter what it's age or apparent usefulness. No matter what the inconvenience or complications it might bring.

Other of my political beliefs are primarily based in human logic, but still stem from a respect for authority and the code of law which is part of my Christian belief system. An example of this would be a desire for our country to return to its most basic written set of precepts, the Constitution.

I periodically run into people who have become so cynical about government that the main opinion they can call forth is that politicians are all corrupt. Both sides play the same games. They all cheat, lie, steal, and manipulate. Perhaps this is so.

But to this I have two responses. Firstly, I've read of several studies, some by liberal, some by conservative researchers, that seem to show that conservatives are more moral than liberals. The studies show that since more conservatives than liberals are guided by a specific, unchanging set of religious precepts, they still hold to a black and white sense of right and wrong. Does this mean they are perfect? Of course not. But more than one researcher, and from both sides of the political spectrum, have shown that when a conservative makes a mistake, he or she is more likely to apologize and try to make amends or to gracefully take the punishment he or she has coming. Liberals are more likely to lie and manipulate the information and blame others when their mistakes come to light.

The phrase, "The end justifies the means," is much more likely to be embraced by liberals. Right and wrong have been gradually smeared together so that it's increasingly more common to run into someone who believes this ideology. When I was in college over twenty years ago, this was already a very common value system among those who considered themselves truly learned. They saw themselves as having thrown off the shackles of primitive religion. And now people of that same age and education demographic are running the country.

Let me be quite clear. I am not talking about every single person on either side of the political spectrum. I am talking about a likelihood. Percentages. Unfortunately, I can't even name my sources for this. I guess this makes me a poor researcher. I think I wrote about one such study over a year ago. I know several strong advocates for what I would label liberal causes who are also strong Christians. These people most often oppose abortion, but they don't see that issue of having any real hope of resolution, so they focus on ending poverty and engendering world peace. We simply differ on how those things are best accomplished.

I also know of people who consider themselves conservative who are big wheelers and dealers and will pull all kinds of tricks to get what they want. But again, I'm talking about percentages and likelihood. So don't tell me that both sides are the same. It simply isn't show to be true.

Another important aspect of this is the message. How does one get a message out? In this day and age, survey after survey has shown the mainstream media to be biased toward the left. The left gets their message out. The right does not. And so we go alternative. Talk radio, internet news sources, blogs, facebook and twitter. But simply because the message is not heard on mainstream media, it is assumed to be extreme, inaccurate, biased. And the mainstream news sources feed that stereotype. We are perceived to be blind sheep following those who want to twist the truth.

Many, who might really be fellow conservatives, are loth to believe alternative sources. They are apprehensive to listen. No one wants to be duped. Many do not have inclination or the time and knowledge to prove or disprove alternative sources. And yes, there are some doozies out there. I'm fortunate to be married to a guy who is really good with research. Whenever I need more information, he can either call it up quickly with a few google searches, or if he doesn't have time even for that, he can direct me to possible sources. And I do check things out. I am not naive. I don't follow blindly. I do the research and make a decision. I get involved in the conversation of ideas.

And what is the message I want to get out there? What is the core of my political ideals? How do I decide what side of any given debate I support? In a nutshell, constitutional government. How does that pan out? Smaller government, less regulation, lower taxes, states rights. The government cannot possibly be everything to everyone. They have failed time after time after time. The more the government takes from us, the less we are able to provide for and train our own family, and to give to neighbors and churches and charitable organizations. The more regulations there are, the fewer choices we have in areas of life such as school, food, medical care, cars, property use. And then, a further still lessening of the ability to provide for our own and share with others.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Exercise Update

So, I have passed the half way mark on my exercise ticker. Notable, yes, but still pathetic considering that I think I started it at the end of September and my goal was to have it done by Christmas.

So I'm two thirds done with my time allotment and only half way done with my minutes. I blame the weather. I blame the wind. I blame the mess around the house. But when it comes right down it, I just wasn't putting in the time.

But I have been fairly faithful lately. I'm trying to do my pilates video every morning. It is about 25 minutes long. I have 580 minutes of exercise left to meet my goal. I have 30 days left in which to accomplish those minutes. Hmm. 580 divided by 20 equals 29. I see I must either commit to some additional form of exercise or miss only one day between now and Christmas.


Typical Homeschool Morning

I realize that not everyone homeschools the way I do. There are probably as many right ways to teach your kids at home as there are families. But the following is typical for me, for the last 10 years. And anyone with toddlers and preschoolers will imagine clearly the situation.

Sophie 7 years
John 6 years
Stella 4 years
Donna 2 years
Inge 11 months
A family living room. The mother is attempting to fold laundry. The children's morning chores are finished up and they are beginning to be bored. A variety of discontented noises reach theMom's ears.
theMom: Stella, John, why don't you get your school workbooks and do a few pages. If you do it in here, I can read the instructions as I fold laundry.
Please bring the little table from your room so you have a nice work space. Various noises of book and table and chair gathering ensue, theMom picks up a laundered item to fold.
Make sure you each have a pencil with an eraser and bring the crayon box.John: What do I do on this page?
Stella: What do I do on this page?
theMom gives instructions, picks up a second laundered item to fold.
Sophie: Can I do mine, too?
theMom: Just make sure you have a pencil with an eraser.
John: What do I do on this page?
Stella: What do I do on this page?
Sophie: What do I do on this page?
theMom gives instructions, picks up the same laundered item to fold, Inge and Donna enter.
John: What do I do on this page?
Stella: What do I do on this page?
Sophie: What do I do on this page?
theMom gives instructions, again picks up second laundered item to fold, Inge and Donna enter.
John: I'm moving to the piano bench. The table's too crowded. What do I do on this page?
Stella: What do I do on this page?
theMom gives instructions
Sophie: What is a pod?
theMom: A shell, as in the outside of a a garden pea that we take off before eating the little round things. She tries, futilely to remember whose shirt she is holding.
John: What do I do on this page?
Stella: What do I do on this page?
theMom gives instructions, picks up the same laundered item to refold.
Inge is sitting on my book!
John: Donna, stop coloring on my school work.
theMom: Please get Donna a coloring book form the other room.
theMom once again wonders whose shirt she's holding.
theMom: Thank you. Here Donna, you color in this book.
Sophie: Can I hold a the?
theMom, puzzled: What?
Sophie: I'm supposed to circle the words I can hold?
theMom: Well,...I suppose you could hold the words that come after the, like doll or the the worm or the pencil. But you can't really hold a "the".
theMom picks up another laundered clothing item.
John: Donna, stop it!
Stella: Inge, stop it!
John: What am I supposed to do?
Stella: I'm done with that page, what do I do here?
Sophie: What does lag mean? Can I hold one?
John: Inge is climbing. What do I dooo?
theMom addresses everyone's concerns and looks at the pants in her hand as if they are from outer space.
John: What do I do on this page?
Stella: What do I do on this page?
theMom gives instructions, picks up the same foreign laundry item to refold.
Stella: Inge get off the table! Mom, what do I do on this page?
Donna: Wahh! I want John's book.
Ripping noise.
: Donna! Mom, Donna ripped my school book.
Thudding noise. Loud piercing cry!
Inge: Wahhh! Waaahhh!
theMom rescues Inge and notices her lip is bleeding. She exits the room.
John: What do I do on this page?
Stella: What do I do on this page?
John: Mom, what do I do on this page?
Stella: Mom, what do I do on this page?
Sophie: Can I hold a den?
I've got a little emergency here. I'll be right there.
theMom re-enters the room holding the weeping infant, dabs gently at the baby's bloody mouth and fields all the questions. She sets the now calmed baby down and picks up another laundry item.
John: Mom, what do I do on this page?
Stella: Mom, what do I do on this page?

And so it goes. Total laundry folded? Approx three items, but there is no guarantee they are in the correct pile.

Do I wonder why I have to hire household help?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Universal Two Year Old

Remember the teletubbies. Remember how they always said, "Again. Again. Againagainagain,"? (It's at about 2:32 in the following video, just on the off chance you want to hear it and on the second off chance you don't want to watch the entire thing.)

Well, I have a two year old. She has taken to hollering, with that same inflection, every time someone takes something away from her, "I do. I do. Idoidoido."

Puts me right back in the era of the teletubbies.

Gotta love that, huh?

Teletubbies has to have been one of the strangest TV shows made. If I recall correctly, one of the goals of the producers was to engage toddlers and even infants. Well guess what. I pulled up a couple of video clips in order to find one that had the "again," quote I was seeking and my toddler and infant were indeed engaged. I guess it works. Too bad getting my toddler and infant hooked on electronic audio/visual stimulus is not one of my child rearing goals.

If it were only that simple.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Governmental Bounds

I was recently asked to read and perhaps review the book, End the Fed, by Ron Paul. I was reading several other things at the same time, and unfortunately, I had to return them all to the library before finishing them, because they were either due or past due already. Why, oh why, can't I just read one thing at a time and actually finish it!) Sorry, Laura, you won't get your review at this point, but I'll put myself back on the hold list and maybe try again in a month or so.

But, Rep. Paul's main theme is that the Federal Reserve has become this behemoth government agency with immense power and little or no oversight, having authority over the national and even world money supply and therefore economies. Since I didn't finish the book and am not, myself a Ron Paul follower, I can't say any more than that about Rep. Paul's ideas. But the history of the Fed that he drew and the powers he ascribed to them, if true, are certainly pervasive and invasive, and should be anathema to freedom loving Americans.

Juxtapose that general direction of thought, with all due respect, with the following clip of former Pres George W. Bush.

I loved many things about Pres. Bush. I loved his moral stance. I loved how he strongly stood on many issues in the face of constant, often hypocritical attacks by the mainstream media. But there were few issues with which I generally disagreed with him. My primary disagreement with him would probably be his use of the phrase "compassionate conservative" as if conservatism without the qualifier is not compassionate. (If only we conservatives had a point man who could articulate how conservatism is, indeed compassionate already, that would be much better.)

Another thing with which I disagreed with Pres Bush was on his dumping money into public education and at the same time increasing federal involvement with state and local education mandates. Keep your money and get your hands off our kids.

And the third main point of contention I have with Pres Bush is that "save the world" TARP bill they pushed through in the fall of 2008. Grr. The video clip above does not assuage my frustration. I've seen this video touted as "Bush warns against government intervention." or similar titles around the web today. But if it were a true warning, wouldn't Pres. Bush have said something about how the TARP bill didn't seem to do what they had hoped. He pretty much seems to be saying that it's OK to interfere, but only in a limited way. Once the attitude is acceptable, of government stepping in during times of crisis, the door is opened for anything. Each executive will define "crisis" or "emergency" or "limited" differently to suit their own goals and ideals.

And I fear that Pres. Obama's definitions are being shown to be much different from those of Pres. Bush.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Scents and Sensibilities

I still have to sometimes give myself a little shake when I really stop to think about the life God has given me.

I did not grow up among hunters. It was always something I wanted to try, but never had the chance. It was a "tough thing" with me. I was always trying to prove my "toughness."

When I attended high school in Wisconsin (a Lutheran boarding school) some of the kids would go home for an entire week during hunting season. I thought this ridiculous.

I was always a little grossed out when seeing all the dead deer with their heads rolling and tongues lolling upon the backs of cars. I just tried not to look.

Gradually I lost somewhat the having to "prove my toughness" stage and was kind of ambivalent about hunting. Also, I had friends who ate mostly venison. I have to say, eating at their place was yet another deterrent to the whole hunting thing. I was a bit ashamed of myself though, for not having more gustatory "toughness." One of my favorite sayings with my kids is, "Food is to give you nourishment and fill you up. If you like it, it's a bonus." But here I was, only 20-something, and finding myself untrue to one of my toughness rules. But I just really didn't want to eat venison.

Joe and I talked about him or us hunting, but there were many deterrents. Cost would have been an issue in those days. We had no guns, no clothes, no weapons, limited experience processing animals, so we would have had to pay a locker...And we had no land at which to hunt.

So it just never happened. And my gustatory conscience had no reason to feel guilt.

Then we moved up North.

We were given lots of venison. I really tried to use it faithfully throughout the year, but often my freezer had lots of venison left come August.

Gradually though, I got used to the flavor. We had some people give us very clean meat. Meaning most of the fats were carved off. At first I still had to kind of pick at it and try to look like I was enjoying it so I would set a good example for the kids. Gradually I got to the point at which I could eat it without grimacing inwardly. I would chew as quickly as possible and just kind of swallow it down and take a quick drink, trying not to allow it to touch any taste buds.

The next stage was when I could actually taste it. I mean, I could chew it naturally and not feel the urge to quickly ingest it.

And finally I can say I like it. There might be a piece here or there or a prep method or even an entire animal that is gamier than I'd prefer, but for the most part I enjoy it. I can now say, "Hmm, venison." (And lamb, too, I've even come to enjoy it's lambiness.)

But to get back to the shock thing. All of my siblings are urbanites. I can only imagine what they think when the read of our lifestyle and some of the rural living adventures we have.

This morning I walked out into my garage and there hang two big bucks. No, unfortunately, none of my mighty hunters has gotten one. But we were given two that will help to fill the freezer.

Just as an aside, there exists a certain "hunting shack" culture. All the families know each other and many have extended family around who aren't able to get here often. So it's kind of like a big community reunion. Lots of visiting between the different groups of hunters. And there are always a few pranksters going around to the various hunting schacks.

This year, one of the local gentlemen, now a pastor, went around to many of the cabins and posed signs that read "Posted: NIMRODS: And Nimrod was a mighty hunter before the Lord."

Another year, I'm told, some aspiring comedian went to all the "posted, no trespassing" signs and tacked long side each a sign such as one might find in gas stations or bars or diners this time of year, "Welcome hunters."

Thursday, November 5, 2009

There Ought to be a Phrase...

You know in the marriage vows, the sets of things through which a spouse must remain faithful? Sickness, health; richer, poorer...I think they should add something about when one's spouse morphs into Danial Boone.

Joe wrote the other day about the uninvited guest in our detached garage. Well, Clara mentioned how pretty this little visitor was. And Sophie asked whether we could keep the skin.

"Oh, oh," I thought. But it was too late. Their father had overheard the conversation and I could already see the cogs turning.

The update, about which Joe has not yet written, is how he finally trapped the black and white interloper. Joe and Clara kept checking the live trap. Joe kept resetting and baiting it after Mr. Sneaky repetitively managed to spring it and then eat the food. Clara kept frequent watch through the window. Yet the visitor was not forthcoming. Finally Clara suspected that he may have trapped himself under the container that had formerly held cat food. So Joe and Clara entered with due caution to investigate the situation. As they were looking around, they happened to notice a rattling in the bag of the mower that had played such a pivotal roll in Joe's initial discovery of our little friend. Sure enough, there was something within. Apparently Joe was kind of tired of "skunkeying" around with the situation. So he disposed of the trespasser with his .22 right then and there. Right through the lawn mower bag.

Ah, yes. Then he and Clara opened up the garage doors and window and left the area. When he left today for visits, he asked Matt to wheel the mower out into the CRP land which surrounds us on two sides. Matt was fairly occupied with other things today, and I'm not sure he got to it. But this evening, shortly after I got back from the library and piano lesson outing with some of the kids, they all went out to attempt some sort of hazardous contamination clean up. The odor was horrendous. I asked at one point if they had taken it out to the CRP or if they were right outside the door. The answer, "Yes, it's in the CRP. Yes, it is downwind of us." Wow!

Shortly thereafter, the kids began coming in asking for things. Hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, these I expected. But kosher salt, shampoo, more salt. Aha. I figured out eventually what they were doing. Joe had skinned the skunk and was starting the tanning process. I didn't ask whether he was using the brain tanning method. I don't want to know.

But I do know that every time one of them was in and out, the smell became stronger inside. I am sure the entire house just reeks of skunk, but blessedly, God gave our noses the ability to become innured to such auditory offense.

Joe went to bed early with a migraine.


Saturday, October 31, 2009

GF Scalloped Potato Hotdish

Last night my supper turned out exceptionally well.

One of the big concerns when transitioning to Gluten Free cooking is how to replace the creamed soups in hotdishes. (For those of you who may not know, hotdish is the Minnesotan equivalent of casserole.) I had always tried to shy away from these processed products but as my family size increased I found myself adding a gradually increasing number of cans a month into my regular shopping lists.

But when I had to learn to cook Gluten free, I found myself reverting to homemade white sauces, flavoring them with whatever vegetables and stocks are well suited for my desired final product. About a year ago I discovered the pleasure of cooking with real cream instead of a thickened sauce. It sure saves time and lends a different kind of creaminess than a thickened sauce.

Last night I made potato/hamburger hotdish with cream. I didn't really measure anything, so this is more a description of the process than a real recipe.
  • Brown hamburger and season with salt and pepper (I had three pounds of meat, perhaps 1 tbs salt and 1 tsp pepper)
  • Cut up whatever vegies you want. I used an onion, four carrot sticks and three celery ribs. I don't like mine soggy, so I cut them into strips about 1 1/2" long and then slice the long way. It makes the presentation colorful. Sliced fresh mushrooms would have made a nice addition, but I didn't have any on hand.
  • When the meat is done browing, add these to the meat and stir together. I let this sit a few minutes so the meat fat and salt begin to penetrate the vegetables.
  • I layered this mixture with chunked potatoes (about 8 pounds, cut into about 1 1/2 " chunks) in two baking dishes.
  • Over this I poured almost 2 quarts of cream. Fill the pans until the potatoes are nearly covered, but leave at least 1/2" at the top or it will cook over when it boils.
  • I tasted a bit of the cream and thought it was a bit bland, so I sprinkled on another thin layer of salt (maybe another tsp total)
  • Then I baked the pans covered, at 350, for about an hour.
This was really creamy and good. We mashed the potatoes into the cream sauce and slurped it all up. Since Joe wasn't home, I removed the serving dishes from the table after serving and we even divied up a few slices of "real" bread I happened to have on top of the fridge to sop up the creamy sauce.

This wasn't any more difficult than opening a can of creamed soup and it tastes a whole lot better.

Cooking with Beef Tallow

About a year ago, I stopped buying vegetable oil. With what did I replace it? Mostly lard, butter and olive oil. I also use coconut oil, but although healthful and tasty, it's kind of expensive to use in large volumes and it smokes quite a bit at higher heats.

I've never even thought to try beef tallow. I don't really have a good reason why I didn't; probably just accessibility. I can grab a tub of lard at Wal-mart but I've never seen beef tallow.

Check out Kelly the Kitchen Kop for more information on healthy fats. She has many postings on the topic. Also may be of interest to any fellow tightwads is the recent post offering a chance to win a tub of rendered beef tallow.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Gender Oriented Gift-Giving

I had to kind of laugh to myself when skimming through the Cabela's Christmas gift catalog.

Mostly it highlights a range of products from each of their many departments.

It also includes several pages of "Gifts for Her" ideas. As I was looking at the featured items, it struck me that the gifts on these pages could be summarized as falling into one of five categories.
  • There are the typical girl gifts such as jewelry or candles.
  • There are also the regular Cabela's type fare for those women who enjoy outdoor pursuits or decor.
  • There are the "how to get my wife to enjoy my hobbies" gifts such as shooting ear protection muffs or a Lady Recon air rifle, each available in, yes, fashion pink.
  • There are the chivalrous "damsel in distress" gifts such as pepper spray, a pocket GPS, or a two way radio set.
  • And finally there are the "women sit around eating bonbons" gifts such as cheesecake and, well, bonbons.

Tendinitis Relief

A quick google search produced many listings for "tendinitis" and "poultice" as terms. Many of these were sites selling a miracle gel or paste that will cure one's tendinitis seemingly overnight. But since I was looking for a more economical option, I found a few sites that had recipes for concoctions one could make at home. The most entertaining had obviously been translated into English. Quirky word usage and grammar things.

Something about the page programming wouldn't let me cut and paste, so I had to keep flipping back and forth to get the recipes onto a document file.

But after a few moments of typing, this is what I came up with.

Recipes for tendinitis care

Recipe One
Equal parts kerosene (or turpentine) and sunflower oil
Mix together and massage into affected area.

Recipe Two
1/2 tsp camphor
1/4 cup sunflower oil
Mix together and apply to affected area.

Recipe Three
A few cloves of garlic "pounded in the proper way" (whatever that is)
Unspecified amount of olive oil.
Make a paste and wrap affected area in poultice.

Recipe Four
1 tsp ginger paste
1 tsp tumeric powder
Spread liberally onto affected area and wrap in bandage. (This one must be for very small tendons)
Option: add a pinch of salt "for better and intensified inflammation". Hmm.

Recipe Five
5-6 eucalyptus leaves
4-5 cloves
8-10 mint leaves
a few small branches of coriander leaves
Grind together into smooth paste. One is to add "too hot coconut oil" just prior to application. Apply in a poultice.
When the warmth is "tolerant", it will provide "extreme relief".
So there you have it. Happy poulticing.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Cultural Literacy and Friendship

I forgot about this other item I was going to mention in conjunction with Act of Treason by Vince Flynn. I write periodically about my propensity to want to know everything. And how uncomfortable it makes me to read and see things and not get it.

We don't have TV. We do, however had a DVD player upon which we watch a few movies a month.

This wasn't always the case. Prior to about 5 years ago, we had nothing in our home upon which to fry our brains while viewing the flashing images flicker on and off the screen. And so until that time, I depended upon the graces of our friends and relatives to keep me up to date with all the items of pop cultural import.

Char and Dave S would even periodically bring from Wisconsin their TV and VCR, when spending a weekend with us, since they knew we were lacking in this vital aspect of life. Thanks in large part to this bigheartedness, we were kept abreast of all the cult classics and "bonnet movies" of the 90s.

Another couple who contributed to my cultural literacy during this era is Tressie and Andy B. When we lived in Mankato we were frequently invited to their place for an evening. This may not sound like a big deal, but a family with five kids under the age of 8 years does not get invited out much and we really did appreciate the time spent with them.

Usually these evenings out would end up with us putting the kids to bed in Tressie and Andy's room and we adults would watch a movie. James Bond and Jackie Chan were frequent choices. Somehow we never did the bonnet movies with Andy and Tressie. I guess the guys did most of the choosing.

But I remember one night Tressie and I were visiting, I suppose, and putting the kids to bed and doing dishes maybe, and the guys called us in, "You've gotta come see this!" So we ended up watching the last few matches of UFC 4: Revenge of the Warriors, which culminated in 176 lb Royce Gracie winning an 15+ minute fight to submission against 250 lb Dan Severn.

I have to say I was impressed. It was an exciting match. While we were watching, Joe and Andy filled us in on the history of UFC and the Gracie family's Brazilian jujitsu.

Although I enjoyed the final match of UFC 4, I have never seen another Ultimate Fighting match. And I have to say, I've never even really thought about the Gracies since then.

Until last night.

From Vince Flynn, Act of Treason.
Rapp had been in a fair number of street fights as a kid, but it wasn't until he went to work for the CIA that he really learned how to fight. They'd started him out with karate and then judo. He had little difficulty learning both, and while the fundamentals were sound and the discipline was needed, he instinctively knew that in the real world, fighting was far more frantic. Judo and karate had too many rules. Too many constraints. It was on a trip to Fort Bragg for some additional training that he sat in on a jujitsu class. From the first minutes he knew this was a form that was more suited for real world combat. While karate used mostly feet and hand strikes, and judo used mostly holds and throws, jujitsu combined both and then added knees, elbows, head butts, choke holds, submission holds, and even a few more. Rapp began training in earnest, eventually spending several months in Brazil learning Gracie Jujitsu from the grand master himself, Helio Gracie. Over the years he added some Thai boxing to his regimen, but for the most part he focused on Gracie Jujitsu, eventually earning a third-degree black belt.
Call me a geek, but I love when I find a somewhat obscure reference in a book and it makes sense to me. Thank you Tressie and Andy for the cultural exposure. But more importantly for the friendship and the nights out.

On the Other Hand

Vince Flynn includes in Acts of Treason a second mention of DCI Kennedy's neighbor, Mr. Soucheray. This time, Mr. Soucheray is walking his dog, Rookie. this time, a bit more obvious allusion to the Garage Logic radio show.

Author Disappointment

I just finished reading another Vince Flynn book, Act of Treason. I really like Flynn's writing. It is a good, quick, lazy read for me. An excellent escape from a busy life.

I've been wanting to request another Flynn novel ever since returning from vacation in August. I just didn't have time to get sucked into a book. I've been reading, of course, but nothing with the same propensity to "suck me in".

I am, however, somewhat disappointed. My fifteen year old son, Matthew, is beyond reading children's lit or even the young adult titles. Although it would be nice if he only read Dickens or Cooper or Stevenson, it just isn't realistic. (We have been doing Treasure Island as a family read aloud, however, so perhaps he'll start groovin' on Stevenson.)

There are so few adult books around today that are not filled with smut. And not just an illusion to some situation. But the graphic descriptions of s**ual interactions. I don't think a fifteen year old needs his or her head filled with images of such things. No one needs that. But it's extra important to protect our youth. A young person still has the ability to look forward to a beautiful, pure, physical relationship with his or her spouse some day. Although of course filled with original sin, he or she has not been polluted, so to speak, with graphically spelled out descriptions of humanity's depraved tendencies.

When I started reading Flynn books, I was pleased that there were fewer than usual s**ual situations and those few seemed to be mentioned in passing and not described in great detail. So I began previewing the books and I allowed Matt to read some of the earl6y ones. But then came one I let him read without previewing it and was frustrated when I read it myself, because it was more graphic than I would have liked to expose him to.

I apologized for not protecting him from such titillation.

But it seems Flynn eventually joined the ranks of authors I will not let Matt read. The last several books I've had to tell him, "No, sorry." And I am sorry. It is good to read. It is good to read books with more advanced plots and adventures and vocabulary. But why, oh why, do they also have to have "advanced" other things?!

I use advanced in quotes because, of course, there is nothing mature about this graphic writing style. It is a classic example of what Laura Ingraham would call the pornification of our culture. Specifically, there are two types of s**ual writing to which I am opposed. 1) An author describes in detail the progression of such a situation; and 2) an author includes images of aberrative behaviors.

The first complaint deals the titillation aspect of writing. This so obviously appeals to our baser natures. No one really needs any extra reasons to be tempted toward such thoughts.

The second complaint is because there are just certain things we don't need to think about. Does it really add to a novel to read, even in passing, about how the dominatrix was dressed? Give me a break! A simple acknowledgment that a certain character is a pervert would suffice.

Most of the situations in Flynn's writing from which I feel I need to protect my son do not seem to intentionally titillate. There are not lengthy graphic descriptions. That, in this day and age, is a rare thing. But in his later novels, there seems to be more mention of aberrant behaviors.

Sorry, Matt, you're cut off.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Apple Pudding Cake-Gluten Free

I did a recipe conversion (Wheat flour to Gluten-free) last night that turned out really well.
Apple Pudding Cake
  • 6 c sliced apples
  • 2 c sugar of choice (I used white and rapadura)
  • 1 T cinnamon
  • 1 t nutmeg
  • 3 c flour mix (my mix is 2 brown rice:2 sorghum:1 white rice:1 tapioca:1 potato starch)
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1 t xanthan gum
Stir together.
  • 6 beaten eggs
  • 3/4 c softened fat of choice (I used lard
Stir into apples.
Pour into 2 greased 9x13" pans. (I used one 10x15 and it cooked over some).
Bake at 325F for 1 hour.
Spoon out and serve with drizzled or whipped fresh cream.

Mark Levin Interview

For any other Mark Levin fans out there, I stumbled upon this interview with him in the Talk Radio trade journal, Talkers.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Pie Making 101

For school the last week or so we've been doing a unit study loosely based on a Five in a Row study on the children's book, How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman. In this story, an enterprising girl goes around the world to gather ingredients for her apple pie after she finds the local market closed.

The idea behind the Five in a Row homeschool curriculum by Jane Claire Lambert, is to read a single classic children's storybook five days in a row. Each day the teacher will use an aspect of the book for a different part of early elementary learning. The subject areas are Social Studies, Language, Art, Applied Math, and Science. After a week's worth of lessons, we continue to a different book.

I used this curriculum quite a bit when my oldest were younger. Out of necessity, with so many ages to teach, I gradually got further and further from anything "fun" for school. School had somehow turned into drudgery for all of us. This year with the three oldest learning from others, I'm trying to make school a little more enjoyable.

I am loosely basing our current lessons on the Five in a Row lesson How to Make an Apple Pie... I printed up a bunch of "just for fun" apple themed worksheets: word search, math problems, dot-to-dot, coloring sheets, identifying letters,...several at each level for two kids at each of three levels, since the littler ones want to "do school" too.

We did mapwork, first of all identifying and marking all the locations at which the heroine of our story found her products. Then, since there were three countries in Western Europe mentioned, we did a more detailed lesson to mark all the European countries; and we worked on memorizing the several Europe songs on our Geography Songs CD.

We went to Maple Hills Orchard, outside of Detroit Lakes on Friday. Boy, is it hard to find an apple orchard this far north! We went to the orchard expecting nothing more than a trip to see an orchard and buy apples. I figured that even if Maple Hill had a u-pick option, we would be too late in the season to pick, since we'd had several hard frosts already. Upon arrival, the kids immediately ran to the green house to see the pumpkins housed within. Before I even had the littlest ones unloaded, I was met by Friendly Gary (who later fallaciously claimed to be Crabby Gary). Gary offered us a hay ride after he had finished unloading the pumpkins he had just brought in. The kids had fun helping him unload.

Then we went on a ride around the orchard. Maple Hills is a young orchard; most of the trees are quite small yet. But that did not detract at all from the views of rolling hills with their lovely fall scenery. Among and within the rows of trees we saw the corn and pumpkin patches and the apiary.

After the ride, we went inside. Within the store building, we were treated to samples of apples drizzled with caramel, comb honey, and hot apple cider. They had a school desk with a selection of children's books to look at. There was a "guess the weight of the pumpkin" contest. A table with a jigsaw puzzle to work on. And an empty bee hive with the beekeeper's garb that Gary showed the kids. He let them squeeze the smoker and try on the hat and gloves.

Outside there were tables and chairs scattered about the spacious yard; and a little decorated side yard with more activities for the kids. My kids helped Gary wash the previously unloaded pumpkins up by the greenhouse. (Perhaps more help than he needed?) They had a chicken tractor with a stool the kids were able to climb upon, while Gary opened the roof for them to peek inside at a freshly laid egg. There were several wheel barrows for use in hauling the pumpkins during the "pick your own" season. Since that time was past, Gary encouraged the older kids to give the younger ones rides around the green. The several flower gardens were past their prime, but still held a faded glimpse of the glory they had held a few weeks earlier.

We had a lovely day and a big 'Thank You!" to Gary and Jonna for your warm welcome.

Today was pie making day. We actually made pie. I wanted to take advantage of Joe being gone to make a real live wheat crust pie. Sometimes I like to teach my kids how "normal" people bake. Unfortunately we were out of wheat flour, so we ended up doing the gluten free crust after all. Am I ever glad we were limited to that option. Flour everywhere! We made an apple and a pumpkin pie. One of the pumpkins we used was a white pumpkin Clara had bought by herself at the orchard for the expressed purpose of learning how to make a pumpkin pie. The other was also a white one, from our friend, Laura. Clara had baked them and scooped out the meat on Monday. She made the crusts today, so Elsie was in charge of the fillings. Sophie, Clara, and Elsie all helped with the peeling and cutting of the apples.

We had enough apples to freeze filling for another pie, and filled two four-cup containers of pumpkin to freeze. I was hoping to make a batch of green tomato mincemeat from the apples also, but gradually, since Friday, the bag of apples has dwindled. Funny how that works, isn't it?

We all helped with rolling out the crusts. This is always a learning process, since I haven't yet found a gluten free pie crust I like. Each combination of flours and oils and eggs has slightly different properties. Sometimes they fall apart, sometimes they stick, sometimes we give up on rolling entirely and end up pressing the crust into the dish with our fingertips.

I think this will be a good recipe. I forgot to cover the edges half way through, so they got a little darker than I'd prefer. I think next time I'll cut the amount of fat by at least a third. It was very sticky and I didn't even add any of the water the original recipe called for. I noticed some of the recipes call for cold fats. Perhaps that would make it less sticky.

I used a recipe from Gluten Intolerance Group. I adapted it a bit. You can check out the link to see the original recipe. I tripled the recipe and had enough for three crusts and three for the freezer. There was even extra to cut off the edges to bake as pie crust cookies. Follows is what we did.
1 cup white sorghum flour
3/4 cup potato starch
1/2 cup tapioca starch
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 cup fat (I used a combo of lard and coconut oil)
4 ounce cream cheese
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla (oops, I just noticed we missed this.)
  1. Combine dry ingredients. Cut in shortening and cream cheese with pastry cutter until the size of peas.
  2. Add eggs, vanilla, and water. Stir into flour mixture until smooth.
  3. Form 2 or 3 balls. We rolled them out on heavily floured foil. We tried at first without the flour and they stuck like nuts. The parts that didn't stick just broke apart. But with the heavy flouring, they rolled out nicely, and dropped nicely onto the pie plates. They still were a bit crumbly at the edges, but with a little coaxing, we got the pies to look pretty nice.
  4. Makes two 9-inch deep dish pie crusts or three 8-inch pie crusts. Bake as you would for the fillings you choose.
In order to tie up our How to Make an Apple Pie... study, we still plan to make salt and sugar crystals, and incorporate some kind of art. All in all a "fruitful" unit.

Writing Pleasant to the Heart

This excerpt appeals to me at some inner level. It's from The View from Saturday by K. L. Konigsburg.

Ethan Potter likes his silence and solitude. He doesn't have many friends. Ethan has just been at a party with some new acquaintances, one of whom, Julian, pulled a puzzle piece from another's hair via sleight of hand.

Ethan is realizing he likes these new friends.
Mrs. Gershom had offered to drive me home, but I wanted to walk. I wanted to walk the road between Sillington House and mine. I wanted to mark the distance slowly. Something had happened at Sillington House. Something had made me pull sounds out of my silence the way that Julian pulled puzze pieces out of Nadia's hair.

Had I gained something at Sillington House? Or had I lost something there? The answer was yes.


From Merriam Webster's online dictionary
Main Entry: evis·cer·ate
Pronunciation: \i-ˈvi-sə-ˌrāt\
Function: verb
Inflected Form(s): evis·cer·at·ed; evis·cer·at·ing
Etymology: Latin evisceratus, past participle of eviscerare, from e- + viscera viscera
Date: 1599

transitive verb 1 a : to take out the entrails of : disembowel b : to deprive of vital content or force
2 : to remove an organ from (a patient) or the contents of (an organ)intransitive verb : to protrude through a surgical incision or suffer protrusion of a part through an incision

evis·cer·a·tion \-ˌvi-sə-ˈrā-shən\ noun

I'm still trying to figure this one out in context. This is by an Annie Gottlieb in a letter to Camilla Paglia's recent article. I think Ms Gottlieb is responding to something Paglia wrote. But here it is, "Superb evisceration of the Democrats. I, too, have indelible memories of the risky, ecstatic mysticism of the late '60s." Hmm. Perhaps Ms Paglia had written something scathing about today's liberals?

Slacking Off

OK, I just did the tabulation for my exercise ticker. If I still want to meet my goal, I must do about 2 hours of exercise a week until then. That's four days of 1/2 hour each. But sometimes I just do 20 minutes. Oops, that's six days. But then, I occasionally do 40 minutes and that, um, 3 days. So I guess there's still hope.

But I really better get a move on. No more sitting around doing nothing for me.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Lack of Creative Energy

Sometimes I feel like there is just too much to do to choose one thing. Like writing on a blog. Worse still, when I'm feeling this way, if I do sit down to write, I can't seem to choose just one thing to write about either. Is this adult ADD?

Since I'm not very interesting lately, and my friend, Char is, you could check out her Jack Squat System of Accomplishment. I think it's very funny.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Little Fun for Your Contemplation

There's a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza,
There's a hole in the bucket, dear Liza,
There's a hole.

Then fix it dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
Then fix it dear Henry, dear Henry, fix it.

With what should I fix it, dear Liza, dear Liza,
With what should I fix it, dear Liza, with what?

With a straw, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
With a straw, dear Henry, dear Henry, with a straw.

But the straw is too long, dear Liza, dear Liza,
The straw is too long, dear Liza, too long.

Then cut it dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
Then cut it dear Henry, dear Henry, cut it!

With what shall I cut it, dear Liza, dear Liza,
With what shall I cut it, dear Liza, with what?

With an ax, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
With an ax, dear Henry, an ax.

But the ax is too dull, dear Liza, dear Liza,
The ax is too dull, dear Liza, too dull.

Then, sharpen it, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
Then sharpen it dear Henry, dear Henry, sharpen it!

With what should I sharpen it, dear Liza, dear Liza,
With what should I sharpen, dear Liza, with what?

With a stone, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
With a stone, dear Henry, dear Henry, a stone.

But the stone is too dry, dear Liza, dear Liza,
The stone is too dry, dear Liza, too dry.

Then wet it, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
Then wet it dear Henry, dear Henry, wet it.

With what should I wet it, dear Liza, dear Liza,
With what should I wet it, dear Liza, with what?

With water, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
With water, dear Henry, dear Henry, with water.

But how shall I get it?, dear Liza, dear Liza,
But how shall I get it?, dear Liza, with what?

In the bucket, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
In the bucket, dear Henry, dear Henry, in the bucket!

But there's a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza,
There's a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, a hole.

There's a hole.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Whole Grain Fermented Pancakes

I adapted this recipe from a blender recipe by Sue Gregg. Since I don't have a blender that can handle the volume I needed to make, I did a few things differently. There are a few other changes as well, so try both recipes, and see which you like best.

About the word fermented, this refers to the old-fashioned concept of soaking grains before using. This breaks down the phytic acid which is difficult to digest (some theorize it is toxic to our systems). I add whey to the batter, the lactic acid of which starts to ferment the concoction similar to what a sour dough starter might. This allegedly renders the nutrients more easily absorbed in the gut.

The rice I used is not the brown rice one would buy in the grocery store, but the stuff from a health food store that still has the outer seed coating on. I don't know what other differences there are. I should find out.
Whole Grain Fermented Pancakes
  • 2 cups each, whole grain brown rice and sorghum
Run through food processor on high for three minutes or until mostly ground. one of the grains was a bit resilient to this, and I ended up with small round balls of grain, similar in texture to coarse almond meal or finely chopped almonds.
  • 4 c raw milk
  • 1/2 c whey
Add this to the milled grains. Stir together and let sit at room temperature overnight. I mixed mine up about mid-day yesterday, so it actually soaked for about 20 hours. I stirred it before bed. It was kind of thick by that time, the grain had soaked up the liquid and there was some foam and curds on top. It may sound gross, but this is what it is supposed to do.

In the morning,
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 c melted lard
  • 1 c flax meal
  • extra liquid if necessary (I used about 1/2 c additional milk, the batter still seemed thicker than my regular pancakes batter, but it spread out readily on the griddle.)
Mix these into the soaked grains.
  • 1 tbs baking soda
  • 1 tbs xanthan gum
  • 1 tsp salt (I actually forgot the salt; it seemed fine without, but I'll probably try it with next time, just to determine the difference.)
Stir together and then sprinkle in a bit at a time to avoid clumping.

Fry on a hot griddle.
These were very good. Kind of nutty tasting. The kids at first were joking* about the crunchiness. But I think we all decided we liked them by the time we were finished with our first ones. This is a much smaller batch of pancakes than I generally make, but I think we were well-filled.

*For other movie lovers out there, the kids came up with a couple of movie related "crunchy" jokes. From Nacho Libre, "Crunch, crunch, crunch. Good pancakes." And from Mousehunt, "Crunchy, I like the almonds." And if you don't get the jokes herein, you'll just have to check out the movies from your local library.