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.