Thursday, July 31, 2008

Kitty Interlude...



Yeast bread baking tips

My beautiful sisters!!!
Today I thought I would make a post regarding bread baking. Our summer is pretty much done, and it seems that bread baking is just the perfect post for a rainy July day!

I do not know how much y'all bake, but I cannot encourage it enough! It takes a few tries, but the reward, in cost, flavor and health, are MORE than worth it. It is not hard, it just takes a bit of practice. At some point I can post an entire start-to-finish process if y'all like, but I thought this time I would offer tips to make this process easier.


Bread can be made with only four ingredients: yeast, water, salt, and flour. Nothing else is required to make bread. However, when you make bread with only these four ingredients, you need to incorporate time in order to fully develop flavors of bread.

However, if you are starting out, creating that sort of "artisan bread" can be a bit daunting. I am still trying to learn how to do it! So let's start with an enriched bread.

In enriched bread, you add ingredients for flavoring and for conditioning the "crumb" (making it more soft and sponge-like and less crumbly).


First tip: Convenience! This works for any recipes that you use often enough to use, but not often enough to commit to memory: tape them to the inside of your cabinets! I have my top bread recipes printed out and taped to my "baking cabinet". In my baking cabinet, I have my recipe box, measuring cups, various flours, sugar, baking soda, etc. It does not have all my baking items--they would not fit. But most of my items are right there :-)



Second Tip: Salt. Do not forget the salt or omit it. It makes the bread taste terrible and is necessary for the yeast to work correctly. I have tried it before (on accident). If you are on a salt restricted diet, ask your doc, but the amount (usually 1-2 tsp) is so small when distributed throughout the whole loaf that you are not getting very much at all.


Third Tip: Powdered Milk. This gives bread a creamy, smooth texture and mouth feel. It is truly amazing what it does to bread. I usually put two to four of these heaping soup spoons in my bread recipe.

Fourth Tip: Oil. Oil also makes the crumb smooth and the mouth feel pleasant. I use butter at times, which is wonderful, but I find that the extra light olive oil works wonderfully.

Fifth Tip: Wheat Gluten. I cannot TELL you how much this changes the crumb of the bread from crumbly to smooth and elastic. It is particularly useful for whole wheat breads, where the wheat grains tend to tear the strings of naturally forming gluten in the dough. Adding extra gluten keeps bread from being crumbly. Different flours have different amounts of gluten already in them. The "bread machine", "artisan" and "better for bread" flours have higher amounts of gluten. "Pastry" flour has lower amounts, it is made with soft winter wheat instead of hard wheat. We do not want gluten when making pie crusts or biscuits as it makes them tough. However we DO want gluten in making bread--it makes them airy.

You can also get wheat gluten in bulk. It is MUCH cheaper. Safeway's bulk bin where I am carries Bob's Red Mill in their bulk bins (which is funny because the Bobs Red Mill in the baking section in boxes is VERY expensive, but you can get the same thing cheaper in the bulk bins!). I buy quantities of it and keep it in a rubbermain container in my fridge.



Sixth Tip: WETTER IS BETTER! This might be the most important tip of them all. I learned it from SHAW when she worked at a bakery. Dry dough means a dry bread. Wet dough means a moister bread. If you have been making "bricks", this is probably why (though another reason can be that the yeast is dead or killed with too hot of water, or that there has not been enough gluten development).

The top picture is dry dough. You can see the flour that still needs to be incorporated, and the dough looks and feels stiff. It is not smooth, but rather like chunky oatmeal.


This second picture shows two things: a wetter dough and some gluten development. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, and it creates long strings which form sort of a "web" to trap the gas bubbles that the yeasts are creating when they digest their food. When you have good gluten development, you can trap more gas. This creates a more airy texture and a pleasing mouth feel. Dry dough prevents good "netting", creating bread that is tough, dry, crumbly, dense, and heavy. This is really a pretty wet dough and you can have a slightly drier dough, but it is better to err on the side of wet than on the side of dry.



Seventh Tip: Forget following the recipe exactly! Now, the thing with breads is that they are very forgiving in some ways--you can add and subtract ingredients with almost total abandon. HOWEVER, the problem with bread RECIPES is that they are only a GUIDE. If you are a strict recipe follower, you need to probably get out of that habit with breads. The problem is that different brands of flour, when and where it was packed and stored, and your house humidity GREATLY affect how much water your bread will need. In dry climates, during a dry day, adding other dry ingredients, or using a whole grain flour will require MUCH more water than flour that is already holding some water from the air. Rely on FEEL, not on recipe amounts. You can always add a little more water or flour to create a damper dough.

Eighth tip: do not overproof your bread. That means when you are letting the bread rise for the second time, do not let it go "just to see how big it will get". It will look big and beautiful and incredible until it is baked...then it will sink and sag like a depressed mushroom.

Ninth Tip: Buy yeast at a warehouse club. Yeast is mind boggling expensive in regular grocery stores compared to warehouse clubs. I can get two pounds of yeast for LESS than I can get a few ounces in a jar at the grocery store! They are vacuum packed and have lasted on my shelf for years, unopened. Or you can store them in the freezer. I refrigerate mine when I open them.

I am sure there are many more tips that I can think of, but this will get us started anyway :-). I am considering going through various "easy to make, but looks hard" things that can help us create healthier lives for our families and save us money as well. Let me know if you have any questions or want to see something posted here!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Waking the Gator

Ok true story....

When I was about 11 or 12, I think, our family was traveling and stopped at a reptile park. We decided to stay and watch the alligator show. There was a big fenced in ring with a shallow "pond" at one end and several alligators in it. The seats were ringside.

Ok, for one trick, the wrangler got a gator and flipped him over on his back to put him to sleep. Then he asked for a volunteer. My hand SHOT up in the air then I looked around and realized "No one else is volunteering....hmmm" and jerked my hand down. Too late. He saw me and called me in. At this point I realized that my exuberance just dun wrote a check my body did not really want to cash.

So I walk into the big pen with a lot of gators lounging by some water and not to terribly far from where I was and nothing between me and them. He said "We are going to wake this gator up. See that gate you just came in? that is where we are going to go OUT. FAST.".

Uh huh.....ummmm....oookkkkk .... I think at that point I wondered if he was going to take point or bring up the rear...I mean surely it would be bad form to let the little cross-eyed tourist take the hit, right?? RIGHT??

Now at this point he taught me a VERY cool thing...if you ever feel the need to wake an alligator that you just flipped over, you run your knuckles from his throat to his belly button. Y'know...just FYI....

So on the count of three, with my one good eye racing between the sleeping gator at my feet and the fully conscious gators not 20 feet from me ("How fast can they run again, Mr. Gator Man?"), I ran my trembling fingers down the underside of the gator and started to take off......and was stopped by the Gator Man.

Dagnabit, I did not press hard enough and the gator is still stacking zzz's. The man told me to try again, and at this point I have to think "Y'know, he looks pretty comfy and *I* certainly could use a nap...let's just let sleeping gators lie.". But no dice and I tried again.

DAGNABIT AGAIN! It's a swing and a miss! Again with the sleeping gator, again with me trying to run away, and again with Mr. Gator Man catching me before I escape.

xsighx

Because at this point I was putting the other gators (and the crowd) asleep from boredom, he said that we would do it together Ready?....1...2...3! Gave a tummy noogie to the gator, BOLTED out the gate and learned a VERY important lesson: Never volunteer without knowing what you are volunteering for first, and NEVER, I repeat, NEVER volunteer to a man standing in a ring full of gators....



That’s just good advice.

Monday, July 28, 2008

IMPROVE YOUR LIFE!!

Imagine me seeing this advertisement on tv...."YOU, yes YOU can improve your life in one easy move a day! With our special offer, YOU TOO can have a flatter tummy, less stress, a better intimate life, more well behaved kids. You can have a clean house, time to yourself, and drop at least one dress size!

But wait! There's more! You will also find more money, more fulfillment! You will become more creative! You will learn secrets about you you never knew! You will get in touch with your inner child, your inner lover, your inner teacher! You will laugh more, love more, save more money than you ever thought possible! Your self esteem will improve, your looks will improve. Your hair will be bouncy and shiny, your floors sparkling clean. Even your dog will be more obedient!

How much would YOU pay for this secret of the ages? $100? $200? What if I told you that this secret can be YOURS for $19.95!!!"

(Picture my trembling fingers as I open the envelope that holds the secret to more wealth and a firmer backside. Sllowwwlllyy I read these words that will change my life forever.....


TURN OFF THE BLOOMIN' COMPUTER/TV/PHONE, WOMAN!!! YOU ARE WASTING YOUR LIFE!!!

xsighx

My beautiful, darling sisters in Christ!!!

You might notice that there is more stuff at the bottom of the blog (I can wait while you scroll :-) ). Let me tell you why...

I do not know about you, but I am NOT the best homemaker ever. Actually at all. I am pretty pitiful, tbh. My house is very sanitary, but it is not very neat at times. The bathrooms are clean and the bed made, but there is clean laundry folded, but not put away, the desk a bit of a mess, projects everywhere.

It is not because my arm is broke. It is not because I do not know how to do what I need to do. It is because of.....

THE COMPUTER!!!! (ok, well it is because of my lack of self discipline!).

So, I want to be open and honest about this. I am not a great homemaker, but I COULD be if I actually DID homemaking instead of "really important research" and "catch up really quick on the news".

There was a time when I was much worse than now. A couple of years ago I was involved in a woman's forum. I eventually became a moderator, and frankly the forum took almost all my time. I know that many women were in the same boat (as you could see who was online, and many of us just seemed to "always be there")

The problem is that we did not get our work done. We were complaining about being overweight, not having our house clean, kids disruptive, no time for things we enjoy, suffering relationship with our husbands, etc.

If I had to guess, many women who overindulge in the computer probably have a day that is very similar to this:

"I'll just check the boards a second because I am a mod and it is my responisibili...oh look! Susie posted a pic of her twins! Let me just write a quick note...I might as well check the other boards while I am here. Xsighx, another fight with whatshername. She is just trolling, let me set her straight. OH! I think everyone would be interested in the supper I made last night. And I am going to make a QUICK post/comment about.....

headcovering/homemaking/dresses/halloween/clothvsdisposable/thumbvspaci/aspergers...
(grab lunch to eat at the puter)

WAHMvsSAHMvsWOTHM/vaccines/lead/pants/alcohol/obama/mccain/Idol/Paris....
(grab snack, make sure the kids are not setting anything on fire)

whatsforsupper/budget/spanking/timeouts/cosleeping/CIO/Bibleversions/cuteshoes/Christmas...
(grab coffee, notice 9 yr old shaves now...have we been on that long?)

Easter/JW/Cath/Baptist/Bush/longhair/shorthair/doghair/laundry stains/investments....

(HUBBY IS GOING TO BE HOME IN TEN MINUTES! ACK! MAJOR flash of guilt. Still in our sweats, house a mess, never brushed hair. Spend exactly 30 seconds on hair, 4 minutes on hamburger helper, 30 seconds checking kids, 1 minutes sweeping all toiletries in bathroom in drawer, 1 minute making phone call we promised to make for hubby, and the rest of the time frantically tidying the living room. Hubby is home, we make sure we am NOT NOT NOT at computer when he walks in)

quickcheckofboardsforcommentstoanyofmypostsalmostburningsupper

(feed family, back to boards)

decorating/Idolagain/spankingagain/CATFIGHTONTHEBOARDS!/ADHD/vaccinesagain/
(get dessert and bring back to computer)

hubbystory/gripesaboutsomething/spankingagainagain/modestdressing/longhairagain/
(tuck in kids, read catfight posts to hubby)

houseisneverclean/readmorecatfightposts

(catfight has taken majority of my interest. We do not realize thathubby has gone to bed--no romance tonight! We either will post and try to make peace in the catfight, or we will join sides in someway. Our chests will burn as we type, or we will get together on im with a buddy and we will "discuss" (read: gossip) about the fight. )

Finally I start getting ready for bed. I think about how my house is a mess, how I wasted another day. If I am honest, I will realize that I spent 14 hours ignoring home and family and the only useful nugget of information I got from it was how to get out underarm stains from white tee shirts. The next morning I am "too tired" to do work because I stayed up late reading posts, so I sit down to the computer wearily (ignoring the fact that I can also fold laundry sitting down, or plan menus or budget or clean out a drawer or...), in sweats and before I have brushed my hair, to "just check one more thing...."and the cycle begins again.


Blogs, forums, instant messaging, "research", "support groups", phone calls, Judge Judy....all things that we use to waste our time. We spend 8 hours looking for bonding, counseling, distraction, support, encouragement, and almost no time actually living our lives!

(special note for tv watchers: realize that the children can hear AND ABSORB what we watch!!).

Some of us are phone users, calling one person after another. Some of us are multitaskers and do phone AND computer AND tv.

The Lord is specific about women who go "from house to house" being busy bodies. However, technology has enabled us to be busybodies in the comfort of our own home!!!! We do not even have to brush our hair or our teeth, because no one actually sees you when you go to their blog or forum or site.

So for all of us who have either a little problem or a big problem with these things, I wanted to offer accountability lists for us to look down and see if we REALLY have time to be doing these things.

Now, I will tell you, for ME, my excuse was "but I am so lonely up here in Alaska with no one to talk to! These boards are the only interaction with adults I get!". And in a way that is ALMOST logical. However, if I was honest, it was not that I was actually alone, but that I wanted distraction. It is a LOT more fun to post on a forum or read a blog than to scrub a toilet or fold clothing. I did not need nearly as much "adult interaction" as I thought I did.

Then I went through my "but I am HELPING people! This is my MINSTRY" phase. Uhh....yeah only the Lord told us to be busy at home, to love our husbands and children and to be kind. NOT "let your house fall apart and ignore the kids, and not have a healthful meal for your family and rebuff your husbands advances in order to monitor a cat fight between two people who have never met OR to spend hours echoing other people.". We can give good advice, encourage each other, support each other. But we need to be more "laser" and less "shotgun"--we need to FOCUS our energy and time instead of just idling in front of the computer.

I mean, I know that many complaints I have read, and (and some that I have made) would actually be SOLVED if the person got up from the computer and prayed and read the Word and then cleaned/cooked/loved their children/loved their husbands. Weight would be lost with no cutting back on calorie. Houses would be clean. Kids would still throw tantrums sometimes, but at least they would know more about their mother than what the back of her head looks like! lolol There would be improvement in everything from achy joints to imperative snuggles with hubby.

But I, like many, get sucked in....

For example, I find that forums are HORRIBLE time wasters because I like to talk on them. When I stop posting so much, I have more time. There are homemaker blogs that really encourage me, but I cannot spend 14 hours being "encouraged" and only do one hour of work!!! LOLOLOL

If someone really wanted help, there are places for them to look, both in the Word and on the net. If we are honestly honest with ourselves, the forums are usually just a place to visit and get sympathy. They are "reality shows" of the computer and generally feed our selves, not our lives.

Does that mean we should NEVER be online or on the phone? NO! That just means that we have to be honest with ourselves. Computer/tv/phone is "dessert". :-)

So to that end, I have the list of questions on the sidebar. These are mainly for me, but feel free to use them if you like! I have NO reason why I could not have a totally clean house and GOOD supper on the table. I just get lazy!

Go to the Lord, not the board, should be our motto :-) He will bring us everything we need in just the right time. We have to make sure we do not overindulge, but are doing good work (like, actual WORK lol).

So there is the secret to a better love live, better child rearing, better figure, better health. Turn off the computer, get off the couch, hang up the phone, and treasure every moment with everyone in your house before they are grown up. Make your home, don't waste your life watching other people make theirs!! :-)

Have a very productive day my sisters!!

Reverse calorie counting and other tips...

My beautiful sisters!

Because I cannot sign my name in less than three pages (chuckle), the last post got too long. So this is sort of a "part two" of the last post. I want to talk about how we can "detoxify" ourselves, purge society from controlling our thoughts, and learn to think properly about weight and food.

Now, a couple of tips!

1) Focus on the Lord! If you are overweight, ask His guidance to make you healthy--that might not mean you lose an ounce! It might just mean that you need to make your arms strong for your tasks as the Proverbs 31 woman. It might mean that you are eating the wrong foods or not getting enough sleep.

Draw closer to Him until His peace descends on you. Lay everything, every sin, every pride, every fear, every sorrow, ever resentment, every happiness, every thing at His feet. Give everything to Him, and allow Him to fill you with His Spirit. TRUST HIM with the things mean the most to you--that means no more fretting, but trusting His Wisdom and Power.

2) Be conscious of your eating. Are you REALLY hungry? If so then eat! Are you just "munchy"? Then stop eating and try drinking water, coffee, tea, milk (even chocolate!), juice. NOT cokes and nothing with chemicals. If you drink something and at the end of the glass are still hungry, then eat.

3) Learn to identify that "denial craving" vs real hunger. My personal bad times are at supper--I WANT more for supper. But the thing is that I am not actually hungry, I just REALLY REALLY REALLY crave an extra slice of garlic cheese bread or another helping of noodles. (Amazingly enough, I never crave an extra helping of vegetables lolol.)

Anyway, that craving will get so intense that I am irritable that I am not having what I want. THAT is not hunger, that is the flesh--I want what I want when I want it!!!! THAT needs to be denied, whether it is a nap, an extra biscuit, to let a cuss word slip, whatever. Everytime you feel that pressure in your chest (maybe to post something on a board), or that desperation to get a nap, that irritation at being denied or interrupted, THAT is the flesh. Do NOT give into that feeling!!!

**Point of note--each time you deny your flesh in one area, it can help you learn to deny it in others. Be diligent about recognizing the feelings you have, whether they are godly or not, and take every ungodly impulse and deny it.

So how do you deny it? Well, in the case of me and an extra helping, I just tell myself "Put your plate in the dishwasher, go do something else. If you still want it in, say, 20 minutes, then go have it.". I almost NEVER want it in 20 minutes--it was not hunger, it was craving. It was my flesh, not my tummy. (truth in advertizing here--I am REALLY not all that good at it. I know what it is, but give into it WAAYY too much. lolol).

Now, as the dishwasher in the family, that allows me the opportunity to eat that last bit of pasta, that last onion ring, that last scoop of rice, that last bit of meat. I am putting the food away in the fridge, it is easy for me to say "Well, I will leave a little bit and pop that in my mouth while putting the pot away.". Fight this! This is not food you need, it is food you want. When I am good, I recognize this and scrape as quickly as I can because if I leave it, I WILL eat it!!!!

4) GET ENOUGH SLEEP. When you do not get enough sleep, your body will crave calories (It has to get energy from somewhere!). Get good rest, wake up at the SAME TIME every day, even on the weekends (sleeping in on the weekends messes with your circadian rhythm). Now, you might be tired, so go take a nap LATER in the day (not too long, 30 minutes is supposed to be pretty good) and then make sure that you go to sleep earlier so that you can maintain the same wake time. If you are sick, of course, sleep more, your body needs to heal.

5) Eliminate junk from your diet. No, I am not talking about eating only fruit juice sweetend, whole grain cookies with carob chips! I am talking about FALSE FOOD--food that is not real, food that is more chemical than food.
-Find meat that is not filled with hormones or antibiotics.
-Get produce locally, not shipped from Ecuador. Stock up on produce in season and freeze it or dry it or can it OR just eat the produce that grows in your area duing the season.
STAY AWAY FROM artificial sweeteners unless you have a medical condition that REQUIRES it.
-Stay WHOLLY away from high fructose corn syrup--it is poison, IMO. We even make our own pancake syrup--SUPER easy and cooks while you are there cooking the pancakes anyway, so it is not really much of an extra step. AND it does not have HFCS.
-Stay away from partially hydrogenated oils--it is better to eat butter than to eat chemicals, again, IMO.

6)Make your arms strong for your tasks, as per Proverbs 31, by DOING THINGS. How long have you sat at the computer today? (I am not calling the kettle black, I have been posting all morning!). TURN OFF THE COMPUTER (well, finish this post THEN turn it off ! hee hee!). Get up and get moving. If you are on the phone, empty the dishwasher. Get off the phone and take the kids outside. If your house is a mess, the computer and tv should be off. If your house is clean.....you are a better woman than I am! lolol.

Seriously, whether you are thin or regular or overweight, get off the computer and away from the tv and do something. Unless we are actually disabled or sick, we all should be able to keep a VERY NEAT house.

You know, this is something that I struggle with too....maybe we should have a special post about accountability and see if we can get some serious homemaking going here! :-)

(Why wait? Let's ask ourselves right now
1)How much time (honestly) have I spent on the computer today?
2)Is my house neat and supper planned?
3)Have I spent time with my Lord? How much time?
4)Have I spent time with my children? How much time?
5)Have I spent time with my husband, or do I have plans to do so? How much time?
6)What work have I done today?
7)What are three tasks I can be doing right now?
TURN OFF THE COMPUTER AND DO THEM!!!! :-) )

7) Create special moments and routines. For example, instead of having dessert, have an after dinner coffee. Instead of grabbing a bowl of chips, have a cup of tea and a piece of bread with butter or jelly. While we do not want to overemphasize eating, making a blessed little "moment" with our children, husband, or Lord is wonderful.

8)Put society on mute. Rely on the Lord and your husband for good feedback, not society.

9)Reverse calorie counting. This is something I really enjoy because it rewards self control immediately, not makes you feel guilty or deprived:
Instead of counting up what calories you are eating, count up the ones you REFUSE. If you normally have, say, 2 tsp of sugar in your coffee every morning, then one morning do not have those and put 30 cals on your list of "refused calories". That is 30 cals you did not need! For me, it makes me feel more in control because *I* am doing the decision making, and *I* get to see, on paper, what the results were.

For example, last night I really was going to have a bowl of ice cream. But I waited until the craving past (NEVER EVER eat "denial cravings", even if you can. Allow that to pass--usually takes about 20 minutes--THEN you can eat. You master your flesh, do not let your flesh master you.). So 1 cup (probably more, but lets pretend I only eat one cup of ice cream at a sitting lolol) of this ice cream plus chocolate sauce was approx 400 cals. If I avoid ice cream that I would have eaten every day for a week, that is 2800 cals!!!

I did NOT refuse to eat extra garlic cheese bread and ice cream and coke the other night that we had for girls night. If I had, I would have saved myself about 1200 cals...just from one night!

At the end of the week, you might find that you avoided a whole pound of extra weight! Maybe more! You can see on paper the results of your diligence, and then at the end of the week, you can see how much worse off you would have been (AND you would have seen that you did not die or suffer because you did not have extra food!).

Now, there are a couple of rules to this deal for it to work. First of all, you have to have habits to your eating. You have to know what you normally would eat. If your eating is all over the map (no food one day, 5000 calories another) then this will not work.

1) It has to be something that you really were going to eat. You cannot go through your pantry and say "Wow, there are 15,000 calories in this sack of flour that I am not eating!" lolol.
2) You have to make sure you do get enough calories to keep you healthy. Do not use this to go below the 1500-2000 calories that a healthy woman needs. This is not a race to the finish, this is a lifestyle change.
3) DO NOT count the calories if you use a chemical to replace it!!!! Putting aspartame in your coffee instead of sugar does not allow you to count the sugar. Why? Because even though you are not consuming calories, you are replacing them with things that are not actual food, but rather chemicals.
4) Do not count things that you do already. If you already eat ice cream with no whipped cream, do not count whipped cream that you really could have. This is about what you normally eat OR what you are honestly about to eat.
5) Do not count calories that you replace with other calories. You cannot say "I did not have this 300 cal piece of pizza" and then eat a 300 calorie plate of nachos.
6) You CAN count the difference between choices. For example, if you did not eat that 300 calorie piece of pizza, but you did eat the 60 calorie bowl of fruit, you can credit yourself 240 calories.

You can also use this in reverse if you need to gain weight to be healthy--a reverse reverse calorie counting! Instead of what you do not eat, of course, you write down what you would have avoided, but didn't. You can use this for everything from exercising to to do lists (for example, I write down what I DID do in a day. That helps me be productive).

I am not saying that this reverse calorie counting is a whole way of controlling yourself, it is one tool to use to take some of the negative emotion out of eating sensibly.

Ok ladies, let's get healthy!!! :-)

Weight and Beauty

Beautiful Sisters!!

I have been thinking about weight and food lately. I think that we are obsessed with weight in ways that are not healthy. We have put emotions into food, so that we are not eating correctly. Not only that, but our society equals weight with worth--if you weigh too much, you are worth less, if you weigh too little, you are worth more. We have lost balance and focus. We are either obese or anorexic or just stress constantly over every flaw.

Ironically, I think it is the focus on too little weight that has caused a great deal of weight gain in our society (well, that and foods that have chemicals). We look at a model in a magazine and see how "pretty" and thin she is (mind you, most men do not like that look....the models are for women, but most men prefer a little meat on the bones), and then we feel badly about ourselves. So then we either decide on a severe diet OR we feel badly and go eat ice cream. In either case we are choosing our food out of emotion NOT out of hunger or lack thereof.

I saw a magazine cover in the rack at the store that had a picture of an actress. The article was, if I remember correctly, 10 beautiful bodies. I had two thoughts when seeing that girl in a bikini on the cover: a)Her ribs poked out and her arms were so thin that if I saw her on the beach, I would think she had cancer or some sort of other wasting disease. She looked wasted away, not fit.
b)What little bit of flesh she had was on her tummy. It was a tiny little pooch, but honestly, her tummy was the healthiest looking part of her!

I found it odd that what the magazine was calling a beautiful body was, honestly, very similar to what I have seen in cancer patients. She was no fatter than those pictures circulating around about Barry Manilow. Him, they are saying is sick, her, they are calling beautiful.

Ridiculous.

I have also seen the reverse of this--seriously overweight women. This is not healthy nor good. Where I live, most women I see are overweight and some are obese. Most of them look very uncomfortable, and I cannot imagine how painful their knees and feet get. I wonder if they realize that they have beauty, or if they spend their days obsessing over their food, their weight, denying their husbands because they do not feel pretty or desireable.

Both cases are, in my honest opinion, in need of fixing. Here are some ideas:

1) We need to start putting God in His rightful position--He is our comforter, not a quart of mint chocolate chip. When we are angry, we need to come to Him, not to our cookie jar. Bad days, stressful days, sorrowful days, boredom mean we need something OTHER than food.

When we focus on Him, I mean REALLY focus on Him, we get clear vision. If you have not experienced this, let me urge you to make this a priority. When I focus on the Lord, burdens are weightless, stresses are eased, peace flows through me, my insecurities are GONE.

Now, the problem is that it is easy to STOP focusing on Him. I mean, in the space of a minute, we can start living in our heads again, instead of keeping our eyes on Him. So we have to keep our focus on Him. If we do not have peace, if we do have anxiety, if we are fretting, then we are not focusing on Him. He is our comforter, our ever present help.

2) We need to start putting food in its rightful position--it is our sustenance. Eat to live, eat out of joy in celebration, use food as a hospitality and service to those who are hurting and in need (we southern women know that banana pudding is required at every celebration or tragedy), but also know when it is best to push the plate away.

3) We need to start putting society in its rightful position--behind us. We are IN this world, not OF it. Beauty in society changes like the wind. Sometimes the voluptuous is in, sometimes the boney look is in. Society is fickle and ridiculous. Do yourself a favor and STOP looking at any magazines, shows, catalogues that show tiny little women if you are struggling with your weight. Believe the Lord when He told us where beauty REALLY lies--in a quiet and gentle spirit.
(I don't know about you, but when I am fretting about my weight, the LAST thing I am is quiet and gentle. I focus on ME and MY wants, not on my family and what they need. I am either grouchy or morose, my day is dictated by my scale, not by my Lord. I am in error).

4) We need to start putting our daughters in their rightful positions. We need to start praising their kindness, their gentleness, their motherly qualities, their sisters-in-Christ qualities. We need to bring them home, take them under our wing, RAISE THEM, not just babysit them. My friend has decided to homeschool for several reasons, but I believe the straw that broke the camel's back was when her B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L daughter (physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionaly) took the comments of a "friend" to heart and decided she was too heavy. Now let me tell you, that child was NOT too heavy--in fact, she was lithe and althetic. But you know how girls are. So she believed a lie instead of the truth. If we, as 20,30,40 something women raising daughters cannot distinguish between truth and lie, how can we possibly expect a child (with no age, wisdom or perspective) to distinguish between the two? One careless comment can live in a child forever. Bring them home, teach them the truth.

5) We need to start putting our husbands in their rightful positions as our mates. I hope this is not too forward for a Christian woman's blog, but our husbands are our MATES. What do mates do? They...um...mate!!

I have gone through times where I did not FEEL beautiful, did not feel attractive or "mate worthy". Amazingly enough, RTWS did not seem to care that I needed to lose weight, was not super toned. Honey, if your husband wants you, it is because he WANTS Y-O-U. He wants intimacies with YOU. YOU YOU YOU YOU YOU YOU! That is because YOU turn him on! The Lord created men like that. The Lord did not create men to only desire the youngest hot thing on the screen. Nope. Your husband is not "settling" for you--give him more credit than that!!!

I was talking with SHAW yesterday. Her darling husband is out of town on business She remarked how she did not feel very attractive lately. Now, I know her husband, he is one of the kindest men and he loves her dearly. I realized that part of her problem is that she is not getting that constant positive regard from him. He is not there to tell her she is beautiful or to desire her. So she is missing that. Women, if you want to feel beautiful, start making love to your husband.

Ladies, stop obsessing about your weight in the boudoir. If he wants you, it is because you are want-able!!! He is not settling, he is not resigning. He WANTS you. Give yourself over to him freely and see yourself through HIS eye, not Vogue's eyes. Trust him when he says you are sexy, beautiful. Be enthusiastic and willing and adorable for him. Buy something sexy and put it on his pillow for you to wear for him later. Flirting with your husband, being coy and adorable and desiring your husband, making him the star of the show, being willing and confident erases wrinkle and pound. Lure him to your private garden. Read Song of Solomon (sometimes called Song of Songs in some Bibles), and understand that the Lord created intimacy on purpose for bonding and loving. He could have had us procreate like salmon or mushrooms, but He created us to ENJOY each other. So do it!

Denying him is unfair (just because YOU do not like your body, why make him suffer? He has no control over how much you exercise, how much you eat, how much you watch models, how much you overthink things, so why should he be denied from something he wants because of things in your head?)

Denying him is dangerous (you keep talking yourself down, that turns him off, refusing him turns him off), and hurtful to him (being refused without a REALLY good reason, like a fever or throwing up, undermines his self esteem. You say it is because you do not like the way you look....but HE thinks you look fine. So his reality is NOT your reality. Being denied physically is a sure way to cut a man down, to make him feel inferior, to make him go looking for someone who wants him. You do not have to find YOU sexy in order to be sexy to him, YOU are not making love to YOU! You are making love to him.).

It is also unbiblical to deny each other, except for a time so you both can PRAY! The Word is SPECIFIC about not denying our husbands. The Lord knows exactly what we need. He created sex, He expects us to use it in the context of marriage! So, yes, it is unbiblical to refuse your husband!

I will clue you in on a secret that I have heard men say: they care a lot more about being desired, esteemed, respected than about looks in a woman. The most beautiful woman who is cold or self centered or derogatory is not nearly as SEXY as a plain woman who is confident, loves her husband and desires him. You will be more sexy to him by giving him one compliment than you will be by losing weight.

Ok, one last comment, and I will stop harping on this: when you indulge him, you will feel more beautiful. You will feel powerful and sexy and strong. Whenever you feel low or with low self esteem, go to your husband and let him adore your body. Let him show you how wonderful you are to him.

6) We need to start putting our bodies in their rightful positions--COVERED! Now, this is going to be impossible for society, I am sure, but it would be wonderful if women stopped running around half naked. I believe that when we can see EVERY SINGLE INCH of skin, save three triangles, we get an unrealistic view of what a woman should look like--THEY do not even look like that, they are airbrushed and washed through a computer.

At the Dove website, they have a video of a woman who was made up, then her picture changed through a computer to be completely different than who she is. You can see it here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYhCn0jf46U

In fact there are several youtube videos where people have taken photos and photoshopped them until the women are 50 lbs thinner, 10 years younger, have a completely different smile, bone structure, coloring. THIS is what we think is beautiful--computer generated images. Watch some of these, then understand that your feelings of beauty and worth are being shaped by lies and deception. (warning, some of the comments are filled with horrible language on some of these videos, and some of the videos are inappropriate. The dove one is great and there are a few others, but be careful!)

Yes, we can stop looking at other women's bodies. They might flash it, but we can ignore it. We can train our daughters and sons to ignore it too--they will be tempted to either desire it or compare, but we can lay the foundation of where real beauty is found and diminish some of the arrows of the devil.

I have to tell a funny story here regarding that very thing. We have taught our children that our bodies are personal, to be covered, to be modest, to be shared with no one but our spouses. When there are commercials or shows with immodest women or men, we change the channel (are you listening networks? we CHANGE THE CHANNEL!).
Anyway, we told the children that it is "tacky" for a woman to display her body in public.

One time we were watching football, I believe, and I left the room. My son was....6 or 7 at the time and my daughter was 9 or 10. Anyway, I did not see that a very tacky commercial came on the tv, I just heard my son say "Cover your eyes peekie, its tacky!". I go to the living room and see my daughter hiding her face and saying "Is it over yet?", and my son staring at the tv saying "No, not yet" while looking at this scantily dressed woman!

I have to appreciate him protecting his sister, but needed to review that he should close his eyes as well! lololol

It is terribly ill bred to show off ones breasts and buttocks or to attempt to entice every man on the street, not to mention it is robbing our husbands of their private garden, by allowing other men to peek over the fence! I fully and shamefully admit that there have been times in my life where I wanted to be found attracting (not attractIVE as in well groomed and presentable, but attracTING--I wanted to be desired) to men--I wanted men to want me! I thought that is where I would get validation, would feel pretty. I would not allow men to have me, but I wanted them to want me. Oh what HORRIBLE vanity and pride and sin I was allowing to reign in my life!!!!!! :-(

I believe this is a greater spiritual battle than we give it credit. When we focus on our bodies, when we do not master the effects of hormones, stress, media images, food cravings, desires, insecurity, etc then we are probably either going to be severely over weight or severely underweight. Even if we manage to maintain a healthy weight, we will be without joy because we cannot get joy focusing on ourselves, no matter what the reason or cause. Joy does not come by focusing on anything but the Lord.

Oh sisters this is getting REALLY LONG. I have so much more to say! So I think I will leave this for now. If there are any discussions, any questions, any refutations, feel free to leave them. Start TODAY to look to the Lord. TODAY make yourself presentable and then present yourself to your husband! Ask the Lord to help you see yourself through His eyes, and to develop those truly beautiful traits in you.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Got this in an email

Beautiful Sisters!

I got this in an email. I LOVE these quizzes, but hate sending them around...I just do not know that many people!

So I figured I would post this here and those who have blogs can also post it...consider it sent to you. You can also post in the comments section!

"You can only type ONE Word. Not as easy as you might think. Now copy or forward, change the answers to suit you and pass it on. It'sreally hard to only use one word answers. You can only type one word.Send it to 7 people including the person that sent it to you:
1. Where is your cell phone? purse
2. Where is your significant other? here
3. Your hair? dry
4. Your mother? wonderful
5. Your favorite thing? many
6. Your dream last night? awaking
7. Your dream/goal? perfection
8. The room you're in? plant
9. Your fear? here
10. Where do you want to be in 6 years? multi-generational (do hyphens count?)
11. Where were you last night? friend's
12. What you're not? content :-(
13. Muffins? dozen
14. One of your wish list items? alabama
15. Where you grew up? everywhere
16. The last thing you did? thought
17. What are you wearing? headcovering
18. Your TV? off
19. Your pet? adorablePATOOTadorable (hey, it's my blog!)
20. Your computer? luring
21. Your life? blessing
22. Your mood? struggling
23. Missing someone? family
24. Your car? guzzler
25. Something you're not wearing? shoes
26. Your summer? O-V-E-R
27. Your favorite color? yellow
28. Last time you laughed? today
29. Last time you cried? today
30. Who will resend this? dunno

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Baby Birds





Here they still are! Now they make a little noise when you go up to them...sort of like an odd "buzz" instead of a chirp or peep....I am just glad they are still alive!


Thursday, July 17, 2008

Troubling...girl scouts

Beautiful sisters......



I am debating on whether to post this or not. On the one hand, I want this blog to be uplifting, fun, etc, but on the other hand, sometimes I think we need to recognize potential spiritual battles.



Today I read about how the Girl Scouts is teaming with the Ashland Institute for some sort of "empowerment" campaign.



I withdrew Precious out of girl scouts when they were associating themselves with Planned Parenthood.



But this is even more disturbing in a way, as it shows that the girl scouts is continuing a spiral of loss of morals and spiritual grounding. When PP seemed to be involved, parents spoke out, and the gs seemed to change their tune.

Now, however, this is not a side endorsement of a group that is unsound, but rather an unsound group has been paid to develop this model for gs, and the gs is using this group's work to actually revamp the ENTIRE girl scout organization.



The Ashland Institute does something called "transitional awareness". They have also created a special "leadership" program for the girl scouts to use. Here are some of their quotes from both the Ashland Institute and the girl scouts:



"Use a "symbols process" to see each person's current situation from different archetypal perspectives and reshape them to release potential that is emerging"


Only with the Lord can a person see their real current state, and only He can release the potential in the human.

"Facilitators combine the attention of one-on-one relationship with small-group work and the transforming power of the circle. "

What is the transforming power of the circle?? How about the transforming power of the Lord Jesus Christ?



"Research shows that the drive to support girls to conform to acceptable images and to make life choices that are predictable and defer to social expectations overpowers even the most conscientious parents, teachers and mentors"

I think they are referring to motherhood and being a wife.



"We believe that when women are leaders in our world, positive results are achieved—and our world needs more positive results."

Why can positive results happen only when women are leaders in the world? Whatever happened to GOD leading godly men? As the mother of a daughter and a son, married to a noble, godly, honorable man, daughter and sister to two noble, godly, honorable men, that irks me to no end. There is nothing inherently good about either men OR women. We all sin and fall short of the glory of God, and only through JESUS is it that we become good leaders, not through what chromosomes we happen to have.



"And, because the culture of Girl Scouts is so important to the successful implementation of the Core Business Strategy, there is also a gap team that is focused on:
Culture: Leading the transformation of our culture, which is a key component of the broader transformation of Girl Scouts.




"Connect As a Girl Scout connects with others in a global community, she:
Forms caring relationships
Promotes cooperation and team building
Embraces diversity
"

NOW we are starting to get a clear picture. This is secular humanism infiltrating the girl scouts. This is the door they opened when they eliminated (or at least asterisked) the Lord.



"Girls identify with social groups based on grades. Grouping by grade allows girls to be with peers who share a closer level of emotional and social maturity. "


Girls do that erroneously due to the artificial environment that they are placed in by school. This is not the norm, nor is it good for the mind, body, emotions, or spirit.

The Daisy program has kindergartners exploring "global diversity" (though I am not sure if that is the eco kind or the sociological kind). Brownies have something to do with an elf. Juniors make "peace kits.". Older girl scouts explore "the rich and global history of women's advocacy efforts.".

Where, I ask you, did camp fire building, sewing, baking, fishing, go? When did the girl scouts decide that they are social experimentation centers as opposed to "Let's teach girls how to DO GOOD SKILLS like first aid, budgeting, crafts?".

That "rich and global history of women's advocacy efforts" bothers me. Not because I think we women should be treated poorly, but because it is so obviously a feminist ploy to elevate the woman and demonize the man. Make no mistake, the children WILL absorb the subtle lessons, no matter how godly the home is. Even if they do not embrace these lessons, they will have an impact on the rest of her life! This is not about cookies and jamborees anymore, this is about grooming feminists, encouraging new age practices, over emphasizing self, stripping godly teachings away. While the girls are innocent, and maybe some of the local leaders are innocent, the corporate office knows EXACTLY what it is doing and why.

Now, to delve a bit deeper into the Ashland institute to see what they are (remember, the girl scouts hired them to develop a program which is going to filter down to OUR daughters):

"The Symbols Way process refocuses purpose and direction, grounding insight around next steps, right timing, and movement within a larger context.
At a personal level, The Symbols Way is a way to reflect on your calling, unique to the phase of life you are in. It extracts a gift of personal clarity, rooted in your central core of meaning
."

This answers my previous question--it is a diamond shaped fabric upon which you place symbols of you present reality. At the website, you see a woman sitting in front of her symbols with hands in a classic eastern meditative pose.

And

"Attunement is an approach to healing based on the premise that the body is a dynamic self-healing expression of a deeper spiritual self. The intention of Attunement is to assist in shifting the frequency of a client’s personal field into closer alignment with a larger planetary rhythm from which most of us become separated over time. A current of energy is conducted through the hands of the practitioner and meets the same energy in the one receiving, promoting health and well-being at a fundamental level."





The leaders of the Ashland institute are definitely "new age-y": one offers "no touch energy work", one believes in the "transforming power of women's circles", another teaches a course on "presencing" which "means to use your highest Self as a vehicle for sensing,
embodying, and enacting emerging futures", a couple of them were involved in some sort of "worldwide spiritual and educational organization" which is not specified, the last leader is "serves as Elder to the International Women’s Dialogue, Circle of Seven, Chakra Circle, Millionth Circle; and serves as Elder and Guardian of the Soul for The World Cafe, Elder of The Ashland Institute, Board Member of The Community for Sacred Ecology" as well as "recognized as a spiritual elder in the book by Zalman Schachter-Shalomi: FROM AGE-ING TO SAGE-ING. As an Elder Pipe Carrier and practitioner of Creation Spirituality (Medicine Wheel) she is committed to a life that serves life."



These are the people who developed the program that the girl scouts is now REVAMPING their entire structure on. When the gs kicked God out, the enemy moved in, clothed in self, mysticism, "embracing diversity", eliminating the male as any sort of possible "good".

I am sorrowed by this to my soul. These young ladies are being offered to the god of feminism and secular humanism, and they do not know it. They just want to hang out and have fun and learn neat things.

Mothers and fathers, please be careful. A good name does not mean a good program anymore. This is not our or our mother's girl scouts. Look for other things your daughters can be involved in to get the comraderie WITHOUT the new age, feminist, humanist, socialist programs.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Bears and Birds and Berries...Oh My!

Beautiful Sisters!

Well, this sure has been an interesting week!

We started with notices regarding a bear sighting in our neighborhood. I called Fish and Game and sure enough, black bear in the area. I asked if this was a particular problem (I mean, besides having a predator as big as me in the yard), and he said "Oh no... they are just done with moose calves, and the berries will not be in for a week or so.". What he is saying is that there is a HUNGRY black bear in our neighborhood...

Am I the only one who thinks this is a problem? I mean, my berries *are* in. And my kids are smaller than moose calves. So I am thinkin this is a problem.

So we spent a few days inside until the call of the berries and enough time past for the shock to wear off, and I have been out trying to pick my strawberries. Today I got this many.......























Until I almost stepped on these!!!

























YES! There are two baby birds in a nest in one of the strawberry patches! They did not even make a sound, just held their mouths open whenever I would brush the grass near them. I had wondered why there was a bird chirping at me in the trees...now I know!

I will tell you ladies, that I was pretty upset at thinking how close I must have come to stepping on the nest. Plus that nest is right by a sprinkler (which we moved!). It is out in the open, not under a tree. I have no idea what the mom was thinking.

But here is my quandry.....I do not want to disturb the babies or the mom....but I also do not want my berries to go to waste! I am open to any suggestions as to how to make her happy and still get my berries!



Speaking of strawberries, you know how there are a few things that are just kind of "you"? Something that others might not think of, but when you realize it, you also realize that it is important enough to make sure it is part of your life? I am not talking major things, like honor or faith, but rather minor things that others might not think much about.

I have decided that the very idea of having strawberry plants in the walkway to the front door is just "me". I love the idea that there are pretty, happy white flowers waiting to greet people as they come up. I love the idea that a guest might nibble a berry or two while ringing the doorbell. I love the idea of starting hospitality even before I know that someone has arrived! From now on I would like to try to have strawberry plants in a basket or pot or bed right at the front door.

Just thinking about berries at the door sings to my spirit :-)

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Blue Armpits

Beautiful Sisters!

You know, there are some events in our lives that are SO momentous, that we must repeat them every so often in order that the following generation might understand. This is one of those events in my life....


I was going to my first formal occasion in many years. Wonder Sweetie, my dashing and handsome husband, was to attend a formal military function, and I was going to be on his arm to drink in every minute of it.

I love military functions. I love the pomp and the ceremony and the tradition. I love the mess dress with its white shirt, and wide cummerbund. I love to see racks of ribbons on a tight-at-the-waist, straight-at-the-shoulder mess dress jacket. I love to see the wives in long, beautiful gowns, with sparkling eyes and ruby red lips. I love flags and honor guards and tables with TWO table cloths on them. I love the excitement of the hunt in finding my name printed in clear script on place cards. I love it all.

The invitation read “mess dress”, which meant, for the spouses, that we are to be in formal attire. Some choose to eschew protocol and wear day clothes or work clothes, but not me. I love to dress up, and I believe it shows honor to respect these occasions with dressing the very best I can.

And besides, it was no problem. I had a dress already. Years ago I had found a dress on sale at Sears and it had been kept in eager anticipation in the back of my closet for just such an occasion. So a few days before the ceremony, I tried it on…

I will spare you the gruesome details, but I will give you one word that sums up how I looked in that dress: unfortunate.

I did not WANT to look “unfortunate”, I wanted to look RAVISHING. So I set out immediately to buy the most perfect dress that Fairbanks, Alaska had to offer…..and found it The Perfect Dress.

That dress was a testament…a testament of an earnest woman who had gradually awaken over the past year from the sweet dream of youth to the cold light of day that reveals wrinkles, brown patches, or sags. Gone were the days where a careless ponytail was “cute” instead of “frumpy”, where no makeup meant “natural beauty” instead of “tired and worn”. Frilly underwear had been replaced by “foundational undergarments” that were literally engineered, with struts and guywires and spandex to hide 20 years of insults and indiscretions to what was once a girlish figure.

This dress was the counter of all of that. Its color was intoxicating--deep and mysterious like a sapphire worn by a beautiful international spy. It clung adoringly to my waist (which, by the way, is my only body part to defy gravity. It used to be around my belly button but is now nearly hidden under my armpit. Odd location notwithstanding, I still have a bit of a waist and I like to show it off occasionally.).

The dress then flowed away right above the hip in a solemn promise to keep the evidence of my passion for fried foods away from the prying eyes of the public. The skirt was A-line without being too “prom-y”, and hit at the perfect spot on my foot for a night of worry-free walking.

Now, the dress did not stop there! No, dear reader, this dress was so much more! If I liked the dress for what it did for my waist and hips, I loved it for what it did for my shoulders.

See, I am a strong woman. “That is good!”, you might say. No, you do not understand. I have broad, muscular, chub-covered shoulders. The shoulders of a Green Bay Packers lineman. The only thing that balances out my shoulders is the fact that I also wear a size 11 shoe, so thankfully I am still in proportion.

But the unfortunate reality of being a woman who still has a shot at a promising NFL career, is that it is very difficult to find a dress that does not scream “SPRING TRAINING HERE I COME!”. I once, in my foolish youth, wore a dark strapless dress with black opera length gloves. The result was that in my pictures, all that was clearly visible was my stark white shoulders. It looked rather like someone had tried to stuff fully risen bread dough in a black tube sock.

But this dress…ah this dress….

The straps were made of a delicate chiffon and crossed over my shoulders perfectly, cutting their bulk into visually manageable pieces. Not only that, but somehow this dress managed not to draw attention to yet another unfortunate trouble area, the outside spot on my shoulder blade, right behind the arm. You ladies know which part it is. It is that part on your back that squishes above the bra strap and bulges with brazen indiscretion when thin cotton shirts are worn. It is that devil area that no one warned you about, nor has anyone developed a cure for. On me it looks like someone whacked open a can of Hungry Jack biscuits and glued one on each side of my back. Dreadful. But this dress denied that part its evil power.

This dress was nearly perfect. It hid the bad and flattered the good. How could such beauty, generosity, and garment-loyalty be had for a mere $134 dollars? It was a miracle. I was going to wear that dress and I was going to be smashing. I could not wait….

But then….

The first rumbling of distant thunder that would become a disaster typhoon happened the night before The Big Event. Wonder Sweetie casually mentioned that there was no hot water, and that I would have to call the repairman in the morning to fix the heater. I sighed and resigned myself to a wipey bath that evening.

The next day was THE day—the day of the Big Event. I called our VERY kind repairman who mentioned that he was full that day, but that he would get over as soon as possible, though it would be after 2pm. No problem, thought I, that gives me MANY hours to prepare myself, as we were to leave the house at 5:30. Wonder Sweetie and I kept a telephone vigil for the repairman. He would call every couple of hours… “Is he there yet?” he would ask. “Nope, not yet, but that is ok” I would reply gamely. I could afford to be game at that point…I had The Perfect Dress.

(One time he asked “Can’t you just go without washing your hair?”. Honestly, if he had asked me to go in flannel pajamas, I could not have been more aghast at the thought. After 48 hours of no shampoo, I was not even going out in my YARD, never mind a formal with The Perfect Dress. I mean, didn’t I owe it to that wonderful dress to do my part? The Dress’s obligations stopped at the neck…it was up to me to do the rest and I was not going to let it down.)

A blithe 2 pm slipped to concerned 3 pm which melted into a VERY stressy 4 pm. At a little after 4 pm the repairman showed, riding in to my rescue in his shining white truck. I mentioned casually that I had a formal to go to and needed the hot water.

At this point, please indulge a bit of digression…..All day I was lamenting my lack of hot water to wash my hair to every living being who would listen. In the lower 48 states, that would have met with gasps and offers of sympathy….perhaps even telethons in my honor to raise money for plumbing supplies and beautiful hats to cover my unclean locks.

However, I live in Alaska. Not only did not even one person offer to put together a telethon for me, but I received no sympathy at all. Period. In fact, instead I was given reproving looks and tales of how they had to heat their own river water to pour into a tin washtub in their kitchen when they were three years old. I was reminded of the fact that I did, indeed, own a functional stove and well and could MAKE my own hot water. If I was looking for sympathy, I was barking up the wrong spigot.

Now, dear reader, I know that I can heat my own water. I know how to wash my hair with nothing but two bottles of Evian, and have actually done so. That was not the point. I did not want to prepare for the Big Event with the Perfect Dress by simultaneously trying to untangle my hair from the drain plug of the bathtub, while blinking shampoo out of my burning eyes and trying to rinse two feet of hair with eight ounces of water. No, that would not do at all. I was rolling the dice on a hot water gamble—I was going to wash my hair with my head held high (not bent over the edge of the tub) or not go at all!

The repair man looked things over. A few turns of the wrench and my hot water was returned…. kinda. After many hours of sitting idle, my tank was filled with lukewarm water. He suggested I wait for another 20 minutes for the water to heat up. That left me less than an hour to fully prepare for the Big Event. Seeing my desperation, he relented “Well, go ahead and give it a try, the pipe is hot. Worse thing that will happen is that the water will be cold.”. That was all I needed to hear! I raced up the stairs and into the shower.

Success! Squeaky clean hair! Well, squeaky clean WET hair, to be more precise, which generally takes all night to air dry. Wonder Sweetie, the darling that he is, offered to run to the store to get me a blow dryer. However, a desperate search revealed an ancient, but still functional dryer, and away I blew.

Now, there is one problem with blow drying my hair. My hair is baby fine, straight as a board, and I have a ton of it. Blow drying serves only to make my hair wholly unmanageable, like trying to comb an impertinent cloud. The odds of me being able to actually STYLE my hair after blowdrying are like winning the lottery while simultaneously being hit by an asteroid. However, I had no choice. I finished drying and commenced to styling my hair.

You know, you would think that someone who had had long hair for as many years as I have would know something about styling it. Nope. Styling hair is as foreign to me as changing the oil in an army tank. However, I am nothing if not ridiculously optimistic about things in which I am completely inept. So I dove into my hair (literally), and tried a style. And another. And another. Each was slightly more hideous than the last. Wonder Sweetie would pop his head in the bathroom door to offer a bit of silent moral support.

(Ok, to be bluntly honest he was probably trying to gently remind me that we were running exceedingly late, but if I had, for one minute, thought he was trying to put on the pressure, I would have smacked him with the hairbrush the next time he popped his head in the door. So we both just wordlessly agreed that he was in a supportive role, not a timekeeper. )

Then it happened. He popped his head in just as I finished another style disaster, and he uttered words that nearly ended his life at the tender young age of 38. He took one look at my hair and said “It’s not bad”.

Please allow me to convey the tone in which he said those three innocent words. He did not use the bright and smiling “Hey! That’s not bad!”, as in “Not too shabby! Come here you vixen you, and bring your gorgeous hair with ya!”.

No no no…..This was offered in that tone that one only offers when it really IS that bad. When someone is trying to stall for time in order to think of something, ANYTHING that is not horrible about what they are seeing.

It is the tone that one uses when consoling a friend who tried a do-it-yourself hair color treatment for the first time ever and managed to lighten just one spot on the crown of the head so it looked like there was always a light pointing at her scalp. Or that one uses to comfort someone who has just forgotten her lines during a monologue and was standing on stage, red faced and dressed in nothing but a pink curtain and fairy wings. (yeah those both happened to me)

Yes, it was THAT tone. And let me tell ya, it did NOT go over well. Down the hair went. It was now T-plus-20-minutes, the sitter is here, Wonder Sweetie is waiting, and we are LATE.

“Forget it. FORGET IT! Just go without me!” I pout at Wonder Sweetie who, at this point, is realizing that he unwittingly started WWIII. He, of course, refuses to go without me and I try one more time…..

SUCCESS!!! WHOOHOO!! My hair FINALLY looks good enough to be seen with the Perfect Dress! Feeling sheepish for blowing up when my hair was only one more hairbrush from submitting to my will, I apologise to Wonder Sweetie and start throwing on makeup like a mad woman. Now THIS I can do…I am a fair woman with a paintbrush, and the worst of the day seems over.

You know when, in hindsight, you see that what seemed to be a wholly inconsequential event actually was the pivot point for the rest of your life? Well that event happened to be my choice of deodorant at that moment. My own deodorant had a distressing habit of going on clear, but turning white. Well of course it would not do to mar the Perfect Dress with cheap deodorant, so I grabbed Wonder Sweetie’s Old Spice.

I love Old Spice. It smells like a man should: crisp, clean, strong without relying on false machismo and pleasant without smelling ridiculously feminine.

And it stays CLEAR. It would not insult the Perfect Dress. I might smell like a man, but I would look like a woman.

I put on the Perfect Dress, and am so happy that I do not even bat an eye when I realize that the shoes I had originally planned to wear did not match. I dove into the closet and found a pair of black pumps. Not beautiful, but functional and comfortable and, as I told my friend SHAW, my feet will be under the table for most of the night anyway. The patoot did mention that my shoes WOULD be seen on the way in and out, but I blew that off—I walk fast and the Perfect Dress was an A-line…it would mask poor shoe choice.

Finally I am ready to go….and only 35 minutes past schedule. I give the baby sitter a few last comments and grab my purse, ready to go. Then I hear Wonder Sweetie say “Oh no, Steph your hair is falling down!”.

Oh the agony! So near and yet so far!

I run to the bathroom to find that, again, Wonder Sweetie has understated the extent of the emergency. My hair did not merely “fall down”…a good 7 inches of it literally EXPLODED out of the top of my hairdo! Honestly, dear reader, I have never seen the like. I now had a tight French twist on the bottom half of my head and a skimpy 7 inch ponytail waving impertinently out the top. For a brief minute I thought that, perhaps, I could just keep the ponytail there, but both Wonder Sweetie and I agreed that that would not work. But since my hair had submitted once, perhaps it could again. I raise my hands to redo my hair and see that….

MY ARMPITS WERE BLUE!

BLUE. As in…..well….BLUE!

Picture the sky in June. The Danube. Frank Sinatra’s eyes. Yeah, THAT blue.

I scream to Wonder Sweetie “MY PITS ARE BLUE!” and we both stand a minute in horror and disbelief. Apparently the Old Spice plus “we are LATE” perspiration interacted with the dye of The Perfect Dress to stain my underarms a distressing shade of “headache blue”. I looked like someone had taken a baseball bat to my armpits.

Which crisis to handle first? Exploding hair or diseased looking underarms?

Now, let me take one moment here, dear reader, for as you know, I am an optimist. There is a thought that rambles occasionally through my head, even now, several months after the Blue Pit Incident. It is something that, truly, I never thought anyone would say. It is this:

“Thank the Lord my hair exploded, or I never would have known my pits were blue”.

That phrase is destined to become my favorite tension breaker. I mean, just think about it…mull it a little….even say it out loud….there is no way to be mad, stress, depressed or angry if you say that out loud “Thank the Lord her hair exploded or she never would have known that her pits were blue.”.

Yes of course it is ridiculous to say out loud…think of how ridiculous it was to LIVE it!

One might expect this to be the pinnacle (or depth) of the night….but the night was not over. Never underestimate the ability for everything that could go possibly wrong to do so….

With a quick hair repair and freshly scrubbed underarms, we raced to the function. We got there during the social half hour, which meant that our tardiness largely went unnoticed. The Perfect Dress and I have made up-- it promised not to stain any more of me odd colors, and I promise not to put on anything else male. I look ravishing….well, not frumpy anyway, and feel like a princess as I take Wonder Sweetie’s handsome arm and we go find our table.

Our table is in the farthest corner from the door. We make small talk with a few people who are from Wonder Sweetie’s squadron as we wait to be seated. I look around at everyone and imagine that everyone is looking at me. They dim the lights and we find our place cards and start to take our seats when…

PING! A bobby pin launches out of my hair and lands on the table two place settings down. It is at this point that I wonder exactly how much pressure my hair is under to explode at one point, then to shoot projectiles at another. I worry briefly that I might be bald at the end of the night as I snatch the bobby pin off of the table and show Wonder Sweetie. He gives me a look that can only be described as “Are you SERIOUS?”. He offers that it might have come from a woman behind me, but I am doubtful.

In any case the the night was beautiful. The general had a brilliant story, the food was fine, and I discovered that black coffee with sugar is the height of all things good that one can expect in a warm beverage. My hair never shot any more projectiles, that I know of anyway, but no one came in with bandaged eyes the following week, so I feel pretty safe. There was one point where I started literally weeping heartbrokenly at the table…but that is another story for another time.

My dress and I made peace. My hair and I made peace. My pits stayed pit-colored….the night was full of blessings and wonders.

(By the by, please feel free to use the line "Thank the Lord her hair exploded or she never would have known that her pits were blue" anytime. I guarantee it to put things in perspective.)

Coffee....

Beautiful Sisters, I am glad you are here!

I was making coffee the other morning and thought that I might show y'all the beautiful coffee grinder that Wonder Sweetie made for me.

It is mostly cast iron with a guamanian ironwood (whatever that is) base. You cannot see the details very well, but the wood is very pretty--good grain with speckles.



The part of the grinder with the pretty flower on it pivots and you place the beans in there. A few turns of the crank and .....


VOILA! Ground coffee! Wonder Sweetie actually buys green coffee beans and roasts his own, but he and I have different coffee tastes. I like mine medium roast, and he wants to be able to be able to taste char ;). Really, when what you brews smells like "grill" instead of "coffee", then you KNOW that the coffee is going to be strong and probably bitter. :)

I got into coffee late, which is surprising considering my family. I do not know if it is a Louisiana thing entirely, or just a region of Louisiana, but our family drinks a tremendous amount of coffee. We drink it morning, noon, and night. If someone calls to come over, we say "I'll put a pot on.". Or they might not ask to be invited, but say something like "Make sure the coffee is ready." hee hee! I love that.

Our family never really seems to get too jittery with coffee (I have on occasion, but not often). If I make instant (ew) or use the carafe, I use french onion soup bowls as my coffee mug. My favorite coffee is black with a fair bit of sugar :). It is like a dessert to me.!

Anyway, when I was a wee bairn, I got a hold of my mother's coffee cup that only had some grounds and about a tsp of cold coffee in the bottom and downed it. EEWWWW!!!! I was VERY VERY young, but I can see that whole moment clearly in my head. I think it is probably my earliest memory.

So I did not touch coffee until I was about 30. Then we moved to Alaska. Now, when I say that people here are bonkers for coffee, I do not think I can adequately convey the DEPTH of their bonker-ocity. Here they have little shacks (that generally do not even have running water) that they sell coffee out of. And they have them EVERYWHERE. You cannot swing a soggy teabag without hitting one. There are at least three in two miles just from my house and I do not live in a highly populated place. If you are lost in the tundra, hours away from the nearst town, somewhere a satellite phone will not even work, just look for a coffee hut--chances are you are only a stones throw away. They are manned by adorable young women with big eyes, open smiles, and infinite patience for those of us who have trouble remembering if we liked whipped cream or not in our mocha. I had one girl even put together a special type of mocha for Precious.

Oh, yes, that is right. Precious will enjoy a bit of coffee. Again, down in La, they have "cafe au lait" that they sometimes give to the children, so we occasionally give her a bit of mocha, just to keep a bit of Louisiana with us, especially when we have beignets. :)

(honestly, I think the people here are so crazy for coffee because not enough of us have auto start on our cars....so we buy or bring coffee on the way to town to keep us alive until the heater kicks in!)

Wonder Sweetie, who is a man with an eye for gadgets, found these press mugs for us. We also have a pot made by this same company. I use mine every day and love it!

Additional coffee musings.....

Chicory is an additive to coffee, especially in Louisiana. Cafe du Monde (one of the tourist hot spots for beignets) sells coffee with chicory. It's pretty good, try some.

The part of chicory used in coffee (either as an additive or a substitute) is the root. You can also eat the leaves, apparently.

Chicory is closely related to dandelion, which has also been used as a coffee substitute (and is one of my favorite plants--one of the most useful that the Lord placed on the earth, IMO).

Coffee is increasingly being found to be good for various things: reduce parkinsons, diabetes, cirrhosis, help with asthma, mood, and we were told to give Precious caffeine if she gets a migraine. http://men.webmd.com/features/coffee-new-health-food

If you want REALLY good coffee get Community Coffee. I am not sure what they do to it, but it is nummy. I do find that Eight O'clock will do when I do not have CC.

So how do you take your coffee? Constantly or not at all? Dark enough to use as road tar or light enough to read the newspaper through? Sugar, cream, sweet stuff, black?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Chickadeeee Emergenceeee

Hello Beautiful Sisters!

Yesterday we had a chickadee emergency!

Little man heard a commotion in the woodstove, and we found a black capped chickadee!

Chickadees are one of my favorite birds. They hang out with us all winter, are not that scared of humans (especially if there is food around), and are generally to adorable for words....

Unless they are covered with ashes and soot and I have to try to wrangle them out of the house. Then they are less cute :).

We have had at least three birds in our house since we have been here. Last time I tried to fish a chickadee out of the woodstove, it escaped into my house. Picture two kids and one mom trying to guide a frantic featherduster through either of two doors. You ever try to herd a bird? They are a lot less cooperative than herding, say, two year olds or cats or something....

So my goal was to try to get the bird out of the woodstove in some sort of container.

I needed a net, but I did not have one handy, except for the one we use for the fishtank. I figure odds of me actually getting the bird in a net that size without it escaping into the house was like.....nil.

So I figured that I would try to get a big black trash bag and open the door to the woodstove VVEERRYY carefully and see if I could get it in the bag, close it tight, and get it to the front door without it escaping.

Though my wrist is the skinniest part of me, it is still bigger than the bird. So if I try to sneak my hand in, there are plenty of holes for that little bugger to fly out of and they are ALL face level--my face. Plus, because I would be essentially pinning my own arm in a giant cast iron box, I would be helpless (and probably would squish my arm trying to slam the door back). I could just picture myself hollering and flailing while the kids scream and the bird panics. That image was SO rich in my imagination that I spent many minutes yesterday afternoon in "paralysis by analysis"--unable to actually do what needed to be done.

Now, let me say this. I am not afraid of birds at all. Not in the least. But you know what it is like when a tiny little flying thing comes RIGHT at your face....you are GOING to holler and swat. And then try to chase the thing all through the house. So I was REALLY trying to avoid that.

OH Did I mention the CAT? Yes, my "no-peripheral-vision, falls-off-the-couch-when-he-stretches, runs-into-walls-because-he-looks-backwards-when-he-runs, situationally-unaware" cat caught the tiniest bit of movement in the smoked glass (I bet the bird was a lot more thankful to be IN the woodstove at that moment!). The cat saw the bird in the glass, then walked BEHIND the woodstove to see if he could outflank the bugger before we shoved him in the bedroom and shut the door.

Ok, so plan "A" was to get the black trashbag around enough of the woodstove door so that the bird could not escape, and then wait for him to say "Oh, big black noisy hole that seems to be collapsing.....maybe that is my way out" and duck in the bag. (you know, it seemed a lot more reasonable at the time). Precious' job was to hold the top right corner of the bag against the stove AND to record the event on her camera, Little Man's job was to hold the bottom right of the bag against the stove AND shine the light in the woodstove, and my job was to press the bag against the left side of the stove, open the door, and try to look like I knew what I was doing.

Problem: bag was WAY too small for the opening, the children are positively BRILLIANT, but not terribly coordinated, and the bird is not stupid. No, the bird did not escape (through any of the holes that we left gaping around the edge of the bag), but he also did not cooperate. Time to shut the door and regroup.

Regrouping involved a terribly ridiculous idea of me just reaching in there and grabbing him while Little Man directed my actions (he was the only one with a flashlight, and I could not see in because of the way I had to sit to get into the door). Yeah, yeah...I know. However, this idea DID afford me the opportunity to look positively heroic in Precious' eyes. She kept saying "WOW mom, you are so brave!". (Quandry: do I confess that I have my own personal Alfred Hitchcock moment lodged firmly in my brain, which is why I have not actually TRIED to grab the bird? Or do I just nod with a serene, humble-yet-wisdom-of-the-ages smile?)

While regrouping, we discovered that the bird would fly part way up the flue. I figured that if we could be REALLY quick, we could put the bag UNDER the flue when he did that so he would fall into the bag. We called this "Plan B" and were quite proud of ourselves of coming up with TWO (wholly useless) plans.

Wonder Sweetie called when my right arm was deep in the bowels of the woodstove. After I extricated myself, he mentioned that he has BIGGER black bags (drum liners) in the garage. EXCELLENT. As I walk in with my newly acquired SUPER big black bag, I hear Precious hollering from downstairs at the top of her lungs "PLAN B! PLAN B!". I raced downstairs, but was too late to implement Plan B--the chickadee had come back out of the flue.

Anyway, Wonder Sweetie saved the day...again. The drum liner actually fit over the WHOLE hole. Little Man and I managed to hold the edge of the bag around the outside of the hole. Then we waited. I tried to make the bag look more open by stretching it out, and Little Man kept peeking in with his flashlight to see where the bird was. Eventually we were rewarded with the sound of bird feet on plastic. The bird got dumb enough to explore the liner, and Little Man and I got the bag closed without much of a problem.

We let the bird go, then let the cat go. He went right down to the woodstove and actually put a paw on the handle trying to open it! (He has figured out that handles and doorknobs are the key to happiness. I thank the Lord that He did not give cats opposable thumbs!).

It's a good thing those little birds are cute! We might have had chickadee soup for supper!







The stove......










The captive...










Still captive....







Yeah, Plan B is NOT going to work....








Wonder Sweetie saves the day!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Song lyrics

Even if we are very mature, responsible adults now, most everyone has something that they hold on to from when they were young. Some older women might still collect dolls, some men might like to still play with trains, SHAW really enjoys what she calls "nursery food", etc.

I have realized that I cannot shake the incredibly 7th grade habit of finding a song lyric for things in my life. My life is, essentially, one big musical. I almost never listen to music for the instruments, but rather for the lyrics. I actually have a cd that has my life "Part One" with songs that actually document the events of my life. I have songs for each child, a WHOLE playlist for Wonder Sweetie and me, songs for my life in Alaska, songs for my college years, songs for various friends, etc. (And when I do not have a song that fits specifically, I tend to make one up.)

I will offer an example of how my life just BEGS to be set to music....when the Wonder Sweetie and I were dating, there was a place not too far from my apartment that sold the BEST onion rings. I happen to be positively batty about onion rings, so we got them often. For $3.18 we got enough onion rings to fill two of those large styrofoam to-go boxes (they were VERY thick rings). We would call ahead, pick them up, then bring them back to the apt to watch M.A.S.H. videos.

Now what song would come out around then? The song with lyrics that go "I said honey let's just go on home and have some onion rings and watch tv....". It is a bit disconcerting to have such a minute detail of your life playing on all the country stations!

So what about y'all? Any songs that fit a time in your life that you think about? OR do you have a habit from youth that still stays with you?