Archives for August 2012

The problem with ’24’

For years and years John and I lived with almost zero TV. Literally the only  TV in our house was an hour or so of PBS early in the morning for the little kids. But then a couple years ago we discovered the joys of Netfix instant watch, and got into the habit of 42 minutes of TV at bedtime after the kids were off to bed.  A nice time to unwind, you know?

First came Lost. Interesting premise for think-we-could-be-survivalist folks like us, excellent character development, sketchy morals, story that got freakier the longer it went. We watched all the seasons in a year or so, then felt adrift as we tried to find another show that kept us as interested.

Psych was harmless, but a little too goofy. Castle had potential — love the father/daughter relationship– but the show insisted on showing all those dead bodies at the start of each episode. Blah.

Finally we landed on 24 and were intrigued by the characters, the plots, the sheer capability of Jack Bauer. Watched every single episode.

Except we grew more and more troubled by one thing. Over and over again the characters were put in positions where the only thing to do to preserve good was to do wrong. Grey area after grey area after grey area, where always the only answer presented was to do wrong to make right win out. Moral relativity at its most confusing.

We never bought it. Never felt right with the solutions.  The further we got in the story, the more we disliked the choices Jack was making. Yeah, he did it for the ‘greater good’. But, sorry, it’s still wrong to execute your boss. Or do all sorts of other atrocious things.

We watched, hoping I think that he would head back towards right in the end, that he would end up standing for good by doing good. But that moment never came, in spite of all his bravery and his inventiveness and his sheer power– he still thought wrong was OK if it was fighting on behalf of right.

After John and I finished ’24’, we were adrift, scanning options for a good evening entertainment choice.  Netflix in its infinite wisdom suggested that we might like Flashpoint– yet another police drama, this one based in Canada.  We watched the first episode and knew we’d found our show.  It is so much suggestive of ’24’:  intriguing story lines, suspenseful situations, interesting people.

So much like ’24’.

Except.

This is a show with conscience. These folks stand up fearlessly for what is right. This show, instead of having a body count of at least half a dozen per episode— this show believes in protecting life.  These men and women honor their commitments and risk their lives for what is honorable.

Oh, we’ve been enjoying this show.  It was incredibly interesting to watch immediately after ’24’, because it so dramatically shows the difference between moral-less ‘honor’  (where you’ll do dishonorable things for the sake of ‘right’) and real, true honor.  Where you do the right thing whether or not it is painful, whether or not it gets you your desired outcome.  These men are real heroes.

They fight for what’s right.  They honor life. They show integrity.

What amazing concepts.  What an amazing show.

Thanks, 24 and Flashpoint, for reminding us of the difference between an action figure and a true hero.

Even if it is just in a TV show.

Little aunties

Gardening is in the forced-march stage. By now we’ve just about given up on weeding, because more pressing concerns are filling the day. Many lovely things are hitting harvest time all.at.once, and we must keep eating cabbage and cucumbers and zucchini or else have no space for milk and eggs in the fridge. Tomatoes ripen all over counters and the last plums are getting bird-nibbled on the trees, and the first ripe apples are coming on. And the corn, the lovely corn– it’s just hitting its prime. It’s a wonderful, tiring time of the year, made even more intense by the fact that our garden is so very huge. SO much to do.

Also: I MUST finish book proposal. This week. Because I promised my agent. And I simply cannot face homeschool for the year til it is sent away. Except hubby thinks we really ought to start homeschool soon. Because he wants our kids actually…you know… educated.  Such a gig, this homeschooling thing.

MUST finish book proposal.

In happy news, these little girls are loving being aunties! I’m having so much fun watching them enjoying their chance to be the bigger kids.

Aunt21

So how are you doing as the school year begins? Got anything you MUST finish this week? I can’t be the only one currently buried under a deadline.

Win tickets to the Lifeway.Mom conference!

The winner of my cookbook giveaway is commenter #28 Stonalino.
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If you happen to live anywhere near Birmingham, Alabama, I’ve got 2 free tickets to give away to the Lifeway dot.mom conference  being held September 21st and 22nd there in Birmingham.  And if you’re already planning on attending the conference, give me a shout out.  I’m going to be there blogging about the event and I’d love to meet up!

GE: My fresh kitchen

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Summertime is when my fresh kitchen really ramps up. It starts in June with fresh chard from the greenhouse, and raspberries and strawberries from our own bushes. By July we have fresh cabbage, and maybe even a few cherry tomatoes. By August I’m rearranging my fridge to make space for everything that’s bursting out of our garden: zucchini, tomatoes, corn, beans, apricots, and even a few early apples.

Recently GE invited me to check out their new french-door refrigerator. It’s not in the budget to buy one right now, but wow, it has some cool features. First on my ‘love-it’ list is the way the freezer is set down low, and consists of two drawers for better organization. That really opens up the more frequently used fresh storage area for convenient access. The fridge shelves are easy to adjust, a plus for folks (like me) who often find themselves trying to shoehorn large items in small spaces. The fridge also features two ice-storage compartments: one in the door for quick drinks, and a large capacity ice drawer for times when you want ice for a crowd. And the water dispenser on the door has a pull-out shelf that actually lets you fill a stock pot with filtered water right there at your fridge.

Go here if you’d like to find out more about the GE French door refrigerator. And if you’ve always wanted to know what kind of wacky things happen when you load two guys, a generator and a fridge into a pickup truck, and tell them to drive across the US filling the fridge with fresh food, Freshpedition‘s the website for you. Though I’d never wondered about such a scenario, I found the series strangely entertaining, gators and all. You can visit the GE Appliances brand page on BlogHer.com to read other bloggers’ posts.

And if you’re looking for good ways to use up the fresh produce that’s (hopefully) cramming your fridge this season, you might be interested in the following fresh-kitchen posts from my archives:

How have you been enjoying garden-fresh produce these days?

Sunday

Four things I learned when we quit using our credit card

In getting uber-determined to plow through a couple thousand more bucks of medical bills before the end of the year, we’ve quit using our credit card.  We’ve never been big users, but we did pull it out for gas, for online purchases, and sometimes for medical bills. (With 6 kids at home, medical bills pop up like whack-a-moles, even when everyone’s relatively healthy. )

Always our intent was to pay it off at the end of the month, but every few months we’d carry a balance for a month or two or three.  And truthfully, it was a rare month that didn’t include paying for something we bought with plastic in a previous month.

No big deal, right?  After all, we haven’t had car payments since 1999, and except for the house, and a bit on the credit card now and then, we have no debt.  But deciding to stop using the card completely has been a real eye-opener, even for (mostly) frugal me.  I’ve come to realize that the credit card was actually my last bastion of overspending.

I have to confess– I almost didn’t write this post because I imagined folks shaking their heads at my silliness.  But I figured that if I was caught in the trap, other folks are also out there doing exactly the same thing.  So I thought I’d share four things I learned when we quit using our credit card.

1. Your purchases hurt more when they come from the account that holds your real actual money. You know, the account you can’t drain dry because your next house payment is coming soon.

2.  You’ll think harder about impulse purchases. Salmon on a hamburger budget?  A trip to the water park for 8?  A quick run to the store in the gas-guzzling van for three things when John’s economy car will be here tomorrow? Maybe we’ll wait.

3. You’ll suddenly FEEL more broke. This is painful. You won’t have any less money than usual– it’s just that you’re looking your true limits in the face, un-inflated by the false affluence of a credit card.  But here’s the good thing: that painful ‘broke’ feeling is exactly what will steer you toward better spending habits.

4. You’ll stop spending your future away.  Through the ‘convenience’ of credit, it’s completely possible to spend ALL  of next month’s paycheck before it ever hits your bank account.  We’ve quit doing that– hooray!

Sometimes we get sick of watching the money more carefully.  But the truth is,  we’ve got enough for ALL the basics AND a hefty payment on those medical bills every month. We’re moving towards a place of greater freedom than before, and making habits that will give us even more freedom in the future.  Will we be rich?  Nah– we’ve still got years of having 6 kids at home, and there’s always someone needing something.  But we’re on a good path, and we’re really happy about that.

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PS- If you need more motivation towards wise financial choices, check out Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence. I’m planning to write more about it soon– it’s a great book.

PPS- About the slightly higher ad content around here lately —  it’s temporary, and it’s really helping us plow through those bills.  Thanks, as always, for your support and for your comments!

Ways I’m using produce this week

The winner of the 2013 Almanac is commenter #30 Rebecca. Congrats, Rebecca!

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We’ve hit the time of year when keeping up with the garden takes several hours a day. Stir-fries and pizzas with lots of veggies are on the menu every day or two. Green beans and grated zucchini and raspberries are going into the freezer. Yesterday we canned pickles and tomatoes. Today it was applesauce. And still we have produce. I’ve been looking for interesting ways to use the veggies in new ways, and boy, have I found some!

These French Fried Green Beans might even make me a bean-lover.

I’m looking forward to trying these traditional Haitian picklese.

This Sweet and Sour Eggplant recipe was recommended by a friend.

But this recipe for Zucc-Raisins  wins as THE most unusual way to use zucchini in the universe!  Diced zucchini is marinated in a brown sugar syrup overnight, and then dehydrated.  Sound odd? I thought so too, but our garden is cranking out half a dozen zucchini a day.  Why not try it?

Turns out they truly have a nice chewy sweetness and even look a bit like golden raisins. Every single member of our family enjoyed them, and that rarely happens, especially with zucchini. These tasty little guys will be great on granola or in yogurt. They can be baked in bread or muffins or even cookies.  We like raisins around here.  We probably go through $3-5 worth a month.  Maybe we won’t entirely stop buying raisins– I suspect they’re a bit healthier than candied zucchini. 🙂 But with all this zucchini I’m thrilled to have found one more way we can enjoy our harvest this winter.

Adoption: expectations

Thanks to everyone who commented on my blog or wrote privately regarding my infant adoption questions last week.  I was grateful for each insight.  If I end up using your words, I’ll write you sometime in the next few months to tell you which words I’m using, then double-check what name (or pseudonym) you’d like used and if you’d like a blog link in the acknowledgements in the back of the book.

This week I’m looking for feedback from adoptive moms AND from step-moms.

~~First of all, I’d love for you to describe your initial feelings about adoption or step-mothering.  Were you excited?  Terrified? Sure of yourself?

~~Second— I’m interested in hearing briefly how your feelings have changed or your perception has deepened since then.

Thanks!

Also, just because they’re wonderful, here are some pictures of our grandbabies in all their sweetness.

Zechariah2

Zechariah Ranger (above)  is 5 months old, and Ascher (below) is 3 months old.
Ascher2

Blue Cheese Biscuits (GF)

In trying to eat less wheat, one of the things I’ve been missing is my Really Big Really Delicious Biscuits. (….groan of sadness at the thought of skipping their buttery goodness…) The other night after popping a batch of biscuits in the oven for my family, I grabbed another mixing bowl to experiment with gluten free biscuits. The dough got so heavy and firm that I resigned myself to a failed attempt, something that has happened to me more than once with gluten free baking. But lo and behold when I brought them out of the oven, they’d fluffed and puffed and somehow turned light and flaky. OK, they weren’t quite as light as my white-flour favorites, but they’re a completely respectable and very delicious substitute. I was so sure it was a fluke I trialed a second batch that very day, with equally yummy results. And a third batch three days later.  (Hmmm….this could be a problem.  These things aren’t exactly low cal.)  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Prep time: 30 minutes, with baking

Makes: 4-5 generous-sized biscuits

Blue Cheese Biscuits (GF)

30 minutes

Yield: 4-6 biscuits

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup coconut flour
  • 1/3 cup white rice flour
  • 1/3 cup tapioca starch
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon xantham gum
  • 4 tablespoons butter, frozen*
  • 1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 2/3 cup whole milk

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a cookie sheet. Measure the dry ingredients into a medium sized bowl and stir.
  2. Grate frozen butter into the flour mixture using a cheese grater with small holes. Working quickly to keep ingredients cold, mix flour and butter evenly, then add blue cheese and milk, stirring just enough to form a thick dough.
  3. Shape the dough by hand into biscuits. Immediately place into oven and bake for 15-18 minutes, or until the tops of the biscuits are lightly browned. Eat hot. Enjoy!
  4. Note: You can use chilled butter instead of frozen if you wish, but the colder the dough is when it hits the oven, the flakier these biscuits will be.
http://owlhaven.net/2012/08/20/16411/

 

 

Sunday

You have saved us
You have won
Sin is broken
Death is gone
Freedom’s found us
Breakthrough’s near
In your presence
No more Fear
Our Savior’s here