Sunday, December 30, 2007

Better than Take Out: Egg Drop Soup

Continuing with the theme "better than takeout", we made Egg Drop soup the day after Christmas, using the leftover turkey as a soup base.

I started first, as soon as we had trimmed the turkey before Christmas dinner, to prepare a soup stock with the remains of the turkey. It is difficult to get all of the meat off of the bones, so I simply covered the whole thing as best as I could in water, and stuck it back in the roaster. I added 2 whole carrots and 2 whole ribs of celery, as well as an onion, and some seasonings (in this case, salt, pepper, and parsley).

You can either prepare your stock using leftover meat on the bone, whole chicken, or simply by mixing soup base into water. Strain out the vegetables and extra meat. I usually reserve those for later use. With the turkey stock, I skimmed the extra fat off the surface too. Stock prepared with meat can be stored in the refrigerator, or frozen for later use. I've even canned it.

Bring your strained stock to a boil, and add some oriental spices to it. In this case, I added a pinch of a spice blend called "Oriental Five Spices" (sometimes called "Chinese Five spices") and I also added a whole star anise, which I later removed after the stock had simmered.
I also added lemon grass, ginger, and garlic, as well as a dash of soy sauce to taste.

Mix 1 cup of cold water with 2T of corn starch until there are no lumps. Pour the corn starch mixture into the soup stock, and mix well until the soup begins to thicken. You don't want it to become "gravy" but it should be thicker than simply broth.

In a separate bowl, mix 2-3 eggs together until slightly frothy. As the soup boils, gently pour the egg into the soup, a little bit at a time. The egg will immediately poach in the soup water.

Serve your soup immediately, garnished with green onions.

Hilary's Gifts

Hilary Clinton has a Christmas Message for you!

First I'll say this. Of all the political ads, Kudos to Hilary's people for putting together a nice looking ad with beautiful visuals and no mud slinging. I still don't like Hilary and would have to have had some sort of accident with the voting machine in order to vote for her...but the ad is clever. I'll give it that. More below.

How Generous!! Isn't that sweet?

She's going to give us universal health care. that sounds so wonderful, until you get your tax bill. You see if you are the average American worker, you are the one who is going to foot the bill. Free Health Care sounds great until you get the bill, or until you have to go to a socialized medicine clinic (having lived in Europe I have done both). Soon we will know what it's like to live in Europe and pay over 50% of our income to taxes just to have "free", low quality health care.

I always hate those gifts that in the end cost me more than they cost you...The kind of gift that you have to go out and buy something else to make it work. Well, this is one of those gifts. It costs Hillary nothing (she isn't paying for it. The good senator will have the best health care available for the rest of her life all because she is a senator!)...but she is generously giving it to us along with the bill.

When you think about it the gifts don't really go together well, because between universal health care and universal Pre K is "Middle Class Tax Cuts"....which mathematically don't add if we are going to be getting free services! The money has to come from somewhere, though it would save some money to use all that money wasted in Iraq on US citizens instead of spending it on others.

Some of the other gifts I agree with but probably not in the same way that Hilary does. I am all for alternative energy. I have some solar power at work around my house and we'd eventually like to go totally solar and geothermic. It just costs a lot to set up. I just wouldn't be in favor of the government dictating to everyone that they must use alternative energy.

I am all for bringing our troops home instead of having them spread all over the globe playing international policeman to people who don't value democracy and freedom (evidenced, for example, by the lack of religious freedom in Iraq's new constitution that WE helped them with) while our own borders are leaky...but something tells me that's not her view either.

I am not in favor of universal pre-K funded by the American taxpayer...unless you have an illiterate home lacking in intellectual stimulation for a young child (and there are some), pre-K is not going to create an Einstein or Edison out of your child. But, think about how much it is going to cost to set that up! I'm pretty sure Hilary is not planning on volunteering her time teaching Pre K to a million young Americans. The money for this generous gift has to come somewhere.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Family Fitness Thursdays: 12/27/2007

This looks to be my last Family Fitness Thursday for the year.

After the way I enjoyed Christmas goodies this year, I am feeling guilty writing this LOL. Turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, pumpkin pie, and Christmas am I supposed to write about fitness?

No, I didn't do a whole lotta situps this week ;)

I had several people bring me food related gifts, which was sweet, thoughtful, and damaging to my diet (~smile~) One friend brought over a bag of chocolate covered Espresso Beans (heaven help my heart!).

Another brought me a box of Turkish Delight, which we enjoyed eating while watching Narnia on Christmas Eve.

Still another bought me a liter each of Italian Imported Olive Oil with Roasted Garlic Oil and Olive Oil with Oil of Basil infused, knowing how much I love food gifts. That one will last longer than the Turkish delight or the Espresso Beans (which I am trying to keep away from the kids!), but I did use a flavor injector to inject garlic infused Olive oil into my Christmas turkey. It was really good. I consoled myself with the thought that it was actually olive oil and not bacon grease like a friend of mine has used in his turkey before (Hey, I think I pinpointed the cause of your high cholesterol!)

But, onto fitness, right?

Part of being successful with weight loss and fitness I have found comes from also living a life of balance. In the Bible there are feast days and there are fasting days, but there is also every day in between. In our western culture, rich foods tend to be the norm for many people, and thus the increase in diseases that stem from nutrional excesses, as well as obesity. We can't survive daily "feasts" any more than we can survive daily fasts.

Those holiday cookies that someone brought over are just fine...just don't eat the whole plate. Eat one or two.

This coming year, I plan to work out more consistently (it's been sporadic since the weather has turned and with me having this horrible chest congestion thing that I can't seem to shake), and to continue to strive towards healthier eating habits. My big thing is eating breakfast...I have really backslid on that point. I feel better and lose more weight if I eat breakfast. The other area that needs work is drinking more water instead of just drinking coffee and tea (when it's cold I tend to only drink hot stuff). I find it's easier to drink my 8 glasses of water a day when it is not below zero! :-)

I am excited that I am still apparently losing weight, though when I look in the mirror, I don't usually notice. The other day my workout pants were sliding off so much I felt like most of the pilates video was spent trying to hike up my sweats. I am hoping to lose enough weight by next year to have a whole new wardrobe under the tree...Wouldn't that be cool?

My girlfriend Toni, who has lost over 80 lbs, just brought over some more of her fat clothes for me, and most of them fit. I no longer get depressed when my best friend's fat clothes are too small for me. LOL Two super cute dresses though are still a little small. They fit fine below the waist but the top is way too small, which is the case of most dresses lately. Some days I feel like I either have to wear a "tent" or wear things that pull in all the wrong places but are loose in the waist. Most of the time though I just wear skirts and shirts, instead of trying to do a dress. It is a goal of mine to lose enough to wear a dress and have it actually fit right!

I am hoping that with continued diet and exercise I will be able to squeeze myself into those dresses Toni by this time next year, or maybe sooner.

The weight I have lost seems to come off in batches. I will suddenly drop 10 lbs, and then nothing for a long time, and then 10 more, and sometimes I gain a little bit back, even without changing what I have eaten. However, I have lost 1.5 inches on my waist and another inch on my hips since September! Woo hoo.

Stupidity: A Prerequisite for Contemporary Politicians?

I don't know about you but if my spending went up 19% we'd be in bankruptcy court. I hope I am not making wild assumptions about everyone else. To me, if you can't rein in spending in a bad economy, then you're not being a wise steward, and in the case of a politician, you don't deserve your position. Any city raising spending by 19% and then taxing people out of their houses to pay for it is truly out to lunch. Someone needs to rethink the ole budget. Is stupidity the new prerequisite for holding public office? What happened to common sense, people?

I know that I am unusual, in that I passed a placement test for Calculus as a senior in high school, but even my 8 year old, who is no math whiz, is pretty clear on the concept that when property values are going down, taxable values on a property for purposes of property taxes have no reason to go up. And, in an age when most people haven't gotten raises or have gotten paycuts (or worse, are unemployed) there is no reason for spending in any town to go up 19%!

In an interesting article I was just reading, the person in charge of Greenburgh, NY, feeling sorry for seniors on fixed incomes who can't pay property taxes that look more like what their old mortgage payments were, came up with a neat plan. Any senior who can't pay their taxes gets put to work for menial labor in his town. Wow, great idea. He apparently envisions retired professionals mentoring and tutoring young people for $7 an hour. Yeah, right.

So much for retirement, eh? Sort of like the indentured servitude thing that we had going on in colonial times. If they needed a job to pay for their taxes, they could probably find one paying more than minimum wage. The problem is, working while retired makes all of your other benefits vaporize, thus putting you in a far worse situation financially. Oh the catch-22's of bureaucracy!

I think this hits seniors and those who worked hard to pay off their houses much harder than others, because they can't afford these constant increases on a home they already own. As my mom recently put it, her tax burden is higher than her house payment was, plus heat, electric and phone. However, it is also hurting the younger generation, particularly those of us who have most of our paychecks sucked out of our pockets and into the pockets of big government already. With all of the homes in foreclosure around me, and the fact that I can't unload my house for what I even own on it (after putting a generous 20% down on the house when we bought it 9 years ago!!!), I would love to know how our taxes went up too.

Then again, the answer is the fact that politicians are very good at spending your money and mine without employing some common sense, self-control, and wisdom. The American taxpayer's income and property values are the politician's personal line of credit. They spend, and spend, and spend, not thinking for one moment about trying to save money or reduce spending. Occasionally they get the poor to vote for them by generously giving them increased benefits (at the middle class worker's expense--it's easy to be generous when it ain't your money, isn't it, Senator?), and occasionally they may promises to reduce taxes but then worry us by telling us the budget isn't balanced, and thus they must raise taxes to pay for this shortfall. My taxes pay for all sorts of things I don't believe in (welfare for anyone and everyone, research grants for nonsensical and irrelevant things, various pork projects of different politicians, and of course wasting "rebuilding" countries populated by members of the terrorist religion we have "liberated", and allowing them to write a constitution that doesn't allow religious freedom, among other things...and that's just off the top of my head).

I've faced this issue in our family too. I sit and balance the checkbook and pay the bills each month, and sometimes I notice that we have a shortfall--more month than money. Both government and I have two choices. I can go rob my neighbor for more money to pay for my shortfall, or I can look over my budget items and work hard to reduce spending. I suppose there is a third choice--get a better job or get a second job, but that is not always possible. The politicians usually choose door number one: robbing their neighbors. They'd do well to consider door number 2--go over the budget, get rid of the pork, and thus balance the budget. It works in my family, at least until our property taxes get so high that they consume all of our income.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Cinnamon Rolls

We made some awesome cinnamon rolls a couple of weeks ago, and I just realized, when I made my other post and someone emailed me asking about it.

I have made cinnamon rolls with regular bread dough, rolled up, with butter, cinnamon, and sugar as filling before, and with whipped cream cheese, powdered sugar, and a touch of milk for the frosting. However, I found the best cinnamon roll recipe and I find the dough handles much better. The recipe is copyrighted, so I am only going to direct you to his website. The recipe is by Alton Brown of Food TV's "Good Eats". The episode is called "House of the Rising Bun" which I happened to catch while at my mom's house (we don't have cable). Ruth decided to make them for her Sunday School Class party, and we were in love! This is a direct link to the recipe.

When you make cinnamon rolls with ANY recipe, though, the technique for rolling them will make a huge difference. As you can tell, I altered the recipe a bit in that I am using 100% fresh ground white wheat flour. I think cinnamon rolls taste awesome whole grain!

roll out your dough into a rectangle-ish shape.

Press your filling down into the dough as much as possible.

Roll slowly starting at one end, and pinching it as you go.

then come back again from the other end. Repeat this process until you have rolled the whole thing up.

Pinch it closed.

slice your rolls off in 1" increments (about), and place them in a buttered baking dish. We are using a disposable one, as these went to our piano instructor's house. :-) It's a good idea to keep disposable pans on hand for this sort of thing, whenever you see them go on sale.

These are "overnight" cinnamon rolls in this exact recipe, but you don't have to make them overnight. You can let them rise and bake them immediately too.

Chili for a Chilly Night

A week and a half ago, I was making some special treat with buttermilk, and had to buy some buttermilk for that.Well, it was cheaper to just buy a half gallon, which was on sale, so I did. I soon realized, though, that I only needed about a cup for the cinnamon rolls I was making, so I had to come up with other things with the butter milk. Among those was some Cornbread and Buttermilk Biscuits to go with some yummy chili.

First, the Chili.

I started with about a pound of ground turkey, browned in a cast iron Dutch oven, along with 1 large, chopped onion. Next up, I added my selection of "secret ingredients"

Red pepper flakes(the hot stuff!)
My homemade barbeque sauce! (a failed experiment, as it is far too watery for use as BBQ sauce, but it is a fine addition to Chili, and is great for marinading pulled pork)

Crushed and diced tomatoes
An "ice cube" of frozen cilantro from last year's garden
about 2 cups of cooked black beans
1 can of hominy
And of course Coca cola (About 1/4 cup).I only add the Coke if I have some on hand.We don't usually drink cola at our house much at all...but we had some because of a certain flu bug that was running through our house...and it was flat coke, which is ideal for chili-making!

I let that simmer with a lid on it for most of the day, stirring occasionally. It tastes better that way. :-)

The Cornbread was made in a cast iron skillet, which my hubby insists is the only real way to make corn bread (he was corrupted from several years in Texas!).

Sift 1/2 c. of flour, 1/2t. baking soda, 2 t sugar and 2 t. baking powder, then stir in 1 1/2 c. of cornmeal. Stir in 1/4c melted butter, 2 lightly beaten eggs, and 1-1/2c. buttermilk. I also add 1/2t. chili powder for some extra kick.

Pour it into your greased cast iron skillet, and bake at 450F. for 23 minutes (approximentally). I usually preheat the cast iron skillet, as I find it gives a nicer crust. If you don't preheat, you may need to bake an extra few minutes.

And finally,...The Buttermilk Biscuits...

...are made by mixing 2c flour, 2 t baking powder, 1/4t baking soda, and 1 t salt through a sifter to make sure there are no lumps, and to blend it extra good. Next, I cut in a half cup of shortening (for this I prefer the food processor or my finger tips). mix in 3/4 cup of buttermilk and gently knead (don't over do it or you will have hockey pucks). Roll out your dough to about 1/2" thick, and cut with a biscuit cutter or canning jar lid :-)

Bake at 450F for about 10 minutes, on the middle rack. Best served immediately.

Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Presidential Race

I normally don't do this.

In fact, you could say that I am allergic to politics LOL. Part of that reason is that the politically active Christians at our college turned me far, far away from God when I was not yet saved, and I tended to view Christianity as a religion of rules, not understanding the amazing grace that was available to us. The other part could be the wide eyed idealistic left wing politics that I used to embrace as a pre-Christian, trying to change the world from the outside in....but in Christ alone can real change come, and it has to occur through individuals, of their own free will, being changed from the inside out when they accept the Lord...laws and such will only be broken without a heart change. That's not the topic of the post today, though.:-)

Let's just say that if I did have a vehicle (LOL), I'd actually want to put Ron Paul's bumper sticker on it. And I don't put bumper stickers on my car lightly. I don't embrace Republicans either as a matter of course (I'm a Constitutionalist, but then again, so is Ron Paul in principle).

In the year 2000, we were all told not to "throw our vote away" by voting for someone with principle and character...we had to vote for the guy who "had a chance" at winning...and so we believed them, and like good little sheep we voted the way everyone told us to. How's that working out? Granted, he's a hair better than the other major runner would have been, but he wasn't my first choice.

The thing is, if we all stood up and said, "ENOUGH is ENOUGH", then real change can happen. All of these professional politicians in both major parties are the new Oligarchy. They are the ruling class. They have forgotten Of the people, by the people, for the people. They are in the pocket of the big business and the lobby groups.

Several years ago, I had to call one of my representatives to complain about something and let my voice be heard, and his receptionist wanted to known what group I represented. She wouldn't take my message without telling her what "group" I was a spokesperson for. How about WE THE PEOPLE? The only things we are good for in their eyes are tax revenues and votes.

I guess my soapbox of voting years is this: what on Earth makes us think that choosing "the lesser of two evils" is the godly choice? Since when does Jesus want us to jump on the bandwagon of the majority, simply because of an idea that we have to go along with the "best chance for success" instead of "What is right"? If you study the Bible, in every instance of a majority rule, the majority was wrong (10 said no, two said go--remember?). Scary thought.

Ron Paul is the sort of politician that I would love to see running this country. The number one thing that impresses me is that this guy has voted against his own pay raise as a congressman and fought to NOT be included in the elaborate congressional pension plan. Maybe that seems silly to some people. But, to me, it basically validates all of the other stuff he claims to stand for. When someone else talks about wanting to help the working man, or talks about family values, and so forth, but lives in such a way that shows his disconnect with the common man--through the unbelievable pay, the unreal pension, the lobbying groups' gifts, and so forth--I have a hard time believing them. Maybe they start out idealistic but quickly turn tail after they taste the Washington DC lifestyle. Ron Paul stood by his convictions, even amidst mocking from others.

Maybe I also like the guy because he's not a lawyer or politician by trade--he's a medical doctor. Like I said, politics leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Look up more information about Dr. Paul, and consider helping to spread the word, encouraging others to vote. If you are a registered Republican, consider voting in the primaries of your state to support Dr. Paul! Just "google" his name to find out more.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Extra, Extra! A Wise Dad Makes the News

When I first read the above linked news story, I smirked, and then wondered, "Why on earth did this make the news?"

In case you didn't read it yourself, I'll recap: Dad buys son the "it" game of the season, "Guitar Hero III", but later finds son smoking pot with his friends,so dad tells the story in his Ebay Auction for the Game, which then goes for over $9k.

The story has caused a firestorm of nasty comments to the dad, for "humiliating" his son publicly, and for being "cruel and mean"....and so forth.I was pretty shocked that it even made the news.

Or is it in the news because some dad actually enforced some rules in his house? Have we gotten to the point in our families to where a dad not indulging his kid after breaking what would be considered a reasonable rule (i.e., don't smoke illegal stuff in my house) is considered news breaking on a national level?

Am I one of the only parents left who has had to tell my kid no, and return a gift or withhold a treat for breaking the simple house rules? God help us when these over-indulged brats become the adults of tomorrow if this is considered unusual!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Start of Adulthood?

There's an interesting piece in USA today about a study that was done that discovered that, for most young people, 18-25 years of age cannot be considered adulthood. I found it a little bit amusing. I was pregnant with my second child at 25.
Once upon a time, 18- to 25-year-olds were considered adults.

That's a fairy tale now, say most parents of college students, and their kids agree in a new study that confirms "growing up" comes later.

Hubby and I married at what many called "a young age" (I was 22 and he was 24), and had children right away, but we had both been on our own for many years, for better or worse, before we ever married. Some friends of ours entered adulthood sooner than we did--a few much sooner! and some of them still haven't entered adulthood despite being in their 30s and 40s (and my definition of adulthood is about personal responsibility--able to manage one's own household, though I know many responsible young ladies who remain home until marriage but are nonetheless ready for the task of responsible adulthood). Adulthood to me transcends age because some people are responsible at a young age and some are still struggling at 50 to grow up. There are a few of our friends that are less responsible than my 12 year old son. then again, I've often prayed over my son the words of the 144th psalm...."Lord, let him be a plant grown up in his youth, and let his sisters be like grand cornerstones polished like palaces!" (v. 12)

As I read the comments there at USA today, I was wondering what the reason is for this phenomenon of delayed maturity. Is it just because we are all living longer now, as one theorized? Is it because of parents coddling their children? Is it because of the educational system? Maybe all of the above? Honestly I don't know either. Maybe a combination of all of those.

As I seek to raise my children, I feel acutely aware that these are not just children they are future adults. I am the keeper of a greenhouse where the young plants are being nurtured, and soon will be hardened off before the transplant into the big garden of the "real world". I often find myself on my face before God, begging Him for wisdom and for insight, and to show me what they need to become productive, responsible adults who living in a way that is pleasing to Him and beneficial to those around them.

to be sure, I wasn't really ready for adulthood was sink or swim. I wanted to go as an exchange student but I was scared out of my whits at having to maneuver around JFK International Airport, finding connecting flights. I didn't know how to balance a checkbook when I got to college. I sold a bunch of paintings and graphic design services,and later found out about something called taxes (Which aren't always kind to the ignorantly self employed who failed to keep receipts). I've already taught even my 8 year old how to balance a checkbook (they all take turns balancing my business checking account each month--and I double check of course, because "My 8 year old does my checking" is no excuse should something bounce ;)). They all know how to do laundry. They know how to follow recipes, and how to make some bare bones dishes (the older ones can make whole meals).

I want them to enjoy childhood while at the same time having an eye to the horizon where adulthood looms when they one day leave this cozy nest of ours to start one of their own. It's a hard balance to strike.

Out for a Stroll

One of the benefits of not having a working vehicle right now is all of the walking I am doing. I wish I could walk to grocery shopping but with the nearest grocery store some 17 miles away that would not be practical. However, I do walk to the post office and to the bank, giving me some added fitness opportunities. I think normally in such cold weather I'd have driven the van if I had that option ;)

It's funny though to see reactions of people when you are out walking when it is snowing. I wasn't about to walk when we had the ice storm of course (BRRRR) but when we had a nice heavy snow with little wind, I had about 3 orders to mail, and I walked up to the post office in it. the weather was actually quite pretty, and I was enjoying a leisurely walk, being careful of each step due to the previous ice storm we had just had. At least 5 different acquaintences, mostly from church or the library, stopped off to ask me if I needed a ride, and persist with "Are you SURE?"

"no, no, I'm good. It's good exercise. Thanks, though"

"Well....ok. be careful".

I even had 3 total strangers inquire "why are you walking?" "Are you ok?" "Where is your car broken down?"
"Do you need to use my cell phone?"

and then a state trooper rolled his window down and asked if I was having vehicle trouble. Well, yes I am, but the van is safely in my driveway waiting for us to have enough cash to fix it, and I am out enjoying the peaceful winter wonderland on a stroll through the neighborhood. He laughed and said, "Ok. I wanted to make sure." I thanked him for his concern and asked if if it was so odd to see someone walking with their arms loaded up like Mr. Tumnus. "Um...yeah, actually we don't see people out walking much, especially not when it is cold out. You looked like you must have broken down somewhere." I thanked him again, wished him a merry Christmas, and went on my way.

Maybe if I got some snow shoes or cross country skis I'd look like I am out in the snow deliberately?

It felt good to get fresh air and exercise. I haven't done that as much since I've been a little congested and then also busy with Christmas program rehearsals, piano practice for a concert, as well as other little things. I don't want to undo my hard work during this busy season when I don't have as much time to exercise but everyone is bringing me baked goods as gifts. The generous boxes of Christmas cookies are a double edged sword. LOL

Monday, December 10, 2007

Adding some Modesty to a dress

This week, I had to get my ever-taller daughter something to wear when she was singing in church this Sunday, and nothing we had was fitting her modestly. I went to a few different second hand stores, only to come up empty, and so for time I finally went to a department store that had advertized having all of the "girls Christmas dresses" on sale for 60% off. How bad could it be? Well, it turns out, the normal price for a dress at that store was a whopping $68, so, I didn't buy anything on that rack. I did find something really good on the clearance rack, where everything was an additional 50% off the already clearanced prices, so got some nice brand new dresses (normally priced over $40) for the cost of a dress at Goodwill.

I didn't have the girls with me, though, and so I estimated their size and bought some really cute dresses.

Unfortunately, once they tried them on I realized the top was very low cut, and didn't fit right. I needed to do some repairs. :-)

First, I found some really neat buttons also on clearance at a craft store, and I bought 1/4 yard of some fabric that was complementary.

Since there was little "jacket flaps" on the front, I decided to first try to sew those together, and add the decorative button to the middle.

It still seemed a bit low cut, so I decided to add a small square of fabric to the front.

First I folded down the top of the fabric, and basted it in place. Then I folded it down a second time, and finished it off with a decorative stitch.

Next, I tacked it to the underside of the neckline and had her try it on to make sure it fit properly, and laid right.

Instead of sewing it in completely, I decided to just tack it in better with a zig zag stitch in place. I felt that if I sewed more along the seams, I might cause it to pucker and lay wrong.

It turned out pretty good :-)

Joseph's Choice

As the Christmas season is upon us, I tend to take the time to read and re-read the different passages about the birth of our Savior. I usually find my mind pondering and meditating on the old familiar story of Jesus and thinking about those events from all of the various points of view. Recently, both in my own devotional time, and during a sermon at our church last night, I have found myself thinking quite about about Joseph and the choice which God laid before him.

Why did God, in His soverignty, choose Joseph in the first place? The Bible talks a lot of him being a just man, and devout, and I think that was important for more reasons than just the rearing of the Holy Child. He needed to be someone willing to listen to God, and go against the flow. As we have been learning in the Faith Bible Institute classes which my husband and I are taking at church, in the Bible, the majority is usually wrong (ie, 10 said no but 2 said Go at Kadesh Barnea).

Anyway, this got me to think about the choice Joseph had to make. Picture it: a godly man, engaged to a young woman he assumed was pure and godly too, in a day when people get stoned to death for premarital s*x and suddenly he finds out that she is pregnant. What would most guys do? what would you do?

A man not really in control of his passions may have lost his temper and had her stoned to death promptly, in the heat of the moment, and his pain at the betrayal.

A self-righteous and insecure man may have wanted to make her a public example just to protect his own good reputation, making certain that everyone knew HE was an innocent victim in all of this, and SHE was guilty.

But, being a godly man, he didn't do anything rash. He took some time and prayed and pondered these things, finally deciding to put her away quietly, instead of letting her become a public example.

Finally the Lord sent an angel to speak to him, and tell him to do something that defied reason: take Mary as his wife.

I don't really think I ever quite grasped just what this meant for Joseph before, until recently. By marrying her, it appeared to those in the area who knew of her "condition" that he was admitting guilt along with her. After all, why would he marry her if he wasn't the father? He risked so much by marrying Mary, not the least of which being his reputation.

Perhaps, looking at His character, God knew that Joseph was a man which God could trust to make God's choice, and not the logical, common sense one.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Lasagna with a twist

I don't normally like Lasagna. I think it is the Ricotta cheese, which I know is a little strange, since as you will see in a few weeks, I like to make Ravioli with ricotta cheese in it. But, for some reason I don't like it in Lasagna. That's ok. My Lasagna recipe doesn't contain Ricotta cheese.

I learned how to make this particular recipe of Lasagna when working as an Au Pair in Austria for a woman who was one of the best cooks in the world. It's very yummy, and it tastes even better the next day, and it freezes well in individual squares.

Since I am working at weight loss, I haven't made the likes of Lasagna in a while, but hubby was missing lasagna and had a hankering for it. So, to make him feel a little better on the day that he was at Jury Duty Orientation I made some Lasagna.

Start with a regular Meat Sauce, as for spaghetti:

Saulte 1 medium onion, finely chopped, in a T of olive oil. Add some minced garlic, as well as some fennel seed (optional), and saulte some ground meat (I used ground turkey out of concern for my waistline and heart :-)). I used 2 lbs, and made two pans of lasagna, but I don't think it has to be exact. Lasagna is an art. After the meat is sufficiently browned, drain off any excess grease (with ground turkey this may not be necessary), and add 2 large (20 oz) cans of crushed and concentrated tomatoes (or tomato sauce). I also stirred in 1 basil ice cube, and seasonings of marjoram, oregano, thyme, rosemary, onion soup mix, and salt to taste. Let simmer.

Bring a large pot of water to boil and prepare lasagna noodles per package directions (approx. 1 box or less per large pan will be needed). If you use no-cook noodles, this isn't necessary.

Prepare the white sauce (Roux):

In a medium saucepan, melt 1 stick of butter or margarine. Add 1/4c. of flour, and stir until a thick paste forms over low heat.

Stir in 3c. of milk with a whisk, stirring constantly until a thick sauce forms. Add a dash of nutmeg (optional).

Create your lasagna:

Spray the pan with non-stick spray and preheat your oven to 350F

Layer 1 layer of noodles, then white sauce, then meat sauce, then more noodles, white sauce, and meat sauce. On the top, add grated cheese. Bake for 30 minutes, covered, or per directions on the box of noodles.

To freeze, let cool completely, chill in the fridge for a few hours, cut into squares, and freeze in individual quart sized freezer bags. Reheat in the microwave for a few minutes.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Favorite Carols

This week, in our ladies' counsel group at Reformers Unanimous, our "assignment" from the group leader is to think about our favorite Christmas carol and and why we love it so much. I had to think about that for a little bit...but to be honest, I have several favorites not just one. You probably can guess that just from what is playing on the website (if you have your volume off, turn it up!!!)

First I love Carol of the Bells because I love the melody. I've tried learning to play that on the piano (I've had a total of 9 lessons now LOL), but have not yet succeeded it playing it both hands. It sure is pretty though! :-)

Then there's I heard the bells on Christmas Day, because I love the message...Longfellow's wife had just died horribly in an accident, and his son was disabled during the Civil War. The country was tearing itself apart. Longfellow's words are good for us today, in a post 9-11 world, too...especially as he resolves, by the final stanza, that "God is not dead/nor doth He sleep/the wrong shall fail/the right prevail/with peace on earth/goodwill to men!" It's a great song, and very moving. Google around to read the story behind those awesome lyrics!

I totally love Handel's entire Messiah. I have a CD with the complete Messiah in English, and then also a German CD featuring Mozart's rendition of Handel's work (Mozart, as I understand it, arranged the German lyrics and changed the music only slightly).

I really love "The Little Drummer Boy" since getting saved, because it makes me think of Ephesians 4 and Romans 12---giving our best for the Lord and using our talents and gifts for His glory, and to honor and worship Him. As a friend said when were were talking about it, "Wow, that's deep". I don't know about deep...but the song is a story about a boy who sees the astronomers from the Orient coming to see the baby Jesus, and he wants to see the little King but knows that he shouldn't go to see his King emptyhanded...He laments not having the same sort of lavish gifts which the magi have brought along, but then realizes he has his drum, and he can play a song for Jesus, and so he does. I use that song to remind my kids all the isn't about doing something "great" for God because whatever we do for Him by faith is great in His eyes, no matter how "small" it is with human eyes (being kind and helpful to visitors, making cookies for a widower, writing a kind note, and on and on). That's probably why it's my favorite!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Frugal Christmas Tree Question

I got this question from Stephany:
Just a quick question. This is our first year together, and we are trying to decide what is best for getting a tree. Artifical ones cost so much, and the real ones seem so wasteful. Do you have any ideas?

Congratulations on your first year together! Woo hoo. Many happy years to you both!

I think there are two different issues here...firstly, is there a preference either of you have? I know a few guys that are totally adamant about the "real tree" thing. I have done a real tree before and all it took was one year of sweeping up pine needles (and finding them periodically for a few years!), that we decided against that. If you have a fire place, a friend of mine who insists on a real tree each year bundles her Christmas tree branches up and uses them in her fire place (with other wood), for a nice, pine-fresh smell. She just lights the fire, has the other logs in there, and then gently lays the fresh branches over the top. I think it smells nice too, but alas, I have no fire place, and I have a hard time keeping my tree laying around until the first June bon fire. LOL

However, secondly, the cost of a brand new artificial tree, purchased right before the holidays, is very costly. Most newlyweds (or oldyweds ;)) don't have $100 bucks (or more) to drop on an once-a-year decoration.

The solution, for us, was to purchase one AFTER Christmas, with a gift card my mom had given me. The tree (regular price was over $150) was less than $20, and was "pre lit"...that means, the lights were incorporated into the design, and instead of having to wrestle with your light strings each year, and have oodles of wires hanging all over the place (overloading your sockets), you have just one wire coming neatly out of the bottom of the tree, and you have lights that are neatly positioned all over the tree evenly. If at all possible, I strongly recommend a pre lit tree.

Trials and Tribulations of Delegating

I view grocery shopping, as I noted in an article I did at called "No Need of Spoil", as a ministry not really as recreation. I guess maybe I'm weird. LOL I don't like going to the mall at all--it feels like stepping into an alternate reality. Maybe it'd be more fun if I had money to burn? hmmm...maybe or maybe not. Especially with gas prices what they are, we make sure to condense our shopping trips as much as possible. This has become easier too, with the loss of our van (still waiting on a transmission to come in at the junkyard).

This weekend, I planned to do grocery shopping on Saturday afternoon, after dh got home from work, and hopefully before the much-hyped storm of the century hit our area. Before going shopping, I always make sure to have a detailed list of what I need, and where I plan to buy it. If I am using any coupons (which, I'll admit, I do very rarely since they don't make coupons for stuff I normally buy), I make a note of exactly what the coupon is for. If something is on sale, I also make a note of where and how much, and all of that. And, I ask a few simple questions to my progeny and darling husband:
  1. Do we need Dog Food?
  2. Do we need Cat Food?
  3. How are we on garbage bags?
  4. Do we need anything else that is not on the list?
  5. ARE YOU SURE?!?!?!?????
  6. LAST CHANCE--Am I missing anything?

I ask these things only because there is nothing worse than having to go back to the store for one of these often forgotten items. Since we do a lot of delegating in our home, I rarely handle the dog and cat food (except to buy it), and so I don't usually know. Well, on Saturday, I was told we had everything we needed, and that the grocery list accurately told of what we needed...and so, off I went with my oldest daughter for a little together time while grocery shopping, and paying my debt at the library for overdue books I thought I had returned but which were simply sitting in the van one the day of and since it broke down (whoops).

The following day (Sunday) after church, I walked into the kitchen only to notice an empty bag of dog food sticking out of the stuffed-to-overflowing garbage can.

"Uh, do we need dog food?"

"Yeah, mom, we just gave the dogs the last of it"

Mom: "D'oh!"

I take the garbage out of the can, and have my son take it out to the trash bin, and I reach in to grab a garbage bag....only to realize the box is empty.


Just for kicks, I felt the need to look into the (nearly empty) bag of cat food too.

So, in the middle of an ICE STORM, on Sunday (When I don't shop unless completely necessary), I found myself back to the Lapeer shopping district, only after throughly doing an inventory on things.

At least the roads were clear, and 89.1 FM has some great Christmas music on the radio.