Sunday, January 30

Cast Iron Skillets

Last summer, I noticed a glaring gap in my cooking abilities: nearly all of my favorite recipes require baking in the oven. In 90+ degree weather, turning the oven on is less than ideal!

I was reminded of this problem recently while reading a survival blog. Even if we were able to get a backup heat supply with which to function should our apartment complex be without power (not an unrealistic or uncommon event in winter by any stretch), we could survive on peanut butter or applesauce or whatever else I have canned eaten cold, but in the bitterly cold temperatures we've had recently, it would be pretty miserable. It would also be entirely avoidable!

So in my latest stack of library books, I brought home a book on cooking in a cast iron skillet. I was little disappointed that some of the recipes were designed for stove-top-to-oven transitions, but there were many great ideas for simple hot meals that could be adapted to any open cooking surface.

In an emergency situation, being able to offer sustenance and comfort to those around us is not a frivolous concern. It will be a very real and essential task that can make the difference between sludging along in despair and regrouping, connecting and moving forward. This is certainly only a first step, but it keeps in view two important questions. Are you ready? What have you done to prep this week?

Friday, January 28


Although I've never read Frederik Pohl's The Space Merchants, I have enough sci-fi exposure to be familiar with his "Chicken Little", a "huge mass of cultured chicken breast... kept alive by algae... skimmed from multistory towers of ponds" and used as the people's primary food source. (quotes conveniently located here)

Scum-skimming wasn't hard to learn. You got up at dawn. You gulped a breakfast sliced not long ago from Chicken Little and washed it down with Coffiest. You put on your coveralls and took the cargo net up to your tier. In blazing noon from sunrise to sunset you walked your acres of shallow tanks crusted with algae. If you walked slowly, every thirty seconds or so you spotted a patch at maturity, bursting with yummy carbohydrates. You skimmed the patch with your skimmer and slung it down the well, where it would be baled, or processed into glucose to feed Chicken Little, who would be sliced and packed to feed people... From The Space Merchants, by Frederik Poh

I used to think things like that were just disgusting science fiction. Then I started to read the news.

We knew GM corn was a bad idea - who could have imagined they'd make it even worse by adding the H1N1 vaccine to the mix?!

We knew the Bible said not to eat meat sacrificed to a pagan god, but what modern person living in America actually thought that would be something we'd ever to be concerned about? (Incidentally, as much as I agree with the need for better food labeling, things like this make me seriously wonder if its even possible to completely and accurately label food using anything larger than size 3 font!) Just another reason to buy locally from people you know as much as humanly possible!

And, just for fun, check out what's actually in your "normal" and "healthy" everyday menu items. :0)

Bad Rap

Most people who've taken world history have been taught to associate the word "eugenics" with Joeseph Mengele and the atrocities of the Holocaust.

At its inception, however, eugenics was a well-intentioned social movement pioneered by brilliant and deeply moral people. They believed that if they could prevent those people who should never be allowed to birth or raise children from reproducing, they could break generational chains of violence, crime and other destructive behavior. (For the record, every one of the founders applied their principles every bit as sternly to themselves as to anyone else.)

Every time I read a story like this, I can't help but think that those early scientists got an unfairly bad rap. Can anyone with a heart or a brain actually conclude that self-absorbed, celebrity seeking miscreants should be allowed to have kids?

Wednesday, January 26

Cookbook to Skip

I was really excited to check out this book and terribly disappointed when I got my hands on it.

There is no information in this book about how to sprout and grind your own grains; the author assumes you will use her proprietary flour blend. This rather baffles me, because if you know enough about grain to realize the health benefits of sprouting it, then you also presumably realize that flour starts losing its nutrient value almost immediately after grinding so you always want to grind your own as fresh as possible!

I was also under-whelmed by the recipe selection. For some reason a few standard recipes seem to be forever reworked and inevitably included in theme cookbooks, whether the theme be low-fat, GF, reduced-sugar, what have you: blueberry muffins, basic bread, coffee cake, cobbler, etc. If a cookbook isn't going to give me solid background on the process of doing something new, the least it could do would be to offer some enticing new recipes. Once I've mastered the skill, it's not really that hard to reverse engineer it into recipes I already have. I don't know anyone who needs six blueberry muffin recipes.

I'm pleased to see that sprouted baking has achieved enough visibility to have its own cookbook, but I highly recommend you pass this one up and wait for better.

Estate Planning

When I saw this book, I knew I had to read it.

Most of us have either lost someone or tried to support a friend through their loss and experienced the mess - physical and emotional - that death can leave behind.

I have distinct memories of my grandmother's house, the compact, single story structure in which she'd raised six kids, lingering as a source of contention years after her death because the estate wasn't completely closed.

I've seen houses in my neighborhood sit empty for years, quietly peeling and decaying because the deceased owner's heirs can't settle the estate and the house swings in limbo, unable to be sold, rented or rescued. Almost always, by the time the legal matters are resolved, its too late to save the house and the problem is only compounded.

I've supported friends while they tried to fumble their way through sorting a loved one's possessions, figuring out which child or grandchild should have what without causing permanent relational rifts or heartbreak.

None of that has to happen! Ms. Hall brings years of wisdom to her clear, compassionate guide to protecting aging parents and preparing -preferably long before they die - for the quick, painless resolution of whatever they leave behind. Several things stand out impressively in this book:

1. Chapters are written for adult children, but also for the parents, making it easy to share and accessible to everyone involved. Every party involved is treated respectfully and encouraged to be kind and respectful of each other.

2. Ms. Hall effectively delineates the variety of options available to all stages of the process, acknowledging that one size does not fit all. She provides resource lists to help readers find trustworthy and informed professionals in their own area and helps you understand when you need a professional and when it's okay to do things yourself.

3. Several popular myths are neatly busted, and their alternatives explained, so you know what you're really getting into.

4. Ms. Hall strongly recommends doing as much as possible ahead of time - both for your parents and for your own estate. She lays out solid reasons why and walks readers through the "how".

The time to talk about and make essential aging and end-of-life decisions is while everyone is still healthy and rational enough to have honest, calm conversations a little at a time. If this isn't something your family talks about, or if you don't know that both you and your parents have a will, please check this out. It's easy to read and could save you years of unnecessary heartache.

Tuesday, January 25

The Liturgical Year by Joan Chittister

Having spent her entire life tracing and re-tracing the steps of the liturgical cycle, Ms. Chittister reaches out to her readers with a fresh, poignant exploration of the deep meaning this ancient rite embodies and the enormous impact it exerts on our lives when consciously observed.

Ms. Chittister begins with a discussion on the purpose of the liturgical year. After that, most of book is spent walking readers through the year's events in order. The author explains the origin and reason for each, discussing events' importance to both individuals and the Church as a whole.

I believe the full impact of this book's message will take multiple readings to really grasp. Ms. Chittister's vibrant passion for her subject is evident on every page, the truths she shares clearly accumulated over a lifetime of faith and seeking.

I appreciated the author's generous comprehension that not all readers will be familiar with her subject; her explanations are sufficient for readers new to the subject, but not so over-simplified as to insult readers familiar with it.

There were some distractingly awkward sentences in the first half of the book, but they cleared up by the second half and the prose evened out to a more comfortable pace.

I especially appreciated that the author neither ignored, shied away from, nor threw dismissive platitudes at potentially thorny questions. Her ability to address matters with grace and calm stood out as a perfect demonstration of the principles she writes about in the rest of the work.

[Please note that BookSneeze provided me a free copy of this book for the purpose of this review, but my opinion is my own and unbiased.]

Oatmeal Bread

I really love the idea of oatmeal bread, but unfortunately I tend to find the actual recipes and results consistently less impressive than the idea they're based on. But I saw a promising recipe online somewhere and decided to give it a try.

Of course, knowing now that both flour and oatmeal should be soaked before use I modified the process slightly to incorporate that. That result? Incredibly sticky and slightly gummy dough that nonetheless baked up into a light, fluffy dinner roll consistency. I've modified the instructions here to produce a less gummy (easier to work with) dough, and plan to keep this recipe for continued use. Yum!

Oatmeal Dinner Rolls

1 cup water
1/2 cup oats
1 1/2 tbsp butter, melted
2 1/4 tsp yeast (I use instant)
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 1/2 cups of flour
splash of lemon juice

Combine oats, 2 1/2 cups of flour, butter, lemon juice and water. Mixture should be damp but not soupy; add water as needed. Cover and let sit at room temperature 12-24 hours.

Pour off any liquid collected in the soaker and add remaining ingredients, adjusting the flour measurement as needed to get a tacky but not sticky dough. Knead on a floured board approximately 5 minutes, until smooth and elastic. (Will be very soft.)

Let rise in a warm place until doubled, approximately 1 hour. Punch down, let rest 10 minutes. Form into 9 rolls and place in greased 9" baking dish. Let double again, then bake 20 - 25 minutes at 350*. (You may incorporate spices like basil, parsley, or oregano into the dough for herbed rolls if desired for variety.) Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 19

In The News

Have you read the news lately? Have you noticed that a large proportion of what is considered news is derived directly from people's stupidity and complete lack of morals? If not, here are a few highlights that illustrate my point.

1. Nurse loses license for 20 years over sex with hospice patient. Really? How is it possible that at no time during that little debacle, this woman never said to herself, "Hmm... maybe it's NOT a good idea to have sex with a dying man in my workplace!" Without even getting into the moral quandaries engendered by the fact that she both knew his wife and was involved with another man, it seriously needs to be questioned how someone managed to acquire a nursing license without the common sense, self-control or basic moral code to prevent such a mess.

2. Intelligence Community Employees Moonlighting. In today's economy, it's not really surprising that anyone would be inclined to work two jobs. But it's slightly appalling that the people whose primary occupation is supposed to be keeping the nation safe are regularly working second jobs - and their bosses aren't on top of it! First of all, either these people aren't really important to our security and we shouldn't be employing them, or they're extremely important and we should be compensating them well enough that they don't need second jobs! Second, things like this don't need to be news. A simple clause in their hiring contract specifying what they can or can't do outside of work (to prevent conflicts of interest or security breaches) would be simple, legal and professional. No embarrassing news coverage, no expensive inner investigations - nada. I can't say I feel particularly safe when supposedly top-of-the-line people and agencies can't handle the basics covered in Business 101.

3. The Future of Warplanes. If the fact that China's military development has far outstripped our expectations doesn't cause Red Dawn scenarios to spring to mind, go watch the movie again - now! If you aren't concerned about the tactical implications of the fact that the F-35 (the would-be replacement for the F-22) is fiscally nonviable and engineered to the wrong standards, then please go do five minutes worth of research on the wars of the past fifty years and ask yourself how long we'll survive another war without masterful air power.

4. Scientists Say New Grapes Needed for Wine. It isn't enough that genetically engineered monster-foods are taking over the grocery market? They have to corrupt the wine too? This cannot happen; wine connoisseurs are a picky and well informed bunch - back away from the wine and we'll consider not shooting you for even suggesting such a ludicrous notion.

5. Prove You Need a Gate. In England, it seems that a wealthy neighborhood is being overrun with tourists, sightseers and just plain lunatics. The cause? The local government ruled that the houses - whether modest or mansion - may not have gates in order to maintain the picturesque, pastoral feel of the community. As result, homeowners have had their private property invaded by unwelcome guests doing everything from comparing paint samples to their shudders to inviting themselves in for a tour! But unless individual property owners can convince the council that they need an exemption for serious security reasons, they're out of luck. Does that kind of legal precedent scare anyone else!?

6. Plan for Invasion. Of course, America is not exempt from such invasions of private property. Homeowners in Pennsylvania are being required to open their homes to sanitation inspectors supposedly reviewing their water systems in order to meet EPA standards. There is no list of specifically what they're looking for and no limits on their inspections. There are no exemptions, and property owners are considered to be in violation of required water system standards/practices until inspections prove otherwise. This is nauseatingly insidious - and unconstitutional! The only way to not be subject to this is to be completely off-the-grid, a status unachievable for many people, especially in such an area. This is dangerous on many levels, and it should be garnering violent protests across every national news media outlet.

7. Record Food Prices & Rioting. Weather fluctuations (and serious disasters) across the world have led to record high food prices in many parts of the world and, in some cases, rioting. Years of liberal policymakers have plugged us squarely into the global market, people! We are neither immune nor exempt from these forces and the other nasty forces that move in tandem with them - like inflation.

And now you know why I don't read the news on a daily basis. Any more crap like that and I'd be in a bunker somewhere, playing Scrabble, eating freeze dried ice cream and waiting for the end to come. :0P

Sunday, January 16


I was rather intimidated to try this recipe for quite a while as they rank in my head as one of those things you always order in restaurants because you can't make them at home. Well, turns out that ranking is nonsense. I can make them at home and they were divine!

Confession: I took appalling liberties with this recipe - subbed ground ginger for fresh, skipped the rice wine altogether, subbed olive oil for the sesame oil and used a small white onion instead of the green ones. It turned out amazingly regardless. So don't hesitate to try this even if you don't have all the exactly right ingredients - this recipe is forgiving. Also, please note that I didn't bother to make the dipping sauce, but just threw some extra soy sauce on top and it was still perfect.

Chinese Pot-Stickers
2 cups cabbage, finely chopped
1 tsp salt
1/2 lb shrimp, cooked and chopped
1 lb pork, cooked and chopped
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp rice wine
1 tbsp green onion, chopped
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tsp ginger, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pkg wonton wrappers
1/4 cup oil
1 cup chicken stock

Dipping Sauce

2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp minced ginger

Sprinkle salt on the cabbage and let sit 5 minutes. Squeeze out liquid. Squeeze any additional water out of the shrimp as well.

Combine cabbage through garlic. Place 2 tsp of mix in a wrapper, fold and seal. (You may need to adjust filling amount or cut wonton wrappers in half, depending on what size you were able to get.) At this point, the pot stickers can be frozen between sheets of parchment or wax paper for later use, if desired.

Fry pot-stickers in a skillet over med heat in 1 tbsp of oil until golden on one side. (Will likely need to work in batches.) Add 1/4 cup of stock to the pan, cover and cook 7 minutes without turning until translucent and most of the liquid has evaporated. Uncover and cook on slightly higher heat 5-7 minutes. Drain any liquid that remains and serve with dipping sauce.

(Shared on Raising Homemakers Link-up)

Thursday, January 13

Empty Shelves

Empty shelves. They have abounded across the world in recent weeks. Storms across the U.S. have wiped out supermarket supplies. Australia, Brazil and Sri Lanka have been hit with massive flooding, leaving cities cut off from suppliers and stores picked clean.

In Germany, shoppers have wiped out supplies of organic meat and eggs after news got out that
"a firm in the north of the country suspected of knowingly supplying animal feed manufacturers with fats intended only for industrial use.

They were then used to make as much as 150,000 tonnes of animal feed used across Germany.

Tests have found higher than permitted levels of dioxin, which can cause cancer, in eggs and in three chickens, according to the federal agriculture ministry.

And just as hopes were growing that the crisis had eased, with more than 4,000 farms reopened, it emerged on Tuesday the contamination had spread to pork, one of Germany's favourite dishes."
(Dioxin a cancer-causing agent - only one of many. This is not an isolated incident - this kind of food crisis has been happening constantly for years, in America and abroad. The news can break at any time without warning.)

America has one of the most unstable and unsustainable food supply systems in the world. (That's not hype - I can give you a reading list of documentation to confirm it.)

Even FEMA recommends that individuals be prepared to take care of themselves for at least 3 days following any emergency as it is extremely likely to take at least that long for government help to arrive.

At the risk of sounding like the DHS Certified Right Wing Extremist that I probably am, this is a wake up call - an air raid siren, screaming across headlines at every one of us to be prepared. Huge swathes of our population are frighteningly incapable of taking care of themselves in an emergency; please don't let yourself be counted among them!

Right now, there is food on the grocery store shelf and gas at the corner station. There is also a foot of snow on the ground and frigid wind battering the windows. Look around your house today - don't wait. Do you have what you need to survive at least three days, with no electricity and no outside help? Can you get to it? Does it have batteries, fuel or whatever else is required to function in the cold and the dark if you wake up tomorrow morning with no power?

We are not helpless. Despite the government's opinion, we are not "sheeple", to left ignorant and left bleating pitifully when the unexpected comes. Ordinary people make the difference in life and death situations. Our choices and decisions to pay attention and have a plan dramatically increase our chances in any emergency.

Make the choice. Have a plan. Be prepared.

(Shared on Monday Mania @ The Healthy Home Economist)

Wednesday, January 12

Links & Resources

There have been some great resources and fascinating debates going around that I thought I would share for general edification.

Amy @ Homestead Revival is hosting a bean recipe exchange! Dried beans being extremely economical and ridiculously good for you, January is a great time to experiment with some new recipes for them. Check out the great recipes here and/or share your own!

Speaking of food, eveybody knows that Agave is not the miracle sweetener it's marketed to be, right? If you don't know what Agave is or missed the memo that it's a bad idea, Sarah @ The Healthy Home Economist provides the low down here.

Mrs. Q @ Blessed Homemaking posted ingredient lists for make-your-own baby powder and baby wipes. Not having little people of my own, I have to say that these don't show up on my prepping lists and it honestly never occurred to me that you could make your own. However, for someone with a baby at home this could be a fantastic resource. Seeing as I've never run across these anywhere else I thought it was worth reposting them here.

I'm starting to see consistent undercurrents against youth groups and youth ministry at churches in prominent places online. The debate is fascinating from a theological standpoint though I don't think I know enough to host a full discussion of it here yet. Amanda @ Purity and Precision just reviewed a brand new DVD dealing with the subject (she's got some other great reviews as well). Enola Gay @ Paratus Familia gives a great intro to the debate if you aren't familiar with it. (If anybody has any active opinions I'd love to hear them!)

Apparently, there's a non-profit foundation called the No Impact Project that's getting a lot of press in certain circles. The goal is to help people become aware of the anti-eco-friendly parts of their lives and make positive changes ("reduce your carbon footprint"). I find this idea both encouraging and frustrating - they're missing a prime opportunity!

What better time to teach people how to increase their preparedness than when they're already evaluating and reorganizing their lives anyway?!

Think about it. Reduce, reuse, recycle is the perfect counterpart to the old prepper motto "Use it up, wear it out. Make it do or do without." In theory this project will lead people to a lot of healthy, constructive changes - I'm all for anything that reduces the purchase/use of industrial food-like products, and most of the companies that are going to be on-board with the promoted crunchy, eco-friendly policies will be outside the major industrial supply chain.

Still, there are huge swaths of the prepper mindset and lifestyle that could be easily adopted and openly embraced during a program like this that are never going to be heard about because someone chopped off the program at the politically convenient "green" line and didn't venture into the mine field of preparedness. *sigh*

This was supposed to be links & resources... not ranting...

*steps off soap box*

Hope you found at least some of these as interesting as I did!

Tuesday, January 11


If you ever need to buy curtains, go to Boscov's!! In recent months, I spent a ridiculous amount of time searching for and pricing curtains for our bedroom and living room.

Somehow, despite all my efforts to "thrift", search fabric stores for inexpensive fabric to make my own - anything - I kept running into walls. (Somehow this region seems to be immune to the fantastic thrifting possibilities and cheap fabric sources that are apparently abundant elsewhere. Being inspired by people like The Nester and Melissa @ The Inspired Room only gets you so far when your craigslist and local second hand shops neglect to cooperate by failing to provide useful starter material.)

(Note: the picture is clearly not my apartment, just a useful image borrowed for demonstration purposes.)

The curtains I thought were going to perfect (on sale at Penney's) not only didn't work at all but still racked up to more than I'd ever have expected to pay for curtains in my life. Obviously, that was a no-go.

Then I found Boscov's.

Whoo hoo! Panels for $10 a piece. Great quality sheers and panels - long enough to give that luxurious feel - all out on display to be seen, touched, mixed and matched. For less than what one room of curtains at Penney's, Wal-Mart or anywhere I could find online I was able to get exactly what I wanted for two rooms!

So if you live in a second-hand-shop challenged area like me, next time you're looking to update home decor - find a Boscov's!

Real Food Recipes

I've had a chance to try some great new recipes (and one flop) over the last week, and wanted to share. I won't be sharing the flop... suffice it to say that white beans, pasta and bacon are a good combo - until you add citrus marinade. Then it all just gets nasty. Ugh. So if you see any such recipes, run far, far away.

Good recipe finds of the week include a light, delicious breakfast for one - an apple lemon puff, a unique but excellent recipe for baked beans made nearly effortlessly in the crock pot, and a fantastic, nutrient- dense sandwich bread. Enjoy!

Apple Lemon Puff

1 tsp butter
1 small apple, peeled, cored and sliced
2 tsp sugar
1 egg, separated
1/2 tsp grated lemon peel
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp flour (may use GF flour)

In a skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add apple rings; cook until tender, turning once. In a mixing bowl, beat the egg yolk, lemon peel and vanilla for one minute. In another bowl, beat egg white until stiff peaks form. Fold sugar and flour into egg whites. Fold into egg yolk mixture. Place apple rings in a greased 2 cup baking dish. Spread egg mixture on top. Bake at 350* for 15-18 minutes. Invert onto serving plate. (Serves 1)

Crock Pot Maple Baked Beans

1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cups basic beans (see below)
1/2 cup real maple syrup
1 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 cup tomato paste mixed with 1 1/4 cups hot water

Sauté onion in oil for approximately 5 min. Combine all in crock pot. Cook on low 6-8 hours.

Basic Beans
1 lb beans

Cover beans with water and soak overnight. Drain. Transfer to crock pot, cover with water again. Cook on low 8 hours.

(Soaked) Whole Wheat Sandwich Loaf

1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp milk, scalded & cooled to room temperature

Mix all together. Cover and let sit at room temperature for 12 -24 hours.

1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp instant yeast
3/4 cup room temperature water

Mix all together. Knead with wet hands for 2 minutes - dough will be very tacky. Let rest 5 minutes. Knead again with wet hands 1 minute. Transfer to clean bowl, cover and refrigerate 8 hours to 3 days. Remove from fridge 2 hours before using.

7 tbsp whole wheat flour
5/8 tsp salt
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
2 1/4 tbsp honey or molasses
1 tbsp melted butter or oil

Combine soaker and biga with remaining dough ingredients. Knead with wet hands until dough is soft and slightly sticky.

Knead on floured surface 3-4 minutes. Form into a ball and let rest 5 minutes.

Knead 1 minute, then place in clean, oiled bowl and roll to coat. Cover and let rise until 1 1/2 times original size.

Place dough in greased loaf pan and let rise.

Preheat oven to 425*. Place loaf pan in oven and reduce heat to 350*. Bake 40 minutes, rotating halfway through. Bread should be a rich brown color and sound hollow when tapped. Let cool completely.

(Shared on Monday Mania @ The Healthy Home Economist)

Monday, January 10

Preparing Your Head

Midway through World War Z there is a scene in which a pilot - forced to eject from her plane and making a dangerous trek across barren, zombie infected country - passes an SUV. The vehicle is stocked with survival gear and supplies; behind the wheel is the body of man - dead from a self-inflicted gunshot to the head. The can only speculate as to whether he had been bitten or was simply overcome by the steep horror that had become his reality.

The tragic image lodged itself in my head; it comes to mind every time I come across one of the too-rare articles that occassionally surface on survival blogs pointing out that stockpiling resources isn't, in and of itself, enough to survive when the SHTF. (For those who aren't used to the acronyms, SHTF = s**t hits the fan.) We have to prepare our heads.

That aspect of a preparedness lifestyle tends to go alarmingly undiscussed. Though most of us have imagined ourselves reacting to a disaster at some point, few of us realize we have extensive power to positively impact our behavior before, during and after an emergency.

Author Amanda Ripley tackles the challenging questions of how humans react to emergencies, why they do so and how we can pre-program ourselves to be more successful when emergencies strike in her incredible book The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes and Why.

Bringing together researchers, disaster survivors, military and civilian safety trainers and other diverse, valuable sources, Ms. Ripley provides a clear, viable framework for everyday people. She not only explains why government/official programs are so often ineffective, but demonstrates what we can do to empower ourselves - as individuals, families and entire communities.

The examples in this book are powerful, and the information is surprisingly encouraging. It has altered the trajectory of my preparedness planning, and I urge you to read it for yourself.

(If you're waiting for a library copy to come available, you can also check out the related blog the author maintains or - the actually useful civilian response to the less-than-helpful )

Thursday, January 6

Books for Every Parent

I don't have children, so I try not to tell people with children what to do. If I could make a suggestion, though, I would plead with parents to read two books: Sun Stand Still and Do Hard Things. I found both of these books by accident, but have been amazed and deeply impressed by the truth and direction they map out for our modern generations in areas in which we have clearly lost our way.

Sun Stand Still is primarily for adults, encouraging them to seek living, vibrant faith in their own spiritual life. Release the fear and inadequacy - don't settle for less than the God-sized dreams you were made for! This rallying call underpins another point I think many parents need to hear even more - don't raise your children to survive this world - raise them to change it. When they are merely infants in their cradles, pray for them and the work God will give them to do. Let them grow up hearing those prayers, seeing your faith and with the expectation seamlessly absorbed into them that they will do mighty things, regardless of what shape those dreams take. Everyone has different gifts, but we all have big promise. It's a proven fact (see Do Hard Things) that people - especially children - adjust to meet the expectations of them. They'll stretch mightily to reach high ones and slouch accordingly to conform to low ones. The question then must become are we as adults setting the bar high in all aspects of our children's lives - including faith? (Incidentally, I don't consider us non-parent adults exempt in this. We have our own unique opportunities to reach out, fostering growth and development in the youth around us.)

Do Hard Things is primarily written for teens, but it so thoroughly compliments Sun Stand Still that I think they should be sold as a boxed set. (Are you listening, Amazon?) The underpinning premise of Do Hard Things is that we, as a culture (through generations of misguided good intentions and their unexpected consequences) have cheated our youth and young adults out of some of the most foundational years of their lives. We no longer expect - or even allow - teenagers to take on the responsibilities and challenges that once defined those valuable years of their lives. Where individuals used to come of age - branching out in independence, learning hard lessons and life skills through trial and error, and setting the foundation for their futures - we have created a void.

Do Hard Things challenges teens to step outside the mold, to identify and create opportunities for themselves where society offers only low expectations. Adults - especially parents - need that message too. Culture and media make us believe people are bad parents if they let their kids take risks or get hurt. But if we don't help them reach and push themselves we smother them - and their potential to embrace giant, God-sized dreams for their lives. Look at the world around us - can we honestly afford not to raise world-changers?

I encourage every adult to make time to read these books (my library had them, so yours probably will too). Let yourself be blessed. Then ask yourself if you need to respond somehow to the truth on their pages, and how. I usually fall into the pessimistic camp when it comes to the future of the world, but I would dearly love to have my expectations proved wrong by a rising generation not afraid to take on the world because the adults in their lives taught them they could!

(Shared on Raising Homemakers Wednesday link-up)

Online Finds & True News

I have seen a variety of note worthy things around the "interwebs" this week and thought I would corral them all here for your observation.

Reasearch Shows Fluoride is an IQ-killer for Children - conspiracy theorists and real food nuts have known for years that the fluoride pumped into public drinking supplies was not the good idea the CDC and others touted it to be. Finally, there's some indisputable research hitting mainstream airwaves to alert the rest of the world!

Report Warns U.S. unprepared for Bioterror - while no one with an IQ above that of a rock should need an official report to tell them this, it's somewhat gratifying to see the plain truth laid out for those whose heads remain buried in the sand. Hopefully this prompts at least a few more families to wake up to the danger in which our nation hangs and get themselves in gear to preparedness and wiser living!

Synthetic Food Colors Cause Hyperactivity - another long known fact consistently denied by the FDA and its cohorts that is only just beginning to be discussed on a large scale. I was very pleased to see some solid quotes in the article from people who actually knew what they were talking about and weren't afraid to say so.

Picky Reader Blog Button - I am not known for my forgiving nature when it comes to books... I resent poorly written ones and am annoyed by others that I feel blatantly corrupt the expectations and mindsets of readers. I was delighted to find a fellow reader with equally high expectations who was talented enough to make a blog button declaring it! It should show up on the right hand side of this blog, and if you want one for your blog just follow the link and snag your own!

Word Strengtheners - you know that old trick where you write a Bible verse, mantra or something else you're trying to remember/learn on a notecard and tape it to your mirror or over the coffee pot where you know you'll see it a dozen times a day? Compliments of the lovely ladies Ann Voskamp and Holly Gerth (from (In)Courage) you can now download and print beautiful cards already done for you with encouraging messages and complimenting hi-res photos! Much more inspiring than my scribbled script for sure - probably yours too.

Good, true news is hard to come by these days - so let's enjoy it where we can!

Wednesday, January 5

National Treasure meets CSI

Raising the Hunley skillfully combines the history of the lost, top-secret Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley with the modern day search and recovery operation that brought it from its watery grave to national limelight.

Equally replete with recountings of the gruesome deaths of the Hunley's first two crews (including its namesake), the legal maneuvering the surrounded the sub at every stage of its life and the impressive scientific undertakings involved in excavating the ship, the book has something for everyone.

Tuesday, January 4


I tried two simple recipes today that have been patiently waiting in my to-be-tried stack. Both were smashing successes, and I happily pass them along to you.

Pioneer Woman's Potato Skins

Tartelette's White Chocolate Marscapone Mousse (GF!)

Orange Julius

I believe this came from the Cheaper and Better book I posted about previously. I finally tried it today, and it's fantastic! Like sunshine in a glass. Or a protein shake, without the nasty chemical aftertaste. Add it to your recipe book!

Orange Julius
2-3 oranges, peeled
1 egg
1/4 cup sugar (I used a tbsp of honey, but really didn't even need it)
1 tsp vanilla
6 ice cubes

Combine all in a blender and whirl until frothy. Drink immediately. (You can also add a splash of milk or cream for a creamsicle effect - so good!)

Editorial Note: I understand that some people are going to freak if you suggest they consume a raw egg. However, raw eggs from safe sources are excellent for detoxing the body and a good source of protein. Please don't let people who believe in the FDA tell you lies about your food. Thank you.

Monday, January 3

Gift From the Sea

When I found this, I was surprised - who knew that the great aviator Charles Lindbergh had an author for a wife?

Now I am appalled - how is it that a woman with such a gift for beautiful and brilliant prose can be anything less than mandatory reading?! Why is this not listed in every book catalog beside the other great spiritual classics?

Brief, intensely insightful, generous and gentle, Gift from the Sea is impossible to pigeon-hole into a single genre so I won't try. Instead I'll simply say that I wish I'd found it years ago and highly recommend making time to read it yourself!

Gingerbread Scones

I was craving bread today, but too busy to make something carb based for breakfast or lunch. To compensate, I made gingerbread scones for dinner. Balanced meal? Not really. Delicious? Absolutely! :0)

I love scones because they are incredibly simple to throw together and they bake up quickly. They require almost no special ingredients and can be endlessly varied by throwing in whatever fruit, nuts or spices you have around. If you've never made your own, try it!

Gingerbread Scones

2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup brown sugar (I only used 2 tbsp and thought it was plenty)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup butter, chilled (1 stick)
1 egg
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 tbsp molasses

Heat oven to 400*. Line baking sheet with parchment paper (or sprinkle with rice flour). In a large bowl, whisk together flour through nutmeg. Cut in butter with a fork or pastry blender.

In a small bowl, whisk together egg, buttermilk and molasses. Pour into flour mixture and stir until evenly moistened. With hands, quickly and gently press together to form dough. Place on baking sheet and pat into 7" round, 1" thick. Cut into 8 wedges, and separate slightly. (You can also make a rectangular shape and cut out mini wedges if for a more "high tea" presentation.)

If desired, brush the top with an egg wash and/or sprinkle lightly with sugar. Bake 20 to 25 min. Cool 10 min, and serve warm or at room temperature. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 2

Cleaning House

Some of us are natural neat freaks (at least if you ask our sisters) and never need any motivation to clean. If we're breathing, it's a good day to bring more order to the world!

I realize, however, that not everyone is quite as crazy as me and that some people actually need motivation to help them get in gear when it comes to their inevitable New Year's Resolution to clean, sort and simply life.

So I would like to offer two completely free sources of motivation that are guaranteed to make anyone suddenly and completely enthusiastic about cleaning house.

1. Dr. David Jeremiah did two excellent (and brief) sermons on the appropriate Christian approach to possessions, stewardship and wealth. You can find them here. You want the two near the bottom entitled "What to Do When Your Net Worth Is Worthless." I don't usually listen to Dr. Jeremiah (nothing personal, I'm just not a fan of radio) and I really liked these, so check them out!

2. Both Hulu and Youtube offer free access to episodes of A&E's show Hoarders. If that doesn't scare you straight nothing will! Lol. Note: if you are already a clean-freak, it is wise to watch Hoarders in small doses and never before bed. You will give yourself nightmares. Ask me how I know. Lol.

Happy Cleaning!

Braiding Resources

In the years I spent in food service, I fell into the habit of throwing my hair into a bun every day and never thinking about it. Since leaving Panera, I've pretty much just maintained the same habit. Finally it occurred to me that doing so was such a waste! I now have the time and opportunity to so something else with all this hair... so I went in search of ideas.

I was super excited to find two great websites with beautiful ideas and easy to follow explanations. If you know anyone with long hair, pass these along - I bet they'll love them!

Rapunzel's Resource - includes braids, twists, historical styles and movie hairstyle copycats

Dreamweaver - includes all your basic braids, ribbons, wrapping, and Ren Faire styles

Good stuff! :0)

Saturday, January 1

Real Life Indiana Jones

Percy Harrison Fawcett disappeared into the Amazon jungle in 1925 with his son and his son's best friend in search of a lost civilization. They were never heard from again.

It sounds like a movie, but it's all completely true - another example of truth being wilder than fiction. (As a side note, the ironically poignant ending would be enough to make many a movie director swoon.)

PHF was the model for Indiana Jones. Starting out as a young military officer looking for more adventure out of life, he became a legend in the archaeological community. The Lost City chronicles his adventures, introducing readers along the way to trends, theories and history most of us have only heard of in passing.

Well written, thoroughly researched and capably avoiding the common pitfalls of it's genre, this was an excellent book and I highly recommend it.


I hadn't heard about this until a friend mentioned it this past week, but apparently the new 3D Nintendo gaming system is potentially dangerous. It has been documented as damaging children's eyesight and triggering seizures in people with a history of epilepsy.

My understanding is that children's eyes continue to develop over the first decade of their lives, and that because the new 3D system causes the eye to focus differently than it would normally it warps the eye's development, damaging normal sight.

Although warnings of these phenomenon have started to show up in the news, the industry has no plans to stop producing and heavily marketing these devices. It is up to individuals and parents to be informed and make appropriate choices.

(A brief Google search confirmed these reports, and both the company's website and the informational packets that come with the game include warnings to this effect.)

If you know any gamers or parents of gamers, consider passing this along. Better to know and have the chance to make good choices than find out too late!