Thursday, March 31

PSA : 1 in 133

Given my extensive disdain for the FDA, I was not the least bit surprised when an email came through my inbox noting that - despite being being specifically tasked to do so years ago - the authorities have completely failed to introduce "clear, federally established and monitored regulations for gluten-free food labeling".

1 in 133 people is gluten intolerant; though the reaction is slower and less dramatic than the anaphylactic shock of people succumbing to nut allergies, the damage is no less severe or ultimately fatal.

The lack of clear labeling in the face of such a universal ingredient is a serious threat to the health of millions of Americans and, frankly, it's simply uncalled for. Honesty in labeling should be a basic expectation of all food producers and it is to America's shame that we do not require and enforce it on all fronts.

A coalition of GF food producers, Celiac Awareness groups, researchers, etc. has decided to get some publicity on the issue in hopes of (politely) embarrassing the FDA into getting its act together. They're hosting a Gluten Free Food Labeling Summit in Washington, D.C. on May 4th of this year.

(Did you know May has recently been designated National Celiac Awareness Month?)

If you or anyone you know has Celiac Disease, is gluten intolerant, or is just a proponent of honesty in food labeling, please pass this information along and considering visiting the event's website to see if you can be involved or offer support. When dealing with the FDA, I believe we should take up the FAA's motto: "We're not happy till you're not happy!"

Monday, March 28

Milk and Abominations Thereof

If I begin to rant about this, I will not stop. So in the interests of sparing you the acidic obscenities spouting in my mind, I will be brief.

Scientists in China have genetically modified an entire herd of cows to produce human milk.

The facts that the components of actual human milk have not yet been fully identified and that no synthetic process has yet been able to even come close to approximating it apparently played no role in their decision making process. Nor did the consideration of what a horrific idea this is on a dozen other fronts. They fully intend to have large- scale production and marketing up and running with a decade.

Can someone PLEASE tell me why, for the love of God, the world can't adopt any of the GOOD stuff out of science fiction novels instead of the life-destroying abominations?

Unintended Consequences

I don't read the news much these days. Too much to do and think about in my own little realm to raise my blood pressure over the debacles on the world stage, though my handsome husband keeps me updated on the big stuff.

I read over his shoulder this morning an article about the Democrats (and a few lily-livered Republicans) being annoyed that many "tea-party backed" Republicans in congress are holding their ground on refusing to extend the already enormously inflated budget. This could potentially cause parts of the government to shut down.

What I found much more fascinating were the skeins of unintended consequences few people seem to be really paying attention to. There are mentions of things like de-funding Planned Parenthood, the Democrats' efforts to raid accounts not usually open to them like farm subsidies and the pulling of money from the national food inspection program, but no one really seems to think through those possibilities.

I'm all for de-funding Planned Parenthood - one can only hope that they don't get re-funded if/when Congress tries to put together next year's budget.

Farm subsidies? Do you realize that cutting farm subsidies would radically reshape the face of American food production?! Don't get me wrong, I think after that initial agonizing crunch of adjustment it would be phenomenal, but I don't think people really understand even a fraction of what it would entail. No farm subsidies means, among many other things, no cheap corn. Ergo, no cheap HFCS. That, in turn, means the cost of nearly every processed food and soft drink will skyrocket through the roof! I'll let you ponder the impact of such an event, though I will say it should do great things to improve the nation's battle with obesity and prove to be an excellent boon for local foodies. :0)

As for stripping money from the national food inspection program, I highly recommend that - unless you're buying food locally or from highly conscientious suppliers already - you start eying everything you buy as a potentially hazardous substance and handle/cook it accordingly. Last time I checked the figures (I am a nationally certified food safety trainer, incidentally) the percentage of US food that was actually being inspected was in the single digits - and the actual inspection procedures are often little more than a perfunctory stamp on the appropriate piece of paper. Our food supply is hardly safe now and if inspections fall it will be even less so. If you're not already fastidious about your food, now is a good time to start!

Let us hope and pray that that brave men and women we sent to Congress to cut spending and fix our financial mess hold their ground - and let us prepare to steadfastly hold ours in the face of whatever consequences result!

Stand my ground, I won't give in
No more denying, I've got to face it
Won't close my eyes and hide the truth inside
If I don't make it, someone else will
Stand my ground

- Within Temptation, Stand My Ground

Sunday, March 27

Recipe Round-up

Given how variable both the weather and our schedules are right now, I've been trying something different in my menu writing. Rather than write a specific menu for each day of the week, I'm putting together complete meals and listing them individually on a sheet. Each day, I select which ones are most appropriate to how that day is shaping up. As I make them, I cross them off the list.

So far, this seems to be working well. I still get to grocery shop all at once and have plenty of meals ready to go. I plan ahead, pulling things to thaw or pre-soaking rice and beans for dishes I anticipate making in the next couple days, giving me some flexibility. I've got a stack of cookbooks out from the library and a string of new recipes bookmarked online - I'm excited to see how they all turn out!

Here are a few I've tried already:

Sweet & Sour Chicken with Pineapple and Red Onion - I found this one online and had to try it... the whole kitchen smelled like PF Chang's! Next time I'll thicken the sauce, as I prefer thick, sticky sweet & sour sauce, but otherwise the flavor was perfect and I'll definitely be keeping this one!

Creamed Tuna - I'd never actually had creamed tuna, but I saw it listed somewhere as fantastic comfort food. Once we tried it, I agreed! So easy and so yummy!

Apple Barley Flummery - it looks faintly reminiscent of cream of wheat, tastes like applesauce, and has a fun name. What more could you ask for? Lol.

Garlic & Sesame Peas - from a Williams Sonoma veggies cookbook. Quite simple, but very good. Nice for those of us who somehow feel incapable of serving plain veggies as a side.

Baps & Softies - fuel for my bread & salt addictions! So easy to make and delicious, with just the slightest salty edge - yum! As a bonus, it's easy to make a small batch, which means you don't have to use up half the flour you current have ground to make them.

Sally Lunn Bread - I was introduced this delectable treat at a very nice restaurant a decade ago by the handsome and charming young man I was dating at the time. Now I'm married to him, and when his eyes lit up at the site of the recipe I knew I had to make it! Who knew something so yummy would be so easy to make?

Molten Chocolate Cake - okay, so this one isn't good for you, but it kills me to watch people pay ridiculous amounts of money for these in restaurants when you know they came out of a box and are full of crap (you knew that, right?) and they're so easy to make at home out of real ingredients!

Mushroom Barley Stew - one of the most satisfying meat-free dishes I've ever had. I used chicken stock, but you could make it with veggie stock for vegetarian company. It was rich, substantial and a good budget stretcher - definitely a keeper.

Beef Brisket with Apple Cider-Ginger BBQ Sauce
- this was sinfully good and ridiculously easy. I threw it in the crockpot for 6 hours and it was perfect! Will definitely be keeping that BBQ sauce recipe for use on all kinds of things this summer too!

Southwestern Sweet Potato and Corn Medley - this totally did NOT work for me. Bleh. Oh well, can't like them all!

Caramel Ginger Shrimp - had my doubts about this one, but it turned out nicely!

Pan Crisped Deviled Eggs - another of my attempts to find food that does not require turning on the oven before summer gets here. This was deceptively easy and decidedly a keeper!

(Copies of recipes without links available on request. I had intended to post them all, but time is flying right now so typing them all out will have to wait!)

The Fight of Our Lives by William Bennett & Seth Leibsohn

America is facing a serious threat from radical Islam, claim authors Bennett and Leibsohn; it is a situation all the more dire because political correctness, excessive national empathy and policy confusion have left the nation unable to fight back against an enemy who feeds on its weakness. Together they lay out a case for recognizing where the nation stands and what steps, physical and otherwise, are necessary to address the current dismal state of affairs.

The authors clearly state that they do not intend to address the specifics of the threat radical Islam represents, nor the specifics of America's response – they intend to discuss the nature of those things. They remain true to their purpose, but their form is disappointing. They wander through examples, skip back and forth across time-lines, and sometimes flounder into murky, disjointed sentences.

More disappointing was the inherent flaw in their purpose. The authors neither appeal emotionally to the nation with clear explanations of what is at stake (as do authors Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Brigitte Gabriel) nor tackle the hard core specifics and realities addressed by the likes of Bruce Bawer and Robert Spencer. What remains is a sadly muddled call to action that has been stripped of any ability to make an impact.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

Friday, March 25

Good Marketing for Bad Ideas

I usually avoid iVillage, but I was looking up a recipe this morning and saw a link I had to click on - "Which is Worse? Showdown in the Frozen Foods Aisle". I knew it was going to give me a headache, but I had to read it anyway.

The basic idea was to pair two awful frozen foods against each other and have a nutritionist explain which one was the better choice and why. Needless to say I only made it through the second pairing before I quit reading in disgust.

Really, with crap this processed, it's like choosing between cyanide and arsenic: they're both going to kill you, so you may as well just pick whichever one tastes better and not bother pretending to care about nutrition. Seriously, who cares about a 2 gram difference in fiber or transfats when both options are stuffed to the gills with refined sugars, neurotoxins, endocrine disruptors and hydrogenated oils?

I give the writers credit for a great marketing job - big, clear pictures, engaging style, and a certified nutritionist to themselves clout. But I will never be able to wrap my head around why people bother to split hairs over their processed junk. Either accept that good nutrition does not come in pre-processed, instant, imitation-food form and start making some appropriate lifestyle adjustments or just don't bother at all.

Wednesday, March 23

My Helper

Arthas takes his responsibilities to care for me very seriously when his daddy is away. He keeps me safe, makes sure I get outside for Frisbee breaks and (as you can see) serves as a diligent supervisor of my quilting!

I finally finished all the individual blocks for my quilt, and started laying them out so I can sew together the rows. Yeah! Arthas decided that such a project must require furry intervention and helped himself into the middle of things. :0)

[Please ignore the grungy pad feet and slobbery red ball... they just kind of come with the territory.]

I'm really excited to have finally gotten this far on my quilt, and promise to post more pictures when I get it completed!

Monday, March 21

Thinking Spring

I dropped my beloved off at o'dark thirty squared this morning for a week of sucking rubber and charcoal (read: extended preparedness exercise). Not thrilled about that, but I am happy that he at least got time off yesterday and was able to get in some flight time in a friend's Piper Cherokee! Spring is rough on pilots, as the dense air and sunshine makes for perfect flying weather and they constantly itch to be in the sky, despite their other responsibilities.

It's supposed to be spring now, according to the calendar... but apparently Albany missed the memo. I woke up to snow this morning. Lol. But other people are thinking spring, and I found the cutest post over at Empowered Traditionalist on how to look cute while hiking!

(Picture borrowed from Christa's site - hop over and check it out for details!)

If you're anything like me, you find that hiking does not bring out your best self- presentation skills, to say the least. Milla Jovovich may be able to make dessert chic look amazing, but I have yet to master such a look (though personally I blame it on the fact that I'm not allowed to wear an arsenal the way she does).

Christa over at ET kindly put together some gorgeous but fully functional and surprisingly affordable hiking outfits to serve as demos for those of us who anticipate trekking in the woods with our boys this summer! I've taken notes and am now keeping my eyes peeled at consignment shops and sales to see if I can put together something decent to be seen in on our adventures this summer.

The only thing I can say I'm already set for regarding this summer's adventures is my makeup. Mary Kay's waterproof mascara is amazing, the tinted moisturizer that can be substituted for foundation has sunscreen already in it, and tinted lip balm gives me a hint of color in something I'd already have to carry anyway. Yeah!

(Incidentally, you cannot imagine how much I want to buy Arthas his own doggie hiking pack, though if I even considered the doggie Trex booties for him he'd revolt.)

Hope Spring is more evident wherever you are, and if it is please enjoy it a little extra for me!

Missing the Point

Warning: this is personal opinion semi-rant. It is not intended to offend, but to suggest some soul-searching. Read at your own discretion.

Have you ever finished reading/watching an article, blog post, or news clip and been completely frustrated by the realization that although everyone involved seems to have meant well, they've all completely missed the point?

I feel that way on a regular basis, most recently when I read about the debate within the Christian community on whether parents should home-school their children. The debate is understandably a passionate one, yet I cannot help but come away with the feeling that so many people get caught up in the extraneous factors and miss the blaring truth:

The modern church is failing abysmally to teach and uphold Biblical truths about building strong families.

This is not a slam on modern churches, simply a grieved observation.

I understand that the church is (as it should be) a place of love and forgiveness, but when those things do not come with the expectation, exhortation and some degree enforcement of basic Biblical behavior standards then there's really no point in bothering to have a church at all.

I'm not saying we need to judge and throw out our siblings in Christ for their human failings, but I am suggesting that some standards and integrity are in order.

(Tangent: If you can't demonstrate the humility and self-discipline to keep your own house in order then you shouldn't hold a position of authority in the church - be it worship leader, small group leader, elder, whatever. If you intentionally keep making the same bad choices because you refuse to be responsible for your actions, selfishness or wrong mindset, the church should not continue to coddle you and facilitate the behavior. Christians are called to sharpen one another (albeit in love and with discretion), but they seem to have forgotten that this invective and its corollaries does not apply only to the mentoring style situations in which it is comfortable and ego-boosting for both parties.)

It is also my observation that much of what modern churches focus on is completely extraneous and engaged in at the expense of things that would really make a difference. Think about it. Do you really need to spend huge chunks of the budget and volunteer time bringing people in for special outreach events? If you had even a tiny church focusing on the basics and building strong, stable and loving families don't you think that in and of itself would draw people in? In this day and age of broken homes and broken hearts, the safe havens of loving families are magnets for the desperate and seeking - and with your own house in order, you'll be much more prepared to help them!

Many churches are no different than the un-churched community in divorce rates, family strife, massive debt accumulation and poor decision making. Can you imagine if a church consistently taught the basics of successful families - budgeting, communication, time management, home making, personal responsibility, child rearing or Biblical decision making?

You can argue until you run out of breath about specific subjects like home-schooling, but until churches return to the basics of reverence and discipleship its all just wasted energy.

Tuesday, March 15

New Recipes

Nested Eggs
Serves 4. I wish I'd taken a picture, because these turned out beautifully! Fast, easy comfort food.

1 tbsp butter
3 cups mashed potatoes
1/4 cup cooked peas
5 eggs, 1 of them beaten

Set the oven to 375*. Form potatoes into four mounds on a greased baking sheet. Press a crater into each, putting 1 tbsp peas in each crater. (May sub broccoli or spinach here if desired.) Break a whole egg over the peas in each mound and season with salt and pepper. Top eggs with 1/4 tbsp butter. Brush edges of potatoes with the beaten egg and bake 20 minutes or until potatoes are lightly browned.

Chicken with Basil & Pine Nut Pesto
Serves 4. A friend made this for me, and it was awesome.

2 tbsp oil
4 chicken breasts
12 oz dry farfalle pasta
salt & pepper

For Pesto:
3 1/2 oz fresh basil
4 oz olive oil
3 tbsp pine nuts
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 oz parmesan cheese
2 tbsp romano cheese

Combine pesto ingredients in a blender or food processor. Process until smooth. Scrape into a bowl and stir in cheeses. Fry chicken in oil, then cube. Cook and drain pasta. Toss all to combine and serve warm.

Monday, March 14

Sewing Resource

If you're like me, and didn't start appreciating the value of all the homemaking skills automatically taught to your mother and her generation until after you'd moved out and were on your own, I have a resource for you!

The New Sewing Essentials was sitting at my local library and is chock full of both really good photographs and clear, simple instructions. While nothing is as good as appreciating the value of sewing while you've got a talented, experienced sewer on hand to teach you, this is a really good back-up plan.

Whether you're broadening your homemaking skills or expanding your library for TEOTWAKI, I recommend adding this resource to your collection.

Thursday, March 10

In Constant Prayer by Robert Benson

In writing that flows with the easy tone of a comfortable coffee date with an old friend, Robert Benson unwinds the mysterious ancient practice of fixed hour prayer. Intermingling an acknowledgement of the daily and awe of the divine, Mr. Benson introduces modern readers to the origins of this sacred discipline and its value and application to modern life.

I found myself frequently reaching for a highlighter or folding over page corners to mark particularly lyrical and striking truths, and smiling at the humble confidences of an author who does not pretend to have mastered his subject with perfection. For readers unfamiliar with his subject, Benson introduces with simplicity the tenets of fixed hour prayer and answers the obvious question of how to get started.

I especially enjoyed two profound ideas in this work. First, the realization that prayer and praise are not necessarily for our benefit. They exist and we are called to practice them primarily for God's honor, glory and pleasure.

Second, the act of consistently orienting our lives around fixed prayer times and regularly repeated prayers conditions our souls to be and remain open to the glory and power of the Lord.

I will be sharing this book with friends, passing it along with the highest recommendation.


The 10th of every month is Love Letter Day - did you remember? It's not to late to write out a sweet card (or free ecard - try Dayspring) for someone special in your life!

Friends and family like cards too, so if you have a minute send a smile to a couple other people you know and love as well. They'll be very blessed!

If your other half doesn't happen to count Words of Affirmation among their top two love languages, consider substituting a small gift, an extra act of service, a hug or five extra minutes of your undivided attention today to remind him/her how appreciated they are.

Love is too important to take for granted - celebrate yours!


While exploring the best options for a pressure canner yesterday (so excited about the possibilities for this canning season!), I came across a really cool little toy I've never seen before but totally love.

This is called "The Potmaker" and it's available from the people over at Lehman's (who tend to have really cool stuff in general). It looks incredibly simple, but it lets you recycle newspaper into planting pots. Considering how quickly things like seed starting kits can get expensive, and how easy it is to get one's hands on old newspaper, this seems like a great idea. Plus, it's made of wood so you only ever need to buy one in your lifetime.

Has anyone used one of these before? Am I just completely out of the gardening loop?

(Incidentally, if you're looking for pressure canners check Amazon. The gasket-free kind -definitely the way to go - come just as highly rated as the ones at Lehmans but are much more affordable.)

Tuesday, March 8

Spring Cleaning

It's currently 18* outside my window, and there's a fresh blanket of snow on the lawn behind the building. My beloved Jeep has too much salt splattered against it's exterior and too much puppy fur built up on the inside because it's been too cold and too nasty to attempt the scrubbing it deserves.

Needless to say, I've informed the "open-things-up, air-things-out and make-everything-shiny" spring cleaning vibes currently floating about the online air that they will simply have to wait until the New York weather decides to be accommodating. :0)

For those of you that live somewhere with more constructive weather patterns, or who aren't impulsive cleaners and could use some gearing up for a spring-cleaning binge, Tsh over at SimpleMom is hosting a five- week Project Simplify event to help encourage busy women to get their homes and lives organized and ready for the fun of summer!

PS - Things like this are great opportunities - both to see what creative clutter-busting solutions other people come up with and as calming reassurance after you've watched too many episodes of Hoarders and given yourself nightmares. ;0)

Thursday, March 3

Lies, Lies, Lies

Why BBC claims we need GM "enviro-pigs" :
1. Pig waste is toxic.
2. Useful genes have been "precisely" inserted in the pig's DNA, making them perfectly safe.
3. They're cheaper to feed.
4. Human population growth is outstripping the world's ability to produce food.

Lies, lies and yet more familiar lies.

Truth, anyone?
1. Pig waste is not toxic if you feed pigs the proper, natural diet and avoid piling obscene numbers of the animals into a space exponentially too small to support them.

2. It is still completely impossible to "precisely" insert genes into any form of DNA, and scientists remain totally unable to predict how a gene will express itself and why - that's what leads to people accidentally dying of allergic reactions to foods they thought were safe. (StarLink corn tortillas, anyone?)

3. Everything about the design of CAFOs is inhuman, unsanitary and bio-toxic. The ability to feed livestock for a marginally cheaper cost does not balance out or justify any of those factors.

4. It's a thoroughly proven and documented fact (to anyone who doesn't listen to the tripe coming from Monsanto or the U.N.) that the world produces (and can continue to produce) more than enough food to sustain the global population. It is government interference (subsidies), supply chain inefficiencies (warlords preventing humanitarian aid from being delivered) and other strictly human factors that cause people to starve - not a lack of food.

The best part of this whole story? The FDA has a consistent precedent of not allowing controversial labeling... which means these monstrosities will show up in our food supply unannounced with the usual, convenient paperwork glitches that make them untraceable and un-recallable. Nice.