Friday, July 29

Words

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof. (Prov 18:21)


The power of words is usually considered undisputed truth. How to correctly use the power of words, on the other hand, is an endless source of fierce debate.

I ran across a fresh flurry of opinion, argument, and ruffled feathers over at Femina this week over the seemingly innocuous subject of journaling.

In the spirit of Titus 2, Nancy made some keen observations and suggestions for younger women:

1. Despite current trends and propaganda, journaling"is not a spiritual duty or the key to super-spirituality. In fact, it may very well be a snare."

2. "Spending hours reflecting on yourself is not wise. Dumpster diving in your soul only makes you feel worse... Set your mind and heart on things above!"

3. If journaling helps you focus on things to be grateful for, records sweet memories or events for later recollection or serves to help you grow spiritually by ruminating on your experiences or Bible time, then it is something to be commended and continued. If you record things you would never want anyone else to see - bitterness, unkind words or useless self-recrimination - stop! Burn the pages and train yourself to break that destructive habit.

(Read the whole post here.)
Although the author made some thought- provoking and insightful points (lots more than the few I highlighted here), what I appreciated most about the essay was that it is such a perfect example of how to be a Titus 2 woman. An woman of experience in the Faith humbly and generously sharing words of wisdom with the next generation.

The Internet (and presumably therefore modern churches) teems with women craving mentors to share with them keys to building good practices, strong homes and happy families. It's tremendously encouraging to see women stepping in to fill that gap without politics, pride or judgment!

I know Nancy over at Femina isn't alone in this - where have you seen a Titus 2 woman recently?

PS - Lisa-Jo over at (in)courage has started a Five-Minute Friday habit and you're invited to join in! Follow the link to see what its all about, read some of the great submissions from other writers and link up your own!

Locavore Challenge

Although I'm not familiar with the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA), I was delighted to hear that they're hosting a New York State Locavore Challenge this September!

According to their website:
"the campaign is aimed at engaging consumers across the state in eating local organic foods. The goal for this campaign is to educate consumers about how to make healthy and ethical food choices, cook with in-season, local organic foods, while supporting local sustainable farms and food businesses."

The program is totally free, and participants can sign up for as little as a day or as much as the whole month.

Whether you decide to officially participate or not, I would strongly encourage you to use this as an excuse to have some frugal fun with your family this September!

Make a date to check out the local farmers' market with your kids or a friend. Carve out time to stop by that co-op or health food store you always drive by but never find time to explore. Take your other half for a date to a local winery/brewery or celebrate the flavors of fall with a trip to a pick-your-own orchard or local food festival.

Eating local food doesn't have to be difficult, time-consuming or unappealing. Most of us have undiscovered or under-appreciated treasures in our own backyard foodsheds. Grab your calendar now before the back-to-school season floods every open second with activities and plan some time to enjoy the local bounty this fall!

Wednesday, July 27

Links, Hints & Tips

This month is spinning into the next at full speed, but before it escapes completely I want to share a few of the great things I've seen or had forwarded to me over the last week.

If you're canning or stocking your pantry during summer sales, check out the awesome Food Preservation Spreadsheet available free over at Nourished and Nurtured! I snagged a copy and am very pleased to have a ready-made system to help me use things more judiciously over the winter so I don't end up out of some items and overloaded with others come next spring. (This pic is from NandN's page, and is what the sheet actually looks like.)

Is the summer weather creating bug problems at your house? Check out this home-made, non-toxic pest control option from The Healthy Home Economist. Also from THHE check out this cheap, easy fly repellent and a recipe to make your own baking powder. If I'd known it was that easy to do, I'd have started ages ago!

In a rare and heart-warming example of Democrat & Republican cooperation, senators from both sides of the isle are coming to together to protest an "Obama-backed United Nations effort that could bring international gun control into the United States and slap America's gun owners with severe restrictions." If your senator happens to be one of the proactive people involved in this, consider sending them a "good job!" note - I think they could use the encouragement about now...

In the mood for something sweet, but trying not to turn on your oven when it's ninety degrees outside? Check out the Year of Slow Cooking website for yummy (sometimes GF) crock-pot treats like Peanut Butter Cup Cake or super-easy Banana Bread.

Interested in making your own pasta, but can't figure out how to make shapes like shells? Check out this great video - it's inspired me to try!

Do you do marketing or participate in newsletter writing for work, a volunteer organization or a club? Getting Attention just ran a great article on how to make sure you're connecting with your readers/members and not accidentally making yourself look careless or out-of-touch.

Finally, for anyone who's ever written a letter of recommendation or waded through stacks of them in an interview process, here's a hysterical translation of what all those flowery phrases really mean to help you sort out the truth! (Scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page.)

Monday, July 25

Real Food Reading

I finally decided to try amazon.com's Listmania feature. Check out my suggested reading list on real food, called The FDA Is Not Your Friend.

Notice any books I left out? Let me know and I'll add them in!


Speaking of real food - it's canning season! I so want to print this sign as a label and paste it on my canning jars - lol!!

Wednesday, July 20

Rumors of God

Like the magical bottomless bags in Harry Potter, Rumors of God by Pastors Darren Whitehead and Jon Tyson unpacks an impressive array of deep truths to soothe the hearts and inspire the souls of the wary, the weary, the wandering and the wondering in the modern Christian community. With patience and passion they dive right in to the touchy, sticky subjects most of us want long to address but shy skittishly away from: grace, justice, commitment, community, and God-sized dreaming.

These men clearly both know their stuff and live like it. Compassion and grace pour out of their writing, softening the sharp edges of the challenges inherent in the truths they display. Despite reading several reviews prior to picking this up, I was completely unprepared for the hard-hitting topics inside. I've never seen controversial topics like commitment to others and church communities handled so adeptly or genuinely; nor have I ever heard anyone frame the debate about modern culture inside and outside of churches in such accurate, articulate and viable terms.

This book will not only reshape how you look at the key issues of our time - it will equip you to deal effectively with them in your own life and to share fresh hope and truth with others.

Tuesday, July 19

Renaissance Festival

At least one day a year, I ask myself the same question: why on earth did women ever give up corsets and peasant skirts for bras and jeans?

This past weekend was our annual excursion to the Sterling Renaissance Festival. It's one of the few things we have been able to consistently do for years, one of the fun traditions in our marriage. It's fascinating to watch the Faire evolve, and to measure the differences in ourselves as we make this favorite pilgrimage.

I got my hair braided again - I'm slowly working my way through all the styles in their design book. This is called an "S braid with details"; isn't it beautiful?! I don't have any pictures on hand of the front of my outfit, but you can see the back of my beloved black leather corset a little here.

Seriously, why did women give up Renaissance style clothing? Even if corsets aren't one's preference, there were boned bodices, corselettes, and comfy full skirts to enjoy! It always intrigues me that no matter what one's body type, Ren Faire clothing flatters and compliments fly.

The past couple years, we've been on the lookout for a dress for me that I could wear at the Faire and outside it. This year, we finally found the perfect one! No pics of me in it yet, so this is the one from the website. Instead of the color shown, however, mine is black brocade with burgundy roses - so gorgeous! Full steel boning in the bodice makes it self-supporting and burgundy grosgrain ribbon laces up the back for a perfect fit. Eric definitely spoils me!

Speaking of which, check out my handsome knight!


He looks good with a sword, doesn't he? (Incidentally, I love stopping by the smithys at the Faire. They "strongly encourage fondling the swords" and are often doing amusing things like brewing [read: boiling over] coffee on the forge while waiting for the steel to heat up.) This picture was taken outside the Starfire Swords booth.


This is my handsome Prince with Don Juan and Miguel. We see their show every year and I always appreciate how personable and down to earth they are. Never too busy to sign their dvds or t-shirts, always cheerful about requests for pictures and thoroughly engaging whether on stage or in person.

One of the things I like best about the Ren Faire, though, is the other visitors. It's the one place you never have to be shy about stopping someone to tell them how much you love their outfit or asking where they got it because you know they'll be happy to share.

You also see some of the most unique ideas out there! We had to stop this gentleman and get a picture - a Marine corps vet with a cammo kilt and traditional tankard to match his hat and combat boots. How fun is that!?

If you haven't been to the Faire, it runs weekends through August 21st - there's still time!

Payday Inspired Granola Bars

I previously mentioned that my sister had asked me about homemade Payday bars. I looked up some recipes online, tried one and came to the conclusion that they were simply not good enough to make up for how horrifically bad they were for you. But I was pretty sure I could come up with a satisfying alternative.

I made an experimental batch last night... considering that they're almost gone already this morning, I'd say they turned out well! Even better, if you use GF oats, these can be gluten free!


Payday Inspired Granola Bars

2 cups quick oats
1/2 cup flax seed or flour (may be left out)
1/2 cup honey
1 cup dry roasted salted peanuts
1/2 cup raisins
1 egg

Grease a 9 inch square baking dish and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine oats, flax/flour, peanuts and raisins. Whisk together egg and honey, then mix into dry until evenly moistened. Pulse one cup of the mixture in a food processor or blender and add back to the mix, stirring well. Press into pan with damp hands. Bake 15 - 20 minutes until edges begin to brown. Cool and cut into bars. Enjoy!

Note: The raisins are important for moisture/stickiness content to help hold the mix together. If you don't want whole raisins in your bars, toss the raisins, honey and egg in the blender and puree before adding to the dry mix.

These are super easy, portable, delicious and healthy. The recipe can easily be doubled and the bars stored in an airtight container at room temp. If you're looking for a sweet/salty treat that won't ruin your diet, give them a try!

Time Check

Clearly I am not much of a photographer, as I forgot to remove the sponges drying on my counter before I took this picture... please ignore them, because what's in the foreground is much more important.

This is Tomato Zucchini Bisque from the Clinton Street Baking Co. cookbook - canned!

It was a new recipe for me, but WOW was it awesome! Incredibly rich and smooth. I threw in a couple of small squash that came in my last CSA basket and left out the cream so I could pressure can it into pint (2 servings) and half pint (individual size) jars which now line the shelf of my pantry. There is such peace of mind in knowing that nothing has gone to waste and that easy, comforting winter meals are already being stockpiled. Fragments of sunshine, tucked away to brighten cold dark days. It makes me happy. (What can I say? I'm easy to please.)

I had a bit of a time check this past week while making pickles and flipping through my planner to see what was coming up next week. We're more than halfway through July already! The year is already more than half gone as well. I realize that's not a revelation to anyone who has a calendar, but it gave me pause to think about everything that I should have (or wanted to have) done by this point.

Victorian women, I've read, never started thinking about Christmas later than July because in the era where gifts were handmade, one had to start that far ahead to finish in time. I actually sat down this week and started a list of everyone for whom I want to buy gifts and what, if anything, I already know I want to get. I posted it somewhere convenient so that I can plan ahead and have them done, wrapped and ready to go well in advance. I've also bookmarked the website I want to buy Christmas cards from. Christmas isn't my holiday, so I have to get things done ahead of time or I'll be so sick of Christmas carols by Thanksgiving that I'll have no desire to even try.

I also carved out time for a couple cleaning tasks that have been on my list. Eric helped me pull out the fridge and stove so I could scrub and bleach the floors behind/underneath them. I'm pretty picky about my floors, keeping them vacuumed or scrubbed consistently so I was appalled to find out something had leaked under the fridge - gross!

I'm grateful for hot summer days where I can open all the windows and scrub things down to my heart's content, and looking at the calendar has prompted me to move the rest of my cleaning/sorting tasks to the top of my list while the weather is still accommodating.

We may still have a whole half summer left, but the days will sweep by and we'll be in to the cooler days of fall before we know it. What are your priorities for the remaining weeks of summer?

Thursday, July 14

A Week in Pictures

Thank God for tinted moisturizer and waterproof mascara - we've cycled between 92 degree scortchers and monsoon quality storms this week, often seeing both more than once in the same day! Despite the unpredictable weather, the week is shooting by.


I carved out time to focus on the baby quilt I hunted down fabric for weeks ago already. It practically whipped itself off the sewing machine once I started! The blocks looked a little pattern-intensive by themselves, but put together they're adorable!




I also did some experimenting in the kitchen. This hideous jumble was supposed to be homemade Payday bars, an experiment for my sister who wanted to know if it was possible to make them with less sugar.

Although the recipe got rave reviews on taste despite its Quasi Modo appearance, I've concluded that you could get the equivalent taste combination with a fraction of the sugar (and half the cost) by simply incorporating the key elements into homemade granola bars. I'll post a follow-up when I nail down the necessary adjustments to my standard granola bar recipe.

My maple walnut cookies, on the other hand, were both delicious and lovely. I am especially pleased because these are one of those roll-chill-slice varieties that can be made ahead of time and frozen. When you can get ingredients on sale, you make and freeze a batch. When you need cookies in a hurry, you pull them out, slice and bake straight from frozen. I refer to such things as "homemade fast food" and am eternally thankful for them. (Ditto with hm ravioli, empanadas, pot pies, etc.)



My biggest frustration for the week was discovering that it's become impossible to buy crackers or any non-organic cereal! Once upon a time, both were cheap, healthy and portable food options we both enjoyed and appreciated. Now, they are so full of crap (hfcs) and neuro-toxins (tbhq anyone?) that I can't consider them safe to eat!

Some things I can't replicate at home (cherios) and others are just time consuming (ritz/saltines). Regardless, it strikes me as generally obscene that something as basic as a cracker has become so corrupted as to be inedible. If I weren't already up to my eyeballs in things to do, I'd organize a boycott!

Irony

Sitting on a yoga mat, snacking on poptarts. That's the image that stuck in my head recently after reading a post over on (in)courage titled Poptarts in Paradise. Although I can no longer stomach poptarts (do you know what's in those things?), I appreciated the author's message about the ironies we find in our lives, despite our best efforts to live in complete congruence with our beliefs.

It was appropriate then, that an email dropped into my box yesterday announcing with dramatic flair that:
[The] "House Appropriations Committee... approved the [2012 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies] bill (by a vote of 28-18) that would fund both the NEA and NEH at $135 million, representing a nearly $20 million cut from current funding and $11 million less than the President's FY12 request for each agency."

This bill provides funding for
the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), along with about a dozen other museums and preservation organizations.

My response to this news clearly represents the irony in my life. As a grant writer for a local museum I have, in fact, targeted the NEH as a possible funder for some of our programs.

At the same time, as a taxpayer and citizen, I demand to know why they didn't cut the whole $155 million out of the budget since that's not a Constitutionally approved use of tax money to begin with!

Delving into the study of our Constitution, the Founding Fathers and modern government of late has fueled my yearning to see government's grubby hands out of public life. I don't underestimate the institution- shattering earthquake such a change would create; many institutions be face heartbreaking decisions to restructure, merge or possibly close their doors entirely without the false crutch of federal funding. Yet I stand on the principle that the end results of large-scale restructuring would be a fresh new day brimming with promise for museums and their patrons alike.

Is it hypocritical then that I will still apply for any and all funds available - even if I don't think they should rightly be the government's to give?

I cannot help but imagine that God, with His vast sense of humor, observes with amusement the strange quandaries we work ourselves into much the way we laugh at outrageous comedies and slap-stick spoofs. So perhaps when the paradoxes of the world threaten to make my head spin yet again, I will take consolation in knowing I've contributed to heavenly gaiety... again.

What ironies do you live with everyday?

Friday, July 8

Literacy & The Summer

Children who don't read over the summer see their reading skills regress an average of 18 months.

(This cheery fact brought to you by my mother, who has been teaching remedial reading since before I was born and knows a thing or two on the subject.)

Needless to say, such unfortunate children start the next school year far behind their peers and will spend much of their time simply getting back up to speed rather than making real, lasting progress.

Now the good news: you can help prevent this! It won't even be expensive, painful or difficult.

Go to your local bookstore - used or new. (If you want social brownie points, make it a local, independently owned store.) Select a kid-friendly paperback (hint: many will tell you the recommended age level if you're not sure) and a fun postcard. Self-address and stamp the card and tuck it into the book.

Give (or mail) the book to a kid in your life that you happen to like and want to see succeed in life. (Your own, your siblings', your friends' - or all of the above!)

Tell the child that when they finish the book they can mail you the postcard with their opinion. Did they like it? Why was it good (or bad)? What did they think? Promise that when you get the postcard, you'll mail them another book.

Every child likes gifts, surprises, sharing their opinion and the novelty of getting mail. Therefore, almost all will like this idea - especially if you pick kid-friendly books. (Hint: the child's parents, a librarian or most bookstore owners can point you in the right direction if you need help.) Maybe your choices will introduce a child to a lifelong joy of reading. Maybe they'll only finish the first book. But if it helps them start the next school on track, it'll have been worth the effort!

Note: If you're a teacher and want to do this with some of your students but don't want them to have your home address, approach one of the AP's, guidance counselors or other staff who will be working at your school all summer. Address the postcards to yourself care of that person at the school, and ask them to either forward the cards to you or give you a call as they come in!

Further note: All credit for this plan goes to my brilliant mother, and I share it with you because I believe in spreading good ideas for the benefit of all mankind. If you pass it along, please credit the source. Thank you!

Domesticity


Yesterday's CSA basket came with a few surprises - one being a beautiful bouquet of snapdragons! This is only half of what we got - I used the rest in a separate vase someone else. I can't justify ever paying for fresh cut flowers, but I love having them around the house!

This decadent cookbook I got out of the library. I'd never heard of the bakery, but the recipes are fantastic! I just made "Brookies" which are chocolate cookies with the fudgey consistency of brownies. SO good!

This is a pack of six cauliflower plants sitting amongst the tiny garden corner of my balcony. They were the other surprise in our CSA pick up! I'm not sure we're really equipped to grow cauliflower up here on the third floor, but it should be an interesting experiment...


This is a bad picture of really good polenta croƻtons. They were super easy and are gluten free. Next time I'll flip them later in the cooking process and pull them a couple minutes earlier so they aren't quite so crispy.
This is an excellent book that I've wanted to pass along to anyone who does fund-raising of any kind. I've recognized a lot of wisdom in here that I learned as a hospitality major that other people may not have had reason to learn, and it's very well done resource for anyone looking to make up for tightening budgets at schools, clubs or non-profits.


This is the zucchini salsa I made and canned this week; it has to sit for at least a week before I can taste it and tell you how it turned out, but I have high hopes! I didn't bother taking a picture of the tuna cannelloni despite it's deliciousness because it was too monochromatic to photograph decently.


Last, but not least, this my faithful boy keeping an eye on me while I run around planning the National Aviation Day Celebration for ESAM. I caught up with the restoration shop crew and the research center guys today and am delighted to report the ball is rolling! Our special edition Wright Brothers exhibit is shaping up, as are plans for Open Cockpit photo ops and - as an awesome extra - Dinosaur BBQ will be vending food on site!!

There's a ton of work left to do, but it's going to be the museum's biggest event of the summer so start praying now for good weather and if you're nearby mark your calendar and plan to come! :0)

Barbies at a Nightclub

A couple weeks ago I ran across a post at the Red vs Blue blog that stuck in my head because it was such a rare example of something that should be much more common.

Of her husband Geoff, Griffon wrote the following:

We have a bedtime ritual at home. After Millie [their daughter] puts on pajamas and brushes her teeth, one of us reads her a chapter (currently wrapping up Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone) ... and the other hangs out for five minutes. "Five minutes" can be talking, cuddling, a lullaby, playing or reading another chapter if it's a compelling part of the book. Tonight I read the story and Geoff did "five minutes". I left just as he and Millie were playing "Barbies at a nightclub". Geoff was flicking the flashlight off and on and beat boxing.

Best dad ever.


That was it. Just a short post, unrelated to and unprompted by anything in particular except her appreciation of her man.

It made me wonder why such open and public compliments of husbands are so rare these days.

Have you complimented the men in your life recently? (Fathers, brothers and sons could do with some compliments too, you know!)

Don't know where to start? Feeling a little threadbare in compliment department? Check out the wonderful series Anne over at The Modern Mrs. Darcy is running on encouraging your man!

Friday, July 1

Ignorance on Display

Our illustrious President gave a speech yesterday in which he managed to clearly demonstrate his complete lack of understanding of economics and his inability to learn from history.

The President repeatedly bashed corporate jet owners as rich, selfish bastards who need to pay out the nose for the arrogance of owning a private plane and highlighted his plan to tax the hell out of them so that he can redistribute that money to people he feels are more deserving.

"If we choose to keep those tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, if we choose to keep a tax break for corporate jet owners, if we choose to keep tax breaks for oil and natural gas companies that are making hundreds of billions of dollars," Obama said this week, "then that means we've got to cut some kids off from getting a college scholarship, that means we've got to stop funding certain grants for medical research, that means that food safety may be compromised, that means that Medicare has to bear a greater part of the burden."

The inaccuracies in his statement are so glaring one practically needs sunglasses to read them, but even if we choose for the moment to ignore that, it should still be blatantly obvious that his attitude towards aviation is an economic disaster waiting to happen.


Obama had front- row seats to the chaos and precipitous economic drop-off his Chicago buddy (ex)Mayor Richard Daley generated when he desecrated Meigs Field in 2003.

(In case you missed it, Daley sent bulldozers into the municipal airport without warning and under cover of night in March 2003 to gouge deep furrows through the runway, completely destroying it because he wanted to build a park named after his wife and refused to discuss compromise with the local aviation community.)

It was a fiscal catastrophe - just like Obama's plan will be. Apparently, politicians never take basic courses in economics.

The math here is so simple it's practically self-explanatory, but since there seems to be some confusion I'd like to clarify.

Aviation = jobs.

Corporate jets need to be: built, maintained, inspected, hangared, piloted, staffed and periodically refurbished. They also require an infrastructure that includes air traffic controllers, ground crews, FBO's, ground transportation services and often other hospitality services like hotels, meeting facilities and restaurants.

Those are all jobs! Jobs that put real people to work and pay them good wages. Wages that keep them off the welfare docket - and income on which they all pay taxes!
And that's only the individuals directly impacted by the industry - when you take into account the goods and services those individuals consume, you quickly realize the extent of aviation's impact and the widespread crippling of the economy that will result from putting them all abruptly out of work.

So I ask you: is it not better to let aviation alone so it can keep paying people for honest work and allowing them to pay honest prices for legitimate goods and services? What could possibly stand to be gained by taxing aviation out of existence and letting the government pay welfare, medicare and prison costs for all those newly- unemployed people out of funding pulled from a shrinking tax base?

Yes, our country needs to take desperate fiscal measures if we're to dig ourselves out of our financial mess. But government - and Mr. Obama - would be wise to keep in mind we're trying to OUT of trouble - not ignorantly dig ourselves INTO a fresh grave with a stick of dynamite!