25 facts about me!

1) I like Jesus. A lot.

2) If I could describe my perfect life, it would involved a little house, a big yard with a garden and a compost pile (for Craig to deal with), chickens, a dog or two, maybe a goat, a clothesline, a bunch of kids and a lack of shoes.

3) Instead I spend my days in a windowless lab, fighting the good-but-never-ending fight against breast cancer. But I like this life too.

4) After growing up in military housing with standard army white walls, I already have decided what color to paint my walls when we are finally in our own place. I don't think there will be a speck of white wall left.

5) In describing my general attitude about my life, I would say that I am impatient but content (see #2-3).

6) I'm only impatient because so far, each stage of my life has gotten better, so why should I assume the trend won't continue?

7) I think that I think too much. I also think I am probably never going to change that about myself.

8) Even though I have never used their services, I love midwives and am passionate about people's right to use them. I also love babies, but then again, who doesn't?

9) I love color. My favorite is blue but I also like red and yellow and green and even black and brown if it is the right shade. I do not like orange and purple. I almost wish I didn't like green so that I could say I don't like secondary colors, but I can't help myself, I like green.

10) I try to be fashionable, but part of me knows I never really will care that much about clothes.

11) Except pajamas, I love pajamas. I am always forcing myself to rid myself of old pajamas because I know I don't really need more than 7 or so pairs, but I love them all.

12) I love to do crafts. But I think I like to pick out, design and start projects more than I like to finish them. But my blog helps since I have the motivation to post about them once I do finish.

13) I don't think I haven't bought music in any form (mp3, cd, tape, 8-track...) in at least 3 years, possibly longer.

14) I told Craig I didn't want to get engaged until I was 21. 3 days before my 21st birthday, he takes me to the roof of the animal industry building and pops the question. It's a good thing I forgave him but it taught him a bad lession, he still doesn't listen to me.

15) Even though it has been gone for quite a while now, I still miss Gilmore Girls.

16) My new favorite tv show is 18 Kids and Counting. I think the Duggar family is adorable. Plus, is anything funnier than Mr. Duggar saying "My, what interesting glassware" while shopping in a San Francisco head shop.

17) I love animals but we are at our apartment limit right now with one cat, Zeeba, and one fish, Howie. I makes me kinda sad, but I just think happy thoughts about our future with dogs and chickens and maybe a goat and I feel better.

18) I have a tendency to leave the wrong burner on. I have already shared how tragic the results can be, but have not admitted that it happens a lot. Craig has made me little signs to help but it still occurs maybe one or times a week.

19) I can be very unobservant sometimes. Yet I remember random conversations I had two years ago even though no one else does. Which says I either have a good memory or my mind is making things up.

20) I am one of the sleepiest people I know. You know how they say cats sleep 18 hours a day? If I didn't have responsibilities, I could totally top that. I'm also one of the sickest. I am always sick.

21) My husband has turned me into a very, uhm...frugal...person. I don't mind except when it causes an internal struggle. My current internal struggle: wanting to move to raw milk but being way to cheap to spend $50 a month on milk.

22) I love board games and card games, but only ones that are mostly luck. I don't like the pressure associated with games like chess or Trivial Pursuit.

23) I used to go almost exclusively by the nick name"Kenzie" but during my first big social event of college, my name tag was pre-made and said "MacKenzie" and somehow that stuck. I kinda miss being called Kenzie but I can't just go back. No one knows me by that now.

24) I have visited/lived in 6 countries (US, Mexico, Germany, England, South Korea and Thailand) and can't wait to add more to my list. I think my next one will probably be Canada because it seems so much easier than anywhere I else I want to go, but I always think that and yet I never seem to make it there.

25) I used to hate creative writing in school but now I love to write on my blog. It's weird, but then again, so am I.


Two birds, one stone

Tonight I "celebrated" Fat Tuesday by cleaning out my cupboards in preparation for Lent but I extend that to a pretty thorough kitchen cleaning (if you consider the fridge to be outside the kitchen and since I didn't get to it, I am) for spring cleaning, too.

Side rant about spring cleaning. I have decided I am not a big fan of "spring" cleaning since who really realizes it is finally getting warm and sunny outside they are so excited that they aren't stuck inside anymore due to bad weather that they decided to stay inside and clean? No, it should really be winter cleaning and since most of the country isn't expecting a high of 82 tomorrow like we are, that seems fair. Okay, side rant is over.

But back to Lent. Now my sugar, corn syrup* and assorted baking chocolate stash are now put away in a top shelf to be used no more 'til Easter. My official lent rules are no dessert type sweets - goodbye brownies, cake, cookies, ice cream etc. Those I will keep around for cooking purposes but that isn't part of the real Lent, I just think it will help ease the sugar addiction. But to make life easier on myself I am doing away with all but my natural sweeteners: honey, molasses and maple syrup. (That means I can at least make my favorite homemade ice cream recipe on Sundays since it uses honey! That will also be nice to Craig since he will be giving up a lot of treats by default)

With all my talk about eating healthy, I could be doing this just as an excuse for more healthy eating, but I am really not. Overall, I live by the 80% rule - if 80% of my diet is healthy food, I'm not going to stress about that last 20% which more often than not contains ice cream. I am choosing this because I know that this is one area in which I really lack self control. Or a better way to phrase that is it is one area that I can see my lack of self control. I hate that and for good reason. Self control is important. Here are some verses I found on self-control to keep me motivated. And don't worry, they are positive and encouraging!

You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.
Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray (1Peter 4:7b).
Self control is for men and women, young and old. And it's a gift that just keeps giving, helping you out with other disciplines like prayer. So basically, self control = good. But don't stress out about your lack thereof (she says to herself). When I said that it was a gift, it is:
And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness (2 Peter 1:4-6).
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age (Titus 2:11-12).
So self control has been promised to us. It's been given to use as a generous provision. It's being taught to us by the Holy Spirit. God isn't holding it back from us, doling out tiny doses to the "really good Christians." It's a fruit of the Spirit. But along with the grace God has freely given us comes the expectation that we will live self-controlled lives.
You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ (Romans 8:9).
He's giving it to us so he expects us to have it, fair enough. I won't be eating any big bowls of ice cream during the next 40 days, but I am hoping a big bowl of fruit of the spirit salad will be enough to keep my sweet tooth occupied.

* Don't tell anyone I even had that or they will take away my undercover hippie status but my favorite cookie recipe uses it and I swear I haven't used it since Christmas and I should just throw it out but they are really good cookies! So good, I don't even care that I might be ingesting mercury.

24, Season 7: 5-6 PM

This week, 24 pulled the "oh, the threat is over, even though there are 14 hours left in the show" ploy. But after a few minutes, they revealed the next threat - another Sangalese terror attack, this time by the main general. How the heck to these African rebels keep getting past immigration?

-If I was a government employee involved in an evil conspiracy, I wouldn't talk about it while walking around the office with a co-conspirator. I wouldn't even talk about it in the women's bathroom.

-Did Marika really believe Dubaku when he said, "I'm not really bad! Those evil peace-haters in Sangala are framing me!"? Either way, she made up for her past stupidity by causing that car crash.

-I loved the look on Moss' face when Sean asked for a lawyer at his arrest. Too bad Sean has no useful information, because Moss looked quite ready to bend all those rules he loves and knock Sean around in the interrogation room.

-Does every family in 24 have estranged members? It seems that way. Even the President has an estranged daughter. Jack's daughter is on-again, off-again estranged. Right now, it looks like it's on again. I thought she'd be appearing this season.

-Buchanan asked the President to ask that Senator from the hearing to leave Jack alone. Personally, I want Jack to go back to the Senate and berate the Senator some more. I loved that part during the first hour.

-Two hour episode next week!


MSM: Artisan bread in 5 minutes a day.

This week is my time to barely squeak a Make Something Monday in before the clock strikes midnight. On Saturday, I saw this post on Keeper of the home about making artisan bread in 5 minutes a day. Basically, it's a very basic (flour, salt, yeast, water) wet dough that you keep in your fridge for a couple weeks. You bake a small portion at a time as needed. I love my refrigerator bran muffins and I was feeling inspired so I whipped up a batch almost just like this video shows.

I say almost because I did make a few changes. I used 4 cups whole wheat flour and 2.5 cups all-purpose. And after reading a few comments, I only added 1 Tablespoon salt instead of 1.5 and dissolved it in the water before adding the yeast although I read on the "official artisan bread in 5 minutes a day blog" that salt is needed to stop yeast overgrowth but that the amount really is up to personal preference. I'm not going to write down the full recipe because of copyright issues but it is out there in a number of places if anything isn't clear from the video you can just google it.

Also, it doesn't say in the video but I baked it at 450. I don't have a stone so I used a cake pan (it was quite a bit bigger than my loaf) and we only have one shelf in our oven so I used a loaf pan to hold the water next to the bread. I have heard that you can pick up a clay stone from a home improvement store for much cheaper than a stone and I might give that a try because I don't think I could fit a stone and a water pan on the same rack. I think the crust was nice already but that might make it even better.

A few hours later we had our first little loaf. It was so easy and tasted great. Craig said it was even better than the bread I spend all day making. We ate most of it with dinner and I had the rest for breakfast the next day. That night I made another loaf to go with soup for dinner but I still have at least three loaves worth left and supposedly it just gets more and more flavorful with time. The blog also said that you can use the same bowl to make your next batch to keep some of the flavors going, similar to a sourdough starter, except that you use more yeast. I would have taken a picture but my battery was dead and by the time it was charged, there wasn't much left to see.

Things I liked:
- Ease: It was super super easy.
- Few ingredients and no sugar.
- Tasty and moist.
- Little loaves, they don't last long enough to get dry.
- It's soaked so less phyates to worry about.

Things I didn't:
- Little loaves. I think it would work for sandwiches but I would have to make two little ones for each of us unless we wanted to starve before dinner. But overall, that isn't a big deal.
-It isn't fully whole wheat. But I didn't have a problem with the 2/3 wheat so I will try 100% and see how it goes.
- The soaking isn't perfect. You have added salt already which supposedly slows down the neutralization process and there isn't an additional acidic component but with enough time neither of those shouldn't be a problem. I might add a little whey or yogurt next time though, just to ensure that my first load or two is good. And my other bread recipe wasn't soaked at all so this is still a big improvement.
- How I can now eat a whole loaf of bread in minutes :-)

We spent some time this weekend at Barnes and Noble and I took a look at the book. Basically, it has a few basic dough recipes and a variety of things to do with them. The blog shows you some of that as well. There was a whole wheat recipe but it had more ingredients, including a sweetener, so I would prefer to avoid that if possible. I will try and see how the things I find on the internet work first but I might eventually splurge on the book. You should definitely make this something, whether it is a monday or not.


Great New Products

These are from the coupon inserts in the Sunday paper:


Will work for food....and life.

Earlier this week we got an email from our home group leaders who were looking for volunteers to serve at a fundraising banquet for the Brazos Valley Coalition. Craig had softball scheduled for that night but I said I could help out. I didn't really know what I was signing up for but they said dinner was included so I figured, why not?

They didn't have many details but Wednesday afternoon when I received another email from the Coalition for life saying I needed black pants and a white shirt. Luckily for me, I happened to have both of those items. Unluckily for me, the blank pants had been sitting in my closet unworn for 2 years because they needed to be hemmed. So Wednesday night I frantically learned how to hem. And I had to do a good job because the only closet color thread I had was brown. At this point, I really wanted to just bail on the whole thing and go watch Craig's game. Especially since I still didn't really know what I would exactly I would be doing and I am a big fan of "a game plan."

But Thursday afternoon I received an email from another couple in our home group, sharing the news that their baby in the womb is a girl. Included was a couple clips of the ultrasound video. Just seeing that little one, still 5 months to go before she's born, moving and seeming to talk (or yawn, either way, her mouth was sure moving a lot), made me realize that this was important. I am passionately pro-life, but I feel like I don't get many opportunities to live that out in my life and this was my chance.

So I showed up and it was chaotic. They had all the servers, none of us professionals, assigned to colored zones according to a big chart on the wall. As we set out cake and drinks before the people arrived, we realized that while it was a nice idea, the chart wasn't correct. It has two many columns and not enough rows so some people were "fighting" over tables while other tables didn't have servers. Then they ran out of salad and people in plastic gloves were running around stealing lettuce leaves to scrape together a few more plates mere minutes before guests were let in.

But they were let in and ready or not, we took our places. Then a minister got up to say grace and the whole atmosphere in the room. Matthew 18:20 says where two or three are gathered, He is there with us. I realized that I was standing in a room with not just two or three people , but over 1500 people that wanted to make a difference in the lives of women and children in our community. 1500 people willing to take action. There were signs on some of the tables and you could see the different groups, denominations and organizations that were standing for the same thing. I think it hit a lot of us at once as the room just seemed to get calm. It was pretty powerful.

Somehow we manged to get food served to all 1500 people and then we hurried back to the kitchen to eat our food so we could go back to listen to the main speaker, Gov. Huckabee. His talk was pretty good but the statement that hit me the most was one I have heard before:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
The second chapter in one of Huckabee's books* is "Is there something about created equal that you don't understand?" I wonder.

*None of which I have read, so I'm not endorsing. They might be good, they might be bad, I have no way of knowing. He just mentioned the chapter title and I found it thought provoking.

Cowards for a Reason

According to the Attorney General:
Attorney General Eric Holder described the United States Wednesday as a nation of cowards on matters of race, saying most Americans avoid discussing unresolved racial issues.
Well, maybe that's because we get called racists every time we say anything about race. We have been conditioned by political correctness to avoid the topic altogether. When you change that, Mr. Holder, then we can talk.

Knitting: The evolution of squares

I'd say I'm getting better.


A Look at the Presidential Ratings

Here are my comments on C-SPAN's latest ranking of the Presidents:
  • Lincoln (#1): Appropriate.
  • Kennedy (6): Too high. Elevated by early death.
  • Eisenhower (8): A little too high. Governed well, but didn't do a whole lot. Although that's not necessarily a bad thing.
  • Polk (12): Surprised to see him up that high. I was unaware of his reputation. I guess it's because he accomplished most of his agenda, including acquiring a lot of territory.
  • Why does Clinton (15) score so well on "pursued equal justice for all?"
  • Carter (25): Too high. Again with the "equal justice" thing. Kennedy was overrated on this, too, what with his civil-rights reluctance. Is this category just a fudge factor to boost Democrats?
  • Coolidge (26): Should be higher. Looks like he got the Bush-Katrina treatment over the 1927 flood (i.e. unfair blame), especially since the federal government didn't have the all-encompassing role it does now.
  • W.H. Harrison (39): I don't think he should be punished just because he died one month into his term. It's not his fault he died. He should go unranked, or have an asterisk.


24, Season 7: 4-5 PM

Not a whole lot to say this week. Some groundwork was laid for future episodes, and a couple of old friends were brought back, but not a whole lot of action.

-How exactly did our newly-uncovered mole, Shawn, figure out what was going on with the track-down-Dubaku operation before he tried to ruin it? Did he say something about tapping in to Moss' phone line? Questionable. And why did he have to get his wife's plane on the ground so urgently back at the beginning of the season, if he was in on this all along? Couldn't he have kept his wife off flights that day, or said "Dubaku, make sure not to crash Flight 226 today?"

-Sending some civilian in on a dangerous trip, like they did tonight when they let Dubaku's girlfriend go meet with him, is common on 24. They already did it this season with the PM. They always hook up some tracking device. If I'm not mistaken, this type of stunt fails about half the time.

-I think Dubaku is screwed now. Almost all of his henchmen, who really ran the show, are dead, and everyone else in the conspiracy outranks him. Sure, he has leverage, but he'll screw up somehow. He is dumb and impetuous. He'll die within 2.5 hours.

-If someone says to you "Help me break the rules or I'll tell the boss about your affair," like Janice did to Shawn, can't you just say, "Well then I'll tell the boss you threatened to blackmail me?" That's what I'd do.

-Good to have Chloe back to bluntly telling people what she thinks of them again.


Make Something Monday

I've been wanting to participate in Amanda's Make Something Mondays for a while, mostly because she always makes the cutest stuff, and I feel like if I were to make something on or near a Monday, the good aura might rub off. So today is the day, although technically, we made this stuff on Saturday.

We always make dinner on Valentine's Day. Not only is it expensive to eat out, but it is too crowded. As my grandpa has been known to say, "I'm not gonna wait in line to give someone my money." We get something fancier than our typical fare and make the meal special with dessert and candles too, it's not like we are just eating Hamburger Helper. Last year we did lobster tails and steak, this year we went a little more low key and got a pork tenderloin. We hadn't actually decided what to get but saw them on sale last week at HEB and we had never made one ourselves so we gambled. Actually Craig did all the work for the meal, making this pork tenderloin recipe, steamed and buttered fresh green beans, and potatoes au gratin. He found the recipe for the potatoes in the Joy of Cooking and I must say that it ended up being the star of the evening. I don't remember ever having had potatoes au gratin before and when he announced that as his side of choice, I was a little skeptical. To me, that meant sliced potatoes with a bunch of cheese on them and really, that didn't seem to special. But these potatoes were like manna from heaven. I am almost ashamed to admit but the sentence, "I like you a lot, but I really love these potatoes" did actually come out of my mouth last night. So if you have access to the Joy of Cooking, you really should make them. Even if it means you have to spend 15 minutes cleaning your non-stick pan, it is worth it.

Okay, moving on from the potatoes to my actual Make Something Monday part - since Craig had the meal covered, I made the dessert. I originally wanted to make a strawberry cake but couldn't find one that didn't contain jello so I gave up. My mom did eventually find a recipe but by then the idea of a Strawberry Cake was dead to me. It probably didn't help that HEB had put out samples of strawberries that were moldy and/or not red. I realized that despite the $8.99 they were trying to charge for 6 chocolate covered strawberries, this isn't really the season for strawberries. But it is the season for oranges and I happened to remember a certain orange cake recipe from the Mitford series. (Sidenote: If you have not read those books, you should, they are good). I actually found two recipes for the same cake, I guess one was from the cookbook for the book series and the other was from one of the actual stories. It was a little confusing but I eventually went with the one with more eggs (5 eggs + 4 yolks, as opposed to just 3 eggs). I figured the more eggs the better, right?

Being three layers with a glaze on each layer, a filling and a frosting, it is a bit of work. However, I am not very experienced with baking homemade cakes (I had to buy cake pans Saturday just so I could make it) and I wasn't too overwhelmed and the result looked pretty impressive.

I had meant to take pictures before we ate it but got all carried away in the romance of cake eating and forgot. So here is the after:

Now in the books, this cake is famously delicious, but I had heard mixed reviews. My mom didn't think it was worth the effort, but she doesn't really like orange-y things either. Craig and I do love orange (these muffins = delish) but I think my expectations were medium at best and we really liked it. The only iffy part - the frosting. It was whipped cream with sour cream folded in. I had prechilled everything, even the bowl and whip but it still got pretty weepy and I was worried but after chilling the whole cake for two hours as directed, it did firm up. It tasted kinda sour creamy though. It wasn't bad, especially since the frosting to cake ratio is low (and I'm not a big frosting fan so I liked that) but I think I might mix up the frosting a bit if I make it again, maybe using some cream cheese in addition to the sour cream or just finding a different recipe. Overall, I think it would make a great cake for a church party or bridal/baby shower. Just don't tell the women the calorie count.

Now go check out putting down roots for something else to make on this fine Monday morning. Update: Amanda seems to be in the midst of blog redesign so I'm not sure if she is doing a MSM today. But be sure to check it out next week.


Memory Maverick - Wannabe

I had meant to share this with y'all the last three times I have done it but kept forgeting. But not this time. Since the beginning of this year, I have been participating in the Living Proof Ministries Blog's Siesta Scripture Memory Team. You can see the little button down on the right.

Basically, you pick a verse on the 1st and 15th of each month and leave a comment on their post that says what verse you picked and who you are. Then you write it down in a spiral bound 3X5 pack and memorize it. It sounds so basic but I have struggled with memorizing verses for a long time yet this has been working for me. Maybe it is just knowing that I am part of a communitiy of believers, of women, who are striving to know our God better. Maybe it is being intentional. Maybe it is the deadline that forces me to concentrate and work at it. I don't know but I like it.

I really never have my verse picked out before hand but read through everyone else's comments and there is always a verse that stands out. Maybe someday I will have a verse picked in advance, but either way, I am getting God's word into my head and my heart - permanently. How exciting!

I have decided to also write mine below the button each time, to share with you guys and to reinforce it for myself. And really, the verse that I choose each time will probably give you more insight into my life at the moment than anything I could write. I hope you'll join me. If you do, Beth has put up a mini-tutorial with some memory hints that really do work, I've been using them.


Some notes (or I would have called this "Keeping up with my correspondence" but felt that would be ripping Rachel off)

To Craig:
When that article by Texas A&M researchers stated that in some women, chocolate brings up negative emotions such as guilt and anxiety, they were not referring to me. Just so you know.

To Alison, who wrote this for the Batt:
Your third grade teacher was wrong; I'm pretty sure St. Valentine did not start Valentine's Day by cutting out his heart and sending it to his former lover. Besides being physically impossible, that isn't very saintly behavior. You might just be confusing him and Van Gogh, although I don't know why you would. The "real" stories are much cooler, you should go read them.

Also, your cupcake recipe does not include how much flour to add. That could be a problem.

To all the cookbook writers in the world:
Why do you think no one ever wants to make a real strawberry cake? Not a yellow cake layered with strawberries, not a cake with some strawberry jello added to it, not a strawberry flavored box cake. A real cake, from scratch, with real strawberries in it. Does such a thing not exist? Surely it does.

Lincoln at 200

I was quite interested yesterday in marking Abe Lincoln's 200th birthday. I join the many people who admire all he accomplished, respect where he came from, and regret his early death. I was able to visit the places he spent his early years back in December, and it was an amazing feeling to be in those locations. Lincoln is commonly cited when people say that anyone can grow up to be president, and the log-cabin lore that surrounds him is oft-repeated but accurate.

Tributes to Abe can be found throughout the internet on this occasion, focusing on specifics like slavery, the Civil War, the Gettysburg Address, etc. I can't really add anything new to that, but I would like to highlight a couple of interesting personal items about Lincoln.

First is this story about the secure reburial of Lincoln in 1901, performed due to fears of grave robbers:
But before this happened, the officials hesitated. Robert [Lincoln] was not present. Partly haunted by the attempted grave-robbing and partly wanting a farewell look, the locals decided to see whether Lincoln was really in the coffin, Craughwell said.

Joseph P. Lindley, one of the tomb's unofficial guardians, sent for his 13-year-old son, who hurried from school on his bicycle.

Shortly before noon, according to an old account, two plumbers cut an oblong opening in the coffin, and Fleetwood Lindley and 22 others gazed on Abraham Lincoln's face.

All said it was unmistakably him. The shock of hair, the blemish, the whiskers. He was real.

Three days before he died in 1963, Fleetwood Lindley, then 75, recalled the moment to a reporter from Life magazine.

"I was not scared at the time," he said. "But I slept with Lincoln for the next six months."

First, I'm surprised Lincoln was that recognizable 36 years after death. Second, that was kind of a disrespectful thing to do, open his coffin. Third, I really would have liked to have been there and seen that. I have interests in presidents, cemeteries, and graves, and this event fit all three bills.

Another item is that the last descendant of Lincoln died in 1985. He was a great-grandson. The Lincoln family was rather sickly, and not very fertile, with many descendants having only 1-2 children, hence the extinction of the line. I find it interesting to see what presidential offspring and descendants do with their lives*. Lincoln's son Robert, the only one to survive past the teen years, became Secretary of War and Ambassador to the UK. He also had his mom put in a psychiatric hospital.

There's a little bit of Lincoln for you on the day after his 200th birthday.

UPDATE: New pennies!

*Teddy Roosevelt had the best descendants. His 4 sons fought in one or both World Wars and distinguished themselves. One participated in D-Day and won a Medal of Honor. And of course, his grandson coordinated the 1953 Iranian coup for the CIA.



Our friend Rachel has been all over the digital TV conversion story, and she reported that at least one station up in Madison is sticking with the Feb. 17 date. I saw today that one of my local stations is doing likewise. It turns out that Feb. 9 was the deadline for stations to declare what date they would switch, and almost 500 went with the original date rather than the extended June date. It turns out that a lot of these stations are small, though. (Note to Mom: you will lose PBS and Fox on those two TVs, according to the list I saw.)

I thought Congress might not be too happy that stations dare defy them, and that Congress might respond with wrath and vengeance, but it turns out Congress made the switch voluntary. However, the FCC has the option to make stations wait until June (see last link above). This is probably why all the big stations are waiting; they knew they'd be rejected. Instead, they're "serving the public interest" by waiting, according to the FCC Chairman. Whatever.


Pew Ponderings

As I was sitting in church last Sunday, I came to three realizations:

1) I am not very observant. About halfway through the first hymn/worship song set, I noticed a man that looked surprising like our minister playing a trumpet with the band. To be honest, our minister is a semi-generic old man and there was a trumpet in front of his face so I couldn't be sure. I kept watching until the songs were done and then he got up, put down his trumpet, walked over to the pulpit and prayed - it was our minister! Shocked, I whispered to Craig (after the prayer, I'm not a heathen, guys), "The pastor was playing in the band!" Well, after a few more seconds of church whispering, I found out that he always has played in the band. Almost 5 months and I never noticed! Now, to my credit, it's a violin/flute/trumpet kind of band not a couple guitars and a drumset kind of band, so there are a number of people in there but he is one of the only men over 25 so I probably should have picked up that whole multitasking minister thing before now.

2) I am not a section crosser. While there are exceptions, I normally don't like the hand-shaking portion of the services. I did at our last church where it was small and I actually got to say hi to most of the folks that I knew, and at least catch names of any new people so I could greet them later but at even a medium size church there are too many people to know and it just seems insincere. But I go along with the flow - but only to those in my section. None of this walking up and down the aisle or through pews to reach other people to shake. If there aren't a lot of people in my immediate vicinity, then I just don't shake a lot of hands.

3) Craig has a weird effect on my viewing angle. Let me explain. There are two projection screens, one on each side of the front, slightly angled in. Generally, if I am at a function like that, if I am sitting on the right side of the room, I will look at the left screen and if I am on the left side, I will look at the right - kinda like your optic chiasm - or maybe not, it's just how I remember that back when I was in physiology. Anyway, when Craig sits next to me, somehow my paradigm shifts. Now, even if I am on the left side of the room, but on the right side of Craig, I have to look at the left screen. Here's a little diagram.
I try to look at the other one, but it just feels wrong. Does that make sense?


24, Season 7: 3-4 PM

In general, people seem to be not too happy with this season (e.g. the folks at The 24 Blog). This article states that 24 has "jumped the shark." I think that phrase has "jumped the shark." It's not really appropriate here, either, because JTS involves a one-time, stupid event. 24 detractors instead believe it has slowly declined over the past 3 or so seasons.

I will concede that one can only go so far with the 24 premise, and it may have played itself out. However, I am still enjoying it. I'm not one to critically compare this season to previous ones, or demand Shakespearean dialogue, or anything like that.

Anyway, on to my comments.

I find it funny how the show is slowly dribbling out little hints about the mutual past of Agents Moss and Walker. Last week Moss made some statement about having a long history with her or something, and this week she said she "knows Moss very well." I want to know what the deal is here.

I also found it funny when she called him and said, "Don't tell anyone I'm alive." He then proceeded to say "Renee" several times while standing in a somewhat busy hallway. Way to be discreet, there.

It just struck me today that the Sangala PM might be a bad guy. I'm not sure where this badness would manifest itself. Maybe he'll just become a dictator when he returns to power, making everything a waste of time. I'm just not sure of him.

Janice to Sean, to paraphrase: "Stop the affair or you'll get sent off to Juneau." What's wrong with Juneau?

Ooh, the bad guy has an 11-month old. I thought there might be some baby torture. That would have been a new 24 occurrence. But I doubt even this show would go there. Instead, Walker just pretended, with her back to the camera.

Because Obama's press conference lasted until about 9:01, my VCR stopped taping (if you have no idea what that means, go here) before the previews for the next episode, so I don't know what will happen next week. Maybe that's a good thing, though.


How to Make Tootsie Roll Bars Explode

1. Prepare bars following a recipe such as this.

2. Place bars on top of stove.

3. Inadvertently turn on burner underneath bars.

4. Wait until you detect a burning smell from the living room.

5. Lift up pan to ensure that a burner-shaped black spot underneath bars.

6. Place pan on towel on counter.

7. Wait 15 seconds.

Results should look something like this:



I've been hearing rumors lately of a problem so awful it is hard to even talk about. But Big Mama has finally brought it into the light and I too feel compelled to address it. The perpetrator - the snuggie/slanket. I would say it is even worse than the smitten and you know things have gone too far when even Beth Moore has sucummed to such a fashion flop.

And it isn't just a problem for celebrities, it has affected me on a personal level too. So this is an intervention for a certain family member, who shall remain nameless. I want him/her to know that they need not be ashamed, others have also fallen for it's allure too, but just put it down and it will be all be okay.


Reprieve for Big City Prices

The unfortunate news came down yesterday that the Lawrence Marshall car dealership in Hempstead is shutting down. This means that big city prices will no longer be clobbered. Here's Ray Childress one last time, for the ages:


Little Person in a Big State

Earlier this week, I opened up the university paper, he Battalion, and what did I find but a big article about "social justice week." After controlling my initial gag reflex (I'm sorry, it is just so p.c.) I noticed that the first speaker of the week was Amy Roloff, of TLC's Little People Big World. I was so excited, I love most TLC shows but this one especially, they just seem like such nice normal people.

Of course, the Batt being what it is, there was absolutely no information on when or where this talk was going to be held but Craig did a bit of Googling and discovered the apparently secret information.

We got there a few minutes before the doors were going to be open, got in line and waited. When we got in there, I looked down our row and saw that in the row of 75+ seats (Rudder Auditorium for those that know the area) there was a person about every 8-10 seats. I knew exactly what they were doing - saving seats! Now this is one of my biggest pet peeves. It's bad enough to save even one seat for a function that has limited seating and a line to get in, but one person really shouldn't save 8 seats. There is absolutely no social justice in that!

I actually got a little confrontational with some of the girls next to us doing the ridiculous saving. I wasn't awful but I was more forceful than Craig is used to and I could tell it surprised him. Eventually I backed down and just gave them one last dirty look before letting them have their seats. Of course, I then had to sit next to them which was slightly awkward, but hopefully more so for them than for me. That isn't very loving of me, but really, it's just so selfish of people I can hardly stand it.

The actual speech was good. She isn't the most dynamic speaker I have ever heard, but she comes across so genuine and real, it doesn't even matter. She told a lot of funny stories and overall, did a really good job balancing the idea that those with disabilities have physical and social obstacles in life while emphasizing self-reliance and the need to avoid being so overly concerned with political correctness that you prevent real dialogue. She had no "feel sorry for me" attitude and even talked about how in some instances when she was the one holding herself back but she also talked about challenges she and other little people face, from physical limitations, many due to living in a world meant for bigger people (ATMs, parking meters, washing machines, etc) and attitudes of those she encounters. The show does a good job helping me see life in other people's (little) shoes, and her talk expanded on that.

Not Once Cent

So, how about that woman with the octuplets? Obviously, she deserves our scorn for having 14 kids and no job, as do the doctors that implanted her with 8 embryos. And of course, now she wants to make money by being on TV. I bet she used to sit around and watch that insipid Jon and Kate Plus 8 show on TLC and think, "Hey, I can exploit kids for profit!" The question is, did she do that before or after getting pregnant?

The obvious reaction of many is that this woman should not profit from her irresponsible loins. But, as always, we have to think of the children. I am all for Oprah et al. having her on TV. They should just pay her entirely in diapers and formula. No cash, no trips to Utah, no tummy tucks. Just baby-related goods. That's a fair compromise.


Money Morale Booster

Today is the 3rd (well, at least it was when I wrote this so pretend). The third day of every month is normally a grumpy day for me because it is when one of my student loan payments is due. But not today and not ever again. Last month, we paid it off! Now, between the two of us, we still have a couple other student loans left, but this one was particularly annoying because I hadn't planned for it and I had already consolidated my loans when a few weeks before my last semester, the school figured out I was going to graduate early and dropped all my scholarships and grants (yes, you read that right), leaving me with another loan with a high interest rate. It was slightly annoying to say the least.

The point is, it's gone forever now. It's our first big milestone on the road to a debt-free life and I really didn't expect it to happen that soon.

About three days before we got married, Craig dropped a big change in my lap, he announced that he wanted to go back to school. No, he wasn't being cruel with his timing, he had told me he was interested in the school anyway so after he got to town and I was off with last minute fittings and table decoration errands, he met with some folks there and that sealed the deal in his mind. It was a big change in "the plans" and honestly, that wasn't a big deal to me. I knew he would be successful in any area, but this school really seemed to be a good fit with his interests and talents. And having grown up a military brat, change was pretty normal. I didn't so much care what the plan was, as long as we had one. But I do remember thinking "We are never going to be done paying off student loans." They might have been on my brain since that month was the first time I was actually asked to start paying them back.

But we didn't just stay in Texas, no, we planned and prayed and scrimped and saved and now we are living out his dream. And mine. I never imagined we would be able to pay off the loans at such a fast rate. We have been so blessed, not just with good jobs and nice paychecks, but with wisdom and guidance from others reinforcing the idea that debt is not good and it shouldn't be normal. It would have been easy for us to convince ourselves that we are in a point in our life when we could take on more debt, that this type of debt is okay, or that we could at least defer our loans and worry about paying them off later - but we didn't. I don't want to imply that it is always wrong to take on student loans but for us, the difference between taking on loans and paying them off was lifestyle and we choose a less fancy lifestyle. And I'm so grateful to God for his word that showed us this was a better bath and to those who supported us, both those we know personally and those we don't.

Because it was so worth it! It doesn't always seems like it but not having that weight on me, knowing that I never have to think about that bill again, is worth every hour I spent looking for new and interesting ways to fix lentils when I really just wanted to buy a steak, it's worth every minute we spend cutting coupons, every movie we don't go see, every sweater we buy at Goodwill. If we had payed off the minimum, it would have taken us about 10 years on that one loan, but we did it just two!

So for those of you out there on the same path we are, if you think you will never reach the end or even reach the next step, you will! And for those that have, remember that feeling. I know I will cling to it to give me strength to resist whatever new "want" springs up, whatever it may be.


Another "24" related post

As Rachel's comment hinted at, my birthday was last Sunday. I really like having my birthday on a Saturday or Sunday, it makes it seem like it the entire weekend is a celebration!

Craig knows that my love languages are craft projects and ice cream (What?!? Aren't those two of the five?), so that is what the weekend was full off. Friday night we did a little craft together, which I'll talk about when I am not feeling too lazy to go get the camera and take pictures. Then Saturday we got up and did our normal errands followed by a trip to Home Depot. I had some birthday money from my in-laws burning a hole in my pocket (if you're reading this, thanks!) and fortunately for me, I had a idea that of something I wanted to do for a while but couldn't justify "wasting" money on it - new matching hardware for our bedroom furniture! We have two nightstands and a dresser but they were all just garage sale items with ugly knobs and drawer pulls. Now they are garage sale items with cute matching knobs and drawer pulls! It may not seem like much, but I think they look a lot better. And since it was extra money, Craig didn't have a heart attack when he finished adding up the cost. $3/knob sounds cheap until you remember how many knobs you need. I had planned on putting up picture, but again, it's the laziness that is bring this post down. And I still have plans to paint them all a nice cream color sometime this spring so I will put up the "after" shots then.

After that, we headed over to Marble Slab and Cold Stone Creamery to redeem my birthday ice cream coupons. Don't worry, although I wouldn't have minded using them both on myself, I did give Craig one of them. By the way, if any of you have one of those stores in your neck of the woods and have a birthday in the next 12 months, you should sign up for their birthday clubs. Then you can forget about it until a week before your birthday when you suddenly receive an email for a free treat. And there is no "if you buy _" clause unlike some places that send out a a coupon for a free mini-dessert, if you buy an appetizer along with two dinners with drinks. Oh, thanks but no thanks. Some say beggars can't be choosers, but I am obviously not one of them. At least I am not naming company names here - 'cuz I'm thoughtful like that.

The Saturday afternoon was spent like all good Saturdays should be, full of laying around, napping and movie watching. We had a turkey cooking that we had gotten on sale at Thanksgiving. I had finally gotten tired of not having any space in my freezer and decided to cook it. But after our dinner and another meal of sandwiches, I still got over 10 cups of meat to freeze (in 2 cup portions because every chicken casserole known to man calls for 2 cups of chicken meat, but I figure poultry is poultry). I've also got a carcass and neck in the fridge to make a real Nourishing Traditions-style batch of broth from so I think the remains of the turkey are going to take up more room in the freezer than the turkey did, how is that possible?

Sunday was pretty full so Craig treated me to breakfast out before church (here is where I would also say that there was a coupon involved that could only be used at breakfast but this post already makes us sound super cheap and truth be told, what kind of wife would I be if asked him to give up the Super Bowl to take me to dinner?).

Then we headed to a Super Bowl hangout with a bunch of people we didn't know and one couple we did. It was a little awkward at first since the people we knew didn't show up until quite a while after we did, but luckily they were all nice. Plus, there was a super chubby baby to play with, and babies are great ice breakers. We brought along a Chinese exchange student that shares an office with Craig. He got to experience his first time in an American family's home, his first Super Bowl and his first time to eat spaghetti. It really is fun to share your culture with others, he thought it was pretty amazing how someone would just open up their home to people they didn't know and how we could all have such a fun time together. I guess he is right, the Super Bowl is really a bonding event. Even if you don't like football, you at least like the commercials and can watch the game. And thus ended the fabulous weekend in which I turned 24.

24, Season 7: 2-3 PM

This week was the big hack-in into the chemical plant in some Ohio town. The chemical at this plant, methyl isocyanate, was the culprit in the 1984 Bhopal, India disaster that killed 15,000 or so people. So it is nasty stuff. I liked how, when our famously detail-oriented President heard that this town was targeted, she knew off the top of her head that there were 30,000 people there. But then I realized that Ohio is a swing state, so it's quite possible that a presidential candidate would know such information. But the real Kidron is much smaller than that.

Last week, I wondered what would happen if the firewall hacking threat was eliminated so early in the show, and it in fact was, because the CIP chip was destroyed. But that storyline was played out. However, the idiot bad guy Dubaku has new leverage - the First Man is in his custody. If that's all he's got, though, the President has to do the right thing and sacrifice her hubby for the good of the country. But will she? People on 24 tend to choose love over rationality. But maybe the First Couple has a sham political marriage, so that won't be an issue.

At the end, after Dubaku escaped from his evil lair and rode the train around town for awhile, we found out that he has a bachelor pad in DC, and a girlfriend to go with it. How much time does this guy spend in the US? I thought he was an African rebel? And doesn't his girlfriend read the Economist? If she did, she'd know that Sangala is at a crossroads, and she'd probably see a photo of her bad-guy boyfriend in his camouflage guerilla duds. But apparently she's oblivious. She'll be dead within 3 hours.


Undercover Hippie Files: Material Girl

When reading the sorts of hippie books and blogs I tend to read, sometimes you get the feeling that everything you touch will kill you, especially in the kitchen. Don't use plastic because of BPA, or non-stick surfaces because of Teflon (unless you can keep your pots only on low), or aluminum or any item that begins with the letters a-k. Okay, I made that last one up but it can get overwhelming. What am I supposed to do, get magical powers so I can cook my food without it touching anything and then never save any leftovers?

First off, I remembered the old saying anyone who has ever taken a toxicology class should know by heart, "It's the dose that makes the poison." There is really no need to throw out every item of questionable content all at once and replace it with something that is currently deemed more safe (I say currently because who knows what some study will say tomorrow). There are some easy and cheap changes I can make right now, and for the bigger stuff, as things need replacing, I will do so with the best materials our budget will allow. And for determining the best, I will stick with more classic materials. Here is rundown of what materials I use:

For Storage -
For freezing, I use mostly plastic containers and Ziplock bags. However, I recently won a Tickle Trunk stainless steel storage container from Keeper of the Home and I have to say, I love it. The way that it seals is very secure so unlike some plastic storage containers, I don't worry about the lid popping off when I am rummaging in the freezer. And it cleans very well. I hate how plastic stains and looks dirty. They aren't cheap, but they aren't super expensive either (I'd say similiar to classic Tupperware - the website price is in Canadian dollars so when you convert you get a sweet surprise, unless you're Canadian that is). The Tickle Trunk has other things too, including water bottles, ice cube trays and cups - all in food-grade stainless steel. As I need new items (or as I have a big enough kitchen to fit them) I will probably go this route for most of my storage needs.

Until then, I will continue to use my plastic. And for for freezing soups and stews in a space saving way, I don't think you can beat Ziplock. I let the food cool before putting it in the plastic and I try not to heat/microwave items directly in the plastic, but instead move them to a regular dish to microwave.

And for temporary storage in the fridge (leftovers, marinading meat, etc) I use my bowls with a plate for a lid. With my fiesta ware, the sandwich plate fits perfectly on top of the soup bowl. And my dinner plates work for lids for my mixing bowls. It's cheaper than buying aluminum foil or plastic wrap and it means less dishes than if I used a new storage container. This is one of the first changes I made and it is really is the easiest and cheapest thing you can do if you want to avoid plastic and aluminum touching your food.

For Cooking -
I didn't like my non-stick I inherited when I married Craig but I dealt with it - until it started flaking. Not acceptable. I spent quite a while looking at my replacement options:

Cast Iron - I have one cast iron pan and it's good for some things, but I couldn't see using if for everyday cooking. I would love ceramic coated cast iron (Le Creuset) but it is too expensive. Also, it's really heavy.

Anodized Aluminum (aka - the new "green" pan) - Supposedly the way these pans are processed encases the aluminum so that it doesn't actually touch your food. And the coating is ceramic and free of PTFE and PFOA so it is safe. I've heard good things about it so far, but it is new and I tend to be skeptical, mostly of it's general cooking ability, but also it's safety.

Stainless Steel - This is the choice I went with. I bought a Wolfgang Puck set and so far, it is great. My set was on the lower end of the price scale but you really can spend as little or as much as you want on a stainless steel set. My main reason for choosing stainless steel was that it has been around a long time and is generally considered to be safe. Plus, it's what chefs use. They must have a reason for doing so! And I think my cooking has improved, as you can't really get a nice brown on anything in a non-stick pan.

There are some downsides, mostly that it has no nonstick properties. But I haven't really had too much of a problem with stickage although Craig had a bit of trouble with omelets last week. Mostly you have to make sure you heat it up thoroughly before adding the food, and be sure to use some fat to stop the sticking and use Bar Keeper's Friend for cleaning.

So if you visit my house, you won't find a plastic, aluminum and Telfon free kitchen, but you will see someone trying to slowly make changes to improve our material usage. Have you made any changes with how you cook/store foods?