Foreign Affairs Friday: Iran Reporter Followup

Yeah, I know it's Saturday, but let's proceed anyway. In our last installment, I wrote about Roxana Saberi, the North Dakotan reporter arrested in Iran. Well, she's home now, and she did an interview with NPR that was interesting. The transcript is here. In the interview, she clarifies some of the reports that came out during her captivity.

First, she did not get in trouble for buying alcohol. This is what her captors told her to tell her parents when she was first able to call them. Second, she denies the report that a CIA officer tried to recruit her, but she does it in a suspicious-sounding way:

MS. SABERI: He may have been referring to the false confession I made, but that was – my confession was false and I thought I had to fabricate it to save myself. So I don’t want to really say any more about this person, because it was false.

MS. BLOCK: So the name and the – I mean, there’s a fair amount of specificity in what he was saying here, this name, Mr. Peterson, invented out of whole cloth? Was this part of the government evidence and you’re now saying it’s absolutely not true?

MS. SABERI: I don’t really want to say any more about this person because it was completely false and I recanted it before my first trial.

MS. BLOCK: Recanted it while you were still in prison before you came to trial.

MS. SABERI: Yes, mm-hmm.

I don't know what to make of her unwillingness to talk about this. Maybe the meeting really did occur, and she declined the request to spy, but she doesn't want to blow the officer's cover. But that's pure speculation on my part.

Third, she also says there was no charge for working in Iran without a press pass.

Saberi also talks about some of the women she interacted with while in prison. It sounds like it was a great help and encouragement to her to have these people around.

She also mentions the suspected theory that her case was a function of political conflicts in Iran between moderate and hard-line factions. If you are interested in this case at all, I suggest you read the full interview.


Can I See a Nurse?

Coyote Blog has a post up that discusses the effect that over-licensing has on health care costs. He asks:
Why does a person need to go to school and residency for a decade to put three stitches in a kid’s cut? Why do I have to go to a full dentist’s office to get my teeth cleaned? Why does someone have to go to school for years to tell me my contact lens strength needs to be incremented by another 0.5, when I already knew that and could have just ordered them myself? The reason is licensing, and it both increases prices by limiting the number of providers and by forcing me to see someone who is often wildly overqualified to handle my problem.
This problem is occurring in Texas. Retail health clinics, like those found at some Walgreens, are a great way to receive timely, low cost treatment from a capable nurse for minor maladies. However, Texas has very few of them, because Texas law requires physician supervision of these clinics. A bill to loosen these restrictions was killed, thanks to Texas doctors. This is especially bad because Texas needs these clinics:
The clinics would represent real health care reform, especially in Texas. Most of the state, 179 counties out of 254, is classified as medically underserved. Among them are 45 metropolitan counties, including Bexar.
This is doubly aggravating because Texas is supposed to be a conservative state. This would have been a common sense, free market reform to improve health care, but the Legislature said no. Actions like this will further convince people that there is no alternative to government-run health care, when in fact there are a number of them. Ridiculous.

Moms - I need your help

So I'm co-hosting a baby shower in a few weeks for a friend from home group. So far, I love co-hosting - it is all the fun of giving someone the gift of a shower and being involved in all the cutesty stuff without the stress of having to do it all yourself. What is not to love?

I'm in charge of food and games. Food isn't too bad, I've got the basic menu planned (piglets in a blanket, anyone?). But games? I've only been to a handful of showers and only one in the last 10 or so years so my experience is limited. The game we played at the one I attended a month ago was a lot of fun, we had to guess the baby items through a paper bag, but it's the same church so I have a feeling it will be most of the same women and I don't want to repeat.

The only other game I can find that looks at all fun is the baby food taste test game - I'll pass around 8-10 jars of baby food with the labels covered. Everyone scoops a bit onto their plate then we all try to guess the flavor. Whoever guesses the most wins. Does that sound fun or lame? Or does anyone have any other fun games that they have played? It is really hard to judge from the descriptions if something would be fun or not so I need ideas from women with first hand experience. (Oh, and the theme is winnie the pooh, if that helps)

On a related note, I have decided to make the mom some burp clothes. From what I have heard, you always need a lot of those than you think you will and if you have to have them, they might as well be cute, right? I've found a couple different tutorials but I am not sure which would be best.

This one
is fairly simply but it's cute and I could probably find some winnie the pooh flannel fabric so they would match the nursery.

This one is a smaller fancy shaped one that "contours of the shoulder." I'm not sure if that is ingenious or a bit like trying to put a band-aid on a gun shot wound - it's just not going to cut it.

This one just embellishes a standard cloth diaper to add cuteness and distinguish it from anything being use on the other end of the baby. These boring cloth diapers have quite the reputation for being excellent spit up collectors so even though it isn't the most difficult tutorial, the final product might be the most useful...but I just don't know.

I've set up a poll for the burp cloth questions but if you want to leave a comment telling me why you decided on that one, or if you have any game or shower advice, please let me know.


Meal Plan Monday: Grocery Challenge Week 4

The grocery challenge is almost over. We've been doing much better than anticipated although I am losing steam. I think that's more from having to shop right after we got back from a trip than from the challenge though. I still don't feel that we have deprived ourselves that much, maybe we didn't have all the condiment choices we normally do, or I had to use less cheese or substitute one herb for another, but we certainly aren't starving.

Last weekend, I did end up spending some, $3.00 on bread and bananas at Wal-mart to get us through till our vacation, and $1.67 on ritz crackers and snack packs for traveling and granola bars for Craig lunch this week while they were on sale at Target.

We also got lucky with food gifts as a lot of Craig's friends from school gave us their extra milk, potatoes, sugar, flour, and tortillas chips when they moved out. I was also given an unopened 3lb bag of farina but don't really have any idea what it is or how to use it. (Note: I "swagbucked" it and am only slightly less confused, it might be the same as Cream of Wheat, or Cream of Wheat contains farina, or something like that) If I was more brave, I would have tried to incorporate it into the menu this week, but I still have vacation brain.

Breakfast/Lunch: Same as last week.

Sunday - Eating out. Our tradition is to have a picnic of fried chicken on the 4th of July but Craig will be gone so we moved it to yesterday.

Monday - Pot roast, mashed potatoes, green beans

Tuesday - Leftover pot roast on rye bread, smoothies

Wednesday - Salmon cakes (I only have one fillet left so I'm trying to stretch it to make a two person meal. I'll poach it then use it in place of the canned salmon in the recipe), green beans, rye bread

Thursday - Black Bean nachos (Black beans, my remaining cheese (not too much and mozzarella but it will have to do) sour cream, salsa, and corn, served on tortillas chips

Friday - Lasagna (from freezer) with frozen veggie

Saturday - Leftovers (most likely lasagna as even the 9x9 half a recipe is a lot of food)

Sunday - Homemade pasta, tossed with olive oil, tomatoes, herbs, and Parmesan, served with bread and green beans

This week I bought:

Grocery Store = $24.13
Green onions
Green Beans
Raspberries (not on menu but on sale and Craig wanted them and I can't say no to him :-)
Frozen Peas
Frozen Corn
Sour Cream

Weekly total =$24.13

Monthly total to date = $76.01

Check out more meal plans here.


Home again

We are back. We made it into town about 2:30 this morning after a very long day. We arrived Wednesday and spent the next two and a half days visiting family and helping prepare for the big graduation day party. I did sneak in some time to take pictures (I'll try to get them editing and posted in a semi-timely manner) and go on a tour of the farm. It's much more fun to do that in May than it is in January.

Yesterday as we were on the way to check our next flight's information to see just how long our layover was going to be, I spotted someone who looked familiar, just like my friend and old co-worker. I was about to consider it a coincidence and move on when I noticed she was with someone else who looked familiar - her husband! In an amazing coincidence, we both had several hour layovers at the same place. We hadn't seen each other in quite a while (neither of us were married back then) so we had a great time grabbing dinner and talking about what were were up to. I have to say, if you have a 3 (that turns into 4) hour layover someplace, meeting up with an old friend is a great way to kill time.

So now we are back and trying to get things back in order. We might try to plan something else fun to do tomorrow so I want to make sure I am ready. I'm trying to grab all the Craig time I can right now.


Mom. I'm board.

Craig and I love games but struggle to find good ones since it is just the two of us most of the time. Most board games aren't even possible for two people (Clue) or while technically they work for two players, they aren't any fun (Risk). For a while we were stuck with just Uno, Scrabble and Jenga. We also have chess but I'm not a big fan as I don't like games that are too competitive.

But now we have a new favorite game that is great for times when it is just the two of us - Carcassonne.

I was looking around the game section of a toy store in Austin a while back and saw it. Never having heard of it, I read the box and decided I liked it for two reasons:

1) It said "Great for two players." I believed them.

2) It won some German game award and Germans really seem to know their games.

Turns out, it is a really good game. We have been playing it all the time. It's a German-style board game (Settlers of Catan is another of this type, but see what I mean about Germans and their games, they have their own style!). Basically it involves laying down land tiles and claiming the items on them (roads, farms, cities) with your little followers to collect points. It's a perfect combination for Craig and I, it takes thought/skill and not just luck so he is happy, but it isn't super-competitive and even if you feel like you are way behind, the game isn't over which makes me happy. If any of you other couples are looking for a fun game you can play, check it out.


Undercover Hippie Files: Moo is me

Sometimes I wait to write posts so they will be a complete little story with a nice ending. But then, the ending doesn't come. That is how it is with this, but I guess I will tell y'all anyway.

As I have gotten more and more into nutrition and eating natural whole foods, I have been questioning our dairy intake and whether we should go raw. Now, I'm not convinced that pasteurized milk is the devil (right now we have a gallon of milk from HEB in the fridge) but I do think real (raw) milk is healthier.

So a while back we visited a Class A raw milk goat farm. We toured their facilities, met the goats and saw the milking process. It was a really neat experience but still a bit weird. I mean, I knew it was raw but when I saw them milk the goat, the pour the milk through a paper funnel into jugs then put the jugs to chill, I kept thinking - "That's it? Shouldn't you do something else?" But then he took out another jug, already chilled, with milk he collected that morning, and I took a sip. It was tasty. I was really worried that I wouldn't like it since it was so much fattier than I was used to and I don't like store bought whole milk at all. It wasn't like that at all, it was just like the milk I was used to, except...milkier.

So we bought ourselves a gallon. At $12.75 raw milk doesn't come cheap but we learned to use a little less on our cereal and dilute it slightly for baking and were able to make that gallon stretch for two weeks (raw doesn't go bad the same way pasteurized does, it sours but doesn't spoil in the same way or as quickly).

The farm is quite a ways away from where we live but the farmer said he delivers to town twice a week so we called him up and the next weekend he dropped another gallon off at our front porch - but this time it came with a $3 delivery charge. Now, he didn't mentioned this when I emailed about prices, when we visited the farm and he told us about the delivery service, or when we called to request a delivery so it took us by surprise. It was a little annoying to say the least but I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and I know gas costs money but still $15.75 for a gallon of milk? The most aggravating part was that I don't think it is an option anymore, it is just too big of a stretch on our budget.

So this month, we are back on store milk. I've looked into other options (pasteurized but non-homogenized, or just organic, etc) but I am not happy with them and am really conflicted. I think I might be able to swing raw again this summer since less milk consumption will be occurring with Craig being gone for work, but after that I don't know. How many more bean meals are we willing to eat to make it work? For now, I'll just have to be content with my memories of raw milk while I drink pasteurized cow milk. Oh, woe moo is me (sorry, I couldn't help myself).

I'm not out to convert any of you to raw milk drinkers, but if you are interested in some of the articles I first saw that got me thinking, here you are:

Nourishing Gourmet talks about raw milk
Kelly has a series about raw milk
A Mercola report on raw milk benefits


It's 3:30 am (or it will be when this automatically posts). That means Craig and I should have just left for Austin to catch a plane to North Dakota to see his family! I'm not excited about being awake at this hour, but I am excited about having five days of no working in a row, seeing his farm in the springtime when I don't have to worry about frostbite (I have only ever visited outside of December/January) and visiting with his family. I want to enjoy my time away so I'm not really gonna spend much time checking in on the old blog. But don't worry, we do have a few posts set to post this week to keep you occupied.


24, Season 7: 6-8 AM

And here we are, with the final installment of 24 for the season. Unlike previous seasons, this one didn't end neatly; it left some things hanging for next season. Will Renee torture Wilson? Will Jack be cured of his disease? Will we end up with yet another President? 24 goes through them like Nancy Pelosi goes through lies about the CIA.

-Here's a lesson for Tony:

I can't believe that happened to him. That's so cliche. Remember when The Incredibles mocked monologuing?

-Kim was pretty impressive tonight. When she went off chasing the long-haired bad guy, I thought that was dumb, but it worked well. She even got to whip out the computer skills. I thought it was great when she yelled "Dammit!" when her cell phone died. Like father, like daughter.

-In the aforementioned chase scene, I think we saw the first competent generic law enforcement officer of the season. Usually, bit-player LEOs are only there to get shot, but this one actually stopped the fleeing long-haired guy with a few well-placed bullets.

-I determined that Tony pulled a quintuple cross this season. Before this season, he was good, then dead, but then he went to alive and bad, good, then bad, then kinda good at the end.

-If I remembered the other seasons of 24 well enough, I'd try to rank this one overall. I don't, though, so I'll merely say that it probably belongs in the bottom half.

Thanks, all, for bearing with me through this season. Thanks also to M and A for being my 24 buddies. See you next season.


Try it Tuesday - Spicy Sauteed Kale

Donielle is hosting a new carnival, Try it Tuesday, where we share a new food or recipe we have recently tried. It's perfect because just last week, Craig and I tried kale for the first time.

Kale is high in fiber, lots of vitamins including C, E, and beta-carotene, it's an easily absorbed form of calcium, and is considered an cancer fighter because of it's phytonutrients. Basically - it's an overall super veggie!

I had found a recipe online I wanted to try so when I saw kale at the farmer's market I snatched it up...but then I couldn't re-find the recipe! I did however, find this one. I was surprised that I liked it, (I really thought I was going to have to suffer through it), and Craig doesn't even really liked cooked spinach but he thought it was pretty good too. Here it is with my alterations:

Spicy Sauteed Kale:
  • One Bunch of Kale
  • 2-3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
Wash and trim kale. I cut off the bottom part of the main big stem but didn't cut the leaves from the main stem - that was a mistake. That part was kinda...fibery. Take the extra time to cut all the thick stem away. Pat dry.

Heat oil in a skillet. Once warm, add kale and garlic and saute, tossing fairly regularly, for 3-5 minutes. The original recipe said 3 but I think it could have used an extra minute or two. (I sliced the garlic but I think minced would have more evenly distributed the flavor.)

Add the red pepper and Parmesan and toss to coat. The original recipe called for 1 tsp of red pepper flakes and we thought that was way too much. But then again, we are kinda wussy when it comes to hot flavors in foods. Start with 1/2 teaspoon, you can always add more after you taste it. If you are feeding any small children, I would leave it out altogether for their portion.

Serve and enjoy!

Proper Prom Conduct

I spent last week subbing at the high school, and all I heard about all week was the upcoming prom. On Friday, I even got to see the student-produced video that detailed the "rules" for the prom concerning dancing. The rules were as follows:
  • No bending at the waist,
  • Hands on hips and waist only, and
  • No thrusting forward or backward
I'll leave it to your imagination to determine what unauthorized dancing looks like.

While I was not able to find the specific video mentioned above on YouTube, and I felt constrained by copyright law from uploading it, I found several videos on that site produced at other schools. Here are two, back to back, from Minnesota. The first is better than the second, and it appears these schools are stricter than the one at which I teach:

Screwy Stuff in Space

The recent stories about the repair of the Hubble telescope have been interesting. It sounds like they are doing the equivalent of basic home repairs, only way up in space, which greatly increases the complexity. One thing I've noticed is the large number of screws they have to remove. When I'm doing a project at home, I worry about what to do with all the screws, to make sure I don't lose one. But what do you do with 111 screws up in space?


Foreign Affairs Friday: The Reporter in Iran

The case of Roxana Saberi, the American reporter (from North Dakota!) who was imprisoned in Iran, ended well for her this week when she was released. There's been a lot of speculation about why Iran chose to arrest her and then let her go. An NPR story contains three theories:
  • Regime Politics - a battle within the Iranian government between hard-liners and moderates.
  • U.S.-Iran Negotiations - a ploy to show "good will" - or at least create the impression of it.
  • Business as Usual in Iran - Iran arrests a fair number of reporters.
There's also the "she really was a spy" theory. I don't buy this one, as she only had one old document on her, and I think that someone who was really spying on Iran would avoid doing things like traveling to Israel or buying alcohol (both of which she did) in order to avoid drawing attention to herself. As this BBC article says:
For anyone who knows Roxana Saberi, the idea that she was a spy was faintly ridiculous. And working as a journalist without a press card would be the worst possible cover.
I tend to think that her arrest falls under theory 3, and her release falls under theory 2. Again from the BBC article:
Perhaps the original intention in arresting Ms Saberi was to send a warning to journalists in Iran, foreign and domestic.
I think the fact that she is of Iranian descent is important here. The regime doesn't want expatriates coming back and causing them trouble, and this will likely deter many from coming. As the NPR story suggests, "it lets journalists know that none of them are safe." Like any authoritarian regime, Iran fears anyone that might undermine its control.

Having sent its intended message, Iran had little reason to keep holding her. By letting her go, Iran can claim that they showed mercy. Ahmadinejad, particularly, could do so, because he was the public face asking for an honest appeal of her conviction by Iranian courts. Maybe Iran was hoping for something in return from the US, or was worried that they might lose their chance to negotiate with Obama. Maybe they want the US to help prevent Israel from attacking them. CIA director Leon Panetta went to Israel two weeks ago to ask them not to attack Iran without notifying the US.

In the end, this might work out pretty well for Iran, if Saberi's arrest sends the intended message, and her release wins the intended favor. Hopefully, Iran won't be able to get away with this stunt quite so easily.


Digging up my Stones - part 2

So there I was, trying to think of what Ebenezer stones I had, when just a few days later I received a box in the mail. It was my first album from Shutterfly.

Now I started digital scrapbooking over a year ago and can not even count the hours* I have spent making pages from the first summer after we were married until the end of 2008. But I hadn't ever developed the album. After I got it finished and uploaded to Shutterfly, I saw how expensive it was going to be to get in printed, so I waited, and waited, and waited. And finally, Mother's day came up and Shutterfly offered a great discount plus free shipping so I did it. And I love it! I was afraid the colors wouldn't print "true" but they look great and the whole thing is so much thinner than a traditional scrapbook that I can easily keep it on our coffee table. But it is more than a collection of picture. Looking through it with Craig, I realized that this is an Ebenezer stone.

It shows how God has been helping us these first few years. I'm not talking about how His provisions have allowed us to go on trips or do neat things, although I am thankful for that. It's more the intangible elements that I see in that album - from the very first page (of our first 4th of July picnic, which happens to be first tradition we started together) it shows the time line of our life together with the struggles and the blessings we have had. Basically, what it took for us to go from two people to a family. And what it took was God. I know that my marriage is a result of God's hand in our lives. And looking at those pages, I can be reminded of all the hard work he has put into it.

Another Ebenezer stone I have is a bracelet. I'm not a big jewelry gal but I really like this piece. I made it last summer with two girlfriends just a few days before we headed out of Utah. It represented the end of a season where God was working hard in my life (not that he isn't now, but that was just an extremely intense time). Looking back, I can see that he was preparing me for something, getting certain truths into my head that He knew I would need later. But at the time, I was just trying to process it all. We made those bracelets deliberately to ensure that we would remember those lessons and keep them close. It worked. I don't wear it all the time, but everytime I see it lying on my dresser, I say to myself "I'm believing God" and on really hard days I put it on, so I can keep remembering that the whole day.

Do you have any Ebenezer stones?

** I decided I wanted to try. I would say a typical page takes me 2 hours, not counting the time I spend editing pictures (which is a lot) or looking for free elements online (I rarely pay for elements because there is so much good stuff out there if you can find it). Some pages take a little less, and some take a whole lots more - like when I get an idea for a perfect page element that no one seems to have! (Maker's mark font complete with red dripping wax?) Considering I have made 46 pages that is at least 92 hours directly making pages. Crazy! But totally worth it)

Back to the Grind

Now that the semester is over, I can devote myself to full-time substitute teaching for 3 weeks, until school gets out. It's not an exciting prospect, but it pays the bills. I've experienced a couple of noteworthy events already:
  • In a stats class I filled in for, the kids were playing craps. I can see where statistics come into play in that game, but I'm not sure I'd make it part of my lesson plan. Anyway, there was a dispute over the rules, so I went to look them up online. However, the school's internet filter blocks gambling sites. I thought it was ironic that we were doing something in the classroom that is off limits on the internet.
  • I filled in for resource reading today, which is basically remedial reading. I thought the story selections in the textbook were odd. Here are synopses of the two we read:
  1. Kid is going to wrestling meet, but he hates wrestling, so he imagines ways to incapacitate himself. Ideas included bending a finger back, banging his head against a wall, and suicide. But he eventually goes through with the match, and is absolutely destroyed. But he wasn't too upset that he sucks.
  2. 19th century boys become friends, but Dan has a mean dad. Dan's dad starts stealing gold from other miners in town. Willie follows Dan up a mountain, and they end up in a mine with the stolen gold. Dad shows up and threatens to cave the mine in if the kids don't come out with the gold. Kids escape through alternate exit and mine collapses on dad. Dan gives gold back to original owners.
On Friday, I sub in a French class. Do I know any French? Non!


Digging up my Stones - Part 1

During one of the sessions of the couple retreat we went on a few weeks ago, the speaker, in passing, asked everyone if they to remember the "Ebenezer stones"they had for their marriage - but he didn't stop to explain what that was (I think everyone else there had done a study with him that had brought it up or maybe the minister mentioned it in a sermon, since they all seemed to know exactly what he was talking about). Craig looked at me and I looked at him and we gave each other a look - the "we have to google that later" look.

But thinking about it, I did kinda-sorta remember learning about that concept, somewhere -and how it related to the "Come thou font" hymn - and not the Christmas story. But I wanted to revive those memories and this is what I found:

It comes from 1 Samuel 7:12-14, when Samuel set up a large stone as a monument so they would remember how God helped the Israelites subdue the Philistines. Ebenezer means - stone of help. I love that!

That jogged my memory of a women's bible study* I did a few years back about stones that the Israelites would put up as reminders of God's work in their lives. The 12 stones put up after they crossed the Jordan were the example in that case.** And we aren't talking little stone here, they guys were big. Think people sized rocks, like the smaller stonehenge rocks.

When God worked in the Israelites lives, they wanted to remember, not just for a few week, a few years or even their lifetime. They wanted that testimony to stick around for a long time so that when their kids' kids were running around they would notice those big rocks and ask "Hey, dad, what's the deal with that big rock?" And the parents would know the story, they would remember how God helped His people.

I want to be like that. God has worked in so many ways throughout my life, He has helped me and taught me and changed who I am. Thinking big, I want to remember His help, I want to be able to tell my kids about how He has impacted my life. But even before that, I want to remember those lessons myself.

At first, I couldn't really think of any Ebenezer stones I had, but slowly I have come up with a couple that I thought I could share with you...next time.

* That The World May Know. It's an excellent video bible study that shows places in the Bible and explains their significants. It would be really good for history/geography oriented people.

**Those were just called Standing stones so I might be mixing concepts. I know we have at least a few trained bible people that read this blog, any info for me? Is the Ebenezer a type of Standing stone, the same thing, or something totally unrelated that makes this whole post nonsensical?


24, Season 7: 5-6 AM

As we all suspected would happen, Kim is now in danger. It often happens in the show that evil henchmen use the relatives of government agents as leverage. I recall a few seasons ago when Tony was running a perimeter, and the bad guys captured his woman, Michelle. He allowed the target to escape in order to save Michelle's eyeball from being removed.

Now, though, Jack is the one who will have to decide how to handle this situation. I would have assumed that he would refuse to give in, but the previews make it clear that he will capitulate. Jack's been more in touch with his feelings this season, though. In the early seasons, he might have acted differently.

Now that the canister has been neutralized, it seems all that's left in the remaining two hours is to fold up the evil conspiracy. I suspect another surprise bad guy (maybe a turncoat) will be revealed to be in the group of democratically elected, voice-obscured henchmen.

It will also be interesting to see how the Jack-Renee relationship ends up. All this and more next week for the two-hour finale.


Meal Plan Monday - Grocery Challenge Week 2

Last week's menu worked well, something came up Friday so we pushed all our meals back and we had shepherd's pie yesterday instead of Saturday. It worked out perfectly as we ended up having Craig's office over and I needed a meal that would feed seven people (hence the 3 loaves of bread, that would have been a little too much for just Craig and I). That means I couldn't save the other half of the recipe for later in the month so our intake of red meat will be quite limited for the rest of the month but that is typical for us anyway. I used to worry about it but the last time Craig gave blood the lady remarked at how high his iron levels were. I guess it is all those meals with beans and spinach.

You will also notice that our menu is for more than a week. I wanted to get all the way to Tuesday as next Wednesday Craig and I will be leaving on a little trip. I had to buy a few more staples this week and I splurged on strawberries and heavy cream to make ice cream, but the strawberries were on sale and smelled delicious and I wanted to make a treat for Craig as he puts up with all those bean meals. But I'm still doing much better than I anticipated and I am not willing to scrimp on fresh fruits and veggies, especially when they is so much in season now.

Breakfast/Lunch: Same as last week

Sunday - Shepherd's pie, 3 loaves bread, green beans, lemonade, a friend brought dessert

Monday - Parmesan chicken (not chicken Parmesan, this is a baked breaded chicken recipe), brown rice/wheat pilaf and squash

Tuesday - Mac 'n Cheese, kale (never had kale before, we will see how we like it)

Wednesday - Navy bean/vegetable soup - making up a recipe, but I have beef broth, beans and lots of veggies from last week and the market

Thursday - B4D French toast, smoothies (with kale instead of spinach?)

Friday - Chicken spaghetti (from the freezer), salad

Saturday - There is a concert at a local park so we will be picnicking with homemade bread, chicken salad with garbonzo beans, and cut up fruits and veggies

Sunday - Salmon spinach pasta (no recipe, but I've seen similar things before, I'll just make a roux and add to that)

Monday - Chicken quinoa curry, green beans

Tuesday - Leftovers, clean out the fridge before we leave (eggs and toast if nothing else is still around)

This week I bought:

Farmer's Market = $4.25
Multiplying onions (farmer said it tasted like a cross between an onion and a shallot, I'll try it in the pasta and soup)
Tomatoes (I have no cans of tomatoes like I normally use for shepherd's pie so I'll be dicing fresh tomatoes and adding a can of tomato sauce)

Grocery Store = $29.26
Heavy Cream
Green Beans
Peanut Butter

Walgreen = $0
Fish Oil (perfect timing for a free item, I ran out of my capsules earlier this week!)

Weekly total =$33.51

Monthly total to date = $46.88

Check out more meal plans here.



Craig recently shared a Twitter statistic with me, supposedly 60% of people quit it within a month. That is pretty much how my relationship with Twitter went, but every once in a while I have something I would like to share, but it isn't really worth a post. Here are a few:

- This wasn't written on the box - before removing contacts, check fingers for large globs of toothpaste. Perhaps it should have been.

- Every time I watch Grease, I am increasingly shocked by how dirty it is. How could my mother let me watch that when I was 10? Maybe it is because she knew it would all go over my head.

- I am way more open with Craig about all sorts of things than I thought I would be before marriage. So why am I still embarrassed to really sing in front of him? (and yes, that was related to the above "tweet")

-Half the time I search for a __ blog, such as a "craft" or "knitting" blog, the engine asks if I really wanted to search for "___ blong". No, what the heck is a blong? Is it too much to ask that Google know what a blog is?

- I love being married, but it does have it's downsides. Every time the lovely man you live with gets a song in his head, you get to listen to it over and over.

- Whoever created the commercial about the "mini-sirloin burgers" should be shot. (and yes, that was related to the above "tweet")


Will the real "me" please stand up

I wish I had an anonymous blog. I wonder how many bloggers would agree with that statement, at least some of the time. I do, not all the time, but a good portion of the time.

I guess it comes down to why you blog. I've been asking myself that lately and there isn't just one answer. I started as a way to stay connected with friends and family. I think it has succeeded in that, although that success comes at a cost to those readers who don't "really know me" but still have to look at lots of vacation snapshots. Still, I like that part of this blog and being anonymous wouldn't really work well for that so in those cases I am fine with who I am being out there for everyone to know.

But my other reason for writing it to get things out of my head. To process and sort through ideas, at least enough were I can verbalize them. It helps me deal with ideas. And guess I am passionate about too many topics. Basically anything I think of, I just keep thinking about, until eventually I write it down - modesty, health issues, gay marriage, you name it. It's all floating around in my head and I have to get it out. I want to stop thinking about it. So I write it down and post it. Which maybe seem to be more "real" than the pictures and nice happy story I want to paint about my life. But is it really more me?

I mean, there are lots of people in my life who I don't regularly talk to about my feelings on difficult topics (death, my struggles, the evils of the world, etc). Not necessarily because I am hiding it from them for in most cases, if they straight out ask my opinion, I will tell them. But there is no reason for me tell my gay friends that I don't think they should be allowed to marry, my friend in a bikini that I don't think two piece swim suits are very modest or my friend on the pill that I consider it an abortifactant. I can't really say it is because I don't care. I do care, theoretically. I like to theorize and work things out. I like to think about the big picture. But when it comes to individuals, that is what they are to me - individuals. And if they are a Christian, then I'll let the Holy Spirit convict them, and if they aren't, then why are we quibbling over what is right and wrong anyway?

And I don't really think that makes my relationship with them any less real. In fact, maybe it makes it more real, because I am thinking of them and their feelings and how our interaction affects both of us as individuals and our relationship. And for the most part, I don't think it is beneficial to bring it up. Sometimes I do, so I do, but mostly I don't, so I don't. (try figure out that sentence :-) Shouldn't what I don't say, "say" as much about me as what I do?

For any of you reading this that I don't know, at a certain point, I don't really care what you think of me. I like to have you comment and to bounce ideas back and forth, to "banter" if you will. But when I turn off the computer and go to bed, I don't care if we agree or not.

But the people I know and care about, I do still care about what they think, and I would hate for them to get lost in the shuffle. So sometimes I censor. And then I wish I had an anonymous blog so I could say what I want when I want and to heck with anyone else. Other times I don't, then I wonder what my statements will do to our relationship: "Are they reading this? "Do they think I spend my time thinking bad things about them?" The answer is no, I don't.

My friend "A" may choose to have pre-marital sex. I don't think that is the best choice she can make. But I don't think of her as "My friend A who has pre-marital sex." No, I think of her as "My friend A." When the topic comes up, I may think to myself "Oh, I really wish A was making a different choice, for her own sake" - and that is about it. I move on. The same with my friend "B" who is living a homosexual lifestyle or my friend "C" who loves tube tops. They are people, not sins or choices I don't agree with. And I know that I don't think that way - but do they? Can they read this blog and see my passion for what I think God's idea about certain things are without getting a tainted version of "the real me?"

I don't know. And I think it is only going to get harder as we continue blogging. My social convictions have been getting stronger lately. Does my statement that I won't watch a certain TV show or movie automatically mean I am looking down on others who choose to do so? And I have a feeling that whenever we have kids, it is going to get a lot worse - can I be passionate about midwives and homeschooling without alienating those who choose epidurals and public schoool? Again, I don't know.

Don't worry, I'm not going to stop blogging, at least not yet. But these question have been floating around in my head and well, I have to get them out.

Do any of you fellow bloggers have worries like mine? Have you changed your writing because of them?


UHF: Shampoo - Hair today, gone tomorrow (Part II)

What, you don't remember part I? Well, think back, I wrote it about 8 months ago. But Katie asked last week and it just so happens that some stuff has changed so I thought I would update y'all.

For 7 months, I was happy just washing my hair every 5 days. My hair was in the best shape it has ever been. So, why mess with that? Well, for a long time I didn't. But there is one really annoying thing about only washing your hair every 5 days...and it probably isn't what you think.

You have to remember 5 days back! I couldn't do it. It was fine when I washed every 3-4 days, I just picked Sunday and Wednesday as my days. But every 5 days, I kept forgetting when I last washed it. And I tried to stretch it out to a week so it would be easy to remember, but my hair was not having it - at all. So I hung out at 5 days.

But then I saw Life in a Shoe's "No Shampoo" trials (and yes, they have had some extremely funny trials) and for some odd reason, felt the need to try it again. At first, I just stopped washing, and was doing good until I hit that 6-7 day mark. All of a sudden, my hair was gross. So I tried the "egg technique" where you mix an egg with some lemon juice and a little warm water. (The warm water isn't necessary but I always forget to let my egg get to room temperature and I don't like the idea of an ice cold egg on my head). Just make sure you rinse with lukewarm water or you will cook the egg on your head. (See my note above about "extremely funny trials," but they learned the hard way so I didn't have to).

And it worked surprisingly well. I made it through my Easter trip and all the way to the next weekend. I would have been fine even then but we had Craig's prom. Okay, technically it was a ball for his department, but realistically - it was a prom. And I had to do my hair all fancy. Hairspray and no-poo do not mix so I shampooed and then I was back at square one. But worse, my hair felt so dry and awful. I don't think it was really any worse than when I used to wash more frequently, it just felt dry in comparison. So I started my second trial.

But this time, I had castile soap as my secret weapon. I made up Lindsay's recipe but I used a lot less Dr. Bronner's because in my experience, Dr. Bronner's soap can, and should be, diluted a lot. I'm not sure that was such a good idea because what I didn't count on was that when you spray it on, you use very little, so it does get diluted - just on your head! Right now it has been almost three weeks since I used shampoo. I used an egg once, about a week in and now am just using my homemade shampoo every 3-4 days. My hair is not great, but not awful either. It feels thicker than normal and I like to wear it up if it has been more than two days since I wash it but after my experience with shampoo I am confident that my hair is better than it was when I first started this whole thing (and to be honest, I like to wear it up most of the time anyway). I actually think I would be better off not using even the homemade shampoo and just trying to work through with just baking soda and vinegar with maybe an egg a week but I am too nervous to go full steam ahead.

I wish I had a nice summary for you, but I don't. My head is a work in progress. I can't even actually tell you why I am doing this, I have no idea at this point. Maybe it is the thought that my hair might be better off in the long run. But I think it is really my curiosity and stubbornness. Some people have gotten this to work, so surely I can figure it out, right? I'll let you know.


24, Season 7: 4-5 AM

We're getting down to the end here, with three hours left. Which will happen first: the bioweapon will be released, the bioweapon will be obtained by the authorities, or Jack will die from his bio-illness?

-The bogeyman of racial profiling was raised in this episode, with Janice asserting her new role as the FBI's ACLU liaison and protesting the move. Jack responded that the search they were doing (for local Muslims) was based on a tip. This is similar to the Oneonta case decided by the 2nd Circuit Court in 2001; it basically said that profiling is allowable when based on a tip. In that case, an elderly woman said a black man was her attacker, so that's who the police looked for. Makes sense to me.

-I thought that our framed terrorist-to-be (FTTB - I don't recall his name) made a bad move when the cops knocked on the door. Tony told him to make them go away, and FTTB did so by saying the noise that was reported was just friends having an argument. I think he could have easily gotten away with pointing at Tony through the door and mouthing "In here." But he was meek, unlike his brother, who later had the werewithal in a moment of chaos to smash a mirror and use a shard of glass as a weapon. Maybe the brother spent some time in an Afghani training camp?

-On the way to the FTTB's apartment, the imam told Jack "it's never too late to turn to God." Is Jack going to become Muslim?!

-To Hodges: when you go into witness protection, you have to get rid of everything. You kept that picture of your family, and look what happened.


Two Signs A&M is Going to the Dogs

1. A "flash rave" was held in the MSC by some idiots. What disrespect.

2. Students voted no in a referendum on concealed carry on campus. Is Texas A&M going to end up liberal like every other University?

Meal Plan Monday - Grocery Challenge Week 1

Okay, here's the plan :

Breakfast: I will be eating Oatmeal or Meusli in an attempt to use up oatmeal and avoid buying more cold cereal, Craig doesn't like oatmeal so he can stick with the regular boxed stuff.

Lunch:- Sandwiches, 2 pieces of fruit each, granola bar for Craig (I gave them up for Lent and didn't miss the 7 grams of extra sugar each day but started up again after Easter. I will be giving them up again for this month)

Sunday - Grilled Chicken Salad with nuts, cranberries, broccoli, and homemade salad dressing (minus basil)

Monday - Tacos with homemade tortillas

Tuesday - Black Beans and Rice, Homemade Bread, Salad

Wednesday - Eggs, Toast and Smoothies

Thursday - Spaghetti with Pesto Sauce (how long does jarred Pesto last? Hopefully quite a while or we will be eating plain spaghetti) and Squash

Friday - Pizza Margherita (same dough as Tuesday's bread), Frozen veggies - missing my basil again :-(

Saturday - Shephard's Pie

Popcorn, regular or maybe caramel if I need a real treat
Tapioca pudding
This Week I bought:

Farmer's market = $4

Grocery Store = $7.27
1 apple

CVS = $2.10
3 boxed cereal
Monthly total to date = $ 13.37

And for all you not doing a grocery challenge but still looking for fun recipes, check out other meal plans at organizing junkie's Menu Plan Monday.



I started to worry after I put that last post up. I had committed to this whole "May-day Grocery Emergency Challenge" but I wasn't sure I had much in my pantry. What if I completely failed at this experiment - wouldn't that be so embarrassing? But Saturday afternoon I went through and took a simply inventory of what I had and was pleasantly surprised. I'm not going to write everything down, but here are some of the major things we have in stock:

Freeze/Fridge -
  • ~ 2-3 lbs chicken, variety types
  • ~ 2 lbs ground beef (I buy in bulk from the university then freeze in 3/4lb portions, although I "pretend" each 3/4lb portion is a lb. For almost all recipes, it still works)
  • A few slices of applegate (nitrate free) bacon. Mostly used to flavor beans so it is 3 or 4 "servings" worth
  • 1 lb cheese
  • 1 lb butter (I just bought a ton of butter, where did it go?)
  • Bag of nuts
  • 4-5 bags frozen fruit
  • 2-3 bags frozen veggies
  • 1 can o.j. concentrate
  • Homemade turkey broth
  • 9x9 Lasagna (I make 9x13 casseroles as two 9x9 and freeze one)
  • 9x9 Chicken Spaghetti
  • Milk
  • Random leftover veggies from last week (carrots, spinach, lettuce, 1/2 green pepper, etc)
  • Eggs
  • Yogurt
  • Random condiments
  • Flour (Wheat, White, Rye)
  • Cornmeal
  • Wheat Germ
  • Wheat Berries (Mostly we grow for a cat snack, but I have seen a couple recipes that actually use them and want to give it a try)
  • Rolled Oats (I bought 3 large containers for ~$1/ea around Christmas time and have only just started on the second)
  • Dried Beans - Black, Navy
  • Quinoa
  • Sweeteners - White Sugar, Rapadura, Honey, Maple Sugar and some Stevia samples I had completely forgotten about
  • Oil - Olive, Coconut
  • Vinegars - Variety
  • Herbs/Spices - Variety (Although I know I am out of Basil, can I make it through the month w/o buying more?)
  • Carnation instant breakfast - Craig got this free from CVS and will eat it, I refuse.
  • 1 onion
  • Bag potatoes (beginning to sprout, must be used NOW)
  • 1.5 boxes granola bars (that is not enough for the month, uh-oh)
  • Loaf of Bread
  • Pasta - Spaghetti, Fettucine, Lasagna noodles, Egg Noodles, Rotini
  • Cocoa powder
  • Tapioca
  • Semisweet chocolate
  • Shortening
  • Baby food carrots
That is about it. And since most if not all of you skipped reading that list (and I don't blame you), the jist was - I have a lot of food. Already this month was a success if I can force myself to remember that just because I think we have no food, doesn't mean we don't actually have anything.

I am so blessed that even when my cupboard is "bare" I have lots to eat. It may be kinda random but it is edible, it provides nourishment, it sustains life! Not everyone has access to that and I don't ever want to be ungrateful for what I have.

I never meant for this challenge to be a spiritual thing, but between reading these posts about the newest Compassion trip to India, and seeing how much I have when I didn't think I had anything, I can't but help ask God to change me heart towards my resources:

Give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.

Proverbs 30:8



Craig is busy writing a paper this afternoon so I was trying quietly not to be bored and decided to go through all the pictures of me on facebook. There are 226 so it took a while but I did get to revisit some good old memories. My favorite were these two, of the retreat where Craig and I met (see here for more details )

Here we are worshiping together (look hard, we are back there). I can not say if I strategically placed myself next to him because I liked him or if was just a poetic coincidence but either way, it's cute.

And here we are trying to manage a mini-group picture. It should be obvious that it was Craig's physical prowess that first drew me to him.


Foreign Affairs Friday: A Useful Resource

When you read an international news story, such as this one about Fiji being suspended from the Pacific Islands Forum because of a lack of progress in returning to democratic governance, you might think, "What's really the deal in that country?"

When I have that question, I often turn to the Freedom House rankings. They rank each state on a scale of 1 to 7 in political and civil rights, with 1 being the most free. Countries are then labeled as "free," "partly free," or "not free." In the case of Fiji, it gets a 6 for political rights and 4 for civil rights, with a label of "partly free." The site also gives information explaining the ranking. One can track a country over time based on these rankings to understand how things are changing, for better or worse. Next time you ask yourself, "what's really the deal in that country," which I'm sure will be soon, now you know how to find the answer.

Flu the Coop

There is a fair amount of swine flu activity going on here in Texas, where there have been 26 confirmed cases (Google map here). Closures have started to occur. One such move was to suspend all interscholastic activities (sports, music, etc) in Texas for about 2 weeks. There have also been several school closures, including the Fort Worth district.

It's hard to say what closures are appropriate, and which are over-reactions. The low mortality of the disease is one factor to consider, as well as level of inconvenience and economic cost. As Coyote Blog points out, politicians have every incentive to over-react and no incentive to consider costs vs. benefits of actions. This applies to the current situation as well as in scenarios such as hurricanes when deciding whether to order evacuations.

That being said, I think the move to suspend school activities is a good one. These activities can be made up, and preventing busloads of kids from traveling around the state seems like a good precaution. When schools close, though, the important thing is what kids do instead. If they go hang out at the mall like young hoodlums, the quarantine effect is lost. Some schools are closing despite the fact that they have no cases, some just for one day to disinfect. That seems excessive, and disinfecting a school sounds like trying to bail water out of a sinking boat. Since the flu lasts for several days, and kids get their grubby hands on everything, I don't think a one-day disinfect would make much difference.

What do you think? Is this a legitimate threat, or is it overblown?

May-day May-day - Grocery Emergency!

Whew, I am sure glad it is May. April has been a super busy month for us and I feel like I am just barely hanging on. I would say that I completely failed at meeting my monthly grocery budget but I don't even know that for sure because for the first time in a long time, we didn't do cash for groceries. We just got busy and let it slide the first week, then a week and a half and then it wasn't even worth it so I just finished out the month buying whatever. It was actually very distressing to me to not know how much I was spending on groceries. On top of that, I was feeling very bleh towards cooking and health. I ate a bunch of sweets right after Lent ended and I could really feel the difference after being away from refined sugar but was too lazy to do anything about it or we were traveling and didn't have the option. So overall, April was just very very yucky.

But I did keep seeing an idea bopping around the blogosphere (see here and here) that sounded interesting and kept telling myself... maybe next month. Well next month is here and since I need a boost to get me started again I am giving myself a challenge - buy as little as possible.

I want to empty out my freezer and pantry. Mostly freezer as our pantry is quite little so I don't stock up on much there. But I do have a lot of frozen meat and meals in the freezer that I want to use up before summer - it is way to hot here in Texas to be cooking casseroles all evening.

It will also (hopefully) force me to be creative. Hmm, I have a old can of french onions and two chicken legs, what can I make?

Third, I hope to save a little money from our grocery budget for a special upcoming purchase. Craig thinks I am weird for wanting to do it but is willing to go along, but I would rather take the money from our budget than have to scrounge for it elsewhere. I don't have any grand illusions of making it through the month without grocery shopping or even cutting our spending in half. My special purchase is $25 so that is what I want to save. Our monthly budget for groceries is normally $200 (that includes cleaning supplies and papers products but we don't actually buy much of that or if we do, we get it free/dirt cheap from CVS/Walgreen) and I'm normally using every penny of that so even saving that much will be a win in my book.

So this month I will try to post my meal plans and grocery lists, more for accountability and entertainment than because I think I will be creating anything special. First one should go up Monday. Anyone want to join me?