Sunday, November 30

It's a Sad Day to Be a Bears Fan

I think John Madden summed it up well.

It's not flying on the airplane, it's the guys you bring with you on the airplane that make you lose the game.

Sigh.

My hopes for watching the Bears in post season are getting pretty slim. You know what's really sad? They have some terrific players. They just can't seem to get their act together and play consistently as a team.

Hey, Lovie, send the guys out my way. You're almost here anyway. I'll run a three-day seminar on teamwork for you. It'll only cost you $4,000 a head. Bring the whole team!

Maybe I need to take my cue from the Cubs fans; there's always next year!

Crochet Happiness

I just wanted to post some pictures of crochet projects I've been working on. The orange set is actually several months old, but I'm just now getting a photo. The other I finished only a couple of days ago. Click on either photo for a larger image.

               

Please excuse my inanimate models. When I went to take the photos the other night, I didn't have access to small children as my own was already in bed asleep.

The froggy hood and mitties I came up with after seeing this pattern on Ravelry. I wanted to make a more Kermit-like one, so I started with a basic hat and added chin flaps and the neon-green collar. The mitties are a single-strand version of my Ducky Slippers, but with the flipper sewn up at the fingers (to keep them warmer) and no turn for the ankle. I really need to start writing down all my patterns as I play. I could probably come up with one for the mitties, but I'm not sure I remember everything I did for the hood. It was lots of fun, though.

The orange beaded set was just an excuse to start crocheting with beads! I took my daughter shopping with me to purchase some yarn for a gift I am (still!) working on for my niece. As I talked to her about the project, she wanted a bag of her own, so I let her choose a couple of balls for herself. She decided bright shocking orange was her color. Again, I didn't write down the pattern, though, I might be able to figure these out. Both are pretty simple designs, as I recall. Most of my crochet projects are gifts, though, so if I don't take notes as I'm working, I don't get another chance to inspect them for pattern clues.

PSA ("Promotion-of-Self Announcement"): Please remember to vote in the Inspired Bliss badge design contest. You only have one more day!

Saturday, November 29

Vote for Me!

Below is the button I created for The Mother Letter Project badge design contest, hosted by Inspired Bliss.


Voting lasts through Monday at noon PST. Please go vote for your favorite design. Tell your friends!

Friday, November 28

Greenlandic Pita

I love the internet! You can find so much stuff you never knew you wanted to know. The other day I wanted to make hummus and pita, but was out of yeast. I was out of lemon juice and tahini, too, but that's a post for another day. I found a recipe for baking powder pita that is said to have originated in Greenland. Here is my version.

2 c flour
1-1/3 c whole wheat flour
2 t baking powder
2 t salt
3 T oil
¾-1 c water
  1. Mix together flours, baking powder, and salt.
  2. Stir in oil and water.
  3. Knead until smooth (about 5 minutes).
  4. Allow dough to rest 20 minutes.
  5. Preheat oven to 480°F.
  6. Divide into 8 balls. Roll each to 1/8" thickness.
  7. Spray pitas with water.
  8. Bake on pizza stone or greased cookie sheet 7-8 min. or until pitas begin to turn golden.
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 pita (52 g)
Serving per Recipe 8
Amount per Serving
Calories 210 Calories from Fat 51

% DV
Total Fat 5.5g
Saturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 4g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 123mg
Total Carbohydrates 35g
Dietary Fiber 2.5g
Sugars 0g
Protein 5.5g
9%
4%


0%
5%
12%
11%

Thursday, November 27

Losing and Letting Go

This post was submitted as part of The Mother Letter Project.

Dear Mother,

I don't know if every mother is like this or if I'm especially morbid. Ever since my daughter was born, I've had visions of losing her to an accident or sudden illness. Maybe everybody has these fears, but if we all share them, we certainly don't talk much about it.

While I was pregnant, or maybe when I had a newborn, I read an article written by a woman who'd lost her daughter at age 4. I don't remember the events surrounding the child's death, but I'm haunted still by the way her mother described her own grief: missing the feeling of her daughter's head snuggled into the crook of her neck, her arms aching to carry her weight just once more.

I often catch myself after I've pushed away my own child's attention or affections, when I've been too caught up in what business must be done, the household tasks to be completed. I wonder how I would feel if my little girl were gone. How much I would miss the interruptions, the distractions, the giggles and wiggles and snuggles and songs.

The other night, I was passing my daughter's door on the way to bed. I stopped in for a peek at her as she slept. I leaned down to brush a stay curl off her cheek and tucked the blanket around her shoulder. I thought, again, of the agony it would be to miss her if she were no longer here.

As I was leaving the room, it hit me. There is no "if" about it. I am going to lose her. It may be soon or years from now, by accident, illness, or simply growing up, but the girl she is now will be gone. For the first time, I realized she won't be mine forever. I will look back and have moments of sadness that she doesn't snuggle against my chest anymore or clamber up into my lap to play on the computer, and I will miss her.

Whether she is living here on earth or has moved on to heaven, my daughter won't be mine anymore. And maybe, when that happens, I'll begin to understand that she never really was.

Peace,

Amy

Wednesday, November 26

WFMW: Unique Donations

It's that time of year again. That's right, this week we're heading into Junk Mail Season. As the daughter of a self-proclaimed "junk mail writer," I can get pretty cynical about charitable contributions. It's always easier, in my mind, just to write out a check than to really consider how we can serve others.

This year, since checks are a bit scarce at our house, I've been trying to consider what we can give. In addition to volunteering (and there are many, many fine organizations that could use our time and energy), I wanted to see if there was any way to use some of our clutter to make the holidays a little better for someone else.

During an afternoon visit with my friend Google, we compiled this list of things you may not realize you can donate to a good cause.
  • DVDs
    • DVDs4Vets coordinates the donation of new and used DVDs and portable DVD players to veterans hospitals throughout the US. Visit dvds4vets.org or contact your local VA hospital.
    • KidFlicks supplies DVDs to children's hospitals nationwide. Visit www.kidflicks.org or contact your local pediatric unit.
  • Professional Clothing
  • Dress for Success (for women) and Career Gear (for men) specialize in providing business suits and interview clothing for those who are trying to get back on their feet. Visit dressforsuccess.org or careergear.org or contact your local homeless shelter.
  • Cell Phones
  • Call To Protect refurbishes phones for survivors of domestic violence. Visit www.wirelessfoundation.org/CallToProtect or contact your local women's shelter.
  • Hair
  • Wigs for Kids and Locks of Love create hairpieces for children who have lost their hair and cannot afford the cost of a custom human-hair wig. Visit www.wigsforkids.org or www.locksoflove.org or contact your local salon.
  • Airline Miles
    • Hero Miles provides airline miles to injured military personnel undergoing medical treatment and families. Visit www.fisherhouse.org/programs/heroMiles.shtml.
    • Miracle Flights for Kids flies sick children to medical centers around the country for surgery or therapy. Visit www.miracleflights.org.
    • Many other organizations also accept donated miles, contact your favorite charity or your airline directly for more information.
  • Books
    • Books for Africa is working to end poverty in many African nations by providing textbooks and other reading material to enhance the educational systems in impoverished areas. Visit www.booksforafrica.org.
    • Prison Book Program helps to provide books and educational resources to prisoners. Visit www.prisonbookprogram.org
    • You can also check with your local library to see if they are accepting book donations or for additional organizations that can put your books to good use.
  • Shoes
  • Soles4Souls distributes new and used footwear to those in need around the world. Visit www.soles4souls.org or contact your local shoe store.
  • Coupons
    • Overseas Coupon Program volunteers mail coupons (even expired ones!) for use on military bases around the world. Visit www.ocpnet.org.
    • Food pantries, homeless shelters, and anti-cruelty societies also may accept donated coupons. Check with those near you to find out their policies.
  • Other Stuff
    • Churches, preschools, and daycare centers often collect household items for use in craft projects. Contact those in your area to see what they might be able to use.
    • Homeless shelters will often accept hotel or trial-size personal care products. Check with your local shelter for their donation guidelines.
    • Animal shelters often take worn towels and bedding items. Contact shelters in your area to see what they can use.
If anybody else has some great ideas to donate items that might otherwise be wasting valuable storage space or find their way into a landfill, be sure to leave them in the comments.

For more great ideas, tips, and tricks, visit Works for Me Wednesday at Rocks in My Dryer.

Tuesday, November 25

My Office

We don't have any extra rooms in our house for me to have a home office. Instead, I work from the corner of my living room. I have my desk set up so that I'm facing the sliding glass door with my back to the kitchen. I can oversee my daughter if she is playing on the couch or watching TV or sitting at her own little table across the room.

On the one hand, it's a little crazy-making to not have my own defined space to work, especially when Adam and our daughter are both in the living room talking and playing and laughing. On the other hand, I think if I were holed away off in my own little room, I might actually miss everybody. Maybe someday I can have my own little alcove. Separate but equal ... no, wait ... gone, but not forgotten?

Whatever it is, it would be nice to have just a little more break between my work and my family, especially when I'm coding. Some days, I just have to wait until I've put my daughter to bed before I can get any work done. Were I in a completely separate space, though, I'd miss being a part of things out in the common room.

I've noticed I feel this way a lot, not just about working. Periodically, life gets really overwhelming. I get stuck in my life and just want to get away and do things differently for a while. About this time, wonderful husband usually asks me if I want to have some alone time. So, I go away for a few hours, relax, read a book, think some thoughts all on my own, do some (window) shopping. After this refresher, I suddenly realize that I miss being with my family. I want to see Adam and our daughter playing together. I want to be a part of the tickle fights. I remember, once again, why I wanted to be married and have kids in the first place.

Monday, November 24

Because It's Been that Kind of Weekend

You Are Boggle
You are an incredibly creative and resourceful person.
You're able to dig deep and think outside the box to get things done.
You are a non linear thinker. You don't like following directions
You draw your inspiration from the strangest places sometimes. You're constantly inspired.

Your Attention Span is Short
What attention span? It's difficult for anything to keep your interest.
You are so easily distracted, it's a wonder you could finish this quiz!
You find focusing a challenge. Your mind tends to wander to the strangest places.


While it may be hard for you to complete tasks, you're very creative.
You are easily inspired, and you are often thinking of something interesting.
The world would be a boring place without people like you.


You Are a Hazelnut
You are very unique and distinct. You may even freak some people out.
Most people don't really know how to interact with you.
You get along best with anyone who is super sweet.
But you really do get along with almost anyone. You just need a chance to wow them.


You Are a Club Sandwich
You are have a big personality. It's hard for anyone to ignore you!
You dream big. You think big. And you eat big.
Some people consider you high maintenance, but you just know what you want... and when you want it.

Your best friend: The Tuna Fish Sandwich

Your mortal enemy: The Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich


Your Mind is 57% Cluttered
Your mind is starting to get cluttered, and as a result, it's a little harder for you to keep focused.
Try to let go of your pettiest worries and concerns. The worrying is worse than the actual problems!

Sunday, November 23

My Daughter's Favorite Website

My daughter is absolutely crazy about JellyTelly. This mini-online kids network is really cute, but don't just take our word for it, check it out for yourself!


Isn't it cool? To sign up for your free trial (or to jump straight to a paid subscription) click here.

Saturday, November 22

What Would You Like to Win?

I'm fast approaching my 300th post as well as my 10,000th blog visit. I'd like to host a wonderful giveaway to celebrate, but I'm not really sure what would inspire you to sign up and tell your friends.

As you think about it, bear in mind, I have no money, so whatever it is will have to be free for me to get or make and the delivery cost must be negligible. In other words, I'd love to send you my extra computer system, but I can't afford the shipping.

In the past, I've given away a couple of blog headers (see my work on the blogs of previous winners Mudpies to Dragonflies and There is no such thing as a God-forsaken town). I could do that again, if there is interest, but I'd really like to give away something my readers want.

Some other thoughts I've had:
  • Custom crocheted hat, shawl, bag, or stuffed toy
  • Set of personalized notecards or writing paper
  • Handmade calendar or journal
  • Paperback book
  • Collection of my favorite recipes
  • ???
Please leave your ideas in the comments. You can choose one of the things I've listed or suggest an alternative I haven't mentioned. Ask your friends, have them bring me some ideas, too.

I'm accepting submissions through Thanksgiving weekend and I will announce the contest the following week.

Thanks for your help!!

Friday, November 21

More Good Thoughts

Almost immediately after I posted some great links last time I read two or three more wonderful posts that I knew I'd need to share. Perhaps I'll start a regular feature of Stuff That Makes Me Think.

Eh, we'll see.

Meanwhile, here are some thoughts that deserve a gander and a consideration.

Ever think about how different the concepts of "equal" and "same" really are? Take a look at Palm Tree Pontifications. Ash has a very interesting essay discussing racial identification and how we view one another.

Over at Yarns of the Heart, Jena has a good discussion going about what determines success. In her post, she shares some ideas about what success means and how to inspire success in our children.

Want to be inspired? Check out Mary's story at Owlhaven about a young man in the Dominican Republic who has nothing but God, yet he's willing to share all he has.

Sometimes, I think I could really be a better mother if I had a few more arms. Amy, who blogs at The Finer Things in Life, shares a conversation with her daughter, who suggested becoming an octopus in order to be a better mom.

Finally, I just found this great blog called The Mother Letter Project. It's all about sharing stories of motherhood with other moms, specifically the blogger's wife, who will be receiving all these letters as her Christmas gift. If you post or e-mail your contribution before Christmas, he will send you a copy of all the letters as well.
Special thanks to Shannon from Rocks in My Dryer for this one

Thursday, November 20

Pick Me, Pick Me!

Mary over at Owlhaven has a very nifty giveaway going on right now. She has a selection of books that would make perfect holiday gifts for yourself, your kids, or your friends. The winner will be able to choose two books of her (or his) very own. You can check out all the books and the contest guidelines here.

Dream Songs and Night Songs          The De-Stress Diva's Guide to Life

If I won, I think I'd be going with Dream Songs and Night Songs: From Belgium to Brazil and The De-Stress Diva's Guide to Life, or maybe A Duck in New York City, just because it looks so cute!

A Duck in New York City

Now head on over and pick some for yourself!

Vegan Cream of Broccoli Soup

While I don't follow a vegan diet, I often look at vegan recipes or purchase vegan prepared foods because they are sure to be made without milk. The original recipe on which this soup is based calls for fewer vegetables, but also adds cheddar cheese at the end. I think this one is great all on its own, though if you aren't vegan or allergic to milk, a little cheddar on top could be yummy, too.
click photo for larger image       
1 T oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped (approx. 1 c)
1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped (approx. ½ c)
1 clove garlic, crushed (or 1 t minced)
3 T flour
¼ t each salt and pepper, or to taste
dash of nutmeg
1¾ c vegetable broth
3 c steamed broccoli florets, divided
1 c soymilk
  1. Sauté onion, celery, and garlic in oil over medium high heat until soft. Add flour and spices.
  2. Cook, stirring constantly, until flour begins to brown. Add vegetable broth and 1 c broccoli.
  3. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until quite thick, stirring occasionally.
  4. Remove from heat and blend until smooth, adding a bit of the soymilk if it’s too thick to blend.
  5. Return to pan and add remaining florets and soymilk.
  6. Heat through and serve.
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 2/3 c (303 g)
Serving per Recipe 4
Amount per Serving
Calories 121 Calories from Fat 43

% DV
Total Fat 5g
Saturated Fat 0.5g
Monounsaturated Fat 2.5g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 226mg
Total Carbohydrates 14.5g
Dietary Fiber 5.5g
Sugars 4g
Protein 7.5g
7%
3%


0%
9%
5%
22%

Wednesday, November 19

Messages in My Inbox

My K-LOVE verse of the day this morning:
I took my troubles to the Lord; I cried out to Him, and He answered my prayer.

Psalm 120:1, NLT

Anybody else have the tendency to cry out to your spouse, your kids, your mom, your friends, the blog-iverse at large ... basically everybody who can't answer your prayers? And, meanwhile, I'm so busy crying, I've forgotten to pray to the One who can actually change me.

Therein lies the real issue. I would much prefer not to change. No, I may not be happy with me. I may realize, intellectually, that growing in my own faith, hope, and charity would lead to greater life fulfillment. Yet, it's hard. Growing up requires that I put God first, and put others before myself, and *shudder* sacrifice. And I don't just mean in my grocery budget, but myself. My material comfort, my desire for financial security, even my need for sleep (especially when I'm the one who chose to stay up late finishing my book last night).
    Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.

    Therefore I urge you ... by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. (Romans 11:33-12:1, NASB)
The problem with being a living sacrifice, I've discovered, is it leaves the option open to squirm off the altar.

We're called to wait on the Lord, not to wriggle away from Him. So, I'm learning more about sacrifice. Discovering what it means to grow up. Here I am, in this place, still.

Tuesday, November 18

Money Talks

I'm starting to realize ... there's "frugal" and then there's "broke." All this time, I'd been thinking we were still coasting down the money-saving path to the first, but in reality, we hit the second a few stops back.

When I think about it, I shouldn't be surprised. We went nearly 17 months between regular paychecks. It's tough trying to economize, still, while we pay off the move and struggle to adjust to about $500 less per month than we were expecting (and had budgeted for). Really, just how much can I cut down on my grocery spending?

One thing I've found is the sheer number of articles about saving money. The problem is, most of them aren't really very helpful. I read one online just the other day. As I recall, it was aimed at working moms who wanted to quit their jobs and stay home with the kids. Unfortunately, the author's suggestions were worthless for us. I don't remember them all, but a few that come to mind were: cut down to basic cable, cancel gym membership, eliminate magazine subscriptions, and consider paring down to just one car.

Uhm, yeah. Thanks.

Meanwhile, where do I find suggestions on saving money when you really don't have any to spare? None of this "trim the fat" nonsense; I mean, we're already cutting each other's hair, we've taken our (only) car for one non-work trip in 10 days, and I crocheted a scrubby sponge out of a plastic onion sack this afternoon so I wouldn't have to spend $2.95 on a package of them at the store.

Or how about making more money? Anybody need a freelance designer? Copy editor? Wanna pay me to design you a new blog header?

Anybody?

Dang, but this trusting-God-to-provide thing is tough.

Monday, November 17

But Not Quite

I have a rumbly in my tumbly, only it's not the cute Winnie-the-Pooh kind.

Blech.

Looks like it's a blustery day out, too, but I don't know that I'm not doing much to enjoy it besides moaning quietly on the couch.

Eventually, I'll need to get up and make some lunch, but until then, we're hanging out here on the couch watching Hayley Mills and Hayley Mills in The Parent Trap.

Does anybody know the name of the guy in Rat Race? My daughter keeps asking. Apparently that's what she and Adam watched before I got up.

I need to go gather what's left of my wits and figure out what I can cook with what's in the house that isn't going to make me lose my lunch, if I'd had any.

Hope everybody else is having a better day. Cheers.

Sunday, November 16

New and Improved Children

Now even more uses!

Do you bake your own bread?

Have you been eyeing those newfangled stand mixers with dough hooks or so-called "bread machines" all with the prices to match?

Are you the mom or dad of a young child? Do they like play dough?

If so, you already have all the "bread machine" you need!

Rather than spending your hard earned money on machines that make bread for you, then spending even more money on dough for your children to play with--include your kids in the bread making game, and let them do the kneading for you!

Public Service Announcement brought to you by your friends at Experience Imagination.

Friday, November 14

"For born this day ..."

Today, a very special man in my life turns 35.

Happy Birthday

I thank God so much for Adam. On days like this, I make a special note to thank Him for taking the time and effort of knit Adam together in his mother's womb.

God gave me an amazing gift in this man He designed to be my husband. He gave him a kind heart and great strength--both in body and in character. He has given him a heart for others and the desire to put relationships first. Adam still chooses to love me, even when I am difficult to love. Yup, God made a pretty special guy, born on this day, and I am ever in His debt for sending my love my way.

Adam, I pray that you have a fabulous birthday. Know that I am celebrating your birth, your life, and your love. May your days be full of grace, peace, joy, and thanksgiving! Loving you today, tomorrow, and forever.

Thursday, November 13

Hope

I subscribe to a verse of the day e-mail from the K-LOVE radio network. Today's verse is Psalm 33:22,
Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in you alone.

As it happens, I was in the middle of organizing my day when I read the verse. It occurred to me that, in all my planning, I wasn't hoping in the Lord to give me strength, but trusting in my own organizational skills to be able to fit everything in that I wanted to do today.

This may seem like a minor distinction, God having given me whatever talents I may possess, and having granted the ability to learn skills, but I think it's an important little difference.

You see, if my focus is on organizing, getting every part of my day set up perfectly, putting all the plans in place, the focus of my day is on, you got it, me. I start to think I am the one making it all happen, rather than God working through me.

Furthermore, I started to pray a bit as I finished reading the verse. I prayed that God would help me to keep my hope in Him alone. Which was when I considered: God's been trying to teach me this lesson for months. In fact, I got much better at trusting and hoping in Him when I didn't have any reserviors of energy, money, or hope. But the moment I start having resources of my own again, I shift back into coast mode. It's as if I tell God, "Okay, I've got it from here. I'll call You if I need You."

Maybe my real problem isn't so much the hope issue itself, but the attitude I've been ascribing to God. I tend to see God as very busy, as if all of my little concerns are just keeping Him away from His "real" work. What I fail to realize is that God is never busy. I often wish I could just take time out of my schedule to play with my daughter without the cursor on my mental to-do list blinking incessantly at me. This is one of the reasons I'm trying to organize my time better. But God's to-do list is already done! It is finished. He's got, as they say, nothing but time to spend with each and every one of us. And there is nothing He desires more.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
From Romans 8.

Wednesday, November 12

Only Mostly Dead

My printer must be on strike. Ever since Adam printed out all of his novel notes for NaNoWriMo, she hasn't been wanting to print anything else.

I fed her ink, black and color; I've opened her top to peer at her innards; but nothing. I tried unplugging her from the wall. That got me three pages, but now she's not working again.

I really wish I knew what the problem was. The printer thinks there is a paper jam. She keeps flashing the error code at me, telling me to clear the jam, then press the start button. I try that. She sputs and starts and rolls her rollers before making a halfhearted attempt to feed a new sheet. She won't grab on to one, though, and starts flashing the jam code again.

Maybe there is something I can clean or adjust? I checked out her user manual online (since I lost the paper copy almost immediately after connecting the printer), but it just told me to clear the paper and if it was still giving me problems, call the customer service center. I'd really rather not do that unless I have to. "Customer Service" generally isn't.

Speaking of which, Adam finishes the customer service section of his training next week. He brought home another 100% on a quiz they took. Yay!! Apparently, not everyone in his class passed the quiz (passing is 85%). He told me he didn't understand how anyone could miss so many, as it's mostly common sense. I reminded him of all the helplines we've called over the years that connected us with reps who have been anything but helpful.

"And these people," I pointed out, "are the ones who passed the training!"

Maybe we should open our own customer service school. Really, if you are with a company that has excellent customer service, aren't you that much more loyal? And if they have horrible service, won't you look to choose a different brand next time?

We could make millions.

Tuesday, November 11

Under Pressure

If you are considering buying or using a pressure cooker (and if you don't already own one, you really should consider it), there are a few things you ought to know.
  1. You'll need one about twice the size of whatever you might want to cook
  2. Want to make a gallon of chili? You'll need an 8-quart cooker. Because the cooking method requires pressure to build up within the covered pan, you can't fill it to the top.
  3. Only fill your pan halfway
  4. Repeat after me, "Only fill it halfway up." If you fill it too full, the steam valve will get clogged, the pressure won't build properly, and you'll end up with a pot full of burnt, half-cooked chili. Ask me how I know this.
  5. When working properly, the cooker hisses, spits steam, and the weighted cover on the steam valve rocks back and forth
  6. The first time you use it, you may think it's going to explode. It won't. If the steam valve is getting louder and the valve cover stops rocking, turn down the heat a little bit.
  7. Make sure you add enough water to produce steam pressure
  8. This may result in a slight thinning of some recipes. To counteract that, after the pressure has dissipated, uncover your pan and drain or boil off excess water.
  9. You can't open the lid before releasing the pressure
  10. Most (all?) cookers on the market today have a quick-release button. Take care when using it, however, as steam will come shooting out of the pot and can cause injury. Do not use this pressure release method with soups and stews, as superheated liquid may escape with the steam.
  11. Do not try to cook pasta or fry foods under pressure
  12. Oil does not produce steam and if heated to a high enough temperature, will catch fire. Pasta needs time to rehydrate and adding pressure does not speed up the process.
Pressure Cooking The Easy WayIf you're trying pressure cooking for the first time, I would recommend using a recipe designed specifically for use with a pressure cooker, like the one below. If you decide to make pressure cooking a regular habit, I'd suggest investing in a pressure-cooking cookbook. We have a couple different ones (also owned by Adam for more than five years); I've found Pressure Cooking The Easy Way to be most helpful.

And now for the best part, my 25-minute bean recipe!

Refried Beans in the Pressure Cooker

2 c dried pinto beans
2 T salt
2½ qt water, divided
2 T oil
2 large onions, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced (approx. 2 T)
2 T chili powder
2 T cumin
  1. Add dried beans, salt, and 1½ qt water to cooker
  2. Bring pressure up over high heat, reduce heat and cook under pressure 5 minutes
  3. Let pressure reduce and drain beans and set aside
  4. Sauté onions and garlic over medium heat until soft (do this in the bottom of the pressure cooker)
  5. Add spices, remaining water, and beans
  6. Return to high pressure and cook 15 minutes
  7. Let pressure reduce and mash beans with a potato masher or the back of a fork
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 c (334 g)
Serving per Recipe 6
Amount per Serving
Calories 235 Calories from Fat 50

% DV
Total Fat 5.5g
Saturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 3.5g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 287mg
Total Carbohydrates 37g
Dietary Fiber 11.5g
Sugars 3g
Protein 11g
9%
4%


0%
12%
12%
46%

Monday, November 10

How Did I Not Know About This??

I'm a convert, folks. Hook, line, and pressure cooker. Yup. I just finished making refried beans. It took me 25 minutes, from dried beans!

Can I tell you how many times I've decided against some recipe because I didn't have canned beans in the house? Think what this will do to my hummus making! Easy peasy.

Seriously, why didn't anybody tell me about this? Adam brought a pressure cooker into the marriage. That means I've had access to this wonderful time-saving miracle gadget for four-and-a-half years, yet I'm just now discovering it.

*hangs head in shame*

I need to go eat lunch now, but I'll be back later with a recipe and some pressure cooking tips. Actually, better make that tomorrow. Let's be realistic here, I saved lots of cooking time, but the thing doesn't do dishes or mop the floor.

Hmmm ... an automatic pressure floor mop ...

Sunday, November 9

Wa-hoo!

Well, I needed something to cheer about since the Bears lost. Again.

Happily, I found it. I was able to change the properties of my template to fix the problem I was having with numbered lists.

Whenever I had a numbered list, it would look like this:
    1. Item One
    2. Item Two
    3. Item Three
    4. And so forth ...
But, I discovered a neat little bit of code that I could change and make my problem disappear (no pun intended).

I went into the HTML for my template and replaced
    .post ul {
    padding-left: 32px;
    list-style-type: none;
    line-height: 1.4em;
    }

    .post li {
    padding: 0 0 4px 17px;
    background: url(the url of my image) no-repeat 0 3px;
with
    .post ul {
    padding-left: 32px;
    list-style-image: url('the url of my image');
    line-height: 1.4em;
    }

    .post li {
    padding: 0 0 4px 17px;
    }
And now, when I choose to use an ordered list, I see this:
  1. Thing one
  2. Thing two
  3. Thing three
Isn't that so much nicer?

Saturday, November 8

Thoughts Worth Thinking

I'm getting a little tired of reading posts suggesting (or outright stating) that anyone who voted for our new president-elect is a moron, not a Christian, or must have confused Obama with Martin Luther King. I consider Christine's story on welcome to my brain . net a much-needed antidote. Make sure you read through the comments, too; there is some good discussion going on there.

Joel from Gathering Life for Eternity recently posted on the temptations and effects of overscheduling our families. Make sure you have a hanky at the ready before reading the story he links in his post.

Is anybody else feeling more and more like we, as Christians, need to spend a little less time huddled next to the Holy Fire and a little more time out pointing the way to those in the darkness? Take a gander at one pastor's musings in The Grace Cafe where John poses the question Too Holy for Our Own Good?.

And if that's not enough for you, feel free to browse through my archives with the new handy dandy drop-down menu in my sidebar. Surely I've had a thought or two worth thinking.

Haven't I?

Friday, November 7

On Cloud Nine

Today is my 33rd birthday. Unless Adam is hosting a surprise party I don't know about, we don't have any special plans to celebrate. I'm okay with that. For the past couple of days I've been fighting with a chest cold and sleeping 9-10 hours a day, only to wake up tired again.

But enough about me.

As my birthday present to you, I offer one of my favorite dessert recipes. It's very, very rich, but oh, so yummy. Make sure you have a crowd to feed before making it--you'll need lots of mouths to gobble down this goodness.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cloud

1½ c + 2 tablespoons butter (divided)
1 c sugar
1 large egg
1 t vanilla
¾ c flour
scant 1/3 c cocoa powder
1 c brown sugar
1 c creamy peanut butter
2 c heavy whipping cream
1 T powdered sugar
  1. Melt ½ cup plus 2T butter and let cool
  2. Add 1 cup sugar, egg and vanilla, stirring until combined
  3. Mix in flour and cocoa powder
  4. Spread evenly in the bottom of a greased 9x13 pan
  5. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes or until center is set
  6. Meanwhile, melt remaining butter with brown sugar; stir in peanut butter
  7. Refrigerate 20 minutes, then beat until light and fluffy
  8. Whip cream with powdered sugar
  9. Fold 2 cups whipped cream into peanut butter mixture and spread over cooled crust
  10. Top with remaining whipped cream
  11. Serve chilled and cut into 24 pieces
I started adding the nutrition information, but reconsidered. If you're going to make this recipe, do you really want to know how many fat grams it has?

Thursday, November 6

The Mom Test

So ....

*ahem*

Welcome to this first meeting of the American Mothers-Including Regional Expatriates in Alternative Lands (AM-I-REAL). Thank you all for coming.

Before we get started this evening, I'd like to have everyone take one of these and pass it down your row ... there you go ... some for you ... here you are ....

Okay. Please fill out the following questionnaire using the Number 2 pencil you were instructed to bring to the meeting.

Does everyone have their pencil? No?

Well, come on up, we have a couple of extras here for anyone who has forgotten.

All right. Let's begin, shall we?

Are you a real mother?
Please indicate all steps you have completed.
    [-] Conception, implantation, quickening of child
    [-] Birth of child
    [-] Naming child
    [-] Child's first bath
    [-] Nursing child
    [-] Being recipient of vomit, urine, or other excreted bodily fluid
    [-] Waking up to child watching you at an intimate moment
    [ ] Taking child to emergency room
    [-] Baptism/christening of child
    [-] Toilet training child
    [ ] Retrieving item child flushed down toilet
....

I thought we'd made it past the fascination with flushing stage. I really had. While she had put a few things into the toilet that required some fishing that doesn't really bear contemplating, she'd never flushed anything down. Until last night. A set of play keys. And I hadn't the slightest idea what to do about it.

I tried calling Adam, but he was in a training session at work and couldn't take the call. I tried calling my dad, but he wasn't at home. My sister wasn't answering her cell and it was too late to call my brother. Being new in town, we don't know any plumbers we could simply call for advice. So, I checked with my good friend Google. Google didn't have any great ideas either (although he told me a funny story about a woman in the Netherlands who accidentally flushed €900).

I attempted a rubber-gloved-hand-down-the-drain maneuver, but to no avail; I couldn't reach far enough to feel anything. When Adam got home, he flushed the toilet, pronounced it "fine" and said we shouldn't worry about it.

It's been used twice now. Everything has gone down okay, so far. We haven't put it through any, ah ... rigorous testing at this point. I'm a little nervous on that point.

Anybody have some experience in this area you'd like to share?

Wednesday, November 5

Free JellyTelly!!

I've been reading Phil Vischer's blog lately. For the last few weeks, his new project has been this close to being ready for public consumption. Finally, late Monday night, they launched JellyTelly. It's a tiny start-up Christian internet-TV-video-game network that is, in Phil's words, "somewhere between a Sesame Street and a Nickelodeon." To hear more of Phil's words, and his vision for this project, go watch his three-minute introductory video.

Right now they're offering a free one-month trial to access the videos (approximately 20 minutes per day of assorted puppet, live-action, and animated clips) and games, including:
  • Jelly Paint a collection of point-and-click coloring pages of JellyTelly characters
  • Puppet Producer create your own character puppet by combining heads, bodies, facial features, and accessories
  • Big Air help your chosen character snowboard down the mountain, avoiding obstacles and gaining points performing acrobatic jumps
There are three or four other games, but these are the ones we've tried so far.

After the free month is over, subscription rates are very reasonable at only $2.99 per month, and as I understand it, they are trying to set it up as a name-your-own-subscription-rate deal. Currently, there is no option for gift subscriptions. I have sent that as a suggestion, and they are in the process of setting up a final (read: funded) version of the site, so it may be possible in the near future.

***UPDATED: I just got an e-mail back from Tim at JellyTelly. He tells me they are planning to add gift subscriptions and possibly annual subscriptions to the final site. He also told me they were improving the video viewer to make it more kid friendly and offer the ability to jump from segment to segment (the current viewer only allows you to play the full day's programming in order one segment after another).

Oh, and just so there is no confusion, I am in no way affiliated with Jellyfish Labs or JellyTelly. I'm just a VeggieTales fan from way back who thinks Phil has some pretty cool ideas about kids and faith and I want everybody I know to have a chance to get in on this.

Anybody Watch the News?

That's a joke, folks. Really. I'm one of the least politically-charged people you're likely to meet and I was glued to the election returns. Adam and I had the TV on and both of us were also sitting with our computers watching the maps light up in red and blue.

So, here we are: a moment in history. What does it mean? Who knows. We'll all have to wait and see.

Can we talk about something else now or does everybody need some more time to process?

Yeah.

Well, okay. I'll be back later ....

Tuesday, November 4

Priorities

As I was heading out for some alone time the other night, my daughter was all up in arms about my departure.

"No, don't go!!" she cried several times while I got ready. "I don't want to miss you."

"Sometimes it's good to miss people a little bit," I told her. "It helps you appreciate them more when they're back."

I'm not sure what she heard from that, but she next started asking about a gift. I replied, "You'll have the gift of my presence."

Well, she picked right up on that. Whoops.

"Maybe I could bring you a little something."

"A present? For ME?"

"Yes, for you."

"Okay. Bye-bye," she waved and scampered off.

Monday, November 3

A Day for Praise and Prayer

Today is Adam's first day at his new job. His initial start date was to be October 13th, but that was pushed back for undisclosed reasons. We've appreciated the extra time to settle in and unpack, but we're both really glad for him to be getting back to work again.

Please celebrate with us and pray that it would be a good day for him. Thanks!

Sunday, November 2

Something Corny

Our camera went missing. I knew we had moved it and I even found the camera box, but it was empty. Adam had taken it out to get some "before" photos of our new place. He remembered putting it on the counter top, which subsequently had been piled high with unpacking detritus. In the process of excavating, we finally found it, just in time for a little road trip to the World's Only Corn Palace.

I didn't take very many photos. Frankly, I was expecting something a little more ... palatial. Basically, it's a small event center decorated in corn cobs and grains. They re-corn the outside every year with different art work. There was a series of display cases in the lobby that explained the process. Those were pretty neat. But otherwise, it was just the outside corn decor, photos of the previous years' art, and a series of additional corn mosaics inside the gymnatorium space. Here is one I got on film (on disk?).

corn mosaic
Now I can say I saw Mount Rushmore!

I guess I sort of expected guided tours or something. There was a very nice older couple set up by the door with a table full of local travel brochures. When they found out we'd just moved here from Chicago they told me all about a trip they took there over New Year's 1957. "Of course, they still had Marshall Field's there then," the wife commented, as she reviewed the sights they'd taken in.

I did pick up a couple of regional vacation guides, though, and found all sorts of neat stuff that I never realized would be in South Dakota, like the National Music Museum, The Roo Ranch, and the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary, the Laura Ingalls Home, and The National Presidential Wax Museum.

Now we'll just have to save up pennies for gas. We ought to be able to afford a few gallons by next summer, don't you think?

Saturday, November 1

Celebrating All the Saints

This post was originally published November 1, 2006

Today is All Saints Day. Having been raised a generic protestant, I never really thought much about the day. We didn't have saints when I was a kid, so celebrating all of them made as little sense as celebrating none. It's only been lately that I have, to borrow a phrase from my friend Joel, "discovered my inner Anglican." [UPDATE: Joel now has his own blog! Check him out at Gathering Life for Eternity.]

I'm not entirely sure what the official Church stance is on saints. Since I wasn't confirmed as an Anglican, I didn't learn such things, and since I tend to credit what I personally believe over the official decree of any given organized body, I haven't bothered to research it much. That said, I found some fascinating history on the internet today.

The Anglican Church has only ever canonized one saint: Charles I, King of England, Scotland, and Ireland from 1625-1649. He was apparently rather unpopular as an advocate of the Divine Right of Kings, a doctrine he used to justify setting taxes without the consent of Parliament. He was also on the throne for the first two of three conflicts making up the English Civil War. He was eventually overthrown and executed for high treason.

In general, not the sort of man I would think to look up to. However, let me offer some more history. What about these people?
  • One man took his family away from their home, no sure destination in mind. They moved to a country where they knew no one and lived as nomads for 60 years.
  • Another was raised in wealth and privilege but gave all that up when he committed a murder and ran away to hide in the desert.
  • A prostitute housed enemies of the state, then helped them escape undetected by the authorities.
  • A king found himself in love with a married woman. He seduced her and, when he found out she was pregnant, killed her husband to cover it up.
You may already have recognized these examples as Abraham, Moses, Rahab, and David. All lauded as heroes of the faith. These are just a few of the people Paul mentions in Hebrews 11. He recounts their continued faith in promises they never saw fulfilled in their lifetimes.

So much of what I learned in church as a child was about being good. While we certainly shouldn't instruct kids to do evil, this sort of teaching just seems out of proportion to me. God didn't come to earth for us to worry if we're being good enough. In fact, exactly the opposite is true. He came to make sure we never again had to worry about being good enough, because He was good enough in our place. He freed us from the fear that our past, our mistakes, our deliberate sinful choices would keep us far from Him.

Paul further exhorts his readers, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." (Hebrews 12:1, NIV).

So many people who have gone before us are cheering us on as it is now our turn to run the race of life and faith. And they aren't all flannelgraph pictures like I saw in Sunday school. Lovely peaceful images who look like they'd never done a hard day's work in their lives. No, these were real people who knew how difficult life can be. They committed mistakes, they made bad choices. But they were forgiven. They are now held up as examples of what true faith is.

Today is a chance to honor all the saints. And to recognize that we are all the saints. Sainthood is not something handed down from on high upon the deserving few, but on the UNdeserving many. It is just as available to each person, regardless of our own merit, or lack thereof. We are all worthy of the honor of sainthood, simply because God loves us. In the words of Pigpen: Sort of makes you want to treat me (and yourself) with more respect, doesn't it?