Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Raise Your Hand if You're Already Overwhelmed!

In 56 minutes it will be December 1.

I get a little bit crazy this time of the year.


What should I do first: Decorations? Shopping? Sewing and baking? Cleaning?



Think I'll take a nap.


My children know that Christmas sometimes arrives with the tulips.


At least Faith is ready!


My advice to myself: Do something! But do it one day at a time.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Empanadas!


Got my empanada makers a while back and gave 'em a try. Empanadas can be sweet or savory. You can fill them with just about anything: meat fillings, cheese fillings, lunch meat, vegetables, fruits, etc. I, of course, decided to use apple pie filling first time around.

You can also use just about any kind of dough: Pizza dough, pie crust, croissant, crescent, puff pastry or phyllo dough. I intend to try all of these, but this time I just used my own pie crust recipe.

My filling was a little of this and a little of that, so I can't give you the recipe. The crust, however, is old, tried and true. I got this recipe from a home economics teacher, when I was a newlywed, and a first year teacher. Probably in the teachers' lounge I said something about my bad cooking, so this nice lady invited me to audit her 8th grade cooking classes. It was fun and I got some great recipes.



BASIC PIE CRUST

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup solid shortening (Crisco or butter)
¼ cup shortening
4-6 tablespoons water

Combine flour and salt in a small bowl. Add ½ cup shortening and mix thoroughly with an electric mixer until mixture looks like corn meal.


Add ¼ cup shortening and cut in with your hands, a pastry blender, two knives, or whatever. The result will be a mixture with larger bits of shortening, not like corn meal anymore.


Add water gradually and stir with a fork or your hands. Stop adding water when the dough sticks together and forms a soft ball. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 20 minutes.


Roll out the dough with a rolling pin, trying not to overwork it.

For regular pies:
If you are making empty pie shells, let the prepared shells rest for 20 minutes before baking. This will prevent them from shrinking. Also, place dry beans in the shells before baking, to keep the bottom flat. Bake empty pie shells at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.


For regular pies:
Bake 2-crust pie at 400 degrees for 40-45 minutes.
Bake pumpkin pie at 425 degrees for 20-30 minutes, reduce heat to 350 and bake another 40 minutes or so, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.


The empanada makers come with instructions. Basically, you use one side to cut the circle of dough, then turn it over and lay the dough on the side with the "teeth." Then put 1-2 tablespoons of filling in the center of the circle, brush a little water around the outside edge, and fold the form over and press the edges together.

I made the beginner's mistake of over filling my empanadas, but they stayed closed and baked beautifully anyway. I baked them at 400 for about 15 minutes.

Pie and Coffee, Anyone?


Friday, November 26, 2010

An Old Sunday School Song

"Count your blessings; name them one by one. Count your blessings; see what God has done."


Years ago, before modern psychology, talk therapy and anti-depressive medications, people knew what worked.


A positive attitude, and supportive family and friends, can go a long way toward helping a person through tough times.


In my work with drug addicts, I would encourage my patients to make a "Gratitude List." And, you know what, even a homeless, HIV positive drug addict can find things to be thankful for.


So I hope you are counting your blessings today.


I experience my gratitude list constantly. I am grateful for daily tasks, like washing the dishes. Yes, it's in the back of my mind that I don't have a dishwasher, but the thought that is in the forefront is my gratitude for hot water and soap, and the comfort and security that all these dirty dishes represent. Think of the millions of people who don't have such things!


I have made a choice to be thankful every day, all day.


I suffer from chronic gratitude, and the condition gives me joy.


"Life is not the way it's supposed to be. It's the way it is. The way you cope with it is what makes the difference."
– Virginia Satir

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Why I Hate to Fly

"Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." - Benjamin Franklin

Warning:  If you're looking for light-hearted and funny, skip this entry. Because today I'm on a self-righteous rant!

I was just watching The View and heard Whoopie repeating what we keep hearing about airport security, "If the metal detector goes off, it's your own fault!" And the other lie, "If you don't wish to go through the new x-ray machine you have to take the pat down." This is bullshit! I never get a choice, I have no control over this, and there's not a darn thing I can do about my artificial knee!

The last time I flew I had to do both -  the new "nakedness" screener and a full pat down! Now, I'm sympathetic toward the TSA employees who must do it, so I never give them trouble, but that doesn't change the fact that I am being subjected to unwanted and intrusive touching. And, I'm not convinced that there's any good reason for it.

Something I have noticed since the beginning of all this:  The people I see at the airport getting this treatment are middle-aged or elderly, sometimes in wheelchairs, sometimes with canes and, I'll bet you, almost always with artificial joints or medical implants of some sort!

How is that system "keeping us safe"? Why is their "random" checking mostly picking on the elderly and disabled? The conclusion I've reached on this is that it's a government boondoggle of the worst kind that exists solely to provide employment for a lot of people at taxpayer expense.

OK, FBI, come and arrest me!!!

If I'm not in jail tomorrow, I'd love to hear your gut opinion on this. What has been your personal experience at the airport, and how often do you get the pat down?

Do you believe it keeps us safe? Please explain how.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Past And Future Present Tense


Me - In my brownie uniform

I just found the most interesting blog, called Forgotten Old Photos. Check it out sometime; the link is to the right under Blogs I Like.

The blogger explains that she started with old photos found in a couple of boxes in a thrift shop and her project has developed over the past 2 years into a delightful venture of communication and reunification. She publishes the photos she finds, and also some that people have sent to her, and occasionally an old photo is reunited with the subject's relatives. When a match is made she sends the original photo on to the appropriate family. What an interesting project!

Preserving images from the past may turn out to be one of the greatest benefits of electronic media. I'm not a technology expert, but my impression is that the "bits" that images are made of don't degrade, can be reproduced endlessly, and are stored easily on hard drives, disks, etc.

I suppose the same is true of the electronic storage of music.

And what a difference that will make to future generations' knowledge of history! For example, what do we know of 500 years ago - the year 1510?
  • We have the written word, passed down, rewritten, interpreted, edited, etc.
  • We have a few old books and artifacts, mostly stored in museums.
  • We have old paintings, samples that have survived the years, again mostly in museums or private collections.
What will the people of 2510 - 500 years in the future - know of us?
  • Photos, videos, movies, diaries (blogs), newspapers and textbooks, all accurately preserved by electronic data.
  • Although not everything will survive, the sample that does will be larger because the medium is more stable.
  • The only thing 26th century people will need to access all this is a way to transfer our "bits" into their methods of storing and accessing information.
In the 12th century, the Bible was copied by hand by monks; in the 15th century books were printed from hand set printing presses; in the 26th century information will be stored and transmitted by machine. There's a potential here for much greater accuracy and less bias. And greater potential for ordinary folk to be heard. I like it!

In the meantime, I'm enjoying these old photos, and the blogger's attempts to interpret and connect-the-dots (literally).

And here are a couple of my own fairly old photos:
First Grade - Fredericksburg School - 1952
 
Vacation Bible School - First Baptist Church - 1954


If you have old photos that have not yet been duplicated electronically, don't waste another minute. Scan them and store them for future generations. Your great great great great great grandchildren, nieces and nephews will appreciate it!

Now, go hug someone you love, and say a kind word to someone you don't!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Faith's Defense

OK, so it's my fault there's a lizard in my Momma's kitchen?

Hey, I try to keep order around here. I keep track of all critters in the garage, large an' small, keep 'em in line, make sure they don't bother my people.

If there's a cockroach (this is Florida!) I give it a talkin' to an' chase it into a corner. "Don't come out in the daytime," I say, "an' if someone turns on the garage light, skedaddle!" They listen. Cockroaches are very smart people!

My Momma doesn't really appreciate that. I'm tellin' you, I spend hours crouched behind the garage door, watchin' for lizards an' mice an' all! If somethin' comes in I bat it around an' pester it until it learns how to behave. Tough job, but some body's gotta do it.

I am a "no kill" cat! But my Momma doesn't seem to understand that.

One day my Momma found a mouse in the house. It was in her shoe! Well, did she go nuts! She carried me into the room where the mouse in the shoe was, so I started talking to that poor scared creature. I talked telepathically, of course. Humans haven't evolved to the point where they can do that, so my Momma must have thought I was just sitting there. She got impatient an' decided to deal with it herself. That's when the trouble began.

My Momma has a Grab-It, one of those old lady things that old ladies use to reach things up high, or in corners. Well, my Momma took that thing an' grabbed onto Charlie's tail (yes, he had told me his name) an' held him way up in the air. Charlie hollered at me to make it stop, but there was nothing I could do. I was so upset by this that I had to leave the room.

Back at my post in the garage, I heard the rest of it, an' it wasn't pretty: Momma did a very bad thing. Momma dropped poor Charlie into the toilet an' flushed it over an' over!

Now, Charlie was a strong healthy fella, so I pretend in my mind that he swam through the sewer an' emerged at some point onto a beautiful field of grass an' nuts an' berries, an' is livin' a long an' peaceful life. But of course, you know where my mind sometimes goes: I'm afraid I have to face the fact that my Momma is probably a murderer.

You know, the mice police have their opinion but as for me, I have forgiven her. She's just a dumb human after all.

So, Lucy (that's her name, you know, under the fridge), I'm rootin' for her. And, although I've been told humans are too dumb to hear them, I'm still sending telepathic messages to my Momma to leave her be!

It's not easy keeping this house in order, but I take my job seriously an' do the best that I can. And I do love my Momma (an' my other Momma, an' my brother Odie, an' all the little critters in the house)

That's my story an' I'm stickin' to it!

Friday, November 19, 2010

He's Back Again!

 
We bought a new refrigerator last August and I think this little guy came with it.

I've done everything I could think of to get him (or her) out of my kitchen. Every morning he emerges from under the fridge and looks out of the french double doors leading to the back yard, yearning to be outside. And I'm yearning to put him outside!

Go to the light Little One! Enter the Great Outdoors!

One day I tried to help him. I corralled the cat in the garage (she's not allowed outside) and propped the french doors wide open. Then I pushed the fridge a bit. This action uncovered my lizard but I learned immediately that he's not too bright. He scuttled under the fridge instead of heading into the light, missing his opportunity to be free in the great outdoors. Instead, he hides again!

I didn't give up. I moved the fridge again. This time the crock pot fell off the fridge and landed on my head. Well, I've got a hard head (in more ways than one), so I gave it one more try, but I think by this time poor little lizard was terrified, what with all the noise and commotion. After that I couldn't find him; he was probably clutching the innards of the fridge in total terror.

That was a couple of months ago. I've had a few sightings since then but when he hears me coming, he splits. He won't stand still for a picture, declining the fame and fortune and honor available to him by being on my Blog. I actually had to scavenge these pictures off of  the Internet.

He's been here so long, I think he should be paying rent.

He needs to get a job!

I've been wondering how big he's going to get, what he's eating (dog food? bugs?), what the life span of a lizard is.

I've also been wondering why Missy Faith  is such a lousy hunter!

And, most importantly, I've been wondering what I should name the little guy, since he clearly is here to stay!

Any suggestions?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What's My Line?

Will the REAL Matthew, son of Kathleen and Matthew, please stand up (figuratively speaking)?


"Call me Shrek!"


(+)(+)(+)(+)(+)(+)(+)(+)(+)(+)(+)(+)(+)(+)(+)(+)(+)(+)(+)(+)(+)(+)


"I got it! I got it!"


OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO



"Wanna share my cereal?"


(%)(%)(%)(%)(%)(%)(%)(%)(%)(%)(%)(%)(%)(%)(%)(%)(%)(%)(%)



"Two points!"


(+)(+)(+)(+)(+)(+)(+)(+)(+)(+)(+)(+)(+)(+)(+)(+)(+)(+)(+)(+)(+)(+)



"Hey, wanna party?"

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO



"Can you do my pedicure while I soak, please?"


(%)(%)(%)(%)(%)(%)(%)(%)(%)(%)(%)(%)(%)(%)(%)(%)(%)(%)(%)



Ahh... There he is! Welcome to the World, Matthew!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

So What's a Person to Do?

Saw the doctor yesterday: Everything's fine except my blood pressure, despite the pill I take. Doctor says, "Eat less salt." Sigh.

Here's what I learned about salt this morning:

It's in everything.

There's way too much in everything, even if the label suggests the food is "healthy" "natural" "low sugar" "low fat" or whatever.

So what's a person to do?!!

I'm having tomato soup and a tuna sandwich for lunch. Here's the salt content:
  • 4 oz. tuna = 360 mg. salt
  • 2 tablespoons mayo = 230 mg. salt
  • 1 tablespoon relish = 90 mg. salt
  • 2 slices pumpernickle bread = 380 mg. salt
Total salt in my humble sandwich?  1060 mg.

One cup tomato soup = 960 mg

My humble lunch includes a total of 2020 mg salt, which is the recommended daily allowance.

I haven't a clue about mg., but I looked it up and learned that one teaspoon of table salt contains iodine and anti-caking substances, and about two thousand mg. of actual salt.

I should make homemade tomato soup, and cook a piece of fresh tuna, and make sure my total seasoning of the lot is less than half a teaspoon of salt.

An even better option would be a piece of fish and a tomato but, oh, I do love my bread!

The salt thing is just one reason why eating food that is as close to nature as possible, as less processed as possible is worth all the trouble.

Over the next few weeks I'm going to make tomato soup, mayonnaise, bread and tuna salad from scratch, and I'll bring you pictures and a salt breakdown of it all. If I could send you all a soup and tuna salad lunch I would.

Hope you're having a wonderful day!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Proverbs

If you want to cheer yourself up, you should try cheering someone else up.





Making a living is not the same thing as making a life.






Bills:  There’s too much month left at the end of the money.





If you pursue happiness, it will elude you. But if you focus on your family, the needs of others, your work, meeting new people, and doing the very best you can, happiness will find you.


Have a wonderful day!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Easiest Thing to Bake!

A couple of days ago I talked about my monthly grocery shopping years ago. Back then, I had no car of my own, and no bus service either. I had three small children and was a stay-at-home mom. I baked a lot "from scratch." In fact, we almost never had store-bought bread because I baked my own.
Once or twice a week I made bread. I used a recipe from a free publication, Penny Planner's Cookbook, which was distributed by the State of Pennsylvania. This is a basic recipe for white bread. I improved the nutrition of it by substituting whole wheat flour for 2 cups of white, and a cup of wheat germ for another. I also used honey instead of sugar.

Cookbooks and websites are full of fancy bread recipes, which is fine, but every frugal homemaker should have a basic recipe to start with. Once you make it a couple of times it becomes second nature and, with bread in the store going for three dollars or more, this is quite a savings. This is super easy. Why not give it a try:

WHITE BREAD

1 package active dry yeast
¼ cup lukewarm water
2 cups hot water
2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt

6 cups white flour
1 ½ cups nonfat dry milk
Soften yeast in lukewarm water and stir well.

Add butter, sugar and salt to the 2 cups of hot water and mix well. Cool to lukewarm.

Mix flour and dry milk together.

Using an electric mixer if you like, stir 2 cups of the flour mixture into the 2 cups liquid. Mix thoroughly. Add the softened yeast mixture and beat on medium speed, or beat well by hand.

Now all you have to do is add the rest of the flour mixture. If you have a dough hook you can use your mixer. If not, stir it in by hand until you have dough suitable for kneading. But don’t knead it yet.

Cover the bowl and let it sit for 10 minutes, while you take a break (or wash your measuring cups and spoons).
After the dough has rested, knead it for about 10 minutes, then cover it and let it rest again for 10 minutes. This time while it is resting grease two 5” by 9” loaf pans.
Now, shape the dough into 2 loaves. I like to do this by rolling each half with a rolling pin, as if I to make pie crust or cookies. Then I roll it up into a loaf shape. This gives my bread a good consistency and keeps it from getting large bubbles inside (good for French bread, maybe, but not sandwiches).

Put the loaves in the pans, brush the tops with melted butter or oil, and cover with plastic wrap.

At this point, you can actually put the unbaked loaves into the fridge, if you want to bake after your class, or the kid’s game, or even tomorrow morning. The dough will rise slowly in the fridge.
When you are ready to bake, take out the loaves and let rise until they are nicely rounded over the tops of the pans, but not too high. This may take half an hour or so.

Preheat the oven while the dough is rising, then bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes. Dump loaves out of the pans as soon as you take them out of the oven.

If you want soft crusts, brush with butter and cover with a cloth while the loaves cool.
Did you notice - I did not use a "bread machine"? I've never had one. Some people say they are very nice but, for me, I prefer not to have one more gadget taking up counter space. Personal preference.

My kids' favorite sandwiches "back in the day" were peanut butter & honey & wheat germ on Mom's home made bread. Well, maybe they would have preferred Pop Tarts but they weren't offered in my house!

What's your favorite healthy sandwich?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Feelings Are Some Serious Shit

Received sad news today of the passing of Norman, a much loved pet.

Watched a movie last night called Taking Chance, about a Marine Officer escorting the body of a fallen comrade to his home for burial.

Received a note this morning of an acquaintance who is sitting with a dying relative.

Some days it just seems right to dwell on life and death and what is real. Today is one of those days. I don't hide from my feelings anymore - if sadness comes it is expressed. Actually, I am not afraid of my feelings anymore - and what a relief that is.

It's a fact of life that crying is self-limiting;
Anger is self-limiting;
Guilt is a normal feeling;
Fear is normal - and not to be feared.

If we didn't have the so-called "bad" or "negative" feelings, how would we recognize the "good" and "pleasant" feelings?

So, hug someone today, and be thankful you have them;
Appreciate life "cause we only go 'round once; and
Live life like you're dying (in truth, we all are).

A few pictures I especially like (thanks, Kristin):
"What the caterpillar calls the end of the world the master calls a butterfly."
– Richard Bach

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Back to the Basics

Our kitchen is pretty well organized, but I'm refining it a bit. And I'm making a list of "basics," stuff I should always have on hand.

Now, I like the feel of a well-stocked kitchen. I like a kitchen - and fridge - that prompts the comment, "Well, I could eat for a week out of this!"

We used to say, "There was nothing in the cupboard but a can of tuna and Mom could make a meal!"

When I was a stay-at-home mom with 3 little kids, no car, and a husband who got paid only once a month, I learned how to feed everyone all month and not run out of groceries before the next check. On my monthly grocery shopping trip I always bought these items:
  • 2-3 rolls of Jimmy Dean sausage (they freeze well)
  • 6-8 cans tuna (they were 7.5 oz back then, not 5 or 6)
  • 2-3 large packages of chicken (most went into the freezer in small packages when I got home)
  • 2-3 large packages of hamburger (same as with the chicken)
  • 1-2 large packages of beef (mostly chuck roast, most put into the freezer as above)
  • 1-2 packages of pork chops or pork roast (again, making good use of that freezer)
  • 2-3 packages of hot dogs
  • 1 small canned ham
  • 1 large ham steak - or a ham if on sale and I had the money
  • 2 lb brick cheddar cheese
  • 2-3 dozen eggs (eggs keep a long time)
  • 1 large box powdered skim milk
  • 1-2 cans baked beans
  • 1 box saltine crackers
  • 3-4 large cans frozen orange juice
  • 4-5 cans tomato paste
  • 2-3 large boxes of spaghetti
  • canned and frozen vegetables
  • fresh fruits & vegetables for the first week (although apples easily last a month)
  • 1-2 large boxes of Cheerios, Corn Flakes or Rice Krispies
  • one 6-pack of Pepsi (for me - I hid them)
  • 1 roll of quarters (lunch money for the first grader - exact change required)
There were certain staples I kept on hand, always:
  • flour (white and whole wheat)
  • yeast
  • wheat germ
  • rice
  • sugar
  • baking powder
  • salt
  • pepper
  • baking soda
  • corn starch
  • vanilla, cinnamon, maple flavoring
  • spice cans of parsley, oregano, sage, chili powder
  • dried beans (always navy/pea beans, sometimes kidney beans)
  • honey
  • peanut butter
  • oatmeal
  • cream of wheat
  • cocoa
I think that covers most of what I depended on. What I did not want, need, or buy were:
  • bottled water (did they even sell it back then?)
  • Lunch ables and such
  • bologna, salami, pepperoni, etc.
  • individual packages of anything, like hot chocolate, oatmeal, crackers, etc.
  • deli meats
  • prepared bread crumbs, or croutons
  • pre-packaged salads, pre-cut fruit in the produce department
  • sodas or Kool-Aid for the kids. They were deprived; had to drink milk, fruit juice or water. 
All the stuff I listed above made for a very full grocery cart (or 2). I remember at least one time being asked by the bagger, "Are you opening up a camp or something?"

I looked like I had a daycare with me: Andy on my tummy in the baby carrier, Beth in the cart, and Paul hanging onto the side (there was hell to pay if he let go!).

Where was my husband? Working 60+ hours/week for K-Mart. He hated shopping.

I think he worked a lot of evenings and ate out quite a bit too, especially toward the end of the month. And I know he had his own stash of Pepsi!

Are you wondering what I did about things you have to buy at least weekly - like milk and bread? Well, stay tuned....

Monday, November 8, 2010

Egged!

I recently had words with a young man in the neighborhood. He got my attention when I heard screaming and looked out to see him dumping a smaller kid into my garbage can. The conversation went something like this:

ME:  WHAT ARE YOU DOING!

HIM: (dumb look; no answer)

ME: WHY AREN'T YOU IN SCHOOL - OR AT WORK?

HIM: No school today.

ME: You need to work, do something useful.

HIM: I can't work. I'm 15. Nobody'll hire me.

ME: So - babysit, mow lawns, clean house, clean up a park somewhere....

Oh, the frustration of dealing with adolescents. When I calmed down I realized that, yeah, this kid's stupid, but I was pretty stupid when I was 15 too. Kids have to go through their stages, and most of them do come out of it OK. To my amazement.

Anyway, I'd forgotten the incident until last night, when an egg hit my front window. I suspect the thrower was this kid, but didn't see anyone.

This morning I got out the spray stuff and cleaned it off, happy that this is Florida and the egg didn't freeze. Also, a second egg landed in the yard unbroken, and the kid did not hit either car parked in the driveway.
I'm grateful that crime in my neighborhood is at this level.

And Caroline says:
Love people through whatever the hell is wrong with them!

God bless teachers. And God bless the public schools that keep 15 year olds busy at least some of the time.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

I love my job! No, it's not full time, but I do get PAID to do it. And what do I do? I go to parties. Tupperware's a good company, has been around since 1946. Here's the proof:
Y'know, I think I see Grandma McGill - front row on the right.

This selling business is about the easiest thing I've ever done. I go to the house and set up my wares:
Then all I do is talk. Anyone who knows me knows that there's no problem there. Sometimes the talk is more like a discussion, since the guests may know more about the product than I do. Sometimes we play an informal little game And  usually there's some food prep involved - like, I've been making salsa lately. And of course, we talk about all the wonderful uses of Tupperware, like:
Muzzle the cat

Capture a bat

Create still life compositions

It's a whole lot more fun than what I used to do - and THEY PAY ME. I've become the Tupperware Lady, but I'm still looking for an image. What do you think of this?
Or is this more me?
I've always believed that people should enjoy their work. Maybe not 100%, but there has to be some satisfaction to it, considering how much time people spend working.

So, if you hate your job, keep looking for one you like better. If you never find it at least you tried. And when you get enough years in (or enough money in the bank) you can retire and do whatever you want, knowing that you have a security cushion to guard against - should I say it - failure?

Life is to be LIVED, so GO OUT AND LIVE IT!