No Reproach, Mrs. Bennett, I Beg You! ESPECIALLY on the 4th of July!

There are potatoes to be chopped and bacon to be crisped to go along with everything else already ready for potato salad.  There is a feast to be shared and great and glorious words to be heard this evening at church before the fireworks.

(No, this is not my potato salad, but I thought it looked appetizing.  Mine has potatoes, celery, dill pickles, green and sweet white onions, mustard, mayo, sea salt, pepper, apple cider vinegar, and bacon)

As usual, there is much to be done!  But first things first, regardless.  Communing with my Maker in His beautiful Word, in prayer. in praise and thanksgiving.

“Thank you, God, for America.  For freedom.  For bringing me from glory to glory, from freedom to freedom.”  A nation is only as free as its people, and people are only as free as they allow Jesus to indwell them.  Free indeed.

I was free this morning to become upset because my breakfast and git-er-done plans weren’t quite panning out.  The raisin bread was generously spread with organic salted butter, the applesauce in the serving bowl, bacon browning nicely in the oven, coffee in the French press, Rooibos in the teapot, milk in the cow creamer and heavy cream in the pitcher.

And then it was time to whip up the eggs for scrambling.  But alas!  It appears that last night someone ate almost all the remaining eggs in the fridge.  Four eggs to feed five people.  I asked a daughter to go after more eggs (in another fridge in another building) so we could have breakfast before another daughter had to leave for work.

But the speed of molasses was quite fast compared to the movements of my tribe this morning, and early-morning logic told my daughter that she had to look ready for a photo shoot in order to go after eggs.

Temptation to sabotage breakfast with my stress and upset set in.  Temptation to reproach my beloved for scrambling not one, not two, not three, but six eggs last night set in.  Temptation was after me, plaguing me – to vent about “slow and lazy” people, to put labels onto my children they need like a hole in the head.

Who has the hole in the head, anyway?  Why didn’t I simply invite the daughter who’s leaving early to join me on the balcony with baked peanut butter on raisin bread and a lovely cup of French roast with heavy cream in the cool and birdsong-blessed morning?

I plugged the hole with praise and prayer and DETERMINATION not to gripe or complain or in anyway ruin the joy and beauty of the morning for my beloveds, and all of a sudden they appeared, smiling, hugging, thanking me for breakfast, eager to partake (perhaps the power of the wafting smell of bacon?)..

So I scrambled those four eggs, and the going-to-work daughter (who doesn’t care for eggs anyway) happily put peanut butter and honey on her raisin toast, and had thick and crispy bacon slices with applesauce and tea and was happy as could be.  Between the other four of us the eggs were plenty.  Where is it written, I asked myself, that we all have to have two or three eggs every morning?  No wonder I’m a bit sluggish after breakfast sometimes!

SO GLAD I DIDN’T REPROACH JOHN FOR EATING THOSE EGGS LAST NIGHT.  I was less tempted by the lack of eggs, than by my disapproval of late-night eating.  Reproach, I know full well, never changed a husband.  Conviction by the Holy Spirit of our Creator, perhaps put in motion by my faith-filled prayers, has often worked wonders in the lives of my beloveds.

Reproach, not so much.  Reproach is very often also disdain, disapproval, censure, judgment, condemnation, and shaming.  Guilt, in other words.  Guilt, as we all know from experience, doesn’t lead to repentance, to a true turning in a new direction.

“Do not reproach your husband,” has been ringing through my mind for weeks now.  I am coming to see, in my forfeiting my “right” to even the slightest of complaints, that I am setting myself free.  I am placing myself in a right position to be in God’s blessing, and out of God’s way!

“No lace, Mrs. Bennett! No lace, I beg you!”  Mr. Bennett (Pride and Prejudice)vehemently commanded Mrs. Bennett to spare him, but she blithely ignored him.  “Respect, Mrs. Bennett,” was his heart’s cry, and silly and foolish woman that she was, she sought her own amusement at his expense.

“The heart of her husband safely trusts her,” about the Proverbs 31 woman, is a verse of continuing revelation for me. “Lord,” I ask, “Can John safely trust me?” Usually, perhaps because of the following line, “He has no lack of gain,” my thoughts turn to money. “How can I do better in this area?”

But as we pass the years together, I see that more and more what John’s heart needs from mine is simply to love him as he is, even as he changes and grows right along with me, unhindered (I pray) by my interference in his relationship with God.

 

Oh, Father, I thank you for your patience with me, and for growing patience in me. And I thank you for this wonderful child of yours, John, whose heart you have entrusted to my care.  May I be ever more skillful in that sacred trust.  Amen.

 

Hooray!  Freedom!  Especially on the 4th of July.

 

Home School Help for Me!

I’m enjoying a book called  The Rhythm of Family by Amanda and Stephen Soule.  As I was reading Amanda’s writings about canning and crafting and all sort of creative and beautiful activities, I was comparing my efforts of past years, when my kids were young.

And I found myself weighed in the balance and found wanting – can you relate? Could we all just stop doing that?  I stopped myself with a positive “yeah, but . . .”

Yeah, but my kids made a hammock in the top of a tall oak tree, forts in the woods, ships on the creek, trains in the garage. They made up and wrote stories about the local rabbit family and buried and hunted treasure, caught and lost crawdads and lizards, and slew as well as drew great dragons.

They loved and were loved by an oddity of a dog. He seemed odd to us, that is, but to him his behavior was absolutely normal.  I’ll share more about this dog in a moment, but back to my kids’ having a childhood – maybe they didn’t live on the ocean in Maine and maybe their mom wasn’t the craft queen of the universe.  But she made them homemade fingerpaints when it was raining, and turned grape juice into popsicles when it was hot, and they know how to make artisan breads, and what a snake smells like when you get too close while you’re picking blackberries.

They still remember reading Timothy Tattercoat on a quilt in the shade with a thermos of iced tea and peanut butter on saltines. And through Timothy, a desire was instilled in their hearts to live where he lived, in the mountains of Colorado.

I mentioned our old dog, Buster, who died by the way, chasing a car, and as we told the kids – he died instantly as his head connected with a fast-moving fender, and it was probably painless.

Buster was better at chasing cows – they and he knew who and what he was.

We were walking in the country a long way from home one day and we came upon a pasture full of cows, in the corner farthest fro m the road. Buster went across the pasture, herded those cows to the opposite end of the field and they did exactly as he bade them. He was the boss of these big and theretofore unknown cows.

Not so Chihuahuas. There was a lady who walked her three chihuahuas past our house every day.  Benjamin, age 7 then, called her Mrs. Chawalla.  I guess Buster thought her dogs were giant rabies-infested rats – he was terrified and hid under the back porch and cried every day when they went by.

As for snakes, he would step on or over them and not even see them. Amazing.  But when it came to doing what he was created to do, he meant business.  He knew who he was.  He was a cowdog.  An Australian Shepherd.

We come to know who we are when we grasp that great truth that we are created in the image of God, who is Love, and we are therefore, when being our true selves, LOVE.

Which means – aha! – that I can rejoice in and admire the strengths and successes of other moms, and perhaps even emulate them in some areas; I can look back with appreciation for what I did right and ABSOLUTELY forget about what I might have done differently; and I can do a great service to my kids now, whatever their ages, by modeling the rest and contentment that comes from knowing who and Whose I am.

What a way to live!

Blessed Hospitality from Two Texans to Me

“You have the gift of hospitality,” said one of my two houseguests.  I thanked her, pleased with her response to my efforts, and immediately began mulling over those words, on one of my mind’s back burners, as we walked into the church.

It was our monthly women’s fellowship, where we were taught about being God’s gardens, and onto another back burner went the words, “We are God’s beautiful gardens.”  Ought I not to have a garden, as gardening is so great a thing, such a picture of God, such a living example of His bounty and beauty?”  Ought I not?  Shouldn’t I?  Or was this constant and yet-again thinking of where I’m probably missing something, only OK if done in a spirit of seeking a yet-higher place in Him, a further childish delight in discovery?

After the meeting one of the women, a farmer’s wife, talked to me about how she was expected in the early years of her marriage to have a big garden, and how she did so for years, but without any joy.

So perhaps that’s it.  Remove the expectations, the shoulds and the oughts, and recover the joy.  Make a garden less like an inlaw-pleasing truck farm, and do what this lady does now, plant what brings her joy – flowers, flowers, flowers.  Oh, and tomatoes.  More joy.

Joy.  This morning I found a guest out in the early morning birdsong on my balcony.  There she sat wrapped in blankets and writing in her journal (a gift the Holy Spirit spoke strongly and repeatedly to me about making sure to provide, complete with pens, pencils and beautiful highlighters).

I asked if I could bring her some hot herbal tea with honey, which she gladly accepted as she asked me if I would like to join her.  But I wanted her to capture her rapture on paper.  She said the air was “divine” and trying to describe the clarity of the golden morning light was something I hoped she could get into her journal, and better done alone.

I told her I might join her in a while, but first I was going to have my Quiet Time.  My “divine” time, and my time to capture some Light – the very light of God, shining in my heart when I put Him first, and minister to His beloved garden next.

“You have the Gift of Hospitality.”  A compliment, and so much more.  During the women’s meeting we all were instructed to give the person to our right compliments.  The woman to my left (who just so happened to be my other houseguest) said I was a woman of great faith.  I simply said, “Thank you.”  But I thought so much more.

What happens when we receive a Holy Spirit-inspired compliment?  In my case, inspiration.  I receive that.  I am a woman of faith.  This is no small response.  In the space of one hour I was told I have the gift of hospitality and that I am a woman of faith.

In two small moments I was humbled by God taking the care and time to speak to my heart through His daughters, and to thereby bind our hearts.  I am grateful to Him and to His messengers.

All gifts.  To me.  The gift of hospitality is one we give ourselves when we do it not as a duty to gain God’s and our own approval, but when and as led by Him, so that He is the author and the finisher of the entire process.

My two guests are now also my friends, and they have brought their blooms and beauties to my garden, as I invited them in by His goodness and grace.

“You have the gift of hospitality.”  Indeed I do.  And I receive the gift.

HEAR MORE ABOUT HOSPITALITY, FREEDOM FROM FEAR, HOW A FEARLESS SIBLING SAVED A PRESIDENT, HARRIET BEECHER STOWE’S THOUGHTS ON HOMEMAKING, WHAT FEMINISM AND MAO HAVE IN COMMON, AND MUCH, MUCH, MUCH MORE TODAY , FRIDAY THE 23RD ON THE HOMEFRONT SHOW AT 2:00 PM MOUNTAIN TIME.

GO HERE:  1360am.co

THEN:  Click on “Live Radio” and be blessed!

 

The Home Artiste and Mother’s Day

LAST WEEK THE RAIN AND FOG AND THE CHILL CAME IN – AND THE BARELY GREEN ASPEN TREES WERE SHROUDED IN CLOUD.  MY DAUGHTER REBEKAH RIGHTLY DISCERNED IT WAS THE PERFECT TIME FOR A TEA PARTY AND SOME GOOD CONVERSATION, WITH SOME LOVELY MUSIC.  I HAD BEEN PLANNING TO DO SOME PAINT PREPPING, BUT IT WOULD KEEP.

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WEDNESDAY MORNING WAS MUCH THE SAME AND WHEN I ASKED JOHN IF HE WAS STILL SURE HE WANTED A SMOOTHIE FOR BREAKFAST IN THE INTEREST OF TIME, HE WASN’T SO SURE.

SO HERE’S WHAT WENT DOWN:

I PUT SPROUTED AND BUTTERED BREAD IN THE OVEN ON LOW, AND THE SERVING BOWLS AS WELL – PUT COLD BOWLS INTO THE OVEN BEFORE TURNING IT ON, NOT AFTER IT’S HOT. (IF I HAD BEEN GOING TO SERVE FRIED EGGS, I WOULD HAVE ALSO HEATED THE PLATES – FOR FOUR PEOPLE I HEAT SIX PLATES, THEN I HAVE ONE EXTRA ON TOP AND ON BOTTOM, AND WRAP IN DISH TOWELS WHEN I TAKE THEM OUT AND THERE’S NO STRESS ABOUT THE HORROR COLD EGGS!).

THEN THERE’S ALSO A PLATE TO PUT THE EGGS ON AS THEY’RE FINISHED FRYING, WITH A LID OR COVERING OF SOME SORT TO KEEP THEM WARM UNTIL SERVING.  WE CALL THESE EGGS “DIPPIES”, AS YOU HAVE DONE WHITES, BUT YOLKS NICELY RUNNY AND GOLDEN FOR DIPPING TOAST INTO!  (I LEARNED TO CALL THEM “DIPPIES” FROM JANE BROCKET IN “THE GENTLE ART OF DOMESTICITY – EXCELLENT, JANE IS!)

I DUMPED HALF A JAR OF CHUNKY CINNAMON APPLESAUCE INTO A PAN AND ADDED WALNUTS AND RAISINS AND BEGAN HEATING. THE TEA KETTLE WAS FILLED AND HEATING AS REBEKAH SET THE TABLE WITH MILK IN A CREAM PITCHER, HONEY, ETC.

I HEATED THE TEAPOT WITH HOT WATER THEN EMPTIED IT AND SET IT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STOVE ON THE WARMING ZONE, ADDED FOUR BAGS OF ROOIBOS TEA AND COVERED IT WITH A TEA COZY ( I WOULD MUCH PREFER A NICE ENGLISH BLACK TEA, ACTUALLY) – ALL READY FOR BREWING. ANOTHER THING I WOULD HAVE DONE IF IT WERE REALLY A COLD DAY IS USE STURDY THICK MUGS AND RUN HOT WATER INTO THEM FOR A BIT BEFORE SERVING TIME.

A PACKAGE OF THIN PORK CHOPS CAME OUT OF THE FREEZER AND WENT INTO A SKILLET WITH WATER TO BEGIN STEAMING APART AND COOKING (I COOKED THEM UNTIL THEY CARMELIZED AND MADE LOVELY BROWN GRAVY, OR AU JUS).

WE HAD LEFTOVER MASHED POTATOES SO I MADE THEM INTO BALLS AND PUT THEM IN THAT SAME SKILLET AFTER REMOVING THE PORK CHOPS INTO A SMALL SKILLET AND PUTTING ON A BACK BURNER ON LOW. ONCE THE POTATO BALLS WERE BROWN ON BOTH SIDES, I PLACED THE PAN ATOP THE PORK CHOP PAN AND PUT A LID ON TOP.

WHEN THINGS LOOKED TO BE NEARLY READY, I DUMPED LEFTOVER HOMEMADE SOURCREAM DIP AND A CUP OF LEFTOVER CHOPPED ONIONS AND SAUTEED THEM GENTLY IN A MIXTURE OF BUTTER AND OLIVE AND COCONUT OILS.

I WHIPPED UP SCRAMBLED EGGS WITH PEPPER AND SEA SALT, POURED THE STEAMING WATER INTO THE TEA POT.

NOTE:  I HAVE A SAUCER READY TO DUMP THE TEA BAGS ONTO BEFORE SERVING, AND A SAUCER OR POT HOLDER TO PLACE THE TEA POT ONTO FOR TABLE PROTECTION (THIS IS ALSO A POSSIBLE ISSUE WITH HOT PLATES, IN WHICH CASE THE TABLE SETTER PUTS A NAPKIN OR A PLACEMAT AT EACH SETTING.

YOU MAY THINK THIS SOUNDS COMPLICATED, BUT IT’S SIMPLY A MATTER OF DOING THINGS IN ORDER, AND GETTING INTO GOOD HABITS.

HAVING A LITTLE HELP IS NICE, TOO. IF YOU DON’T HAVE HELP, THOUGH, YOU JUST PREP AHEAD OF TIME AND THINK THINGS THROUGH.  SET THE TABLE, FILL THE CREAM PITCHER, PUT THE HONEY AND STRAWBERRY JAM ON THE TABLE (NO HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP IN THAT JAM!), WHIP YOUR EGGS AHEAD OF TIME, AND THAW THAT MEAT AHEAD OF TIME!

WHEN IT LOOKS LIKE EVERYTHING ELSE IS READY OR JUST ABOUT, POUR THE EGGS IN TO SCRAMBLE AND WHEN THEY’RE NEARLY DONE RING THE BREAKFAST BELL (YES, I DO HAVE ONE!)

OH, AND IF YOUR LOVELY DAUGHTER PUT ON MUSIC FOR YOU, AS DID REBEKAH WITH COLD PLAY’S “SOMETHING LIKE THIS” BE SURE TO DANCE ABOUT AND SING A BIT. WHAT A GIFT TO YOUR FAMILY:  A HOT, DELICOUS BREAKFAST WITH A DANCING, SINGING, SMILING MUM.

HMMM.  MIGHT THIS BEAR PONDERING WITH REGARD TO MOTHER’S DAY, AND ALL MY FAMILY’S SO HOPING I LIKE THIER GIFTS, AND THAT MY DAY IS TRULY SPECIAL?  COULD IT BE THAT I SHOULD SIMPLY FOCUS ON REJOICING IN GOD FOR MOTHER’S DAY AND ALL IT MEANS?

I AM INCAPABLE OF PUTTING WORDS TO WHAT’S IN MY HEART, BUT I ASK GOD DAILY TO CLEANSE IT FROM ALL SELFISHNESS, SO THAT IT MAY BE FULL OF PRAISE AND SONG.  YES, THAT’S IT, OR AT LEAST A GLIMMER – I WANT MY FAMILY TO HAVE EVEN THE SLIGHTEST INKLING OF THEIR WORTH AND VALUE TO ME.  AND I WANT THEM TO SEE ME SMILE.  AND HEAR ME SING.  AND DANCE WITH ME.

THIS MOTHER’S DAY DON’T LAMENT A SINGLE THING. JUST ENJOY, AND GIVE, AND RECEIVE!

Conversation with Kids

My daughter Hannah was home yesterday, and she followed me around as I cleaned closets and drawers, chatting.  What fun.  What a joy to know she still likes to talk to me.

“How can I help, Mom?” she asked.  I had forgotten to eat, and knew sustenance would be good, so I requested a bit of a tea party.  We were soon sitting on the balcony, joined by Rebekah, and enjoying fruit, nuts and herbal tea.  Better still, we were enjoying conversation.

When I said I had to be gone for a minute and would be right back (putting another load of laundry on) they said, “You’d better be.”  How lovely to be wanted, popular, loved.  And what better way to achieve this exalted state than by loving listening.

This morning I was all set to return to the balcony alone for breakfast and research, but I couldn’t get away from Seth’s conversation.  I wanted to get on with my thing, but I remembered I don’t have anything on earth more important to do than to listen to my children.

“Follow me,” I told him, “and talk to me while I eat my breakfast.”  He joined me and discussed a book he’d read as a child, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy.  Marveling at what was expected and duly performed by kids back then, and discussing the differences in farming then and now, Seth was much more interesting, intriguing, and gratifying than anything I had on my precious agenda.

He left the balcony to be about his business and out popped Rebekah.  “I’ve been praying and searching for answers about my writing and my time management, Mom, (haven’t we all?) and let me show you this.”  She showed me passages from The Founder’s Bible about black American John Marrant, captive and then missionary to the Cherokees, and about his dealings with evangelist George Whitfield.  In listening closely I marveled at how God was reaching Rebekah and how she was receiving from Him.

Conversation with kids.  There’s very little kinder or more worthwhile that we can do with our time.  I’ll never forget the day I was, as usual, regaling my dad with every detail of my day at school.  “And then I go, and then she went, and then I went, and she goes . . . blah, blah, blah.”  Nothing like the beautiful thoughts of my children this morning.  And yet, my dad listened as though completely enthralled.

My older brother, who was waiting to go hunting with my dad, stood holding his deer rifle and tapping his foot.  Finally he could take it no longer.  “Did it ever occur to you,” he asked, “that Dad has anything better to do with his time than listen to you yak?”

I was horrified and embarrassed and suddenly acutely aware of the banality of my conversation.  But before I could answer, Dad answered for me.  “I don’t have a thing in the world more important to do than listen to Bev.”

Wow.  No wonder I pray lots.  No wonder I have every confidence God hears me.  No wonder I have done this great and good thing for my own children.  I converse with them, not at them.  I listen to them.

And they talk to me.  Glory Hallelujah!

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P.S.  The Proverbs 31 Woman “watches over the ways of her household.”  How better to watch over the ways of our households, to know what’s really happening in the precious hearts with which we’re entrusted, than to converse, to listen.

Putting the Fun Back in Food

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Overthinking meals takes all the fun out of food.  Trying to cook in a drab kitchen takes all the fun out of it.  A messy kitchen is frightening and anything but fun.  Buying in bulk takes the fun out of it.  Trying to buy enough for two weeks (I live a long way from the store) is not fun.  Buying produce picked from a vine six weeks ago in a foreign country that is basically tasteless is not anyone’s idea of fun.  Extreme carb consideration is SO boring and un-fun.  And not buying any “fun” food takes – you guessed it – the fun out of food.

One at a time, beginning with overthinking it.  “We can’t have spaghetti because:  too many carbs; don’t have parmesan; out of basil, need Italian sausage to go with the beef, have to have salad with it, and only have two leaves of romaine left and no dressing . . .”  Forget about carbs and think more about not eating like a horse.  There is absolutely no law that says you must have parmesan (except the one in your kids’ heads).  No basil is a thing, but you can use other herbs – do some research.  If you must, turn this idea into a kid-friendly dish, which usually means fewer herbs.  You can turn any ground meat into an Italian sausage of sorts with the addition of Italian herbs, or just use whatever sausage you have on hand and see what happens!  As for salad, it’s nice, but the main thing is a happy atmosphere, and spaghetti of any kind lends itself nicely thereto.  Or, take those two romaine leaves and add whatever you have – a few grapes, radishes, the last carrot, a bit of cauliflower, fresh herbs, scallions, and just have a salad small in size but large in taste.  The easy and delicious dressing for this salad is simply olive oil and either vinegar or lemon juice, with a bit of sea salt, pepper, and a touch of honey.  It’s all fun!

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The Drab KitchenI have noticed that the more sophisticated, granite-laden, ultra-modern and clean a kitchen is, the less the cooking going on.  The more brown, beige, and blah, the more drab and dull, the more the cook stays away.  Paint that baby!  Go garage and estate sale-ing, antique store browsing, and best of all, go looking into your own closets and cupboards and see what’s right under your nose to brighten things up.  You can get 10 daffodil stems for less than $1.50 at Trader Joe’s right now.  Instant bright cheer!

The Messy Kitchen. I have entirely changed my mind about tackling a messy kitchen.  Rather, I look at it as one of the best time investments ever.  That is, there is a huge return on satisfaction for not that much time and effort.  And one of the ways I’ve changed my attitude is by doing lots of dishes by hand.  Get an organic dish soap (or not, as you like) which smells lovely, and splash away!  Fill the sink up nice and hot with plenty of soap and stack as many dishes as possible to be soaking as you’re doing other things – clearing the counters, washing the stove top, perhaps putting those daffodils right under your nose, or on the breakfast table.

Once I get going (and my fingers do fly when I do dishes by hand), I pause long enough to put something in the crock pot and something in the clay pot.  I got my clay pot at an estate sale and it’s one of my favorite cooking utensils.  Everything I’ve ever cooked in it has been wonderful (do some research on this if this intrigues you).  If the kitchen is especially messy, with lots of dirty dishes (I use the dishwasher as well in such times) I let out the dirty water and run nice, clean, hot and sudsy water so I can soak and clean as I cook.  I could go on about cooking in one afternoon enough for an army for a week, when it looked like there wasn’t that much to work with, but let’s stay with formulating fun.

Buying in BulkBuying in bulk is only fun, and only works if:  it’s groceries that don’t go bad; if you don’t eat much more than normal because, again, it may go bad, or simply because it’s there; you really are getting a great deal buying things you would buy and use regardless.  If it’s fun for you go have enough Pace Picante Sauce to feed your teenage boys for the next six months (that actually sounds wonderful to me) and the bulk prices were worth finding the storage for the Pace, then by all means, buy in bulk.  I’m just saying, believe it or not, grocery shopping can be fun, and buying in bulk is usually not.

Shopping so you don’t have to go back to the store for two weeks is also not my favorite fun thing, and not really cost-effective.  It’s better to buy only two or three organic on-sale red bell peppers, and just run out and do without for the second week, than to try to buy enough for any and all eventualities, ignoring that certainty that they’re not likely to last two full weeks.  A stuffed-to-the-gills fridge, with crispers crammed to the max is a recipe for stress – there’s the rush to cook things and the regret over wasting and the inability to even see what’s available.

It’s much more fun to have a few truly delicious, in-season and hopefully even locally grown items in the fridge, just waiting to be creatively combined into something wonderful.

The Low-Carb DragIf your something wonderful happens to also be low-carb, so much the better.  But always focusing on carbs can really be a drag.  Better to focus on simply cooking something nutritious and delicious, and perhaps, if needed, to cut back on carbs, rather than totally trying to eliminate them.

For example, for breakfast have omelets and sliced tomatoes, or a protein shake some days, and on other days make pumpkin/walnut pancakes, sausages, scrambled eggs with cream cheese and a nice pot or two of tea.  Then let that be the end of the bread and sugar for the day.

No Fun Foods, No Fun.  And then for not ever buying fun foods – bad idea for me.  I’ll just end up eating out because I’m bored to death.  Fun foods include spices, especially those we grind at home.  There is such a lovely difference in freshly ground nutmeg and black pepper, both in taste and in health, from the pre-ground versions.  Having some good seasonings, such as a dried veggie soup mix (no MSG or MSG equivalents needed for great soup), or a taco blend, or simply buying everything in the blend plus some variations of chili powders makes it fun to put together a deliciously seasoned meal.

For me fun foods include raiding not only the bulk spices, teas, and seasonings, but also the bulk foods.  It’s so much fun to have three colors of lentils, wild rice, black eye peas, chick peas (don’t buy someone else’s hummus!) Anasazi, black, pinto and navy beans, split peas, giant golden raisins, dried apricots, pecans (apricot/pecan scones and a tea party, anyone?), macadamias (white chocolate macadamia cookies, perhaps, to go with the mango black tea I found in the bulk teas?).  Cooking with homemade vanilla (beans found in the bulk spice section) is more than fun, it’s fabulous.

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I want to make homemade mustards, too, because I have never met a mustard I didn’t like.  But until then, having a variety of mustards on hand is a cheap and real thrill.  Fun food, already done.  Trader Joe’s is my favorite place for these kinds of foods.  Mocha Joe Joe’s, Almond Windmill Cookies, Truffle Pizza, SO good bacon ends and pieces, Virgil’s Root Beer, Rooibos and Honeybush Tea, and Cherry Cider are among our family favorite fun foods from Trader Joe’s, and here’s the thing:  all of these are remarkably inexpensive.  Fun atop fun!

This fun quest is not frivolity.  My hope is that these ideas will spark more ideas for you, the goal being we make the most of the gift of cooking at home, where the real fun begins.

 

 

 

Do this at Home and BE THE ONE WITH THE MONEY and the Pat on the Back!

I’m getting a haircut, long overdue, on Thursday.  When the stylist asks me what products I use on my hair, she will be less than thrilled with my response, “bar soap and vinegar.”

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I like buying and using fancy hair products that smell like grapefruit and feel like silk and make my hair look marvelous.  But I don’t like the price and REALLY don’t like the thought of the plethora of toxic ingredients going right into my head via those wide open pores in my scalp.

And then there’s that smug feeling I get when I look at my shiny hair and I think of how marvelously my organic citrus soap lathers (sometimes I use sandalwood), and how effectively my vinegar water rinses.

I use a solution of one part organic apple cider vinegar with three parts water,, mixed in a bottle and left in the shower.  The only downside is that it’s a bit chilly to pour over my head.  So, I could mix it as I go, with warm water.  Or put it in a spray bottle.  Yeah, that’s it!  Everytime I make an improvement in my methods I pat myself on the back – so much FUN!

But what about the vinegar smell?  It goes away in short order, leaving hair that looks and smells nice and clean.  And I also smell “spicy”.

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“Oooh, you always smell so spicy,” was a comment I got yesterday in church when I hugged a young lady.  I simply thanked her, but I wanted to give her a lesson:  It’s my deodorant.  I use a mixture of olive oil and lavender essential oil, which I keep in a squirt bottle.  Over that I add a few drops of essential oils, changing it up as intuition leads.  I often use lemon or orange oils, as they have been proven effective in fighting certain kinds of cancers and tumors (under the arms going into the breasts).  I also like to use tea tree, peppermint, additional lavender, cedarwood, geranium, or a mixture of oils.  Atop this I use an organic baby powder and I’m good to go.”

No, I’m not good to go for forty-eight hours in summer heat.  This is not an anti-perspirant, and it will not work as a bathing substitute.

Speaking of bathing, essential oils sprinkled on Epsom salts and then dumped in the bath can be truly life changing, and an inexpensive and healthy alternative to store bought  bath products (do your research as some oils will relax your muscles and put you to sleep, such as lavender, while others will make you rearing to go).  Add a bit of the aforementioned olive oil/lavender mixture, or perhaps some milk to the water, and you’ll feel marvelously clean, refreshed and relaxed.

Baby bath face

Much of what we buy at the store is pricey in any way you count it.  Consider toothpaste, for instance.  Toothpaste has warning labels.  Why then, we must ask, are we putting this into our mouths three times a day?  Why not make your own?

I have a friend who uses only organic soap to brush her teeth, and has gotten quite used to the taste, and particularly enjoys the results – teeth that feel squeaky clean.

John and I simply use baking soda, followed by swishing essential oils around in our mouths.  John uses clove oil and has thereby ended all tooth pain.  I usually use peppermint.  Yes, both these oils are a bit strong, and for the uninitiated should be mixed in with a bit of a carrier (or fatty) oil, such as olive or safflower.

Speaking of oils, I use coconut oil in the kitchen and on my skin.  Between coconut, olive, vitamin E, avocado, and a few other oils, which I mix and make enchanting with essential oils, I have been delivered from the budget-busting tyranny of skin care products.  There are numerous recipes for skin care in books and on the net.

Occasionally I succumb to fancy packaging and to my kids’ gentle criticism that I’m “such a hippie” and I buy an organic toothpaste, which really does make a nice change from the baking soda.  But then I lose that smart and smug and self-sufficient feeling.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA
KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

And that grandmother-pleasing feeling.  My grandmother, “Grannimother”, had beautiful teeth when she left us in her 90’s, and for much of her life she brushed with a hickory stick, with the end twisted and chewed into a brush.  I suppose there were dental benefits in the essential oils of the tree, and of course she was an avid gardener who loved to eat her tooth-friendly mustard and collard greens.  Perhaps most helpful was not having enough money for much of her life to buy excessive sweets.

There are many good things in my life due to not having enough ready cash to buy the “ready-made” as Grannimother put it.  If she saw me paying $20 for a bottle of shampoo and $10 for deodorant and $7 for toothpaste she would say there was something wrong with my raising, and how it’s the little foxes that spoil the vine, and that you have to watch those purchases you make all the time, the ones you don’t pay much attention to at the time, because they add up to big amounts.

Then she would gently tell me a little about how she managed to live well and always have money for the important things, because she didn’t “fritter away” her money on nonsense.

Well, we all have our own ideas of what constitutes nonsense.  I would hold my tongue when I thought of the money she spent to “help out” the Avon lady.  I would hold my tongue period, because she was the one with the money, and I was the one with the half-used bottles of chemical-laden skincare and haircare products.

I could really save money if I let my hair grow out and put it in a bun, as did Grannimother.  But thank God, as I recently heard Pastor Mark Hankins say, “We’ve been delivered from bun-dage.”

As to cutting it myself, I get my smugness, my self-congratulatory pat on the back, by cutting my husband’s and son’s hair, and by trimming mine between cuts.  But a “real” haircut is my equivalent of Grannimother’s Avon indulgences.  Even a hippie has to do some things just like everybody else.