Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Next Phase of the Experiment

We have had many interesting experiences while experimenting with domesticity. Now we are moving on to a new adventure and the next phase in our family experiment. Please, come next door to Jones' in the Wild and join us on our exciting new journey, as we pioneer and try to carve out our own little piece of heaven.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Old School Rules In The Technology Age

Ok, I've seen posts about Amanda Todd a lot this week, a girl who is only the latest in a stunning number of bullying-related suicides. I read these stories of heart ache and evil and, as a human and a Christian, I am outraged. That any one child would go out of his or her way to harass another is bad. That mob mentality so readily takes over, peer pressure and the evil enjoyment at causing someone else to feel so alone and so hopeless, that it happens this regularly, I find even more concerning. You may argue that bullying is nothing new. Perhaps this is true. Today, however, with the internet and social media so accessible to most kids, the potential for the harassment multiplies. Your home is no longer a guaranteed safe haven from the evils of the world. They come right in with the push of the "on" button, or worse, directly to your wifi ready smart phone. Bullying can reach victims 24 hours a day with no intervention.
So, what can we do? How can we protect our children? One way is to be the security that your child needs. Make sure that they have no doubt about your love for them. Tell them from the day they come into this world, who they are, what they can achieve, why they matter! And it is equally important to tell them who they are in Christ. Let them know that they are precious, and unique, and that they are safe to be who they are around you. Little girls who are told that they are special and beautiful and worth more than diamonds to their daddies, they don't have to look for that love in boyfriends. Little boys who get quality time and training on how to be a man, a gentleman and a honorable warrior, they don't have to join a gang or just listen to the loudest voice at school, to know how to be "the man." Fill them with so much love, that they overflow into others around them.
Another way to protect them is to fight the old evil with new, current rules. The internet and social media should not be freely accessible and should not go unmonitored, for children of any age. It should be limited and treated as a privilege, not assumed as a right. And never assume that other parents will take the same care with your child that you do. Kids do not develop the kind of long-term reasoning that they need to be on their own until almost after they are legally considered adults. They are short-sited and it doesn't matter how smart and responsible you think your child is, they could cave to temptation and curiosity, given the right opportunity. So, do everything in your power to remove temptation and limit opportunities. I look at Amanda Todd's story, in the very beginning of her tale, when she says she was with a friend, video-
chatting and was asked to do something revealing. I was horrified that this meeting strangers via web cam was a frequent hobby for these 7th graders. That is so dangerous and it is obvious that they had no parental supervision and no fear that they might be interrupted by adults while behaving in such a way. I cringe when I think of how her dad, who I gather was separated from her mother, probably gave her permission to go to her friend's house, thinking it might be safer than being home alone while he was at work. I'm sure he never could have dreamed that she was participating in something so dangerous, something  that would ultimately ruin her life.
Teach your children about internet safety. Monitor their web searches and text messages and social media. It should be understood before they are given access to such things that you can and will, at any time, look at their communications. Let it be known if that is not acceptable to them, they can live without cell phones and email. The term is "deal-breaker." This is for their safety and your peace of mind. And have them bring friends home, rather than go visit. Unless you really know the other family, it is just safer to keep them home. Plus, you can meet and get to know their friends. This may sound too strict to some, but is it really too much to ask when you love your children. This is where the real parents are separated from the rest, when it takes extra timeand effort. I  would rather have my kids safe and annoyed, than at risk and thinking I'm cool. Don't be afraid to turn off the data plan and confiscate the laptop. I wonder if Amanda's story would have a different ending if she no longer had access to Facebook, where her tormentors kept finding her. What if her cell phone was turned off, her Facebook page deleted? Would she have found a moment's peace if, even though it sounds extreme, she had gone media-dark? Maybe it seems like punishing her to take away her phone and computer, but is it really punishment if it stopped the harassment from reaching her? We will never know, but if one of my children was in that much pain, I would go to the ends of the earth to stop it, so canceling my data plan and removing computers from our home would be nothing. I wouldn't give it a second thought. Radical? Maybe. I am, by no means, passing judgment on any of the parents who have suffered such a loss. I'm just proposing a return to "old-school" parenting. Kids are less capable of taking care of themselves than they were 100 years ago and yet they are given much more freedom in a world far more dangerous. I don't care if every other kid at school has a smart phone, a Facebook account and their own laptop! Mine will survive with a family computer, and when they are older, cell phones and social media will be earned and monitored.

Friday, September 28, 2012

When Life Gives You Lemons, Try Wilted Kale

I failed to start the bread machine yesterday morning, so we didn't have much bread for lunch. I had other options, but it would have meant repeating a recent meal. I decided to get a little crazy. I sliced the bread as thinly as I could, then quartered it, to make tiny little slices. I then piled on roasted turkey, turkey bacon, sharp cheddar and baby spinach...twice! I broke a couple of skewers in half, since tooth picks were too small. Ta-da! Little turkey club stacks with a sneaky bit of leafy goodness. The kids were so excited by the presentation, they ate the whole thing with out snubbing the salad.

Today, I started to get out some salad and top it with tuna. Edyn made a face about the tuna and while my first instinct was to say, "Get over it," I started looking at the fridge and the wheels turned in a different direction. I had bought some kale to experiment with and hadn't tried wilting it yet. There's no time like today, so I heated my saute pan with olive oil threw in done chopped onions, then in with the kale. For any kale novices, I take the center rib out. I read that if eating it raw in salad, you take the rib out, so I thought I should here as well. It is very firm, so I was concerned it wouldn't wilt. Once the kale wilted and softened, I threw spinach in and let it wilt briefly. Mean while, in another pan, I crisped some turkey bacon. I chopped it up and threw it in with a dash of vinegar and topped it all of with shredded parmesan.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Process

In my last part I talked about the road to more natural and healthy living. Here's a confession: my desire for keeping the budget and my strong belief in the "waste not, want not" philosophy has delayed our change over to 100% real food all the time. I just don't have it in me to completely empty our pantry of everything in a box or can. We have a few dwindling items, like canned tuna, beans, instant potatoes and instant macaroni and cheese. Many of these items have been given to us and the rest are just leftovers from our "survival mode" days while my hands were full with the new baby. I also have several pounds of white flour and sugar that I'm whittling down. Long story short, I'm trying to use these items here and there, while introducing more fresh and home made meals in between.
Tonight, I sauteed some chicken breast with garlic and Italian seasoning and wrapped it in a tortilla with parmesan and spinach. At least that is what my husband took to work for dinner. It was a bit of a stretch for the kids, although we could have made it work. Then, I decided to let loose and use up a box of macaroni! However, I could never make it per the instructions and still respect myself in the morning. Instead, I threw in the butter, and instead of milk, I added some ranch dressing, some chopped turkey bacon, some of my Italian chicken breast and a dash of parmesan. My only regret is not tossing in some spinach to make a more complete meal. Huge hit! We called it chicken club Mac n cheese and every one cleaned his/her bowl.
Now for the real fun...I don't have any popsicle trays, but that would not stop me. I mixed up some Jello (another hanger-on in the pantry) and I poured equal portions into snack size zipper bags. I then folded the bags over, making sure all the Jello lined the bottom of the bag. To help form a popsicle shape, I gently wrapped the extra bag under the bottom, so the Jello couldn't spread out in the freezer. Finally, I stuck them in the freezer and hoped for something fun. What happened was perfection. Once the "zipper pops" were frozen solid, I could peel the bag away and the kids used the bag to hold the popsicle, like a wrapper. I am more excited about trying this method with other recipes, like mixed yogurt and fruit. Jello just happened to be in the pantry, so it made the trial run for us.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Trial and, Sometimes, Awesome!!

This is my lavender scented olive oil. You can see a purple band
around the neck...this is a twist tie I put on to avoid any mix-ups
in the kitchen! A pretty ribbon would also work,
and be more aesthetically pleasing. 
I started really reading labels a few years ago and found that, even with an A in college chemistry, I don't recognize most of what I find in our every day foods or toiletries. So, I am slowly trying to integrate new habits and move toward a much more natural, and healthier lifestyle. Last year, I started using extra virgin olive oil for a moisturizer in place of lotion. What? You mean, the kind that you use for cooking?  Yes, that exact same one. I just bought an extra bottle to keep in the bathroom. It doesn't spread as easily as lotion, and takes longer to soak in, so you want to allow more time before you get dressed if you decide to try it. The benefits are that your skin stays soft without all the chemical conditioners that actually interrupt your skins natural absorption and regeneration. Your body should, ideally, have everything inside it necessary  to keep its balance. Ideally is the key word.
WARNING: SOAP BOX ALERT!  We don't eat well now days and, with all the beverage choices, we certainly don't drink enough water. So, instead of changing those habits, we come up with ways to treat the side effects of an generally unhealthy life style. Ok, now I'm done ranting. I am not pointing any fingers, because we are still a long way from where we need to be. It's a process.
Back to the olive oil. I decided that just smelling like an Italian restaurant wasn't enough. Also, it made me want fresh bread all the time, whatever that was about. So, I decided to experiment with adding fragrance. Still keeping to all natural and DIY theories, I headed off to the local natural food shop. After a few minutes of essential oil heaven (me standing in the isle and sniffing all of my favorites), I came back to reality and recognized that I was not ready to spend between $10 and $30 for a tiny bottle of smelly oil for an experiment. Then, I moved to the bulk dried goods and found that dried lavender and rose petals, among others, were rather inexpensive. The price per pound was negligible when you consider that even half a pound of dried flowers is a big bag full! I took my bag of lavender and went to Wal-Mart. There I bought a package of cheese cloth, which is sold in pre-cut lengths of 4 yards. I googled how to fragrance olive oil and found several options, but I'll share what I found to be the easiest. I came home, opened a new bottle of olive oil and spooned the lavender buds directly into the bottle. I was so excited, I didn't really think it through. I then closed the bottle tightly and put it in my dark pantry for ten days. Those ten days felt like an eternity! After opening the bottle, it smelled good, but I wanted more, so back in for another ten days. Bingo! It smelled fantastic! Now, when I realized I had to get all the lavender out of the bottle, I recognized my folly. Next time, I'll pour the oil into a wide mouth, air right container. However, I was not giving up. I poured the oil into a large glass bowl that I had double lined with cheese cloth inside of a strainer. Then came the messy prospect of pulling up the edges of the cloth, gathering it and wringing out the oil. Once I was satisfied that I had every precious drop I could get, I took an empty olive oil bottle that I had saved, made a funnel out of wax paper and slowly ladled the lavender oil into the bottle. It was so worth it! I just found that first bottle I made this morning, still half full. When everything  happened with my last pregnancy and I suddenly had to stay off my feet, my routine went out the window. I fell back to old, convenient habits. What I realized this morning is that, after a year of sitting (inside a dark green bottle) it smells as good as ever!
Now, for those less adventurous, go buy your favorite scent in an essential oil and just slowly add a few drops to the oil at a time until you reach the fragrance for which you are trying. You can also use sweet almond oil or jojoba oil, which are suppose to scent well and be nourishing to the skin. My mom has used coconut oil also, which has its own delicious scent. You wild-at-hearts like me, if you want to experiment like I did, here are a few tips:
1. Get an airtight, wide mouth container, glass, not metal. A large canning jar would work.
2. Choose your scenting agent, herbs or flowers, but dried. I've learned by using fresh rose petals that the added moisture can cause mold.
3. Cut about 3 layers of cheese cloth and make a sashay, or think tea bag, with the scenting agent in the middle, gather the edges and tie tight with string, so that you have a little pouch.
4. Buy a funnel!
5. Have a dark, glass bottle for the finished oil washed and sterilized with boiling water. You want to sterilize to ward of any bacteria that can lead to mold. If your bottle is clear, plan on storing it in a dark cabinet, because light and heat are the enemy with  fragrances.
6. Place your sashay into the wide mouth container, pour your oil over it, close the lid and put it away in a dark place for at least 20 days, longer if you have the patience. The longer it sits, the more fragrant the outcome.
7. When it is time, you can squeeze out the sashay and have scented oil, ready to funnel into the storage jar.
I hope you enjoy this as much as I have! Next, I'd like to try rosemary and mint, or maybe almond and vanilla. I would like to experiment more and then make some up for gifts. I will be sure to take pictures each step of the way and post them ASAP.

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Gift of Giving

Today my husband was showing me a new apparel website he found that sends  proceeds to a support program for military families. It reminded me of another site I had heard about that sells lounge pants and tee shirts made by women rescued from forced prostitution. We talked about how we both would rather have a gift purchased from one of these sites than any thing else. Then, I had an idea. What if we decided, from now on, that we as a family would only give each other gifts that somehow helped some one else? Maybe I should buy one of the tee shirts from Wounded Warrior Project for Rich's birthday instead of a book, CD,  tools, etc. He could buy my favorite lounge pants from Punjammies. What if we made the commitment to always make a difference, even one dollar at a time, in the world around us? Did you know that you can buy a cow, a goat or a chicken for a needy family on the other side of the world? I would love to get that for Christmas: "This cow, that will feed a hungry family for six months, had been donated in your name." Just a thought. Here are some ideas:

To help feed hungry families you can try:

Or, if you like tangibles, you can buy t-shirts, hats, etc. and still get money to someone in need:

I'm sure there are more out there. Please, feel free to share any that you like. We would love to hear more ideas about giving and making a difference as a family.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Uh oh...Now What?

Well, this morning I thought I'd be nice and make pancakes for breakfast. When I told the kids, they were ecstatic. Then I realized, as I was mixing up the dry ingredients, that I had run out of baking powder. I'm still no expert, but my guess is that leaving out the baking powder would decrease the "cake" part of pancakes significantly. So I Google "out of baking powder" and found several links explaining that you may substitute two parts cream of tartar and one part baking soda. The caution with this substitution is that you must use it immediately, because the chemical reaction when added to the wet ingredients is temporary. This matters little if you are baking or preparing right away, but you wouldn't want to save left over batter or prepare ahead. Anyway, we had vanilla oatmeal pancakes and they were so thick and fluffy, I may use the "home made" baking powder from now on, at least in pancake batter. I haven't baked anything with it yet, so that will be my next experiment. Tune in next time for more "uh oh" quick fixes!