Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Healthful Houseplants

Did you know that houseplants are one of the most healthful and beautiful additions you have in your home?  It's true.  And NASA researchers confirm that "house plants can purify and rejuvenate the air within our houses and workplaces, safeguarding us all from any side effects connected with prevalent toxins such as formaldehyde, ammonia and also benzene". 

Isn't that incredible?  God's creation is indeed so good! (And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good. Gen 1:12)

One of my favorite benefits of keeping houseplants all around my home is that they breathe in our carbon dioxide and give off healthy oxygen to the indoors. That's quite a wonderful exchange, don't you think?  So I love to keep lots of green houseplants around for their beauty and health benefits. 

My favorite is the philodendron because it's so easy to care for and it makes pretty vines. A NASA study showed the Philodendron also eliminates formaldehyde fumes from the air. Next favorite is English Ivy which in one study showed that just six hours after English ivy was placed in a room, the air based mold was reduced by 60%.  So if anyone in your family suffers with allergies, put some English Ivy plants around your home and breathe easy.



A common problem when buying new plants is that sometimes little stow-aways come along for the ride. A common stow-away is gnats. Those little annoying bugs that seem to love hovering in your face.  I tried using pest spray specifically made for houseplants but apparently it doesn't kill their eggs still in the soil, so that was a useless avenue.

I finally discovered that gnats live on fungus so going after their source of food is critical. The theory is that if you kill the fungus, you kill the gnats.  So I'm planning to buy some fungicide (Walmart garden center) and soak the plant soil with it.  I don't know if it will work or what affect it will have on any remaining larvae in the soil, however.  But I'd be thrilled if it killed them, too! I'll write an update with my results.

Unfortunately our house plants are quarantined out on the front porch because I couldn't stand those gnats flying in my face for one more second.

If the fungicide spray doesn't work, my only other options are to rinse down the plants to the roots and re-pot them in new soil or surrender them to the trash barrel.  One thing is for sure, I will not be buying my houseplants from big box stores anymore.

Timely Tips Tuesday

Introducing Timely Tips Tuesday!  Each Tuesday, I will share a handy household tip that will focus on all aspects of keeping the home. 

Tiny Tasks

If you have growing children (and all the children I know are always growing!) review your roster of chores frequently and delegate more.  Here are some jobs even toddlers can help with:

  • Putting trash into the waste basket.
  • Emptying all the waste baskets into the main trash can once a week.
  • Keeping the family pet's water bowl filled (a squirt bottle is least messy for a child still acquiring motor coordination skills).
  • Feeding smaller mammals, birds, and fish -- just keep an eye on how they are doing.  It's wonderful training for the responsibilities of a more demanding pet like a dog. 
  • Watch and advise; communicate your standards, offer praise for a job well done well -- but never "do it better" or redo what has been done if they just put their all into their work. (Such a tactic is better saved for a lazy child who didn't really try.)


One Season at a Time

Tomorrow is June and most regions are safely past the cooler weather.  This means that if you haven't already done so, it's time to organize your apparel.  Store only this season's stuff in your closets and bureaus.

  • Decide how many seasons (climactic, not retail!) you really have where you live.
  • Put this season's things into the closet.
  • Break up all-season garments (T-shirts, blouses, shirts) into seasonal collections by color, pattern, or material.
  • Store the rest by season.
  • Use vacuum storage bags or plain large zipped or resealable bags (get extra air out using a vacuum cleaner, unzipping just enough to fit the nozzle).
  • Another idea to store seasonal clothing is to use empty luggage (unless a vacation is imminent).
  • Along with the clothes, throw in some natural cedar wood, whole cloves, mint or lavender to deter moths and give a fresh clean scent when you pull them out again. 
Storing your out of season clothing is better for your clothes (they won't get squashed in the closet or bureau drawers) and better for your closet (it will be roomier and easier to put laundry away).  Plus this annual ritual allows for an easy way to see what you have and what items have outlived there use.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ladies, Do What You Can

I thought I'd share a little story from a few years ago when I was at the grocery store check-out stand.  While the clerk rang up my order, I glanced down at my son (7 at that time) whose eyes were fixed and staring to the side. As I followed his gaze my heart literally sank within me - there was a GQ magazine cover showing a soft p*rn image of prominent hollywood celebrity. I was SO upset.  I quickly brushed his glance in the opposite direction, turned the filthy magazine over and we left.  (If it had happened today, I probably would've spoken up about my offense which, I suppose, would have made a "scene".)


But I went home and strait away wrote the manager of the store and corporate headquarters with my ugly experience in their store.  I explained my longtime patronage and loyalty to that store and that if something was not done about this, I would gladly take my business elsewhere.  I warned that I would also tell my many friends and family to do the same.


To my delight and amazement, I received an apology letter back in response stating that the management had been contacted and changes would be made.  Shortly thereafter, I noticed a big red sign over one check stand that read "Family Friendly".  Sure enough, that isle had NO magazine display racks at all.  Just gum and the like.  Naturally, I wish they'd made every check stand family friendly, but the fact that such a big chain store listened and made changes was an encouraging victory. 


The Bible says we must resist the devil for him to flee.  No resistance, no fleeing!  When we come upon evil trying to creep it's way into public domain, a place where everything should be "family friendly", we must not be afraid to resist that old serpent and wield our swords in authority. 


I tell this story because there are so many Christians who feel their voice won't make a difference. But that is just a tactical lie of the enemy to keep people from trying. Sadly, the majority of Christians just keep swallowing the dung that the enemy keeps piling on their plate.  Resist the enemy and he will flee. 


Just recently, Sears buckled under Christian pressure to remove pornographic material from their product line. You can read more about it here. Just another example of how a small group, through persistence, had a big victory. 


Even though we are keepers at home and not on the battle lines every day as many who are out and about all day, we can STILL be active soldiers in the battle.  There is an old hymn called "Onward Christian Soldiers" that was sung regularly by church members at Sunday meetings that has sadly been replaced by modern "me" centered worship music which has more me's, I's, myself's (referring to the person) in it than You's (referring to God).


Check out the anonymous lyrics to the parody of that great hymn.  Shamefully, this could be the banner song for many modern churches.




Backward Christian soldiers, fleeing from the fight
With the Cross of Jesus nearly out of sight.
Christ our rightful master, stands against the foe,
But forward into battle, we are loathe to go.


Like a mighty tortoise moves the Church of God
Brothers we are treading where we've always trod.
We are much divided, many bodies we,
Having many doctrines, not much charity.


Crowns and thorns may perish, kingdoms rise and wane,
But the Church of Jesus hidden does remain.
Gates of Hell should never 'gainst the Church prevail
We have Christ's own promise, but think that it will fail.


Sit here then ye people, join our useless throng
Blend with ours your voices in a feeble song
Blessings, ease and comfort, ask from Christ the King
With our modern thinking, we don't do a thing.
(Anonymous)
 
Compare it now to the original hymn.


Onward Christian Soldiers


Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
with the cross of Jesus going on before.
Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe;
forward into battle see his banners go!


At the sign of triumph Satan's host doth flee;
on then, Christian soldiers, on to victory!
Hell's foundations quiver at the shout of praise;
brothers, lift your voices, loud your anthems raise.


Like a mighty army moves the church of God;
brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod.
We are not divided, all one body we,
one in hope and doctrine, one in charity.


Crowns and thrones may perish, kingdoms rise and wane,
but the church of Jesus constant will remain.
Gates of hell can never 'gainst that church prevail;
we have Christ's own promise, and that cannot fail.


Onward then, ye people, join our happy throng,
blend with ours your voices in the triumph song.
Glory, laud, and honor unto Christ the King,
this through countless ages men and angels sing.


What an encouraging hymn, so full of the power and authority we have in Christ Jesus.  We mustn't look to the sheep, we must follow and look to our great Shepherd.  So many soggy churches filled with chair warmers, fancy 'worship' music, dazzling speeches (sermons) and books that are passing as Bibles today!  These are the devil's delight. 


When we fight in battle, resist the devil, and run the race set before us, we can boldly let our "light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Mat 5:16)


So I encourage you ladies, do what you can in your own circle of influence for the Lord. Stand up for right, condemn wrong.  Do what you can.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Peace With Estrangement

There are many people today dealing with estrangement from loved ones. So just how should a Christian deal with it when it comes to their door?  

It's a delicate issue because no two situations are alike. But for a Christian, we can deal with it the same way we deal with every other issue - we must turn to the Lord and seek understand and wisdom from his Holy Bible. The answers we can find by searching the scriptures bring far more understanding and comfort than any other avenue I can fathom.


Being estranged from someone you love is a bewildering and painful experience.  Yet in the midst of the pain, there is an odd peace.  

Imagine that you were suddenly handed molten hot coals. Would you hold them while your flesh sizzled and burned or would you release them? I don't think anyone in that situation would hesitate to release them. 

What is the resulting feeling?  

Immediate relief. 

Peace. 

So it sometimes is with certain relationships when no other avenue for peace can be found except by releasing the ones we love. It's almost a knee-jerk response mixed with deep sorrow and relief. 


The person who's handed molten coals might try to hold them for a while, but when "fail" to, they may be ridiculed for not being strong enough. This can lead to total discouragement until they realize that dropping the hot coals is not only natural, but inevitable.  A narcissistic person is well practiced with causing loved ones to feel defeated all the time. They are masters at twisting words and situations around and around until they shine as the victim and you are the "villain". 

It is bizarre.


It's tempting to give in to the despair that lurks at the door in such painful circumstances. But to the faithful, the Lord has given a wonderful promise to cling to: 


 "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it"I Corinthians 10:13


Isn't that beautiful? Even more beautiful is my faithful heavenly Father who sees in secret and rewards openly. 

Job's Story of Estrangement
In the book of Job, I love how from the very beginning we are given a glimpse into the supernatural realm as God is moved against Job "to destroy him without cause".  

It's actually comforting to read of all the woes that befall Job when we see the wonderful revelation at the beginning of the book: the Lord, in all his righteousness, was not punishing Job.  He was trying him.  Big difference!  

The Lord tested his people for 40 years after he led them out of Egypt.  He will test us, too.


I find it fascinating that the Lord actually pointed Job out to Satan!  
In our finite mind we can only marvel at this - who can know what God's ultimate purpose was to bring Job so low?  Job the man may have been shaken by the trials that befell him, but Job's faith in the Lord was not.  Those dealing with estrangement would do well to study this amazing book because Job knew estrangement. You would think his family and friends would have surrounded him with love and support. But, shockingly, we see that they become estranged from him in his darkest hour.


He hath put my brethren far from me, and mine acquaintance are verily estranged from me.  My kinsfolk have failed, and my familiar friends have forgotten me. — Job 19:13-14
Furthermore, Job wisely accounts the estrangement of his family to the Lord.  Not to himself or even his family and friends. In estrangement, blame is always at the core of the issue but the Bible tells us it is the Lord who opens and closes ears, hearts, eyes, wombs, etc. Dealing with estrangement is difficult and painful enough without adding blame on top of the heap.  But isn't it a great comfort to read Job and see the hand of God at work in the smallest details?

David's Story of Estrangement 
In 1 Samuel, the story of David and Saul gives us a glimpse into a different sort of family estrangement between Saul and David.  Saul considered David his family. (See 1 Samuel 24:16)  1 Samuel records the account of Saul's intense jealousy which led to his wicked pursuit of David.  I encourage you to read the whole riveting story in chapter 18 (KJV), but here are the points that pertain to this subject:


1 Sam 18:1-2 And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. And Saul took him that day, and would let him go no more home to his father's house

(David became as one of Saul's family. )


1 Sam 18:7 And the women answered one another as they played, and said, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.

(Saul noticed David got more praise and adulation. How did he react?)

1 Sam 18:8 And Saul was very wroth, and the saying displeased him; and he said, They have ascribed unto David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed but thousands: and what can he have more but the kingdom? And Saul eyed David from that day and forward

(The end result of Saul's jealousy is hatred which is equal to murder in God's eyes.)



1 Sam 18:10 And it came to pass on the morrow, that the evil spirit from God came upon Saul, and he prophesied in the midst of the house: and David played with his hand, as at other times: and there was a javelin in Saul's hand. And Saul cast the javelin; for he said, I will smite David even to the wall with it.

(Saul's jealousy led to his attempted murder of David.  How did David react?)
 
1 Sam 18:11 And David avoided out of his presence twice. And Saul was afraid of David, because the LORD was with him, and was departed from Saul.


David was essentially presented with hot coals in his hands by someone considered his family.  So, did he stick around for more?  No, he showed wisdom by avoiding Saul.  (Later he ran and hid.) Saul was afraid because God was with David.


Jealousy is not uncommon among family members. In some families, the "green monster" lurks quietly for years until opportunity knocks.  Estrangement originates in the heart of one who is jealous or bitter for some reason. Wanting/lusting after something they want but don't or can't have. The word of God warns:


James 4:1 From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?


God has commanded that we be content with what He has provided for us.  If you allow jealousy to enter your heart, you can be sure that sin is crouching at your door. What was the very first murder due to?  Cain's jealousy over his brother. 

Continuing with Saul's Story...
Look also at what happened the day after Saul's jealousy took hold


1 Samuel 16:14 But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him.


God sent an evil spirit to trouble Saul. Jealousy (coveting and lust) is toxic and dangerous. How did King David respond?  With wisdom.  He chose avoidance/estrangement from Saul rather than "holding the hot coals".


If a wise man contendeth with a foolish man, whether he rage or laugh, there is no rest. Pro 29:9


According to the Bible, dealing with a foolish person is exhausting! Family members ought to treat one another as friends. And true friendship is loving, not exhausting.  Some friends and family members feel entitled to a relationship with you. People like this often make a ruckus if things don't measure up to their expectations.  But since when is anyone entitled to some one's friendship?  The answer is never.  Friendship is a choice. A gift. It's not entitled to anyone. These kinds of people ignore the fact that trust in friendship is earned.


Two Roads Diverged
If you're holding hands with a friend and he chooses a different path than you do, one of you must let go or else be taken down a path they did not choose.  God says his way is narrow (unpopular!).  Choosing his narrow way will not be popular with "friends" (or family for that matter) who are choosing a different path.



Estrangement is often the result of one person letting go of their companion's hand and choosing a narrower way.  It can be a painful and lonely path. The temptation to please loved ones can be great.  But the Lord gives us the choice: we can follow and obey his still, small voice which can mean being scoffed at, or we can follow friends and family and remain popular with them. I know the one I will choose every day and twice on Sunday.  I'll follow God.

Estrangement seems to be hardest on women. We are more emotionally involved and attached with others and typically more prone to people-pleasing than men.  The agony can be intense in these situations when a woman is tempted to "make everything OK". 

Don't Bear it Alone
But the Lord has an answer for this. He has given every wife a leader or a "Head" so she doesn't have to bear the weight of a heavy burden that's not hers to carry in the first place. God intended for us to lean on our husbands and seek their guidance in times of uncertainty. 
 
If a woman has a wise husband, she can seek his comfort and guidance. God set each of us in a subordinate order. The husband is her head.  Christ is her husband's head.  And God the Father is Christ's head. It's imperative that a woman remain obedient and supportive to her husband's leading.  Why?  Because God said so.

This order of command has nothing to do with whether or not a husband is a believer or whether or not they deserve it. 

But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. — I Cor 11:3 

Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.1 Peter 3:6

It is devastating to be the object of false rumors but if you are blessed with a good man, his direction and leadership can be comforting.  Seeing those you love have itching ears and believe false accusations against you is indescribably painful.  But the Lord is at the helm and sees it all.  Keep your heart pure before him.  Cast your cares on him and walk in the light of obedience and faithfulness to his word.  Honor your head (your husband), for the Lord has given him to you for your protection. 

What about  two-faced "friends" or family members?
The Lord settles the matter of loyalty here:


No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Matt 6:24


Abe Lincoln said it this way: "A friend is one who has the same enemies as you you have". That puts it into perspective doesn't it?  

Friends can't have it both ways - they must choose. So when someone says one thing to you, and another to someone else, he/she is not a friend. 

Those who've had hot coals dumped in their hands are anxious to restore fellowship with their loved one(s). But there is one major  comfort for those who are hurting from this kind of betrayal and that is that the Lord knows.  Look what wise Job said about this:


"But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold." Job 23:10

God knows! Those who engage in malicious behavior and are quick to believe evil against a friend, display their heart.  Many people proclaim Christianity but display bitterness, envy and strife.  Maybe they should listen to fewer sermons and just feed on the pure word of God instead.  I've heard things said like, "family shouldn't treat each other that way."  But isn't it interesting that this is said about family? As though family (blood) are more important than others?  Who did Jesus consider to be his family? Read Mark 3:35 to find out.


The following scripture is evidence that God knew estrangement would take place among families.


Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household.  He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Mt 10:34-37


The word of God is a comfort and a light to our feet.  We live in a world that is constantly contrary to God and his ways.  I recently found several scriptures that illustrate that contrast. 


The worlds:  "Blood is thicker than water."
The Bible: Jesus said, "Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?" And he stretched forth his hand TOWARD HIS DISCIPLES, and said, "Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother."  Mt 12:48-50


The World: “The love of a family is life's greatest blessings."
The Bible: If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:26


The World: “Family is the most important thing in the world." - Princess Diana
The Bible:  Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. Ecc 12:13


The World:  "Tolerance, tolerance! Don't judge others or hurt their feelings."
The Bible:   "But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. 1 Cor 5:11


The World:  God loves everyone.
The Bible:  God's "love" was manifest in ONE act: the blood sacrifice of his only begotten son, Jesus Christ.


God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day. Psalm 7:11  

The LORD trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth.  Psalms 11:5


The World: Who are you to judge me?
The Bible: Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? 1 Cor 6:2

God's Ideas about Family Vs. Man's
From scripture, I see that God's ideas about family and man's ideas about family are quite different.  Who does Jesus consider to be his family? Those who obey his commands. God's family is not limited by blood relation. He is looking for those who will be faithful to him to the end and do His will.  

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Mt 7:21

I know that God is good and it is up to him to rectify as he sees fit. If you're hurting at the hand of someone who sought evil against you, wait upon the Lord - He is your strength.

The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe. — Prov 18:10


Whatever the initial cause might be, estrangement from loved ones is difficult. The mourning process is similar to a loved one's death.  But while we wait on the Lord, he promises to renew our strength. 

We can be at peace knowing that that the trial of our patience worketh experience and experience hope and hope maketh not ashamed!  When you're the target of an adversary and you walk away from it, at the very least, there is peaceful relief.


Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord."  Hebrews 12:14 
If a relationship becomes impossible to handle, "following peace with all men" would mean stepping back or avoiding the "hot coals" situation as King David did.  The Peace that results is the presence of the Lord that dwells within,  even in the presence of our enemies. 

Above all, trust the Lord for the outcome and pray without ceasing. God is "able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us" Eph 3:20.
Walk in peace.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Delicious Spaghetti Sauce

This is the best homemade spaghetti sauce I've ever tasted.  After having it at my brother's house a few times, I finally asked for the recipe. (The men in my family are really good cooks!) 






Delicious Spaghetti Sauce


Ingredients
  1. 1 tbsp Oregano
  2. 1 tsp Basil
  3. 1 tsp Thyme
  4. 1 tbsp Parsley
  5. 1 small bay leaf
  6. 1/2 tsp Rosemary
  7. 1/4 tsp Nutmeg
  8. 1 tsp Sea Salt
  9. 1 tsp course Black Pepper
  10. 2 tbsp Garlic Powder
  11. 1 tbsp Onion Powder
  12. 1/4 tsp Crushed Red Pepper (optional)


  • 2 tbsp Sugar
  • 2 tbsp Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 lb sausage (italian or regular)
    Note: "Italian Chicken Sweet" sausage from Sprouts Market deli counter is awesome.
  • 1 medium Onion finely chopped
  • 3 heaping tbsp chopped garlic
  • 3 and 1/2 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1/4 cup Red Wine
  • 30 oz. Tomato Sauce
  • 30 oz. Tomato Puree (or "crushed tomatoes")
Add sausage and 1/2 tbsp Olive Oil to large pot over medium heat.  Break sausage up into crumbly pieces, stirring frequently just until meat is no longer pink.  Add chopped onion and garlic, and continue to stir.  Heat until onions become softened.  Add first 12 ingredients, and mix well.  Add red wine and stir.  Add tomato sauce and puree, stir well.  Add sugar, 3 tbsp olive oil and parmesan cheese, stir well.  Cover.  When sauce begins to boil, reduce heat to low-simmer, (no. 2 on electric range). Stir and keep covered.  Cook for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.  After 40 minutes, tip lid slightly to allow steam to escape --watch for popping sauce.  Leave lid tipped, this will allow sauce to thicken. Continue to cook 15-20 minutes.  Remove from heat. Remove bay leaf. Serve over your favorite pasta, top with parmesan or romano cheese.  Enjoy!




This recipe is delish.  I have used it for pizza sauce, lasagne, eggplant roll-ups, you name it.  I have also put it in a crock pot to slow cook all day.  Wonderful recipe.

My son's Essay "My Idea of a Good Meal"

Today I received an unexpected little blessing from my oldest son.  While doing work in his Grammar and Composition, he was asked to write a short composition.  I was busy helping his brother when he must have placed the paper in my stack of papers at the dining room table where we sit during school.  I looked down and read his paper.  Keeping in mind that he's a real boy and not given to being really mushy, I knew how much love was in it and immediately teared up because it was so sweet.


Here is his composition word for word:
"My Idea of a Good Meal"
by (son's name)


        "Some people might say a good meal comes from Grandma.  Some might name The Olive Garden, or so-and-so's Pizza Place.  Maybe a good meal springs from an heirloom recipe handed down from this ancestor or that great-great-grandmother. To such suggestions I calmly hold up my hand and shake my head.  I declare proudly that I have a good, good meal at least every day in my own house, in nearly every conceivable cuisine, by one person: my mom.
        
        Every original recipe I eat is from her head.  Take last night, for example.  She made up a delicious eggplant lasagna or something. I'm not exactly sure what it was.  Ask her; it's her recipe.  All I know is that that recipe could start its own class of food.  That's only one recipe out of hundreds; you may take your pick.
       
        Could such a person have a flaw?  Of course -- a major one: she never writes the recipes down!  So what's my idea of a good meal?  Whatever comes out of my mom's kitchen at lunch, dinner, or breakfast-time is what I say is a better-than-good meal."




Is that sweet or what?  I immediately thought of Proverbs 31:28, "Her children arise up, and call her blessed, her husband also and he praiseth her."  My family loves my cooking, and often raves about what I make and I have really learned to enjoy preparing meals and treats for them.  But when it's put in writing like that, when my son could have chosen any topic he wanted, it is a deep honor. 
He's right - I forget to write down my recipes a lot.  Mostly because I create them from what is available in the refrigerator at the time. Years ago, I observed and learned from my dad, who is a great cook, how to use up leftovers.  So I really love to use up leftovers creatively.  (Shhh - my family can rarely tell when I do.)


Last night I strayed from my planned menu because I had some delicious spaghetti sauce leftover and wanted to use it up.  I have no problem straying from my menu because it is there for me not the other way around. I won't be "slave" to it. :)


Here's my recipe:


Eggplant Roll-ups


Ingredients

2 medium eggplants
2 eggs
1 package unsalted saltine crackers, crushed (I whirl mine in a mini-processor)
Olive Oil
8 oz. Cream cheese
1 cup shredded Mozzarella, divided
1/2 grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed, squeezed dry
Sea salt,
Savory and marjoram (optional)


1) Thinly slice 2 eggplants lengthwise (season each slice with Celtic sea salt)
2) Dip each slice in egg then cracker crumbs and fry in olive oil till lightly brown (in batches). 
3) mix spinach, cream cheese, 1/2 cup of the mozzarella and 1/4 cup of the Parmesan with a generous dash each of savory, sea salt, and marjoram.
4) Place a dollop of the cheese mixture in the center of each breaded eggplant slice and roll ends toward center (overlap ends).
5) Place each roll seam-side down in greased 13x9" baking dish.
6) Spread spaghetti sauce over each bundle.
7) Top with remaining shredded mozzarella and Parmesan


Bake 350 for 25 minutes or until heated through.  Makes 12 bundles in the pan (and three that don't fit for the fridge or a snack for the cook!)  :)


Now I can tell my son I wrote that one down!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Back Issues Continued

I am still dealing with pretty much constant back pain and it's going on 4 weeks now.  The sacro wedgy is helping some, although I can't say it's "cured" me in any way.  But it does seem to offer relief, however short lived. 


I am crying out to the Lord all day long for his healing touch. It's really been a challege to take care of my family while feeling so debilitated.  Frequent rests are becoming common.  I would probably see a doctor, holistic preferably, but our finances really don't allow for that right now and often times they can't help anyway. 


I am doing all I can to learn about the back's anatomy and the ligaments and joints that are involved in back pain.  So far, I'm thinking it could be my left sacroilliac joint that might be the trouble.
According to wikipedia: "the ligaments of the sacroiliac joint become loose during pregnancy due to the hormone relaxin; this loosening allows widening of the pelvic joints during the birthing process.


The hormonal changes of menstruation, pregnancy, and lactation can affect the integrity of the ligament support around the SIJ, which is why women often find the days leading up to their period are when the pain is at its worst. During pregnancy, female hormones are released that allow the connective tissues in the body to relax.


The relaxation is necessary so that during delivery, the female pelvis can stretch enough to allow birth. This stretching results in changes to the SIJs, making them hypermobile — extra or overly mobile. Over a period of years, these changes can eventually lead to wear-and-tear arthritis. As would be expected, the more pregnancies a woman has, the higher her chances of SI joint problems. During the pregnancy, micro tears and small gas pockets can appear within the joint.


Muscle imbalance, trauma (e.g. falling on the buttock) and hormonal changes can all lead to SIJ dysfunction. Sacroiliac joint pain may be felt anteriorly, however care must be taken to differentiate this from hip joint pain.


Women are considered more likely to suffer from sacroiliac pain than men, mostly because of structural and hormonal differences between the sexes, but so far no credible evidence exists that confirms this notion. Female anatomy often allows one less sacral segment to lock with the pelvis, and this may increase instability."


This information seems to correlate to the pain I'm having. I am looking into what I can do to rebuild the area. Maybe some progesterone cream to balance my hormones and keeping up with the essential fatty acids supplements I'm taking.


But I also have found that exercise is only good if it's the right kind of exercise.  We ladies must be extra careful as we approach middle age when it comes to exercise (as I am learning the hard way).  I tried Pilates about a year and a half ago and it caused a serious injury to my piriformis muscle which took over a year to heal.  That was THE most painful year of my life.  And I wouldn't be surprised if it also had some influence on my current back trouble. 


My conclusion is that Pilates is not for everyone and should be approached with great caution.  Probably Yoga, too.  Good old walking and light weight lifting is what I am going to stick to and hope that I can recover from the damage done by following the hype of such things.  I think doing the most natural movements that would correlate with just living are the most beneficial.  Taking a half hour walk each day, caring for children and keeping the home are all within the normal bounds of movement. 


Have you ever stopped to notice that our great grandmothers did little more than these "normal" things to maintain good health?  Makes me stop and consider the advent of all modern ideas about exercise.  Is it unnatural to "do aerobics" to a workout video where unnatural movements are repeated over and over?  I'm beginning to think so. Pain can make you sit back and evaluate...just stop and think about what could have led to the predicament.  And that's what I'm doing.  Since I know my own history and body best, my own health care must start there.


But one thing is sure - I praise the Lord in good times, and I'm going to keep praising him in the hard ones, too.

A Day in the Kitchen

When finances are especially tight, I spend a good portion of one day stocking our kitchen with a few homemade foods.  The first thing I do is look through my pantry and frige and see what I've got to use.  I try to always keep a stock of pastas, rice, beans, canned veggies, chick peas and flour so that I can make wholesome foods from scratch for my family for a fraction of the cost of store bought items.


Today I decided I had the ingredients on hand to make homemade baked beans, a cheesecake, some alfalfa sprouts, hummus dip, hamburger buns (to make burgers that night) and salsa. 


I started with the one that takes the longest - the beans.  I sorted, rinsed, and cooked 2 lbs of dry northern white beans to start a big batch of baked beans.  Once the beans were on a simmer, I started the alfalfa seeds to sprout. 


Next I made dough for the whole wheat hamburger buns and set the bowl in a warm corner on my counter top for the first rise. 


For the cheesecake, I used my vita-mix to make a graham cracker crust. First I blended the crackers and sugar up, mixed that in a bowl with melted butter and pressed them into the bottom of a spring form pan.  After I cleaned out the vita-mix, I used it again to blend the cream chese batter and then poured it into the pan and set it to bake.  So easy and much less expensive than buying one premade.


While the cake was baking it was time for a little clean up. So I cleaned up the mess and dishes I'd made thus far, washed my vita-mix out and used it to make hummus dip (also great as a sandwich spread) and then some California salsa with fresh tomatoes, cilantro and onions (some of the fresh staples I keep on hand.) Both turned out really fine and I put them into containers to chill in the fridge for snacking. 


Next, the dough was ready to be formed into buns and a second rise. I set the timer for an hour and cleaned up a little and took a much needed break. :) When they were doubled in size, I baked them for half an hour. 


By this time, the beans were ready to be made into baked beans. I gave the alfalfa seeds a quick second rinse and by evening, they'd already begun to sprout. 


So, after only a few hours in the kitchen I was able to save quite a bit of money by cooking things from scratch instead of buying ready made.  Here is the approximate break down of savings:
                                          
                                                                        
Food                          Prices                         Savings:


Hamburger Buns  - store bought $3.00             $2.50
                              - home made  $0.50  


Hummus Dip         - store bought $6.00             $3.00
                              - home made   $3.00


Salsa                      -store bought $3.00              $2.75
                               -home made  $1.25


Baked beans            -store bought $6.50            $4.00
                                -home made   $2.50


Alfalfa Sprouts           -store bought $5.00         $4.25
                                  -home made   $0.75
          
Cheesecake              -store bought $13.00          $7.50
                                 -homemade   $ 5.50


                                                Total savings:    $24.00


So for just over 3 hours or so in the kitchen I was able to keep approximately $24 of my husband's hard earned income. Of course, it bears mentioning that homemade food's secret ingredient is love - and we can't begin to put a price tag on that!  :)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Back Pain Help

When I find a good thing, I like to pass it on. In my search for back pain relief, I came across the Sacro-Wedgy.  It's a funny little gadget that I bought on amazon based on the rave reviews and I think it is very helpful.  You just lay flat on the ground and place it under your sacrum (thus the name "sacro-wedge") for 20 minutes and relax.  It raises the sacrum slightly off the ground which allows the surrounding muscles to relax.  

For the back pain that I have, it produces measurable relief. (Btw, I don't sell these or anything, I just am impressed with how well these work.) Using this little gadget with a combination of icing my back today has helped me a lot!