Sunday, August 31, 2008


Chad went on a 125 mile bike tour this weekend. I'm so happy for him! He has wanted to do this for a loooong time. Unfortunately, he's being pelted with rain, and there is NO shelter in the middle of Nowhere, NM. So, the girls and I are having a girlie weekend complete with toenail polish, princess movies, a dinner out and a real movie in a real movie theater. I have wanted to take the girls to see WALL-E and this was the perfect opportunity.

First of all, we loved it (save the 2 potty breaks and tiny meltdown quickly quashed).

If you haven't seen WALL-E the basic premise is this: earth has become a giant garbage dump filled with the discarded byproduct of humanity's consumerism at the behest of Buy N Large (I am pretty sure this is Allway Artmay (I don't want some corporate lawyer coming after me). So humans abandoned the planet to an army of clean-up robots. Hundreds of years have pased and only one is left, WALL-E. He is a lonely little guy, with only a VHS copy of "Hello Dolly" to keep him company -- until humans send a robot probe to who discovers that life is again possible on earth, allowing repopulation. They become friends. Meanwhile, humans have become completely dependent upon robots and machinery; B n L takes care of them from cradle to grave. They are (pardon the term) fat, lazy and without any ambition. Long story short, the computers are overthrown, humans regain their ambition and repopulate earth, starting from scratch.

I thought for sure that the girls would just remember the cute little robots and their funny antics. Given this is a PIXAR movie, I knew it would be very funny, and it was. But, when I asked them on the way home what the movie was about, Smart Cookie Ingrid said, "don't buy too much stuff." HALLELUJAH!

Consumerism is a challenge that we really struggle with. When we moved from Almost Canada, ND to Almost Mexico, AZ, we dumped about 1/3 of our stuff via a really successful garage sale. We often talk about our "'Almost Canada' Mindset", and our desire to maintain the attitude.

We've tried to scale back here, going back to essentials on our shopping list, using safer cleaning chemicals, cooking from scratch, Chad's biking to work, starting a modest garden (which we want to expand this fall).

As most Christians know , Jesus talked more about money than any other topic. The reason of course is because stuff can become a slave master, and a hard driving one at that. Think about how greed, unchecked desire, gluttony, etc. consume every part of our life. We work too hard to earn extra money, thereby neglecting our families, drive bigger vehicles that we now can't afford, bigger homes than we need, eat fast food meals because we didn't have time to cook at home because we worked too hard to buy the stuff that we want, and the circle goes round and round...

Now I know this problem is way more complex than I've stated in one little paragraph. I type this as I'm watching a Disney movie that the girls wanted to rent at Blockbuster on our nice TV...I know there are plenty of extenuating circumstances. People's lives are complex, not simple. Moms DO have to go back to work for lots of very good reasons. Dads DO have to work really long, hard hours to make ends meet. Children do love princesses, pirates and dragons, and the DVDs about them -- it brings them joy. I'm not saying we all need to "live off the grid".

But WALL-E did slap a little bit of sense back into me. I will think twice the next time the girls ask me for that Disney toy/gummy/cereal/clothing tie-in to their next princess movie. After all, aren't I more "socially conscious" because I shop at Argetay instead of Almart Way? HAAA! Nope.

Friday, August 29, 2008

first *real* sourdough

Here is today's bread project: hearty European style sourdough. I started this process (not counting creating the sourdough starter) on Wednesday morning by building up my starter. I created the sponge on Wednesday night (a portion of starter, water and some flour, which sat on the counter for 12 hours). On Thursday morning, I kneaded the actual dough, adding into the sponge the full amount of flour - 4 kinds! spelt, rye, white bread and whole wheat - and salt to the the sponge, and stuck that dough in the fridge to slow rise for 24 hours. This step is where the sourdough really develops its taste and tang.

This morning (Friday) I took it out of the fridge, formed a boule' (round blob) shaped loaf and let it sit on the counter for 5 hours. Baked. Cooled (yes, you have to let it cool!!!!!).

Click for the method and recipe

I waited the full cooling time -- went out for Chinese food to get away from the temptation of cutting it open. Pretty nice even crumb. I tend to like bigger holes, so I'll experiment with hydration percentages next time. Very tangy! Definite sourdough taste! Interesting other flavors. I don't know that I've had spelt before. It lends a very distinctive taste. Kind of like pumpernickel (is there spelt in traditional pumpernickel?).

friday fun

I cut up a canteloupe for snack today. I had chunked up the first half and was called away for something. I came back and "somebody" just couldn't wait. I love the perfect little bite mark.

I'm always scrounging for crafts, so I thought I'd post this idea for other scrounging moms. It was fun, and took about an hour. (Aren't there just some days when the LENGTH OF TIME of the craft is just as important as how cool it is?) I just cut out butterfly shapes from foam sheets I got at Michael's. The shapes were just bits and pieces from those bags of foam shape stickers that are always on sale there.

Our tree fell over during last night's strong thunderstorm. I had just taken down the stakes this week. Glad I kept 'em. I called the local knowledgable nursery and they said I didn't do wrong unstaking the tree (they don't even like staking trees) but that mesquites only send out roots as far as the water moistens the soil. There is only one drip emitter on this tree and it is right next to the trunk, hence a very underdeveloped root system. We're going to have to cut into our front yard and add some emitters (not a hard job). We have to restake it asap as it looks like there's another whomper storm coming. And the local weather guys all thought the monsoons were done for the can never second guess God, huh?

10 things for which I am thankful

Not in any particular order...

1. my robust sourdough starter

2. the cooooool thunderstorm last night

3. my cawfee tawk time with Kellie A.

4. that Chad is home today and monday

5. that our beautiful mesquite didn't break when it fell over during last night's storm

7. online Bible websites

8. the cool Chewbacca Star Wars bobblehead toys from "Old McDonald's" last night (yep, this crunchy granola mom occasionally takes my girls to Mickey D's because it brings JOY to their hearts!) (CORA, ignore this one!)

9. Ingrid and Ilsa having tickle wars with Daddy

10. Cook's Illustrated online and Epicurious online

angry update

I posted an update...if you read the original "angry" please read the update.


six foot long purple rope

I think my blog entries have been a biiiiitttt toooo serrrriouuuusssss lately, so I offer up to you the most useless accessory in Almost Mexico, AZ: a six foot long purple wool scarf.

Two weeks ago I decided to teach myself how to was truly a whim. I was driving down a major road in town, and saw a store I have passed a million times, Purls. I said to myself, "why not" and turned in. I walked out with a book, 3 skeins of wool yarn and a new hobby. My paternal grandmother crocheted, as do my husband's Aunt Joyce and my sister in law, Trina. Aunt Joyce has made quite a few things for me and the girls, including a darling dolly dress (which is on a big stuffed teddy bear). Trina had knit a really cute baby cap for Ingy when she was tiny, but has recently taken up crochet. I like how portable it is...I even took my purple rope to Starbucks last Tuesday morning. It even was the impetus for a conversation with the gentleman at the next table...apparently another "yarn lady" (who is quite skilled) frequents "my" Starbucks often. Maybe I'll hit her up for pointers.

This is my first project from an actual pattern. It is probably the easiest crochet pattern ever written, so I can't brag about it tooooo much. I do like how it accessorizes my favorite chair.
So now what is next? I think I'll start working on a dolly blanket for Ilsa to swaddle her baby dolly...she's constantly wanting to use one of Ingrid's dolly blankets.

Thursday, August 28, 2008



Ingrid did not have a happy morning. Understatement. I left her in the capable hands of her Pre-K teacher SCREAMING AND WRITHING on the floor. But you know what? I didn't get angry! I kept thinking about Eph. 4:26: Be angry and yet do not sin...

Some more convicting verses I read today:

Proverbs 29:22 - An angry man stirs up strife, And a hot-tempered man abounds in transgression.

Ecclesiastes 7:9 - Do not be eager in your heart to be angry, For anger resides in the bosom of fools.

James 1:19 - This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger...

I loaned a book to a friend a while back on this topic. She's Gonna Blow by Julie Ann Barnhill is a very practical, Biblically sound, really honest book about this issue. Maybe it is time retrieve it. Here's link:

****END UPDATE 8/28/08****

I had a great time last night with my soon-to-move friend, Kellie. We talked about everything from big bugs to homeschooling, but of course, as the topic so often does, we landed on the subject of mommyhood.

My youngest daughter can go from sunshine and gumdrops to a Nearly Mexico, AZ monsoon in less than 3 seconds, and then back again. (My first Kirsten blogged about this amazing fact a while back.)

But this blog entry is about Mommy Anger. Capitalized In Red. It's strong, ugly and scary. There is something so amazingly frustrating about a 4 1/2 year old who sticks out her little lip, turns up her nose, stomps her little fit and firmly plants her fists on her hips and says, "I....Don't....Want....To....(fill in the blank)". I know, I know, I'm the adult, I'm the grown up one, I'm emotionally advanced and (supposedly mature).

But just how fast can I go from sunshine and gumdrops to a Nearly Mexico, AZ monsoon? In less than 3 seconds, just like my 2 1/2 year old. I'm indwelt with the Holy Spirit! I'm regenerated! So why is this happening? Because I'm still influenced by my black as black heart, my sin nature.

Kellie and I discussed how the lack Scripture reading has a great effect on our day-to-day living. For me, the first of the Fruit of the Spirit to shrivel up and spoil are patience and self-control.

I guess I had better open my Bible and start reading...Ingrid's fists are moving to her hips, and that lip is starting to pooch out. It's Pre-K Day and she...doesn'

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


If only every moment were like this one...

10 things for which I am thankful

In no particular order...but in technicolor...

1. Purple yarn
2. Rain, but no lightning and thunder
3. That my girls ask for bedtime stories from The Jesus Storybook Bible
4. Fettuccini and jarred pesto sauce from Costco = instant deliciousness
5. Keebler elf sandwich cookies
6. Paypal
7. Programmable coffee makers that have the coffee ready for me in the morning
8. Ilsa's homemade Kleenex box =====================>
9. The Olympics are done -- now I can go to sleep at a decent hour
10. Teddy, Baby Stella and Bum Bum

Monday, August 25, 2008

shelter from the storm

Okay, I'm frustrated...Ingy is begging to see Spiderman and Batman. She's 4 1/2. Frankly, other than the picture of the yellow and black bat logo and Spidey's face, I don't know that she even knows what she's talking about.

But I'm frustrated that these icons are even in her psyche. I'm frustrated that the parents of kids in her 4's and 5's class at church let their kids see these films. I'm frustrated that she thinks we are keeping her "out of the loop". We have explained over and over that there are some things that although not necessarily bad are just not for her due to her age, etc. She understands...and accepts this...until the next time a little buddy at church brings it up.

I knew we would never be able to shelter her completely, but I didn't realize just how pervasive the culture at large would be down to her little level. It makes me MAD! We work hard to "edit" what our girls are exposed to. We have kept the princess thing to a minimum (princesses are great, but can be all-consuming for many little girls); we have avoided Barbie (and hope to continue to avoid plastic dolls similar to her); books are still their favorite thing; they still love blocks and stuffed animals and coloring. We are determined to continue to filter their entertainment and the cultural influences that touch them.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

bodacious bread

I found an amazing bread web site today:

I'm going to try their whole grain (european style) sourdough recipe method:

Saturday, August 23, 2008


Sorry for the bad resolution; I still love this picture.
Oh to be 2 1/2 and in love with princesses again.


"But Mom, how can they pray to God? They're not real." asked Ingrid this morning while watching the classic Shirley Temple film, "Bright Eyes". While demonstrating dubious theology (Daddy's in heaven he's a real angel with real wings), the movie did show something rarely seen in modern mainstream Hollywood: a little girl at bedtime praying to The Lord, asking Him to watch over her Daddy, and to tell her Daddy the she and her Mommy love him very much. It also got me thinking....

Ingrid recognized immediately after this bedtime prayer that the character Shirley played was not real.

How many prayers of ours aren't real? When we ask with earnestness for a new 102" flat panel with 20,200 DP, is that prayer real? If are heart is longing for some other ludicrous piece of stuff, is the prayer real? Or is it fake because our heart is not necessarily in line with God's heart? If we ask for the starving children of the Sudan to receive the meal they need to survive for today, but we are praying out of guilt, is the prayer real?

Recently I got something that I have looooonged for for a looooong time: a KitchenAid food processor, 12 cupper no less! I am truly thankful for it. Truly! But, I got along without it for 12 years of marriage, cooking and baking up a storm without its help. Was my heart wrong to long for this piece of metal and plastic? Now that it's sitting on my counter, and I have spent the last two hours rearranging my countertop and some of my kitchen cabinets in order to accomodate the adjustments necessary to house all of its attachments. But I am feeling a little bit down. After I get something that I have wanted for a long time, I feel guilty and selfish. There it is, all bright and shiny and new and beautiful. Were the longings of my heart the same as a prayer?
I guess I should move on with thanks to the gift-giver and learn a lesson about heart attitude.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

bigfootses update

Yep. It was a hoax. And man, are they in truuuuubbbblllle...,2933,408082,00.html

And if you are so inclined, you can buy the costume online:
You know, this guy kind of looks like one of the Stinkin' Apes in the "Planet of the Apes" starring Mark "Marky Mark" Wahlberg.


I guess it was just a matter of time...we have finally (after a whole year of living in Almost Mexico) seen our first tarantula. My friend Molly appropriately named him Tony. Personifying him actually really helped alleviate my very real arachnaphobic fears.

Of course, the first thing I did after getting inside was hit the web (pun intended). I learned a ton about God's amazing creation, the tarantula. Did you know that females can live up to 20 years in the wild? Males mature at between 5 and 7 years; they seek out a "lady friend" at maturity, do their thing, and then crawl off and die. I found that kind of sad. All of that growin' up for one big moment. Females reproduce multiple times. Males are also very fragile. Often they will tear themselves apart just trying to attack prey, literally fighting to the death.

I also learned that tarantulas are GREAT to have in a desert yard as they eat scorpions, baby mice and rats, crickets (which attract scorpions being their main food source) and more "bad bugs". They are very, very docile...people keep them as pets (NOT ME!). If you don't bother them, they will not bother you. But man are they big, hairy and crunchy. Their venom is no worse than a bee sting, and will only be slightly sore after a bite; however, they have very irritating hairs which will shed when they are stressed, and can cause serious skin irritation, and you really don't want to inhale them into your nasal passage, where they could become a serious problem.

Sooooo, even though I will probably never lose my fear of spiders, I now really do now appreciate the wonderous creature, the tarantula. Chad's mom called me with this encouraging Bible verse this morning (...taken out of context! I'm pretty sure Christ was talking about Satan and his minions and spiritual harm, but hey, it was comforting to hear it anyway...):

I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions
and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm

Luke 10:19

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

I'm thankful for some stuff -- here's 10 of 'em

In no particular order...

1. Kumon workbooks, scissors, crayons, markers and coloring books
2. Amazon Marketplace and
3. Lower humidity
4. My new hobby, crochet
5. Dara Torres, a new fitness inspiration
6. The new Method Enlighten Mint shower gel
7. Library books
8. Ingrid & Ilsa's Sunday School teachers
9. Dishwashers
10. Times of quietness

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


On Tuesdays and Thursdays I have the privilege of spending one-on-one time with Ilsa while Ingrid is at Pre-K. Usually we start our mornings with a treat at Starbucks, where I work on Kumon workbooks with Ilsa. (What in the world is a Kumon workbook? )

Anyway, Ilsa's nickname has recently become "Spilsa". Nuff said. I set down our stuff on the table next to the highly coveted cushy corner easy chairs. I went to get a bunch of napkins, and hear, "oops Mommy, I spiwwwed." (That's the closest approximation on how to write spilled the way she says it.) Half of her $2.50 or so smoothie was now on the table and dripping onto the floor. Drip, drip, drip. Mortification. Back for more napkins. Fuss, fuss, fuss...move to new, more appropriate seating area.

And then the barista said, "please, let me clean that up..." I was really, really emphatic that I needed to. Then she said, "the fact that you want to clean this up so badly makes me REALLY want to clean it up for you!" She mopped up the mess while I set us up at the new table. She brought over a lidded cup and then she brought Ilsa a WHOLE NEW smoothie bottle!

And so I dedicate this Starbuck's green text to the wonderful staff at our new favorite Starbucks.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

boho princess

I did my first crochet "project" -- I don't know if I would even call it a project, because I wasn't even going by a pattern...I just was making it up as I went and hey, it actually sort of turned out. Kind of bohemian, huh? Ingrid is thrilled that I made something for her dolly. She's been ticked every time I picked up the "knitting" -- "Moooooom, you doing that knitting again?"

sunday school

I was scheduled to sub in the 4s and 5s sunday school this morning. I had picked up the materials from the church office last week. It was a great story -- the crowning of 8 year old King Josiah, the restoration of Godly rule to Israel and the recovery of the Law (of Moses).

I had really kind of struggled, though, with the ancillary stuff -- the activities, crafts and games portion. I was stressed out. I even dreamed about it last night.

I arrived early, and couldn't find anything I needed. More stress. The supply cabinet was locked. More stress. I prayed, "Lord, help me!!!!!" Then I discovered I HAD THE WRONG LESSON! The lesson was about the Prophet Jeremiah. STRESS STRESS STRESS!!!!!!

But then walked in help. Suzanna came in with a big box of materials, crafts, posters, everything. SHE had the right lesson and was fully prepared to teach.

It turned out to be a great Sunday School. And I got to see Ingrid "in her element".

Why did I ever get stressed out? Doesn't God know what he's doing?

sourdough results

The rise was very uneven, the oven spring non existent and the crust was just hard -- not crunchy or chewy, just hard. The texture and flavor were not bad...just not great.
I'm definitely going to do a traditional loaf next that does not use NINE CUPS OF FLOUR!!!!! And I'm going to choose the recipe during daylight hours.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

1st sourdough

Saturday: 11:00 am - shaped rise...going to do a boule - have it rising in my frying pan and will transfer to preheated dutch oven to bake using the "oven within an oven" method.

This is the thing: I chose this recipe it at 12:00 midnight. That explains a lot. I honestly didn't read through the whole recipe. It called for 1 cup of starter mixed with 2 cups of water to proof overnight. Did that. Got up this morning...nice and bubbly and pleasantly sour.

Read through the recipe for real -- called for two cups of milk, butter, 2 1/4 tsp of ADDITIONAL yeast, 1/4 c of honey, 2 tbs sugar...huh? Plus wheat germ? Bran???? I left the honey and sugar out -- milk has enough sugar. Forget the wheat germ and bran...if I want fiber, I'll make my favorite whole wheat recipe. What kind of sourdough is this??? I like the chewy, holey, crunchy crust kind. All of that milk will make this thing soft and mushy.

Then I read how much flour it called for: 7 CUPS! I couldn't even mix this mess in my stand mixer. So I stood at the counter for half an hour and worked in the flour to this gloppy, sticky, messy dough. I did produce a nice kneaded dough, but I cut it in half and put half in the fridge for another day. The fridge rest should add more flavor complexity.

Next time I do a sourdough, it's going to be a traditional no additional yeast kind.

Friday, August 15, 2008

dorothy hammel

Should we start saving for private skating lessons?


four-and-a-half going on sixteen

If you've been following the Olympics you may have heard about slight controversy over the true ages of members of the Chinese ladies gymastics team. Apparently, one of the girls' bios back in January or February indicated she was 14. Suddenly she's 16. I saw her picture. She's pretty tiny for sixteen!

This morning Ingy was doing some "gymnastics". Chad said, "Hey Ingrid, when you turn sixteen 4 years from now, maybe you can be in the Olympics."

I know, I know, not very funny, but it seemed really funny at the time...

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Hey-- anyone out there crochet? I just picked up a teach-yourself book at the local knitting shop, Purls. (Nicest people there!) I may be hitting you up for pointers.


Found this recipe on recipezaar:
They were delicious... WERE being the key word.... Also perfect for a weeknight given no fancy shaping or overnight chill.
Warning: they are NOT low-cal. Lots and lotsa buttah! :)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Check out this story of an alleged honest-to-goodness BIGFOOT find! Chad sent me the link from the Fox News website:,2933,402882,00.html

This isn't from the National Enquirer, people!

puzzlement solved

We have decided to NOT put Ingrid into Cubbies this year. Preschool seems to be enough activity already! She doesn't know this yet, of course, or you would hear the crying in Beijing, above the roar of the crowd cheering-on the 14 year olds of the... (cough cough) correction... "16" year olds of the Chinese ladies gymnastics team gold medal.

We might look for an afternoon ballet class for her to be involved in.

We've been doing quite a bit of Bible teaching at home, so we know she is learning. She is finding friends in preschool, so does she really need to be out until 9:00 on a school night? Nuh uh...

Cool Room

Nice room I found at, if it is "instantly out of a big cardboard box" with no randomness whatsover. I especially like the mix of red and green. That red stool is great - reminds me of a red bridge in a Japanese garden.

First Day of School

Does Pre-K count as the official "first day"? Or does there have to be a yellow bus or at least a homeschool workbook labeled "First Grade" involved?

Whatever the case, it sure felt like Ingrid's first day of school given the amount of preparation involved, and the Mommy Tears.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

10 Things I'm Thankful About

In no particular order:

1. Adonai - Soveriegn Lord (this one IS in order!)
2. Ingrid starting pre-K on Tuesday
3. Not being thankful that Ingrid is starting pre-K on Tuesday (does this make sense logically?)
4. The Olympics
5. My washer and dryer
6. The "food game" is done
7. My new Foodsaver vacuum sealer
8. Less than a month until the women's Bible study starts at church
9. Finding a recipe for a reasonable facsimile to kettle corn for the microwave popper **see below and eating kettle corn for dinner on Friday night during the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics.
10. Ilsa loving her new patent leather Mary Janes

** Microwave Kettle Corn
This recipes requires a microwave popper such as the one I posted about here:

1. Place 2 teaspoons oil (I use olive oil) in popper
2. Add 1 tablespoon white sugar, 1/8 tsp of salt and stir
3. Add 1/4 cup popcorn kernels
4. Stir to coat kernels
5. Pop in microwave according to your manufacturer's directions -- mine took 2 minutes, 30 seconds.
6. Pour out carefully -- the sugar is REALLY hot and melty and will burn your skin.

Saturday, August 9, 2008


Made rosemary focaccia and corn chowder with roasted jalapeno parsley puree for dinner Wednesday. The two adults ate most of the bread in one sitting. The two little girls didn't like the "leaves" and "sticks"... Mmmmmmmm.......

Friday, August 8, 2008

Facebook Rant

I've been on Facebook for about 3 weeks now. I have found people I have not seen in 20 years; some very good friends I had unintentionally lost contact with; and 95% of my current social circle has shown up on FB as well.

But...I feel like the mode of communication is so superficial. Yeah, it's fun to send plants for your friend's greenpatch. It's interesting to take the compatibility quizzes. It's kind of fun to set up a "flair" pinboard showing (off) ones (heightened sense of) taste and (superiorily intellectual) interests.

I can't help thinking that although I know where people have ended up, and seen a few pictures of their families, and know where they work, I don't know them any more than I did pre-FB. In fact, I have found that the quality of contact with my current social circle (all of whom I love dearly) has declined. While not as good as face-to-face contact, I did send meaningful e-mails to my friends before FB.

I'm not giving up Facebook. It is FUN. But it is not meaningful. Therefore, I won't be spending much time time on it henceforth...

I'd welcome comments. Anyone? Anyone? If anyone is out there reading my blog?

Awesome Brownie Recipe

Navigate on over to King Arthur Flour for this amazing brownie recipe that uses whole wheat flour. It's choc-0-licious! I didn't even use the recommended white whole wheat -- I used regular whole wheat flour.

I hvae cut and pasted the recipe below, but it won't print all-pretty-like...(I was watching "Cars" yesterday and have been thinking like "Mater" ever since.)

These whole-wheat brownies are the treat we serve when we’re trying to convince folks that baking with whole grains doesn’t have to be an exercise in deprivation! Moist, rich, and deeply, darkly chocolate, these brownies are the ones to go through life with.

We discovered something interesting when sampling these. Their texture is greatly improved if you wait 24 hours before cutting them. Why? The wait gives the wheat bran a chance to soften and "disappear", texture-wise.

1 cup (2 sticks, 8 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
2 cups (15 ounces) light brown sugar, firmly packed
3/4 cup (2 1/4 ounces) Dutch-process cocoa
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon espresso powder, optional but recommended
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups (6 1/4 ounces) King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour, organic preferred
2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9" x 13" pan.

In a medium-sized microwave-safe bowl, or in a saucepan set over low heat, melt the butter, then add the sugar and stir to combine. Return the mixture to the heat (or microwave) briefly just till it’s hot (about 110°F to 120°F), but not bubbling. Don’t worry if it separates; just stir it briefly to recombine a bit. Heating this mixture a second time will dissolve more of the sugar, which will yield a shiny top crust on your brownies.

Transfer the mixture to a bowl, and stir in the cocoa, salt, baking powder, espresso powder, and vanilla.

Add the eggs, stirring till smooth; then add the flour and chips, again stirring till smooth.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake the brownies for 30 minutes, until a cake tester or sharp knife poked into the center reveals wet crumbs, but not raw batter. The brownies should feel set on the edges and in the center.

Remove them from the oven, and cool completely on a rack.

Cover and let sit overnight before cutting and serving; this gives the bran a chance to soften and become "invisible" in your mouth.

Yield: 2 dozen brownies.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Experimental Eating: Tues - Final Results

On Tuesday I calculated that we spent $5.65!

On Wednesday it was $9.45

Thursday -- I didn't calculate because I got the hang of it -- we did not spend more than $11. Ditto Friday.

I'm glad the experiment is done.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Is a puzzlement...

I just read this interesting opinion/article on World magazine's website: In a nutshell, the author feels that we have our kids in so much organized stuff that they don't have time to be kids -- playing with friends in backyards, etc. He thinks it is much due to parental guilt; I think some of it is just laziness -- we can't figure out how to "entertain" them so we plug them into stuff. Or we assume they have to be entertained in the first place, when they should be figuring it out on their own.

Ingrid is starting Pre-K next week. She's going to be in the Tuesday/Thursday morning class. Honestly, the main reason we are doing this is to expose her to some children her own age, otherwise, we'd start her in homeschool. There is one little boy in our neighborhood that she plays with, but she just needs more friends. Which leads me to my puzzlement: she really wants to be in ballet or gymnastics and AWANA Cubbies. We had her in Cubbies for half of last year. She loved it, but it was such a late night for her. It started at 6:45, and she didn't get in bed until 9:00; considering her bedtime is 7:00.... Many nights we would also have to bring Ilsa out with us, due to Chad's work schedule. And Ingy will have school the next morning...

Ballet is on Tuesday afternoons, and I haven't researched gymnastics. And she is only 4 1/2 after all! I never did anything organized like that until I was in 2nd grade and started piano lessons. So that would mean out all morning, hurry home for Ilsa's nap (which is very important to us), back out another 20 mile roundtrip for a 45 minute ballet class, hurry up dinner, dump into bed. Out on Wednesday evening for AWANA, late to bed, up early for school again....

I keep reminding myself that we teach Ingrid much of what she would learn in Cubbies already. But bless her heart, tonight at dinner she said, "Mommy, I just want that little Cubbie bear right here (pointing to her heart) on my vest." I asked her if all she wanted was the Cubbie bear. She said, "No, but I want to earn it." Aaaackkkk!!!!

What do you think?

Monday, August 4, 2008

Day One Results - Experimental Eating


(Is this good??? I should ask that before the exclamation point). Lunch was the most expensive meal because Chad bought stuff after he ate his from-home lunch at 9:30. Mutter mutter, that snacker, mutter mutter.

Ilsa had cereal with strawberry yogurt and frozen raspberries, 1/4 cup OJ
Ingrid had two slices of toast, frozen raspberries and water
Steph had granola with strawberry yogurt, coffee and OJ
String cheese sticks, Ritz crackers - am
Popcorn, carrot sticks, "ants on a log" (apple wedges with PB and raisins) - pm - the traditional snackier snack
Ingrid & Ilsa had Mac & Cheese and a fruit smoothie with OJ, banana, yogurt, yoney and frozen raspberries. They also had cake as a reward for being very agreeable to the "food game" thus far.
Grilled bone-in chicken breasts (hugely on sale - couldn't have done it without the sale price)
Green salad with tomatoes, yellow peppers (from our garden), cukes and homemade dressing
Cake - I've got to get this huge thing out of my fridge...

Experimental Eating

"Do you think you could feed the four of us healthy, fresh meals for five days on $45?" Chad asked this question a couple of weeks ago. I replied, "Are you joking?" So began the saga of the J. family "food game" as it has become known in our home. We had to sell it to Ingrid, especially. She is our little snacker...grazer...7 meal a day girl.
The rules
1) Freshly-prepared meals (as little prepared foods as possible); fresh produce;
2) Common pantry items don't count, such as herbs and spices, salt, mustard, ketchup, incidental sugar or flour;
3) Dry rice, cups of flour or sugar, oats and pasta do count;
4) The experiment will last from Monday breakfast through Friday afternoon snack (technically it's not a week, but we're just starting out...);
5) I can pull protein (chicken, beef, pork, seafood) from our chest freezer. I've had some amazing steals recently.
So yesterday, I went to the local grocery store and Commissary (that's the grocery store on a military installation for you civilians). Sunflower Market specializes in both an amazing assortment of hard to find produce, deli items, imported foods, organics, local produce and bulk. They also have some of the best prices around. The Commissary claims to save military members 35% on their grocery bill. I think this is accurate. These two stores are my best-bets in Almost Mexico, Arizona. I kept a mental tally (next time I'll bring a calculator) and got out of both stores for a combined $55. So we missed the mark by $10...and I was scrimping.

My meal plans:

Oatmeal (rolled oats, not prepared, which we have never done anyway) or toast made from healthy homemade whole-grain bread or cereal with yogurt. Some kind of fruit is required, but it can be frozen like blueberries or blackberries. I get coffee...I'm gonna need it.

2 Snacks
(For the girls -- I don't really snack) Mid-morning and mid-afternoon. These have been a stumbling block for us...the girls are constantly wanting snacks, and we need to reign this in...just because it's become a bad habit. If you read the blog post below about popcorn popper, this will be a best-bet...1 pound of bulk organic unpopped popcorn at Sunflower is only 99 cents! (A one pound jar of Orville R's cost me $3.95 at Target.) They like dry cereal, and healthy cereal at that's simple. Cheese and crackers, fruit, whole carrot to munch, etc. Nothing prepared other than crackers or cereal.

Mac & Cheese - they dig it. I make Kraft (aaakkkk - but how can you beat 15 boxes for $9.75 at the commissary?) but I use nonfat plain yogurt instead of milk and butter instead of margarine.
Grilled cheese on homemade whole grain bread.
Cheese and crackers
Cheese quesadilla
Peanut butter sandwich
Kosher hot dog
Plus a homemade fruit smoothie, fruit, veggies, etc.
Some kind of a dessert...a well-chosen dessert goes a long ways towards promoting goodwill with the girls since I'll be saying "no" to the repeated snack requests.
This is where I get to cheat a little bit. I can pull from our stash of amazing bargain meat that I've purchased recently. The local Kroger-brand store (Fry's) had bone-in chicken breasts for .49 cents a pound. I bought about $30 worth! They also had family packs of lean pork loin chops - I got 10 chops for $1.99!!! Both items were loss-leaders -- I talked to the butcher because I wondered if these were close to pull date. Nope. I have lean ground beef chubs from Costco.

Monday: Grilled chicken breasts, rice, fruit, veggies
Tuesday: Chicken caesar salad with the leftover chicken from Monday, homemade focaccia
Wednesay: Corn chowder, green salad, leftover focaccia or fresh bread if focaccia is gone
Thursday: Pasta with either pesto or marinara and meatballs and salad
Friday: dinner will be out as a reward...we think pizza (of course -- where else do we go these days if we go out?) But, Chad doesn't know that I actually bought ingredients for homemade pizza (the cheese and toppings) within the $55, so we COULD stay in. (I always make my own crust.)

Now that I've shopped for this once, I'm going to do it for a true seven day week, but I'm going to say we need $60. I think these are going to be key: extras like cookies, snacks, and breads have to be homemade; there's no room for chips, cookies, lots of crackers or prepared foods in the budget; items have to be on sale, or the cheapest in their category; shop for produce that is in season.
Suggestions or sarcasm is welcome.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Olympics

Countdown: 6 days until the Olympics. I've been a fan since the 1972 Winter Games in Sapporo Japan. My parents woke me up in the middle of the night so I could watch the women's figure skating finals. I still remember Janet Lynn skating. (Photo credit:

The 1980 Winter Games in Lake Placid, NY (Scott Hamilton, Tai & Randy, downhill skiing), and the 1984 Summer Games in LA (gymnastics, swimming, in America!!!, Carl Lewis, the Evil Empire boycott) are tied as my favorite. 2002 Salt Lake games will always be special because we lived in Utah at the time, and we got to go to three events: Austria vs. Latvia men's hockey, curling, and the Men's figure skating final -- that was amazing, even though we were in the top balcony, 3rd row from the top and could really only watch via jumbotron. Sarajevo 1984 holds bittersweet memories - the Games were great, but the country crumbled afterwards. I watched the 1992 Winter Games in Albertville, France from a reclined position following my ACL replacement. I don't think I missed a minute; good timing! Clearly, I'm an Olympics nut.

So here comes Beijing on 8/8/08 (that was smart marketing guys). China has a horrible human rights record. The head of their "FDA" was executed after a series of food and drug safety scandals: Read more about China's execution policy here: Amnesty International even charges China with tying execution policy to organ harvesting: Forced abortion is still taking place: Religion is "allowed", as long as one worships in a State-approved facility and manner. Voice of the Martyrs often has documented reports of persecution:

While not on the par with their human rights record, China is in the process of damming up the beautiful Yangtze river (anyone remember "The Story About Ping"? Yep - that river. (photo credit: Villages and towns have been flooded, ruining livlihoods and homes, affecting millions of people. Read more:

And does anyone AT ALL remember Tienamen Square?

(Photo credit:

The New And Improved China unveils itself to the World: documentaries "From the Inside" on PBS and NatGeo channels. "We've changed!" "We love the West!" ("WE LOVE YOUR MONEY".)

I love the Olympics, and I'll watch...with one eye closed hating to admit that I'm watching them and loving them, and sharing the experience with my girls, because this will probably be Ingrid's first memory of the Olympics, and feeling horribly guilty for supporting them...and still loving them. Hopefully remembering that there are people who can't watch them from inside their prison cells because they spoke out about the horror of Tienamen Square and were bold enough to proclaim their love for Christ outside of the parameters of a State-approved venue.

10 Things For Which I am Thankful

Order not relevant:

1. Return of the monsoon rains after one week-ish break.
2. The vast knowledge database which is the world wide web.
3. The vast shopping mall which is the world wide web. (Found coolest-evah lunchboxes this week.)
4. Excedrin migraine.
5. Tabletalk magazine. (
6. Jon and Kate Plus 8 (which reminds me that patience and strength is given in the amount needed when we ask the Lord to provide it.)
7. My friend KB who is willing to listen to me even when I have been on a 9 month complaint streak...and is still giving Godly advice.)
8. A vehicle that gets 25 mpg instead of 10 mpg, and a husband who not only is willing to bike to work, but loves biking to work.
9. The pool pass. (Disclaimer: not the actual Base pool. Wouldn't that be nice?)
10. Health insurance.

11.* Makeup (see previous post)

* A bonus item.


One thing that is changing for me now that I'm approaching Four-D: headaches. A lot. My doctor isn't concerned about some massive too-mah or anything. She says it's hormones. What a pain! I keep Excedrin Migraine stocked as a staple. Which leads me to my topic:

I have about 6 weeks remaining to my 4th decade on planet earth. You see, when you turn 40, you actually have lived within five decades...think about it! 0 - 9 is the first decade; 10 - 19 is the second; 20 - 29 is the third; 30 - 39 is the fourth; AND YOU HIT 40 AND IT'S THE START OF YOUR FIFTH DECADE! Arghhhh!!!!

"They" say that 40 is the new 30. I do have to be thankful that I don't feel almost 40, except when I get these stinkin' headaches. So I guess if I get rid of the headaches, I'll feel 30 again.

How's that for circuitous logic....what else do you expect on a Saturday morning typing with a headache?

Friday, August 1, 2008


Ingrid had to have shots today. Apparently I was not on the ball, and didn't get them administered when she turned four. I was positive I had, but looking back, she was only given a flu shot before her birthday, and I didn't go back after her fourth to have the actual four-year shots given to her.

She doesn't like shots.

I have never seen her soooooooo angry before. I had to hold her down and pin her arms down. Up in Nearly Canada, when more than one shot was to be given, the immunization tech would call in a backup and they would do 3-2-1-tag team! It was awwwwwsummmmmm. Not so awsome here. Four pokes. Separately. With a generous break in time between each poke. Poor girl. I was sad for her. But then she got a dum-dum (lollipop) and a My Pretty Pony sticker, and life was better.
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