Saturday, August 22, 2015

Do I Get Tired of Cooking?

Andrew (who is staying here for awhile as he transitions back to the States) came out to the kitchen awhile ago, right before he left the house, and asked me a question I haven't really thought about.

"Mom, do you ever get tired of cooking?"

Well, it's a good question.  Sometimes I get tired of cooking, usually if I am tired physically, have too much to do at the time, or have just run out of ideas.  But cooking is just part of the deal.  We gotta eat.  While we do enjoy eating out, we're not going to become one of those families that eats out all the time.  (On our trip to the beach, we ate out most nights.  Though it was fun to feel like we were splurging in that way, by the end of the week we discovered that eating out every night actually gets a little old.)  I know some men whose wives do not cook, at all, and it's easy to tell that they wish things were different.  A home-cooked meal means a lot.

Cooking is an act of service for the family or for whomever is in the home.

This is cheesy rice.  It looks better than this.
So I cook.  I cooked when the kids were at home, even after a long day at work, and I cook now.  Today: Cheesy zucchini rice, which is done.  I added jalapeƱos from our "garden" since Mike likes stuff really hot.  That will be for his lunch plates next week, as he is working five days and will need good food.  (He has said there are men whom he works with who can't believe he brings a plate to warm up every day.  If they don't stop at a fast food place, they don't have anything to eat.)

Also on the agenda for today, not finished yet, are some stuffed summer squash and hamburger steaks.  The squash has just been steamed, and the filling (finely chopped celery, onion, one small squash, mushrooms, some Pepperidge Farm stuffing, and a couple of slices of melted Havarti cheese) is sauted and in the pan, ready for me to finish the dish.  I'll scrape out the middle of the cooked squash, put filling in, and probably top with some more stuffing mix for some crunch.  Hamburger meat is thawing to become patties cooked like hamburger steak.  All of this is mainly for lunches for next week.  Two melons - a honeydew and a watermelon - need to be chopped.  (Postscript:  I tried to do too much.  Long afternoon!)

Cooking is fun because it is creative.  It was an enlightening day when I realized that most cooking (this does not include baking) really does not need recipes, at least if the cook knows the basics of how things go together.  There is a basic formula for making various kinds of soups, or for throwing together most vegetables or casseroles, and there is huge variety within the basic idea.  Cooking most meats involves basic technique.  A cook can use just about anything to cook just about anything.  That makes cooking very interesting.

It's a little harder in the winter because of limited fresh items.  But this season of the year, with so much good produce, is a great time to cook.

I still have a lot to learn.  Everything out of this kitchen is far from fancy.  :-)

I come from a heritage of good cooks.  My mother is a good cook.  And my grandmothers were good cooks, both from a German background.  I grew up eating good food and good homemade meals.  That is a privilege that is not known to many today, who grow up eating frozen breaded chicken nuggets, boxed macaroni and cheese, and McDonalds hamburgers.  Many young people do not know the blessing of good home-cooked food.

And marrying a man who grew up in the South has added another dimension to cooking.  I did not know what real Southern cooking was until then.  Rice and gravy, fried deer steak, turnip greens, all vegetables cooked to death, mustard-based barbecue sauce, just a certain style of cooking that is different from how I grew up.  Certain terms are particular to the this area.  For example - we eat slaw or coleslaw, not "cabbage slaw."  The word "cabbage" is redundant.  I've not become a great Southern cook, but I have learned a lot.

So--Do I get tired of cooking?  Yes, sometimes.  Eating out is still a fun thing to do.  But overall, I love cooking, because it is creative, and because it is part of my "job," but most of all--because it is a service to my family.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Friday's Fave Five 8/21/15

 Link to Friday's Fave Five host blog

1. Good first week of school.  Very, very busy.  Many things to do.  But it's a good kind of busy, at least right now.

2. I've been working on a project - these ink and toner cartridges, and a lot more of them, have been just sitting in a workroom for a year, since we changed copier companies for our ministry.  They are selling very well on eBay - just needed somebody to get in there and get it done.  I've sold about half of them and have netted over $400 so far, on just a few packages.  (I never knew how expensive copier toner can be.)  It's good to be able to make a few extra bucks to keep us going.


3. Son and I are working on a special song that he is going to sing at church on Sunday.  The accompaniment is a little different than most that I do, and so far it appears that it is going to turn out really nicely.  I hope so, and also hope that God can use it to encourage people.

4. I got home in time last night to fry a bunch of deer steak for the two men currently in this house (that would be husband and son), and they were glad to get it when they got home from work.  Andrew is happy with his new job, and we are all thankful that it was provided for him.  It's a good job and will help him get financially stable - as well as being a job that will utilize his best strength, which is talking with people!

5. I love all this late summer produce.  Our tomato vines are finally churning out good tomatoes - and lots of them.  So many that I took a bag to school just to give away.  I love late summer produce, and have lately discovered how good a simple salad of tomato, avocado, lemon juice, and a drizzle of olive oil tastes.  You really don't need a heavy dressing.  We've also had a lot of grapes, as our local grocery has some right now that are wonderful.  (August is the month for grapes, at least around here.)  And I found a melon at Publix last weekend called a "sugar kiss"cantaloupe.  Delicious!!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Friday's Fave Five 8/7/15

Link to Friday's Fave Five host blog

1. Andrew and I returned home safely from a marathon trip to Roswell, GA, today.  We took the school mini-bus to pick up 250 new textbooks that were being hard-bound for us at a bindery.  It should have been an easy trip - two hours down, pick up the books, eat lunch, two hours back.  We ended up in standstill traffic for two hours and an up-and-down detour on side roads.  The trip down took five hours.  We ended up not getting back until 5 p.m. (left at 9 a.m.).  But - the books are picked up, we had no bus difficulties and no accidents, and enjoyed the trip in spite of the heat and the difficulties.

2. The pool is almost ready to swim in.  (Right before I have to go back to school!) Mike and Andrew have worked very hard to get it ready.  It's been in the worst shape ever, but they've gotten it going.  

3. I got some new sheets last weekend.  I had found some on the L.L. Bean website - a beautiful blue print, perfect for what I wanted.  But - brace yourself - a set of queen-size sheets with two extra pillowcases would have cost $200.  Not justifiable in my book.  And then I saw an almost identical set of 100% cotton sheets, with extra pillowcases for purchase also, at Target.  $65 on sale.  A $10 iPhone coupon you could get instantly.  A $20 gift card.  Translated:  The sheets cost $35.  Almost identical to the ones from L.L. Bean.

4. Mike has discovered a beautiful arrangement of an old hymn.  Andrew is working on singing it and I am working on the accompaniment.  Maybe if we get it together right, I'll post an audio file.  :-)

5. I went to a very nice lunch yesterday with three friends from church.  It was in the home of one of them - always nice to be in someone's home - and I appreciate her doing that!  It was a nice respite right before going back to school.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

And So It Begins

I've been going to school for the last couple of days, working on bulletin boards.  Some years it's easy to go in early and get things done.  Other years I just can't do it.  This was an easy year.  (This cartoon of Billy reading a book fits many of the students. They are not readers like they used to be.  One of my goals is to find ways to make them appreciate reading.)
I've discovered Staples Copy Center.  I can email them something downloaded off the internet, and get a 3' x 3' blow-up, black and white, for a very reasonable price.  It doesn't take much color added to have a nice bulletin board piece without much work.  All three of these were done that way.  The bottom picture is actually on a wall.  That is my classroom theme, and particularly in the younger classes, we say it often.  But I got an improved picture of it this summer,  then highlighted the words using different colored markers.
The advantage of using Staples:  It is much faster to get bulletin boards done.  I believe that a room should look attractive and that bulletin boards should be updated regularly to keep interest up.  Just wish there was more time to work on it.




Sunday, August 2, 2015

First-World Purchases



This link is to an on-line article about 23 things you've got to have.  Water that is LED-illuminated to be red or blue depending on if it is cold or hot.  A tie that inflates to be a pillow.  A "do everything" cooler.  And 20 more items that sound really fun, but are actually really superfluous.

Remember the singing fish craze of a few years ago?  (I often see them at yard sales today, along with many other things that people bought on whims.)

After reading the two books in the series Families of the World: Family Life at the Close of the 20th Century, by Helene Tremblay, a couple of years ago (reviewed here), I realized anew just how little most of the people of the world have.  And, making boxes for Operation Christmas Child, and seeing videos of how most children are delighted to get a toothbrush, or a single stuffed animal all their own, has driven the point home also.

It's difficult, and unnecessary, to draw any hard and fast lines as to what constitutes wasteful spending and what doesn't, and the point of this post is not to condemn what people spend or to go into anxiety mode over expenditures.  I probably spend more on some things than other people would.  But when I see links like the one above, it makes me realize once again how much we have in the "first world," compared to most of the people around the globe.  Enough to waste a lot of it on things like ties that inflate to be pillows.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Friday's Fave Five 7/31/15

LINK to Friday's Fave Five host blog

1. I got good results from a medical test last Tuesday - one that required advance preparation that was no fun.  But it's over, and everything from that test is clear.

2. My daughter got her deer head back from the taxidermist's shop yesterday.  (She got the buck on the last ten minutes of the last day of deer season last winter.) We brought it home but it is going to her apartment in just a few minutes.  It has a huge spread - larger than any my husband has even gotten over the years!!  She is very excited about it.  I never thought I'd have a deer-hunting daughter!

3. I've been working on a couple of Operation Christmas Child boxes this week.  Once the school year hits it's harder to get things like that done.  I got these little dolls for the boxes and had a pretty, little-girlish skein of yarn in my bag - so decided to make some little blankets for the dolls.  I thought they turned out really cute.  (One still to be made.)

4. Son is safely home from China and Europe He's off on a trip to explore a possibility for his future this weekend.  But it's good to have him back in the USA.

5. Son and husband have been working very hard to get the pool open, since their mom would like to get in at least a little swimming before the end of the summer.  It's turned out to be a disaster.  We didn't open it last summer due to my China trip and knee surgery.  Therefore it has been incubating algae for two years now.  It's never been in such bad shape.  It's taking a lot of time and work to get it cleaned up, but I am thankful for their efforts.  

Monday, July 20, 2015

Another Thought About GO SET A WATCHMAN

A reader on a Facebook group (about reading), that I am a part of, has an interesting hypothesis.  And I believe there may be some truth to it.  Perhaps Harper Lee did not write Go Set a Watchman at all.  The style is nothing like To Kill A Mockingbird.  The depth of writing is much weaker.  And would Lee, writing in the 50s, really have presented Scout as a hard-hearted feminist?  With such a deep concern for the racial problems of the day?  Reading from a 21st century bias, we see many such characters today.  But in the 50s, they just did not exist.

Here is a celebrated author, in a nursing home, with no lawyer-sister here any more to defend and protect her interests, and who is not as lucid as she once was.  It might be fairly easy to pull off such a hoax.

It will be interesting to see if this story develops in the days (or years) to come.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Friday's Fave Five, 7/17/15

Link to Friday's Fave Five host blog.

1. I helped with registration at Vacation Bible School this year.  For several reasons, this was the first time I helped in a number of years.  The same kids registered in the same line each night, so by the end of the week I really knew some of them.

In some ways it was sad to observe the difference in the children.  You could tell immediately the children who had parents who cared about them - who pushed them each day to learn the verse, and who made sure they had a couple of cans of food each night for the collection table.  But a number of the children, mostly those who rode the bus, don't have parents who care any more than to send them out the door each night.  The contrast was great.

2. We had a great day Tuesday - Mike took a personal day because we had a couple of meetings in a nearby city and some errands we had to run there.  (I don't think the hour spent in Cabela's was really an official errand. . .)  Then we had supper with a couple we wanted to talk with about some issues.  It's not often we have a day like that to spend, getting things done and enjoying being with friends as well.

3.  Ran into an old friend at one of the meetings - she works in the same building, and our children grew up together.  Always nice to see someone you care about that you haven't seen for quite awhile.

4. I put a body wave in my hair today.  Don't laugh.  My fine, straight hair is not made for South Carolina humidity, especially now that I'm trying to wear it a little longer at Mike's request.   I can give a body wave to myself - when the curlers are in, it doesn't look quite as neat as when someone else puts them in, but who cares!!  No one knows once it is done.

5. The man who bought $300 worth of used textbooks in June contacted me and wondered if I had any more. There were some that were more worn, but he wanted them as well.  So without really working at it, I was able to make another $150 for our textbook repair/replacement fund.  We had a $1000 gift earlier this month to the fund, and then this past week another $2000 given in memory of a lady who was a member of our church.  We really needed some new books and it has been a blessing to see how the funds have come in.  I was also able to get some anatomy and math books for the little Christian school in Alabama that my folks have been associated with since they started it in 1977.  A gift of $300 was given for that as well.  I love helping get books put where they can be used!!

My Take on GO SET A WATCHMAN

So many things in recent years have increased people's disillusionment.  Taxes - terrorist activity - voter apathy - mandatory health insurance - gridlock in Congress - shootings - the list goes on and on.

And now Atticus is knocked off of his pedestal.

I see now why Harper Lee never published Go Set a Watchman.  She knew it was nowhere near as good as To Kill a Mockingbird.   I now believe, from my own reading of the book, the stories that suggest that new lawyers tricked an elderly lady into publishing this book that she never had any intentions of the public ever seeing.  It will never be Pulitzer Prize material like its predecessor, and it was not worth the $14 I spent to be part of the first wave of readers of this highly-hyped book.

Herman Melville says that to write a mighty book, you have to have a mighty theme.  To Kill a Mockingbird has a mighty theme.  It has many of them - Righting injustice, the evil in the world, the loss of innocence.  And they are carried out in such a masterful way that the reader is left amazed at the lessons he has just learned from a great work of fiction.

It appears the themes in Go Set a Watchman are Jean Louise's righteous anger about treatment of the black people in the south in the 50s, and her discovery and wrestling of what she terms her father's hypocrisy, as well as her discovery that she must stay true to her own conscience.  But in my opinion these are not executed nearly as well as the themes of To Kill a Mockingbird.

First of all, To Kill a Mockingbird pulls in the reader from the very first page.  Go Set a Watchman - I had to make myself finish it.  Even the start of the book shows the harshness of the "new" character of Jean Louise.  And from the beginning, it's difficult to follow.  Jean Louise in one breath acts like she can't stand her beau Henry - then she is calling him pet sweetheart names.  And this continues.  It is confusing.  The endearing nature of Scout - or Jean Louise - is completely gone.  She comes across as angry and difficult.

There are also passages that strike me as gratuitous.  The long passages about the first date to the dance with Henry, and the resulting actions of the principal; the long passage about Jean Louise's coming of age and naivety about her body and her concerns - those do not come across with the natural humor of the "hot steams" and other humorous parts of To Kill a Mockingbird.  They come across as attempts to insert humor that have nothing to do with the actual story.

Furthermore, a great novel does not tell the reader what to think.  It shows him, through the action.  Go Set a Watchman is filled with long passages of Jean Louise arguing: arguing with Henry, arguing with her uncle, Dr. Finch; arguing with Atticus.  And in most of the arguments, she is showing off her extensive vocabulary of unflattering swear words.  The men try to convince her of their position; she refuses to listen but just swears back at them.  This is not a book where the reader follows action by the characters, and then on his own comes to the moral conclusion the author is trying to make.

The greatness of Atticus as portrayed in To Kill a Mockingbird does not come through at all.  Jean Louise thinks he is a hypocrite; that is all we see.

This book reads like a first novel that an author writes, reads, decides it's not very good, puts it away, and writes an improved version for her second book.  I suspect that is what happened and why Harper Lee never intended to publish it.  And why her lawyer-sister, while she was living, helped her keep it from the world.  I think that this book diminishes, rather than enhances, the greatness of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Monday, July 13, 2015

VBS - Not What It Used To Be

When I was a teenager, helping with Bible school, the kids came, we had Bible school, and when it was all over, they left.

When I was organizing Bible school about 15 years ago, the same was true.

It is very, very different now.

I helped with registration tonight at our Bible school.  Every child had to have a form, with parents' names, address, phone number.  Any food allergies listed.  Permission signed that it was OK for the child to participate.

Each child then got a stick-on name tag (placed on his back so that he can't pick it off or play with it), with the name of the person who was picking him up written at the bottom.  Bus kids were identified with a "B" on the tag.  The person who dropped the child off got a card with the names of the children he would pick up at the end of the night.  Tag and card have to match at pick-up.

And if the child has any food allergies, he got a special identifying sticker on his name tag, with the specific food allergy written on it.  (I asked one little boy if there was anything he couldn't eat.  He solemnly replied, "No, I can eat anything, but I don't like brussels sprouts.")

Times have changed.