10 July 2015

Human 101: Don't Be Gross

Dear Lissy,

As we settle into summer work routines, it's easy to get sloppy with personal care.  We've had longstanding routines in our home for what we dub "Human 101".   The goal is to keep every person and their personal space neat & clean.  Eventually these areas will become
a) a testimony issue when you have roommates,
b) a health/safety issue if you are neglecting these tasks,
c) relationship busters.
We want to have these habits and routines so ingrained that they are second nature to you!

Personal Care

Have you showered daily (and after work/exercise)?
Is your hair trimmed, clean, and styled?
Have you washed your face, ears, and neck carefully?
Are your eyebrows groomed?  (Sounds silly, but we've got two unibrows and three Gandalfs living here...we can get looking pretty scary)
Have your brushed and flossed at least twice daily? Lip butter?
Have you shaved?
Clothes clean and not wrinkled/pressed?
Nails and toenails clean and trimmed?  No chipped polish on girls?
Clean feet?
Shoes clean and polished/brushed? Odor eaters/spray if necessary?
Taken allergy meds?

We don't include devotions, exercise, or healthy eating in this list, but if we notice a problem in one of those areas, we'll ask the person involved what their current plan looks like and help them make an adjustment.  Fail to plan, plan to fail.

Personal Space

Bed made daily and sheets laundered in the last week?
Dirty laundry in hamper?  (Workout and wet clothing has to be washed immediately.) Clothing level below lip of hamper?
Clean laundry put away?
Personal care items cleaned, dried, and stored in proper space?
Bedroom and computer stations tidy?

Daddy and I keep a running idea on these items and pull you aside if "always/usually" is slipping into "sometimes/never".  He deals with the boys, I take point with you no matter who notices the problem.  In the next couple of days, I'll write another letter about Human 102:  Live Well With Others.



19 June 2015

My Better-Late-Than-Never Garden 2015

Dear Lissy,

The 2014-2015 school year absolutely flew by!  I dealt with some major health issues in April and May as well as planning Nate's graduation and the garden "went to weed."  We enjoyed a good year of asparagus, strawberries, and rhubarb (perennial crops), but I missed out on all of the cooler spring crops as well as the long season storage squashes.  Daddy was ready to write off the whole season, and I was tempted to as well since both brothers are working full time and can't help in the garden this year. With the amount of veg I'm eating now, though, I really needed to get something into the ground to offset my produce bill.

My Better-Late-Than-Never Plan

I'm only planting gifted sets and last year's leftover seeds.
I don't want to invest a lot of money or time in the garden this year.  Nate is headed to college late summer, and you and Matt have full course loads that will require a lot of my time.  I'm only planting what we can eat, dehydrate, or sell -- I won't have time to put up much veg this year.

I'm pre-sprouting the seeds in damp paper towels so I get full beds.
Older seeds lose viability.  By sprouting them in paper towels, I know which seeds to plant in order to keep the beds full and easier to weed.

I'm only planting seeds with 60 day season or less.
I might be able to harvest the 100 day squashes, but it's a gamble at this stage of the game.  I'll save those for next year and try to pick up a bulk box from a friend or local farmer for storage.

I'm only planting warm weather crops until the end of July.
I don't see any point in trying to keep lettuces and cruciferous veg cool through the hottest summer weather.  I'll purchase those vegetables as needed this year from a local farm stand.  I may put in fall crops at the end of July to catch the end of the growing season.  I do have two varieties of lettuce that grow well in the heat, so hopefully those seeds will produce enough to make my daily salads.

I'm weed-whacking the pathways, spraying with vinegar, and covering them with cardboard as I have time.  
Being French, I like a tidy, weed free garden.  This year, I'm working on one part of the garden at a time and foregoing all of the hand weeding.  Weeds in the walkways aren't going to affect the veg much at all.  Our grocery store boxes our groceries instead of using bags, so I have a surfeit of large cardboard boxes to use up.

I'm clearing one bed at a time to plant.
I find it emotionally painful to look at my beautiful garden beds all filled with weeds!  It will take more than a week to clear all of them, so I'm doing one at a time and planting it.  You can keep up with the daily weeding once I've cleared the bigger weeds.  As of today I've cleared and planted the nine racing slick mini-beds and four of the big beds.  I hope to have the rest cleared and planted by the end of next week.

I'm not allowing my expectations or Daddy's disappointments to keep me from doing something.
We had plans for a big garden that would provide a substantial amount of veg this year.  A business loss meant that we didn't have any money to invest in the garden or canning/freezing supplies we needed to make that dream a reality.  Dad is an all-or-nothing kind of person.  I'm not.  I can let his obvious frustration result in nothing, or I can be a true helpmeet, and just keep plunking away on getting something done.  Even if I only provide two months worth of vegetables for our family, that will help.  I have a large dehydrator and a big, cool basement; so I can put up some veg even if I can't can or freeze.

Often in life, our big plans and dreams will be thwarted by lack of time, health, or finances.  We may have to settle for good enough, and that's ok.  We thank God for the time, health, and finances he has given, and make that work to the best of our abilities.  Gardens, like most worthwhile things in life, require a small investment of time every day and then a big push once or twice a year.  I'm grateful I have the space and the health to plant a few vegetables this year even if I can't have the garden of my dreams.  When life hands you challenges, look at them as ladders, not as roadblocks!

Doing the next right thing,


10 June 2015

Momma's New Favorite Sandwich

Dear Lissy,

Had you asked me at any time up until last month for my favorite sandwich, I would have replied, "Roast Beef Croissant" without missing a beat. My tastes changed considerably after a 21 day water fast and follow up nutritarian refeeding.  I don't have any plans to give up meat permanently, but meat doesn't appeal to me at all right now.
Enter the " Nut-tuna" sandwich.  Crushed walnuts and crisp veg dice are held together by hummus and a dot of mayo.  I like to layer mine with spinach and very thinly sliced, seasoned cucumbers on a rice cake.  The resulting bites are pretty much my favorite tastes and textures ever in the history of ever.  I feel pleasantly full, but also full of energy all afternoon after eating one.

The point of this post isn't to give you a weird recipe that only 2 people in the world will eat, but to remind you how dramatically your tastes can and do change if necessary.  I eat Rainbow Stir Fry with thai peanut sauce for dinner a couple of times a week and omit the noodles because I prefer the veg.  I was a die hard mac and cheese girl for almost 40 years.  The thought of eating cheesy glue is repulsive to me now.
My about face was in response to a couple of age related health issues that don't respond well to medication and my Mom's battle with breast cancer.  Both of my health issues (high bp and fibroids) were completely resolved by the fast and holding steady with the follow up diet.  The direct correlation between dairy and breast cancer is a fact I can't ignore given the fact that I am now genetically prone to breast cancer.  I anticipated a lifetime of longing for favorite foods I was unable to have.  By God's enabling grace, my taste buds have dramatically changed. My favorite snack is Ak-Mak Sesame Crackers and Hommus, not Sour Cream & Onion Potato Chips.  I've lost all desire for sweet treats, and even some fruits are too sweet for me now.
If you're facing a health crisis at some point in life, please know that God can completely change your palate.  A steak loving, cookie eating girl can thoroughly enjoy (and crave!) a veggie stir fry.



26 May 2015

Cold Queso Dip

Dear Lissy,

School's out and a heat wave's in...hooray for summer!!!!  We are a nacho lovin' family, but in this weather, something cool hits the the spot.  The queso base is three simple ingredients whipped together.  I've been known to serve just the cold queso portion of this on occasion, but it really is yummier as a layered dip.

Photo Credit and Original Recipe

Mexican Layered Queso Dip

Adapted from Allrecipes.com

Queso Base:
1 8 oz package cream cheese
1 16 oz tub sour cream
1 packet taco seasoning

Bring cream cheese to room temp or warm in microwave until soft. Mix in taco seasoning and beat in sour cream until mixture is smooth.  Spread on 12-15 inch plate or platter.  Cover with plastic film and refrigerate until serving time.  Add desired toppings right before serving.

Layers: Family Style (budget)
8 oz fresh salsa
2 cups finely chopped lettuce
1 small can sliced black olives

Spread salsa evenly over cream cheese mixture, leaving a 1/2 inch border
Top with chopped lettuce
Sprinkle with sliced black olives

For the family version, I don't add more shredded cheese or any other veg that's already in the salsa.

Layers:  Picnic Style
All ingredients from Family Style
1 tomato, finely chopped
1 cup shredded mexican cheese
1/2 cup finely chopped purple or vidalia onion
3/4 cup diced red, yellow, orange peppers  (Green overpowers the rest of the dish)
Peanuts, crushed

Spread salsa evenly over cream cheese mixture, leaving a 1/2 inch border
Top with chopped lettuce
Sprinkle tomato and shredded cheese evenly over the top
Sprinkle any optional ingredients over the top
Sprinkle with sliced black olives

Cover with plastic film and refrigerate until serving. 

Mom's notes:

For fancier events, make individual serving cups in halved and cleaned small bell peppers.  Garnish with one blue, one white, and one yellow corn chip right before serving.

I use non-fat/low fat alternatives in this dish.  Greek yogurt is good in place of sour cream, and Neufchatel cheese is just as tasty as regular.  Homemade taco seasoning works fine flavor wise, but doesn't have the starch to thicken the queso into a cheese consistency.