Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Old Fashioned Made for Today

Today's "how-to" is about Oatmeal, that heart-healthy whole-grain cereal that you probably don't cook because you think it takes too long to prepare. Instead you buy the instant or the microwave variety.

We prefer the texture of the Old Fashioned cereal, the kind that takes 5 minutes to cook. Five minutes is only a short time. Really!

For a long time I've cooked a few raisins into the oatmeal to sweeten it. But lately I've taken to adding fruit. First peaches. Now I'm using apples.

For two or three people: Bring 1-1/2 cups of water to a boil. Add one peeled and sliced apple, a Tablespoon of coconut flakes, a few raisins, and a pinch of salt. Stir and let simmer for half a minute or so, just to get the apple cooking a bit. Then add 3/4 cup of Old Fashioned Oats. (The basic recipe is two parts water to one part oatmeal...cook more as needed.)

At this point I turn off the burner, put the lid on the pan, and let the residual heat of the stove finish the cooking...which takes about five minutes. Make sure the heat does not cause the cereal to boil over...otherwise you can just set the timer for five minutes and putter around the house in your jammies until the timer lets you know your breakfast is ready.

Cooking oatmeal is really so easy. Add your preferred fruits, dates, other dried fruits, raisins, slivered almonds, whatever you want to toss in the pan. A touch of cinnamon is great with the fruit.

Did you notice the pan I'm using? I've recently discovered that Corelle glass pans work very well on this flat surface stovetop. The Corelle heats more quickly than metal pans and I can see what's cooking. Thanks to yard sales this summer, I've acquired a set of four with three lids.

Here's an important hint with oatmeal. Never let the residue oatmeal dry in the pan! You'll be Sorry! As soon as the pan is empty, fill it with cool water. (With the glass pan I let it cool down a bit before adding cool water). The cold water dissolves the starchy residue and it's a breeze to swish the pan clean with a clean dish cloth.

I'll bet Obama and McCain both eat oatmeal for breakfast. Let's take a vote on it!!! And did you know that Starbucks is now serving oatmeal?

Bibles, Bibles, Bibles and Questions!!!

I love reading my Bible and I love digging, searching, cross-referencing, trying to find the deepest meaning from the scriptures. So I like my Bible, at the minimum, to have a cross-reference column that helps me compare verse to verse, especially when the subject at hand has to do with important doctrine.

I also like to compare one version with another. I like the readability of the English Standard Version (ESV) and also the New King James Version (NKJV). And even though my first Bible was the King James (KJV), and even though I read it as a child, I much prefer the versions that use a more readable English. (I've read the pros and cons of the KJV-only crowd and respectfully decline to believe that all other versions are inaccurate.)

Right now I'm using the New American Standard Bible (NASB) even though I prefer to read the ESV. Why not use the version I prefer? Because I teach a number of women in an institutional setting and the most affordable paperback that we can find is the NASB. I want to be on the same page with them. Unfortunately the paperback has no cross-reference columns.

There are inexpensive Bibles available for these settings but in my opinion inexpensive almost always translates "cheap". We can find Bibles for $1 or $2 each but the paper is coarse, the print is incredibly tiny, and cross-references are non-existent. My question is this...why do the publishers not put out a reasonably priced, reasonable quality, reference Bible that new believers could pick up and read? And, for those who are confined to jails and prisons, why are there not quality paper-back study Bibles available at a reasonable price?

Oh, I'm not faulting the publishers for not providing great Bibles. They have done an incredible job of producing study Bibles of every variety in hardcover, bonded leather (worthless and soon reduced to cracks and tears in my experience), genuine leather, trutone (which is some type of very nice sturdy vinyl that looks similar to leather), and gorgeous calfskin and other premium covers. There are study Bibles galore.

But for those who need to buy in quantity, for use by serious students in a prison setting, there are few choices available for an affordable price. Give us, at the least, a quality paperback with a generous cross-reference system at a reasonable price by the case. Please!!!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Those Financiers Should Have Hired a Few People With Common Sense

About four years ago we sold our house and moved 1800 miles back to my home state.

The first potential buyers were a young couple who were a) newly married, b) newly in business, and c) newly being approved for a 100 percent loan. Their new business? Selling window blinds to new homeowners or those doing a remodel. Their mortgage company assured them they were good candidates for such a loan.

We turned down their offer. We knew that a) nobody should be approved for a 100 percent loan, b) their new business of selling window blinds was a risky venture, and c) housing prices could go down leaving them owing more than the home was worth. If they needed to sell for any reason, they would be up the proverbial creek without a paddle.

If we knew that, why didn't the mortgage writer???

We sold to a second buyer who had a substantial down payment as well as a long and happy credit history. And he already had a secured loan.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Silence is Golden or How I Hate Soap Operas

I spent one afternoon this week in the waiting room at the VA hospital. My brother sat beside me. I don't think he even noticed but the TV (installed to pacify the masses) was blaring one of the afternoon Soaps. I hate Soaps. I hate watching people Fight and Argue and Connive and Kill each other off and Cheat, yada, yada. How can anyone call that Entertainment??!!

It dawned on me that Never in my life have I watched Soaps except when I am forced to. Doctor's waiting rooms are notorious for this! I sit there and wonder to myself, "Is anyone in here actually watching this garbage?" Or are they, as am I, too polite to speak up and ask someone to turn off the trash. My remedy? Bury my head in a book and try as hard as I might to ignore the Soapy (Sappy) noise bombarding my ears.

My mood is not helped by the fact that I'm taking an over-the-counter antihistamine for hay fever. Aaarrgh!


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Quilts and Complicated Issues - Two Topics

Nancy Kirk of Omaha, Nebraska, is well-known in the quilt world for her expertise on restoration of vintage and antique quilts. She also has thoughtful commentaries on life in general and I especially liked this one on friendship. Or, if you are more interested in what she has to say about quilt restoration, click here. I like quilts in general but antique quilts made of antique fabric fascinate me. Perhaps it is because my mind is such that I like pattern and design and color and structure. The pattern for this vintage 1930s quilt is called Golden Wedding ring.

While reading elsewhere this morning (reading blogs and clicking on links therein) I ran across this quote which made me chuckle.

“The Bible says somewhere that mankind is desperately wicked,” quipped Abraham Lincoln. “I think I would have discovered that fact without the Bible.”‘

Joe Laconte makes use of the quote in his article on The Irrationalilty of Anti-Americanism - a World Gone Mad. I have to suggest that he should have included in this commentary his thoughts on why there is so much irrationality in America itself. Anti-Americanism is surely as rampant here as in other parts of the world. Conspiracy theorists in America are as irrational as their European counterparts, and in their irrationality they do great damage to our nation. They deceive while being self-deceived. The sad part is that you cannot have a rational discussion with irrational people.

I wonder how Abraham Lincoln would have viewed today's world.

Monday, September 22, 2008

This is an Apolitical Post...Please Read On...

My previous post mentions a law that I would like to have passed in this country. It's a sensible law and one that would benefit parents whose children are grown and gone. It won't cost the tax payers a single dime and will do much to benefit families.

This morning I just want to say that I have been contacted by Biden, McCain, Obama and Palin (listed in alphabetical order so as not to offend) and each of the four agrees 200 percent with my thought on this subject (you simply must read my previous post). Each has endorsed my idea and the four plan a breakfast conference this very morning and agree to put aside partisanship long enough to put together a simple bill that each says they are willing to pass into law should they become President of these United States. (It's amazing what will unite us as Americans!)


She said with a silly grin!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

They Should Pass a Law

I was reading Kristin's blog this evening in which she mentions putting parts of her life on hold while she concentrates on her children. What a wise woman!

As an Older Woman, one whose children are long grown, and one who not only has grand-children but great-grandchildren as well, I have to say that I long to have someone pass a law in this country...a law that allows parents of grown children to go back in time once a year...to go back and spend a full day re-experiencing that fantastic time when our children were little...to hear once again their shrieks of laughter, to see them come running to fetch an already wilting bouquet of dandelions and violets, to hear them 'read' a book to their favorite stuffed animal, to have them recite some silly little rhyme they have learned, to smell their hair, to hold their hand, to see the sweetness in their face.

I think they should pass a law. And do it right now!!!!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Photosynthesis and Chlorophyll and just Plain Beauty!

Fall color in our part of Iowa is not nearly as vivid as farther east and north into Minnesota and Wisconsin. The variety of maples that generally grow here turn yellow or burnt yellow with only a hint of the vivid reds seen elsewhere. But there are a handful of sugar maples around town that turn a gorgeous red. On a sunny day they can be stunning. This one will be gorgeous when fully colored.

How do trees turn red and how do they know when to do it? You can read a simple explanation of that here and if you really want to play scientist, read this fascinating page.
Key words are photosynthesis and chlorophyll.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

How Can Short Winter Days Be So Long and Long Summer Days Be So Short?

We live in Iowa. If you live outside the US you may not know where that is, so I'll tell you. It's juut about in the center of the country. Our average killing frost date is October 10. And our average last frost in the spring occurs around May 10. That's on the average. Some years the autumn frost comes early. And some years spring crops may receive a late frost. It varies.

But my consternation is this. Why, at the first autumn frost, do we groan at the thought of a long, long winter ahead of us? And why, six months later, when summer is barely beginning, we grumble that summer is flying by and "almost over" before it has really begun. Why do we imagine winter will "never end" and that summer "passes so quickly".

Monday, September 15, 2008

Whatever is Excellent or Praiseworthy, Think on These Things

A friend tuned me into this online devotional written to help military families stay connected during deployments. The devotionals are well written and get to the heart of what it is to be a committed Christian husband and wife. New postings are made twice weekly which give the couple time to read, digest, and communicate with each other, whether it be across the breakfast table, or via long distance.

If you have loved ones serving in the military and especially if one or both are deployed, point them to this website.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

They Say Stone Her! I Say They Have Hearts of Stone

The left-leaning media is making much to-do about the pregnancy of Sarah and Todd Palin's daughter in an attempt to discredit the naming of Palin to McCain's team.

Contrary to what would seem sensible to abortion proponents, these two young people have chosen to affirm life, to see that this new human being continue on his or her journey (for this baby's life-journey has indeed begun), to welcome this baby with love, no matter that they and the McCain/Palin ticket will take flack from the media.

This same media would applaud every woman's so-called civil right to abort the life within her, to kill the baby before he has a chance to breathe. But they are self-righteously quick to assault the judgment and scruples of a young couple intent on loving their unborn child. How twisted is that?

Millions of women, some young, some old, have abortions in this country every year. And the public and the media and some of us, applaud them and say, "Well done. You did what was right...what was right for you...because, after all, nobody can tell you what is right for you except you." And then, after they have made politically correct lip-service to the left, they turn and viciously snipe at a young mother and father who refuse to buy their lies.

Jesus was confronted once by critics who wanted him to condemn. The situation was different than the one we speak of here. Still it fits this commentary for I believe if he were confronted with this situation, if he were asked to publicly condemn, he would simply bend down and begin writing in the dust. (John, Chapter 8)

Then he would say, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."

And at this point, I think some of those condemning, critical voices need to slink away in silence.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Today's Word of Wisdom or How to Avoid Bacteria in the Kitchen

This post is similar to a previous one but I think this hint is so important. Especially after reading in Martha Stewart's magazine awhile back her suggestion to change dishcloths at least ONCE weekly! Once Weekly!!! Doesn't she understand how quickly bacteria grow on a dirty and damp dishcloth? Especially if you're using it to wipe surfaces that have been exposed to chicken or raw meat or fish.

I can one-up Ms. Martha. My suggestion? Use a Clean Dishcloth on a Daily Basis to Stay Healthy!

BACTERIA love a dirty dishrag. The best way to avoid bacteria (think food poisoning here!) is to change cloths (not clothes, although you can do that, too, if you wish, heh-heh) daily.

I buy those cheap packages of a dozen wash cloths. You know, the thin cheap ones. I like my dish cloths thin. They're easy to fold once and slip into the dish towel drawer. Each morning simply grab a new cloth and you are ready for a spic-and-span day.

And cutting boards? It's a good idea to use three boards, one dedicated specifically for 1)chicken, 2)other meats, and 3)fruits and veggies. Keep 'em clean. Wash wood by hand with hot soapy water and wipe dry. Plastic or glass boards can be placed in the dishwasher (unless they have those little rubber foot tabs on them, in which case I'm reluctant to do that. Still, they can go into a dishpan of hot, soapy water).

Is food poisoning contagious? You can check here to read more about that.

P.S. After wiping up after cutting raw poultry or meat/fish, be sure to rinse that cloth in hot soapy water before using it elsewhere.

Jenn left a comment that if you rinse the cloth in cold water it won't smell! Why didn't I think of that! Bacteria loves a warm moist environment. Rinsing the cloth in cold water slows down that bacterial growth. Thanks, Jenn!!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Today We're Cooking Brown Rice with Home Grown Tomato Sauce! YUMM!

I've posted once before on how to cook brown rice easily using a large stainless steel kettle with steamer insert and a Pyrex glass bowl for the rice itself. You can click here to read that post. I love this method because once the water comes to a low simmer, I can turn down the heat, set the timer, and go about my daily tasks without worrying about the rice burning or scorching. (You will need a lid for the kettle, but not for the bowl.)

Today I'm cooking brown rice this easy way and also using up garden produce that has been sitting forlornly on my kitchen counter waiting for someone to Enjoy!!! (Summer is almost over and I want to enjoy summer produce as long as I can!)

This recipe uses onion, garlic, zucchini (I can't believe I had to look up the spelling!!), baby carrots, tomatoes, fresh oregano and thyme, banana peppers, kale, salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese. Choose whatever veggies you have on hand. Chop veggies. (Mushrooms or a bit of balsamic wine vinegar would be good additions.)

First, I sauteed the onion and baby carrots. Then because my skillet was rather small, I removed them to a dish while I sauteed everything else except the tomatoes, herbs, and cheese.

Tomatoes need to be skinned before chopping and the simple way to do that is to drop them for 30 seconds or so in simmering temp water. Cool in cold water. Then just slip the skins, cut out the core, and chop. (Fresh tomatoes from the garden will be very juicy! Use juice and all!) Add to the skillet. Put the set-aside onion/carrot combo back into the skillet along with everything except the rice and parmesan cheese. Simmer for perhaps 10 minutes.

Serve the sauce over a healthy spoonful of cooked rice. Add parmesan.

The sweet potato? I set it in the steamer alongside the bowl of rice and it was nicely done when the rice finished cooking.

In the photo with the herbs you will see that I'm using a santoku knife. While I like it's sharp cutting ability, I'm always extremely careful that the cutting edge never touches my skin. This baby is sharp! I barely skimmed my knuckle with it once and as a consequence, needed a small bandaid!! For safety sake, when I finish using it I rinse it, dry it carefully, and put it in its slot in my knife drawer. Consider this a larger version of a razor blade and handle it accordingly.

Yumm! Want some!!! My kitchen smells very, very yummy!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

In Harm's Way - Forty Years Ago

I'm not certain many young people know a lot about U.S. history, not even as recent as 1968.

A lot of things were happening that year. Because of the Vietnam War young men were being drafted from every town and city in America. Many enlisted in order to have preference of branch of service. (Drafted men served two years. Enlisted men served 3 or 4 years, depending on the terms of their enlistment.) The local lady who served as secretary to the draft board was unkindly looked upon as a witch by those wondering if their number would be next. Single men first. Married men were further down the list.

One of my brothers joined the Air Force. Another joined the Navy and served on the USS Kearsarge. A third was unable to serve because of an eye injury suffered ten years prior. Many of my classmates were in the service. One flew choppers over Vietnam. Several others were in the infantry.

Vietnam was in the news on a daily basis.

The year 1968 was a year of crisis for America. On January 23 the capture of the USS Pueblo by the North Koreans put huge emphasis on the Cold War. A week later the Tet Offensive in Vietnam hit the news like the bombshell that it was.

The Associated Press reports on this year's reunion of shipmates of the USS Pueblo.

I'm no great historian nor politician. But I do highly appreciate the men and women who have served and who are serving on behalf of our nation. Veteran's Day 2008 is still two months away but in light of today's news of the Pueblo reunion, I salute all our brave men and women, and in particular, those who serve in harm's way.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Too Many Tomatoes But Not Quite Enough

How can you have too many tomatoes but not quite enough? The answer is simple. Too many to eat. Not quite enough to can.

The past two years I canned a ton (there I go again, exaggerating) of tomatoes and juice. And I don't mind admitting to you that homemade tomato juice is DeeeLicious. I like to leave out the salt and that makes for a tangy, tasty juice that you will never find on the store shelf. Even if I get a bit lazy, my Beloved nudges me and reminds me how he loves the stuff! And since I am to please, I generally can up whatever tomatoes we grow.

However, two years of canning has given us a surplus and so this year we planted only a handful of plants. Even so, those few plants have produced an abundance of tomatoes. I've given them away to my mother, my brother, two neighbors. And still they produce. And I hate waste.

Canning is a task. If I'm going to drag out the huge kettle I use to water-bath seven quarts of tomatoes I want to be able to fill it with seven jars, not just three or four. So I'm reluctant to can when I know there will be only three quarts.

However, here's what I've done to take care of those few extra tomatoes. Perhaps you might try the same.

First, dip the tomatoes for about 30 seconds in simmering water. Then dip in cool water. Slip off the skins, cut out the core at the stem, and fill a blender about 2/3 full. Blend. Run through a sieve. I usually end up with three or four blender-fulls. (Is that a word?) You will have a foamy juice at this point. Bring the juice to a simmer in a large pan on the stove. Once the juice comes to a simmer, let it barely simmer for maybe five minutes. Cool. Place in jars and refrigerate. Drink within a week. (This is not a canning procedure...please don't think if the jars seal that they are 'canned'. If you want to can the juice, be sure to follow the instructions in the Ball Blue Book.)

You will find fresh tomato juice to be the yummiest ever. And don't blame me if your spouse gets addicted and puts three dozen plants in the ground next year. You may want to hide the stuff in the back of the fridge and sip when he is not looking. Just in case.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Astronaut Air

A month ago I accompanied my brother to the VA hospital in Omaha, Nebraska. While washing my hands in the ladies' room I noticed no paper towels. Only an air dryer. If both are available I normally choose the paper towels because I find them faster and they do a better job of drying. If I use the air dryer, I get impatient and usually finish the job by swiping my hands on my jeans just below the knees. (Doesn't sound very ladylike, does it? LOL) I figure below the knees, nobody will notice if my jeans are a bit wet.

But here, at the VA, in this particular restroom there was only the air dryer. I noticed that it was labeled with words something akin to "Super Air Flow". Sure enough, when I placed my wet hands near the automatic "ON" the unit nearly jet-propelled me across the room. (Sometimes I exaggerate!) The skin on my hands rippled and flowed as the superfast air speed quickly dried/removed the water. (This time I'm not exaggerating!) The effect was so startling that I stood there, twisting my hands back and forth, watching the folds of skin flabbing in the breeze. (I think I've invented a new word!!)

The force of the air was astoundingly fast. It reminded me of the photos of jet pilots or astronauts experiencing several Gs of accelerative force, causing the skin of their cheeks and neck to billow backwards off their face.

They should label the g-force of hand-dryers. Then at least I could make an educated decision as to whether I want to stand and watch billowing hands or whether I prefer to skip the science experiment and swipe my hands on my pantlegs.

On the other hand, think how much fun it would be to shampoo and then dry your hair under one of these things! WooHoooo! Instant Dry!

Monday, September 1, 2008

They Must Think We're Stupid...or perhaps...

They must think we're stupid. By "they" I'm referring to the creators of a magazine ad that features a very popular children's fish-shaped snack. Gold in color.

Here's the gist of the ad.

"Everybody's different."
"And that's only natural."
"These (trademark name) crackers are natural."
"Baked with REAL INGREDIENTS" (emphasis mine)

I am very, very pleased that they are baked with "real ingredients". It's good to know that when I offer them to my toddler great-grandson that he will not be eating imaginary food baked with imaginary ingredients. No, sirree, he'll be eating "real food" baked with "real ingredients".

Folks, it's like this. EVERY ingredient is REAL. If it weren't REAL, it wouldn't be included in the list of ingredients in that tiny print at the bottom of the side panel of the box. If it is an IMAGINARY ingredient, it doesn't have to be listed.

Imagine That!

I could add "Get Real!", but I've probably already carried this far enough.

She said with a silly grin.