Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Bringing in the dough

I'm not sure why, but for some reason my alarm clock is set to Rush Radio.  So each morning I am awakened to loud, obnoxious voices complaining about our country.  It's definitely a good way to get me out of bed.  A strategy I am sure my husband is using to get me downstairs to start the coffee.
But last Sunday morning a different program was airing.  I don't know the details as the show had already begun but an author, who had written a book on how to become millionaire, was being interviewed.  Honestly after the toll free number had been given for the 25th time I began to tune out, thinking it was time to get out of bed and start the coffee.  But I did catch a few sentences that intrigued me.  Her basic premise for the book is that it's not enough, anymore, to just keep your job and sink your money in a 401K.  You have to have extra cash  coming in.  DUH!  I knew that.  But she went on to say everyone is doing something for which they are not getting paid.  Also most people have a hobby  that they can turn into an extra income.  Hmmm. That got me thinking.  One other point of interest she said is this--you have to think of yourself as a success in order to be one.  Wow.  Now my brain is whirling.   I've tried ventures in the past, so I'm not afraid to try something different. I have a few ideas to mull over.   I'll keep you posted on what happens next.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Made in the USA

Last night politics was the dominant discussion at our supper club.  After long minutes of heated discussion and even fist pounding, the hostess leaned over to me and whispered, "The thing is we all agree with each other". And that is true.  We all agree that the government is leading the country in the wrong direction.  The truth is we can argue, debate and lament all night over the endless injustices  that have been done to the average American.  and how our pocketbooks are hurting.
"What can we do?" and "We need solutions!"  began to be heard at the table. After  various solutions were suggested, I exclaimed, "What you're asking is for people to stop being motivated by greed."
That's what it comes down to.  Politicians want to be re-elected above representing the people.  Corporations want more revenue.  People want lower prices for more stuff.
  How did we end the evening?  We hugged good-bye, knowing we'd meet again, each of us praying our economy would get better.

All of the problems, rooted in greed will take a long time to remedy, and would require major changes in the political and economic system. Hart and I have been talking and we realize we have to think small and let it grow. What is something small all of us can do to help? Buy USA.  If people would purchase only American made products, our money would stay in America. It would strengthen our economy.  Sounds easy, but have you looked at where the dress you bought was made?  What about the strawberries you bought in December?  The flounder you purchased at the grocery store?  Chances are it wasn't the USA but China, Thailand or Mexico.  My husband gave me a lovely, black, wool Calvin Klein coat for my birthday two years ago.  Where was it made?  China.
  I can remember when quality was a major factor when shopping.  How was the dress stitched?  Would the furniture last, was it wood vs. plastic?  Greed has made us prefer quantity over quality.  Each of us has to step back and ask ourselves why we want to purchase this particular item.  Find out where it was manufactured.  Buy locally when to comes to food.  Strawberries are in season in NC in May, not December.  Support our American companies.  Write them and thank them for staying in the US.  And also while you have that pen out or email up, compose a letter to Wal-Mart.  Ask them to return to the values of Sam Walton when Made in the USA was something to be proud of.

  Check out our Facebook page and blog for lists of American companies and ways to boost our economy.
(coming soon)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Slow Cooking

The other day I knew I'd be late getting home, close to supper time and I wanted dinner to be ready when I walked in the door.  That's when I turn to my trusty crock-pot to do the cooking for me.  I also wanted something new, I get bored easily making the same recipes over and over.  I reached for my recipe box and out fell this card for Slow-cooker Beef and Bean Burritos.  I've had this recipe forever but have never made it.  Luckily I had all the ingredients on hand and when I got home that evening there was a tender and tasty meal waiting to be served to the family. Yum!

Slow-cooker Beef and Bean Burritos

1 (2lb) London Broil
1 pkg taco seasoning ( usually make my own)
1 c. chopped onion
1 TB white vinegar
1 (4.5 oz) can chopped green chilies
1 (16 oz) can fat free refried beans
12 (8") flour tortillas (I used the gluten free version of corn tortillas)
1 1/2 c. shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 1/2 c. chopped plum tomatoes
3/4 c. sour cream

Rub seasoning on meat.  Place in crock pot.  Add ingredients through green chilies.
Cover and cook for 9 hours on low.  Remove meat, saving liquid, shred with 2 forks.
Combine meat and liquid.
Warm beans and tortillas.  Spread 2 TB beans down tortilla.  Spoon 1/3 c. meat, 2 TB cheese, 2 TB tomatoes, 1 TB sour cream and roll up.  Makes 12

I didn't use the refried beans, but added a can of pinto beans to the crock pot to cook with the meat.  I liked that.  Also you can vary the toppings and amounts.

My family loved this!

We used corn tortillas instead of flour.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

32 years ago and today (the beginning of this story begins on January 13th)

32 years ago I took this trip.  I had to write this report for the class and as I was cleaning out a drawer, at home, the other day , I found it.  As I read it tears began to stream down my cheeks.  I had forgotten the details and it brought back the memories of that time.  I've always known that trip taught me that I truly can do many tough things, maybe not anything as I naively wrote back then.  Yet I discovered an inner strength and perseverance that has stuck with me to this day.  And it has been helpful as my role as a wife and mother.  I used to  tell my girls that I was too stubborn to ever give up on them and for one who has taught each of them at home, from kindergarten through highschool, it is true.  As for the future, I know that no challenge will go unmet in my life.  It's not me that has that strength but God in me.  I rely totally on him and his love.

Now I am ready for another such trip.  Who wants to hike the Appalachian Trail with me?  I bet I can still carry 40 lbs!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

32 years ago continued:

After dinner we climbed back up the cliff (the easy way) and we were all left alone for 30 minutes.  This gave us time to contemplate on the trip-on our successes and accomplishments.  No one was considered a failure.  It gave me time to re-evaluate where I had come from and where I was at the moment.  I really felt as if I could do anything, since at the beginning of the trip I had deemed it as impossible.  Finally  Joe collected us all again and we spent our last night together being tied onto the cliff.  We slept in sleeping bags with our harnesses on, connecting each other together, which was tied to a tree.  We were warned not to sleep walk!  And believe it or not that was the best I slept the whole trip!
  The next morning we worked our way down the mountain and by that evening we were back at the vans and headed home to Danville.
  I feel this trip was valuable in many ways.  It gave me a sense of accomplishment and showed me that nothing
is impossible.  It also taught me how to work with others, how to share in each others joys and burdens.  We had three injuries on the trip--but they weren't the fault of our leaders.  One girls pulled or rather pinched a nerve in her shoulder (from carrying her pack) which left her unable to carry it the rest of the way.  A boy pulled a muscle in his groin area,, which hindered him.  Yet he went on and carried his load as if he was uninjured.  Another girl developed blisters on her feet, which had to be treated at stops.  This left her walking slowly and painfully.  So we learned how to deal with each others problems and still have an enjoyable trip.  No one complained.  Also, it made each of us look inward to ourselves- for that is where the strength and stamina comes from.  Overall, the trip was an excellent experience and everyone should have the opportunity to have such an experience as I did.
(to be continued)

Monday, January 17, 2011

32 years ago continued:

  This area was so secluded that there weren't even any roads.  The mountain people, if they ever left, walked down the mountain to go anywhere.  We hiked up to a few cabins and Joe, our leader, knew the people.  He was building himself a cabin up there.  (This is all near Marion, VA).  We hiked to Joe's unfinished cabin and slept on his floors.  The next day we set out to climb the cliffs.  I have never climbed any steeper terrain in my life.  I literally thought that I could not take another step, but somehow I always did.  I pushed myself onward, making myself keep up with the leader.  I knew that if I slowed down, I would never make it.  Finally after hours and hours we reached the top. (Or at least we thought it was.)  But ahead of us was the huge rock cliff-and we were expected to climb it and rappel down it.  We got geared up, helmets on, ropes secure and one by one began to climb the rock.  My turn came and I made it half way up by forcing my feet into nooks and crannies and pulling myself up with my arms; when all of a sudden my arms lost strength and I fell.  There I was, dangling in the air on this rope, that was held secure by someone on top.  After that I never really gained back my position and had to find the easier route up.  But once I got up, everyone applauded me and told me I was great to keep on trying. Once up, we began to rappel down.  One leader was the belayer and he held the ropes secure. When my turn came to descend, I wasn't too scared.  The worst part is getting on the first edge.  But once over, I put my feet on the cliff and got into a sitting position and walked my way downward.  Then there was a dip in the cliff where the wall was sunken in.  Here all we could do was dangle in the air as we were let down on the rope.  Then we got our feet back on the cliff and continued like that until we reacher the ground.  What an accomplishment for someone who had always been scared of heights.
(to be continued)

Friday, January 14, 2011

32 years ago, continued:

As we walked on this single trail through the darkness, my pack got heavier and heavier.  I grew tired, my legs and hips hurt from the rubbing pack.  I wanted to go home.  I thought I was stupid to come on this trip.  I kept this to myself, but began to slow down.  One of the leaders began to walk with me and encourage me on, saying, "This is the worst of it, you don't know what's ahead and your'e not used to your pack".   Well, finally we reached camp.  As soon as we set up our tents, it poured down rain.  The next few days we hiked cross country.  We had to use our compasses to find our way.  We walked through fields, woods, crawled under tons of rhododendron bushes, through streams, up hills--all the while making our way to the top of Mt. Rogers (the highest peak in VA).  My pack seemed to mold into my body,  I didn't need anyone to put it on me. I kept up with the head leader.  It was a beautiful time of the year to be outdoors.  The terrain became rougher, and the slope got steeper.  But we trudged on.  Finally by the next afternoon we reached the top of Mt. Rogers and it was beautiful.  It looked like a elf hideaway with huge ferns , big pines.  It was such a deep dense forest.  We rested there for awhile.  Then it was back down the mountain.  Our nights had been extremely cold (where we slept in everything we had, plus our boots) and our days were warm.  It took at long time to get down the mountain, but finally we got back to the vans and drove a few hours until we got to the Gap.
(to be continued)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

32 years ago:

My freshman year in college I attended Danville Community College in Danville, Va.  The fall quarter I signed up to take an Outdoor Environmental Class, which counted for 3 credits.  This class's purpose was to teach us how to survive in the wilderness with minimal equipment. We spent our class periods learning about the outdoors, the elements.  We learned how to tie ropes, put on our rappelling seats, about carabiners...We practice rappelling and rock climbing techniques.  We learned how to read a compass and so forth.
  Finally  the day came for our trip.  We were going to Mount Rogers, VA for a couple of days and then on further up into the mountains to an isolated Gap.  Our equipment consisted of little propane stoves, food (dried fruit, tuna, cheese, bread, oatmeal, hot chocolate, water...) matches, flashlights, clothes, hiking boots, belay equipment and more.  We ended up with about 40 lb packs, including our sleeping bags.  We arrived at the base of Mt. Rogers  late that evening.  It was growing dark, it had begun to rain a little and we had about a 2 hour hike before we could camp for the night.
(to be continued)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Long Winter

Summer, Winter, Spring or Fall, Which is your favorite month of all?  I remember saying that rhyme as a kid and the answer for me is easy....any month except winter!
 Summer has to be my favorite month simply because I can live at my favorite place for about six weeks.  Also living green things grow in my garden at home, and my flower box is a riot of pinks, reds, whites and purples.  The sky is blue and the sun shines.  The leaves on the trees are green and  my favorite fruits are ready to be picked and eaten.  Sandals feel so much better than restricting socks and shoes.  Skirts that blow around my bare legs and sleeveless shirts gives me a sense of freedom.  The feel of the lake on my skin is invigorating not shocking.    I'd rather have sweat dripping down my face and my hair be stuck to my neck because of the heat, than to have one blast of cold air on any of my exposed skin.
 I do not tolerate frigid temperatures well.  Funny how I live with a man who loves winter and despises summer.  He likes the cold on his skin and not the bugs that bite him in the summertime.  Plus he sweats buckets in the humidity and gets tired of mowing the grass.  So I guess it's a good thing we live in the South so we have a chance to experience all four seasons.
Plus winter seems so long, endless days of cold, sunless days.  Walks are rare and I resort to exercising indoors.  Why do January and February seem to go on and on.  It is snowing as I write this.  It's beautiful for a time, but soon the piles left by the scrapers are gray and dirty.  Spring seems like a dream and summer a fragment of my imagination.
Yet... I am trying to see beauty in the bareness of these long months.  I've always thought that people's homes look so sad in wintertime, every flaw and trash pile exposed.  No color to admire, as everything is brown or gray. But we took a three mile hike on Sunday.  The trail we chose, or rather my husband and daughter , chose, was the one at Chinqua- Penn Plantation near Reidsville.  Little did I realize that it was whopping 29 degrees.  However I did dress warmly as I could and by the end of the three miles I was beginning to regain feeling in my glove clad hands and  feet (that had  two pairs of socks on them).
 At first the wind and cold made my face feel like it had been slapped with blasts of icy air, so I kept my head down.  Then I realized that I could pull my turtleneck up over my mouth and nose.  That really helped.  In fact I've decided not to do this again until I purchase a ski mask.  Little by little I looked around as the girls got excited over "Little Niagara" being frozen.  I noticed that the trees were all bare and bent over like ancient stick people.  The lake was icy in spots.  There was no wildlife. We were surprised to see there was a fish lightening rod on top of the stone gazebo, something we had not noticed when the trees were in full leaf.  Bamboo does stay green, as do the wild mountain laurel and rhododendron.  I could see through the forest and past the fields where the 4H Betsy Penn camp is located.  We found a dump in the woods and Nan scavenged a old green Mountain Dew bottle and another green soda pop bottle.  As we passed the cow pasture there were quite a few newborn calves, amazingly oblivious to the cold.  My yorkie, enjoyed the walk, but was impatient if we stopped too long.  She got cold if we stood around too long.  My sentiments exactly.
 By the time we got back to our solitary car, there was another car pulling up into the parking lot with a little dog.  So another family was out to brave the cold like I did.  I looked at them as we were driving away and watched as they all put on ski masks.  Now they had the right idea. 

Saturday, January 8, 2011


Sometimes I wonder if I were to see myself walking down the street would I recognize myself?  Is the image in the mirror a true representation of what I really look like?  My mirror reveals a woman with blond hair and fair skin that is slowly (I hope slowly) becoming creased and crinkled.  Her skin is more translucent and delicate.  Funny I rarely notice her blue eyes, but they are blue.  The truth is-- she is going to be  50 years old in a few weeks.  Did I say 50 years old?   Me?
 I did not mind 30 or 40 but just hearing the words 50 makes me want to cry.  Why?  I will be on the other side of life, getting to closer to the old age and the do I dare say it...death?  I've always looked forward to a new year and have had many of those "New Year Resolutions" , but not so much this year.  I was telling this to  Hart and I told him that I picture aging as a step ladder.  One begins at the bottom and work his way up.  Fifty is on the top and it is downhill from there.  He said to imagine the ladder as an extension ladder with fifty being in the middle and you have the rest of your life stretching out  in front of you.  Which I must say it a more positive way to view this fearsome subject.  Hmmmm...
   So I will smile at becoming 50.  I will learn to love this new decade in my life. From now on when I see my outer reflection I will think, there goes a vibrant woman who loves  her husband and wants to continue to spend the rest of her life with him.  She lives to be outdoors, to walk her Yorkie  and run with her teenagers, to canoe and swim at Aylen, to cook and eat, to laugh at a good movie and to cry too, to be a friend to her daughters and sisters, and a grandmother to her darling Ela.  She smiles at the sunrise each day and can't get enough of music; the music of Bach, Michael Buble, of her daughters playing either the piano or violin.....  and of the songs of  birds.  She thanks God for waking her up each morning and letting her rest each night in a warm, safe place.  She wants all that God has in store for her and to do all that God has for her to do.  She wants to mirror Jesus in her life and for it to be his reflection that is seen in her.
It's as a former pastor once said, "Often we just tolerate life rather than celebrate it".  I will become an intolerant woman:)  

Friday, January 7, 2011

Big pot of Stew

Day before yesterday, I made a big pot of Brunswick Stew.  I used turkey that was leftover from a meal I had made when Lauren and Jered were here.  Actually, Jered didn't eat with us as he went to the Carolina game at UNC-Chapel Hill  with Mary, Claire and Witt.  But the rest of us enjoyed a delicious turkey meal, with stuffing and a new rice dish I made.  But anyway, I had quite a bit of turkey leftover and Brunswick Stew came to mind when I was trying to decide what to do with it.  I put the turkey carcass in my biggest pot, covering it with water and let it simmer for a half the day, which left a nice broth.  After removing the the bones from the pot I added  chopped onions.  As that was simmering I boiled potatoes in another pot.  I did not remove the skins and once they were done I roughly mashed them.  Into the pot the potatoes went along with lima beans, corn and a large can of crushed tomatoes and the leftover turkey, which I shredded.   For seasoning I used a few shakes of Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper and A-1 Steak Sauce.  Unusual spices I know, but in my mind I was recalling my favorite recipe, which is in a cookbook I no longer have.  It's the St. Francis Episcopal Church Cookbook that was given to me when I was newly married.  I looked online for a similar recipe but could only find ones that used barbecue sauce.  I happened to have a bottle of A-1 steak sauce on hand, a small new one in the back of my pantry, perhaps for an occasion such as this.  I carefully read the label to make sure it was gluten-free and it was.  But I was surprised at the list of ingredients in the bottle.  There was the usual corn syrup, yuck (but it only contributed 2 grams of sugar) and other seasonings.  I didn't know it included orange paste and raisin puree among the ingredients.  I guess that's what gives  the unusual taste to the steak sauce.  I let the stew simmer the rest of the day and once it cooled, I refrigerated it for the next day, which was nice  because the girls and I are in Greensboro from 7:45 am to 7:00 pm.  How nice it was to come home to a hot bowl of stew!  I quickly made corn bread with honey and we were ready to eat in 30 minutes.
 I will have to ask my mother-in-law if she has her copy of the cookbook since she is the one that gave me mine in the first place.  I'd be interested to see if I forgot anything.

I was able to make 4 quarts.

Monday, January 3, 2011

No shortcuts...

There are no shortcuts to any place worth going...Beverly Sills

Love that quote! When I first read it, it reminded me of our long trips to the cottage at Aylen Lake in Canada--18 hours in the car.  But what a place to enjoy once you arrive--heaven on earth, for me.
But life in general is like that-- in that there are no shortcuts to anything worthwhile.  No shortcuts to growing up, college, building a good marriage, relationships with family and friends--it all takes time.
Which also reminds me of the time my mom and I made croissants with a friend of hers.  Now that is a lot of work and  if we had skipped a step of folding and rolling and chilling the dough we wouldn't have gotten all those flaky, buttery layers.  Oh for pre-gluten free days!!
I am learning to savor the process--whatever it may be. 

My achy breaky heart: Ela goes home

Gigi, my yorkie, had my lap all to herself tonight, for Ela went home today.  Nana enjoyed every minute she had with her, her mom and dad.  How wonderful to spend two and a half weeks together, enjoying one another's company throughout the Christmas season.
  Ela grew while she was with us.  She came wearing 3 month old clothes and by the time she left, some were already too small (she has those darling rolls of fat on her thighs and a double chin, something I, as a woman, do not cherish on me).  What a good natured baby she is too!  Smiling and cooing at whoever will pay her attention and she did not lack for takers.  In fact most of the time I heard, "Let me hold Ela. I haven't held her lately".
 Lauren is such a caring and loving mommy, ready to meet any of her needs or to just cherish the moments she has to hold her little girl.  Gabriela is blessed to have an attentive daddy.  He is always there to lend a helping hand and to cuddle his baby girl as well.
The house is much quieter and much straighter, no baby blankets on the couch, pacifers waiting to be washed by the sink or baby swing in the kitchen.  No extra dogs running around, barking at every sound, no one to stay up late with, talking late into the night while waiting for the last nursing.  Papa even gets his big arm chair back (Lauren found it to be the perfect nursing chair).  All is back to normal and we miss all the above.  Yet it is good and right, everything and everyone in their proper place.  My heart will soon get back to normal too.

                 Sunday afternoon at Nana's