I am working on re-organizing the school supplies in my front room. It always been the room where books, toys, games, teacher’s manuals, textbooks, math workbooks and all have been kept. Plus, there’s a worn blue loveseat we always sit on to read or go through problems together, a chair with a footstool and a table with a desk lamp where we pile up the day’s/week’s materials or crafts, puzzles or projects. OK, not that many crafts really if I’m honest.
Life has been so full for the past ten years I can’t remember the last time I really purged materials. I haven’t had the time or the energy to do so.
But, this winter, I have felt the desire to download and re-arrange gradually coming over me. My youngest is 12 years old. I know that I won’t be using the kindergarten books again. I don’t need all the fun science books we used when the kids were little. Yes, I do plan to keep many of the best toys. The bins of cars and trucks, the Playmobil animals, the marble run–these are permanent fixtures because we have younger company often enough that they get lots of use.
For that matter, I will probably keep the marble run until they take me to the nursing home. I love that thing. The wooden marble dropper too; it’s a stress reliever in the guise of a children’s toy. You drop a marble in the top bowl and it rolls around, dropping into a lower colored bowl, and so on down six times with the most peaceful noise of marble on wood.
But realistically I see that I am not going to need all the art supplies, the puzzles and the books we have used over the years of homeschooling.
And facing that is harder than I thought it would be. I actually found myself thinking that perhaps I should save all the historical fiction and read-alouds from our curriculum because I could end up homeschooling someone else’s children.
No offense, self, but barring a miracle that is utter nonsense!
So–realistically I must accept that the time has come to change the look of the school room. I want to move my computer desk there, where I can enjoy the beautiful curtains and the great morning sunlight through the bay window. My office can be there when the kids are all grown. It’s a good thing to contemplate having time and space to do some more writing, research, advocacy and–who knows what else?
It’s still incredibly difficult to box up books. It’s a life, it’s a season, but it’s a season I’ve been living for many years.
And I don’t want to let it go.
On any given normal day, I don’t think much about how normal it is. I don’t think about the responsibilities I normally have or the tasks I complete, maybe not even about the people I know I can expect to see.
But after I get back from vacation? or recover from a really bad cold? or pass through a crisis of some sort?
Then, normal starts to look pretty good. It starts to look like something downright amazing.
If I live a day of my life, and there’s no aches and pains in it, no illness, no coughing, itching, gagging or fever, it is a pleasant thing.
A day without hassles. One without arguments. One without overdue bills, fender benders, or speeding tickets. One without hospital stays, illness, rehabilitation, therapy…a day without death, tears, anguish, or heartbreak.
an ordinary day.
If I have ordinary, it is a gift.
Here are a few helpful bits of information relating to homemaking that I have discovered.
You’ve heard that ginger is a great anti-nausea, and so it is. But if you want to deal with morning sickness, or any other cause of nausea, may I recommend fresh ginger tea. Buy a piece of ginger root at the grocery store. Grate about a teaspoon of it through a large-holed grater. Steep this with boiling water in any tea ball or strainer that you have. The longer you leave it, the stronger it gets. Then add a bit of honey. This knocks out nausea and is a lot more appealing, and fresh, than a stale dry ginger snap.
This happens to me every winter, or any time I have to wash my hands often. This winter I definitely learned to use rubber gloves when doing dishes, but you can’t really complete all life functions with rubber gloves on, so, eventually, I had one or two places next to my finger nails, on one side or the other, that were cracked and raw.
I hate this!
It doesn’t seem to matter how much water you drink or how much hand lotion you use to try to combat this, it will still happen.
I used to put a tiny dab of petroleum jelly on these spots at night, top with a bandage and this would at least prevent the wound getting any worse overnight. However, once the bandage came off in the morning, which it inevitably did because it got wet, then the spot was still there. There was no actual improvement. I just had to wait for it to heal.
This winter I tried coconut oil. What a difference! If you use a dab of virgin coconut toil and top with a bandage, not only does it protect the crack while you’re sleeping, in the morning, it is actually better. I had one spot heal basically overnight.
I have used coconut oil before for peeling skin on feet, and it is wonderful for curing that as well.
How to Get Foam off Broth
If you’ve ever made homemade meat broth, you know that most recipes will tell you to skim the foam that rises to the top of the pot.
What I’ve always wondered was how on earth should this be accomplished when you are getting burns from the steam that is rising up in clouds?
Maybe this solution is obvious, but it wasn’t to me. I’ve been making broth for several years now and most recipes tell you to bring the meat or bones to a boil with the water, then skim the foam. What I do instead is put a couple of chicken backs or a beef soup bone joint in my stock pot, and add filtered water to cover or about 4-5 inches deep. Then I put the pot on and turn it to high. While it is heating up, I get out a slotted spoon and a small glass dish to drop the foam into, as well as any herbs I want to put in the stock, sea salt and some fresh onion, celery or carrot. I always put in a bay leaf for either chicken or beef broth.
So now putter around the kitchen doing anything else you need to be doing, such as making lunches, etc., because you don’t want to leave the room. When you see that you are getting a few bubbles and just a tiny bit of foam, probably several minutes before it actually comes to a boil, (I love my glass lid for noticing this!), remove the lid. Over the next 60 seconds or so, you will start seeing more foam. Start scooping it out now with the slotted spoon. It will continue to form and you will skim it off. By the time the broth or stock actually comes to a boil, you will have most of the foam off, and you will have done it without burning your hand.
I have found that once the stock comes to a boil, if you turn it down, the foam breaks up into small chunks which slip through the holes in the spoon, making it a lot harder to get out. This above technique has made the process a lot easier and more comfortable.
Homemade Sour Cream
I had no idea how relatively simple this is. If you like sour cream but you want some without additives and stabilizers, you can make your own. I used one half of a commercial package of yogurt starter, and two cups of cream. You heat it up just like you would milk to make yogurt. I believe it is to 180 degrees. Stir occasionally to keep the temperature as even as possible. Then let it cool back down to lukewarm, pour a bit of the cream into a clean jar, add the starter, and stir it in. Then pour the small amount back into the larger amount in the pot, stirring well.
After that simply put your cream in a clean, sealed jar, and let it ferment. I let it sit 24 hours because I’m currently avoiding lactose, and that longer ferment time is supposed to get rid of lactose. If you don’t have a yogurt maker, you can put the jar in a small cooler with warm water. Change out the water every so often, to keep it pretty warm. After 24 hours, or maybe less if you like the consistency and aren’t trying to remove the lactose, put it in the fridge and chill.
Fooling with a cooler is a bit of a hassle, but not too bad. And, I have actually done better with using a cooler than with a commercial yogurt incubator–I think it was too hot.
Voila, you have made sour cream.
Is it just me or does everyone feel unsettled right now?
It is easy to feel that life will go on as usual indefinitely. Indeed, it’s not possible to live assuming or predicting major change around every corner. We are creatures of habit who thrive on routine–even those of us who score high on the Myers Briggs as adventurous need to know there is a home to come back to.
Right now, it just feels like the world is ready to turn upside down.
There are more refugees and displaced people than at any time since post-World War II. I think of WWII as the epitome of displaced and unsettled. It’s unsettling to hear that for 65 million people (as of June 2016, almost 1% of the world’s population) it is just like that, right now.
The political climate is uncertain. It’s unknown what details of our lives in the US will be changed. Will prices go up because of treaty and tariff wars? Is the cost of health care going to go up or down? One thing’s certain: I really hope the cost of prescription medications does not go any higher.
Life transitions are looming on the horizon for a couple of my children who either are adults or really close. Major life transitions for me are only a few years away, as well.
Other long-term unknowns are making me realize that this life I live right here, right now, did not come with a guarantee. Usually it rolls along in the expected manner. But there was never any promise it would be safe.
I know I’m not alone in this sensation.
I just don’t like it.
If there is one word that goes with broken, it is humble.
(See my last blog here at https://swanatbagend.wordpress.com/2017/02/08/broken.)
One leads to the other, as surely as night follows day and water flows downhill. It could be humble first, leading to a willingness to be broken and to see what’s broken.
Often, it is broken first. This leads naturally to humility because if you are broken and acknowledge that you are, you realize that you don’t have the power to fix it. You realize while there are many steps you can take to bring healing, to ask forgiveness, to renew what has been damaged, you don’t have the ultimate power or authority to make renewal come to pass.
It makes you humble.
This is your new reality. Not a sense of self-flagellation or an endless reviewing of past trespasses.
Humble is just being in touch with reality–the reality of who you are and what you can and cannot do.
Humble is, I think, actually quite freeing.
What’s one of the most distressing events that can happen to a child?
Something they love gets broken.
And mom and dad cannot fix it.
I have memories of something lovely getting irreparably damaged, and how distressed and grieved that made me as a child. We had Christmas ornaments of blown glass, colored globes surrounded by extremely thin spiraled wires. Even the bracket at the top of the ornament was a work of art, all fine silver made of tiny detailed patterns. When one of those broke, because they were already old by the time I was old enough to love them, it was painful.
That’s an ornament, a thing of beauty, but nonetheless just some heated and blown sand.
How much more distressing it is when things of more importance are broken. And how distressing it is to find that one continues to break things on a regular basis.
It seems to be inescapable. I once thought that if I just tried hard enough, I would always and only be a force for good in the world. I thought that somehow I would have the ability and the will and the power to always do the right thing. Knowledge was power, and I knew what was right. It was my goal in life when I graduated from high school to love and be loved and be happy. I had no idea how truly difficult that would be.
Despite my best efforts, I damage and destroy what is good. How is it possible to be aware of the beauty, of the import, of the good in people and the world, and still be the cause of damage?
I realize that I too am broken, and that my brokenness damages others on a regular basis.
I’m not saying that I never do anything right. Like you, I work hard to be a good friend, a good parent, a person whose heart is attuned to God so that I can spread the love around. I want to love others well. Most of the time, I do a pretty decent job.
But, some of the time my brokenness rises to the top, and that is what other people get from me.
Thank God that he has made peace with me and covered me with his righteousness. I was far away from him. I am still farther than I want to be. However, my distance and brokenness does not stop him from pulling me closer. Because of Christ, he has brought me into his presence and I stand before him redeemed. He is transforming me.
He is transforming me, and it starts right here, from the point of my acknowledgement that I am broken.
As those of you who know me well know, I love to cook, and I love to eat. Over the years due to health problems experienced by various members of the family, I have learned a good bit about a variety of different diets. When your nose runs every time you sit down to a meal, you start to do some homework. In the course of this journey, I have learned to always read ingredient labels.
Well…in the interest of full disclosure, I should probably say that I haven’t learned to do this, because I don’t always read ingredient labels. For one thing, product ingredients can change. You think you’re on top of what is in something, and don’t bother checking, and then once you get it home you notice there is something in it that you should not eat. That’s usually what I run into.
Also, there are surprises, ingredients you don’t expect, usually because it makes no sense for them to be in the product you’re buying in the first place.
There are quite a few additives in most foods in the grocery store, and if you want to avoid them, you’re going to need to read labels and buy fresh foods, not prepared ones. Oh, and did I mention reading the labels?
Here are a few surprises we had lately.
We enjoyed pancake and muffin mix from family as a Christmas gift. It is organic and non-GMO. The pancakes were delicious for sure, but the pancakes included organic malt extract and natural flavoring. If the flavor of organic pancakes is so fantastic, why do they need flavor enhancers?
I was looking at baby shampoo, which of course you don’t eat, but your skin absorbs whatever you put on it, so thinking along these lines for a gentle safe soap for babies, I was thrilled to see that–no whoops, I mean confused to see that baby shampoo has, among about 15 other ingredients that I couldn’t identify, two kinds of yellow food coloring. Slather it on! I’m sure that will have health benefits for your baby.
You’ve heard that if you want to eat healthy, just buy your food from the areas around the outside edge of the grocery store, thus avoiding the processed, packaged foods that make up the majority of the center aisles. I think in general that is a good idea. But, even with fresh food, don’t stop reading those labels. You still have to look for additives. I recently discovered that conventional ground beef has natural flavoring in it.
Why does plain ol’ meat need natural flavoring? Honestly, what is wrong with its flavor alone that requires additional support? I asked the meat guy about this and he told me it’s been in there for years, basically industry standard, and if you want meat that does not have natural flavoring in it, you have to buy organic.
I have to say, that’s the dumbest, wrongest thing I have heard at the grocery store in a long time! Meat. That is all it is supposed to be. But, if your family, like mine, reacts to food additives and flavor enhancers, you are going to have to find an alternative to grocery store meat.
This in itself is wrong.
In a perfect world, you would not have to read every label and get the life story of the food you want to purchase. But here we are, in a culture where as long as it’s GRAS (generally recognized as safe) it can be in your food. Why not add another stabilizer, another thickener, another flavor enhancer to this product? must be what the companies are thinking. What’s one more? the public already takes in hundreds of substances that are not actually food, but that are allowed in substances that used to be food. It must have started somewhere. Sometime, natural flavoring was the only additive in your food, and you only ate it once or twice a week. But just a little at a time, more and more preservatives and flavor enhancers and food colorings were added, and you ate more and more of the prepared and processed foods.
And here we are with a grocery store full of substances that I cannot honestly call food.
And people who don’t make a lot of money and can’t afford to buy organic meat are forced to take in all these substances that aren’t needed in the first place.
And we are pondering why we are chronically ill.
What are you eating?