Thursday, April 28, 2011

Too Many Books
(Can there Be Too Many Books?)
[There Really ARE Too Many Books!]

I love reading. Really, I do. I love all sorts of books:

Church books, self-help books, fiction, fantasy, Louis L’Amour, mountain climbing, curtain-making, non-fiction, parenting books, and even every now and then a tame romance novel!

My problem is that A)my days have only 24 hours and I really need to be asleep during 9 of those hours, B) I also love sewing and blogging and traveling and gardening and all sorts of other things, and C) people in this house expect to have clean laundry occasionally.

I love our library system, and the ease with which I can now put a book—almost any book—on hold. Then magically I’ll get an email in my inbox telling me that my newest hold is in, and I’ll pick it up at the library and add it to my ever-growing, never-ending pile of books to read.

April 2011 767 just one of the stacks of books in my life…

I have books everywhere, and am usually reading several at the same time. But no matter how many places I read how many books, I can never get through them all. As I get ready to leave for my twin-helping trip to Utah I will have to return a bunch of unread books to the library. I hate that! They need to be read! I want to know what they say! How will I remember which ones I didn’t finish so that I can re-request them when I get back? And will I be able to finish them before we leave for Utah on our family vacation???

These questions cause me stress…

So here is my question for you—how do you keep track of books you want to read without just checking them all out over and over again? And don’t tell me Goodreads—there has to be a better way!

(At least the library let’s you renew a book as many times as you want now unless someone else has requested it…)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Snazzie Jammies

(I actually hesitated to blog about this.  My new PJs aren’t interesting enough for anyone to want to read, after all.  But then I remembered…this blog is for me and for my family.  It’s a record of us, and my pjs are certainly a part of who I am.  So…if this isn’t interesting enough, feel free to skip it.  I’m sure that one day when my kids read this post they’ll smile while they talk about how much I loved my pajamas, and how much time I spent in them!)

I used to wear whatever I had to bed, usually old tshirts and sweats.  Then one day someone was telling me about herself.  She said, “I have cute pajamas, because I spend so much time in them.”

That comment really spoke to me.  I also spent a lot time in my pajamas!  I decided that I wanted them to be cute too.  And now they are.  Cute microfleece and flannel pajamas for the cold of winter, cute cotton capri pajamas (and the occasional nightgown) for the summer, and cute knit pj sets for inbetween.  They make me happy every night, and when I end up staying in them for a while in the morning oh well, they’re cute and I love them. 

Recently I noticed that my inbetween knit pajama pants had shrunk.  Both pairs were seriously high water, so I decided that it was time for something new.

There was just one problem.

As much as I love my cute pjs, I am also really cheap frugal.  When I went looking for new pajamas (which are now often sold as separates, each piece costing more than the set would have a couple of years ago) everything was way too much money.  I decided that I was just going to have to make do with the highwater pajamas for the time being.

In a last ditch attempt to find something both cute and affordable I headed over to the clearance rack.  Much to my surprise they had a bunch of fun knit pj pants on clearance for $4!  I was a little worried that because they were the teeny-bopper brand they wouldn’t fit, but when I tried on a couple of sizes I found that as long as I sized up to a large I could wear them.  And for $4, I am willing to wear a large!

So the happy end of my (probably not very interesting) pajama story is that I now have two new pairs of pajama bottoms, and they only cost $4 and are totally and completely snazzy. 

April 2011 064 I was very entertained by the clothing line name on the size tags: “pajama party”!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tutorial Repost: Strawberry Pie

(I originally posted this tutorial last spring, after the torrential rains had killed all of the berries for the year. I’m reposting it now before berry season in hopes that it will be a little more helpful now!)

Once when Russ and I were almost engaged, we were at his sister in law’s house. (Which is a whole other story, which involves Russ introducing me as “some girl in my ward!”) His sister in law’s sister made a strawberry pie and it was so beautiful. I was completely intimidated. How did she do that? How did she get the filling stuff to be so clear and smooth? It was beyond me.
Several years after we were married my neighbor brought me a strawberry pie. When I confessed to her that I didn’t know how to make one myself, she also brought me her recipe. It was the beginning of strawberry pie happiness every May for the Ray family. Moving here made it even better—the berries that you pick yourself in the field are generally so much better and sweeter than those you can buy in the store.

Here are my directions for making a very delicious strawberry pie.

Start with a crust. You can make or buy a graham cracker crust, or make or buy a traditional pie-dough crust. I usually make mine because I live so far from the store and it would take longer to go buy a crust than to just make one. And I only use Crisco in my pie crusts. (Cause my pie-making aunt told me long ago that it makes a big difference.)

Whatever kind of crust you’re having, follow the directions and bake it. My directions had me prick the crust all over with a fork and then bake at 375 for 8 minutes.

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While the crust is baking, make the glaze. Mash or chop or puree strawberries until you have 1 cup. Mix 1 cup sugar and 3T cornstarch together in a bowl, and then gradually mix into the strawberries. Then add 1/2 cup water. Cook this until it boils for 1 minute. I do this in my microwave, either in my big glass bowl or in my 4 c. glass measure, stirring once or twice. If you do it on the stove top you have to stir it a lot, and I’m not a fan of stirring! After it boils for a minute, set it aside and let it cool.

Next, soften about 3 oz. cream cheese. Mix 1 T. sugar with it and 1-2 T. milk. (You can use more sugar if you like.) When the crust is cool, spread this mixture over the bottom of the crust.

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When I wash my berries I separate them into two or three groups. The first is the really nice berries, that are going to be just fine being put into the pie. You don’t want these to be ready to go soft because then you couldn’t have strawberry pie for breakfast the next three mornings, and that would be a tragedy. I lay these on a (clean) kitchen towel so that they can be drying off. The next group are the berries that aren’t quite perfect but still are in pretty good shape. Some of these I will chop and put sugar on to serve on cheesecake or strawberry shortcake. The last group are the berries that are only just barely still good. These go into the bowl to get smushed right away. These are great to use in the glaze, which is going to be cooked, or in jam.
While my glaze is cooling and after I’ve spread the cream cheese in the pie crust I start putting the berries in. The berries that go on the bottom 2-3 layers I slice in half, and then lay in the pie cut side up. This is because it’s easier to eat the pie when the berries are cut, but if you put them cut side down the juice will make the crust soggy, and that’s no good. So cut side up it is.

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After a layer of berries I spread on some of the glaze, then put another layer of berries, then another layer of glaze. If the berries are small I might put 3 layers of cut berries and then finish with a layer of whole berries on top of the last layer of glaze. If the berries are bigger than I put only 2 layers of cut berries.

Serve with yummy whipped cream and hide some of it from your family so that you can have it for breakfast tomorrow!

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PS. We had been married for several years before I confessed my feelings of strawberry pie inadequacy to Russ. He told me then that the beautiful perfectly clear and smooth glaze that had been used on that strawberry pie so long ago was a package from the store. All those years I’d been feeling so inadequate, and it turned out that she had just opened a package!

Squirreli-kazi

Ok, so they eat all of the birdfood. But they do provide a lot of entertainment too. This was from yesterday...


video

Monday, April 25, 2011

And So it Begins Again

Look what I got at Costco last week…

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

From our house to yours.

Hope you had an easier time getting a family picture than I did…

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finally…after I reminded him that he didn’t get any chocolate unless I got a decent family picture…

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and lastly, a picture to celebrate the last 24 years…(we started our honeymoon on Easter Sunday!)

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Friday, April 22, 2011

Segway!

Groupon has been really great to get our family doing some new things—things that we wouldn’t otherwise have tried. Without a doubt our very best groupon was for a segway tour in downtown Raleigh. To celebrate our 23rd anniversary last spring we went and spent the night near Raleigh. The next morning we went to the segway place.

First we had to learn to operate the segways. Russ had been on a one when he and Jason went to Puerto Rico, but I was a total novice. It was a pretty freaky feeling at first, but soon I was more comfortable starting, stopping, and turning by leaning to the front, back, or side.

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When everyone in the group was comfortable on the segways we left the store and rode through downtown Raleigh. Our destination was an historic neighborhood by downtown Raleigh. As we rode up and down the streets the tour director told us about the different houses we were passing. I love old houses and that was fascinating to me.

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The second part of the tour was some cemetery. That was exactly how I thought of it when I made the reservations, “some cemetery.” I couldn’t figure out why on earth anyone thought a cemetery would be an interesting place for a segway tour, but I soon learned.

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Some cemeteries are just a small plot of ground with a few graves. Some cemeteries are new-fangled and have only small flat markers so that they are easy to care for. The cemetery that we went to was neither of these—it was like a neighborhood, with streets and rolling hills and beautiful old trees and incredible monuments and markers. We were told that it had been built like this to be a place where people would want to come and visit. I could see that if we lived near we would do all of our walking there!

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Some of the highlights of this cemetery were looking at the amazing monuments, seeing a huge oak tree that had come down in the recent tornadoes, and seeing the graves of a couple of famous North Carolinians.

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I was the 2nd to last person in the tour line, and Russ was the last. What I only found out later was that the whole tour, when no guide was near him, he had been totally misbehaving on his segway. He would drop behind and then catch up really fast, turn in circles, and make all sorts of turns. I was so bummed…I would have misbehaved too!

I’m waiting for groupon to do another segway tour. Bu if they don’t we may just have to give in and pay full price to do another tour someday…it was that awesome!

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Ode to Spring

Spring has sprung,

The grass has riz,

I wonder what this green stuff is???

 

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Monday, April 18, 2011

FHE Charades

The other day I saw a website called “Peeps of Mormon” and I laughed so hard.  And decided that our next FHE activity must be peeps charades.  So tonight, after our spiritual lesson about the importance of the atonement, we made charades for our activity.  I’d kept it a secret and the kids were very excited to finally find out what we were doing. 

peeps

I introduced our activity with a charade of my own.  I’ll give you a hint: It’s from the Book of Mormon. 

April 2011 436 Josh just mostly ate his peeps, but everyone else had a great time making their charades. 

April 2011 437 (Ken was visiting for dinner & FHE because his family is in Utah.)

Here are some of the others we had.

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Can you figure them all out?  Page down a little bit and I’ll tell you the answers…

 

 

 

 

 

 

My first one was Nephi cutting off Laban’s head.  The ones in the group are:

  1. Daniel in the Lion’s den  (Rachel)
  2. Ammon cuts off the arms of the wicked Lamanites  (Jenna)
  3. Moroni & the title of liberty  (Ken)
  4. Nephi & Sam build a boat  (sorry the picture didn’t show their little peeps hammers better!)  (Jared)
  5. Animals gathering 2 by 2 to get on the ark  (Russ)
  6. Baby Jesus  (Ken)
  7. Coriantumr and Shiz fight at the end of Ether  (Josh)
  8. A Jaradite barge (complete with some peeps and a white rock!)  (me)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Say What?

I was going through some pictures and came across this from our beach trip in 2009.

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(translation for those not well-versed in reading kid spelling: Jenna says, "My life is a nightmare!”)

 

Huh?

I am so sad that I didn’t record this story somewhere.  I’m sure that I thought at the time that I would remember the details that prompted this moment of self expression, but sadly I do not.

So learn from my experience…write it down!

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Love Songs

I was dreaming of getting married when I woke; a dream bearing no resemblance to my own wedding, but instead an amalgam of people and places from my life since then. 

Later, remnants of the dream still lingering in my mind, I listened to a radio show counting down the top hits of the week.  Before playing the #1 song of the week the show’s host mentioned a list of songs that have been “wedding hits.”  Immediately the Lady Antebellum song “Need You Now,” which had been playing a few minutes before, popped into my mind.  It made me laugh to think of those lyrics being sung at a wedding:

It's a quarter after one
I'm a little drunk
And I need you now

 

Nothing like a little drunken neediness to say I love you, is there??

 

As I kept listening the host ran though the list of recent wedding hits.  Taylor Swift and “Love Story,” of course.  “You and Me” by Lighthouse.  Oddly enough, Edwin McCain’s “I’ll Be.”  I love this song, it is beautiful and nostalgic.  But what on earth does it mean??? 

I’ll be love’s suicide…

Just as glad not to have had that song at my wedding!  (Or any song, but that is a topic for another post…)

 

And then it was time for the #1 hit of the week, a new song by Train called “Marry Me,” predicted to be the #1 wedding song of 2011.  I first heard this song a few weeks ago, and was charmed by the lyrics.  As I listened to them again I thought that some of them are very true for me.  Sunday we will celebrate our 24th anniversary.  Two dozen years together, a number that I could not even fathom 24 years ago and yet has passed more quickly than I could ever have imagined.  So today I want to say

Forever can never be long enough for me
To feel like I've had long enough with you

Happy Anniversary Russ, and here’s to the rest of forever together!

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PS—you do look distinguished!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Homeschool Fun

I’m not very good at remembering to take pictures of our school day—much of what we do isn’t that interesting to see anyway. But recently the kids have had some fun and I’ve remembered to take pictures.

First, Russ got us to watch a National Geographic volcano special with him. Now I’m a total volcano lover (a lava lover, really) but this was the little kids’ first real exposure to volcanoes. They thought the movie was great, and as soon as it was done started planning how they could make their own volcanoes. Over the next couple of days they constructed their volcanoes out of wadded up paper and tape, then paper mache. At that point Jared seemed to run out of steam but the girls kept going and painted theirs, then added streaks of lava.

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Several days later we were ready for the explosion. As you can see, they also added a witness to the destruction.

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We were all pretty excited to see what would happen.

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It was totally awesome!

video

In the last week the girls have found a new fun game. They call it “Elegant Lunches,” and they’ve done it every day. Whatever they’re going to eat they serve in multiple courses, and they use our nicest glasses.

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Moments like these make me love homeschooling…

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

War is Hell

Josh just announced that today is the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War.

 

The little kids didn’t quite hear what he said so there was the inevitable round of questions establishing that he had not, in fact, said that today there were 150 civil wars, or anything like that.

 

And then Rachel asked, “How long did the civil war last?”

I replied, “About 6 years, I think.”


“What?!?!?  Did they just battle on endlessly???”

 

Uh…yeah…

And that’s why we call it a WAR

 

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Monday, April 11, 2011

Now THAT’s Fresh!

Earlier today…

Step 1:

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Step 2:

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Step 3:

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Yum!!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Making Decisions

I met a very bright young woman this evening who was here to visit Duke University. Over the course of our conversation she told me that she had also applied to BYU as well as some of the University of California schools.

It was clear that she was seriously considering attending Duke, despite the price tag of $250,000 for a 4 year undergraduate education. (At this point she is not eligible for financial aid, though that may change.) She has been offered some type of scholarship for the UC schools, but through a fluke, only a one year renewable scholarship at BYU.

I could tell that she felt "dissed" by BYU--that she had only been offered this 1 year scholarship, and that because of this feeling she had pretty much decided that she didn't want to go to BYU. I said, "So even though you could attend BYU for 4 years for the cost of one year at Duke, you still wouldn't do it?"

"No," she responded, "because I just don't feel like they value me enough when they only offer me a one year scholarship."

I thought about that for a minute. Then I said to her that it would probably be tricky for her to set aside her feelings about who had offered what in order to make a decision about which college was the best place for her.

She looked at me blankly, and I tried again.

"You know, trying to figure out what Heavenly Father's plan is for you without letting your feelings get in the way--either your irritated feelings because you weren't offered the scholarship you wanted, or your warm and fuzzy feelings where you were offered a scholarship."

Again, the blank look. So I gave up.


Afterward I wondered. Have I taught this principle to my children? Taught them that there are more important criteria in decision making than who has stroked their ego best? (Or least?) Are we modeling well enough that we try to make decisions based on the guidance of the spirit?


If not, I apologize to my kids, particularly my older ones. And I will increase my efforts with my younger ones.


Because I can't afford to send them (not even one of them) to Duke. And more importantly than that, I want them where the Lord wants them. And even more importantly than that, I want them to want that too...

Friday, April 8, 2011

Evolution (#1)

I’ve been noticing a lot of things evolving in my life lately. 

For instance, we used to have princesses.

 

teaparty

 

Now we have thugs…

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Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Puzzling Family Night Lesson

The other day I was listening to conference talks in the car.  As I was listening to the first part of President Uchtdorf’s talk from Sunday morning (which really will go down as one of my favorite conference sessions of all time, capped off by an amazing rendition of “The Spirit of God”!) an idea for a family night lesson sprang into my mind. 

President Uchtdorf talks about people who are unable to really believe in the Savior because they are waiting for a big experience that will confirm everything for them.  He uses the analogy of a puzzle to demonstrate how we are more likely to gain a testimony of the Savior.

We started our family night with a 100 piece jigsaw puzzle.  I had taken it out of it’s identifying box and poured the pieces out on the table.  We started trying to figure out how to put it together, which was harder without a picture to look at.  Pretty quickly they figured out it was a picture of a temple, but it still took some time to figure out which pieces went on the sides, on the top, etc. 

After we had the puzzle all put together I told them that President Uchdorf had talked about how we gain a testimony of Jesus.  I read this quote (which I typed from the audio, so it might not be word for word perfect):

The truth is those who diligently  seek Christ will eventually come to know him.  They will personally receive a divine portrait of the master.  Although it most often comes in the form of a puzzle.  One piece at a time.  Each individual piece may not be easily recognizable by itself; it may not be clear how it relates to the whole.  Each piece helps us to see the big picture a little more clearly.  Eventually after enough pieces have been put together we recognize the grand beauty of it all.  Then looking back on our experience we see that the Savior had indeed come to be with us, not all at once, but quietly, gently, almost unnoticed. 

I brought out a large picture of Jesus and explained that President Uchtdorf was saying that some people want to get a testimony that is a whole big perfect picture of the Savior.  But that it’s more likely like our puzzle, and that sometimes it takes a while to understand what the pieces mean or how they fit together, but if we are patient and trust Heavenly Father while we wait to understand more.  We talked about how we had had to be patient as we put our puzzle together so that we could figure out what it was and where everything went. I explained that this was exactly what President Uchtdorf was talking about, except that instead of real puzzle pieces he was talking about pieces of our testimonies.

I had printed out puzzle pages and I handed everyone one.

 

puzzle

I explained that we all have lots and lots of tiny pieces that make up our testimonies.  I told them that one small piece of my testimony comes from the ocean; that when I see how beautiful it is, I know that Jesus must truly love us to have created it for us.  Then I asked everyone to think of some of the pieces of their testimonies and write them down on the puzzle pieces on the picture.  It was a little abstract for the little kids, but I was really amazed (and touched!) to see what Josh had written.

Then we ate treats (and the kids wished I had made plain chocolate chip cookies instead) and sent everyone to bed.  It was a good family night!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

I Can’t Tell You How Happy This Headline Made Me

How’s this for a headline: Bad Girls Are So 2008: Hollywood Embraces the Goody Two Shoes Brigade.  (Oh my, that almost went terribly wrong there.  I almost linked you to a page of April Fools treats!  Good thing I caught it before I had you totally confused!)

The accompanying article made my day as it detailed how out of favor (financially and emotionally) all of the “bad-girl” stars are, then listed the new female stars and detailed their good behavior.  (Now I know “good behavior” is a relative term, but after Lindsay Lohan we’re happy to any improvement!)

It even described how Miley Cyrus, who has been working in the last year or two to get rid of her good girl image, has toned down her behavior as her popularity scores have decreased. 

 

All I can say is whew, it’s about time. 

 

Now if Abercrombie & Fitch will stop trying to sell sexy clothes to little girls  I’ll have nothing left to wish for.  Besides world peace and a permanent beach vacation, that is…

 

If you’re interested in reading more about the pressures in our society pushing our little girls to grow up too quickly, I thought this blog post made some excellent points.

 

As for me & my house, we’re going to continue to let kids be kids…

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

While We’re Talking About Food: Power Foods

Another book I read recently was called “Power Foods: 150 delicious recipes with the 38 healthiest ingredients.”

 power foods

I wasn’t too sure I wanted to use the recipes—they were a bit too exotic for my family’s taste to a large degree.  (Sorry, can’t remember any specific examples.)  But what I really wanted was to know what 38 foods were considered the healthiest—what foods I should focus on increasing in our diet.  Here’s what I learned:

 

Vegetables –-Once  again, veggies reign supreme.  Everyone who is anyone in nutrition is advising to eat a wide variety, and to eat them often.  Here are their top recommendations:

  • Artichoke
  • Asparagus
  • Avocado
  • Beets
  • Bell Peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Carrots
  • Kale
  • Mushrooms
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Swiss Chard
  • Tomatoes
  • Winter Squash  (Winter Squash and not Zucchini or Yellow Squash?  So sad!)

Fruit—I was pleased to see that a nice number of fruits are considered very nutritious, although obviously they’re not thinking that an apple a day will keep the doctor away.  Perhaps I need to figure out how to eat Papayas!

  • Apricots
  • Berries
  • Citrus
  • Kiwifruit
  • Papayas
  • Pears

Grains, Dried Beans, Legumes, and Nuts—How’s that for a broad catagory?

  • Brown Rice
  • Oats
  • Quinoa
  • Dried Beans
  • Green Peas
  • Edamame
  • Almonds
  • Pecans
  • Pistachios
  • Walnuts
  • Flaxseed
  • Pumpkin Seeds

Dairy & Fish—(yeah, you know this category thrilled me.)

  • Eggs  (this bodes well for me, since I currently eat two eggs every morning, whether I want to or not!)
  • Yogurt  (not the super sweet stuff, darn it, but greek yogurt gets high marks.)
  • Sablefish  (I somehow think not…)
  • Rainbow Trout  (If I can get it I actually like this.)
  • Wild Alaskan Salmon  (Also do-able…)

 

So there you have it—a listing of foods to think about adding to or increasing in your diet.  I don’t know about you, but it helps me to know what we’re aiming for.

 

PS—Lindsay wanted to know why I don’t trust fish.  The advice you hear is just so conflicting.  Wild fish is overfished.  Farmed fish are polluted.  Some wild fish aren’t so overfished.  Avoid fish with mercury.  Some wild fish aren’t polluted with mercury.  Just eat the sardines…

Thoughts on Real Food

 

RealFoodNinaPlanck

I recently sort of finished reading the book “Real Food” by Nina Planck.  Like “In Defense of Food,” it made me want to do a better job of getting more veggies into our diets.  Here are some other things I decided because of reading this:

Try sautéing in 1/2 butter, 1/2 olive oil. 

Maybe take some fish oil pills.  (Between the $$ factor and the fact that I don’t like fish that much and don’t trust fish that much either, I think I should just take some good fish oil!  And keep praying that I start craving canned sardines, which apparently are totally nutritious.)

Buy some coconut oil and keep eating butter.  Experiment with other oils (used cold); walnut, black currant, borage, evening primrose, pine nut.  Think about eating chicken skin.  Figure out a way to cook it so that I can think about eating it.

Keep using unrefined sea salt and eat more dark chocolate!

 

So there you have it, in a nutshell.  Eat some fat!

Monday, April 4, 2011

I’ve Trained them Well

They know that whatever happens, one should grab the camera.

See a cute squirrel?

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Beautiful sunset?

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Cat breaks into the screened in porch again to sleep on the soft chairs?

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Dead mouse?

That too…

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yay.