Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What's In Your Milk?

Recently I was made aware of the presence of artificial growth hormones in much of America's milk. Thanks to friends who post interesting links and articles on Facebook, I found out something that most of you probably already knew: large dairy producers give chemicals to their milk cows that make them produce more milk. These chemical hormones, however are not good for the cows. And they're not good for us milk-drinkers.

A friend shared with me a list of 100 major dairy producers in the USA that do NOT use growth hormone in their products. Here's a link to that list. Now, some of the dairies are completely hormone-free; others are partially hormone-free.

The hormone used, called rBGH or rBST, is prohibited in Canada and all the countries of the European Union. Why does the FDA allow its use in America? More important, who was in charge of the FDA when this hormone-use was approved? Michael Taylor -- who before this post worked for Monsanto's legal arm, and after this post returned to Monsanto as a VP and lobbyist. Yes, THAT Monsanto -- the food giant that controls so much of what we eat, and makes a mint doing so.

If you want more about this topic, here's an article. I can hardly BELIEVE I'm linking to an article from the Huffington Post, but credit where credit is due.

So, you know me -- I've started looking for products in my stores, from dairies on that list. I was happy to find that the ice cream we normally buy at WalMart is made by Dean Foods. However, Dean is only "partially-hormone free." Wish I knew about the actual ice cream we're eating this week!

But what about milk? I was pleased to discover that the store-brand milk at both Food Lion and WalMart has this notice, right on the label: "Our farmers have pledged to not treat any of their cows with any artificial growth hormones." YAY!!!

The label continues: "According to the FDA, no significant difference has been shown between milk derived from rBST treated and non-rBST treated cows."

Yeah. Thanks, Mr. Taylor for that consideration of my health. Ha.

But ... I haven't been buying my milk at WalMart or Food Lion. I've been buying my milk at Aldi, and saving about 7¢ a gallon. That's 28¢ a week. $14.56 per year. Sidewalk change, considering that rBGH & rBST can cause breast and prostrate cancer.

I asked at Aldi, because some Aldi stores do post on their milk coolers that their milk is hormone-free, but not our local Aldi. Our Aldi gets their milk from Maola Milk, which is on that lovely list as Maryland/Virginia Milk Co-op. Partially hormone-free.

Sorry Aldi. Food Lion and WalMart sell milk that IS hormone-free. Bummer. And since I won't be buying my 4 gallons each week at Aldi anymore, it's almost not worth it to drive to their store for the other things I've been buying there.

Seriously, friends, I'm tired of these food producers thinking ONLY of their bottom lines, and NEVER of our health. I understand they must make good profits, BUT -- within reason. And that means they must take into account the health of their consumers.

Honestly, I'd prefer good, clean raw milk, but I don't have ANYWHERE locally to get it. And the gov't scares raw milk producers to death with threats of lawsuits and jailtime, so they're afraid to advertise it.

It's time for ordinary grocery shoppers like you and me to communicate effectively to our food providers that we want food that is good and healthy for us and our families. This is not unreasonable. So, go check. What's in your milk?

A Quiet Life

Now that school has started and we are settling in, we're all reading more. Adam's laptop died (he contests that he will NEVER AGAIN buy a cheap PC machine, and will wait until he can afford an Apple again), so even he is back to pen and paper. Here's a little picture of some of our reading:
You can see that we're delving into Medieval. From "Beowulf," the girls sprung naturally into "The Lord of the Rings." I had them watch portions of the movies, so they could get a visual impression of what a mead hall might look like. They watched the movies, and then wanted to dive back into the books. Anna finished "The Hobbit," and now they're both reading "Fellowship" again. I'm reading Bede; Adam is doing Holmes.

And summer drags on. I know some people adore summer and its warmth, but I find it only exhausting and endless, especially in the South. We plan for tomatoes early in the season, but by the time they arrive, I'm tired of the heat and don't want to be in the garden. I planted these heirloom Brandywines right by the back door. They've thrived, but they are all bush and no fruit. I heard on Sunday that some people PRUNE their tomatoes, and perhaps that would have helped.
After the pool died and was hauled away by the trash men, my boys put together our patio and fire ring, probably permanently. It reminds me of autumn and marshmallow-roasting and sweater-wearing. I find the orderly look of the pavers to be appealing. Summer seems to descend into chaos somehow, a life without order or schedule, the weeds winding and climbing and overtaking. I long for a good, hard frost to beat back the mosquitoes and freshen the air.
In spite of the number of plants we put in, we haven't had a large crop of tomatoes yet. Still, they're beautiful, and I've enjoyed a few BLTs so far.
The garden. I hesitate to show this horror of weeds, but that's exactly what happened to it. However, I must say there's not much in there. The tomatoes are separate. Honestly, there's only potatoes buried in among the weeds, and 3 watermelon plants that didn't do anything. I imagine the next excitement in the garden will be the hummm of a lawn mower.
You see, life is messy and broken. And in spite of the fun and glamor portrayed on many blogs, the truth is that under the order and quiet of our lives, we feel discouragement, despair, even desperation. I did find one beautiful "Mortgage Lifter" tomato (ha! That's an irony!) in the garden today. When I turned it over?
I'll slice off that damaged part and enjoy the good fruit. But I'd better do it today, before the entire fruit is rotted from that hole. Thus I examine the dark underside of my life, and acknowledge it, but I don't give it rein in my life. Cut it away, and relish what is good.

Friday, August 27, 2010

From the Apple Trees

We have two apple trees in the backyard. It's taken a few years of marginal care and some pruning, but this year we really got some big apples from them. The yard is damp, and the apples look none too pretty, but Anna decided to scrub them up today, after Adam and Julia picked them from the trees yesterday on a ladder.
They cleaned up rather well. We had about twice as many as you see here.
I asked Anna, since she did all the muscle work, what kind of applish food she'd prefer. She declined apple sauce or cider, but perked up at the mention of apple crisp. This is my mother's recipe. I ate it happily SO MANY times as a child.
Apple Crisp:
(This version is doubled from the original.)

8 apples, cored and sliced
2 Tbl lemon juice
1 cup flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
handful of oats, if you like
1 stick butter

Slice apples into a large casserole. Mine was rather shallow, which I like.
Mix all dry ingredients with a fork. Add soft butter and mix well.
Pack this mixture on top of the apples.
Bake for one hour at 375. The house will smell lovely.
Adam says we must go buy some vanilla ice cream before he's willing to eat any. He'd better hurry; I think it's already half gone!

And since the girls really enjoyed their part in this apple adventure, I'm linking this post to Moriah's "Fun Mom Friday."


We may be moving again soon. And considering the way God has worked in our lives thus far, it wouldn’t be surprising. We’ve moved 14 times in 21 years of marriage. We’ve lived in Mississippi, Iowa, Massachusetts, Alabama, and North Carolina several times. And we always hate it. No one likes to be uprooted.

I used to worry about the children, how they would adjust to so much upheaval, so much losing of things. My children are introverts; how often will they readily make new friends, if they fear losing them again? I always longed as a child to have ONE PLACE to which I belonged – that sense of rootedness that I envied in other children who never moved. I hated for my kids to grow up with that same hole in the middle of their hearts, an empty spot that should be called “home.”

And then along came Facebook. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking – that time-sucking, mind-numbing website. But Facebook reminded me of how many friends I have, in how many places. I carry on conversations with Annie and BethAnn and Tammy and Beth and Carolyn – friends who don’t know each other, but I know them, from all the different places I’ve lived. What variety!

So God gave me a gift by uprooting me, again and again. Moving makes friends.

I’ve been anticipating this next move for a while. Back in January I bought six rosemary bushes at Lowes' after-Christmas sale. They were trimmed to look like little Christmas trees. I brought them home, kept them inside by a window, watered them faithfully, and sometime in the spring, put them in the ground. I now have a nice rosemary hedge shooting up along the edge of my patio. (That's them in the photo above.)

But two of the plants, I put in pots. I didn’t put them in the ground, because I wanted to be able to take them with me when we move. I LOVE rosemary. When you walk by it, if you gently pull your fingers up along a branch, the scent lingers in your hand. When you water it, the scent fills the air. They’re hardy and perennial. They grow large and strong. And rosemary is so delicious in chicken! I couldn’t bear to buy them, tend them, and then leave them all behind.

The rosemary in the pots is doing well, tall and healthy. I’ve rooted it in transferable soil, prepared it from the beginning for a move. God is our gardener; he knows we are plants that need to be moveable. We should plant our hearts in soil, in pots, that will move easily. It’s too easy to sink our souls’ toes into the local soil, so that God has to uproot us painfully when it’s time to leave. We cling even to good things: our dear church, our best friends, our perfect house, that wonderful school, our favorite activities. But they are still just soil, and we should be careful about our rootedness in them. Where are we rooted? Our souls are rooted forever in God; he is our “pot,” and in him we can move anywhere. For children, family should be the soil into which they’re planted. Christian parents should foster family attachments primarily, so that a family move still gives children security. If they’re attached to other things more than family, the move will be painful. And we parents should be sunk so deeply into the soil of our marriages, that when we move, we always take our best friends.

I’m taking my rosemaries with me. I hope they will be a daily reminder of my place in God’s garden. He’s moving me around to waft the scent of his love in many places, until he plants me deeply in the soil of heaven.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Romas, Latin & Bread

Goodness! It's been a while, hasn't it? We drove to Chattanooga to take Philip back to college, and started school here as well, so it's been a busy week.

Today, however, I decided to do SOMETHING with the roma tomatoes dangling on the vine in the backyard. I decided to cook some red sauce:
At first, I was going to can the tomatoes, but there honestly weren't enough to go to the bother of canning. Then I decided to cook a meatless sauce. I added: onions, garlic powder, a big chunk of yellow pepper, salt, pepper, Worc. sauce, and the following from my herb garden: rosemary, sage, oregano, basil. Here's hoping all those flavors meld nicely and behave themselves :) I did remove the herbs & yellow pepper after they'd simmered in there a while.

School's started, and that means Julia is enjoying her favorite class again: Latin with Daddy!
And it was bread day.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Rose Hip Preparation

Remember the rose hips? I've dried them. Here are a few. They look hard and very dry, but actually the skins are still moist.
Julia and I split them open with a knife and removed the seeds.
And we scraped out the insides until they were clean.
The seeds really pack the inside. Isn't it amazing and exciting that ONE rugosa rose bush will have 25 rose hips, and each hip will be chock full of seeds? God designs his creation for LIFE, doesn't he?
Julia said, "That looks fun!" So she helped.
Here are our finished rose hip skins. They look like miniature orange peelings. These will dry fully, and then I'll steep them in water to make Rose Hip Tea. Here's a website with recipes.
Julia took the seeds and planted some of them in pots outside. I wonder if they'll come up?

I'm linking this post to Moriah's "Fun Mom Friday" theme. Go on over and check out the fun things she and other moms are doing this week with their kids.

Fried Chicken Delight

Last night, Adam offered to make fried chicken -- um, make that buttermilk-double-dipped fried chicken. I think the double dipping was a bit of a pain for him. But this chicken had the BEST after-dinner taste EVER. I didn't brush my teeth. I sat on the couch and savored the zippy, yummy flavor in my mouth for about an hour.
Here's the dipped chicken:
Frying it up:
Served with some garden-fresh tomatoes:
Anna looking cute in an apron:
Julia ALMOST avoided having her picture taken:
The chef. I made that apron!
Peter is at the beach with friends and missed the chicken. Philip was sick last night, so he had his supper brought to him on a tray.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

At Julia's Request:

I made sopapillas for breakfast. Or, considering our sleep patterns these days, they might be called brunch.
Use any biscuit recipe you like, because that's basically what this is: flour, b.p. salt, cut in shortening/butter/lard, and add milk. Sounds like biscuits to me! As you work it lightly, fold it over numerous times to add loft. You should roll it out rather thin then, if you want them to be light as air, which mine weren't quite, this morning.
I used peanut oil for frying. They fry up very quickly. And for some of you who are TERRIFIED of fried foods, if I weighed the amount of peanut oil I started with, and the amount I ended up with afterward, I really don't think there's much actual oil IN the sopapillas (Okay, let's just go ahead and call them donuts. Or fried biscuits.) Just sayin' -- because they were IN some blazing hot oil for 30 seconds doesn't mean they're oily.

Drain them on a rack, so they don't sit in their oil either. Sprinkle with conf. sugar & cinnamon.
Add a drizzle of honey. Mmm. Mmm. Mmm.
Anna approved.
And Julia said she loves me :)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Product Post #7: Shovels

Boy, have we run through some shovels! A shovel in our family generally lasts 1 to 2 years. Hey -- we do a lot of digging! Rocks, bushes, unlevel terrain -- our yard has needed a lot of work. Southern red clay is HEAVY.

So, our fiberglass handle from Southern States? It lasted one year. Sheesh. But it was cheap -- about $20. It's hard to find a shovel for less than that. And Adam priced a nice wooden-handled shovel. At WalMart, one with a pine (as in, CHEAP) handle was $39. Sigh. He wanted a decent one with a hickory handle.

And then he went to: SEARS! You know, one of those stores in the mall that nobody shops at anymore? Well, let me tell you! It's heavy duty. It has an ash handle (better than hickory!) And it's a Craftsman. Can you say Lifetime Warranty? Oh yeah! And, um, did I mention that it cost only $19.99?
There's the warranty writing, right there. And on the back of the receipt too. If this shovel ever breaks (if? ha!!), we just return it to ANY store, nationwide, that sells Craftsman tools, and it's replaced immediately. Just. Like. That.
See? Heavy Duty! (Philip is out there digging the fire pit as we speak.) See the little round logo? It says, "Forever." Music to my ears!
Now I will go tape the Sears receipt to my vanity mirror where I can find it when needed. No more shovel worries! Take THAT, WalMart!

That Late-August Feeling

I am feeling so blah, and I'm blaming it on the weather. Because the weather can't argue, can it? As I said, our pool died. Here is its vacant spot, soon to become a fire pit. I have missed the serenity of cooling off from the HEAT in some water.
This summer was so dry for about a month, and has been so incredibly hot lately, that many trees already have turning and falling leaves. Here is one in our neighbors' yard.
The dryness killed a few plants. This azalea is half-alive, half-dead. It's in the double row of azaleas along our front walk. What to do? Dig it out? Cut it back? Hope for resurrection?
I have 2 potted chrysanthemums that come back year after year -- very large. This year they got zapped. I'm hoping that little bit of green indicates that there is still life in the roots, but there will be no large balls of purple this fall.
And so many things are just dry and weary, like me. My hydrangeas gave it their all this year. They are spent.

The sedum, however, seems to have endured.
This bed was so weedy. I loathe working in the heat, and I do not like yard work in general -- I know, a bad combination! Finally, yesterday morning, I attacked it and yanked out ALL WEEDS. I don't know that it looks much better, but I feel victorious.
This bed, however, remains in desperate need of help. There are hostas there (two of which never really took off this year as they did other years), and an astilbe that was swallowed up sometime last month.
The magnificent rugosa rose. She is tired, tired, tired. This is exactly how I feel, as if I'm hanging on with my fingernails.

Ever since we returned from Mississippi and have heard nothing from them about the job, I've become more and more discouraged. It doesn't seem to matter much if it's logical. I blame it on hormones, or on the weather, or whatever else I can scrounge up, but the fact is, long-term under-employment is discouraging and causes gradual despair. It sneaks up on you, and it doesn't take much to lay you low. And as those of you know who go through regular trials, it comes and goes. I imagine my late-August feeling of dried-out, worn-out weariness will pass inexplicably at some point. It usually does. But I do need the refreshing rain of God's blessings to fall on me. "Showers of blessings," the hymn says. Little drops of daily mercies are nice, but sometimes in life we need showers.

Friday, August 13, 2010

I am SO lethargic today. Honestly, I could have just stayed in bed and slept, on and off, all day. As I lay like a slug on the couch, I felt lazy, and guilty. I thought of all those teachers out there, getting back into the daily grind of the classroom, while I lay here, at home, gazing blithely at the ceiling. Why was I so tired?

After a nice nap, I remembered what I'd done this summer. Retrieved a son from college, taken a daughter to the mountains to work for the summer, had quite a bit of company (including my s-i-l and her 6 kids for a week), took 2 kids to camp, drove to W.Va. twice, went to Music Conference for a week, and drove to Mississippi for Adam's job interview. Then I collapsed. I think maybe I deserve a little break.

We're waiting to hear back from the church in Mississippi where Adam candidated. It's hard to wait. I felt extremely encouraged while we were there, and for a few days afterword, but our employment situation has been discouraging for SO long that, unless I'm given very frequent good news, I quickly become disheartened. I'm tired of waiting for good news.

Our pool died. It's served us well for 4 summers, although last summer was honestly too cool to swim as much as we like to (every day), and this summer's crazy weather wasn't much better. Hopefully we'll get another Easy Set pool next summer; it's been a good investment. It's sad, though, that our swimming is over for the summer, because the hot weather certainly is NOT over. Upper 90s today - ugh!

In spite of my doldrums of spirit, I made bread, went shopping, went to church & choir practice, did laundry, vacuumed and made dinner in the past 3 days. Not too bad. Oh, and I wrote a short story and 2 essays, but those things come popping out of my head whether I like it or not.

So, if I don't post tomorrow, you'll know I just stayed in bed.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

What I ate today:

I went outside yesterday, in 98 degree heat, so today I stayed home. For breakfast, I had homemade, toasted zucchini bread with butter. This from a dear lady at church.

For lunch:
Those are our tomatoes. And when tomatoes are in the garden, a BLT is calling my name!!
This afternoon, I felt a terrible need for a cold, creamy drink. I began looking through my wall pictures on facebook. (For you facebookers out there, that will tell you how bored I was today.) I found a picture from vacation of a glass of iced coffee with scoops of chocolate ice cream. Adam obliged and made some.

For supper, he made a baked chicken. He stuffed it with onion, garlic, basil, rosemary & a whole lime. He rubbed it with butter and sea salt. The skin was exceedingly yummy.
He also made some Spanish gazpacho today, a first. We heard the recipe for this cold soup while driving back from Mississippi, on The Splendid Table.

It was a good food day!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Oh, WalMart, why we hate thee!

We went grocery shopping at WalMart today. We go weekly. Now, ever since I started this real food/ slow food thing, I notice what's on the shelves. So, imagine my joy when I saw this product on the tomato aisle, for the FIRST TIME today!
Now, I've had these tomatoes before; I bought them at a junky store nearby with dinged and dented stuff. Love the organic. Love the fire-roasted. And lookie!! A coupon! For $1.00 off! So, I snatched up 2 cans, so I could use that coupon (handily, right on the back), and made my way to the check-out.

That's where my joy ran out.
I pulled the coupon off, and glanced at it as I stood in line.

It expired in May. Hmmph.

They put the product on the shelf for the first time in August, with a flashy coupon to lure you in, that expired 3 months ago. Hmmph and Grrr.

The lady at the check-out, seeing my grumpiness, offered to go ask her supervisor. She returned with the supervisor, who frowned at me, said, "Sorry," but "I just can't give you that $1 b/c the coupon is expired."

Yeah. I knew that.

"But, you put the product on the shelf with the coupon on it," I said. "If you didn't want me to use the coupon, you shouldn't have put it on the shelf." I think at this point I was inadvertently using my teacher voice (calm, authoritative, articulate). She said, "Just a minute," and went to appeal to the THIRD LEVEL OF USELESS BUREAUCRACY that is your local WalMart. While this uber-efficient, massive national institution flexed its laughable efficiency muscles at us, two customers waited behind me in the line. I apologized to them. I was glad to have husbandly support.

The supervisor's supervisor came then, and instructed the lowly check-out lady to give me the $1 they'd already advertised to me on their shelves. The check-out lady, smart one that she is, asked the other one to initial the coupon herself. Can you say Nervous Employee?

Then we all apologized to each other, and I took my tomatoes and left.

Adam's evaluation on the scene reminded him of a chef/restaurant owner he worked for once who practiced "exchanging nickels for dollars." All this meant was that he regularly gave his customers little things that were meaningful to them, but cost him little, and made him a Restaurant Hero in their eyes. And they returned, over and over.

The reason we all hate WalMart is because they are stupid enough to think that beating one customer over the head with such bad treatment is worth it to them. In the long run, it won't be. Adam reminded me just yesterday that when we moved to Jackson, MS as children, there was no WalMart. When I left for college, there was no WalMart. Even when I was 30, there was no SuperWalMart. WalMart used to be trendy; now we all know it's the icky place to shop, and you only go there b/c you save money. Nobody goes there because it's fun. Bad customer service is one of the first nails in its coffin.

WalMart should empower their checkers to give a $1 coupon that is on THEIR product, on THEIR shelves. It shouldn't take 2 supervisors. And I should never, ever have a supervisor tell me that a coupon that appeared on their shelves this past week, will not be honored. Ever.


Oh, and one more thing. I just shared this blog post with my friends on Facebook. All 442 of them.