Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Rethinking Agave

In the past I spoke about my use of Agave Nectar as a more economical substitute for maple syrup, when prices for that skyrocketed last spring.  Thankfully, prices lowered back down to their regularly-expensive level, because I've been seeing some information about agave that makes me seriously re-think my use of it.
If you knew the truth about what’s really in it, you’d be dumping it down the drain -- and that would certainly be bad for sales.
Agave "nectar" or agave "syrup" is nothing more than a laboratory-generated super-condensed fructose syrup, devoid of virtually all nutrient value, offering you metabolic misfortune.

Unfortunately, masterful marketing has resulted in the astronomical popularity of agave syrup among people who believe they are doing their health a favor by avoiding refined sugars like high fructose corn syrup, and dangerous artificial sweeteners.
And if you’re diabetic, you’ve been especially targeted and told this is simply the best thing for you since locally grown organic lettuce, that it’s "diabetic friendly," has a "low glycemic index" and doesn’t spike your blood sugar.
While agave syrup does have a low-glycemic index, so does antifreeze -- that doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Agave syrup has the highest fructose content of any commercial sweetener -- ranging from 70 to 97 percent, depending on the brand, which is FAR HIGHER than high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which averages 55 percent.
This makes agave actually WORSE than HFCS.
The process by which agave starch and inulin are converted into "nectar" is VERY similar to the process by which cornstarch is converted into HFCS1.
The agave starch is converted into fructose-rich syrup using genetically modified enzymes and a chemically intensive process involving caustic acids, clarifiers, and filtration chemicals[ii]. Here is a partial list of the chemicals involved:
  • Activated charcoal
  • Cationic and ionic resins
  • Sulfuric and/or hydrofluoric acid
  • Dicalite
  • Clarimex
  • Inulin enzymes
  • Fructozyme
How natural does this sound?
The result is highly refined fructose syrup, along with some remaining inulin.
There is more at the link.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Weather Or Not

It's springtime, I think.  I mean, sometimes.

Several weeks ago I was feeling sorry for myself.  Seems like I know a lot of people who get to "get away."  Some extended family members took a weekend of shopping and a women's conference in the City, and some old friends were posting about their getaways on Facebook.  Nothing extravagant, just moms taking some breathing time, almost-moms visiting a sister in Warmer Places, or a Grandma taking her daughters/daughters-in-law for some girl time without the kids.  I remembered how last Spring my brother and his family met my folks in Key West for... coconuts and sand, I guess.  Lately my "getaway" is hauling half the kids or less to Town for grocery shopping after an already-full day, and returning, extra-exhausted to the dinner mess (which would await the next day, usually).  Sigh.  Poor me.

Then my dad called me up.  "Hey, Mom and I are going to come visit at the end of March."

"Oh yay!  Can't wait!"  I wonder if he and Hubby would let Mom and me take an afternoon, and...

"Yeah, there's a photography school/class/convention thing in the City a couple hours from you and we'll drop the kids (boy 3, girl 8) with you for a couple days."

"....  ....   Oh.  Wow.  Really?  Hm.  Don't you want to phrase that more like a request?" [My dad half-jokingly-not-really makes requests that way]

"Well, that's what I was doing."

"Hm, let me think about it, ok, and talk it over with Hubby."

And then I cried.

That might seem really silly, but this was early in my exercising and before I added a B Vitamin to my day, and I already felt like my most wasn't near enough.  I couldn't carry baby in her carrier more than 5 steps still.  AND I was already feeling deprived of Everyone Else's Joys.

Dad's plan was to fly to the very-nearby airport (airstrip?), his first cross-several-mountain-ranges flight, and commute to the City for the weekend the same way.  I drove a hard bargain [read: begged Mom] and got them to promise to return at night, as bedtimes with my own were already a heavy task.  Adding different kids with different routines into a different house and family was more than I could agree to take on.  Dad agreed, despite his earlier plan of staying in the City for Mom's birthday.  I won't tell you how he recommended spending my evenings in the hallway, nursing Baby if (if?!?) necessary, to ensure The Boy didn't decide to get crazy with the sewing stuff instead of sleep.  No, I won't.  That might make him look bad.  Worse than a sewing/guest room at the hands of a toddler wielding a rotary cutter.  *shudder*

So this week started with some pretty crummy weather - which is the point of this post, isn't it? - lots of wind, not good flying weather.  But Wednesday promised to be better, and, we hoped, would Thursday, the day they planned to come.  Wednesday was out, as the kids had a visit with their mom that evening.

The beautiful weather wasn't amenable to sticking around, though, and Thursday I got a call from my dad stating they were "on the road" and would be here around bedtime (instead of lunchtime).  OH I'm so glad I had the kids thinking their cousins would be here Friday!  Imagine the disappointment, the longing, the waiting, the bouncing-off-walls, and chores and schoolwork but a distant priority! :)  That day was full of gray skies, winds at 20 (gusting to 30 - that's the clincher he can't yet fly in), and COLD!

Friday dawned brighter but no less windy, and probably colder.  Mom and I filled every spot in my 8-passenger Sienna and headed into town for a used curriculum sale.  That and shopping for girls' dresses (Mom and Dad celebrate 25 years in May, with a big to-do), plus lunch and fitting rooms and nursing Baby and diapers and craziness TRULY about wiped me out.  SHE got to go lay down when we got home, and *I* got to make dinner.  Perhaps I'll be forgiven for making her make her own wheatless (girl cousin can't do wheat) birthday cheesecake (ok, I had to draw the line there too.  I might be able to keep six children alive and well for a day, but probably not if I have to make cheesecake!).  Especially since their road-commute effectively added four hours to each day of kid-watching.

The weather turned again, this time definitely in my favor.  Today has been bright and near enough to 60  degrees (with only slight wind!) that the children have all been outdoors much of the day.  It's been surprisingly mellow.  The weather gets credit for much of this [read: the Lord of the Weather]. Thank you Lord!

I realize writing this down and claiming it runs the very real risk of setting it all askew, inviting disaster, and all of that.  But if nothing else, I might enjoy returning to the joyous memory that this day has provided thus far.  Especially if Things Happen to make it seem unlikely. :)

The next question will be:  To take or not to take... six children to church.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Because I Need It

From a pastor friend... Timely words, that I really need to embrace right now...

Psalm 131:1-3  A Song of Ascents. Of David.

O LORD, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forevermore.

God has been teaching many that the reposturing and quieting of our heart is essential to being able to receive more of what the Lord has for us.   In the midst of chaos God is teaching us how to quiet and compose our heart so that in that place of peace we might receive His word clearly and directly from Him. 

Over the last several days I have been relearning this lesson again and again.  It seems some event comes into our lives that causes us trouble and we have a decision to make at that point.  We can either panic or we can compose our soul and see what the Lord has to say. 

At some point last week [my wife] and I were facing what we thought was a major issue and we started scrambling for answers but there just was no where to turn.  I prayed, “Lord what do we do?”  It was like he shrugged his shoulders and said “Eh, it isn’t that bad.”  Then he gave us some suggestions for facing the crisis.  We did what He said, and in a couple of days an amazing deliverance manifested in our lives.  That was a huge breakthrough on two fronts.  The first breakthrough happened internally when we stopped panicking  and actually came to a place of faith and peace.  Then the deliverance manifested outwardly and it was almost anti-climatic.    

People of God, there are a number of huge crises looming before us.  This weekend the U.S. Congress is poised to pass a Health Care Bill that is unprecedented not only in its far reaching impact on this nation’s march toward socialism but also in its demoralizing influence and undermining of all faith in our system of government.  There is an enormous amount of shouting going on.  People are screaming for the train to stop.  But no one is listening. 

Perhaps it is time for the Church to stop screaming and start listening.  In the midst of enormous fear and panic, the Spirit of God is brooding.  The enemy may be busy, but God is always miles ahead of Him.  The enemy cannot ambush God.  He always sees him coming.  On the contrary, God is preparing to ambush the enemy.  Something much bigger is taking place at this hour than what is going on in Congress and the White House.  There is a divine strategy being unfolded in the Heavenlies.  Let us pray that we do not miss it. 

Quiet and compose your heart.  “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches.”  

Grace and Peace,

emphasis mine

Quiet, Soul.  Quiet, Heart.  I need to listen...

Tips and Tricks

I NEVER have tips and tricks on here.  At least, not terribly useful ones.  There's not a lot of people in the market to transform their water heater into a turkey fryer or something.  But the times, they are a-changin'!  I've figured out a couple things that I HAVEN'T yet read on some helpful blog, and I'm feeling all proud of myself, so I'm going to post about it here.

1 - Yogurt can't really go bad.  Of course, I'm talking about new yogurt that hasn't been opened or exposed to any alien bacteria or mold spore, and I'm talking about REAL yogurt, the kind that doesn't come with dyes and corn syrup.  To illustrate:  About a month ago (that would be February) I went out to the garage fridge to grab some yogurt for a recipe (I mostly use it that way), probably soaked-waffles or something.  Now, I keep watch on the weird-food cooler at the grocery store, and when they put the organic/natural stuff on clearance with a bright orange tag, then I often consider buying it.  I keep in decent yogurt this way.  Well, in the back of the fridge I found a rather larger tub of yogurt, with a December expiration date.  I brought it in the house, opened it up, and used some, putting the remainder in the fridge indoors.  Now, some people might freak out at the whole December date being used in February.  It's routine around here, however, and I've never had a problem with it (I am careful to keep the lid untouched, etc, especially if I don't use the entire thing in a few days).  It gets better though.  Or worse, depending on your perspective.  As I thought about it, I knew it had been a long time since I'd bought yogurt in that large a container.  That yogurt was NOT from December 2009.  Wow.  It had lived quite happily (and safely) in my garage fridge (which is obviously used less and stays at a more consistent temperature) for fourteen months.  And we're still here to tell the tale. :)

2 - Olives are expensive.  Ha ha, I know that's  not much of a tip.  But I'm saving the tip for the appropriate moment.  Olives are about $1 can (6oz dry weight), for whole olives, even at Costco.  We like olives in a lot of things; tacos, chef salad, pasta salads, nachos, pizza...  Open up a can each time (spend a dollar), and even if there are a few more than you need, they'll be eaten.  Even if that's once or twice a week, it really adds to your grocery bill, and it's not like you can grow your own (around here)!  I decided the big giant can of sliced olives at Costco was a better buy (about $7 for 55 oz dry weight, saving over $2 for the same in smaller cans).  When I opened it, I'd use it to make (and freeze) a few pizzas, use it the next day for taco salad, whatever.  Still, the jar I put into the fridge would sometimes start to go bad before I'd used them all up, undoing the savings.  So I did an experiment.  After using a bunch, I put a smaller jar of leftovers in the fridge (swimming in brine, if possible), and put another jar into the freezer (make sure these have enough brine to cover).  I waited a couple weeks, and then removed the jar, letting it defrost about a day on the counter.  You know what?  They were fine.  We used them in salads, on pizzas, as usual, with little, if any, noticeable difference in taste or texture.  Hooray!  AND now I don't have to spend time slicing olives (since that's how I used them mostly anyway).  Now, I don't know how this would work with whole olives, or green, or other fancy kinds.  These were standard Black Pearls.

3 - Don't use cookie cutters.  Ok, this definitely needs some clarification.  Do you ever make biscuits or shortcake or other baked goods that require a round cut-out?  I'm sure you've all heard of (and used) a drinking glass for the job, but I'm even lazier than that.  Circles are not very efficient, you know, and you end up with all the little triangles from in-between.  Then what?  You pack them together and make another biscuit or two that's all crazy and dense and tough.  Unless I'm wrong, there's no state law or local ordinance requiring round biscuits.  And in fact, homeschoolers always enjoy the added learning opportunity with different shapes on the dinner table.  I use a pizza cutter, or dough cutter and after rolling out the dough, I just cut across it several times in each direction, and end up with squares, rectangles, trapezoids, triangles...  Toss them on  the baking pan, and you're good to go!  As long as they're uniform thickness they'll cook evenly... And you can even let your littlest kids have their own "whole" biscuit.

I had some more, but have forgotten them.  As it is, this post sat on my computer in an open tab for several days.  It's like yogurt, I hope, and will still work. ;)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

No Title

If you're at all informed, you know that this weekend is especially important for the future of our children and the liberties we've thus far enjoyed.

If you're not informed, shame on you.  You shouldn't get to vote.  The good news is that you can GET informed.

Unless you're in DC right now doing your darnedest to be represented (good luck with that) you've probably done all you can to be heard.  

Prayer and even fasting can be done locally. :)  God knows...

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Exercise? Me?

I have never been someone who enjoys exercising.  My first exposure to ‘working out’ was with my health-conscious (step)mom, and I was probably somewhere around 10 years old, on my yearly summer visit.  She did ‘aerobics’ and told me how fun it was.  She used words like ‘low-impact,’ and go-at-your-own-pace.  I agreed to join her, so the next day (I’m not sure when she usually did her workout, but it wasn’t when I was around.) she plugged in the recorded-from-tv VHS tape and we started following the motions of the lady on-screen.
This was supposed to be fun?  At my own pace?  This was work!  And I didn’t even have sandbags strapped to my ankles like she did!  I sweated along trying not to be a total wimp, but was more than relieved when it came to an end.  I collapsed on the couch and breathlessly exclaimed “Oh thank GOODNESS it’s over!”
My mom was still waving her arms and stepping high as she laughed, “This is just the first commercial break!”
Some people love to run.  Not me.  Some report feeling energized after an hour at the gym.  Not me.  I feel like napping. Add an attitude that would like to actually get something DONE with the time and effort expended, and you’ll see why exercise and I have only enjoyed brief relationships through the years.
About a year ago I ran across a testimonial of a homeschool mom of twelve who went from a size 24 to a 6 over the course of a couple years.  Well, I was no size 24 but I read about her and the exercise program she did.  I was surprised to recognize the name:  T-Tapp.
I recognized it from my mom, of course.  Some years ago she was always gushing, “Oh I LOVE T-Tapping!  T-Tapping is SO awesome.  It’s FUN and has helped me blah blah blah blah blah...”  I didn’t even know what she was talking about.  Tea-what?  Was this a beverage thing?  Some kind of cleansing treatment?  Maybe a mental-emotional practice.. Tapping?  I never did figure it out, until last year when I read about that mom.
Fast-forward to last fall.  I’d had my fourth baby, and was feeling my age, let’s say.  I’ve seriously never been that out of shape, and I don’t mean that as ‘overweight.’  I’ve weighed more.  I mean that I just didn’t have what I needed, inside.  I had trouble with my balance, I couldn’t catch myself easily if I got off balance.  If I had to crouch down to get in a low cupboard or tie shoes for little ones, it was all I could do to get myself back up IF I had something to hold on to.  The worst part was if I had to sneeze, or if I got a drop of water in my airway; the pressure exerted within was enough to make me feel like I might ‘bust a gut,’ literally.  I’d grab my abdomen in pain, wondering if I’d rearranged my intestines permanently, and waiting for the pain to stop.  Eventually I discovered that if I was sitting down, it didn’t hurt that way at all, so I’d hurry to that position if I had a sneeze.  Bending 90 degrees at the waist also worked.  I helped myself to a cup of cool water in the closet-sized feed-store office one day, and disappeared from view before the tall counter when I choked on a bit of water.  The old boy never asked, but I’m sure he wondered as he printed out my invoice.
I really needed to do something, and I thought about all the good things I’d read about T-Tapp; the brain-body aspects (“neural-kinetic flow”), the supposed benefit to the lymph system... It seemed like all-around good stuff.  My neural-kinetic flow certainly needed some tuning.  I asked my mom if I could borrow her DVDs (yes, if she could find them) and she finally sent them.  The 2 discs sat around for a while, and one weekend afternoon, I plugged the first one in to watch (and MAYBE try) the basic instructional (where they go slow and teach you each move) track.  It started as a series of moves called the “Primary Back Stretch.”  And you know what?  It felt kinda good...
That first try I didn’t even get through the whole instructional (without the instructions, the workout is about 15 minutes), which I was fine with.  I just wanted to get my feet wet, anyway.  Not that it was terribly hard!  I’d hardly even say it was “work.”  No jumping, no stepping up, just careful attention to movement, bending, and some muscle usage.  I decided I would try to make it through the entire instructional the next day.  Then I walked downstairs.  I felt... different.  Better.  Not amazingly so, but there was a marked difference.  Until then, I didn’t know that I was in a constant state of discomfort.  The bends, and moves, and stretches had asked me to do things I hadn’t done in a long while (shoulders back, for instance) and it felt good.  I stood straighter, I walked down the stairs with a bit more certainty, I breathed deeper.
I did the instructional, then the 15-minute basic workout for about a month before peeking at the second disc.  THAT one has a longer (close to an hour?) instructional, but I can’t see it all due to a bad scratch on the disc. :(  I can, however, view the “Beginner’s Rehab” workout, which is what the instructional teaches, but she includes a lot of form reminders and water breaks. :)  I’ve been doing that one for 2 or 3 weeks... or, I should say, I’m working toward it.  I make it to about the 35 minute mark and by then I’m ready to do something else.  Like make breakfast for 3 hungry kids.
I don’t always enjoy climbing out of my warm bed, or turning on the workout, but it never fails to reward me with that first back stretch.  And at this point, I can cough and sneeze, crouch down and stand up, step without losing my balance... and those are the kind of things that make a big difference in my daily doings.

So, in a way, I'm almost, a bit, enjoying regular exercise.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010


Do you scrapbook?  I used to.  I really enjoyed it, and probably spent waaay too much money on paper and eyelets and tools and such.  I did it less and less as I had kids that would get into stuff, and I had less time to devote to it.  If I couldn't do 5 minutes here, and 3 there, it just wasn't a hobby I could do.  And getting ALL the supplies out to pick the right paper/embellishments for a photo, well, you can imagine what happened with toddlers around...

Enter digital scrapbooking.

Oh my.

I tried it first last summer, and liked the results, if they were fairly novice.  I started doing a few more pages a couple weeks ago, trying some new techniques, and I love it.  The best part?  I don't have to take over a whole table for a week to do a handful of pages.  No tape or stickers or bits for Organique to strew, no cutting tools for cropping photos or paper, no expensive adhesives to replace (when your kid uses it on the floor), no mess at all.  I can open up a project and spend 10 minutes while I nurse Baby, then leave it to cook dinner without hassle.  After they're in their protective sleeve in an album, your 2-year-old can't reach in and tear off a photo or frame.

The downsides:  You do need a decent editing program (I use photoshop elements), and a 12x12 page is about $3 to have printed.  But I'd say it's worth it.

Here are a few of my digital pages...



Hubby (this was one of last summer's pages.  He's building the chicken plucker.):

Organique again:

I 'made' very little of the 'stuff.'  You can buy and download papers and elements, but there's a ton available for free (guess which I do).  You can alter it appropriately, or use as-is, put it together as you like, and ta-da!

Monday, March 08, 2010

Baby Quilt

No, not for our Baby.  *sigh*  I just haven't gotten around to that yet!  I need a deadline, a reason to devote time to it.

Our cousin, the one who had Baby #4 exactly 8 years from Baby #3 (I think that's so cool), had a baby shower a couple weeks earlier.  The day before the shower, I figured I better think up something quick.  They'd been given a TON of used-but-nice clothes, and I didn't have the time or money (Hubby wasn't working but 10 hours/week) to go shopping, so I brainstormed and dug through the sewing room.  I snag this fine quilter's cotton (normally $15/yd or so!) when it hits the clearance section... and then goes 50% off that.  Usually I pay about $2.50/yd, which is my max for yardage price.

I managed to get it almost entirely done.. and then reached for the blanket binding I'd picked out of the box to match... and discovered it wasn't double-fold bias binding at all, but single-fold!  That would NOT work!  But I couldn't run to town, then back, finish, then run back to town again for the shower, so I bagged it with unfinished edges, and planned to "show" it to her, then pick up binding and complete it by the next day.  This I did, and it worked out nicely.

I didn't measure or follow much of a plan.  My top ended up wider than the back, so I improvised.  I think I like it better this way anyhow.

I am also hopelessly addicted to the darling little color dots in the selvedge.

I attached the binding in leaves-stitch, but added a few surprise elements here and there.

Now, someone threaten me so I can make one for (our) Baby!

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Naughty Me

I can't believe it's been TWO weeks since I posted here.  That is a new low, I guess.  I'm so sorry.

In my defense, the first week I was without a husband.  He went far, far away for some work training, and I stayed home with the four girls.  And by "stayed home" I mean exactly that.  I didn't even manage to get to the mailbox up the driveway but once (but at least I got two days' worth of mail).  The UPS guy did bring our zombie-fridge part, and *I fixed our fridge* without Hubby's help at all.  It works now, and I'm so glad we didn't have to buy a new fridge.

The same night Hubby returned, our cousin had baby #4, and we went to baby #3's birthday party the next day (she is 8, so there's quite a gap there!), and took some chili, cornbread, manicotti, banana bread, and pumpkin muffins over to help feed them (why is it so much easier to prepare for someone ELSE'S birth that way?).  A couple other gals and myself cleaned their house that day too.  Their baby girl spent about 3 days in the NICU for aspirating something she shouldn't have, so Daddy was blessed to not have to worry about housekeeping.  Baby is doing fine now, and shares her big sister's birthday, and even shares Organique's middle name!

Then my sister-in-law's little girl (the one born a day before our Baby) had her 3rd (I think?) ER visit in a month, and ended up hospitalized for a few days with pneumonia and RSV.  She's at home now, and doing better.  I'm sorry I didn't have a freezer-stash of meals for them (well, we helped them move 2 weeks ago, and I did give them a meal or two).  This didn't take my time (we haven't gone over there through this), but it's been heavy on my heart.

Organique has also kept us on our toes. Lately she has:

  • Twice poured out my B vitamins, including twisting apart several capsules and leaving scattered piles of bright orange powder in my bedroom. [I know, fool me once and all that.]
  • Emptied out a bottle of sambucol (anti-viral syrup) and one of echinacea extract.
  • Onto the stove, counter, floor and pages of a cookbook.
  • Found, tore open, and emptied several tea bags.
  • Used scissors to give herself a mullet.
  • Flooded the upstairs bathroom to the point where the hall carpet (fairly distant from the toilet!) was soaking water.  We now know that "too-it!" means "toilet."
  • Helped herself to the big jug of organic shampoo... that has a pump dispenser.  This was after bathing, drying, night-diaper, pajamas..  All of which needed re-done!
  • Ditto minty conditioner, different day.
So it's not like I've been completely idle...