Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Extreme Makeover Home Edition: Beach Family

The Beach family in Kemah are going to be on EMHE this Sunday at 7pm central, on ABC. Get your DVR ready!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Simple Shortcake

As you can tell from my last post, Spring makes me want to cook. Or rather than "cook", assemble delicious things that don't require much actual cooking at all. Here is my favorite dessert of all, especially in the Spring and Summer. This is the antithesis of super-sweet shortcake dishes that are made with vanilla ice cream and those sticky shortcakes you buy at the store. Not that there's anything wrong with those little cakes (toasted lightly and used instead of the biscuits in this recipe? Divine!) but this is a less-sweet version that puts the emphasis on the berries and their natural sweetness.

Berry Shortcake:

1 package of Cream Cheese Biscuits ( I use Whole Foods', but you can buy Michael Gagne's from Stonewall kitchen, apparently). One way or the other, you need 6.
2 lbs strawberries
1 small box of each: blueberries, rasberries, and blackberries
1-2 tsp really good brandy
Sour cream or creme fraiche
Agave nectar
Demerara or turbinado sugar

Wash berries, cut up strawberries, and combine in a bowl with a bit of water on the bottom. Add the brandy, a squirt of agave, and put the lid on. Give a rough shake or two, and put in the fridge for at least an hour.

To assemble: break a biscuit in half and place at the bottom of a good-sized cereal bowl. Top with berries and some juice. Follow with sour cream or creme fraiche, and sprinkle with sugar.

Eat. Shove others aside and go back for seconds. Enjoy.

Salads for Spring

It's finally Spring, and I've traded out my pitifully small repertoire of winter vegetable recipes for my favorites: salads.

Here are 2 that I promise you'll love:

Pea Salad

Cleburne Cafeteria in Houston makes a version of this, and we love it to death. Here is what I came up with to try to mimic theirs:

1 large bag frozen peas, drained
1 red pepper, cut into small pieces
4-5 scallions, cut small
1/2 cup+ of mayo - you'll have to eyeball it
Squirt of yellow mustard
Cheddar and Monterey jack cheese, cut into small cubes - again, use the eyeballs
celery salt and pepper to taste

Combine. Too simple

Another variation I thought of was to use blue cheese, red onion and apples in place of the cubed cheese, scallions, and red pepper. Haven't tried it yet, but I love just about anything with those 3 ingredients involved, so I'm betting it would work. You might want to use Dijon mustard instead of yellow, as well.

Broccoli Salad

I know "broccoli salad" aren't the most appetizing words you've ever seen, but you really have to try this recipe. It started out as something Whole Foods serves in the summer, and I messed with it from there.

Broccoli florets - enough for 4-5 people who really, really love broccoli
Mayo - start with 2/3 cup but you may need more. you want moist, but not drowning
Cheddar cheese - grated, at least 1 cup
6 slices bacon, cooked very crisp, then crumbled
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup pecan pieces
1 shallot, cut up
3-4 Tbsp red wine vinegar
3-4 Tbsp agave nectar
salt and pepper to taste

Cut broccoli into pieces and combine with all ingredients. Take 2 knives and "chop" salad until everything is in fairly even-sized pieces.

Husband is virulently anti-raw-broccoli, and he ate an enormous pile of this last night and proceeded to praise it to the skies. Proof that bacon and cheddar cheese can make anything taste good!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Free to Breathe

Beautiful, courageous Eva Markvoort died this morning at age 25. She is free.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Emerging into Nirvana

I'm shocked, simply shocked to find that the "Emergent Church", at least in the person of Brian McLaren, has degenerated its message to this in an effort to be "relevant." [Ed: it may be late, but that's a lot of sarcasm, missy. Me: shut up.]

Nor am I surprised that the Evangelical church creates such people, even as the Southern Baptists lament McLaren's very existence. When you tell people it's all up to them to interpret the Bible, everyone gets to use his own lens to do so. McLaren cares about social justice issues, so he sees that Jesus in the Bible. The Southern Baptists see Jesus dying to appease an injured God, so there is their Jesus, all ready for them to believe in.

What harm has been wrought in unmooring the Bible from the traditions of a Church whose main desire is to preserve the Truth, rather than reinvent it every few years!

Carnegie Hall

Okay, this wasn't really Two's Carnegie Hall debut; instead it was his first grade concert at school this evening. But he was so excited for his performance, it could have been the former for all he knew. They sang six songs, and I'm glad to say that none of them was a paean to the President. Instead they sang about critical first grade concerns, such as loose teeth and dancing to "the music". Two's favorite was "I Love America": "A M E R I C A! I love America every day!" We went out for dinner after the show, and he gave us a stirring encore in the restaurant. I have to say, he is the only member of the family capable of carrying a tune.

And carry it he did, with a smile on his face, thrilled with the entire experience. Bravo!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Last Chocolate

I got The Bad Mommy Award tonight, and it came in a very odd form: I got the last chocolate from Two's latest goody bag. I came home, barely talked to the boys, spent two hours on horribly contentious conference calls, and then explained to a very tired Two at 9pm that I wasn't reading to him after all. He sniffled a bit, and then 5 minutes later appeared at my side downstairs with the offer of The Last Chocolate. He held my hand as we walked back up to his room, and gave me extra kisses to add to his gift.

How can a 7 year old be so empathetic? He constantly amazes me with his innate ability to sense when someone is hurting, and trying his best to heal them. One comes very late to this skill, although he has had some success in recent weeks. But whatever his age, Two has always been miles ahead on the invisible "empathy" scale. What will God make of this child as he grows up? I can't wait to find out!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Year of Orthodoxy

About a year ago today, the four of us wandered into our local Antiochian Orthodox Church for the first time. How did this come to pass? I wish I had a coherent answer to that, but there's really not one. There wasn't one thing that brought us there together last March, nothing about it was planned (at least not by us). But there we were, Husband and I completely lost in the Liturgy for almost two hours, squirming boys sitting between us, overwhelmed and somehow deeply touched by all we saw and heard and (even, yes) smelled.

The overwhelming nature of Orthodoxy has been a major theme in my life this past year. It is, as I've said before, like drinking from a fire hose, especially when one has been used to small Dixie cups of water for one's entire life. It is an overpowering experience, to hear almost 2000 years of tradition, teaching and theology boiled down to a two hour Liturgy each week. Sometimes I think I could listen to those same words every week for the rest of my life and hear something new in them every time. At the same time, it is their repetition that gives me comfort and security, and makes the idea of facing the Orthodox Way of fasting and obedience much less scary and impossible.

As my conception of spiritual things changes slowly to become more Orthodox, many spiritual things come to make more sense to me than they ever have. The angle at which I looked at so many things has changed, and as that happened so many things seem to line up far better than ever before. That is not to say that there is less mystery in life than before. On the contrary, Orthodoxy brings more mystery to life, not less. But that, too, works in its own way; I'm not sure how much we're meant to understand in this life (or, at least, what I'm capable of understanding, at any rate). If faith is truly the evidence of things not seen, then "understanding" in the modern, Western sense of the word no longer seems to be the point of the entire exercise.

What I do understand, after a year of Orthodoxy, is that I want to follow this Way for the rest of my life. As poorly as I may do so, this is the path I want to take - and the one I pray all four of us will take together - for the rest of eternity.

"That we may complete the remaining time of our life in peace and repentance, let us ask of the Lord. ... Grant this, O Lord."

Only in New York

Can you sell Pop Tarts at a bake sale and not homemade cookies. It's all about "fighting" obesity, you see. I have to say, whenever you hear anyone from the government tell you they are "fighting" something for you that isn't armed with a gun or a bomb, that would be the time to run. away. quickly. As Ronald Reagan was fond of saying: "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'"

Gee, why would people like me rather live in Texas than New York? I just can't understand it ...

HT: Ann Althouse

Loving the Houston Arboretum

The boys were on Spring Break this past week, and they enjoyed it thoroughly at the Houston Arboretum's week-long camp. If you are a Houstonian with kids and have never checked out these amazing programs, shame on you. No, seriously, get your kids over there pronto: they will thank you over and over again.

Here are the boys, waiting impatiently on Monday for their dad to head out to the car with them and speed them on their way.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Random Linkage

It's a cold, rainy Saturday night, so what else do I have to do? [okay, okay, get your mind out of the gutter - in order to do that I'd have to get Husband to stop watching Redeye, and that's really hard to do].

Anyway, where were we?

Aah, yes, a random assemblage of links to help distract you from the cold front, health care hell, and your brackets going to pieces this early in March Madness.

My Favorite Meatloaf Recipe, by Ina Garten. Made with turkey, no less. It goes well with cold fronts, and is covered with ketchup, making it tangy and sweet. You can't ask for more from something as simple as meatloaf.

A wonderful home schooling current events site, Izzit.org. Actually meant for classroom use, but it looks like a great tool for full-time home schoolers and parents who, like us, supplement our children's school education at home.

Speaking of torturing, er, um, enriching your child's educational experience with a little more challenging work at home - Singapore Math workbooks are our hands-down favorite for this purpose. I could write several posts on this subject alone, but suffice it to say we've found that every school the boys have attended was at least a grade year behind where we wanted them to be in math. Hence, Singapore, done right along with regular after-school homework. They have online tests you can print off and have your child take, so you know at what level they need to begin. We started this in earnest at the beginning of this school year, and One's Stanford scores in math skyrocketed between September and January. Good stuff.

Concordia Language Villages are (among other things) sleepaway summer camps for children that provide language immersion at the same time as a summer camp experience. The villages are organized as a complete cultural experience: campers learn the culture of the country(ies) they are studying at the same time they improve their language skills. I have plans (plans, McGee) of sending the boys away to the Chinese language camp as soon as they are (well, as soon as Two is) old enough to be away from home for two weeks at a time. Waiting ... waiting ... waiting ...

It's been a long time since we've had a Sunday Obituary, and since it's almost Sunday, here's a good one: Brice Somers. A WWII veteran, then a record industry executive, in later life he became an inventor. He is responsible for developing a prefilled retractable safety syringe - something that would prevent many injuries and deaths among healthcare workers, especially in the developing world.

Finally, apropos of nothing, I leave you with a quote from my friend Robert - and I am sad to say I can't attribute it more accurately than that, because I have no idea where he got it (yes, even when I Google):

"On track" does not mean "on schedule." The Donner Party was "on track."

Goodnight, y'all.

There are Those that Get It

And these boys are of that number:

HillBuzz: A Very Personal Plea for our Nation

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

How I Really Feel

I stole this from Robbie Seay:

Happy St. Patrick's Day

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Dead or Alive

Ann Althouse has an excellent piece on Eric Holder's comments recently that Osama bin Laden "won't be taken alive." She writes:

"So, Bush, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, called for the capture of bin Laden "Dead or Alive," but Holder, with 9 years to meditate on the right way to deal with the situation, assures us that bin Laden will not be taken alive. What has brought Holder to this heated state of mind? Not the death of thousands of Americans. The threat to his political prestige. It gets his "blood boiling" that he is attacked. The fact that we were attacked did not loom large when he decided to try KSM in federal court New York City. But when that decision was savaged, he changed his tone." [my emphasis]

There's nothing quite like having your reasoning savaged by a really smart law professor, is there?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Official Diet Update: Nine Weeks

After nine weeks of dieting, I have hit the halfway mark! 12.5 lbs lost, 12.5 to go.

Here is a halfway-mark picture:

And yes, these jeans are the exact same brand and style as the ones in this picture. But ....

They are TWO sizes smaller. Yee haw!*

*I was on my way to Rodeo when Husband snapped this, so I'm allowed to make that sound.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Second Blogaversary

Happy Blogaversary to me! I've enjoyed this second year of being the Grass Widow ever more than the first. Not certain why, but it's the truth.

Here are some of my favorites from the past year:

A Lesson Found in a Case of the Wiggles
I Wade into the Fray
Late Night on 9/11 with Two
Life on Hold
Our New Community
Visualize World Peace
Everything You Wanted to Know about my Christmas ...
Best Brother Award
Fine Motor Skills and Boys
Worshipping God

Thanks for sticking around another year, dear readers.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


That's where we're going, if this nutty idea of DNA-containing Federal ID cards takes hold.

I don't like that the Federal government knows where I live. Do you really think I'd let them take a DNA sample from me, or (especially) from the boys? No. Thank. You.


J. Wakeham wrote on forgiveness the other day, and what she says is so simple and yet profound:

"I finally realized that forgiving someone doesn’t mean that what they did was okay. Doesn’t mean what they did wasn’t wrong. It just means that you’re going to let it go, fly away to the Almighty Judge, the true owner of Vengeance. We don’t have to carry anyone else’s crimes. We merely sentence ourselves with unforgiveness."

Isn't that so true? And I think it points out a problem that so many people have with forgiveness. If you forget the "God part" of the equation, when someone tells you "you just need to let that go" you think to yourself "let it go where - into the ether somewhere - what?" Because really, without God, there is nowhere for your grudge, your unforgiveness to go if you decide to let go of it. If we don't have the assurance that there is the One who will sort everything out in the end, then we're tempted to hold onto anything - anything - more out of fear of having nothing left in our hands in the end. With Christ, we have so much more to grasp onto, so much Life before us, we don't need to carry anything else with us but that.

So forgive one another, as He has forgiven you! Say it out loud - let everyone know - that you release them to nothing less than the grace and love of our Savior!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Math for Mondays

Elizabeth used to do this frequently, and I'd had such a day, I do believe it requires adding up.

1: vomiting husband who had to stay home today, lest he contaminate the entire city.

2: hard-working plumbers who finally found the sneaky leak in one of the old, nasty gas pipes under my house.

2400: dollars that I spent 4 years ago to "replace" all those old, nasty gas pipes under this house.

4: fits that I have thrown threatening to sue said lying, greedy plumbers (the ones from 4 years ago, mind you). 1 fit for each year.

150: (approximate) emails received today at work, all of which were written by people who obviously picked the wrong week to give up taking their Xanax.

1: dirty, foul dog who had an accident in my bed, while asleep with the vomiting husband.

5: loads of laundry I carted back and forth to my MIL's to use her dryer.

10: days we have been without gas service, heat, a clothes dryer and stovetop.

42: (approximate) number of times I have been asked for warm milk by children who keep forgetting we have no stovetop.

And in celebration:

1: very wonderful friend who finally decided to be on Facebook, allowing me to be in better contact with her from 1200 miles away. I miss you Bets!

1: washing machine which, after 3 years of refusing to pull hot water from the wall, finally gave up and decided to get on with it - just in time for me to wash the aforementioned laundry.

Picture from Wired.com.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Pathetic Re-post Option

After a week of plumbers and vomiting children (and my own bout of the stomach bug), all I have the energy for is to re-post a favorite of mine from the first week of this blog.

Oscar has been gone for over a year, but we still miss him.

Oscar's Testimony:

This is Oscar. He's a nine year old boxer, and he rarely walks these days. Adopted from Lone Star Boxer Rescue, he's been in our family since he was two. Right now his latest challenge is the loss of most of the feeling in his back legs. We've been to the vet, we've been to the holistic vet. We've taken Rimadyl, we've taken Chinese medicine, we've even had acupuncture, and nope, he still can't find the ground underneath him, even if you tie a magnifying glass to his back legs.

The amazing thing about this dog is: it doesn't bother him. He gleefully drags himself across the hardwoods to get where he wants to go, he dives into his daily kibble as if it were filet mignon. He barks threateningly at squirrels and tries to fight the neighbor's dog through the fence. It's obvious that he is in no pain. It is equally obvious that Oscar doesn't want to give up living any time soon.

When he came to us seven years ago, he'd been beaten and starved; his spine and hips stuck out and he had a cigar burn on his side. Yet he threw himself into our arms, sat patiently while One (and then Two) crawled over every inch of him. They'd sleep on him, he'd sleep under them. He radiated joy over every meal, every pat on the head, every scratch, every trip outside.

Why am I belaboring Oscar and his joy? Because this dog has inspired me to faith more times that I can count. His peaceful acceptance of his condition, his joy over any small blessing - these things have schooled me in how I should act in the face of my God and what He puts on my plate every day.

I love this dog. I love him because he is a family member, but also because he reminds me to savor every blessing, to look beyond what cripples me, and to thank my Master at every turn.

Thank you Oscar. And when it is time, may God speed you to your well-deserved rest.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Sweet, Sweet Rage

Maybe it's because I spent the day fighting with a lazy, mendacious, over-charging punk of a plumber, but this screed by Dan Riehl on the "nuclear option" for healthcare sounds better to me than a choir singing the sweetest of lullabies.

"Reconcile this, you distasteful, malevolent little quisling punk - a timely reminder of some words I never thought would have such import during my lifetime.

'When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.'

The cause is well known and it is just. When the alleged leader of a democratic republic places his own wishes so above those of the complete body politic, he is no longer worthy of the title, leader, no matter what office he might occupy."

Sing it, Dan.

HT: Instapundit

Mean Boy

Husband: "Two, being unnecessarily cruel is not funny."

Two: "Why?"

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Best Headline Ever

"Emu that fought police dies in shelter"

"Deputies with the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office tried to prevent the tall, flightless bird from running into traffic. But when deputies neared the emu, it became aggressive and slashed one deputy’s pant leg ... The cause of death was not immediately known."

Now if it were the Bellaire or Stafford police departments, we'd already know it died of a gunshot wound. But in El Paso, who knows?

New Meaning

What does it mean to to have a "bucket list" when you're 23 and could die at any time? I've always thought the bucket list concept was over-rated, but Eva Markvoort has changed my mind completely. She's 23, in the hospital in British Columbia with chronic rejection of the transplanted lungs she received less than three years ago. Why the original transplant? She has CF, of course. Now she needs a second transplant, but time is not fighting on the side of the angels this time.

Despite all these circumstances, Eva fights on. And this past week she crossed another accomplishment off her all-important bucket list: she received her bachelor's degree.

Go Eva! And the rest of y'all, please, please pray for this beautiful, brave young woman. Would that all of us treat what we have to do in this life with as much urgency and passion as Eva does.

Official Diet Update: Seven Weeks

After seven weeks of not the most strenous diet ever undertaken, I have lost 10.5lbs. I have 14.5 to go. I am also down close to 2" on my waist and the same on my hips. I have a feeling there are some summer things that are going to fit this year!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Worshipping God

I've been thinking about this post on and off all day - I read this article in the Houston Chronicle this morning. If you don't want to click through to the article (and you should, at least to see the photograph in question), here is the beginning of the piece:

"The elders at Ecclesia Church were expecting something tame from Jackson Potts II for their annual Stations of the Cross art display. Instead, the 10-year-old produced a photo of his kid brother being beaten by a police officer. Jackson says it's a modern-day interpretation of Roman soldiers beating Jesus."

I have a lot to say about this article, while is why this post kept cooking in my head all day. On the other hand, I know people at the church in the story - dear, sweet, loving people, who I wouldn't want to hurt by saying things that may be misinterpreted as deliberately cruel.

But I have to say something. And it is this:

When you think it's a good idea to constantly come up with new and different ways of worshipping the Uncreated God, this is where it lands you. When you pick and choose from one tradition, another tradition, invent some things of your own - you are making up church out of this world, and the Church is not created with the things of this world. It is the body of Christ, and was created by Him for the purpose of worshipping Him and Him alone. It is not a vehicle for self-expression, or self-invention; it is where the faithful from both sides of the veil of life gather together each week to praise and worship the only One truly deserving of it.

I know I'm not saying this as well as many others could, but I thought it was a point worth making all the same.