Thursday, March 31, 2011

Various Photos of the Boys

Why are kids fascinated with dishwashers? But when they are old enough to empty it, suddenly it becomes a detested chore.

Fun with the furniture.
One of the rare evenings when they actually shared a toy. They are learning to play together, but sharing is still a lesson to be learned.

Lookin' good!

Standing up all by himself!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Jumping to Conclusions

I had a grouchy morning, and it was no one's fault but my own. Here's what I thought had happened:

My Honey kissed me goodbye earlier than usual, and gruffed something about getting breakfast from a drive-thru on his way to school. I must confess, that statement didn't sit well with me, and I got myself all worked up into a foul mood over it. All morning, I was thinking terribly mean things such as:

"I know we need to go grocery shopping, but there's still plenty of food that you could eat. Maybe it's not what you want to eat, but still, it's nutrition to get you through your morning."

"I cook a hot meal for everyone in this house at least once a day, is it now my job to feed you breakfast too? Can't you make one stinkin' meal for yourself?"

"You know that money is really tight right now, but you feel the need to buy a junky fast food meal? Isn't that selfish of you?"

"Everyone else is eating cold cereal and oatmeal, are you too good for that?"

When Honey got home, I got the attitude adjustment I needed. Here's what really happened:

Apparently, he wasn't thinking correctly and thought that he was running late for school. (His school schedule is a bit erratic, and not every day's classes start at the same time, so the mistake would have been easily made.) In a panic, he realized that he needed to leave right away, but he hadn't eaten breakfast. So as he rushed to say goodbye, he explained that he would have to get breakfast from a drive-thru. He sped like a madman to get breakfast and make it to school on time. He wolfed down his food and rushed to class. Only after he got to class did he realize he was 30 minutes early! And since his tummy is not used to eating fast food any more, his tummy was turning quite audibly during his professor's lecture.

Now I feel sorry for him! He spent most of his morning playing with the baby so I could sleep a little longer. He lost track of time and panicked, thinking that he needed to rush off to school. What a sweet and thoughtful guy he is!

Have you ever jumped to conclusions before you got all the necessary facts about a situation?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Cows Genetically Modified to Produce Human Milk?

I just visited the blog of my Internet buddy Pat Veretto, who alerted me to this aricle:

Genetically Modified Cows to Produce Human Milk

This concept of making "human" milk from cows has a major "ICKY" factor to me. Let me tell you why:

1. Genetically modifying any of God's creatures is a slippery slope, and the final stop will not be a good one.

2. There are plans to market this pseudo-human milk at the grocery store. thanks.

3. The scientists who are making these cows admit that most of the benefits of human milk lie in the non-nutritive substances that are passed down from mother to child. They won't say how they achieve these benefits from a cow, but they promise that there are substances "that can help improve the immune systems and the central nervous systems of children." Maybe the scientists don't want to give away their trade secrets, but I'd like to see some specifics. It seems too cloaked in secrecy for my comfort.

Scientists are constantly finding new and wonderful substances in human milk, and it is becoming more evident that God's most ideal way to feed a baby comes from his Mama. Human milk contains antibodies which help protect against illness in the baby, digestive enzymes to assist his immature tummy, hormones to help him grow at the right rate of speed, the list could go on. Babies who are fed mother's milk score higher on I.Q. tests are are stastically less at risk for developing diabetes.

What's even more amazing is that human milk is a dynamic substance that changes according to the baby's needs. For instance, colostrum is super-concentrated to give the baby the jumpstart that he needs in life. When babies are first born, their tummies are ultra small, about the size of a marble. They need super-nutrition, and colostrum suits their needs. Then, as the mother starts producing more milk, the baby's stomach gradually expands to its normal size. Also, the "foremilk" contains most of the actual nutrients, but the "hindmilk" is fattier. If your baby is in the midst of a growth spurt and constantly feeding, he'll drink more of the fatty hindmilk which will help him eat more calories to grow.

Human milk is less sweet than formula, and is slightly flavored according to what the mother has recenly eaten. I've often wondered if this helps babies acclimate to cultural dietary differences. I wonder if Indian babies who grow up to eat spicy curries are eased  into it because their moms ate spicy curries. I've often wondered if babies who are formula-fed are more prone to develop a sweet tooth, because formula is much sweeter than human milk.

What about you? Does this product seem worthwhile to you? Why or why not?

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Milestone!

Something happened last night that I thought would never happen again in my lifetime. Everyone in the house, I mean everyone, slept all night long! It's about time, don't ya think? I mean, the baby is 9 1/2 months old already!

Personally, I slept from 11:00 to 7:30. I had some wild dreams, too. My mind is still going "Huh?!" over the craziness my head conjured up.

The last time I slept all night through was the last week of May 2008. Yep, that's right. May 25, 2008 was the day. The night before my Honey went to Afghanistan was the last night I slept without interruption or insomnia. At first I couldn't sleep because my Honey wasn't there with me. Every little sound wakes me up when he's gone. Right about the time I got used to him being gone, my pregnancy-related insomnia kicked in. Then, I had my now 2-year-old, and you all know how newborns can be. He didn't sleep through the night for a long time, either. (That boy is the lightest sleeper I know.) Then, right about the time my Honey got back home from Afghanistan, I got pregnant with the baby. So when the 2-year-old started sleeping through the night, I had pregnancy insomnia AGAIN. Then I was up all night with a newborn, you know the drill.

Have you ever suffered from long-time sleep deprivation? I hope not, it's awful. I had people actually tell me that I needed counseling for my mood issues. (That advice wasn't well-received, just so ya know...What would have been more helpful is if they had offered to watch my kids while I took a nap.)

But everyone woke up smiling and chipper this morning, Praise God Almighty!! Hopefully it will happen regularly from now on.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Gotta Brag (Again)!

My daughter attended an area-wide Foreign Language Fair today. Students from area high schools who are taking foreign language classes entered various portions of the competition. Areas of competition included food/cooking, vocabulary bee, geography bee, arts, dance, and music (subdivided into musical instruments and singing). The arts division was subdivided into various portions such as origami (Japanese), pinatas (Spanish), and calligraphy (Japanese and Chinese). The vocabulary and geography bees are subdivided into each foreign language. I think local schools here teach Spanish, French, German, Chinese, Japanese, and Latin. This is a big yearly event.

My daughter entered the cooking portion, and she made Empanadas de Pino, or Chilean Empanadas. She won first place for Spanish food!! She worked a looonng on them. She cooked from 6:00 to 10:30 last night, and she worked on them again from 5:30 to 7:00 this morning.

I sampled one, and it tasted, uhmm...unique. The traditional pino filling contains beef, olives, hard-boiled eggs, and raisins. The raisins gave it a sweetness that I don't particularly care for, personally. It reminded me of a mincemeat pie, which isn't exactly my favorite. I like my savory dishes to be savory, and my sweet dishes to be sweet. (Never the twain shall meet!) But the judges thought they were yummy, and that's what counted.

I wish I had taken a picture of them. If we make empanadas again, I'll try to remember to snap a photo.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Guess what's blooming!

The daffodil bulbs I planted last fall are blooming! Yay! I've got 30 cheerful daffodils smiling under my bedroom window. Come on, Spring!!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Daylight Savings Time, and Earthquakes in Japan

I wish the powers that be would quit this whole daylight savings time mess. Don't you think the days of WWII farming and manufacturing needs during daylight hours are sooooo old school? I mean come on, y'all--if we have jobs that require sunlight, can't we just get to work an hour earlier and let everyone else keep that extra hour's sleep?

My whole family is having a terrible adjustment to the new time. My 2 year old is just not right. I don't know how else to describe it. He's just not right. He can't go to sleep, then he sleeps till 9 a.m., then he's not hungry at lunch time, but he's hungry an hour later. It's madness I tell ya! And he's super emotional lately. Tears flowing like rivers!!And don't get me started on the 9 month old--that kid was wide awake from 3 to 5 this morning, which meant I was awake too. (Can you sense the grouchy, sleep-deprived attitude?)

But in the whole scheme of things, I really feel like I shouldn't complain. The people of Japan--THEY have the right to complain. First a major earthquake, then a tsunami, now radiation leaks?? Wow, they've really been through a rough time. Please pray for my friend Lisa and her young son. They are Americans living in Japan. She says they are still experiencing strong aftershocks, the radiation has reached them, and they are working in the dark to save electricity. She has a little bit of damage to her home and belongings, but she's thankful that the house is still intact. Her son is very scared and wants to go to his grandparents' house back in the States. It's been a traumatic week, and my prayers continue to go up for them, as well as all the Japanese people.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Our newest purchase

Our daughter hasn't yet gotten her drivers license, mostly because the cars we have are hard for a beginner to learn with. Our van has a few blind spots, plus two car seats in the back block even more view. My Honey's truck is a stick-shift, and the one time he tried to teach her how to drive with it, he came home a little green with car sickness!

Our tax return was a LOT more than we expected, even claiming all the exemptions we could. So we decided to look for a used but reliable car that would be easy to drive. We've searched Craigslist for a while now, but nothing really suited us for our price range and type of car we wanted. I suggested on a whim that it might be easier to find something from a used car dealer, even though we'd pay a bit more for the dealer to get his profit.

Here's what my Honey found--praise the Lord, it's OURS free and clear!

It's a 2000 Mazda 626 LX, with power everything. It's got 116K miles on it, but my Honey thinks it'll get our daughter about 5 years of driving around town. (Here's hoping, anyway!) The best part is, we paid cash!!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

That's My Girl!

We just got back home from our daughter's first ever track meet. Can I just say---that girl is AMAZING!! I just gotta brag about my girl!

She ran three races. Her first was the 1600 meters (1 mile). She came in a very strong second place. She would have definitely came in first if one of her super-fast, unstoppable teammate friends wasn't running. (Her friend came in first place.) Her time was a very strong 6 mins. 20 secs.

Her second race was the 800 meters (2 laps around the track.) She ALMOST came in first place, but finished second in a super tight race. During the first lap, she was running in third place. During the second lap, she brought it all out and passed everyone to be a strong first place. However, out of the blue, another runner came up on her within a few feet of the finish line and passed her right at the end. I can't even describe how exciting it was to watch her go full-force sprint until the very end. You could tell she was hurting when she finished, too. She was cramping up bad, but she didn't let it get her down. I was so very proud of my girl! Even her coach was letting out an awesome "whoop" for her. He came up to us after the race and said, "Wow, she ran that one to win!" Her time for this race was 2 mins. 40 secs.

Her last race was the 4 x 400 relay. She ran the first leg of the race. I was really nervous about this race, because she never got to practice passing the baton. And if you drop the baton at all during the race, the whole team is disqualified. She did awesome!! She passed that baton like she was a pro! Her team came in third place.

I'd say our team is off to a great start to the new season. We were really worried about our competition this year, because our school has moved up to the AAAA size, and the schools in that ranking have some great talent. I don't know how our team did overall in tonight's meet, but I'd say we're definitely making our presence known. Go team!!

(I am mad at myself--I loaded new batteries into my camera, then I left it at home...)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Homemade Yogurt, Regular and Greek Style

I've seen a couple of blog entries recently about how people LOVE LOVE LOVE Greek yogurt. They like it so much that they won't go back to the "regular" stuff, no matter how expensive it is. I agree, Greek yogurt is awesome!! But it is expensive, and it can be a real budget breaker if everyone in your family loves to eat it.

Here's how to make regular and Greek yogurt at home for a lot cheaper than it costs to buy it:

First, you'll need to save a bit of your store-bought yogurt for starter culture. For each half-gallon of yogurt I make, I use about 1/2 cup of pre-made yogurt for starter. (Once you make your first successful batch of yogurt, you can save some to be the starter for the next batch.)

When I first started making homemade yogurt, I only made 1 quart at a time. I suggest you make this amount until you become familiar with the process. After that, you can make more quite easily.

In a large, heavy saucepan, bring 1 quart of milk to around 100 to 110 degrees F. It can be whole, skim, goat's milk, whatever AS LONG AS IT HAS ALREADY PASTEURIZED. (More steps are added down at the end of this post if you want to use raw milk to make your yogurt.) You really need a thermometer to check the temperature of your milk. Yogurt cultures are actually just a bunch of beneficial bacteria that need a warm (but not too hot) atmosphere to eat, reproduce, and thrive. Too hot, and they'll die. Too cold, and they'll be sleepy and won't reproduce to make that wonderful yogurt we're trying to help them make for us!

When the milk gets to 100 to 110 degrees F, add in about 1/4 cup of pre-made yogurt. Stir well. Then pour it all into a pre-warmed insulated thermos. Screw the lid on tightly, then set aside for about 12 hours. You can let it sit longer than 12 hours, but the yogurt will get more sour-tasting the longer it incubates.

After 12 hours in the thermos, you now have 1 quart of homemade plain yogurt! Pour it out of the thermos and into a container to keep in the refrigerator. NOTE: homemade yogurt is thinner than store bought yogurt. Store bought yogurt has added thickeners like pectin to make it a creamy consistency. Homemade yogurt has a thinner, almost drinkable consistency like kefir.

At this point, you'll need to keep about 1/2 cup of your homemade "regular" yogurt for the next batch starter. Don't forget, because if you eat it all up, you'll have to go back to the store for the premade stuff. I just keep my starter in a little container in the door of my fridge. I take it out to warm up to room temperature when I'm ready to make more yogurt.

To turn your plain "regular" yogurt into Greek yogurt, you'll need some more time and equipment. But it's very easy, and you probably already have everything you'll need.

First, line a large colander with a smooth cloth towel (like flour sacks). If you don't have one, you can use a coffee filter instead. Put the colander and towel over a large bowl to collect the whey. Pour your homemade yogurt into the towel/coffee filter. Leave it for about an hour or two, gently stirring occasionally. The whey (the liquid part of the yogurt) will drain through the filter into the large bowl. After it's drained for a while, you'll notice the curds (the solid part of the yogurt) will remain inside the colander, and it will become a lot thicker. When it's to the thickness of your choice, scoop it out and put it in the fridge. As it cools, it will get even thicker and creamier. It's like heaven in a cup!!

Don't throw away that whey in the large bowl under the colander, though. It's got lots of good protein and probiotics. You can use it in place of milk for any of your baking needs, you can pour it over your compost bin,  or you can water your garden plants with it. There are lots of other uses for the yogurt whey, just google "uses for leftover yogurt whey" and you'll see lots of other interesting ideas. Just don't throw it away! Otherwise you're not getting the most bang for your buck by making your own yogurt.

Plain Greek yogurt is a great alternative to sour cream. In fact, my family can't tell the difference, and the nonfat plain variety is a lot healthier than the fatty sour cream.

If you prefer a flavored, sweetened yogurt, here are a few suggestions:

1. Add honey or stevia. My family prefers sugar though, and I use about 1/3 cup of sugar to sweeten 1 quart of "regular" yogurt.

2. Add fruit, fresh, frozen, or canned (drained first). We like pineapple, pears, peaches, strawberries; anything, really.

3. Add some cocoa powder to the sweetened yogurt to make chocolate yogurt. Frozen in popsicle molds makes a yummy, fudgy treat!

4. Coconut, banana, and pineapple make a great tropical flavor dessert.

5. Use as a dressing for fruit salad.

6. Add one or two teaspoons of vanilla. Adjust the amount to your preference.

If you are using raw milk to make your yogurt, you'll need to pasteurize it first, or else the milk will have other bacteria in it that will compete with the yogurt bacteria. To pasteurize the milk, simply let it boil for a couple of minutes, then let it cool down to the 100 to 110 degree F range.

You'll probably have great success making your yogurt at home. If something doesn't turn out right though, don't throw away the milk. You can either reheat it and try again with fresh yogurt culture, or you can use it like you would the whey in the Greek yogurt procedure.

Yogurt bacteria like to eat and stay active. If you make yogurt about once a week, your yogurt starter will stay fresh. If you don't make yogurt that often, you'll find that your yogurt cultures will lose some of their "oomph" and you'll end up with a more runny yogurt. Just start over with fresh, store bought yogurt cultures.

Making yogurt isn't very scientific and precise. If you look at other websites on making yogurt, you'll see some of them incubate their yogurt in canning jars inside ice chests filled with warm water. Other sites say you need a store-bought incubator which costs at least $50 or more! Mostly the process is just letting yogurt cultures stay warm in milk so they can eat and reproduce. In fact, the people of Afghanistan make and eat their own yogurt at almost every meal. And this is in the area where the Bedouin nomads still live, and they don't have access to running water or electricity. So if they can do it, so can we! It's not rocket science, and you can adjust my procedures to suit your family's needs. Good luck, and happy incubating!