Friday, March 18, 2011

Saint Patrick's Day

Every year on Saint Patrick's Day those darn leprechauns (yes, I had to go look up how to spell that) come and dye our milk GREEN! 

While festive, this is most unappetizing.  I was very glad to drink the last glass of green milk with my 12-grain toast with sorghum this morning.  Blessedly, the leprechauns had respect for the unopenned gallon of milk in the fridge and saved me from having to get through a whole additional gallon of green milk!  Thank goodness!

The girls always ask me if I was the one that dyed the milk green to which I always respond, "Do I look like a leprechaun?"  This year they concluded that it was not me because the milk was "leprechaun green" rather than "dye green" and we didn't have any green food dye in the house anyway (only blue and yellow).  Why, I ask you, would I dye my own milk green?  I'm the one that has to drink it!

I always struggle to come up with Saint Patrick's day appropriate festivites (green beer not being an option).  Wearing green never seems like quite enough -- like we're all dressed up with no place to go.  So Tessa and I brainstormed for something Irish to have for dinner.  Having no experience with corned beef, we opted for potatoes and cabbage.  This was fortunate because that's about all that was in the fridge.  I had, in my great wisdom, bought a 10 lb. bag of potatoes (for $3.47) and, after many baked potatoes, we still had half left and I always try to have cabbage around because it's massively versatile.

 We ended up making a very delicious scalloped potato and cabbage casserole out of six potatoes, 1/3 of a head of cabbage, the last of the green onions, a white sauce (whipped up out of flour, butter, and milk), and some bread crumbs and cheese sprinkled on top. 

Scalloped Potato and Cabbage Casserole
(By the way, that's a salad plate so it's not the HUGE portion that it looks like if you think its a dinner plate!)

Tessa requested that we have this dish at least once a week.  Even Sara-Grace ate it (I'm not sure she knew there was cabbage in there!).  And Emily ate some too (she usually cooks her own gourmet dinner instead of my lesser fare)!  So this is our new Saint Patrick's Day dish!

What are your Saint Patrick's Day traditions?

Friday, March 4, 2011

New Series: Cheap Healthy Grub -- Lemon Cilantro Hummus

{This is a first in a periodic series on some of the healthy foods that I have conjured up recently.}

Ah, food!  How I love you. What a challenge you have become in recent times!

I’ll admit to having eaten and served a lot of unhealthy cheap food lately. The result is that I’ve come to a place where I crave healthy food. So I’ve been thinking about, looking for, and searching for cheap healthy foods in an effort to have the best of everything!

Grocery shopping on a limited budget quickly becomes a swirling array of multi-layered decisions and a great shuffling of pennies.  Many factors come into play to keep the total on the receipt at the checkout from being higher than the amount of money in the wallet. The budget grocery juggling act includes strategies like: buying smaller packages, buying generics, buying less healthy foods, buying lesser brands, foregoing items until a later date, and opting for cheaper substitutions. 
What ends up happening is that health considerations are sacrificed to the bottom line. My best example of this comes from the bread aisle. That wonderful, hearty 15-grain bread that I love to eat for breakfast with butter and sorghum costs $2.50 for a small loaf. A big, long loaf of generic white “wonder-less” bread costs 98 cents. If you want generic wheat bread (the soft kind that’s only 30% wheat flour and 70% white flour), you’ll pay $1.34. If you want generic whole wheat (all wheat flour), that will cost you $1.54. If I have to choose between buying two loaves of white bread for $1.96 or two loaves of whole wheat for $3.08, I often end up choosing the white because the $1.14 saved can buy something else (like a jar of spaghetti sauce or a package of noodles or two-three oranges or two pounds of bananas).

I think I've finally beaten a path around the grocery store enough to lead you on a little tour of some cheap, healthy grub!

I am starting this series with Lemon Cilantro Hummus.  I eat this almost every day!

Hummus is a traditional Middle Eastern dish made of chick peas (aka garbanzo beans).  It is massively healthy, very delicious, and quite inexpensive. We tend to get competitive over it in our house.  Everyone eats faster and faster because they’re afraid we’ll run out. But it’s easy to make more!   I love that generic garbanzo beans cost only 66 cents a can!

Lemon Cilantro Hummus

1 can garbanzo beans/chick peas (generic $.66 a can)
¼-1/2 cup liquid from the garbanzo beans
1 Tablespoon Tahini ($6 a jar and sometimes hard to find so I often substitute 1 teaspoon of sesame oil)
1 teaspoon olive oil (omit of you're using sesame oil in place of tahini)
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 Tablespoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon cumin
Blend in blender until smooth.
Top with lots of chopped cilantro (48 cents a bundle).

Serve with tortilla chips (generic $1.48), pita bread, or veggies (esp. carrots).


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Benevolent Alignment

I have exactly 1 penny in my wallet and nothing in my bank account.  February was a rough month.  Mark couldn't work because of the snow (imagine trying to pull a 35 foot travel trailer in 18" of snow!) and my boss was in the hospital all month.  So, no income for us.

I needed to come up with $60 by yesterday or my water will be turned off and $25 by today or the electric will be turned off in a property I own.  It's expensive to get utilities turned back on, you know.  I've been trusting that the money would turn up somehow.  I just wasn't sure how.

I have some items for sale on Craigslist -- several of which I got for free.  Yesterday I received a text from someone interested in buying one of the items I got for free.  Price: $75.  Water bill paid!  But I was still $10 short on the electric bill.  Then the buyer asked me if I would deliver the item for an extra $10.  Exactly what I needed!  Bills paid! 

God works like that you know.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Here I Am, Lord!...Now What?

It is tempting to write fluff today.  In fact, I already have fluff posted for today and written and scheduled to post for tomorrow.

But I am in a swirling dervish and I feel I'm supposed to write about it. 

I am on phone duty at the realty for the next two and a half hours.  I have already done the work that needed doing for today.  It's just me and my computer and time. 

I was going to stuff all the turmoil down into someplace dark and quiet and private.  Then my friend Vanessa's blog post came up this morning (  Vanessa always inspires the honesty in me -- and the copycat.  Hopefully there is still come validity in the things the copycat produces!

Today has been a challenge.

I snuggled up next to that warm man in my bed at 2 a.m. only to have him complain that he was on the edge of the mattress and didn't have enough room.  "You were already THERE when I snuggled up so don't blame ME!", I snapped.  Never mind that child, who had been scared to trembling by the thunderstorm, that I had let into our bed and was taking up all of my side.  I got up and stomped over to the daybed across the room to sleep with the dogs.  Good pathetic drama on my part, I think! 

The morning went just about as badly on about three different topics.  And there are always bills.  And calls about bills.  And fretting about bills.  And sheer, stark terror.

I'm aware that I'm being difficult and unreasonable this morning.  I told Mark I'd talk to him when I get over enjoying being unreasonable quite so much.  I AM trying to spare him!

There IS good news though!  After months of not even getting a response to applications and inquiries for jobs, I got the church secretary job.  HOORAY! 

That announcement makes it sound so easy, like it was a some sort of slam-dunk.  It was not.  I searched for months to no avail.  I inquired about jobs to no avail.  I applied with a temp agency that never called me.  I found my way into a lot of scams.  I lamented.  I wrestled with frustration.  I jousted with dispair.  I prayed.  And I prayed.  And then I fought for the job that I wanted by investing a lot of time on a top-notch cover letter, hand-delivering a resume, cover letter, and flyer samples to a second source, and putting a great deal of fore-thought into my interview.  Plus I think I was just right for the job.  And it for me.  Kinda think God was in on it somehow.  At least I hope so!

I am brimming with excitement about my new job.  I start next Monday.  It is weekday mornings 9:00-1:00 which means I can take the girls to school, maybe squeeze in a quick walk before 9:00, work at the chuch from 9:00-1:00, play realtor from 1:00-3:00, pick the girls up from school, fix dinner, and go to my evening job (if I need more realtor time, the girls can be picked up by their dad). 

I am thrilled to get to be a part of something meaningful and very inspired to try to make Trinity United Methodist Church the best it can be!  Those of you who know of my rather non-standard spirituality can be reassured that they probably won't drop-kick me out the door because I was raised Methodist and know how to be a proper Methodist when I want to be.  That doesn't stop me from being a searcher and a seeker as well.  I am also an annoying deconstructionist (which means I want to know what Bible said in the original Hebrew or Aramaic in which it was written and the implications of each translation since and the social context and the cultural nuances and the political climate and the biography of the writer).  But I'm not against anything in the realm of spirituality except the exclusivity that makes people tell other people they're doing it "wrong".  I believe we all have to find our own connections to the Higher Power. I respect any way that a person might be able to find that connection (as long as no one else gets hurt in the process).

I look forward to watching the workings of the inner mechanisms of a church -- especially one that is in the process of trying to grow leaves and find its niche in the landscape.  I have a million ideas but will rein myself in from being TOO helpful and having TOO many suggestions.  I know my job is to do the clerical work, provide a warm fuzzy welcome mat, and be the useful, pleasant "Alice" (think Brady Bunch) of the church.  I can do that.  Churches do important work and I'm excited to be a cog in that.  I can't wait to be in the middle of it. 

I feel that I am being planted in this church-shaped pot for a reason.  SO many coincidences related to this job make me feel that I have been led there for a purpose.  For example, I didn't know it was a Methodist church when I applied but I was raised Methodist.  My grandfather was a Methodist minister.  He died when I was 4 and I have always wondered about what it was like to be in his profession.  I went to Trinity University -- this is Trinity United Methodist Church.  The church is just 1.3 miles from my house.  The hours are perfect.  The minister looks very much like a dear, departed high school friend whom I miss terribly.  The church is around the corner from two houses I used to own.  It is on Sycamore Street.  I have a very spiritual connection with sycamore trees.  There is something meaningful and divine about them for me.  When I lived in Laguna Beach I had a 250-year-old, Mother-Earth sort of sycamore tree in my yard.  The massive trunk measured 11 feet in circumferance.  I adored it and have had a soft and squishy spot for all sycamore trees ever since!  They are my favorites.  They speak to my soul.   I feel like the trees, among all the other signs, have whispered in my ear and pointed the way to tell me that this is the place for me!

There are other things too.  I'm not usually one to spout hymns.  They don't usually speak to me.  But the hymns we sang at yesterday's service were both meaningful to me.  The first was "Here I Am, Lord".  Well, yes, here I am!  One line in the song is "I will go Lord, if you lead me.  I will hold your people in my heart".  That would kind of be my job, wouldn't it?  I wouldn't be very good at the job if I didn't have my heart in it and a committment to the people there.  The other hymn was "What A Friend We Have In Jesus".  Coincidentally, I read, in the past week, an article about the poet who wrote the words to this song.  It was in the form of a letter to his mother.  The amazing thing about it was that he wrote such hopeful, peaceful, trusting words and sentiments after losing TWO fiances.  His first fiance drowned the night before the wedding and his second fiance fell ill and died of pneumonia shortly before they were to be married.  And still he wrote: "What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!  What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!".

I have prayed many a 3 a.m. prayer for a job and for help from above in my financial struggles.  It seems my prayers about a job have led me to a job in a place of prayer!  There's something cosmic to that, I think. 

I was very excited and very confident about the job until I left the first interview and saw the next applicant waiting to be interviewed.  Then I got all insecure and self-conscious and spent the rest of the day obsessing on every word I had said in the interview.  I wasn't sure what I would do with myself if I didn't get the job.  Now that the job is mine, I am nervous.  I haven't been tied to a desk in a very long time.  I have always had flexibity in my schedule (not that I made the best use of my freedom).  I won't be able to travel with Mark anymore (not that I have been able to go with him in months).  And, I am nervous about the money.  The pay isn't that good but it's certainly better than nothing.  It will help to get me by. 

I find myself trusting that I have been led to and given this position for a reason, that it is where I am supposed to be.  I know that it will be meaningful and that I will learn volumes that I have yet to even imagine.  I trust that "the Lord will provide" for the rest.  The church job, because of it's schedule, will allow me time to continue in real estate instead of getting a full-time job (which I couldn't do anyway).  Hopefully, the real estate will supplement intermittently enough to allow me to continue in the church job.  Hopefully I can make a difference and be an asset to the church while being able to pay my bills and dig myself out this slimy, ink-black pit I find myself in as well!  I anticipate a certain symbiosis.

I look forward to writing about the things I am about to learn.  I am itchy to know what they might be.   I know they must unfold in their own time.  In the meantime, I think I might go shopping for church lady hats!  And pointy glasses with rhinestones.  And maybe one of those little chains that clip to the top of a cardigan sweater.  Or not.  Blessedly, I think Trinity is hipper than all that!