Sunday, April 26, 2009

Squash is so misunderstood

I have been thinking a lot about nutrition lately. And how to eat healthier without spending a lot of money to do it. Usually all I really have to do is look in my garden.

This year that means tomatoes, green peas, snap beans, broccoli, and garlic. I have been reading about Native Americans and their gardening choices. They mostly grew corn, beans, and squash. It grows fast, can be planted together, and generally produces a lot of food for a small space. The corn is planted first, and when the seedlings get about 4 inches tall, they planted beans around each corn plant. As they grew, the beans would climb up the corn stalks. The squash (pumpkin is actually a squash) would be planted in hills around the field.

It also appears that when you eat these three vegetables together, it creates a complete protein very similar to meat protein. So Corn+Beans+Squash = Meat. Very useful for those lean times when hunting was difficult. And with a seasoning of herbs gathered in the wild, very tasty.

Anyway...we don't generally eat a lot of squash. The kids don't really care for it, and the only way my husband had ever eaten squash (yellow crookneck, BTW) was fried. Except for the annual pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving. I grew up eating patty pan, crookneck, and butternut squash. Can't say that I ever really liked it. But I ate it anyway.

I picked up a butternut squash on sale, thinking that it was something different and that different is good sometimes. I sliced it in half, scooped out the seeds, and turned it cut side down on a baking sheet. 375 oven until it was soft. My husband actually ate half of it by himself. It seems that he had never eaten any type of squash except crookneck and even then it was fried. He didn't really like it much so he thought that a squash is a squash, and so he doesn't like squash. He was wrong. We have eaten it several times since then.

Now I have something to add to my garden. If I can find a place to put it.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Has Anyone Seen the Constitution Lately?

I am so irritated right now. The Supreme Court will be hearing a case today on whether or not a school had the right to strip search a 13 year old girl for the allegation that she had possession of acetaminophen (Tylenol) and was handing it out to other students.

Supposedly, "someone" saw her handing out said acetaminophen, so the administrator pulled her out of class and searched her backpack. Then, because they didn't find anything, he enlisted the aid of the school nurse and his female assistant to strip this child down to her panties. They still found nothing.

The school says they didn't need a search warrant because they had probable cause. The school board has been the party to keep the appeals going on this. They are absolutely convinced they have the right to do whatever they want, whenever they want even though the courts have ruled in favor of the child several times.

Reminds me of a situation in our town a few years back. A teacher accused 3 girls of taking $20 out of her purse when she was out of the room. This teacher had the 3 girls strip searched to find the money. They didn't have it. An expanded search found the $20 in the teacher's desk drawer. The school supported the teacher's decision to search the girls. The parents were not informed, nor would they allow the girls to call them, until afterward. I believe this settled out of court, but the school tried to keep it very hush-hush.

I am afraid that I would just have to get up in someone's face if that happened to one of my kids.

There have been many, many cases of school boards violating the Constitutional Rights of students, all in the name of "safety" or "zero tolerance drug policies". There have even been cases of schools expelling students for violating school policy after school hours and not on school property. And Free Speech anywhere on campus is simply a joke.

It would appear that the schools do not feel that our children have any Constitutional Rights until after they have graduated. Not when they turn 18, but when they graduate. And it just sets my poor School Newspaper Co-editor daughter to gnashing her teeth. It just makes her teeth hurt to have to submit her editorials to the principal, not the staff adviser, the Principal, before it can be published. They have to send the entire paper to the office for approval before it can go to the printers. And if he cuts a story, they can't print the edition without a complete change of layout. They have only been able to print 3 editions of the school paper all year because of story cuts.

It is getting to the point where home school is the only place children can actually learn what the Constitution means to the individual, not just to the government.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Senior Prom...Oh the Horror!

This has been a rather busy week for me. I have been chasing kids around to doctor's appointments, cleaning the house, creating works of art with yarn (crochet), getting paperwork together for the recast on the mortgage, and getting ready for Prom.

Yes, my sweet little bald-headed baby is going to her Senior Prom tonight. Normally, this wouldn't be that big of a deal, but trying to get my daughter into a dress for any reason is nearly impossible. She made a statement way back when she was 12 or so that she only *had* to wear a dress 2 times in her life. Senior Prom and a Wedding dress. Granted she will wear a skirt occasionally, but not often, but that is a lot different than a dress. She promised her best friend that she would go to the Senior Prom if she didn't have to go to every other school dance, including but not limited to Homecoming dances. My little girl just doesn't dance. Her friend kept her word, so now Shine is keeping hers. Regardless of how much she professes hates it.

We got the dress, ($228) and the shoes ($42, 3 1/2 inch heels to boot), and she will be wearing the rhinestones from MY prom. That just leaves her hair and makeup. Oh the horror! The idea that she can't look like she does every other day just mystifies her. My daughter has a natural beauty that doesn't require a lot of makeup and her preferred hairstyle is brushed out and hanging down her back. Very straight. And it looks good on her. But she wants sausage curls for Prom. Go figure? So I will have to go buy some rollers. One of her friends is going to do her makeup.

Her fella will be shocked. And he may not recognize her.

I think she will have a good time anyway. In spite of herself.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Babies Cause Global Warming

I just read an article that said that having babies is causing global warming.

If that isn't the single most ridiculous thing I have heard this year, and I have heard some fairly ridiculous things, it is at least in the top 10. The article states that each child born has a "carbon footprint" exponential greater than that of parent. Horse Hockey, I say. Even if an infant could consume enough resources to have a "carbon footprint" there is no way it could be greater than the parent who is driving to work, burning electricity, and consuming resources.

The main issue of the article to that overpopulation is a major problem. And while I agree that in some places on the Earth, there are population problems, there are many many more that are underpopulated. Russia, for instance, for all of it's land mass, is having such a problem with falling birth rates that in less than one generation, they will not have a population density great enough to sustain basic services and food production. The government is actually paying women to have babies. Then in other places like India, the population is so dense that they literally cannot grow enough food in their climate to support themselves. Overpopulation isn't the issue, it is population density.

China has the largest population of any country on Earth, yet if you take the populations of the major cities out of the equation, that country would have almost no people. It all comes back to density. More people in a small area create bigger problems. From sanitation to pollution. 5 people living on 1 acre will likely not get sick. 500 on one acre likely will. And that is what cities do to us. That is why, historically, when you pack a bunch of people into a small living area, such as a slum, a barrio, or a ghetto, disease will spread. Think of the Black Plague. Too many people living in a small area invites in the rats and other vermin, people get bitten by fleas or get histoplasmosis from the droppings, and pass it to everyone they meet. Spread these same people out a bit and the infection rate drops dramatically.

"Oh, but we are consuming to many resources", you say. "We need a smaller population so that we do not consume so many resources and destroy natural habitats." "We are destroying the Earth." The answer to that argument is sustainability. 100 years ago, the majority of the population grew at least part, if not all, of their own food. They grew enough for themselves and maybe a little extra to sell. Nothing was wasted. Very few people anywhere on earth actually do that now. We are dependent on corporate farms that provide limited nutrition to feed us. No one actually wants to invest sweat for good healthy food anymore. That is why overpopulation is a problem. There are a limited number of jobs in the cities and no place to grow your own food. So people in the cities are dependent on other to feed them. If there are not enough people willing to grow the food, there is a problem.

As a species, we have gotten lazy.

For those of you who do not believe in God...We have evolved to the point that we are at the top of the food chain. We have successfully out-competed every other animal on the planet and our birth rates prove it. If we practice restraint, we will have the resources to continue to evolve forever.

To those God-faring folks out there, God created Man and gave him dominion over the Earth. We were given the mandate to go forth and multiply. We were also charged with the responsibility to be stewards over the Earth. That means we were told to take care of it.

Any way you look at it, stewardship, sustainability, husbandry, responsibility, whatever, if we do not take care of the Earth, it will not matter a hill of beans how many people there are. We will fail.

The answer isn't how many, it is just how.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Financial stability

I have finally been officially approved for disability. I got my back pay, and got back pay for the kids this week. Unfortunately, after talking to my accountant (ie sister in law), we will have to pay taxes on my portion of the back pay to the tune of about 10k. Because the kid's portion is paid under their socials, they will have to file taxes on their part. Neither are working right now (my son is only 15 anyway) and the back pay won't be enough for them to have to pay any tax on it, hopefully.

We have taken the remaining portion of the money and paid a lump sum principal payment on the mortgage and talked to the mortgage company to recalculate the payments on the new principal balance. It will cut our house payment in half! If we continue to make the same payment we currently owe, we can have the house paid off in less than 5 years. If my husband gets laid off, we can still afford the house payment just living off of my disability check. And if he can get even a part time minimum wage job, that is even better.

And the best part of it is that our house has an insurance appraisal of 95k, we will owe only 23k so the difference is all profit if/when we decide to sell the house and finally, FINALLY buy our little homestead. I have been keeping an eye out for small acreage with a house and there are lots of them in AR in the 50-70k range. Older,smaller houses of course, but that is all we really need.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Home again, home again...

Well, we are back from the Northeast corner of the state not too worse for wear. This was the first time we had been home since Christmas and everyone was more than happy to see us. We couldn't stay anywhere long enough to satisfy so we wound up having short visits with everyone, and no one was happy. So what else is new.

Our oldest didn't get to go with us since she was on her very last school trip, an orchestra contest, in Dallas. They did bring home 2 trophies so that is good. We got to hear about how everyone really missed her presence, which was sad. My sweet little bald-headed baby will be leaving the nest, probably for good, in August, so we will have to get used to making the trip without her. I won't enjoy that.

I got to visit with my dad about various things, like chickens, cows, goats, asparagus, fences, greenhouses, and genealogy. Mostly genealogy.

All in all, it wasn't a bad trip. Everyone mostly got along, and the meals were good. We got to see everyone, at least for a little while, and the visits were mostly pleasant.

Maybe the trip in June will be just as nice.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Saving Money on food

With the economy like it is, we are all trying to do more to save money. And there are as many ways to do that as there are grains of sand at the beach. Not every tip will work for all families but a few are just common sense. Don't buy it if you don't need it, shop around for the best deals, don't buy disposable anything if you don't have to, etc.

Since I have two teens, one of which will be headed for college in the fall, we have to save wherever we can. Our biggest way is to cook at home instead of eating out. In the last year or so, we have cut back on the number of times we eat out every month, and have started being more careful of what we buy at the grocery store. I have even found better ways to use up leftovers (so they don't look like leftovers).

My absolute favorite way is to cook big once or maybe twice a week, and eat leftovers the rest of the time. I use my smoker a lot that way. Smoke a pork roast or fresh picnic roast. The same time you are smoking the pork, you can smoke some whole chickens for later in the week. Chop up what meat isn't eaten and put that into meal sized freezer bags and throw it in the freezer. The leftover pork roast can be heated with BBQ sauce for sandwiches the next night, and the bones and meat tidbits left (not the BBQ ones) can be thrown into a pot of beans for yet another meal. And the leftover beans can be used to make bean burritos the next night or for lunch. The chicken can be sliced onto a salad, sauteed into a stir-fry, made onto sandwiches, chopped into soup or dumplings, or make chicken salad. Not only are you stretching your food costs by only cooking once or twice a week, you give yourself some very easy, super fast meals for hectic weeknight dinners.

Another way to save money on food is to do it yourself. Shredding your own cheese can save dollars per pound on the cost of cheese. And is will not have all of the anti-clumping additives that are just not really healthy for you. Buy a big chunk and shred it all at once. This is why Ziplock bags were invented. And as an added tip, use the finest shred you can. Your cheese will go farther. It is all in the psychology of it. It looks like you are using more, but by weight, it is actually less. And sharp cheddar will go farther than mild. More flavor, and all of that.

Not everyone has the time to make it all yourself, and sometimes it is just cheaper not to. Take bread for instance. It is cheaper for us to buy our sandwich bread from the bakery thrift store than it is for me to make it. That is partially because of the price of ingredients and the electricity to run the oven, but more because we can buy a loaf of 100% whole grain, Name Brand bread at the thrift store for 80 cents, and the store is only a couple of miles from the house. And we drive by it fairly often. I still make things like flat breads, baguettes and dinner rolls, but hamburger and hot dog buns and sandwich bread we get from the thrift store. This won't work for everyone, but there ya have it. Bread does freeze well, so if you stock up by buying a month's worth at a time, it could be worth a special trip to the store.

Use your freezer. It is more than a place to store ice cream sandwiches. Any time meat goes on sale, or veggies, or most fruits, you can stock up and freeze what you will not up fresh. Just remember to get as much air out of the freezer bags as possible to prevent freezer burn. And date everything so you will remember to use the oldest first. I have even frozen leftover veggie side-dishes (like corn or green beans) into 1 large bag and when the bag gets full, make soup. Soup is an excellent way to use up leftovers before they go bad.

We also have what we call a freezer night. Once a month or so, I go through the freezer and pull out partial bags of french fries, a few pizza rolls, whatever I can find in there that needs to be eaten. I usually will have several things that don't really match what you would consider a "normal" meal. A couple of burritos, some fish sticks, some mixed fries and tater tots, that bag of frozen brussel sprouts that you got on sale and never cooked, you know, that sort of thing. Cook it all. Everyone can get a bit of everything or one person can get all of the fish sticks while some one else gets the burritos. However you want to do it. This is a great way to not only clean out the freezer to make room, but also you are not wasting food that you would normally have to throw out because you forgot it is there. And my kids think it is a fun way to have dinner since it isn't so formal. I will usually bake everything that I can (like fries, fish sticks, and burritos) on the same baking sheet to avoid making a mess frying every thing. And it is just faster too. Microwaves are good for doing the veggies. So I can generally have dinner ready in less than 30 minutes without a lot of fuss or a lot of clean up.

But anyway, saving money is all in the mindset to think outside the box. Find ways that your family can live with. Look back at some of my other posts for other ideas on how WE save money.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Taxes, taxes everywhere...

Well, things are getting out of hand... again. Nation wide today a new tax went into effect. One that raises the price of tobacco products by 60-some-odd cents a pack. But apparently, because little cigars were not considered cigarettes, they were not taxed the same. And they fixed that little loop-hole with this tax. A pack of little cigars went from 89 cents a pack up to $4.00 at midnight last night. Loose tobacco, such as pipe tobacco was set to go up to something like $80 a pound.

And what is our government going to use all of that new tax revenue for, you ask? My guess would be to bail out all of the failing businesses. After all, that money has to come from somewhere. Or they might use it as foreign aid to countries that don't like us. Or...Congress might give themselves a raise for all of the hard work they are doing for us. OR...It will go to pay all of the corporate executives to stay in this country after we told them that they cannot have the bonuses they were contracted to get.

Anyway, with all of the new spending the current government is doing, the money has to come from somewhere. And just how many times can the Federal Reserve print up $6Billion and buy treasury bills with it? Yes, folks, the government just printed $6 Billion in new paper with nothing to back it up. That is inflation in the making.

The current government makes Jimmy Carter's "Tax and Spend" policies look like bargain day at the thrift store. This year's budget alone will cost us more that all of World War II. And that isn't counting all of the bailouts and handouts Congress has been tossing around like confetti.

I am just waiting for the time when they start taxing us on food consumption. Not a sales tax, but a tax on how much food we actually eat. After all, those who eat a lot are a big drain on the healthcare system because of all of the health issues related to obesity. So if they tax the foods that aren't good for us (of course this is anything that corporate farms say it is), we will all eat healthier, right?

I'm thinking it is time for a Tea Party.

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