Tuesday, September 2, 2014

What I Don't Do

We all have things we do that we loved to do. Things we feel called to do. Things that make us feel alive.

We all have things we do because they fall into the realm of our responsibility. As wives, mothers, home-makers, employees.

We all only have so much time. 24 hours in a day. 168 hours in a week. A very finite amount of time. So, in order to do the things we are called to and the things we love and the things that are our responsibilities, we all have things we don't do.

Every yes has its corresponding no. I even think that every yes means you are saying no to several things.

It's the best yes.

I'm not talking about facetious no's. I mean conscientious and deliberate choices. They are no's to things that are often good things. And sometimes the no's are for a season.

Such as the fact that Mr. Hippie wants us to participate in both a full marathon and a half Ironman. I know that I could do either/or with training. But, its the training that is the hitch right now. I can't give the hours required each day for training at this point in time. My kids are too young still. But, in another couple years, it will be possible.

A lot of the things I don't do are a matter of time. I am choosing not to devote my limited time to them in this season.

I don't...

-scrapbook

-eat organic (or gluten-free, Paleo, or anything else)

-brush my girls' hair somedays. (this probably falls into the realm of responsibility, but, I'm just being real...)

-read my kids' bedtime stories. (we read at lunch time. Bedtime is NOT my finest hour.)

-throw elaborate parties. (I am good at facilitating, and feeding, but not the elaborate decorating stuff.)

-lead in the Bible study that I led for 10 years. (I now only attend as a participant.)

-do laundry on Tuesdays, Thursdays or the weekends.

-iron. (like ever)

-do my own taxes. (I assemble the info, and then spend about an hour per year with our tax guy. It saves me major stress.)

-can and freeze like my mom did. (It is no longer the most economical option-especially since I also don't....)

-have a humongous garden.

-do well child check ups. (I've taken one child to one. I waited almost an hour past my scheduled appointment time for the doctor to tell me my child was healthy. I already knew that.)

-Instagram. (its my one more social media thing)

-do late nights. (going to bed late and getting up early don't jive)

-clip coupons. (ain't nobody got time for that!)



I think the goal is to say yes to the best as much as possible. Whether that best yes is to scrubbing toilets, or exercising, reading to your kids or making dinner, taking a nap or writing a blog post.

What don't you do?

Friday, August 29, 2014

Last Week of Summer

It's the last week of summer. I'm not terribly thrilled with that. I feel like summer has been too short, and routine is not exactly what I am wanting in my life. I've enjoyed the flexibility of sleeping in a bit and still not hijacking my day. I've enjoyed the somewhat slower pace or at least-the different pace.

This week has been a bunch of "lasts".

Last early morning bike ride until next May. I somewhat belatedly realized why I am able to do serious triathlon training in the summer. I can get back from a bike ride and swim at 9:00 or 9:30, and it is okay. Obviously that can't happen while simultaneously trying to teach school. By 9:00 kids are fed and dressed and groomed. Devotions are done and reading time has been embarked upon.

But, now I am fighting the joint issues of sunlight (lack of) and school time. It is too dark to leave on a bike ride before 7:00, so I can't be back in time for school. Bike rides will now have to be fit into the afternoons.

Between writing and chores and other such necessary things.

Our last tri of the season is a week from tomorrow. So, we can call me more laid back training next week "tapering". It is more official than "school starting."

My odometer clicked past 950 this week. That is a full 200 miles more than last summer. And while I will be biking less, I still expect to get another 200-250 miles in before the first of October. Cooler, colorful fall rides.

Hopefully this week all marks the last of the alarm turning off for a while. It is a good thing, but it is also a good thing to get an early start on the day before the kids get up. Here's to being more disciplined about those wakeup calls.

I visited a farm this week to pick peaches. While there, I also picked up some cheap zucchini. For whatever reason, I have never had success growing zucchini in my garden. But, I love cooking with it, so I try to buy several at the farm whenever I am there. It is much cheaper at a farm than at the grocery store. At farms they are begging you to take it. At the grocery store they are expecting to make money in selling it. Who knew?

So, most zucchini recipes take 2 cups of zucchini. Which is great. But, it you have a baseball bat sized zucchini, you are going to be making a whole lot of bread and cake. Which is good too. Just not exactly good for you.

I have a recipe that uses a ton of zucchini, and it's savory. Spicy Zucchini Skillet uses 12-15 cups of shredded zucchini. It can be eaten as an entree (because of the bean protein), or as a side dish (really good with grilled pork and chicken) or as a salsa with your favorite tortilla chips.

It's spiciness comes from the cans of tomatoes with green chilies, and the Mexican style chili beans. You can chose mild or spicy tomatoes. The bean spiciness varies by brand.


Spicy Zucchini Skillet
12-15 cups grated zucchini
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 (14.5 oz) cans tomatoes with green chiles
2 (15.5 oz) cans Mexican style chili beans
2 cups (8 oz) shredded cheddar cheese
2 medium onions

-Shred the zucchini.
-In a large skillet, heat the oil on medium high. Add the zucchini. Sauté until translucent, occasionally draining any extra juices.
-Meanwhile, chop the onions and add to the zucchini.
-Drain the tomatoes and the beans. Add to the translucent zucchini and simmer on low for 10-15 minutes.
-Sprinkle the cheese overtop the skillet and allow to melt. Serve.
*you can half this recipe if you don't want this big amount.

Have a wonderful holiday weekend! And don't labor too hard!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Racism: It's Not Black and White


I am sure, if you live in the United States, you have heard and read a lot about racism during the past couple weeks. The dual topics of Ferguson, MO and Michael Brown have filled your news feeds. Twitter, FB, blog reels, news pundit articles.

The chatter/noise/conversation has overridden the death of Robin Williams, which displaced any mention of Syria and the beheadings of Christian children over there.

It's news. It's the way news rolls. Fresh sells.

The BFF and I discussed this issue of racism for over an hour last week during our bi-weekly brunch. After our conversation I decided that this whole issue is not a clear cut, black and white (not talking skin color here) issue. There are so many nuances. I want to address a few of them.

1. It is being portrayed that if you're white you are racist. Obviously. You must be. That's all that is to it. If not blatantly, then in your heart of hearts.

What?

Racism is the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, esp. so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races. It is prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one's own race is superior.

That's the Webster's dictionary definition there. I am not racist. I don't do those things. And I don't teach my children to act or think that way either.

Prejudice is opinion. Discrimination is action. Antagonism is active hostility or opposition.

None of those words describe me.

I'm not racist.

And I'm not in denial either.

Racism starts in the heart and bleeds to actions. Unless I am completely blinded to my own heart, there is nothing in my attitudes, actions, or words that is racist.

It doesn't make me racist just because someone who doesn't know me says that I am.

2. No one is born racist-it is learned.

IRL, last night as I was walking out my door I noticed a group of half a dozen preteen black boys on bikes on the sidewalk in front of my house. I greeted them. How's it going guys? They asked if I had pliers so they could fix their bike. My husband went out to his truck, found tools and helped them fix the bike. As they were working, one of the kids called the other a nigger. My husband told him not to say that. The boy said he could say that because he was black. My husband said he shouldn't because it is rude. The boy cussed out my husband, and said things about my husband being white, and asked him if he was going to call the police. That boy brought up race, not us. We were being neighborly and friendly. What has this kid experienced and been taught that he would even go there?

3. I refuse to accept white guilt and I do not feel the need to apologize for being white. None of us chose our skin color. We do choose prejudices that are associated with skin color. But, we don't have to. I also will not apologize for slavery or the KKK. I wasn't there. They were not my actions.

It is part of our history. It isn't pretty. It isn't something we should be proud of. By neither do I need to apologize for it.

What I am accountable/culpable for is my own actions and my own attitudes.

4. The BFF and I were talking about racial slurs/terms that we didn't even know were slurs until recently (some of them of them I'd never even heard of). Does that make us racist? Some people would say it does. I actually think that it means the opposite. We aren't throwing around slurs with the intent of offending or belittling. It may be naive, but it is not racist.

If we stop emphasizing the difference, would it make a difference?

5. The lines between racism, stereotypes and facts/stats can be quite blurry. If the truth is not pleasant and you believe it, does that make you racist?

6. A lot of bloggers have been throwing around ideas and words. Where are our racial friends? Where are people of race at our blogger meet ups and conferences? Where is the racial representation on our contributor blogs?

There is no reason for all races not to be represented in the blogging world. And, actually, they are.

But, I am not going to tally up my various friends of different races. That is insulting to them. That is making friendship a race issue. When in fact friendship transcends race and race should have nothing to do with it. Friendship is so much broader than skin color. I am sure there are people who refuse to be friends with someone of another race. That is racist. I don't. People are people and everyone needs friends.

Also, about the blogging conferences/contributor blog thing-I could be naive, but I think it is more of an issue of cliques than of color. A lot of big bloggers have their friends. Their circle. Their tribe. They are willing for you to come up to them at conferences and join their fan club, but they are often not looking for more friends. They want followers, not friends. I realize everyone can't be bosom pals with everyone, but some people aren't even open to new friendships with someone who is not someone.

It's true.

It isn't even always ugly. One of the perks/burdens of writing publicly is that people know you, or feel they know you. But, you don't know them. People become numbers, not faces and hearts.

So, maybe you want to be the difference in the racial issue. Then just be the difference. Don't only befriend people who are like you-race, economic status, interests. Broaden your horizons. Color your rainbow.

7. It keeps being said that Michael Brown was unarmed. This obviously is a bigger point than I think it is. And I am in the minority, I'll grant you that.

Most of us are unarmed. I own a gun, but I don't carry it around. It isn't legal to carry a gun around unless you have a concealed weapons permit or unless you carry it completely openly. And even then there are rules and regulations about where you can carry.

So, is the issue the fact that someone was unarmed (not unusual) or that someone was killed?

If the issue is murder or killing, it is a travesty whenever an innocent person is murdered or even killed accidentally.

If the issue is about killing someone defenseless and unarmed, what about all the innocent, unarmed children being beheaded by the ISIS? We've forgotten about those unarmed little people.

Of all the posts and articles I've read lately, this one was the most interesting. It is about blacks and whether the 2nd amendment (the right to bear arms) applies to them. Obviously it does. Practically, this author had some valid points. The best point was that if a white person owns and carries a gun, they are considered a law-abiding, patriotic citizen. If a black person carries a gun, they are looked on as a thug. Wow.

(the remainder of this point has been edited since I started this post)

I read an article in National Review last night (ironically enough, after the incident with the boys and the bikes) about gun control and race. It was eye opening. I now get it why the unarmed thing is a big deal.

Did you know that gun control has always had it roots in keeping guns from the black population? Say what? An armed people is less likely to be an oppressed people. Surprisingly enough, when the oppressed fight back, the oppressors often get the message that this is not okay.

I unequivocally believe the 2nd amendment applies to all American citizens, regardless of their race. It is a basic freedom for all. I am willing to do whatever necessary to make that a reality.

Also, because more of the black population is killed by guns than anything else, they are more for gun control. But, this could be working against them-i.e. all the unarmed citizens that have been killed recently.

8. George Zimmerman was acquitted by a jury for the killing of Trayvon Martin. He was acquitted of second degree murder and manslaughter by a jury. In our country's legal system we operate under the principle of innocent until proven guilty. George Zimmerman was acquitted.

An acquittal is to be free from the charge of an offense.

Did a guilty man go free? A whole lot of people on social media this week seem to think so.

Frankly, the fact that a jury of 12 people with a whole lot more evidence than I have, acquitted him, is good enough for me. That makes me a racist according to some.

John Adams had two great quotes that apply to this situation...

Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.

It is more important that innocence be protected than it is that guilt be punished, for guilt and crimes are so frequent in this world that they cannot all be punished. But if innocence itself is brought to the bar and condemned, perhaps to die, then the citizen will say, "whether I do good or whether I do evil is immaterial, for innocence itself is no protection," and if such an idea as that were to take hold in the mind of the citizen that would be the end of security whatsoever.

So, what do you think-about any or all of these points?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Fiction and I Don't Mix


...in the evenings. Or maybe we mix too well.

Is it just me? I have a problem reading fiction at night. It's not really in the reading. It's in the stopping reading.

I have a really hard time putting fiction down. The story bleeds from one chapter into the next. (which is actually the sign of a good author/editor). I must keep reading to find out what happens.

Just.one.more.chapter.

I promise. Just one more.

Until the book is done. Or it's after midnight. Whatever comes first.

Fiction chapters are awfully like potato chips.

Jays claims that you can't stop eating 'em. Lay's hooks with you can't eat just one. How about Pringles...once you pop, you can't stop.

Ugh...

It doesn't bode well for my beauty sleep.

I don't have this problem with non fiction. Give me a biography or business book, and I have no problem closing it by bedtime. I will even be nodding off 15-20 minutes before bedtime. I will be propping me eyelids open and willing myself to at least finish one.more.paragraph. before I nod off. My brain has been calmed and lulled into a sense of peacefulness. I am sleepy and ready to tuck it in.

Every time.

So, in the flexibility of summer schedule, I do spend more time reading fiction later into the night. School year schedule, I have to park on the (relatively) dry non fiction after 8:00.

Sigh...last week of reading fiction before bed. Gotta get than John Grisham finished.

How about you?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Inhale, Exhale, Repeat

This weekend I breathed. Deep cleansing breaths.

I inhaled. I exhaled. I breathed. I relaxed.

We live in the Mitten state. And while I generally think it a nice place to live, I rarely think of it as beautiful. But, the Mitten is one of the top tourist destinations in the USA. This weekend I was reminded why.


This weekend I was reminded of its beauty. The fields of corn and wheat. The endless forests of White Pines lined up in neat rows like soldiers. The sandy beaches studded with beach grass. The open, clear blue skies.


The Mitten is a glorious state.

Mr. Hippie and I spent a bit over 48 hours exploring the upper regions of our lower peninsula. We crammed a lot of doing into that time plus a lot of not doing. We also crammed a lot of eating and drinking into that time.

On Friday we headed up to Traverse City. Cherry Capitol. We ate at a restaurant that we enjoyed 8 years ago on our 5th anniversary. We meandered along the bay-until we ran out of quarters. There was plenty of parking downtown-it was just all metered and required change. Who carries change? We filled our meter with every available piece of change we had and then we explored every available minute of our time.


One thing that Mr. Hippie really wanted to do was to taste some of the area's famous wines. The vineyards in the Leelanau Peninsula region produce a ton of wine every year. We enjoy wine (we have a wine of the month membership) so we decided to look up some of the area wineries.


That was a lot of fun. Cheap fun. We got to taste 13 (I lost count, but I guess Mr. Hippie was keeping a tally or something) different wines. At 4 different places. My favorite wine possibly was a cherry wine. But, my favorite wine tasting experience was a a hole in the wall shop that housed two different brands of wine, Skipping Stones and Three Fires, owned by a husband and wife. We had a ton of fun there! The husband is an unofficial sommelier. (som-lee-aye) He has an extensive repertoire of wine and grape knowledge. He poured each wine and talked about it. We learned so much. He was also a great salesman. We walked out with (not quite) a case of wine. If you are ever in the Sutton's Bay neighborhood, you should make their shop a stop on your itinerary. You won't regret it.


We left the Leelanau Peninsula to check into our B&B, Applesauce Inn. This B&B is located about 45 minutes from Charlevoix, Petoskey and Traverse City. It is housed in the tiny burg of Bellaire. Bellaire is famous for one thing-Shorts Brewery. If you are a microbrew aficionado in Michigan, you have probably heard of some of their brews. As I am far less into beer than into wine (read: I can't stand beer) I'd never heard of them. Mr. Hippie was thrilled though. He enjoyed a custom taster flight with his dinner on Saturday. But, I'm getting ahead of myself.


Applesauce Inn is an old farmhouse that has been renovated and decorated in a rather Victorian style. Lots of knick-knacks and vintage wall paper. The hosts, Jamie and Gary are friendly and amazing. Jamie cooks delicious, unique, farm fresh breakfasts. Gary is an artist. The walls feature some of his very nice oil paintings. We loved sitting on their porch eating dessert and drinking wine in the evening and sipping coffee in the morning. I loved hearing their rooster crow. I enjoyed the welcoming feel of the B&B, without feeling the pressure of being guests, and adjusting our schedule for our hosts. Does that make sense? It is the cozy feel of a home while still preserving your independence. The price was reasonable, and the location was perfect. The bed was comfortable. The room and ensuite bathroom were roomy. It was perfect.


Saturday (after a delightful breakfast shared with other guests) we decided to head north. We had brought our bicycles with us, because it is fun to explore new places that way. We read about the Little Traverse Wheelway that runs from Charlevoix to Harbor Springs. It is a paved pedestrian/cycle trail that runs along the Little Traverse Bay. There are many amazing vistas, and a lot of the trail is shaded-which is a plus, trust me. We only went to Petoskey-which is a little more than halfway. Round trip, the trail is over 50 miles. We went 32. We enjoyed a picnic overlooking the bay in Petoskey, and then biked back along the trail, stopping in at a very high brow set of shops and restaurants along the way. I had gellato with M&Ms. Because I am classy like that. I also added a nice lobster hue layer to my biker girl tan.


As we were biking along, we noticed miles painted on the trail. The majority of the Charlevoix Marathon runs along this trail. As previously noted-the route is fairly flat and shaded. When/if we ever run a marathon-we decided this is the one that we are going to do.


We camped out at a state park beach west of Charlevoix for a couple hours. I read (and got redder) and Mr. Hippie did an open water swim in his wetsuit. It was very relaxing. I managed to read another whole book this weekend. One Plus One by Jojo Moyes.


So, we had a great balance of activity and relaxation. And I feel blessed. And ready to face my week. Which included preparing for a new product launch next week, preparing to start school next week, and canning 2 bushels of peaches over the course of the next few days.


If I don't get as much writing in as I'd like, you can picture me standing at my kitchen sink, peeling peaches and dreaming of beaches.


I know. I'm good.=)

Friday, August 22, 2014

Boston Creme Pie


So, I have a repertoire of cakes. A limited repertoire, but a repertoire nonetheless.

There's Spice Cake, and Hot Milk Sponge Cake. Strawberry Cake and Guinness Cake. And Boston Creme Pie. Basically a cake per birthday in our house, not counting my own.

I find cakes to be fairly easy to make, and fairly hard to mess up. Which wasn't always the case. Women used to bake with cake flour and had to beat egg whites perfectly or their cakes would fall. That simply isn't the case any more. Now cakes generally mix up with the wet ingredients being mixed into the dry ingredients. Sometimes the eggs get added later, but generally they don't require tons of steps anymore.

I love cake and I love buttercream frosting. I'd pick cake for dessert over pie almost any day of the week.

The recipe I am sharing with you today is the cake that I made for BMV's birthday last week. It is the cake I usually make for Mr. Hippie's birthday. But, since we'd just had a Guinness cake, this one seemed like a good bet.

Boston Creme Pie is called pie for who knows what reason... All wikipedia says is that it is in fact a cake. Thanks, wikipedia. For nothin'.

Ironically enough, though it is a cake called a pie, it is categorized in my cookbook as a pudding and soft dessert dessert. Say what? I think people are just plain confused when it comes to Boston Creme Pie.

The creme part of the title comes from the (box) pudding filling. Anyway, it is a snap to make, and it looks delectable, so I hope you'll give the recipe a whirl.



Boston Creme Pie
2 eggs
1-1/2 cups sugar, divided
2 cups flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
6 Tbsp oil
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup milk
1 (3.5 oz) box instant vanilla pudding
1-3/4 cup milk
2 cups (12 oz) chocolate chips
1 cup whipping cream

-Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
-Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and 1 cup sugar.
-Separate the egg whites from the egg yolks. Put the yolks in the flour mixture and set aside the whites. Add the oil, vanilla and 1 cup milk to the flour. Beat on medium for 2 minutes, scraping often.
-In another bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add the 1/2 cup sugar, beating until stiff peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the batter.
-Pour the batter in 3 greased 9" round baking pans.
-Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes clean.
-Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.

-Meanwhile, whisk the pudding with the 1-3/4 cups of milk. Chill well.
-After the cakes are done baking, melt the chocolate chips with the whipping cream in a small saucepan over low. Cool completely in the refrigerator.
-Assemble the cake by alternating a cake layer, half the pudding, another cake layer, the other half of the pudding and the final cake layer. Pour the cooled ganache over all, spreading to cover the sides.
-Store in the refrigerator.


Mr. Hippie and I are heading off sans kids for a weekend away. I am looking forward to some biking and beach time. We have several hours in the car. That means we will have some great talking time. I'm pretty excited!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Good Steward

Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. (1 Corinthians 4:2)

Stewardship: the conducting, supervising, or managing of something; especially the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one's care.


Stewardship is a concept that was taught to me as a child/teen. You could say that it is a foundational truth in my life. Stewardship is the undergirding reason I do many of the things in my life.

From the taking care of my house to the taking care of my body to caring for relationships, stewardship plays an integral role.

Stewardship implies that someone else owns whatever you are caring for. From a house steward taking care of someone else's house/land to a flight steward overseeing the needs and property of a company and it's clients-a steward is taking care of someone else's goods. 

That is a Biblical concept right there. 

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a  price: therefore glorify God with your body, and in your spirit, which are God's. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

Stewardship is the reason I fill in holes in my walls with spackle and then paint.

Stewardship is the reason I clean the fingerprints off the doorjambs and scrub the toilets (even if I'd rather do anything else).

Stewardship is the reason I run miles and miles. And swim and bike. To keep this body strong and healthy to serve God. As a mom, a wife, a woman.

Stewardship is the reason I say no to some things I'd like to eat. It is the reason I aim to eat mostly healthy.

Stewardship is the reason I shave my legs, brush my teeth, shower, wear make up, get dressed, and do all that other primping.

Stewardship is the reason I save my money.

Stewardship is the reason I give away my money. Stewardship is the reason I pray about the who's, what's, where's and how's of giving.

Stewardship is the reason I pay my bills on time and pay any attention to finances at all.

Stewardship is the reason I teach my kids-the Bible, chores, schoolwork. They've been entrusted to my care. Their education (in the broadest and narrowest senses) has been entrusted to me. By God.

Stewardship is the reason I choose to give my dusting and other chores a lick and a promise on occasion-in order to build relationships.

Stewardship is the reason I get so much done in a day. I want to be found faithful in the tasks I've been called to. A housewife, mom, wife, business owner, writer, school teacher.

Stewardship is the basic realization that none of these resources or people belong to me. They all belong to God. But they have been entrusted to me. To care for. To use well and faithfully. To use and care for to the glory of God.

Stewardship applies to my resources and gifts-tangible and intangible. My abilities and strengths. Even my weaknesses. Everything.

Stewardship is the reason I don't look down on the Proverbs 31 woman. I don't need to do everything she did. But, stewardship was one of her underlying godly characteristics.

Stewardship is the reason I often will make something instead of buying it. 

It's not vanity. Though it can be.

It's not aiming for perfection. Though I fight that too.

It's not thinking I am better than others who do things differently. 

It's between me and my Master. He is the One to whom I will give an account one day. 

What did you do with what I gave you, Ms. Barefoot Hippie Girl?

I am hoping to hear the words, "well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of thy Lord."


This is how the idea of stewardship has shaped my life. I am not saying it is right or wrong. It is just how this concept makes me tick.

What is your idea of stewardship?