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    Wednesday
    Jul272011

    "No title this time, because I couldn't come up with something concise."

    After quite a bit of time off from school, I’m finally taking (more) college courses this fall. While I’m excited, and definitely ready to be back in school, this brings up a most dreaded question:

    “What’s your major?”

    I haven’t actually done much college (a semester in Colorado, and a semester + summer at community college. In that order.), but this is my third major. First was Art, with an emphasis on photography, then came Human Services. Through volunteering at an after-school program focused mainly on the arts, I came to realize that I wanted to combine the two. Unfortunately, it’s currently impossible to get a BFA in Changing Lives Through Art. The major I’ve settled on sounds a bit shallow until I explain how I want to use it, which is why I dread the question: I know that it’s going to require a long explanation.

    I settled on my current major because my intent is to launch it into a non-profit organization to aid victims of human trafficking. I’ve done my best to research human trafficking in the U.S., but very little research has been done. Estimates are broad, and shelters are few. I don’t know for certain how many shelters there are, but I do know that it’s a single-digit number, and that there are zero in my home state of Texas. This is appalling to me- we’re a border state, and we’ve had several major trafficking busts in the last few years. But we’re doing NOTHING to help the victims.

    I’ll step off my soapbox now.

    That’s why I’m studying Fashion Design.

    When I moved home from Chicago, I started sewing CONSTANTLY (I had way too much free time). Somewhere in there, a friend of mine suggested something to me that I’d already been considering… which I took to mean that God was definitely saying, “Here’s how I want you to use this gift.” 

    The idea is to teach sewing as a trade to victims of human trafficking. Even if they don’t use the skill, it helps to teach them how to have a real job. It gives them a resume, and can build their confidence. There’s nothing like this in the U.S., but I’ve found similar programs in AfricaAsia and South America.  All of which I desperately want to visit.

    ~by Katee Smith

    Katee, another great article.  The vision you have for this venture is really incredible - something that so many will be able to support.  Keep us updated.

    Sunday
    Jul242011

    You are in for a treat

    ♪ ♪  Happy Anniversary, Happy Anniversary, Happy Anniversary, Haaaa-py An-ni-ver-sa-ry ♫ ♫

    I am taking the week off to rest, relax, and recreate with my honey!  It’s our anniversary week and a milestone anniversary, at that.  Thirty years of wedded bliss.  As I told my family in an email, “Thirty years…it doesn’t seem like 30 years have gone by…we are happy.  And blessed.  And would do it all over again (without the mistakes from the first time around ).”

    Here is where the treat for you comes in…Guest Authors.  I have solicited articles from our kids and our nieces and nephews - on each of the journal pages.  Young adults, all, and gifted, clever, men and women (gushing, just a little).  College graduates (with one in doctoral studies), college students, professionals, high school students.  They will write about what they know, about their passions and interests.  Insights from the younger generations are good for all of us.

    So, Happy Anniversary!

    Enjoy the reading and leave them a comment.  Or two.

    Thursday
    Jul212011

    Keep it simple, Keep it fresh

    Over the past few years, I’ve noticed more options on the store aisles of the food storage variety.  Remembering when Ziploc bags first made the scene makes me feel old enough, but plastic wrap?  The discovery of ‘cling wrap’ was made before I was born, but not too long before.  I DO remember when mother routinely started buying plastic wrap for the kitchen, and it was a wonderful thing.  It seemed easier and more convenient to roll off a section, slap it around our sandwich or over the top of a leftovers bowl, and be done.

    Before this revolution in food storage, we would place a plate on our bowl of leftovers or wrap that sandwich in waxed paper or a kitchen towel.  I don’t ever remember cheese or lunch meats being in anything but plastic.  They were, though.  “Back in the olden days”, folks would purchase their meats and cheeses from the butcher and he would wrap it all up in…butcher paper!  White or brown paper, waxed or not, that came on a roll.  You can still find that white food paper today, but it’s called freezer paper.  And it’s in a long box, and can be expensive.

    Back to “more options on the store aisles of the food storage variety”.  Several food-grade plastics manufacturers are now marketing glass containers with plastic lids.  Glass companies still make glass storage options, but it is interesting to see that home food storage may be coming full circle.  Some people like the idea of renewable and recyclable.  They are tired of the throwaway lifestyle, and tired of contributing to the waste.  Plastics and Styrofoam (which, by the way, is a trademarked name for polystyrene foam insulation) are not biodegradable.  Many plastics are now recyclable, but rarely polystyrene.  The detrimental effects from these ‘conveniences’, on our health and the environment, is just now coming to light.  BPA-free products (BPA stands for bisphenol A. BPA is an industrial chemical that has been used to make certain plastics and resins since the 1960s.) are now on the market, but I would steer clear of even those plastics.

    Glass, paper (of all varieties), pottery, stainless steel, really any earth product is reusable, recyclable, and, for the most part, renewable.  Unless they break, tear beyond repair, or rust, all of the above can be kept at home and used over and over and over again.  These select food storage containers are washable, storable, come in lovely colors and styles, and feel good.  Cost is always a factor, especially with today’s high unemployment rate and the country’s economic woes.  The beauty of natural food storage is that most items can be found at discount stores, flea markets, thrift shops, yard sales, and in your family’s attic or cellar.  My practice is to never pay more than a few dollars for a case of used canning jars, a casserole dish, or a crockery bowl (antique or not).  I have passed up some lovely pieces over the years, but once I’ve set my limit, I try to stick with it.  And that philosophy pays off.  The neat piece given up yesterday can be replaced by an equally wonderful piece tomorrow (for a cheaper price).

    So, this morning - I put together a lunch for GB to take to work.  I placed it in an old, glass, lidded container.  One of those 1950’s refrigerator dishes.  A meat and cheese plate with sliced zucchini and cherry tomatoes.  A rubber band held the lid on, just in case he decided to get wild with the thing.  I put some veggie dip in a wide-mouthed half-pint jar.  A pear was sliced and placed in another jar, and an apricot was left to roll around by itself in his lunch bag.  He brings it all home, the messy dishes are washed, the fruit jars get a rinse and a drain, and it’s all ready to go again tomorrow.

    A few items I’ve collected and their uses:

    ♥  Canning jars - new and antique, all sizes.  Beans; grains; pasta; cereal; tea (loose); nuts; car snacks; partly-used onions or fruit; travel food.  And, of course, canning.

      Unusual and specialty jars - flours; sugar; honey; baking soda; baking powder; salt; powdered milk; nuts; etc

      Unique and interesting bottles and jugs - from the glass recycling center, apple cider jugs, etc.  Brew and serve teas and other beverages; herbs and spices; other seasonings; condiments; oil; etc

      Pottery dishes and casseroles - lidded ones especially.  A cheese container in the refrigerator (out of the plastic.  Covered in a cloth napkin if the dish is not airtight.); hold leftovers; fruit and other salads; etc

      Glass casserole dishes - same as above

    ♥  Large, glass lids (some domed) - usually part of a set that has been separated or the bowl/bottom half broken.  As a plate or dish cover; dessert plate cover; to keep insects out of fruit bowls; etc.

    ♥  Old refrigerator dishes - lidded, the previously mentioned 50’ and 60’s style.  They are usually expensive, but can sometimes be found at yard sales and thrift shops for next to nothing.

    ♥  Stainless steel bowls, pots and pans - great refrigerator storage dishes; easy to reheat leftovers on top of the stove.

    How do I cover those non-lidded storage items?  Mismatched lids, plates, larger bowls, dish clothes, paper.  Paper for food and kitchen use can be butcher/freezer paper, newsprint (like they use in schools) by the roll, Kraft paper by the roll, paper sacks, lunch sacks.

    Don’t settle for the ordinary and the mundane.  Whimsical, handmade ceramic pieces, old and interesting glass jars, crocks, or unique candle holders can all be transformed into fun and useful. 

    Your creativity can really flourish - and did you ever imagine personal expression could be found in the refrigerator?

     

    Monday
    Jul182011

    Lovely, Renewable, Recyclable

    Glass…I really love it!  In sparkling windows (without screens), as colorful ornaments, and created into receptacles of all shapes and sizes.  Earthy, unique, moldable.  We always stop in to see the glass blowers when we visit Silver Dollar City; and I remember that first time, as a child, viewing their work.  Fascinating!  Even the most mundane pieces of glass (say, pop bottles or canning jars) proclaim the history and continuing love affair with glass.

    Most folks love to go to the beach, where they can dig their toes into the sand.  Or, use that sand to build castles with moats, bury themselves (ever notice how just inches below the hot surface, it is very cool?), or lightly scrub and slough their skin.  Have you considered that sand is one of the key elements to beautiful glass?  Well, various chemical components of sand.  The earliest glassmakers lived in Egypt and along the Mediterranean coast, at least a thousand years before Jesus was born.  They used the raw earth materials, heated to just the right temperatures in handmade ovens or blazing fires.  The discovery of raw glass probably happened by accident, or through observation and discovery (combine sand with a direct lightening strike).

    Today, there are many types of glass made with many different processes.  Auto glass, art glass, food-grade glass, etc.  The evolution of glass is interesting, but the chemistry of it all makes smoke come out of my ears.  I appreciate it, I do understand the process at a simplistic level, and it makes me happy.  GB and I have taken a couple of jaunts to south central Arkansas to dig quartz crystal from the earth.  We have also been to the only open-to-the-public diamond site in the world, at Murfreesboro, AR (Crater of Diamonds State Park).  No diamonds in our stash, but lots of beautiful quartz, of all varieties.  Both, cousins to glass.

    As I wrote in a previous article, glass is replacing plastic in our kitchen.  I also transfer most of our purchased health and beauty products into glass.  Breakables will not make into the shower or tub, so some plastics seem inevitable.  Sharing our transition away from plastics will continue with the next posts: glass collecting, use, and storage; pottery; paper.  All lovely, all renewable, and all recyclable.

    Companion Article:

    Glass Post Two

    Wednesday
    Jul132011

    Sensibilities

    Silly me.

    I want to add to the article on The Healthy Home page about sweetening your summer foods.  In the acceptable sweeteners listing, I left off one of my favorites - stevia.  It is gaining popularity with the advent of products and information.  A lovely South American shrub, stevia is the ultimate way to sweeten your drinks or desserts without the adverse effects of the ‘sugar blues’.  Much, much sweeter than sugar, no calories, no excess glucose production or insulin release, no side effects.  You can find stevia in several forms - whole, dried leaves; powdered leaves (unprocessed); processed stevia powder; liquid stevia extract; and a mixed powder with other sweeteners.  There are even several stevia products in the baking section of most grocery stores.  Check it out and give it a try.  You can find more information on The Nourishing Home page.

     … … … … … … …

    Lying awake in the wee hours of the morning is, for me, the perfect time for reflection.  For some reason, in the quiet of the night, our thoughts become less jumbled.  We can more easily see The Big Picture.  Remembering what we couldn’t during the day, a jogging of our memories, happens when peace reigns over the dark, quiet hours.

    I, sometimes, still wake with a jerk, alarmed that some curriculum project for our son’s home education has not been completed (they are now 28 and 25 years old).  Snaggledy thoughts are unraveled as I slowly open my eyes and lie there unable to sleep.  Even remembering details from a conversation that happened just yesterday, or the evening before, that were not passed along to GB.  So it is with this website and my journal pages.

    Last night, additions to these previous articles just popped (!) into my head.  I wasn’t thinking about those posts; I hadn’t re-read them to evaluate the writing or content.  Ideas and remembrances were just there.  Know what I mean?

    More on Sun Protection:

    • Here is a link to an article on foods that may help with your skin’s natural sun protection.  This meshes nicely with my encouragement to eat whole and nutritious foods, as well as lots of seasonal fruits and vegetables.

    Additions to your sunburn cures:

    • As part of your cooling down triage, ice cubes are a quick way to reduce skin temperature.  Make your ice ahead of time with filtered water, healing herbal teas (those mentioned in the article), filtered water with pure aloe vera gel or juice, filtered water with essential oils (those mentioned in the article).  Keep them in glass jars in the freezer (duh!), properly labeled.
    • Other herbs to include in your sunburn first aid arsenal:  plantain and chickweed are both wild weed herbs that grow in yards and waste areas.  A poultice of the freshly crushed leaves will work to reduce pain and begin healing.  Refer to my article on wild greens for more information.