Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Real Food...Really?

As the first two months of 2012 have flown by, I've been slowly trying to work on the items from my New Year's To-Do List.  Some things have been accomplished.  For example, we haven't used any paper towels in about a month.  (Well, Jonathan used some to wipe the grout from a tiling project, but none has been employed in the kitchen at all!)  Some are in progress, like organizing the house.  (Notice, "organizing the closets" turned into the whole house.  And I wonder why things don't get done.)

But one item on my list is shaping up to be quite the project.  It is focusing our family's diet more on "real foods."  Although I've read a couple of books, many of my ideas about this have come from some helpful websites, like this one and this one.  A basic definition of real food, as I see it, is to limit processed foods and eat more natural stuff.  One way to think about it is, if your great-grandma would have eaten it, then it's a real food.  Great-grandma didn't have all those ingredients that you can't pronounce and sound like they were created by scientists.  (Although I was searching through my own grandma's spice cabinet about a year ago and found an honest-to-goodness jar of MSG in there.  It said on the label "makes everything taste better!")

After much discussion - like the last two months - Jonathan and I decided to take the plunge into more healthful eating.  We already eat most of our meals at home.  We pack our own lunches, and eat out for supper twice a week: once at church , and once at a restaurant.  Our fast food intake is limited to three or four times a year, when we are making a road trip.  So the biggest changes we are faced with making are simply choosing different ingredients from the grocery store. We decided that to keep our budget in mind, we wouldn't do an all-out purge of all the "not-real" food, but replace things like crackers and chips as we ran out.  We made a commitment to eat more vegetables, and decided that eating organic meat and dairy would be a good idea.  Since great-grandma used white sugar, but for mostly special, home-baked treats, we decided to still have a small amount of sweets, like our regular ration of chocolate chip cookies.  (With the exception of the very occasional Oreo, we haven't had store-bought cookies in probably two years.)

Today I went to the grocery store, ready to come home with my reusable grocery bags full of wholesome goodness.  But our grocery budget is quite limited.  For our family of four (and would you believe it, but Lydia is eating table food now!), we spend between $75 and $100 a week on groceries.  So I breezed through the first part of the grocery store, carefully read labels to find a kind of sausage without high fructose corn syrup in it, and purchased some wild caught shrimp. 

Then I got to the meat case.  There were the whole roasting chickens, sitting in a row.  The "regular" chickens, the kind I usually get, were $.99 a pound.  The organic chickens were $1.98 a pound.  I picked up an organic chicken.  I admired the nice green color of its label.  I put it in the cart. 

My eyes strayed to the conventional chicken.  Its label was red and blue.  The entire chicken cost $4.11.  I looked back to the organic chicken in my cart, which was over $9.00.  I put the new chicken in the cart, and replaced the organic chicken in the meat case.  I just couldn't do it. 

The same thing happened in the dairy aisle, when I deliberated, and then put a gallon of regular milk and a dozen non-organic eggs in my cart.  I just couldn't pay double. 

And the bread?  I have a hard time paying $3 for a loaf of bread in the first place, so the organic, whole wheat bread in the "health" section of the store just about gave me an anxiety attack.  I decided that I would bake my own bread this week.

To make up for all of this, I went back to the produce section and bought twice as many veggies and five extra pounds of apples.  At least we can be healthier by having less of our conventional meat and an extra serving of greens on the side.

I guess the bottom line is this: I am just not convinced that the organic food is worth the price.  Anyone care to convince me?  I'm open to persuasion (and maybe some grocery store scholarships), but for now, I guess I'm going to have to do some more research and start reworking the family budget a little...

Friday, February 24, 2012

A Wee Shopping Trip

There was a little bit of grocery shopping going on at the Warren house this afternoon...

An experienced shopper always makes a list so she doesn't forget anything important.

She is discerning about her ingredients...

...always choosing the freshest and best.

One always enjoys shopping at a store where the staff is friendly and helpful.

Accuracy in the check out pricing is a hallmark of a good grocery store.

And the customer who leaves with a few pennies in her pocket is a happy one.

An eco-conscious shopper brings her own, reusable shopping bags.

What do a couple of girls do with a cart full of goodies?

Go home and make a cake, of course.  (To be precise, a chicken cake and cherry pie for dessert.)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Story Bible Moms: Esther the Beauty Queen

Yes...that's a picture of 18-year-old me in a tiara. 
There's a little bit of an explanatory note at the bottom of the post, in case you're curious.

I had a lot of fun last year writing the “Story Bible Moms” series.  This was conceived of as a series of devotions for moms, especially of young children.  I had a lot of really encouraging feedback about these devotions – from women of all ages.  But when Lydia was born, something had to give, and this (among other things, like dusting and putting away shoes) fell to the wayside.
In the last several weeks, I’ve found myself thinking of what I should write about.  To me, this is a sure sign that it’s time to dust off my keyboard and get back into the habit of writing something down!  To clinch the deal, on the say day that I was seriously considering this, a friend told me that she just found Wee Warrens, and read through many of the posts.  She especially appreciated the devotionals, she told me.  So here I am, making a best effort to write some more devotionals – with some degree of regularity. 
When the turn came for Esther (the young woman Mordecai had adopted, the daughter of his uncle Abihail) to go to the king, she asked for nothing other than what Hegai, the king’s eunuch who was in charge of the harem, suggested. And Esther won the favor of everyone who saw her. She was taken to King Xerxes in the royal residence in the tenth month, the month of Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign. Now the king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women, and she won his favor and approval more than any of the other virgins. So he set a royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.

Esther 2:15-17 (NIV)

Our church has been reading through the Bible over the course of a year.  We started in September, and have just finished reading the book of Esther.  If you haven’t read the story of Esther lately, you should.  It’s a fairly short book, only 10 chapters, so you could get through it in a sitting or two.  But here’s a five sentence synopsis: The fickle king gets rid of his queen and needs a replacement.  This turns out to be Esther (a Jew, but she doesn’t tell the king this), who basically wins a grand, kingdom-wide beauty contest, aided by shameless working of the system, being clever, and quite a bit of gumption.  A plot is revealed, where the king’s right-hand man is going to kill all the Jews.  Esther puts on her best dress and summons that trademark gumption, and at the risk of her life, asks the king to save her people.  He does.
A few months ago, I read an article that a friend posted on Facebook.  It talked about how we, as a society, talk to little girls.  Our automatic response to girls is to comment on their appearance.  “Well, don’t you look pretty?”  “That’s such a lovely dress you’re wearing.”  “What a beautiful little girl you are.” 
You know what I’m talking about, don’t you?  Since I read the article, I’ve been hyper-aware of this kind of talk.  And it’s not only directed at my daughters.  I find myself using the same kind of script with other little girls that I converse with.  It’s deeply ingrained.  And besides, they do look pretty.  They do have lovely dresses. 
The author of the article argued that we should emphasize other parts of a girl’s character, and not only their physical appearance.  She suggested asking little girls which book they’ve recently enjoyed reading.  Sounds like a good idea, doesn’t it?  But old habits die hard.
When I read Esther, this article came to mind.  Esther isn’t just the queen, she’s Miss Universe.  She had the right look, the right evening gown, and said the right things during the king’s…um…interview (read: test-run in the royal night chamber).  To most folks, including the king, Esther was for the most part, a pretty face.  She was the poster child for “Oooohh…don’t you look pretty today in that frilly dress, Esther.”
And then she needed to stand up for something.  And she did.  Majorly.  Enough so that there is an entire book in the Bible devoted to her story, and a holiday (complete with its own special cookies) to celebrate the amazing save of her people that Esther pulled off. 
So this gives me a little hope.  Because truth be told, Hannah beams when someone gives her a compliment – whether it’s on her dancing, her vocabulary, or her hair bows.  And another truth is that this mama outfits her with the fancy hair bows because I want her to look pretty and girly.  But the story of Esther tells us that you can be pretty and smart.  You can be Miss Universe and negotiate major political deals with heads of state.  These are not mutually exclusive character traits.  And good thing too, because even though I’ve tried and tried to remember to ask little girls what book they’ve been reading, the first thing out my mouth is still “Gosh, I like your pink sparkle shoes!”

(And just in case you were wondering, I am in no way knocking pageants.  Except maybe the “Toddlers in Tiaras” kind.  But I think that the real kind, where young women use their skills – including their poise and beauty – to win scholarship and participate in philanthropic endeavors, are a good experience for girls.  I participated in this kind of pageant as a teenager, and it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my high school and college years.)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Mixing It Up

I have a secret love.  Well, maybe not so secret.  Wanna know who?  It's my stand mixer. 

We go way back.  It was a wedding present.  I've used it probably twice a week - or more - since I first opened the box.  It turns out lovely cakes and every more lovely icings.  It mixes up regular batches of chocolate chip cookies, and less regular loaves of bread.  It mashes potatoes, whips cream, and even shreds cheese. 

Funny story: when Jonathan and I got married and this beauty went on our registry, we had a long discussion about what color it should be.  Jonathan imagined that I would want a pink one.  (I was thinking red, but we were in love and trying to work hard at compromising, so I didn't say so at the time.)  He thought stainless steel would look nice in any kitchen - and match the toaster over, besides.

But I've always kind of wished for red.  So even before I bought my Silhouette cutter last fall, I knew that this was going to be one of my first projects: to add a splash of color to my mixer. 

The hardest part was choosing a design.  Inspired by this, I chose a kitchen utensil theme. 

It's cute.  It's red.  (It's cleaner than it has been since I took it out of the box that first time.)  It's dying to mix up some chocolate chip cookie dough, so I'd better start measuring some ingredients...

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