Saturday, September 27, 2008

Introducing the Newest Members of our Family

This adorable guy's name is Wrigley. He is an eight month old Golden Retriever puppy who came to us five weeks ago. We had been contemplating getting a dog for quite some time now but were unable to decide on a breed. Each breed we looked at seemed to have some strike against it: not suited for our climate, too expensive/rare, not good with very young children... I finally decided that a Golden Retriever is what we needed with three energetic boys. Not 24 hours later an email entered my husband's inbox from a family who owned this precious guy but was no longer able to care for him. They were looking to give him away to a loving family for free, and they agreed to allow us a two week trial to be certain we were ready for the added responsibility and that he would indeed be a good fit for our family. Well the two weeks passed and we couldn't imagine giving him back. He is a complete joy and a wonderful addition to our crew!

Here is the second new addition to our family. We are expecting Baby #4 to make his/her arrival sometime around the end of March!!! I am now 12 weeks and feeling the full effects of first trimester exhaustion and sickness (although the sickness hasn't been nearly as bad as in previous pregnancies). We should know at my next appointment whether we are to be adding pink to our home or more blue. Our guess is blue since dh's family has not seen a girl in six generations - yes you read that right... six generations!!!

Soon I will be back to homeschool topics after quite a break from anything homeschool related! I have almost completed my Teacher Notebook for this year and I need to post our first Weekly Report (to actually cover the first 6 weeks!).


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Nutrition 101 - Part Two: Now What?

Well I posted awhile back just a few thoughts on nutrition. Here is my first follow-up: Now What? Several have asked me what I feed my family after eliminating all the aforementioned things. Well, read on!

In this post I just wanted to focus on nitrates/nitrites in food. Here is another link that talks about these preservatives in food with several helpful links at the bottom: How Stuff Works - What is Sodium Nitrate? Like so much of this stuff, there is no definitive answer that can be found as to exactly how dangerous these substances are and in what quantities they must be consumed to cause problems. The reality is that we may never know, but there is enough research that shows them (especially nitrites) to be cancer-causing that my family avoids them altogether. Just look at those links and see what else those substances are used in and you'll probably never want to feed them to your family again!

Sodium Nitrate/Sodium Nitrite is found in lots of prepared meats you buy at the grocery store - especially breakfast meats and deli meats. Luckily there are tons of alternatives that are really tasty available now. You need to look for uncured natural products. Here are some examples. Click on each photo to go to that product's site and see other products available!

Here is a list of a few of the foods I buy that are natural and uncured: turkey bacon, bacon, ham (I cut into slices and freeze in packs of 3 to cook for breakfast for the boys), chicken breakfast sausage (see photo above), turkey and chicken hot dogs, specialty sausages to grill (my favorite is chicken apple sausage on a big crusty hot dog bun with tons of mustard!), lunch meat (turkey, ham and roast beef), salami and prosciutto. I have yet to find uncured pepperoni to buy in any of my local stores but I keep looking. One of my local stores does carry a gourmet frozen pizza made with uncured pepperoni though!

Each store in my area carries a different selection of these items. What I do is when I happen to be near one of these stores I stop in and stock up. Almost every product I mentioned can be easily frozen. I will buy five packages of turkey bacon and freeze four. I will pull one out each week for the next month before I need to go back to that store. Now before that happened I had to acquaint myself with what each store carried. I also talked with the manager of my default store and requested all the items I wanted. They actually were willing to order several with the stipulation that if they didn't sell, they would not be ordered a second time. A few have stuck around and a few haven't but I was so glad I asked. If you happen to live near a Trader Joe's or a Whole Foods your life will be much easier in this regard.

Last, here is a simple recipe for homemade breakfast sausage. You'll never need to buy the pre-made, chemical-filled stuff again. This only takes a few minutes longer than buying the Jimmy Dean chub and knowing how many chemicals you are eliminating is worth those few minutes.

Maple Breakfast Sausage

1 pound ground pork (no msg, nitrates/nitrites and not low fat!)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon marjoram
1 teaspoon sage
3 Tablespoons of pure maple syrup (yes get the real stuff! :)

Mix thoroughly and form into patties. Cook and enjoy! Freeze any leftovers and reheat when needed.

All measurements are to taste. The pork I buy is only preserved with salt so I don't need to add much more. You may want to adjust seasonings depending on the pork you buy. This does not work with chicken or any other lean meat - trust me ;). I make this for my boys so the sweet maple is perfect for them. If you prefer a spicy breakfast sausage google a recipe and you'll get tons of ideas! I usually triple this recipe and freeze the extra sausages in groups of three. I pull one packet out for breakfast, pop it in the microwave on defrost and it's as yummy as when you first make it.

Have fun searching out your local stores' collections of natural products. Let me know what you find.


Monday, September 22, 2008

Life on the Gulf Coast

I wish I could paint an accurate picture of what is like around here post-Ike. It is just sad. So many have lost everything, even some of my closest friends. I cannot get into their homes to help with demolition due to health issues I have right now. Instead I spend my days coordinating meals and childcare for families so they can spend their days at the shell they once called home - homes that are now coated with raw sewage and the dredges of the ocean. I am collecting clothes, books and toys for one homeschool family who lost everything they owned other than five outfits per person and one small bag of toys that they took when they evacuated. Saturday I cooked meals for four families. Everyone here is exhausted because there are just so many needs and so little time. The race is against toxic black mold (a huge problem in Texas) which is already starting to grow in most flooded homes due to the lovely Houston heat and humidity.

Galveston Island (30 min south of my home and where we go several times a month to play on the beach or visit a museum) is still closed and most people haven't been able to get back and see their homes. A friend of mine was able to tour the island because her husband is a firefighter there. She said that you can start to smell the stench before you even reach the causeway (huge bride that connects Galveston to the mainland). So many thousands haven't been back home and power has been out for ten days now. Everyone has food rotting in refrigerators, not to mention restaurants and grocery stores. Also there are dead animals everywhere because so many didn't take pets with them when they left two weeks ago and they died in the storm. They won't let you onto the island without getting a tetanus shot and giving you a special mask to protect from mold and the horrible smell.

Yet there is an upside to all this. It is an amazing thing is to see how people pull together in times like these. Disaster creates community and the community has been incredible. People are driving through neighborhoods (or what's left of them) and dropping off hundreds of lunches to families and volunteers. People everywhere are jumping in to help people they have never met. I saw a man buying ten generators (and those are not cheap!) to deliver to complete strangers who still do not have power. The stories that will come out of Ike will be incredible.

Here is a portion of my dh's blog post about Ike and I couldn't say it any better:
This won't be a quick story with a short ending. We will have work that will last months, some maybe even more than a year. But I'm reminded of Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 16:9, "...for a wide door for effective work has opened to me..."; I am very encouraged at the fact that I think a great door to the Gospel has been opened by the violent hands of Ike. Self-security and presumption have been trumped by 110 mph winds of an eyewall that went, literally, through my neighborhood...and the neighborhood of those I believe God has called us to reach through our local church. This may sound funny to say, but I'm excited about the future. I'm excited to see how wide the door will open for the grace of God in Christ in the Bay Area. I'm excited at how many people will decide to become Followers of Jesus or recommit to their followship of the Lord. I'm excited I get to be a part of it all by the grace of God.
And what's even better is that I believe I have an entire church that's feels the same way!

Thanks Ike.

I put on my sidebar a button you can click if you would like to donate to help victims of Ike. It is set up through my church and 100% of the money will go directly to those who need it most - not one dime to administrative costs.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Home Sweet Home

We are back home again! We left last Thursday at 3:00 am to avoid traffic, brought another family with us and headed out of town. We just returned today after learning our area had power and a clean water supply. Our home survived the storm with minimal damage: about 50 shingles off our roof and a section of fence down. We are very, very blessed. The debris line in my yard shows how close we came to having water in our home. Thankfully, the storm surge was only 10 feet instead of the predicted 20+. Just on the other side of the main road where we live is almost complete devastation - five or more feet of water in most homes. We even have friends who returned to find their refrigerator floating in their kitchen. My life will be back to normal in a few days once I get my home cleaned, the last of the evacuation tubs unpacked and my fridge filled with groceries but for so many in my area their lives will not return to normal for many months. Yet God is still good and we still praise Him.

Thank you for all the sweet emails and messages and please pray for those who suffered damage and great loss due to Ike.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Same Song...Second Verse

Ike is heading for the Texas Coast and we are right in his path. We are officially evacuating this time. There are too many unknowns with this storm. Even the experts are saying this is a highly unpredictable storm and they really can't be certain where it will hit nor how strong it will be when it makes landfall. The best guess is somewhere between Corpus Christi, Texas and Houston, Texas and anywhere from a Category 2 to a Category 4. A Category 4 direct hit on Galveston (Houston) would put my house deep underwater. So once again we are packing to leave but this time we really, really are! We are heading for the Texas Hill Country and hoping we have a house to come back to after this storm hits on Saturday.

If you are the praying sort, please pray for safe travel. This news is coming so late that the roads are already jam-packed. It is very possible our five our trip could be double that or more. Three young, busy boys and 10-15 hours in a car = no fun. Hopefully that won't be the case though. I am not really worried about my house or anything in it; insurance will replace all that. I just want my family out of harm's way.



Monday, September 1, 2008

Oops! Nevermind!!!

Well, we started packing. I had two Rubbermaid tubs full of photo albums and photos and three more full of this year's school materials. Laundry was done and ready to be loaded into yet another tub and then it all changed. The three models that previously showed the possibility of Gustav coming to Houston changed and all agreed that New Orleans was the for sure target of the storm. We left the albums packed and ready to go; there are two more hurricanes behind Gustav we will need to watch. Still, we are safe and dry and thankfully Gustav slowed down and only hit land as a Category 2 hurricane. What a blessing!!! Hope you all had a fantastic Labor Day Holiday!