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Winter Blues…and Crafting With Toddlers

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Let me just start by saying. I hate January. There is something about this month. October is my favorite and this month, well, it has nothing but deep and utter loathing from me.

Winter really isn’t that bad. But where I live, it seems like it actually starts in November. So that we have precisely one month of Autumn and 4-5 months of Winter. It gets old by the time the Christmas/New Year’s spirit has worn away, come mid-January.

It gives me the winter blues. And the winter crankies. And the cabin fever. Thank-you pregnancy hormones for helping that along.

But the point of this post is that there are still things to do to keep your mind active. With a small child in my house, I really have to work to find activities that interest us both. And they need to be easy and cheap.

So this week we have been 1. Playing in the snow and 2. Making bird seed crafts.

I found this toilet paper tube bird seed craft idea awhile back. My friends, it is a match made in heaven for pregnant mamas of toddlers.

Lets face it, when you are pregnant you use up the TP. Plus little someones are either unfurling it everywhere or in the process of toilet training. Why not save all the empty tubes and use it to make a craft?

I love watching the birds nibble on these little feeders. I think J just likes the creating part but that’s ok🙂

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Here is what you will need. I use Jif for the birds and Aldi brand PB for us😉
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J sprinkling birdseed on peanut butter-less TP roll. The rolled up sheet is a separate craft project.
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He wanted to sniff everything.

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Helping me roll the tube in birdseed.

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After 5 rolls, we had an empty plate.
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Ready to go outside!
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Day #2 of playing in the snow. I made the snow towers and he knocked them down.

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This was the day after we put out the feeders.

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The birds love this little snack. I see a lot of sparrows and chickadees (I think?) nibbling away when I glance from my kitchen window. It makes me happy to do something kind, in the midst of my winter blues. And playing out in the snow was fun too. Ask me about how my snow pants wouldn’t zip up. Actually no. Don’t.

Enjoy your winter!

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Caught this little guy sharing the birds food!

 

 

 

Homemade Belly Salve with Plantain & Vanilla

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One troublesome aspect I remember vividly from my first pregnancy was itchy skin. Particularly on my belly. The formula for itchy pregnant mama belly skin, as I’m sure you know if you’ve been there before, is: growing baby+growing belly+stretching skin=painful, itchy stretch marks.

I tried lotions with my first pregnancy. I remember them helping..some. But they were also on the expensive side. And I used them so much that I was constantly buying more. I wanted something different this time around. Something cheap, good quality and something that I could make myself.

Because I wanted something really super moisturizing, I decided to make a salve. A salve differs from a lotion because of the ingredients and texture. Salves are more like petroleum jelly. Dictionary.com defines a salve as “a medicinal ointment for healing or relieving wounds and sores” or “anything that soothes, mollifies, or relieves”.

So for my recipe I found this post by Elise of The Frugal Farmwife. I wanted to put my own spin on it though. So I switched up some of the ingredients.

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Here are my ingredients: shea butter, homemade vanilla, coconut oil, beeswax, plantain infused olive oil and vitamin e oil.

What I changed in the recipe:

-I swapped plantain infused olive oil* for regular olive oil

-I used a few drops of my homemade vanilla** instead of essential oil.

-I halved the recipe but added more liquid ingredients to get a creamier consistency. So there is slightly more coconut oil, olive oil and vitamin e oil.

Why I changed the recipe:

-I’m in love with herbal infusions. And herbs like plantain are easy to work with and helpful for skin in many ways. It is known for soothing many skin issues, such as eczema, bug bites and rashes.

-I used vanilla instead of essential oils for safety. All the research that I’ve done about eos points to very careful usage around babies & children, pregnant women and the elderly. The vanilla smell works well with this recipe.

-I wanted to store my salve in a 4 oz mason jar and apply it with my hands rather than with a tube. It’s easier for me to apply this way.

I just made my second recipe about a month ago. I started using the salve when I was 2 months pregnant and have loved it ever since.

 

 

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Chopping up beeswax.
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Shea butter and coconut oil in bowl #1. Plantain infused olive oil, vanilla and vitamin e oil in bowl #2.
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Melting beeswax and coconut oil w/ shea butter.
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Added remaining ingredients to the beeswax jar along with coconut oil and shea butter. Melt and pour!
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The finished product!

 

The Recipe:

Homemade Belly Salve With Plantain & Vanilla

(modified from The Frugal Farmwife’s “Homemade Tummy Butter Bar / Stretch Mark Cream”)

Ingredients:

-2 T shea butter

-2 T plus 1 tsp coconut oil

-1 T plus 1/2 tsp plantain infused olive oil

-1/2 T grated or finely chopped beeswax

-2 vitamin E oil capsules, pricked and squeezed.

-12 drops homemade vanilla (store-bought will work as well)

Directions:

  1. Fill a small saucepan with a few inches of water. Place a small glass jar or tin can in the pan. Turn the heat to medium-high.
  2. Add the beeswax to the jar or can. Let the beeswax melt while you measure remaining ingredients. 
  3. Melt and measure coconut oil into small glass jar. Add shea butter. Place in pan next to beeswax jar.
  4. In a separate bowl, measure plantain infused olive oil, vitamin e oil and vanilla.
  5. When beeswax has melted, add melted shea butter and coconut oil. Stir.
  6. Add olive oil, vitamin e oil and vanilla. Stir to combine.
  7. Once all is melted, pour into a clean 4 oz glass  container.
  8. Let sit until cool and solid.
  9. Use it up🙂

*About plantain: I hope to do a post in the future about this herb, and talk about how I used plantain leaves to infuse olive oil. It was very easy to make..all you need is dried herbs and your choice of oil. Plus the patience to wait 2-8 weeks while it infuses. Plantain is so awesome! You can read more about it on this (and this) helpful blog.

**About homemade vanilla: A year ago I made vanilla for the first time. It is so wonderful and easy to make. Just 2 ingredients! If you are interested in making your own vanilla, I recommend checking out this blog.

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Babies, Pumpkins and Toddler Havoc

October is my favorite month. Hands down. The beauty of the season is astounding. And for us, good things have always happened in the month of October. My husband and I started dating in late September of 2009. We found out we were expecting our first child October 31st of 2012. And this month…

I’m lucky enough to say that I am expecting again. It didn’t feel so lucky, at first. I was so sick! When I confessed this so some of my female relatives, they said that a person is typically increasingly sick with each new baby…so if you have 3 kids you’re bound to feel like death with the 4th pregnancy? Thanks for that. I’m quite happy to have just two kids for now. Technically two.

We’ve had a lot of fun as a family lately. Got to enjoy a lovely vacation to Vermont last month. Go ahead and ask me why Vermont. “There’s nothing there,” said my husband, “nothing to do!” Oh darling, that is the point. My pregnant, introverted self just craved the peace and quiet that the state has an abundance of. Plus Ben and Jerry’s has their headquarters there. Need I say more?🙂

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Vermont was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed it. Little J however, decided that he was going to go on a hunger strike of some sort. So our day in VT was a blur of fussies and trying to keep him entertained and pleading with him to try the most delicious macaroni and cheese in the whole entire world. And yes, it really was. But that’s life with toddlers. He enjoyed parts of our journey more than others.

But when we got back home we decided to do some fun local stuff. On a whim last week we decided to take a trip out to a pumpkin patch, so that we could pick our own pumpkin as a family.

It was a really neat experience. We traveled to a farm and drove a gator out to their pumpkin patch.

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We got to cut our own pumpkin off the vine with these interesting pruning clippers or whatever in the world they are called. J got to hold them most of the time. And was supervised. They were rather dull and he couldn’t open the handles. Although, that didn’t stop him from trying to smash every pumpkin within reach. He’s a riot, I love him.

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And here’s me.

There’s the baby (in my belly) in the pumpkin patch. (Yes I wore that orange shirt on purpose.) 4 months pregnant here. And the sun was in my eyes. But oh my word, what a gorgeous day it was!

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This was the pumpkin that we finally settled on. It was sitting in our car for about a week. And we will be lucky if it gets carved before Halloween! Haha that’s just how it is in our house.

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For the Love of a Book: Toddler Edition

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It hit me today. Square between the eyes. Sometimes I forget just how special my son is to me and how very much I love him.

It was a bit of a rough morning. Getting ready to go out was quite interesting. My child has a new found love of the toilet. And he did not hesitate to show it as I was shampooing my hair under the bathtub faucet…you know those moments. Sometimes I just want to shout, “I am a bona fide manager of a crazy house!” And then you clean up, the moment passes and you move on with life.

When we got back home he was grouchy. Hungry and tired. And truth be known, so was I. So we ate our lunch. Or he did. Sortof. He nibbled and I stopped eating to lay him down for a much needed nap. He wanted me to sit with him while he fell asleep. From experience I know that could take ages. So I went back to eating. He cried, which is not unusual, but typically does not last long.

Then I was filled with compassion for my dear son. Who wanted only me to comfort him. Only his mother to soothe him and love him. I left the leftovers of our lunch on the table and did something I don’t often do. I crawled into his crib. I laid next to him until he fell asleep.

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And then I realized. I don’t know much about being a mother, but I have learned two things. There are definite, no-fail ways to bond with your child when they are little. One is to crawl into their crib when they are very distressed. Another is to read to them while they sit on your lap. I don’t think there is a child in this world that doesn’t like being read to.

Reading is such a powerful, beautiful thing. Now I am a book nerd, so I’m rather partial. But you can’t argue that reading is full of goodness on so many levels.

So I would like to share some of our favorite books. And I would like to thank my local library for their summer reading program. It gives me so much motivation to read new books to Baby J.

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5 of Our Most Favorite Books

1. My Farm Friends by Wendell Minor has been a long time favorite. This is a board book. It gives a lot of accurate details about farm animals. Also, the wording is catchy and the artwork is beautiful.

2. Your Kind of Mommy by Marjorie Blain Parker is one that is so dear to me. One of those books that helps you get back to how special you are as a mommy. Really nice on those hard days! Its sweet and simple and will give you the warm fuzzies.

3.The Berenstain Bears’ Dinosaur Dig by Jan & Mike Berenstain is a fairly new one we’ve tried but Baby J wants to read it all the time! It actually has quite a bit of text, but somehow he sits still and listens very intently. He loves dinosaurs lately so I believe this is why. Plus I love the Bearenstein Bears. It brings up a lot of childhood nostalgia. Watching the cartoons at my Grandma’s..reading all the books. And they always have positive messages in the books.

4. The Mine-O-Saur by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen is another dinosaur book. I’m actually not too sure why J likes this one. I think the illustrations are a bit goofy. But the text rhymes a bit and it flows well. Plus J likes the part where the Mine-o-saur spills the snacks on the floor. He will always point it out and say uh-oh. The ending is really nice too. A good book for promoting sharing🙂

5. Here are two books but they belong in the same entry. Wow! Ocean!  and Wow! America! by Robert Neubecker are two books that have less text and more visual info. They are responsible for teaching my son the word “wow!”. The ocean book we currently are borrowing from the library. Really good one for summer. Full of lots of details to discuss and point out.

There you have it! 6 of our favorite summertime books.

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Favorite Toddler Snacks (Healthy and Loved By My Little, Too!)

If you are reading this post, then it is likely that you have a toddler and know very well what I am about to say. Toddlers have sporadic eating habits. In between the cravings for all things crackers, and the constant demands for something to eat coupled with the game of making them actually want to eat something healthy…it can get to be a bit of a challenge. But the need to eat will always be there. So its up to us to find healthy solutions for our kids and family.

It can be a difficult thing to find healthy snacks. But it doesn’t have to be. Sure, I have days where I feed him semi-unhealthy snacks that he wants because the alternative is not eating anything. But I try to save the more unhealthy options for when we are out of the house shopping, for example.

When my son was approaching his first birthday, I began a pinterest board of toddler snack ideas. Because pinterest is the place to go when you have an unsolved problem and you want to know what the masses think. The masses aren’t often wrong.

However, not everyone’s child will have a palate that lines up with everybody else’s child. This is totally ok. But the neat thing about looking at what others feed their children is that sometimes you may come across something excitingly delicious, and healthy and dare I say it, also easy to prepare. So here is my toddler snack food list.

Healthy Toddler Snack Ideas

1. 1/4 of a whole wheat tortilla

2. Natural applesauce cups

3. English cucumbers, peeled and sliced

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4. Black olives

5. Greek yogurt

6. Small Macintosh apple, left unpeeled

7. Canned sliced peaches in 100% fruit juice, cut into pieces.

8. Baby carrots

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9. Homemade cheese crackers (recipe in the archives)
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10. Homemade popcorn
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11. Homemade biscuits

12. Red (Bartlett) Pears, sliced and peeled.

13. Fruit or Veggie Muffins (recipe in the archives)

14. Cottage cheese

15. Any type of cheese imaginable. Swiss, Munster, cheddar, mozzarella

and Parmesan is his new favorite.

My little really doesn’t like very many veggies. But *cucumbers and baby carrots he loves a lot. We do a special crunchy face where we chew with our mouths open and squint our eyes when eating carrots. Anything to get him to eat his veggies. He loves fruits and will eat pretty much any kind except berries and melon. Apples and bananas are his favorites. Black olives are kinda his quirky thing that he likes. I really don’t know too many kids or adults that like them. But Baby J sure does! I didn’t think they were all that healthy so I asked his doctor about it. He said, “Well they really aren’t all that unhealthy”. So I guess they have fiber if nothing else. And also, his doctor made the point that you really can’t force kids to eat what they don’t want anyway.

I hope that was able to give some encouragement with this post. All kids have stages where they only want to eat x, y, z. And it passes, eventually. If your kid(s) just want to eat 1 food and its healthy, I say let them have as much as they want🙂

*Bonus these two veggies are great to eat in the summer heat, but they also really help with teething. Particularly molars. Mom win.

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Easy Cheesy Crackers

This was one of those recipes that I had been wanting to make for forever. If two years classifies as forever. I didn’t make them until a certain member of our house started solid food. Then, of course with a full set of teeth comes a craving for a steady stream of snacks.

Toddlers love cheese. And crackers. So naturally cheese crackers are the jackpot of snack choices. (If you let them choose. Ha.)

My son has a love for these crackers made out of cheese. But when I force myself to study the list of ingredients, I get hit with mom guilt. Sometimes in spite of my good intentions, we do eat a lot of junk food. At these times I just say to myself, “Ok, how can I fix this so that we still have tasty food.” Because often healthy isn’t tasty. And that would be an epic problem for a toddler.

Enter pinterest! Here is the link. This recipe is so super easy. But you will need 2 things along with the ingredients: a blender or food processor and some kind of a small cookie cutter. If you don’t have said cookie cutter, it is highly possible that you DO have what I used.

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Combine flour, butter, cheese and salt. I cut the butter into tiny pieces so it would mix easier.
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“Pulse until it resembles coarse sand.”
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Add the water, a little bit at a time.
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Chill time in the fridge for 20 minutes, or as long as it takes you to do a round of “just one more thing”.
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Cut it into 4 pieces.
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Ah ha! Here we are. Do you happen to have any of these floating around? They make lovely cheese cracker cutter-outers🙂
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I think I cut out around 100 or more of these.
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Into the oven they go! They do get pretty puffy, so it sometimes helps to poke a hole in the center of each cracker with a toothpick before baking.

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This is the only picture of the finished product. They were rather good! My little guy liked them too. I think a smaller cracker would suit him better but he seems to do pretty well eating them. I did try cutting the squares in half before baking and that seemed to be a better size. But there is something about a square cracker that seems just right.

All in all they were delicious! Flaky, crispy, deliciously rich and cheesy. A wonderful homemade snack that is very inexpensive. And really, you don’t have to cut out all the dough at once. That is the most time consuming part but I think it would work best to make as many as you think your family can eat. Larger families can probably eat a full batch in an afternoon. But if its just you and a preschooler or two, a little at a time might be just right.

~Rachel

Lessons In Caramel Sauce

As I sat down to write this post, I am thinking of two things. One, Lemony Snicket quotes. Because the title of this blog reminds me of something that he might say. Something like:

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That is from the book The Grim Grotto. Which yes is a kids book and yes I am admitting that I read it. I really like Daniel Handler’s writing style because I do believe that we have the same sense of humor. He has a very unique writing style which I appreciate, as I’m drawn to things that aren’t quite as mainstream.

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So now that I’ve divulged that bit of info…the second thing on my mind as I write is that I’m working on expanding the blog to other subjects. Last month I wrote this blog post titled “A Grace-Filled Approach To 50 Shades Of Grey”. After writing that post, I realized that I wanted to expand the blog to include other topics. Hence, in the future you may see some diy posts and maybe other reviews of books or movies. Also maybe some gardening stuffs. There’s a reason I chose the name @thehonestherb you know.

Also, I am currently working on narrowing down my posts so my readers can feel like they are reading an actual blog post and not someones med school thesis.

So here is what I learned from caramel sauce last week.

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Yummy carmelitas

Last week a had a dear friend visit me from out of state. So I thought it would be nice to make this dessert to share, since I’ve had it on my pinterest dessert board for forever. I got all of my ingredients together and was feeling very smart and prepared. Problem was, I don’t typically bake anything with caramel sauce in it. Make that I’ve never..somehow..made a dessert with a caramel sauce in it.

But I was feeling very confident. And you know what they say, “Pride comes before a fall.” So I realized afterwards.

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I have destroyed my oven.

This is how it happened. There was a sheet pan in the oven when I put the carmelitas in. From one of those I’ll-just-hide-this-dirty-pan-so-all-my-guests-won’t-see-it type of situations. I took it out, thinking, “Oh I know what I’m doing I won’t need this!” I was sitting visiting with my friend when I smelled a peculiar smell. The caramel sauce had overflowed onto the heating element and had caught fire. I turned off the oven. But. The dessert was not cooked completely to my liking so after the oven had calmed down I turned the oven back on and put the dessert back in. A larger piece of the element caught on fire and broke off. Way to go. I had ruined my oven element trying to cook this dessert.

Lesson learned. Put a sheet pan under the dessert item before baking. Because the caramel was full of sugar, when it burned it heated super hot and apparently had the capacity to catch a red hot element on fire. I wasn’t even aware that this was possible.

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Fixed! Horray!

Because I have the sweetest, smartest and bestest husband in the world, he fixed the oven for me🙂 He removed the old element and got a new one and installed it. Also he cleaned the outside of the back of the oven and fridge. He made me laugh when he said, “I think I found Jimmy Hoffa!” when he discovered the epic dust ball that had probably never ever been touched since said refrigerator had been purchased. (Notation: we rent and said appliance has been in our apartment for awhile.)

All in all these carmelitas were very good. The top and bottom crust are very comparable to the top crust in an apple crisp. And there is melted chocolate and caramel sauce in between. It was super hard to wait until it had cooled down to try it! I was telling my friend that it really reminded me of a snickers bar meets (some sort of a) crisp. A snickers version of apple crisp.

There you have my latest adventures in baking! What humorous escapades have you had in the kitchen lately?

~Rachel

A Grace-Filled Approach To Fifty Shades of Grey

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Wait…isn’t this a food blog? Well, yes and no. I do write primarily about food but this is a post that I felt I really needed to write. It is a post about a novel and a movie that most of us have probably heard plenty about and have probably heard both positive and negative things about it.

Going into this, I really had 2 big questions that I wanted to answer.

They were:

1) why was this book series and movie so popular and

2) why do I personally not like about this series that makes me say no I will not watch/read this.

I needed to find out why exactly I did not support the book or movie and do my own research instead of going off of what I read in someone else’s blog. This prompted a lot of research.  I wanted to allow myself to take enough time to really understand this issue so I could respond with care.

I will say right off the bat that this post is mostly for those who identify themselves as Christian. I feel that this blog post is best directed towards Christians because I do not think that it is my place to judge the actions of those who do not share my faith. Growing up, I always heard that one should “hate the sin and love the sinner”. I believe that God will judge us all, but I believe that He will judge those of us who are believers more harshly.

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(source)

 

But throughout this post I want to also keep in mind the words of James 2:12-13 which says, “So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” One of my favorite quotes from Jane Eyre says similarly, “Feeling without judgement is a washy draught indeed; but judgement untempered by feeling is too bitter and husky a morsel for human deglutition.”

The area of judgment is one that I really got my eyes opened up to as I was writing this post. I have been trying to understand this concept of judgment for awhile now and I think I am just beginning to understand a small piece of it. One concept that came through to me loud and clear was that you, Rachel, need to be very sure that there isn’t any area of your life that you need to think about and ask forgiveness for before you bring something before anyone else. This is what part of Matthew 7:1-5 means to me when Jesus is talking about the speck in our neighbor’s eye and the plank in our own. I believe that there are situations in which we are called to judge as Christians. But I believe that we should look at our own hearts first and be very careful and gentle about how we go about it. And I hope that my approach will be seen as gentle.

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(source)

With the truth that we (Christians) share, there should be a measure of grace. I believe that this was echoed by Christ in his encounters with those he healed and with his disciples, too.

Although this post will contain a lot of support and quotes from scripture, I will also share other sources in the post that detail the reasons why I will not be reading the 50 Shades of Grey books or watching the movie(s).

So before I dive into the moral reasons I have I will first share my initial reasons of why my “50 Shades of No” decision was made. Here we go.

I think it is obvious to say that in spite of the controversial nature of the book series and movie, it has remained popular. One reason that I felt I should write this post is because, in following other Christian posts on the topic, I saw that there were some women who did identify themselves as Christian who thought there was nothing wrong with reading the book. This concerned me because I knew enough about the books to know that they contained strongly sexually-oriented content. So initially I just knew that that was what the books were about and I knew that it was not for me. And I didn’t really know anyone that was reading the books so I didn’t really have anything else to say on the topic. Then the movie came out into theaters Valentine’s day weekend and the popularity exploded on the web so that it was impossible to avoid seeing positive or negative opinions and reviews of the movie.

I began to read some of these Christian blog posts and articles to see what the fuss was really all about. I read some really good ones and some that I felt were a bit off in tone. But I do say this gently when I state that a lot of different groups have found some things in common when they have offered criticism of Fifty Shades of Grey. Human rights groups and feminists…literary critics and more are all united because they feel that something is off with this novel. (source)

After I read this article shared by a friend, I began to look at other reasons why I didn’t want to immerse myself in this Fifty Shades of Grey culture. And sadly, this statement became hypocritical, because although I was still not in favor of reading or watching 50 Shades, I began learning more about the topic and characters than I cared to. That was the danger and that was the price I paid for my research. Still, without going into the details of the book, I can list some reasons for my dislike that are of a more obvious and less controversial nature.

 

 

Reasons Why I Will Not Be Reading or Watching Fifty Shades of Grey

 

  1. Relationship To The Twilight Saga

So on the surface I could see that 50 Shades resembles the Twilight books. Its pretty common knowledge that E.L. James began the series as Twilight fan fiction. So there must be quite a bit of similarities between the two. Other articles I read confirmed the similarities.

When the Twilight books came out, I did read them. I didn’t go out and buy them but I did read most of them because I love books and yes I do like romance stories. I don’t like to read romance literature that isn’t Christian because I feel that the message and content of the book won’t support what I’m being taught in the Bible. But the fact remains yes I read Twilight and I did enjoy it to some extent.

However. I did not think that it was written that well. By the middle or so of the 2and book I lost interest and skimmed most of the rest of book numbers 2, 3 and 4. I do think that Twilight was written for a teenage audience so it is much more mild in its content. But the fact remains that it might not be entirely wholesome for a Christian girl to read. What do you think?

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2. A Matter of Writing Style Preference

When I say that the book wasn’t written that well I am mostly referring to the characters that don’t seem very interesting and to the lack of description throughout the novels. I do read a lot of books and it is a pet peeve of mine if the characters are not interesting and believable and if the scenes and surroundings are not described. Stephenie Meyer was very adept at describing emotions, which I think is one of the reasons if not the reason why the books were so popular. I think that book was lacking in many areas. I guess my obsession with classic lit authors like Jane Austen has a bit to do with that one🙂

 

3. Reviews of the Book

I took a look at a lot of reviews. Again, I wouldn’t recommend reading any because I think it was a bad idea on my part. But without sharing any actual reviews I will share numbers. The books have sold over 100 million copies. 100,000,000 plus books. You can go to Amazon and see that the series received 30,583 reviews. About 60% of the readers thought the series was pretty good. But 40% gave it 3 or less stars. Goodreads.com reviews were pretty much the same.

Also, food for thought: Why are there 1,000,000+ reviews for Fifty Shades of Grey, but half that amount for Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed?

 

4. Reviews of the Movie

Those are the reviews of the books. Now if you go to imdb.com, you can see the reviews of the movie. Users had given the movie an average of 3.9/10 stars when it first came out. Now (3/23) the reviews are a bit higher, at 4.2/10. You can compare this to a film like Guardians of the Galaxy, which when it came out was at about 7.5/10 and is now at 8.2/10.

Now about the professional reviews from metacritic. I checked into the critics that reviewed the film and they are reputable. USA Today, Rolling Stone and The New York Times are a few that gave reviews. Today (3/23) the metascore is 46/100. When I looked into what the numbers actually mean, I saw that most critics, almost 75% of them rated the movie as a C. (C=42-66/100) (source) So I think it’s safe to say that average people and professional critics alike have mixed feelings about the film.

 

5. The Actors Opinions of the Film

After looking at these ratings, I looked at the actors themselves. Other bloggers had pointed out that the two main stars had mixed feelings about the film. I looked at interviews of actors Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson and heard/read what they had to say about the film. And although they do try to support the film, its evident that they have some reservations. Such as their roles in the film and about family and friends seeing the movie.

At the end of this much cleaner than most interview of Jamie Dornan by the UK’s Guardian, he states that “it’s probably just as well she (his late mother) didn’t have to see Fifty Shades.” (source) I saw this and I thought it was strange. If you aren’t proud of your role in a movie and don’t want your mother to see it, then what do you really think about it?

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6. NC-17 Rating

I would also like to add that the movie 50 Shades was originally screened outside of the R rating (originally a NC-17 rating) and they did have to cut it down so to speak so that it would meet the R rating. (source)

Also Matthew 6:22 the Bible speaks of the eyes as being the lamp of the body, that if the eye is clear, the body will be filled with light. I think it’s a challenge in this media centered culture to guard one’s eyes, so to speak, but I think it is a responsibility that we all have as Christians to take care of our eyes.

I’m not saying that the entertainment area of a Christian’s life has to be boring. I am a huge fan of entertainment, winding down from a long hard day and all that stuff. But I am saying that for me, God really spoke to my heart in this area and really pushed me to think that I need to take this issue a little more seriously in the future.

 

7. The Sexual Nature of the Film

This leads me to the controversial nature of the film. I do not feel like it would be wise to discuss this issue in length. Issues like that are really not for me to discuss on this blog. Or anywhere but with my husband. Sex is a private issue and I know that others (in general not necessarily Christians) feel differently. And I will say that this is a very excellent article to read on this topic.

This article does a really good job of pointing out that these issues and this culture that is so saturated with this one topic is not isolated to our present time. In Jesus’ day, this kind of thing was happening everywhere. Not in movie theaters but in literature, in sculptures and in everyday life. Everywhere followers of Christ and people during the time that Jesus was on the earth knew that this issue was a part of the Roman culture that surrounded them.

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And yet, as the article goes on to say, they were not the ones that God’s Son gave a talking to! No, it was us. The church-goers, the religious leaders. Those of us so concerned with keeping it together on the outside but not even bothering to clean out our own hearts. This is me. I’m guilty. I’m guilty of not pointing the judging finger at my own self and asking if there isn’t something that I can bring before my Father. Something I am guilty of. Because God showed me so clearly that there were quite a few issues in my own heart that needed desperate attention before He would let me write this post.

So I’m not perfect. And I’m no where near complete. But I think it was so important for me to look at this issue the right way. Which is starting with myself. It doesn’t matter what I’ve read or not read. What matters is my heart. God forgives and God loves but He also will judge us for our actions. Its so difficult for me to understand and remember that sometimes. But after he chastises us, He also loves. As I was thinking yesterday evening after a difficult day of parenting I remembered the verse Lamentations 3:22-23:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

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Strawberries & Cream

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Howdy. Its been a long time! I bet you all thought I abandoned this blog. And yes I did have to clear away some spiderwebs (figuratively and literally) as I sat down to write this post. Truth be told, I was looking for a perfect recipe to share. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, really. I tried this and that but nothing seemed good enough.

Then we took a vacation to Florida. We’ve been back for almost a week now but the memories and the sun still linger with me. It is so beautiful down there. Most of you know that I live in the cold northern state of Ohio. Which, yes, some states in the continental US may be colder. But I doubt any of them have such wildly unpredictable weather as we do. That’s mostly reserved for the spring and fall seasons where we famously run the ac and heat both in one day. Anyways. Its been a bad winter for everyone. On our trip down south, we saw snow as far south as Georgia. And later we heard that Hawaii and Florida are the only two of the 50 states that haven’t gotten snow this winter. It has seriously been so harsh and awful for everyone. But I know that spring is on its way. I’ve heard the birds sing more lately and that’s brought a smile to my heart.

It was no surprise that it was very crowded down in Florida. Apparently everyone wanted a piece of the Florida sand and sun. We saw license plates from all over. East coast. Texas. Even Ontario. The locals said this is the busiest tourist season they’ve seen in..possibly forever. Which is nice for the economy.

But besides all that lovely sun the other thing that the state is known for is..the food. And I don’t just mean seafood. Though I do love that..we don’t get “fresh” seafood in the big OH. What I’m talking about is the produce. Amazing and fresh and wonderful. All of it. We visited a produce stand before we left and I picked up some lovely oranges, bananas, apples and strawberries of course.

Growing seasons and peak produce seasons vary from state to state. Just because something is available in the grocery store year-round does not mean that it is necessarily good, as I’ve tried to communicate in my past produce posts. Strawberry season in FL has just begun. I think it may take a bit longer for it to reach the northern states. According to ourohio.org, strawberry season for Ohio is in May and June. (source) When we reach full summer though the season is usually spent across the country. So even though they aren’t as good in other states yet, if you live down south, you may be able to find some nice berries.

I’ll admit it, I get jealous of those Florida folks! They have good food and lovely beaches..so much vitamin D. But then I remember the things I love about my home state. We may not have palm trees but we have many more varieties of  trees that change color in the fall. Not many sandy beaches but we do have good solid dirt to grow crops and gardens. We may have cold noses in the wintertime but it gives us a chance to stay indoors and slow down and plan for the year ahead. And to write food blogs while our darling sons and husbands are asleep. Ha.

Alright onto the actual food.

If you’ve never made your own whipped cream then you really ought to give it a try. It is so divine. And aside from a hot fudge sundae, nothing goes better with whipped cream than fresh strawberries. Ok maybe pumpkin pie. But not until Thanksgiving.

To make it, all you need is heavy whipping cream, a whisk and a little sugar.

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A bigger whisk would make it easier. But if your whisk is on the petite side like mine, take heart! I did it and so can you. All there is to do is pour that heavy whipping cream into a bowl and whisk away till its light and fluffy. Or if your kitchen is a part of the modern world you can delegate the task to a mixer. (Lucky.) As it is, hand whisking builds character🙂

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In about 15 minutes, you will have this. Yes it did take me 15 minutes and it got a little discouraging along the way. But I’m glad I didn’t give up. And fun fact, if you continue whisking you can make your own butter! I wasn’t feeling that adventurous but it does sound like an interesting activity for the future. I’ve also heard that you can recruit your kids to make butter by putting whipping cream in a small glass jar and letting them shake away.

Then you add sugar. This time I tried it with powdered sugar. In the past, I’ve tried it with granulated sugar and I like it better that way. The grainy texture makes the whipped cream taste better in my opinion. Just add in however much tastes good to you, a little at a time.

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My son took a few bites of whipped cream. I really can’t convince him of the yummy-ness of strawberries just yet though. Ah well. I thought they were quite delicious.

Even if you don’t live in a southern state, you can take confidence in the fact that Spring is only weeks away. The new season will bring new foods and a kinder weather forecast for the winter weary. Until then, happy cooking and stay warm!

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Salad Challenged

I am salad challenged. I’m not sure what it is but salad does not go over well at my house. The greens are a pain to wash. You can only buy it in a ginormous bunch or bag and I’m the only one that ever eats it. Sound like I’m complaining? I am! Salad greens are a pain to wash and dry and eat. So I never buy any. But then I remember. I’m supposed to eat my greens. It’s my mother’s voice I hear. The voice saying, “Be good to your body! Do what’s right! Be healthy! Be fit!”. Yes, I know. So I’ve been looking for a way to make salads a little less challenging.

My produce pick of the month is one that is a little off the beaten path (haha). People don’t often request them. Some may pass them over at the grocery store. And until now, I was one of those people! I would look at this purplish vegetable with its tall leafy stems and think, “Eww. What on earth could I do with THAT?”.

But then I remembered something that I had seen in a magazine. And because all great cooks push themselves to try new things, I decided to take a risk and buy some.

Ok. So let me let you in on the reason I bought them the first time. I wanted to make a red velvet cake for my BFF’s birthday. I thought it would be sweet if I could use some natural dye to color it.

Enter beets!

Sadly beets were not the answer for this particular recipe. At least not for me. I could have possibly baked the cake incorrectly. I’m open to that. But a crunchy on the outside, under cooked on the inside cake is not palatable to anyone. It was a disaster.

However, beet greens  = delicious. It tasted like spinach but with an added sweetness. I like to think that I’m hardcore when it comes to eating salad. But I can hardly eat spinach raw. It just tastes so icky. They have the added bonus of being larger and therefore easier to wash and dry. My bunch of 3 beets had about 9 large leaves and several smaller ones, which made the perfect amount for me. I could eat them all before they spoiled.

So I dug out a magazine article about greens that I had cut out from an old Real Simple magazine. It recommended adding raw grated beets to beet greens for a healthy salad.

So I did.

But I couldn’t stomach the thought of eating plain beets with only the greens. I added some chopped apples and oranges and this disguised the taste quite a bit.

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Beet Salad: with Apples and Oranges

But the taste wasn’t quite complete. I found myself still not liking the strong taste of beets. It needed some walnuts and dried cranberries. So I went to the store and then made…

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Beet Salad: with Oranges, Walnuts and Craisins

So much better. Some raspberry vinaigrette would go well with this too. I’m not a dressing fan usually so I left this ingredient out.

Is it healthy enough to brave eating? The answer is yes.

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Beets are low in protein, fat and carbs. The beet root has a very high amount of folate and manganese. Even though the beet root has less nutrients than the beet greens it is worth noting that it contains some of the protein Tryptophan. Which, interestingly enough is also found in turkey!

The greens are high in vitamin A and vitamin K. A 1 cup serving has half the daily value of vitamin A and an astounding 152 µg, or almost double the dv, of vitamin K.  The greens also contain a fair amount of Riboflavin, Sodium, Potassium, Calcium, Copper, Iron, Magnesium and Manganese.

There was something about the taste of beets that intrigued me. Why did they taste so different than all of the other greens? In my opinion two things: high magnesium and high calcium. Beet greens have over twice the magnesium compared to kale and slightly more calcium than swiss chard. Or maybe beets are just weird like that..or maybe it’s just me I don’t know haha

The conclusion: Beets are great! Eat more of them. They are easy to wash and store. I tore mine in half and put them in the fridge, in a large plastic container. If you can’t stomach beet root no worries cause the beet greens really have more nutrients anyways. Aside from folate. Personally I didn’t feel that beet root was a very tasty form of folate. But they are what they are. I think there’s probably a reason why beets are typically pickled or canned.

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I will leave you with this excellent Christmas prank.

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Source: here

Happy New Year!