Sunday, February 28, 2010

I Love Date Night

It never fails. Just about the time my temper has stretched to its limit and burrowing into the frozen tundra backyard seems like a viable way to escape that beast I married, we have a date night. We talk. We talk without interruption. We confirm our shared dreams. We hold hands. As conversation continues, that bear I live with transforms back into the man I married. And harmony restores itself in our home. I love date night.

Friday, February 26, 2010

It's All in the Training

The other night my son had a friend stay for dinner. Easy dinner. Scrambled eggs and the last can of nasty canned biscuits. (Wanna know how I really feel about canned biscuits? Read about it here.) Anyway, the kids sat down. Fed them. Asked the guest kiddo if he'd like milk or juice. He asked for milk. Gave the guest kiddo his dinner and a glass of milk. Asked him if he could butter his own biscuit. He assured me he could.

Now, I'm not a wasteful woman. I'm not. My parents did some serious frugal training with me when I was a kid. It stuck. I'm not the chick who leaves lights on when she leaves the room or wastes food or throws away a good jar that could be washed and used to store bulk raisins. I'm the fanatic who follows my energy-inefficient husband around, turning off lights, closing the fridge door, turning off the faucet while he's brushing. I can't help it. It's deeply ingrained. There. Now you know.

But I tell you what, that kid massacred the butter. I don't know if he's just never been allowed to spread his own butter before or what, but seriously? What 7 year-old doesn't know how to cut a pat a butter from the butter dish and spread it on his biscuit? When they left the table, that half stick of butter looked like it had been through a grinder. Or been fatally maimed by butter knife-wielding 7 year-old. And he didn't touch his full glass of milk. A full glass. And it's not like he's my kid and I can put that full glass of perfectly good milk back in the fridge until the next meal. Oh, no. Down the drain.

Lucky for my verbal self-control (or lack thereof), by the time I realized what had happened, he and my kids were off enjoying some imaginative adventure that involved running and screaming around the house.

I took a deep breath and decided a couple of things. First, chances are good he doesn't get much practice doing for himself at home. His sweet (and she is very, very sweet) mom probably butters his toast before setting it on the table. Second, eating in a different house can throw a kid and he may very well not really know how to handle himself, yet - he really is only 7. Finally, third, this is why we let our kids eat over at other people's houses - to train and be trained. This is the time to foul up, because it's curtains if he does it on date twenty years from now.

And really, what this tells me is I need to work on my kids' manners because soon enough they'll be eating at their friends' houses and heaven help the nerves of their friends' moms when my kids mutilate the butter and waste perfectly good milk.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Lenten Commitment

Remember the Lenten commitment I made? Spend a few minutes with God and the Bible every day? Well, every morning I open the Bible and study before the kids emerge from their slumbers. This bleary-eyed studying won't win any academic awards, but it gets me in the Word and gives God one more opportunity to lay tracks in my heart. ("Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not stray from it." Proverbs 22:6 applies to God's grown-up kids, too.)

This morning's reading in Acts struck me. Acts 5:38-39 says "Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God." (Read more here.) A Jewish leader said this about trying to stop the spread of the Good News about Jesus, but it applies elsewhere. Basically:

What comes from God cannot be stopped. What doesn't come from God will fail.

It made me think of my friends and the many things happening in their lives. A friend and her husband want to sell their house and buy one that better fits their family's needs. The house they had their eyes on went under contract yesterday. If that house isn't available for them, it isn't their house. God has a plan for them and that house isn't it. Several friends and their husbands have found themselves in rough marital waters. Wedding vows keep coming to mind. "What God has brought together, let no man put asunder." The couples still love each other and are fighting for their marriages. Let them not put it asunder. God honors that. Other friends and their many situations come to mind and in each circumstance, God has a plan.

I'm looking around at the political world today. This day marks the televised "summit" President Obama has called with members of Congress to discuss health care. My personal feelings are that this is a sham of a summit, but... what God wants, God gets. If this thing (the health care bills the Democrats want to push through) I consider to be a monstrosity and morally wrong is of God, it will pass. If it isn't, it will fail.

That brings up another question, though. Is what we perceive to be a success or a failure God's estimation of success or failure? We live in a small moment. God sees the whole of time. What devastates us in this moment has far greater consequences than we can see and may well work for God's good, even though that good might never been seen by our eyes or might come centuries from now. How else can we explain dying babies ( or miscarriages or senseless death or decades-old legislation that allows mothers to kill their unborn babies or newer legislation that could cripple a country? Are we so mired in our small moments we can't appreciate God has a bigger picture?

On the very small scale, and probably rather insignificant to the big picture, my husband and I have waited for months to learn whether a career project will begin. My darling felt inspired and this proposal poured out of him. Was it God inspiring him? This project has the potential to change our lives. I want it to work - badly. Not knowing the answer sometimes drives my brain crazy. Even when it's not actively in my brain, it's on my mind. Why else have I started chewing the inside of my cheek? Nervous tic, anyone?

Sometimes it takes more dedication to faith than I have readily available to remember that "if it is of human origin, it will fail and if it is from God, you will not be able to stop [it]." By the grace of the Holy Spirit, there lies a quiet spot in my heart. When I feel unable to think beyond the moment, I go there. I rest there. I know, deep in my heart, that "if it is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is from God, you will not be able to stop [it]." So when the world swirls around my head, I have to remember that God has it. He will succeed.

God is right. I need this Lenten commitment.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Got It Covered?

Time for a serious moment. Thought about life insurance? If you're a mom, you need it. If you're a stay-at-home mom, you need it. Think about it. What do you do all day? Care for children, ferry children, do the shopping, the cleaning, the laundry, and more. What would it cost to pay someone to do all you do? Take a moment. Add it up.

Now stop. Imagine you're gone. Stop sniffling. Imagine your husband has to continue working full time to keep the money coming in and can't very well stay home to do your jobs. He has to pay someone. Do you currently have enough money to pay for that? Right now, in your bank account. If the answer's no, then you need life insurance. This isn't about leaving behind enough money to pay for his new car or the kids' Harvard educations. This is about making sure they get the care they need if you're not around to give it.

Why do I bring this up? I'm not receiving any payment for this - though if someone wants to pay me to shill for them, this space is available. I say all this because my friend who passed didn't have any money set aside or a life insurance policy. There wasn't even enough money set aside for final expenses. The family asked for donations and had a donation jar set on the back table during the service. He was healthy, he was fine, he never thought that he might not be around. If he had known those he left behind would be in dire straights, he probably would have been ashamed and acted.

For a small amount of money, say what you spend a month on drive-thru, you can have a policy that'll cover several years' worth of housekeeping, daycare, and sitters. Call a reputable company and get a quote. Chances are, you can get a good policy for less than $50 a month. Just guessing there.

So act. And when you talk to your husband about it and he says, "I've got it covered," unless he's a secret millionaire, he doesn't actually have it covered. Ask to see the paperwork. Your family is too important to be left with the coins in a donation jar.

Sermon over.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Lesson in Action

Remember the post about bath time? If not, check it out here. Just wanted to check in and tell you that I continue to put the lesson in action. Little One took her bath tonight in the master bath. Excuse me, she took a bubble bath - or "bubby baff." Before turning on the water, I collected her diaper and jammies, my book, and pulled the rocker close enough for monitoring Little One in the tub. After she immersed herself in the tub (with my guiding hand), a stroke of genius clobbered me. Yes, sometimes it happens. I did... wait for it... calisthenics in the space in front of the tub. While Little One giggled at her brilliance in pouring water from one vessel to another, I *gasp* exercised at night. Hopefully, the extra effort will make my butt look less like a flattened pancake and more like a booty. You might like to know that the phone rang - didn't get it. Wanted a cool beverage - didn't leave to get it. Finished torturing my quads, hams, and glutes and parked the closer-to-firm toosh in the rocker and read. Bottom line, she bathed safely and supervised. And my rear got a lift.

The Memorial Service

Last night was my friend's memorial service. Imagine a service where everyone had the same kind words about the one who passed. Beautiful. No one could have missed the love in that packed room. How could everyone have the same things to say? Over and over we heard he was loving, protective, hysterically funny, kind, generous, considerate, would give you the shirt off his back, would make sure you got home safely. Over and over, as the mic passed from friend to friend, the stories echoed the same words. How could someone be so consistent in character? Are we all that consistent and we just don't know it? I don't know. I've been to more services than I care to remember and I've never, ever seen such consensus about character.

Other things came to mind as the service progressed. There we stood, because it was packed to standing room only, celebrating the life of a man who had few worldly goods. He possessed few things, didn't make much money, didn't have more than a high school diploma, yet the room overflowed with those who loved him. Make no mistake, he did not wear a halo. He could tell a bawdy joke like no one else. Truly, he could make a deaf nun blush. Yet, he had kindness. He loved. He took care of those around him. He was the guy who'd stay up late with the schlub who needed a friend.

So I stood there with my fancy education and my fancy purse and my fancy shoes and my fancy clothes with my fancy car out in the parking lot that would drive me to my fancy house and wondered if my fancy life matters to as many people as his modest life did. I'm not looking for comparisons or for anyone to say I'm loving and loved. Yes, I know my life is important because God gave it to me and my husband and children need and love me. I'm saying it was a moment that convicted me and made me remember that God doesn't ask us to witness with our possessions or our positions, but with our selves.

My friend knew the Lord. He had a personal relationship with the Lord. And everyone there last night knew it. Here was a man with a naughty - and I mean naughty - sense of humor, who was a Christian. He did make mistakes. He didn't always walk the right path. But in the end, when everyone stood around talking about him and when we were asked to share our stories, no doubt lingered in anyone's mind about our friend's relationship with the Lord. It made me think about some of our Christian friends who didn't want to associate with him because he was too rough. And yet, my friend was always welcoming. He welcomed everyone. Last night we heard repeatedly that he never met a stranger. And the roughest in that bunch last night knew he loved the Lord. How about that?

For all of my stuff and fal-dee-rah, would anyone say that of me? What testimony do I live? When I die, will everyone who comes to celebrate my life know that I loved the Lord? Am I leading a life that will resonate goodness? I don't know. And that ran through my head last night as I stood there in my uncomfortable shoes, wishing I could get one more hug from that bear of guy. I wondered, "Am I living a life that will inspire so many people to come say goodbye and celebrate my life?"

I don't know. But I do know that question is now eternally linked with my memories of him. I won't be able to remember him without remembering the many who came to show their love and respect. And it will convict me all over again. And for that, and the way he loved me, I thank him.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Give It Up Or Add It On?

Welcome to the Lenten season. In the past, Lent meant my giving up something. Each Ash Wednesday, I would pray and ask God to show me where I needed improving, to point out what caused me to stumble. Each year, without fail, the Lord pointed out something that needed to go. I would give it up and it would cleanse my heart and help me focus on the sacrifice He made for me.

This year's Ash Wednesday I prayed. I asked what I should purge. No answer. I prayed again. I asked what I needed to give up. What was leading me astray? No answer.

Now, I'm not the kind of girl who receives a non-answer answer and thinks, "All right! Home free!" Nope. That would not be me. I listen harder. I ask again. (Ask my mother. She'll tell you I don't take silence for an answer. Better yet, ask my husband.) So, I asked again. Still, nothing.

Well, sometimes God speaks through others. He spoke to me through a conversation with a girlfriend. We chatted Ash Wednesday night and she relayed the message of that evening's church service. The pastor had admonished us to pull closer to God. Get back in the Word. Make a commitment to study more. Sigh. And there it was.

This will be the first time in over a dozen years that I haven't given up something. Instead, I'm making a commitment to "add on" by reading the Word daily. I've gotten away from daily study - more on that later. I started in Acts. What better way to see what God can do than by seeing His acts?

I don't normally ask direct questions in posts, but I'm curious. What are you doing for Lent? Are you giving up anything? Are you focusing more on something? What are you doing to draw closer to the Lord? Leave a comment or email me. I'd love to know.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Pitch It!

Have you seen "Hoarders" on A&E? I just watched my first full show. A friend has been raving about it for awhile and despite my good intentions, didn't get around to watching it. DVR'ed it, but didn't watch it. Finally saw it this week.

Oh. My. Word. Now I look at every pile and every stack in my house and inwardly shriek, "AM I A HOARDER???" Let me tell you, the notices for the peanut-allergic kid in my son's Kindergarten class and the fliers for free bowling last December and the free magnets we got at the airshow that have never held a single shred of paper could not have hit the respective recycling and garbage cans faster if they were on fire. Well. If they were on fire ...yeah, that's another post. But you know what I mean. Household stacks beware! Be prepared to be pitched, donated, or put away! I AM NOT A HOARDER!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Canned Biscuits Are Nasty

The urge to buy prepared foods sometimes overtakes me. Usually it's when we're sick and I've forgotten that the last time we had prepared foods, the verdict was I could make better food, cheaper. I forget that latter bit when I'm tired and sick. And, periodically, when the coupons and the sales align when I'm feeling tired and sick, I indulge in prepared foods. Like canned biscuits. Why turn down a great deal and a little help?

Well, I felt yucky after having spent Sunday curled up in the fetal position (eh, in the fetal position as often as possible - please, what mom gets actual sick days?) and decided to make life easier for myself and bought some prepared foods (with my excellent coupons) that only required a hot oven. I am a scratch baker. But sometimes, you just have to throw in the towel and indulge. Or at least take short cuts. So, I did.

That's how the canned biscuits landed in the fridge. An icky, cruddy cold virus has slowly coursed its way through our house. First Little One, then me. Then Middle One. Today Big Kid stayed home from school with pink eye. When I took Middle One to the pediatrician on Monday for pink eye, I learned that pink eye can actually be caused by allergies and cold viruses. Who knew? I digress. The point is we're all a little under the weather and cooking seemed like an insurmountable feat.

Tonight, the kids ate scrambled eggs and the canned biscuits. Grands, to be exact. They taste nasty, to be exact. They have a flat chemical flavor. Gross. I asked the kids if they tasted like the ones I made. They said, "no."

I asked if they liked the canned biscuits. They said, "yes!" Clearly, there's no accounting for taste. They ate the whack biscuits tonight with the same enthusiasm they have for homemade biscuits.

I take comfort in knowing that deep, deep in their hearts, they are storing away the knowledge that their mother cooked from scratch. Someday, when they come home from college and bring their starving roommates with them, it will be with the hope that I will make scratch biscuits because that's what they promised their roommates. Heck, anyone can open up a can. Not everyone can make scratch biscuits. Psssst. Hush. Leave me to my daydream.

Eventually, when this blog has tabs and a special place for recipes, I'll share my preferred biscuit recipe. Then you, too, can daydream about your children sitting in their dorm rooms, pining for your homemade biscuits. Because truly, canned biscuits are nasty.

Sick and Sad

A high school friend died this week. He only lived 38 years. At this writing, no one knows what happened and we'll have to wait for the autopsy. We hadn't spoken in over a decade, but my memories of him are vivid. He was always kind to me, always protective and generous. In many ways, he was the older brother I never had.

His memorial service is in a few days and I'm utterly ashamed to say I'm excited to see friends from high school. You see, most of my friends were older than me. By the time I was a senior, the majority of my friends had graduated. Going to a class reunion feels somewhat empty for me because precious few of my friends were actually in my class. This will be a reunion of sorts. Sad, but true. How wretched to feel excited about going to a memorial service.

With the excitement of seeing friends comes the worry that I won't look good enough. All the worries about my body I left behind with high school graduation have knocked over my big girl maturity and now dance on my self-esteem. Will my face be puffy and red from being sick with a cold this week? Will I look thin enough? Will I look happy and content with my life? I'll spare you the gazillion vain questions pummeling my psyche. What matters, really, is just being there for the service. I need to keep in mind that going shows respect for my friend. He would have appreciated me in sweats and with stringy hair. Does it really matter what people (whom I haven't seen since graduation) think? I wish I had a pithy last sentence. But I don't. I'm sick in body and sad in heart.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Bath Time Change

I'm a mom of three. I've always been attentive when my little ones were bathing. How attentive? Well, I've run out to get the mail while the water warmed up - the plug wasn't in. I've run to get jammies. I've run to get the phone. I've run to grab a glass of water for myself. I've run. I haven't walked. I've always thought that by running, nothing bad could happen to a little one in the tub. Surely if I run and if I am fast, I'll still be able to prevent harm.

Well. Praise God that all three of mine are healthy and happy and have come to no harm, despite my foolish behavior. But. I'm never walking away from a little one in the tub. Ever. Again.

What changed? This: Long, long, painful story short: Her youngest was left in the tub with big brothers while she ran to grab jammies. By the time she got back, he wasn't breathing. After the NICU and therapy, he looks as if he'll make a full recovery. It's a miracle. A miracle. But I know better to tempt God, especially after He's gone to the trouble to teach me some lessons. Read the whole blog. You'll see the lessons. And thank you, dear humble Sara for blogging it all. You will never know the lives you've saved by sharing your story.

How well have I learned? This evening a friend dropped off her son so she could run some late afternoon errands. After feeding the kids dinner, it was time for my youngest to get a bath. A couple weeks ago, I would have run the bath and kept an ear open for the doorbell. Not anymore. Knowing that my friend could arrive at any moment, I did not put Little Girl in the tub. There was no way I would leave the bathroom to get the door. Or answer the phone. Or help someone find shoes or whatever. So, Little Girl played while we waited. And after our guest left, Little Girl got her bath. And I forgot to grab my book so I could read while played in the water. And I did not go get my book. I sat on the floor and kept Little Girl company until the bath was over and she was out and dressed.

Never. Again. Will I leave a small child in the bathroom. Even to run and grab her jammies.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

It Only Took 30 Viewings

You know those Activia commercials? You know the ones. The Jamie Lee Curtis commercials. She's sitting on the couch or she's sitting talking to some nice women about bowels? Now there's a new commercial with a woman talking about how the rich foods from the holidays backed up her bowels. Well, no one ever says "bowel." Or "bowel movement." That would sound unseemly in a commercial. As we all know from the commercials, Activia contains "bifidus regularus," which seems to me like a friendly, scientific way to say "regular bowel movements." But really, who's going to buy yogurt that has "promotes regular bowel movements" on the side? The word "bowel" itself is unpleasant. Or funny. Actually, it takes great restraint on my part to not giggle like a school girl when someone says "bowel" because it reminds me of Monty Python. Say "bowel" and I have visions of the shackled, dangling prisoner clapping along from the bowels of the dungeon in Monty Python's Search for the Holy Grail.

I digress. Back to the bowels. For the past few months my body hasn't felt right. I've adding foods, I've omitted foods. Nothing worked. Constantly felt bloated or just icky. So, I threw in the towel and used a coupon for Activia. Decided to try the "14 Day Challenge." I'm here to tell you that by day 12 I decided it was crap and just a pile of marketing. And then on day 13... well, crap.

That bloated feeling is gone. Even after consuming all that cream and butter in the Fettucine Alfredo my darling husband made the other night, my body feels normal. I feel regular from my neck to my knees. It only took 30 viewings of Activia commercials to get motivated to go out and buy it. Now, if they would give me money to tell you how well it works, I'd be very happy. Activia people? Are you out there? I'll gladly sing your praises for some money. And I won't even say bowels. Or crap. Crap, I just said it, didn't I?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Okay, He's Not Quite Domestically Useless *wink*

Seems that after blasting my darling husband - rather soundly, I might add - in the mothers of boys post, I have to tell you about the delightful meal he's making me this evening. It's Valentine's Day, don'tcha know? We aren't fans of going out and braving the crowds. Don't you just love enforced romance? Mmmmm. Me, too. In lieu of fancy trinkets (that we can't afford) and flowers (that die) and chocolates (that... hey... wait a minute), my man is making me dinner. He's not making just any dinner. He's making my favorite dinner. See? He's not quite domestically useless. One must give credit where credit is due.

What are we eating and why is it my favorite dinner? He's making Fettucine Alfredo with hot bread and a salad. Yum! It's my favorite grown-up meal simply because I don't eat it often. My conscience won't allow me to make a meal requiring copious amounts of butter and cream on a regular basis. If my mom were cooking, I'd say fried chicken, mashed potatoes, corn and gravy. But, she's not cooking tonight. She doesn't live here. My husband does live here and he's cooking. So Fettucine Alfredo it is! He makes a mean Fettucine Alfredo.

You know what the best part of the meal is? I don't have to clean up. He will do it. It's part of the gift of the meal. Right now I'm sitting here on the love seat, writing to the masses, while he's in the kitchen cooking dinner and the kids are perched around me watching "Little Bear." By the time dinner is ready, the little one will be in bed. The big boys will be ensconced in a movie. I don't have to lift a finger. And I won't.

Mmmmm... the aroma of sauteed garlic has wafted under my nose. Did you hear my tummy just growl?

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Thought for Mothers of Boys

So last night I was talking to my sister-in-law. Yes, this is the sister-in-law of caramel popcorn fame. (Check out the recipe here.) I digress. Last night I was telling her a story about a baby who had gotten poop all over her crib, herself, her walls - everything. We were laughing about babies and messes and I said, "you know you'd have to be the one to clean it." She said, "no, actually, your brother would do it all if he were the one to find the mess."


You're pausing, aren't you? Would your husband clean it up? Stop laughing! Yeah. Mine, either. Gets your goat a little, doesn't it? Surely she's exaggerating, right?

When my brother and sister-in-law became parents, I assumed my brother would be as domestically useless as my husband - and all the other husbands I know. Granted, my husband will take care of it if I'm not home. He won't call and expect me to return just to clean up a mess or rescue him from crying babies, but that is not the case if I'm in the house. He'll come report the mess. If I have the flu, running a high fever, and a kid is sick, he'll expect me to get up and tend to the sick kid - even if he's fine. I'd have to be literally dying for my husband to stay home from work to give me a sick day. Your husband, too? Thought so.

I digress again. When my brother and sister-in-law became parents, I assumed he'd be like my husband and every other father I know - loving and kind, but not inclined to do any real domestic work. Seems my brother isn't like the other dads out there. Seems he'll clean a mess. Seems he'll take care of the kids and let his wife sleep when she's overtired or sick. Seems he assumes that since he's a parent, it's also his responsibility to do laundry, clean, care for the kids, etc. Now, I'm not saying my brother's a saint (ahahahahahahaha - don't make me laugh.) What I am saying is that after my conversation last night, it finally dawned on me that instead of being incredulous that he's doing a fair amount of work, maybe my brother is different.

So I started thinking about my other brother. Turns out he also does laundry. Cleans. Cooks. Takes the kiddo to the doctor. Cares for the sick kiddo and cleans messes when he finds them. There has to be a common link. Turns out... it's my mom.

...and I can say this because I grew up in the same house. My mom expected more from her sons than any other mother I ever met. While I was outside learning how to change the car's oil and rotate tires with my father, the boys were in the house with my mom learning how to clean and do the domestic stuff. That was common in our house. For years, I only remembered my dad saying, "there won't always be a man around to take care of you." What I failed to think about was mom inside saying, "there won't always be a woman around to take care of you." The proof is in the pudding. It worked. Neither of my brothers expect their wives to do the bulk of the domestic and childcare work.

So I say this to mothers of boys: Expect more from your boys. Teach your sons to do their laundry. Teach them to cook. Teach them to clean. Expect them to pull their weight around the house. Teach them that they are part of the family team and they can get spots out of the carpet as well as mow the yard. Teach them how to take care of other members of the family. They need to be able to care for themselves by the time they leave the house for college. Someday they will be husbands and fathers. What you teach them will carry into their marriages and parenting. Do it for your future daughters-in-law.

Not convinced? Think about all the times you got out of bed to clean up after a sick kid while your husband pretended to sleep. Think about all the times you were sick and your husband acted like he was dying when he got a sniffle and took to his bed - while you hauled your 103-fevered self around the house to care for the feverish kids. Think about the times the baby cried and your husband handed her to you because he didn't know what to do. Think about all the things you do because your husband either doesn't know how to do them or doesn't think it's his job. Wouldn't it be nice if someone had taught him?


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

My SIL's-Mother-Is-a-Genius Caramel Popcorn

Total Time: 80 min
Prep Time: 5 min
Stove-Top Cooking Time: 15 min
Total Oven Time: 60 min

What You Need:
24 C popped popcorn*
1 C butter - butter only, margarine won't work
2 C brown sugar
1/2 C white corn syrup
 2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking soda

*Popcorn hints: The popcorn needs to be as fluffy and free from salt and butter as possible. I don't have an air popper, so when I make this recipe, I buy fat free microwave popcorn. Depending on the brand, 2-3 bags produce 24 cups.

What You Use:
large mixing bowl
roasting pan
large saucepan with fitting lid
candy thermometer
foil, wax paper, or parchment

FOR OPTIMAL RESULTS - Calibrate your thermometer! "Do what?" Calibrate your thermometer. Bring some water to a rolling boil (on the stove, in your saucepan). When the water is boiling, put in your thermometer. What temperature does your thermometer give? Water boils at 212 degrees F at sea level. Note if your thermometer is a degree or two or three warmer or cooler than 212 degrees. You MUST know this because the caramel has to be a certain temperature or it won't perform correctly. It'll either be too hard (from being cooked too hot) or too chewy (from not getting hot enough). I understand there's a cold water method for calibrating, but as I've never used it.


What You Do:
1. Calibrate your candy thermometer.
2. Pop the corn! Pour the popped corn into a large mixing bowl. This allows the kernels to fall to the bottom of the bowl and not accidentally get mixed in the caramel.
3. From the bowl, measure out 24 cups of popcorn. Put the measured popcorn into the roaster.
4. Preheat oven to 250.
5. Place butter, brown sugar, and light corn syrup into the saucepan on medium-high heat.
Bring mixture to a boil for about 10 min, stirring constantly, to 248 degrees F. *This is where your thermometer comes in handy. If your thermometer is off by a degree or two, adjust accordingly. My thermometer is a little on the cool side, so I give an extra degree. Do NOT let your caramel get hotter than 250 degrees. Click here to learn more.
7. Remove saucepan from heat. Add baking soda and stir in thoroughly. The mixture will foam and get very thick.
8. Stir in vanilla. The vanilla will sizzle and pop in the hot caramel. Use the pan's lid as your shield.
9. Carefully pour caramel over popcorn. Mix quickly and thoroughly. Get as much coverage as you can.
10. Place roasting pan with caramel popcorn in oven for 1 hour. Remove and stir thoroughly every 15 minutes. The first two stirrings are good times to get the extra caramel off the bottom of the pan and onto the popcorn.
11. After 1 hour, remove from oven and spread popcorn out onto foil or parchment to cool. It cools very, very fast, so work quickly to break up any clumps.

Calibrate your thermometer. Mine is not perfectly 212. I know from experience in MY kitchen that my thermometer runs cool. To compensate, I add 2 degrees for my desired temperature.

The popcorn I used for this batch.

Popped corn in a big bowl to let the kernels fall to the bottom.

The measured popcorn in my biggest roaster.

Sugar, butter, light corn syrup melting.

My temp is a split second from being too high.
QUICK! Off the heat.

Here's the mixture, OFF the heat.
I'm about to add the baking soda.

See how foamy it gets? Make sure you have a big saucepan
because the caramel rises after adding the soda.

Adding the vanilla. Notice the placement of my lid.

Pour the hot caramel over the popcorn.
Stir quickly because it cools rapidly.

Mixed and ready for the oven.

After the first 15 minutes in the oven,
it comes out looking bubbly.

Notice the caramel that's run to the bottom of the pan.
Now's the time to scape it up over the popcorn.

After 30 minutes it's darker and crisper.

At the 1 hour mark, it's ready to spread out to cool.

Mine is spread out on two lengths of foil.

Cooled and ready to store. And eat.

~ G

Sunday, February 7, 2010


Years ago, before I married and started a family, a dear friend of mine remarked that childless people are selfish. Of course, I didn't understand what she meant - she, a married mother of three. Now I get it.

Many childless couples are selfish. Many aren't. One of my dearest friends was one-half of a childless couple for years and she's one of the least selfish people I know. On the other hand, my husband and I have friends who don't have kids and a few of them are most decidedly selfish. Please don't mistake me. They are lovely people. We enjoy them very much. Please, we wouldn't voluntarily hang out with unpleasant people.

But there's something ... selfish about them. Is it that they've never had to give up their own desires for someone's needs? I'm not talking about tithing or giving time to good causes. I'm talking about getting up in the middle of the night, repeatedly, to meet the needs of an utterly selfish human being? Babies don't care if you get enough sleep. A sick kid doesn't care if you have an important presentation in the morning or if you, too, have a high fever. Is it never having walked in a store with $25 and realized that as much as you'd like a new whatever, that money could be better spent on new socks and underwear for the big kid and replenished sippy cups for the little kid?

I don't begrudge them their selfishness or wish hardship on our friends. It's just... different being around adults who don't have children. My mother has said that there's something "different" about them. "Selfish" probably isn't the right word as it has a negative connotation and implies a cruel streak, which there isn't. But my mom is right. There's something missing and ... different.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Jon Stewart on the Factor

I watched Bill O'Reilly interview Jon Stewart. A couple of things struck me. Yes, Stewart's intelligent. Second, he and O'Reilly seem to enjoy each other. But third, and this is the one that annoys me, Stewart's assertion that FOX "sells the clearest narrative" and laughs that FOX calls itself a "news organization" annoys me. He marvels that FOX has managed to "mainstream Conservative radio."

Stewart maintains that because there's opinion on FOX that it must not be a news organization.
Is he not aware that the line-up on MSNBC now features at least three ranting liberals in their respective shows? It must only be a "narrative" when you don't agree with it. I wonder if it's occurred to Jon Stewart that the reason most Americans trust FOX is because FOX bothers to give the back story on most of their coverage? Does it occur to him that for years Americans have been given only what left-leaning journalists want us to know? Has it occurred to him that Americans want more to the story than just what happened ten minutes ago and might want meat with their milk?

A friend called after spending two hours sitting in an auto shop's waiting room. FOX played on the shop's TV. She said she'd never watched it before and was shocked because it was the most thorough news coverage she'd seen. This was a week or so before the Scott Brown won the Massachusetts Senate seat vacated by Ted Kennedy. The point is, my friend learned what I learned a couple of years ago: FOX news is in the business of educating viewers about what's going on. Guess that's a good "narrative."

When there's something going on in the world that requires attention, right now only FOX can be trusted to tell the story. Once I started watching FOX, I developed a more thorough understanding of the news. After 25 years of watching the news and reading the paper, it took FOX news to bring it together for me. Clearly, I'm not alone. Yes, there are most definitely opinion shows, but if you can't tell the difference between Glenn Beck and Shepard Smith, you must be a liberal.

More than anything, I'm worn out with the attitude that anything that doesn't jibe with left-leaning sentiments is less than.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Sometimes It's So Depressing

Sometimes the news is so depressing. Why does our president think taking the cherry off the crap-pile of a budget qualifies as "cutting" spending. It's enough to make me want to permanently turn off the news.

I take it back. Sometimes it's depressing and then I read something like TOTUS. Oh, how nice to not be alone in my sentiments.


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