sandbox in garden

A Few Thoughts On Politics (Lessons From the Sandbox)

sandbox in garden

I’ve never been much for politics.

In fact, my family members reading this title probably immediately clicked to my blog to see what on earth I had to share on this topic.

As a child, I wasn’t naturally interested in news or politics. When I got a little older, once in awhile my parents would actually ask me to sit and watch the news, because they thought it was something important about which I should have some understanding.

As much as I agree with them, I still don’t think I got much out of those sittings, and I still don’t relish watching the news. I try to read about important happenings in the most minimal way possible to stay somewhat informed, then move on with my day.

As for politics, it’s a similar scenario. I only voted exactly one time in Canada, before being away at school for three years near Rochester, NY. I then married and moved all the way to Massachusetts, the home of my husband, where I have lived ever since. Now I confess that I don’t fully understand the details of either US or Canadian governments. Someday I hope to at least become literate on this topic.

So I may not be an expert in politics, but I do know some things about life.

boy in sandbox

Isn’t there a book called,  All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten ? Although I doubt I agree with many of the author’s personal beliefs, I’ve always been intrigued by a truth in this title. When it comes down to it, many of life’s most important lessons are pretty basic.

In fact, this post reminds me of the kinds of interactions with children that I dealt with almost daily in my years as a teacher’s aide.

So why is it “acceptable” in politics for grown men (and women), to revert to behavior hardly appropriate for a young child? I’ve never understood nor appreciated this fact.

I’m not talking about everyone. There are many politicians who possess the desirable qualities of integrity, kindness and uprightness, and whose words and actions are admirable.

But so often I am disappointed (sometimes downright disgusted), by the way in which people talk and act when it comes to their political views. And Christians are unfortunately not exempt.

 

So I present some thoughts that we probably all learned in our formative years in the sandbox, which I believe apply to our politics as well:

 

1. Name-calling is not cool.

We all know that the saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me”, is pretty far from the truth. Names, unkind titles, and derogatory comments do hurt and they can negatively affect both the speaker, the listener, and the one of which the words are being spoken.

If we wouldn’t speak to someone face to face in the same way we talk about them in conversations and on social media (or driving in our car), then we probably shouldn’t be speaking at all. And often our comments are not motivated by speaking the truth in love, but rather an emotional reaction to something we don’t like.

“But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.” – Matthew 5:22 (NLT)

boy crying in sandbox

2. Putting others down doesn’t make you look any better.

It is human nature to feel that if we put others down, we will look better. But it really isn’t true. Instead, we are often disclosing our own insecurities and the sinful attitudes of our heart.

Speaking of “the sandbox”, Jesus himself once wrote in the sand in response to the accusations of the crowd when a woman was caught in adultery. He reminded the onlookers that they were no better (or less sinful), than she.

Even if we disagree, we can still do it in a civilized manner.

Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” – Ephesians 4:29 (NLT)

girl playing in sandbox

3. The “Golden Rule” Still Applies

All of the “elementary” teachings that many of us learned in church or school as a child are just as relevant in our grown lives.

I often think about and speak of this in our own family. It seems that “the basics” of Christianity are often the most difficult to live out in our daily, “real” lives.

Even if you are not a believer, I’m sure you want your life to be based on good principles and your words and actions reflective of a mature, kind person.

children playing in sandbox

4. Above all else, PRAY! 

This isn’t necessarily learned “in the sandbox”, but children do seem much more apt and willing to pray. They are not bound by complicated reasoning and years of emotional baggage.

The Bible teaches us most of all to pray for our leaders.

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior…” – 1 Timothy 2:1-3 (NLT)

tractor and sieve in sandbox

I like the boldness of The Message version of Luke 6:27-38:

27-30 “To you who are ready for the truth, I say this: Love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer for that person. If someone slaps you in the face, stand there and take it. If someone grabs your shirt, gift wrap your best coat and make a present of it. If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.

31-34 “Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them! If you only love the lovable, do you expect a pat on the back? Run-of-the-mill sinners do that. If you only help those who help you, do you expect a medal? Garden-variety sinners do that. If you only give for what you hope to get out of it, do you think that’s charity? The stingiest of pawnbrokers does that.

35-36 “I tell you, love your enemies. Help and give without expecting a return. You’ll never—I promise—regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we’re at our worst. Our Father is kind; you be kind.

37-38 “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—unless, of course, you want the same treatment. Don’t condemn those who are down; that hardness can boomerang. Be easy on people; you’ll find life a lot easier. Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.”

There is certainly a time to speak what is true, but I think the manner in which we deliver it will disclose our real intent. Also, it is responsible and right to research and check the facts about a politician’s values and character, as well as what they intend to accomplish in office.

Then we should pray and vote accordingly.

So let us think before we speak, examine ourselves before we judge, and treat others the way we wish to be treated, and above all else, pray for our leaders. Let’s behave not like disobedient children, but as wise and mature individuals, living lives of honor to God.

prove it by living an honorable life

*****

 

brownies with green decor

Simple Things I Did To Make Saint Patrick’s Day Special

brownies with green decor

My Saint Patrick’s Day brownies

Did you have a happy Saint Patrick’s Day?

We don’t make a big deal about it, but there are a few traditions for Saint Patrick’s Day that we like to keep around our home.

My husband’s family has always had a boiled corned beef dinner with cabbage, potatoes and carrots for this holiday. We have been creating our own tradition of cooking corned beef on this day, partly to celebrate with most of the rest of New England, and mostly because there are some pretty good prices on corned beef and cabbage in the supermarkets right now.

This year we tried one about a week early and I roasted it in the oven. We really liked it, so that may need to be the new “usual” for Saint Patrick’s Day.

So on the real holiday (which just happens to be in the middle of a couple of busy weeks), I still wanted to make the day a little special.

Remember how I told you on Valentine’s Day to feed your men (or any other hungry family members, even if they happen to be female)? I suggested simple ways to make the holiday festive, without spending tons of time or money. But by all means, I suggest feeding them!

Well, that’s what I set about doing in the midst of my busy day.

First of all, I accidentally made a really green smoothie in the morning. (Well, I actually made it on purpose; I just didn’t realize it was green for Saint Patrick’s Day until it was all but gone and cleaned up).

really green smoothie

St. Pat’s Day smoothie

If you’d like some good green smoothie-making tips, I wrote about that in an earlier post.

After a late morning appointment, I met a couple of friends at the little local city museum for a flower show. Boy, was that just what I needed for an hour or two on this almost-spring day! We enjoyed viewing art from local artists as well as beautiful and lovely-scented floral displays, and soaked in the feeling of spring.

I was able to purchase a few small pots of herbs grown by our city high school horticultural department, including this fresh catnip for our kitties.

fresh catnip

Happy cat mess.

Apparently, they really enjoyed their Saint Patrick’s Day present. (I decided to just let them enjoy it in this little part of my kitchen for a day or two, then I’ll clean it up.)

Next, between loads of laundry and practicing songs for Palm Sunday worship team, I made a nice box of brownies. I try to always keep some on hand for such last-minute occasions, and today I was glad to have them. The truth is, I really didn’t plan this day ahead of time, otherwise I would have purchased some nice minty chocolate candies to decorate my brownies. (Or I would have purchased some really festive green sprinkles like these or even these.)

As it was, I had to improvise and use what I had on hand.

As a side note, I have been known for being able to improvise. While assisting in a preschool class at the school I worked in for many years, one of the teachers would often comment on how good I was at “fudging” a craft or visual aide to be used in class for her (and it was a compliment!). I think my family taught me how to make do with what I have, in order to make something special without spending a lot of time or money.

Anyway, I thought I’d just get out my green sprinkles for this holiday, but much to my dismay, I had all the other colors except for green. I did try some green sugar crystals, but they didn’t show up much. Just as I was about to give up in disappointment, I remembered these little spring flower decorations I just purchased. (I got them in Target’s wonderful one-dollar section.)

So I happily and meticulously hand-picked out enough green flowers to drive me crazy decorate my Saint Patrick’s Day brownies.

decorating brownies

green flowers on brownies

I baked them and we enjoyed them with our busy and crazy supper schedule this evening.

I don’t think I’m winning any brownie-decorating prizes for these, but I think everyone enjoyed their Saint Patrick’s Day treat.

St. Pat's Day brownies

Earlier this week I used the same flower-shaped decorations on the rice krispee treats I made for our church community group meeting.

spring Rice Krispees treats

Feels like spring!

And I almost forgot to show you my cute little Saint Patrick’s Day carnation that I purchased on my way out of the flower show today. I really like carnations, because they are inexpensive, have a nice fragrance, and last for a very long time.

green carnation

*****

So what did you do for Saint Patrick’s Day? Are you good at “fudging” it when it comes to using what you have on hand to decorate baked goods? Do you have any fun traditions you’d like to share with us?

 

 

grey door

What Does It Mean When God Closes Another Door?

grey door

Another door slammed shut.

Sometimes it feels like a slap in the face.

At the very least, it leaves us confused, disappointed, perhaps even disillusioned.

But what does it really mean when God closes another door?

 

Recently, this was my truth. In fact, it still is.

I seem to be in a time of transition, at least as far as “work” (the paid kind), goes.

So I’ve been thinking and praying a lot about this lately, and frankly, just trying to figure it out.

Some friends on Facebook posted this, and it’s seems to be speaking truth to many.

If it does not open, it's not your door.

 

Here are some thoughts I’m having about the closed doors in my life:

 

A closed door is a type of boundary.

Boundaries don’t always feel good. They are not always fun. They feel like they are robbing us of freedom.

But they are always for our protection. It may feel uncomfortable, but when God closes a door, it really wasn’t our door. He’s not failing us. He’s keeping us from what isn’t meant to be.

Just as an earthly parent must provide loving boundaries for a child, so God shows us where it is safe and healthy to go.

We need to trust that when God puts a boundary in our path, it is not to hurt us, but for our good.

A closed door is not necessarily forever.

You’ve heard it said that God always answers prayer; he sometimes responds with “yes”, sometimes a clear “no”, and sometimes with “wait”.

A closed door could be the end of a particular dream or season. Or it could just not be the right time. God knows things that we don’t (surprise, surprise!).

We need to trust God’s perfect timing.

A closed door is clearly leading us in a different direction.

When God closes a door in our lives, he isn’t just stopping us. He is making it obvious that we need to go in another direction.

This is most comforting to me. God doesn’t just stop us from doing a particular thing; he leads us in a better way that He has planned for us.

Sometimes I believe He wants us to leave the past in the past.

We need to follow His leading.

A closed door tests our trust.

Sometimes I think God allows a door to close in order to see if we will still trust Him.

I’m not saying He just closes doors to play around with us or tease us, but He may partly be testing our love, devotion and faith in Him. (Remember Job?)

I don’t believe God just does things to make our lives difficult, but sometimes he allows difficult things to cause us to uncomfortably stretch and grow.

Often times God needs to see if we are willing to give something up. Then He is free to either give it back to us (in our open hand), or give us something better.

We need to remain unconditionally devoted to our Lord, and truly trust Him with our lives, no matter what the outcome.

 

I’d like to suggest some reflections from Psalm 139. (Why not take a moment to read it?)

God knows us, He created us, and He planned every day of our lives before we were even born. Because He knows and loves us so deeply, the only reasonable response is to follow Him. As we surrender to Him, he will protect our hearts and lead us in the way He has planned for us.

 

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 Point out anything in me that offends you,
    and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

*****

So what about you? Are there any closed doors in your life right now? Are you willing to trust that your Creator knows what is best for your life?

 

 

 

lettuce wrapped in paper towel

One Way to Make Your Lettuce Last

lettuce wrapped in paper towel

Stick a paper towel in it. Or two or three.

There.

End of story.

Do it.

Today’s post just may be the shortest, easiest blog post I’ll ever write!

Of course I’ll include some wonderfully exciting photos of myself (or my left hand at least; I had to use my right hand to snap the photo), inserting paper towel into a lettuce container. I’ll bet you can hardly wait!

opening greens

First, open your lettuce or greens.

 

inserting paper towel into lettuce container

Insert one or more clean paper towels.

 

paper towel in lettuce container

Close lid and you’re done.

Where on earth did I get such a weird idea? I don’t rightly know for sure. It may have been from my dear father-in-law (who has been gone for several years already). He would open one of those handy, already-washed salad bags and then close it up with a paper towel inserted. I think he was the first.

But try it, already. It just works! (Do I really need to do the research on this one?)

Haven’t you noticed how after you’ve opened a package (bag or plastic container), of pre-washed salad greens little droplets of water form on the inside of the container, then begin to moisten and eventually rot the nice little leaves???

I bet some of you don’t even purchase the ready-washed lettuce anymore because you’re so tired of throwing away spoiled lettuce!

It even seems to be the case when I wash my own head of lettuce and place the leaves into one of my plastic containers or lettuce-keepers, so I add paper towel there, too.

If it’s a larger container of lettuce, I usually gently wrap a clean paper towel around each side and place another on top.

salad with paper towel

One other important note if you are washing your own lettuce (rather than buying pre-washed), is you must get it as dry as possible! A salad spinner works wonderfully and I don’t know what I’d do without mine!

Sometimes if I’m cleaning very large greens (that would not fit in the lettuce spinner), I just lay them out on clean tea towels and let them air dry. I still put a paper towel into my storage baggie, and squeeze the air out before sealing it.

This is also a great storage tip for many other types of veggies, too. But that may need to be discussed further in another post. 🙂

My completely scientific answer to why the paper towel method works is this: the paper towel absorbs the little droplet-thingies and keeps them from overly-wetting the lettuce leaves, hence helping to prevent them from rotting and getting all gross and slimy. (Don’t quote me on this.)

So that’s it, folks! Grab a container of lettuce and some paper towels and have yourself blast this weekend! Now you can enjoy your salads more as you know your lettuce won’t spoil before you’re done eating it. And don’t forget, your greens will last longer for more delicious smoothies.

That same precious father-in-law I told you about also had a cute habit of writing on and leaving notes on paper plates. So maybe we should try that one, too.

*****

Am I the only one who has found that a paper towel or two totally makes the lettuce last longer??? If you have any other ideas for preserving salad greens or know of any scientific studies to back up my theory, please share!

 

 

 

 

Our house with violets

How I Felt When You Complemented My Home

Our house with violets

I really do have a lovely home.

It’s not huge or new or rich, but it is pretty and cozy. It’s about “average” as far as houses go around here, but so much more than most people in our world would ever dream of.

We picked it over twenty years ago, and I can still remember how quickly it felt like “home” when we moved in. We added two kittens shortly after we purchased our house, and within about a year, I was pregnant with our first child.  It is where we are supposed to be right now.

our home - winter 2015-16

But often I notice what is wrong, not clean, needs fixing, isn’t new, is broken, or how small it feels when we have a certain number of guests. I see newer furniture and appliances that would just look nice, be more “functional”, or would make life easier.

Sometimes I look with envy at others’ homes, either in Facebook photos or in real life. We can always find someone with a bigger, newer, more modern house and more “stuff”.

I’ve already shared about how easy it is to struggle with discontentment; in fact, my second post ever was about how I often have to remind myself to be grateful for the things I have.

This is part of our own human nature, but also augmented by a wealthy culture which thrives on consumerism.

But I need to remember that there is probably someone looking at me in the same way, wishing they had a house perhaps, or maybe just wishing their big home was filled with peace.

Our living-room

Sometimes I just need a reminder of how lovely and wonderful my life really is. I need to focus on the positives, rather than the lacks.

This past week, I had two individuals complement my home.

One was someone we are just getting to know. He walked through our door on the first night he joined our church community group and said something like, “What a beautiful home you have!”

Exercise mat in living-room with cat

The second was a complete stranger. She was responding to a photo I shared on a Facebook page for those of us participating in a Pilates fitness challenge. It was a photo of a corner of my living-room, where I had my exercise mat, near the couch with the sleeping kitties. She commented, “What a lovely space!”

So once again I’m reminded of how blessed I really am. I needed those reminders (and I guess it took two of them), to get my attention once more to be grateful.

I needed once again to look at my life with fresh eyes.

There’s been a little video circling in social media lately that speaks to this, so maybe I’m not the only one who needs to be reminded.

 

And there’s another lesson as well.

Don’t hesitate to give out heart-felt compliments. It may be just what that person needs to hear on a day when life feels overwhelming. It may give them a renewed sense of how their life is blessed.

Our house with summer watermelon flag

And thank-you to those friends who took the time and followed your hearts to share your compliments with me.

They made my day and are helping to make my grateful life.

Our house - kitchen entrance

humming-bird feeder and hanging plant

enjoy the little things

*****

 

 

 

 

30 Day Pilates Body Challenge

I Can’t Resist Sharing This Ten-Minute Pilates Challenge With You!

30 Day Pilates Body Challenge

Care to Join Me?

OK. I wasn’t going to do this, but I simply can’t resist!

It’s already Day #3, but I’d still like to invite you to join me for this 30 Day Pilates Body Challenge hosted by my new friend, Robin Long.

You see, I don’t know Robin, but after just a couple of days, she seems like a kind friend. She is an encouraging coach for this wonderful Pilates exercise challenge for the month of March! If you chose to join us and sign up for the challenge, she will send you a motivating email each day this month, along with a ten-minute daily Pilates workout video to complete. In case you think that ten minutes isn’t enough, I suggest you listen to her comments on that idea, here.

The emails are brief, but filled with encouragement not only to do the exercises, but also to create other healthy habits along with the exercises. So far, Robin has also encouraged us to have an accountability partner, drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, and to chose another goal in partnership with the workouts this month.

This 30 Day Challenge is all free, but if you want more, you can explore her Pilates subscription service, which can be purchased for a small monthly fee. It offers even more support, including new monthly workouts, missions, recipes and membership to her private “Sisterhood.”

Here are some fun (not exactly breathtaking) photos I’ve already shared on Facebook to mark and celebrate my success. And I must not forget that we are also encouraged to share and support one another on social media, including an encouraging, private Facebook page for those of us participating in this 30 Day Challenge.

Pilates, mat, workout

Day #1 complete (with cat).

Pilates video, water, cats

Day #2 completed, although the cats didn’t move a bit. Drinking water on side table.

Pilates workout, bridge pose, checking in

Day #3 slightly awkward “bridge pose” photo….just checking in.

Prayer & Bible reading, Exercise (Pilates & other), Drink water, "Me" time (read, photos, blog).

Day #3 – My personal goals for this month.

I’ll end by sharing my additional personal goals for this month. We were only asked to chose one, but mine’s a package deal of some daily basics:

  • Prayer & Bible reading
  • Exercise (Pilates challenge plus indoor or outdoor walks)
  • Drink enough water
  • Do something fun for ME each day (read; take or work on photos; work on blog)

These are priorities that I would like to do consistently every day, creating a life-long habit of self-care. This is one challenge that will help me to flourish!

*****

So, how about it? Can you commit to just ten minutes of Pilates a day for this month? Have you always wanted to try Pilates, but just needed a little push? Perhaps you could share this challenge with someone you think may also benefit. Please let me know if you sign up!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

green smoothie in mason jar

How To Make a Simple Green Smoothie (It’s more simple than you think!)

green smoothie in mason jar

Recently, I explained how I freeze bananas to use for baking and smoothies. Well, my wonderful and insightful sister thought that maybe some more detailed information on what to do with frozen bananas would be in order. Perhaps she’s right.

So let’s talk smoothies. I use banana (especially frozen bananas), in almost every smoothie. We usually have them on hand, they add a wonderful smooth texture, and most of all, you can’t beat bananas to sweeten a smoothie (especially one with greens).

I just assumed that any old person could make a smoothie. And maybe you’re one of those who can. (If so, feel free to share your favorite smoothie recipe with me!).

But maybe you’ve never attempted to make one. Perhaps you thought you needed one of those nice, expensive smoothie machines to make one (and you don’t), or maybe you just buy smoothies that other people make (also expensive).

So today I want to tell you how easy it is to make your own green smoothie.

I have made smoothies for years, but only occasionally. Even though I really enjoy smoothies, here are some reasons that kept me from making my own:

  1. I just didn’t realize how easy it is.
  2. I thought it would be too time-consuming (especially for breakfast before a busy work day).
  3. I don’t have a fancy “smoothie maker”.

Hopefully, this post will help you realize how simple and quick it really is to make delicious and nutritious smoothies in your own blender!

Years ago, my first few tries at smoothie-making mainly consisted of frozen fruit (or unfrozen fruit and a few ice cubes), some juice (for liquid), and optional yogurt (which I usually added for taste and protein). These tasted delicious and were somewhat healthy, but contained more sugar and lacked the nutritional boost of greens.

purple smoothie

But now my “go-to” smoothies are made with greens. Once I figured out what flavors tasted good together and got myself and my family used to a slightly less sweet smoothie, I can’t hardly “leave” out the greens. (See what I did there? “Leave” out the leafy greens?)

One reason I began to try to work with greens in my smoothies is because I had access to good, free greens. If you have your own garden, you likely have plenty of fresh greens.

When we started getting more greens from our CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) farm share, I didn’t want them to go to waste. We usually try to cook and eat them (they can be prepared and enjoyed like spinach), but if I have a lot, I put some aside in freezer bags for future smoothies.

Swiss chard

Farm fresh Swiss chard greens (and a little turnip green).

red and golden beet greens

Golden and red beet greens.

This past year I really had it good while I worked at an indoor microgreens farm. Microgreens are highly nutritious. In fact, WebMD states that they contain, “up to 40 times higher levels of vital nutrients than their mature counterparts.” You can read more about that here.  One of the awesome benefits of my little farm job was being able to help myself to greens from the employee fridge. So this past summer, we had a delicious and nutritious green smoothie for breakfast probably two to three times a week.

kitty in wheatgrass

Our kitties love greens, too. 🙂

Mostly I’ve just been “winging” it with my smoothies. But over time I’m getting pretty good at it, as well as coming up with some favorite ideas.

One thing I have learned (through trial and error), that makes all the difference in good smoothie-making is that you need enough liquid. Even if you like it thick, a blender requires sufficient liquid to operate. Some in my family prefer an even thinner smoothie than I do, which can be accomplished by adding even more liquid and/or not using as much frozen fruit (as the ice makes it thicker).

green smoothie in blender

You can make a wonderful, healthy green smoothie right in your blender!

Simple Green Smoothies is a great site with loads of good information on making green smoothies. They even run a free 30-Day Green Smoothie Challenge. I really like their poster (scroll down on this page), with their basic green smoothie “formula”.

This is roughly what I’ve been doing, but it makes life even easier to simply remember two cups liquid, two cups leafy greens, and three cups of fruit. I love that this recipe is simple, but versatile. Some additional optional ingredients that I would add to their list are as follows:

  1. microgreens (leafy greens category) – the healthiest, if you can get your hands on some
  2. beet greens (greens category) – never throw out the healthy greens from your beets!
  3. 100% fruit juice (liquid category) – Be aware that this option will add natural sugar to your smoothie, but may be desirable, especially if your family is “new” to green smoothies.
  4. fresh or frozen cranberries (fruit category) – full of antioxidants as well as many other health benefits 
  5. PBfit or other peanut butter powder – contains all the goodness of and 85% less fat than regular peanut butter (“boosts” category)
  6. Powdered whey (“boosts”) – excellent source of protein (explore here)

Be sure to note that you need to use at least some frozen fruit in order to thicken and chill your smoothie. Alternatively, you may add a few ice cubes, but I prefer to pack my smoothie full of flavor and nutrition without added water.

blueberry green smoothies

Green smoothies are not always green (with blueberries).

green smoothie

Mango-chard smoothie.

So now that you have all this green smoothie information at your finger-tips (and hopefully a good supply of frozen bananas), what are you waiting for?

*****

Please do share any great smoothie tips with us here! Have you tried making a green smoothie yet? Are you the proud owner of one of those coveted special smoothie makers?

 

 

 

 

 

hanging bananas

Life Cycle of a Banana

bananas and tomatoes on my counter

I’m sure I now have you all on the edge of your seat, breathlessly awaiting an in-depth study about how bananas are grown and harvested, but that is not the topic of this post. (Sorry.) Neither will I discuss what happens after you ingest bananas…..(no further comments necessary!).

Today’s post is just about the life cycle of a banana at my house. Or more specifically, what on earth do I do with bananas that could be interesting enough to write an entire post about them on Simply Flourishing Home???

banana pile

Let me start with the fact that I know this will be a boring post for some of you experienced bakers, smoothie-makers and banana-keepers.

***But one thing I realized before I began blogging is that many times it’s that “obvious” tip to us that someone else just needs to hear. I have lived for almost fifty years, and cooked and baked for over twenty-five married years, and I’m still learning some great hacks and tips for all areas of my life.

***So at the risk of boring you or causing you to feel I’m insulting your intelligence, I have decided to sometimes share a simple tip or idea, for those of you who for whatever reason, find yourselves “out of the loop”. I would, of course, also welcome any tips and tricks for home-making that my readers would be willing to share in the comments. Share the wealth!

So back to bananas.

Bananas are a healthy, convenient, economical, portable fruit. I try to keep them on hand at all times for a quick, easy morning serving of fruit. They are also invaluable for baking and smoothies!

Let’s talk about banana nutrition.

I won’t go into great depth here (as I am not a nutritionist nor a banana expert), but suffice it to say that a bananas possess a whole slew of health benefits. They are naturally fat and cholesterol-free, provide a high dose of potassium (which is beneficial to your heart, muscles, nerves and kidneys, and can help lower blood pressure). They also contain a healthy dose of vitamin C, vitamin B-6, manganese and fiber, and aide in the digestive process.

In case that’s not enough for you, this interesting article discusses 25 Powerful Reasons to Eat Bananas, and claims several additional health benefits, many of which I had never even heard before today.

In our family, bananas are consumed several times per week as is, but we also depend on them for moist, delicious baked goods and to thicken and sweeten our healthy smoothies.

lots of bananas

So what’s the best way to be sure to have bananas on hand at all times in case the urge strikes to bake fresh banana bread or create a delicious smoothie?

Stock up on bananas whenever you have a chance. Thankfully, they are one of the cheaper foods to begin with, but if you happen to catch a sale, find some on the reduced-produce rack at your store, or “adopt” them from someone who for some reason has extras, then go for it! (I used to gratefully receive bunches on occasion from the school cafeteria where I worked, before vacation days when they would be sure to spoil if left.) I often buy an extra bunch on purpose to keep my freezer-stock supplied.

Just a side note here. I have tried (I thought with some success), that trick of wrapping the banana stems in foil to retard the ripening process. Although I had come across some reason to believe it is effective, I now realize through a little research that most people believe it makes no difference if you wrap the stems in foil or plastic wrap, or separate the bananas. I looked at several write-ups and videos, and in the end, I can’t find anything scientific to back up the idea that any of these methods actually makes a difference.

So if you notice any foil on my bunch of bananas in the photo, just ignore it. Until I conduct an actual experiment myself (which I will surely share here), I will refrain from further wasting foil on my banana stems.

So just what do you do when you just have too many bananas, or they are too ripe for your taste to eat?

overripe bananas

Most of you who care anything about baking know that bananas can be stored in the freezer until you need them for baking. For years, though, I threw the entire banana in, peel and all. This works, but when you take it out of the freezer and let it thaw, you now have to remove the blackened peel and are left with a soggy, slimy, mess. It still works and tastes fine in a recipe, but it leaves something to be desired in appearance and texture (in other words, it’s gross!)

One day, my life was forever changed when I made an important discovery; not to the whole world perhaps, but to this avid baker. I don’t even remember where I learned this idea, but it is to simply peel the banana BEFORE you freeze it.

freezing bananas

Yes, that’s it.

Some of you are probably saying, “Duh. Of course you peel them first. This is a waste of my time.”,  (to which I will refer you back to the above starred paragraphs), but I will share it here in case you, like me, need someone to tell you.

Now I simply peel and break each ripe banana into quarters or thirds and throw them into a freezer bag. This way, they can be easily taken out to thaw before baking, or warmed slightly in the microwave to soften if you are in a hurry.

Also, this method works great for thickening and sweetening smoothies! Simply place as many frozen banana chunks as desired into your blender (or fancy smoothie-maker, if you have one), along with your smoothie ingredients and life is good.

So that’s it, folks! The life cycle of a banana in my house.

Stay tuned to find out about two of my favorite related baking tips that I plan to share soon. One has something to do with pumpkins, and the second is about muffin dough. I can’t wait to share them with you!

Now, I think I’ll go and make some banana muffins.

*****

Do you love to bake with bananas or add them to smoothies? Have you ever tried freezing them? Are you willing to admit that you also wrap your banana stems in foil???

 

 

 

Proverbs 16:3

Flourishing Plans

Proverbs 16:3

 

…or as the NLT (New Living Translation) states,

 

“Commit your actions to the lord, and your plans will succeed.”

 

Well, that sounds simple enough.

So if I just pray about my plans every day, God will make me succeed?

 

On first glance at this verse, it would seem that if we are Christians (or perhaps even if we aren’t), and if we pray and ask for God’s blessing every day, then everything will go smoothly.

But there are two major flaws with this line of thought.

 

First, my plans DO NOT ALWAYS SUCCEED! 

At least, that’s how it appears. Life does not always go smoothly; in fact, sometimes it’s painfully difficult.

But do I ever consider that God has an even better plan, one that allows for my growth and His glory, and not just my comfort? Ouch!

 

The second problem is that I think we interpret this verse ALL BACKWARDS.

As much as I want it to mean that I just go ahead and plan my day and my life and God will bless it, I have to remind myself that I also need to consider that my ways may not necessarily be God’s ways.

Mother doesn’t always know best! (That’s me, by the way.)

I need to remember that my life is fully surrendered to Christ, not just when I go to church on Sunday, but for real, in the nitty-gritty of my everyday life.

 

My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” – Galatians 2:20

Oswald Chambers expresses it this way in a devotional reading entitled, “The Surrendered Life”:

“To become one with Jesus Christ, a person must be willing not only to give up sin, but also to surrender his whole way of looking at things. Being born again by the Spirit of God means that we must first be willing to let go before we can grasp something else.”

Yes, I want my plans to succeed.

But first and foremost, even though it may mean walking through difficulty and pain, I want my life to be fully surrendered to the Lord, with the end result being His glory.

I want to grow and mature into the real person God designed me to be.

If going through difficulties may make my life a blessing or an encouragement to others, then so be it.

My true desire is to commit my way to the Lord, and allow His good plan to flourish and succeed in my life.

Besides, His plan is so much better than mine ever could be.

“If you are faced with the question of whether or not to surrender, make a determination to go on through the crisis, surrendering all that you have and all that you are to Him. And God will then equip you to do all that He requires of you.” – Oswald Chambers, from My Utmost For His Highest

*****

 

community, city

Responsible Reasons for Buying Local

My home (fall)

I am all for bargains.

In fact, I think that most of the time doing everything we can (within reason),to save money is not only smart, but often necessary, in order to stay within our budgets.

But once in awhile there are legitimate reasons for doing what is expedient, such as buying local. And I often have to remind myself of this when it seems I’m just taking the “easy way out” or being lazy.

 

These are some the items we often purchase locally:

  •  milk or other necessities (from a local convenience store)
  • vegetables, eggs or honey (from a farm stand or our CSA share)
  • hardware for home repairs (from the small, downtown hardware store)
  • grocery items (from our local supermarket)
  • prepared foods and homemade crafts (from local church fairs)
  • girl scout cookies or other products from neighbor kids raising money
  • meals and beverages from local restaurants (one in particular which sources ingredients from local farmers)
  • delicious fresh-roasted coffee (by a local roaster)

Razzo Coffee

Now let me clarify that is it not always more expensive to buy food and household items from a local source.

We have found some wonderful local vegetable stands, for instance, who actually offer us a better-than-supermarket price. (When I was growing up, sometimes I was allowed to sell our excess garden produce at a small table on the side of the road, or from a wagon pulled down one of the neighboring streets. We sold a tomato for about ten cents, which even for that time, was a bargain.) And our convenience stores actually offer one of the best prices on 1% milk!

But more often than not, it seems the smaller and sometimes family-run businesses right in my neighborhood are a little more expensive.

Most often when I make a purchase my priority is to get the best bang for my buck. Sometimes I will drive to a certain store, take advantage of a special sale or offer, purchase in bulk, or order online, just to name a few of the ways I try to save my hard-earned money. But that’s a post for another day.

Sometimes it’s a hard decision to “spend more” to buy something locally, when I know that it’s so many dollars or cents cheaper at a store like Walmart.

But in thinking it over, there are plenty of legitimate reasons to buy local.

 

Here are some of the good, responsible reasons that I sometimes stay close to home and buy local:

1. Convenience – This may seem extremely obvious, but buying local is usually very convenient. We don’t have to drive across town (or farther), peruse sales flyers for the best buy, clip coupons, or plan around our schedule to make our purchase. I can simply stop on my way home from work.

truck in town

2. Save money on gas – Any time we can make a purchase close to home, we are saving precious gas dollars. I think sometimes we overlook the obvious, that driving a greater distance to save a dollar or two may not add up.

minivan

2015-06-06 18.21.44

3. Save time – Our time is one of our most valuable assets. Often we can “waste” or expend far more time and energy trying to save money, than it’s actually worth. Whatever time I chose to spend travelling to and from a store and shopping is time taken away from something that could be more important, such as family time, rest, cooking a homemade meal, or working on a hobby. If you work for yourself, it could even be taking away from your actual income.

book on couch with blanket

making apple crisp

late-night snack with cocoa

my desk area

4. Support Your Community – While it’s true that saving money is important, it’s also valuable to invest in the local businesses of your own home town. They are usually run by honest people just trying to make a living, and they both appreciate and depend on our purchases. Also, just think how you would feel if your neighbors all went out of business. There would be no more “convenience” stores to quickly stop in to on your way home from work.

Supporting your neighborhood children’s school and club programs is also a worthwhile investment. When some of the neighborhood children come to the door selling products to raise money for a worthwhile cause, we try to help them out whenever possible. It also helps to foster good relationships and shows Christ-like love to those around us.

groceries

farm produce

community, city

My Home Town

5. Better Quality – Not always, but very often a locally made or grown item is of better quality than the same item purchased from a big store. We often buy ice-cream from our local restaurant and dairy, and let me tell you, it is a treat! It’s also made from more natural ingredients. Our produce “share” (from our CSA – Community Shared Agriculture), is completely fresh and delicious, picked fresh from our local farm.

Bliss Bros. ice-cream & light cream

CSA farm share

6. Connect With Your Neighbors – This may sound like a funny one, but just hear me out. Usually, I like to talk and interact with people, and what better way to do so with those in your own neighborhood than by shopping in a store in your town? I’m not suggesting that you can build deep, intimate relationships by chatting in the grocery isle over the spaghetti sauce. But you may be able to meet someone new, say “hello” to an acquaintance, or just smile or lend a listening ear to someone who needs a little attention. There have been times when I have asked if I could reach an item from a high shelf for someone in the supermarket, and the helping hand seems to make their day.

visiting Grandma Lilian

 

There are likely other reasons for buying local, but these are some of the values that cause me to feel I am making a responsible decision when I decide it’s best to pick something up in town.

*****

Do you make a habit of buying certain items in your home town? Do you consider it important to support your local businesses? What types of purchases do you make locally?