Sunday, November 21, 2010

Facebook Update

It has been an interesting week for me and Facebook.  It turned out that I was a part of that bug that Facebook had on Tuesday that deleted many, many people.  But, it really made me pause.

My Bible study that morning was on "The One Thing".  The one thing being God.  When we spread ourselves out in so many directions and give so many pieces of ourselves away, we can't focus on what really matters.  Facebook can be like that sometimes for me.  It draws my attention away from what really matters in my day.

I went through a bit of withdrawal on Tuesday.  It felt like the teacher was saying "You can't play with everyone else".  But, it also felt good to reset my brain and how often I gravitated to the computer.  I genuinely prefer email to Facebook.

This morning I went back to Facebook and deleted a lot of friends that are people I have "known" but were never really friends with.  In fact, when I knew them a lot of them didn't like me!  So, why was I friends with them now?  That's a funny thing to think about.  I think I wanted to feel connected to the kids I went to school with--though I can't articulate why.  But, I have realized over the past few days that I rarely checked their pages and simply don't know them.  I use Facebook to keep in touch with the people I know and am friends with.

Facebook has its own culture.  If someone sends you a friend invite, you can feel obligated to "friend" them because you should be nice.  Or you just want a lot of friends.  One teenage I know has 1300 friends.  I can't imagine that they're all really his "friends" and that he knows all of them well.  He isn't even 20 years old yet!

As for Facebook's practices, I never did get a message it had been deactivated, but I eventually did get one that it had been reactivated (as they said in news reports they had done).  One of my friends contacted me and let me know I was back on her friend list.  It makes me very uneasy the way it was all done and I am going to begin shifting my communication and friendships away from facebook for this reason.

Someone commented to me that it was good to know that there was security out there for everyone else.  In reality, what happened to me showed that it could happen to anyone and if anyone had opened an account in her name before or after her with her birthdate--she would be the one to have to show she was really her by uploading her id.  I think most of the safeguards in place are to protect Facebook, not the users.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Holiday Celebrations

From the moment my girls hear the word "Christmas", they start getting excited about the coming holidays--Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I think they love just about everything about these holidays--family, friends, yummy food, presents, being thankful, and most of all celebrating Jesus' birth.

A new book about celebrating the holidays has just been published by Moody titled Putting God Back in the Holidays, by Bill and Penny Thrasher.  I really looked forward to reading this book and getting some ideas for ways to talk to our kids about the holidays through the year and some fun ideas for celebrating.

The easiest way to express what I think about this book is to say that there are some thoughts and ideas in this book that I really like and others that either I'm not comfortable with or wouldn't be realistic for my family based on the personalities of me and my husband.  Reading this book reminded me that every family I know has different family traditions.  

Many of our family traditions come from things that our families did when we were growing up.  Every Thanksgiving, I make spiced peaches.  Every Christmas Eve, we had friends over for homemade noodles and sauce.  My husband's family made pizzelles and gingerbread cookies every Christmas Season.  But, there are other holidays that we don't celebrate as much.  I do celebrate them with our children as part of homeschooling, but they aren't family holidays. 

Sometimes I think reading a book like this can make a mom feel guilty or struggle that her family doesn't or can't celebrate holidays the way the Thrashers talk about.  I can be prone to envying families that get to do things that I wished for when I was a young girl.  But, I tell my children that when you envy others you miss out on what you have.  I think the same is true for me.  I may not get to do some of the things with my family that I dreamed of as a young adult, but I do get to homeschool them and spend time with them.  They are very different things and not connected at all, but I hope you get the idea.

What are some possible reasons why we might not be able to celebrate this way?  1) A marriage is between 2 people.  Both people have a say in how the family runs with the husband having the ultimate authority and responsibility to be the leader of the family. 2) Physical or financial limitations and availability of resources.  I believe these are both legitimate reasons.

So, if you are like me, how can we respond?  I think we can find our own ways that do work within the framework and finances of our families to celebrate these holidays.

The bulk of this book is devoted to spiritual birthdays, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.  My favorite section is actually none of these, but actually the section for other holidays.  I enjoyed the discussions of Valentine's Day, MLK, Jr. Day, Presiden'ts Day, Arbor Day, and other American holidays.  I know that I am going to reread the pages on these holidays as we go through this next year.  I may not "do" anything per se other than talk and discuss with my children what the days are about, but those discussions matter.  I look forward to talking with my children about submitting to authority on President's Day and praying for the leaders of our country.  I am very thankful for the biblical passages that the Thrashers included in their discussions.

There is a short section devoted to birthdays, but a larger section is devoted to "spiritual birthdays" and having a blessing party.  This is one of those topics that I wasn't sure what to think about as I read it.  I've talked to several people about it.  I don't think the idea of "name it and claim it" is biblical.  God does listen to our hearts and he does give us the desires of our hearts--when those desires are in line with His will for our lives.  But, simply praying and asking or "claiming" a blessing is no guarantee that we will receive what we ask for.  I have encountered discussions like this before and I am uneasy about it.  It doesn't sit well with my soul.  My pastor's wife shared with me that she believes God can give us wisdom about what to pray for for our children.  I do agree with her.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and I began to realize that this book will be loved by many people.  If your family enjoys celebrating holidays together and your husband would really enjoy the ideas in this book, I think you'll probably love it.  I have one friend that I can see just loving this book (and I'm sure you know who you are!)  I'm so thankful that this friend is able to celebrate holidays this way and I am certain her children are blessed by their family traditions.  I hope my children are encouraged by our family traditions even though they are different and less in number.

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Moody Publishing.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Facebook Alert

I got quite the surprise this morning when I tried to go on Facebook.  I was kicked off of it!  They disabled my account.  I think what happened is that I did not attach my primary email, but rather my secondary email, to facebook--for obvious reasons I'm sure y'all understand.  So a few months back, I opened an account with my maiden name to check on who had gone searching for my name on facebook.  I believe this was a violation--which I had no idea of until this morning when they disable the account I use.  Obviously, I wasn't trying to do anything wrong, but my what a surprise.  Somehow, they figured out that I had done that.  When I think about how they did that, it makes me anxious.

Here's the kicker--in order to get my account back or rather--to apply to have my account reactivated, I have to upload and send them a copy of my federal id.  Obviously, I am NOT going to do this.  So, NO more facebook for me.  I'm sure God has a plan for this for me, which probably includes more time in my day that I was spending on Facebook.

What scares me is how much information they were able to take away from me because of a violation they thought I had made--I had no notice or warning!  I posted yesterday a picture of my daughter on her fifth birthday.  They took all of my pictures and information away from me.  I almost feel as if my identity was stolen by Facebook.  So, please be careful my friends about Facebook--you truly never, ever know what they are going to do to your account!  Please pass this message along to any friends you'd like to.

This feels really yucky.  I have been very antsy about Facebook these past few months and I guess now I have a clue as to why.  Please pass this alert on to warn your friends about what Facebook can do!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Cooking Tips

One time when I was at a book sale, I met a gal who bought cookbooks not to cook with them, but simply to read them.  She sincerely enjoyed reading cookbooks.  I had never looked at cookbooks that way before.  I have always skimmed recipes and have tried to glean the essentials so that I can get to the meat of the information I need.  But, I started thinking about it and now I try to read cookbooks more closely.  I'm not always very good at it, but I've found several I enjoy.

I love Ken Haedrich's stories in his soup cookbook, Soup Makes the Meal, and his cookbook PIE.  I used to have another pie cookbook that shared the history of pie in the United States.  I had no idea before that about the cultural significance of pie and how much it is a part of our food history in this country.  The older I get, the more I seem to appreciate and enjoy learning about history.

Another type of cookbook that is simply fun to read are books of tips for cooking.  This week I received two cookbooks in the mail filled with kitchen tips and techniques from the publisher of Fine Cooking Magazine.  The first was published a few years ago.  It is titled How to Break an Egg.  There are numerous tips from the editors, contributors, and readers of Fine Cooking Magazine.  Some of them are tips I'd do and others aren't.  But, they are all very interesting!

Here are a few examples...  I appreciated the explanation of molasses.  I just puzzled last week about the difference between blackstrap and dark molasses.  Right above it was information about storing maple syrup--which I've had an issue with.  You need to store it in a glass container, not plastic container.  And if it gets mold in it, boil it and then restore in the fridge.  I hate to admit this, but somehow our plastic syrup container did get mold in it and I wish I had known this then!  I also want to mention that the way they crack a cooked crab is the way we do it in Maryland--I've seen several books get it wrong.  The pictures were great for that section!  There is also a section of baking problems--cakes, pies, and breads.  I need this quick reference.

You can flip it open to any page in the book and just start reading.  If you know someone that isn't able to focus and read long books but enjoys reading, this would be a great gift.  I have a friend with a medical condition that diminishes her attention span and as I'm sitting here, it occurred to me that she might really enjoy reading this book.  It would be a wonderful gift for someone in the hospital, someone visiting someone in a hospital, or someone who has to wait for a lot of doctors appointments when all you have is do is sit.

This book is one that you want to sit on a couch with and just pick up for fun.  It's a great coffee table book.  Keep some post it tabs nearby so you can mark the pages you want to come back to frequently.

The only thing I'm not so crazy about with this book is the formatting.  The formatting in the illustrated section is great.  But, for the rest of the book, the formatting simply isn't especially eye catching.  You have to read the pages to really find the information you want.  In the second book, the formatting is improved and more easily navigable.  The section I wish was also expanded was the substitution section.  It is quite short and didn't include a few of the substitutions I use most of the time, like for Tomato Paste (an equal amount of ketchup if it's only a few tablespoons or less).  But, all in all, this is a fun book to sit down with and read.

Then this week, they published a sort of "sequel" called How to Squeeze a Lemon.  For the most part, the information in this book is new and not a duplicate of the first book.  The sections I noticed that are duplicated are the substitution information and the charts for problems with baking.   But, there is some extra information in the substitution charts, though it's hard to tell because the information is formatted differently.  The formatting makes the information in this book easier to navigate with your eyes and it's easier to keep your place on the page.

There is helpful information in there like a two page discussion on the difference between thickeners (flour vs. tapioca, vs. cornstarch).  There are helpful charts on food safety and an easy to use chart on how long to store foods.  In the first book, there is a discussion on how long to keep leftovers.

Just as when I read the first book, I found a lot of interesting tips.  One was to store a pepper mill in a ramekin so it doesn't get pepper everywhere when it isn't in use.  Another I read was to use a paper plate as a funnel when you have to grind spices to add to a recipe.  Grind the spice on the plate (you really do need all that space to catch the spice!) and then fold it into a funnel to pour it in.  I don't want to share too many tips, but I want to share two examples to show that the ideas could be useful.

If you like the first book, I'm certain you'll like the second.  The formatting makes it easier to use.  But, again, keep some post it tabs nearby when you read it, so that you can mark your favorite pages!

There are a lot of kitchen tip books out there.  We bought one a few years ago by Cooks Illustrated that had a lot of illustrations.  I enjoyed reading it, but never really used any of the tips.  I think I'm going to get a lot more use out of the tips in these two books.  I miss the illustrations, but the information is more helpful and that makes these books much more handy to own than the one we've been keeping on our shelves by Cooks Illustrated.

I think I'd give them both 4.5 stars.  I do really like them, but I don't quite love them.  I think the formatting could still be improved to make them easier to look at and read.  But I like the information in them.

Please note that I received complimentary copies of these two books from The Taunton Press for review.

Shopping Wisely;_ylt=AgKEpzDQFxCE1kT65V1L3oEJo9IF;_ylu=X3oDMTFhdnI1aG9mBHBvcwMyBHNlYwNmZWF0dXJlZEFydGljbGUEc2xrAzdyZXRhaWxzYWxlcw--?mod=bb-budgeting
One of the biggest marketing ploys by stores this year is store credit cards.

My husband came home and talked to me about credit cards the other day.

On Thursday, he proposed to me cutting up all of our credit cards except for the main one we use.  His reasoning was two-fold.  1)  They're a time consumer.  2) They're a liability.

1.  They are a time consumer on so many levels.  When you have a credit card for a store, you are more likely to think about think about shopping at that store and feel like you should comparison shop.  When you get ads in the mail, you're more likely to look through them when they have an added store credit card discount.  Then at the end of the month, you have to pay one more credit card bill and take the time to do it.  You also have to keep track of what stores and with what cards you've shopped with each month--because of reason #2.

2.  They're a liability if your purse/wallet gets stolen.  They're also a liability if the bill gets lost in the mail and you don't get it in time.  You're going to be liable for interest or you're going to have to take the pains to fight the interest fees with the store--not something I'd want to do.

Many stores, but not all, make it only a really good deal to shop at those stores if you have their store credit card.  Target is now offering a Debit or Credit Card option.  But, the debit card introduces its own source of liability--once that money is withdrawn from your checking account, it is gone.  With a credit card, you do have recourse with the company if purchases are made on it that aren't yours.

In this age of comparison shopping, I'm realizing that we shop around a lot.  I do this all the time.  But, with the money I save am I only shopping more?  Is that worth all the effort?  Am I missing out on living and on other things I should do with my time--because I'm shopping (whether online or physically in the stores)?

My husband has been talking to me this week about not being so consumed by getting the best deal, but rather focusing on buying less instead.  I think there's got to be a balance.  I'm hoping that I will take a few minutes in the future to do some quick comparison shopping online, but then after that to let it go.  The problem with comparison shopping is that it makes me feel bad if I don't get the best deal out there.  But, have I really gotten the best deal when I've lost a half hour surfing the web instead of making a batch of homemade cookies?

I'm starting to rethink how I shop as I get ready for this holiday season.

Conclusion:  We decided to close several accounts.  I appreciate my husband's desire to help me be wiser with the limited time we have.  As he said to me, right now money is not our most precious commodity--time is.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Going On a Hunt...

Tonight I went on a hunt for a birthday gift for my daughter Sami.  We had already decided we were going to get her the Belle dress for her Princess and Me doll and a Radio Flyer scooter like her sister Autumn had gotten for her birthday.  So, I started out with Toys R Us.  No luck.  It retails for $60 in the store.  So, I ran across the street to Target.  Still no luck, but the price on the shelf for it was $52.99.  So, I ran to the other Target 10 minutes away.  Again, no luck =(  Goodness!  A gal at Awanas suggested checking online even though it won't get here by her birthday.

I started with Walmart:  $54 (free site to store shipping)
Then Target $64.99! (free shipping)
Finally, Toys R Us:  $47.99 (shipping:  $9 for a total of $57).

Surprisingly, I think I'm going to opt for the Toys R Us online option.  I just don't have the time to call Toys R Us and wait until it comes in.  I'd like to get it from Walmart, but for $3, I think I'll save myself the running around and have it shipped to our house where Sami can open it up when it comes.

I'm really shocked that the price varried so much between the three stores--and that the stores varied so much from their online prices.  I'll definitely be checking around when Christmas comes!

Post Script...  We went out on Thursday and found the scooter in stock at the other Toys R Us near us.  We opted to pay the $60 so that we would have it for her birthday on Monday.  I wish I had planned farther ahead and had been able to take advantage of the savings online.  But, sometimes that just isn't possible.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Simply in Season: Pumpkin Sausage Pasta

Every week the recipe on this page changes, but the one this week is one I've tried--and really liked!  It's called Pumpkin Sausage Pasta.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Birthday Parties, Holidays and Saving Money

Saving money with the holidays has been on my mind this week.  I've decided that I'm going to send as many emails with our Christmas letter as possible this year.  After watching two episodes of hoarders a few weeks ago (which I still need to write about), I am very reticent to send too many letters out.  I am one of those people who keeps the letters everyone mails out, but I know most people don't keep them.  Not because they don't care, but because they don't have the room =)

The holidays in our house are always coupled with the girls birthdays.  I've ended up planning multiple gatherings for them this year because only a few kids could come on the original day I'd planned.  I try to be simple about their parties and be creative about the planning.  After all is said and done, I'll post what I did and how it all went =)  It is interesting to me, though, how something we purchase for convenience really can quickly suck up all the money for the party.  On Monday, I bought two bags of chips and a package of Capri Sun 100% juice pouches.  In all, the two items cost $16.  I got home and realized that I needed to be much more careful this month, so on Tuesday I took them back.  Two bottles of apple juice costs $2.50 and 2 bags of chips from Aldis will only cost $2.50-$3.  Total:  $5-$6 which is a lot less than $16.  Yes, it is a birthday party, but it isn't the juice and chips that will make the party =)  it's the fun that the kids will have being together and playing games.

Cookbook on Sale at Costco

I noticed in the Costco magazine that $4 will automatically be taken off purchases of the America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook from 11/15-11/28.

I have continued to try recipes from it over the past few weeks and have been really happy with them!  Last night, I made the chicken noodle soup (with my minor alterations so that it would cook more quickly--like cooking the chicken separately at the same time and then adding it at the end).  It was very good!

Cookbook on Sale at Costco

I noticed in the Costco magazine that $4 will automatically be taken off purchases of the America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook from 11/15-11/28.

I have continued to try recipes from it over the past few weeks and have been really happy with them!  Last night, I made the chicken noodle soup (with my minor alterations so that it would cook more quickly--like cooking the chicken separately at the same time and then adding it at the end).  It was very good!