Weekend Links

How is it Friday already? I think I’m in full denial about how quickly time passes. (My baby turns one next week. Sniff, wipe tear, smile.)

Here’s the best and brightest things I’ve found on the internet to brighten up your Friday. And, if you’re like me, hopefully this will help you feel a little braver in facing the upcoming week.

But seriously, how is it Friday already?!

  1. I made these Peanut Butter Valentine’s Cookies with my little almost-one-year-old (sob!) Valentine on Tuesday. Ok, he mostly watched. And forced me to hold him the entire time… ever try to pack brown sugar one handed? Not easy. And, we gave up after baking our first round and threw out half the dough. Nevertheless, I think our cookies turned out pretty great.
  2. This list of 17 books that Mindy Kailing has recommended on Instagram made me love her even more.  Is that possible?? You probably remember Mindy Kailing from The Office or The Mindy Project. No matter what, you can’t help but admire her simply because she’s out there doing her thing. Despite adversity. Get it. For the record, I would join a “What Mindy Read” book club…
  3. My sweet cousin, a WAHM for a Christian missions organization with two kids in diapers, had me doubled over belly laughing while reading her Real Life Valentine’s Day reflection. Her tags say it all: #relationshipgoals, Loving The Mess, Makin Memories, So Much Poop, Tuesdays, Valor. (She and I are each one half of one smart lady. Yep.)
  4. I have to admit that it took me several attempts before I found enough time to finish reading this: 6 Reasons You Seriously Have to Slow Down. Ouch.
  5. The Adventures of Mom Girl. With coffee in hand. Mom Girl is my spirit animal. (Wait, what are the rules on spirit animals again?  Is that allowed?)
  6. Why it’s important to read with your kids, and how to make it stick from the Washington Post. “One of the most important things parents can do, beyond keeping kids healthy and safe, is to read with them.” So important, especially for parents of older children who are already independent readers, this article says.
  7. How to Waste Your Life and Call It Beautiful, because “when we’re running hard toward our hoped-for life, we miss the sacred gifts of the right-now life.” I’ve given up a years worth of paychecks and wasted my education and potential by answering the call of who needs me most right now. It’s still a daily messy battle where I often feel wasted and am reminded of that often, yet it’s 100% worth it and so important.

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How I Pray For My Son’s Future Valentine

On Tuesday, Valentine’s Day, my husband and I woke up with our sweet little almost-one-year-old son snuggled between us in our bed. He had been invited in sometime in the very early morning, a little set of sleepy blue eyes blinking awake.

“It’s Valentine’s Day,” Adam quietly reminded me.

It was a cold, clear morning here in Kansas, and Adam began his morning routine. As sun streamed in through the window, I paused just a moment to snuggle that little body a little closer and breathe in over his strawberry blond hair.

“I will gladly be your Valentine for as long as you need me to.”


Even though my son is little, I find myself thinking about her already: his future Valentine. My so-called nemesis. The woman who, decades from now, will win his heart. And, in doing so, will take him away from me. His mother. His mommy.

Will she exist? My heart says yes. How do I know? I don’t.

But boy, do I ever pray for her, that little girl somewhere in the world. A parallel little life that might someday change ours.

I wonder if she was rocked to sleep last night.

I wonder if she loves whales and roosters and fish and doggies as much as my boy.

I wonder if someone reads with her every day. I wonder if she asked to read The Bunny Rabbit Show book eight hundred times this week like my boy.

I don’t know the future. I don’t know about my son’s someday preferences, his life choices. That doesn’t stop me or even give me pause.

Because, someday my son might not need his mom to be his Valentine anymore.

And I want his someday girl to be as close to God’s heart as possible.

So, I bring God’s ear low, and I pray for her. In Jesus Christ’s name, I pray to a loving God who holds the future and still listens.

And this is how I pray.

1. I pray that she is healthy and strong.

I pray for her development, her coordination, her learning, her nourishment.

2. I pray for her parents.

I pray for wisdom in parenting. I pray for their marriage and that they will love each other deeply. I pray that they will model love and loyalty to their little girl.

3. I pray for her church and community.

I pray that she has people in her life that also are praying for her often. I pray for her church, that they will encourage her to look to Christ. I pray for the church leadership whose job it is to shepherd this family.

4. I pray that Adam and I will know her someday and love her like she’s our own from the moment we meet her.

I pray that someday I can tell her that I’ve prayed for her entire life.

It’s not because she has to be perfect or even about purity. It’s solely because if my heart thinks that there is someone out there who can someday love my little boy as much as I do, I want that person wrapped up in prayer. I want to start caring for her now.

Even so, son, I will gladly be your Valentine for as long as you need me. There is no rush. Xoxoxo

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Why I Tossed My Nonstick Pans

I have replaced the nonstick Teflon pots and pans in my kitchen with stainless steel and cast iron, and I couldn’t be happier. Moving away from nonstick was an easy decision for me. Now, we eat more iron in our diet and have the heavenly bonus of being able to put some pots IN THE DISHWASHER. Hallelujah. I’m amazed at how often people rave about nonstick cookware, because I’m really not impressed. Let me tell you why.

I have replaced the nonstick Teflon pots and pans in my kitchen with stainless steel and cast iron, and I couldn’t be happier.

Moving away from nonstick was an easy decision for me. Now, we eat more iron in our diet and have the heavenly bonus of being able to put some pots IN THE DISHWASHER. Hallelujah.

I’m amazed at how often people rave about nonstick cookware, because I’m really not impressed. Let me tell you why.

1. There are continuing concerns about health and safety, especially at the molecular level.

Nonstick cookware is safe and approved for use by the FDA with one big qualification: do not cook over low temperatures. Funny rule to have for pots and pans, actually.

Teflon, the plastic-like coating on the pan that makes it nonstick, becomes unsafe when used at too high of temperatures of 500 degrees or higher. At these high temperatures, the coating begins to break down at the molecular level (meaning you can’t necessarily see it happening). If the pans overheat, they emit fumes which will cause you to have temporary flu-like symptoms or even kill a pet bird.

Now 500 degrees may sound high, but this is actually fairly easy to do on accident. Good Housekeeping ran an experiment with several brands of nonstick cookware on different types of common household stove tops and found that empty pans over a high heat can easily be over 500 degrees. This included pans filled with food, especially meats, it seems. These easily reached temperatures over 600 degrees.

A lesser concern but still worth mentioning is that surface of nonstick cookware is easily damaged by cooking utensils or by banging against other pans in storage. This means that little pieces of the Teflon coating are mixed into your food. It’s potentially no big deal, and probably just passes through your system without lingering effects. But, I’m not comfortable with the idea of my family consuming that.

Nonstick products have improved in quality over the last decade as the process of making Teflon improves, but there are still a lot of unknown outcomes to exposing our bodies to the chemicals associated with the Teflon manufacturing process. There is an ongoing conversation in the news questioning their safety with new reports every day.

What’s scary is that there’s actually traces of these chemicals–PFOA, PTFE, PFAS–are probably already in our bloodstream right now! However, Nonstick surfaces are not the only place where these chemicals are found (it’s found in microwave popcorn, takeout containers, even in tap water). So, without really knowing where else we are exposed to these chemicals or what the long term effects are, it’s hard to say anything definitive. Do nonstick pans cause testicular cancer, prostate cancer, thyroid disease, high cholesterol, pre-eclampsia, ulcerative colitis, weakened immunity, liver inflammation, or obesity? It’s hard to say, but enough evidence exists to state that it’s certainly linked. (Remember though, correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation. My college stats professor would be proud that I remember that!)

I am not a professional pots and pans toxin tester; I can’t test these theories myself. Although there is enough chatter to raise red flags for me, I am not entirely 100% convinced by safety reasons alone. This brings me to my next point.

2. These pans wear out too quickly.

I remember opening my monthly subscription to Cooking Light magazine one morning in our first little apartment, not even a year after I got married. A blurb by one of their chefs recommended that even high end nonstick pans need to be replaced after two years. Two years? I couldn’t believe it! So I pulled out that pot set we had been gifted at our wedding shower, which was not even a year old, and looked at it closely. Despite using the appropriate utensils, it was already damaged!

While non-stick pans may begin showing signs of significant wear as early as just a couple of years after purchase, but I REALLY was not impressed when another Cooking Light Chef, Robin Bashinsky, boasted that his high end and well cared for nonstick set lasted 10 years. Only 10 years?! Consider the fact that my cast iron skillet (which cost less than a high end nonstick skillet), if well cared for, could still be used by my grandchildren 100 years from now, 10 years for a top of the line nonstick set is really not impressive.

So what do I use instead?


Let’s talk about cast iron!

I was gifted a 12.5 inch cast iron skillet for my birthday, and I am in love! (Affiliate link: FS Kitchen Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Cookware Pan, 12.5-Inch) It is easy to care for, and this pan naturally adds iron to our diet. I have been borderline anemic several times, especially when I was pregnant, and my son has been threatened with iron supplements too. Neither of us have needed to suffer from the discomfort of taking iron supplements after our cast iron purchase.

Cast iron can be a little intimidating if you aren’t familiar with it. I had imagined owning cast iron pans to mean spending a weekend coating a whole bunch of pots with lard and then roasting them over a hearth fire like a scene from the beginning half of Cinderella. Where do you even get lard?! I wouldn’t know.


Cast iron does needs to be seasoned occasionally, but that just means that it needs to be brushed with a thin layer of oil (I’ve had good results with olive oil) and baked at 350 for about an hour (45 minutes upside down, 15 right side up). But if you care for it by avoiding dish soap whenever possible and dry it completely after every use, you don’t have to reseason very often.

This seasoning is what makes the pan nonstick. A very thin layer of baked on oil separates the food from the iron. It’s a breeze to clean, and I store it in the oven to keep moisture out.

Also, my stainless steel pans are great!

I’ve owned a Cuisinart stainless steel set for a couple of years (Affiliate link: Cuisinart 77-10 Chef’s Classic Stainless 10-Piece Cookware Set), and I’ve been very happy with it. Stainless steel is heavier with a thicker base than nonstick pans, which are often made with aluminum instead. On my first use, I noticed that stainless steel cooked more evenly. It also took a little more time to preheat, but once it was preheated, the pan contents cooked very quickly.

Tips for You

If you, at this point, are seriously considering moving away from your non-stick pans, there may be a way to use your existing warranty to get an upgrade. Check out this site for tips!

I didn’t immediately make any change. I replaced my pans over the course of a couple of years. And, confession, I still have a few nonstick pieces in my kitchen: a muffin pan, a griddle, a George Foremen grill. But, these pieces I only use occasionally in moderation, and I think that’s ok with me. For now.

Why not just start with investing in a better skillet today? A quality cast iron skillet is affordable on any budget. Years from now, your body (and wallet) will thank you for investing in better and better-for-you kitchen tools!

 



I have replaced the nonstick Teflon pots and pans in my kitchen with stainless steel and cast iron, and I couldn't be happier. Moving away from nonstick was an easy decision for me. Now, we eat more iron in our diet and have the heavenly bonus of being able to put some pots IN THE DISHWASHER. Hallelujah. I'm amazed at how often people rave about nonstick cookware, because I'm really not impressed. Let me tell you why.

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Toffee Chocolate Pretzel Cookies

These Toffee Chocolate Pretzel Cookies are the perfect thing to satisfy that sweet/salty craving. It’s my favorite cookie recipe. After the recipe mysteriously disappeared off the internet, I was able to recreate it! I am so excited to share it with you!

Cookies were one of the first things I was allowed to bake in the kitchen all on my own. 

(My mother was just reminiscing the other day about a batch of cookies some friends and I made in late elementary school. The amounts of sugar and salt called for in the recipe were switched.)

I imagine that for some people baking cookies is a way to express love, and maybe I am like that. Often I select a cookie recipe because I have a specific person in mind who I think would enjoy it.

But the act off baking is for me. Baking cookies is how I  mark special days on the calendar and prepare for holidays.  A little ritual to embrace whatever needs celebrating in life and make thh day a little bit sweeter.

It doesn’t really feel like a special day until the house smells like vanilla, sugar, and butter, does it?


I push the resulting cookies into the hands of the people I love, but the act of baking is mostly selfish becasuse I lose myself in it.

I just love that smell. Once I take off my rings and get over the initial ick factor, digging my hands into dough to form balls makes me feel more youthful and alive. I relax into the rhythm of spacing rolls of dough and trading out for the cookie sheet as soon as the timer goes off. 

Somewhere between the nerdy science of baking and the creative outlet of flavor is my happy place.

But, as much as I appreciate all the little joys found in baking cookies, I hold them in moderation. They are reserved for special days and holidays. There is too much of a good thing.

While often I bake certain cookie dough recipes with other people in mind, these cookies are all about me. Sweet and salty combos are my favorite!  I do share, of course, but the act of baking and the final product is all Brohgan. Thankfully, other people are willing to enjoy the things I like with me!

I first tried a chocolate, toffee, pretzel cookie at a favorite deli lunch counter located on my town’s main downtown street. I sniffed out these cookies through their plastic packaging before I saw them! I ate the cookie before my meal (of course!), and I was already googling chocolate toffee pretzel cookie recipes on my phone before I finished my lunch.
I found the PERFECT recipe! It tasted exactly like the cookies from the deli. As a fan of sweet and salty snacks, it quickly became my favorite cookie recipe. I even looked it up online before a Christmas cookie exchange this last December and took honorable mention in a contest out of about 40 cookies!

BUT THE RECIPE DISAPPEARED! It was nowhere to be found on their internet! The blog that originally published it allowed the url to expire, and extensive searching led nowhere.

I had no choice to recreate the recipe, and I am so excited to share it with you!

Lesson learned: if you like a recipe on the internet enough to make it more than once, write it down!

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups plus 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (12-oz.) packages semisweet chocolate morsels
  • 1 (8-oz.) package of Heath Milk Chocolate Toffee Baking Bits (or substitute 2 full sized toffee chocolate full size candy bars, crushed)
  • 2 cups coarsely crushed pretzel sticks
  • Parchment paper (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Beat butter and sugars at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer until creamy. Add eggs and 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla, beating until blended.
  2. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl; gradually add to butter mixture, beating just until blended. Beat in chocolate chips, heath bar pieces, and crushed pretzel sticks just until combined. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto parchment Dpaper-lined baking sheets.
  3. Bake at 350° for 10 to 14 minutes or until desired degree of doneness. After taking the pan out of the oven, immediately move cookies to wire racks to cool.

These Toffee Chocolate Pretzel Cookies are the perfect thing to satisfy that sweet/salty craving. It's my favorite cookie recipe. After the recipe mysteriously disappeared off the internet, I was able to recreate it! I am so excited to share it with you!

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Weekend Links

Start your weekend off right with this weekly series! Here are your Weekend Links!

Guys, I have been doing a lot of work on the ol’ blog. I have rebranded, which ended up being a BIG project. I have a new direction and so much energy! I can’t wait to share with you some of the big things I have in store, including this new Weekend Links series!

Here are a collection of fun things I’ve discovered this week! Enjoy!

  1. Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, and I can’t think of a more adorable couple than Chip and Joanna Gaines. The Gaines shared their Valentine’s Day Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake recipe with People Magazine this week. So yummy, so adorable.
  2. Speaking of Valentine’s Day, here’s a note for my husband. In lieu of flowers, I will accept a bouquet of these rose cupcakes. I worked in an office where people traveled internationally and it was a tradition to bring back candy from wherever you went. THAT is how I fell in love with rose flavored things. Am I alone in this? Srsly, I need those cupcakes.
  3. Have you bumped into the recent internet obsession, hygge? Basically, hygge is a Dutch word that means you allow all things cozy into your life, especially at wintertime, but there is a lot of chatter right now about what hygge is/is not. The New Yorker article “Is This Hygge?” by Susanna Wolff gave me a chuckle.
  4. And, as someone who works from home, The New Yorker article “I Work from Home” by Colin Nissan was funny but also a little too accurate. I’m wearing slippers. When did I put on these slippers? I can’t remember.
  5. I just finished reading The Husband’s Secret (affiliate link) by Liane Moriarty this week, and I really enjoyed it! I kicked off 2017 by reading Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (affiliate link), which was a heavy read. I wanted my second book to be an entertaining page turner that I couldn’t put down. The Husband’s Secret did not disappoint! I was hooked to the very last page!
  6. Are you wanting to memorize more scripture this year? I love this new series by Carried Away Ministries, 11 Bible Verses to Grow in Your Faith in 2017. Each scripture verse helps delve deeper into a different name of God. There’s even a freebie printable notecard!
  7. And lastly, an encouraging link for all you mamas in the trenches. You’re not alone.

Note: this post contains affiliate links, which means, at no extra cost to you, I am given compensation. I only promote products that I would use myself. Thank you.

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Cold Brew Coffee

Have you tried cold brew coffee yet? The cold brew method is much less acidic than iced coffee, which allows notes of the sweeter dark chocolate flavor to shine through. My cold brew coffee recipe is quick and easy enough for a busy weekday morning. Perfect for daily coffee drinking, this only takes a few minutes to throw together the night before, about the same amount of time it takes to set the programmable coffeemaker. In the morning, just filter and enjoy cold over ice.

Oh coffee, should I compare thee to a summer’s day?
(…except it’s February, so how about I compare thee to the hope of a spring morning?)
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.

But how thou rough grounds in cold water doth create terrific cold brew,
which I enjoy very most after the rough winds of May have blown through.

(Uh I think I just heard Shakespeare roll over in his grave. Sorry, Billy.)

As a warm chinook blew through Kansas at the end of January and melted all the snow, I started dreaming of mornings on the back porch (I don’t have a back porch) with my feet up (with a one year old, ha) and with a glass of smooth homemade cold brew coffee in my hand (I didn’t know how to make cold brew).

So I thought I would maybe try to bring about this dream in the one area I have control over, and thus began my journey to achieve the perfect glass of cold brew coffee. In February.

I have spent a lot of money on cold coffee over the years, for better and for worse.  My problem is that I’m a bit of a coffee snob.

I have always been a picky coffee drinker.  I like it very strong and fresh and prefer it to be made with filtered water instead of our hard mineral water in Kansas. And with my face hidden, I admit that I don’t drink coffee at our local beloved roastery because I think that the flavor is inconsistent, and it bothers me.

New York City is one of my favorite places in the world to wander, but I have to tell you that I had nothing but horrible iced coffee on my last summertime trip there.  I dragged my family into every deli advertising iced coffee just to spend $2 on yet another stale, extremely bitter slosh that I inevitably tossed after just a couple of sips. I eventually came to realize that what I was buying was probably yesterday’s unused coffee poured over ice. Ew.

I do like Starbucks iced coffee. I have a friend who is a professional barista at Starbucks, and I asked her about why the Starbucks iced coffee is so yummy. The reasons? First, it only has a shelf life of 12 hours. If it sits any longer than that, they toss it. Second, Starbucks brews the iced coffee double strength to account for the ice melting.

But this post isn’t about iced coffee.  It’s about cold brew.  What’s the difference you ask?  Well, essentially, just the temperature it is brewed at and the length of time it takes to make.

Iced coffee is brewed hot, normally in a drip coffee maker, and it’s much more acidic but can also have a fuller body taste due to the hot brew processes. Cold brew coffee is never hot. Instead, the cold brew process allows the water and coffee grounds to come together over time (12 hours or so) in a cold refrigerator, which results in a much more caffeinated and sweeter coffee with notes of dark chocolate.

 

And now that I’ve successfully made it myself, I am OBSESSED with cold brew. I can’t believe how easy it was!

I will admit, I was completely intimidated by the process at first! I remember when the Pioneer Woman wrote about Perfect Iced Coffee back in 2011. I loved the idea, but I took one look at her gigantic 12 quart container and her cheese cloth filtering system, and I thought NOOOPE. Way too hard. I’ll just drop grab one on my way to work.

That was years ago! Think about all the times I was seriously craving awesome homemade cold brew coffee just to be at the mercy of all those cups of yesterday’s slush over ice. I could have easily made it for myself this entire time!

Alas, it was reading this account of drinking horrible iced coffee in NYC on Jamie Oliver’s site, in his charming accent of course, that finally made me brave enough to give at-home cold brew a chance. I completely identified with that story!

I pulled out a trusty mason jar, my mesh strainer, and a regular coffee filter. I bought the cheapest coffee in the store. I actually just used water from the tap.

And the results were AMAZING. I was so pleased! The cravings of this coffee snob were completely satisfied!

I do have to admit, that this coffee didn’t store well.  I LOVED LOVED LOVED it when it was fresh the first day, but when I tried a sip on the second day it was drinkable but stale. I think that making this in small batches for the next day is best.

INGREDIENTS
-Coffee, coursely ground
-Water
-Cream or sugar, optional to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Add coffee to the bottom of a mason jar(or other tightly sealing container) and cover in warm water in a 1:4 ratio. For instance, 2 oz coffee per 8 oz water, 4 oz coffee per 16 oz water, and 8 oz coffee per 32 oz water. (I prefer my coffee very strong. You can adjust this ratio to your tastes. In his post, Jamie Oliver recommends a 1:8 ratio.) TIP: measurements are printed on the side of the mason jar!
  2. Stir contents of the jar to ensure that they are well mixed. Or, shake it up!
  3. Place in refrigerator for between 12 and 24 hours to allow it to brew.
  4. Once brewed, strain using a mesh strainer lined with a basket shaped coffee filter. (This process takes a few minutes, almost as long as brewing hot coffee.)
  5. Drink over ice black or with cream or sugar.

Have you tried cold brew coffee yet? The cold brew method is much less acidic than iced coffee, which allows notes of the sweeter dark chocolate flavor to shine through. My cold brew coffee recipe is quick and easy enough for a busy weekday morning. Perfect for daily coffee drinking, this only takes a few minutes to throw together the night before, about the same amount of time it takes to set the programmable coffeemaker. In the morning, just filter and enjoy cold over ice.  Oh coffee, should I compare thee to a summer's day? (...except it's February, so how about I compare thee to the hope of a spring morning?) Thou art more lovely and more temperate.

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The Best Free Personality Test

Remember back in the day when we to buy and read actual magazines? And they always had a fun quiz like ‘What Color is Your Dream Home’ or ‘What You Should Buy Your Boyfriend For Christmas’? (The magazines I would read were fairly innocent. Haha.)

The occasional internet quiz is still a guilty pleasure of mine. Of course I’ve been sorted into a house in Hogwarts (go Gryffindor!). I know what pet I would have as a Disney Princess (dog). The jury is still out on what bangs are best for my face shape.

But, I don’t normally take much stock in whatever insight a computer-run algorithm has into my personality. I’m an ambivert, so I’m almost always borderline on practically every personality test I’ve taken. Even the professional quality personality and career tests I took at the career center in college came up borderline.

I don’t remember exactly how I stumbled upon this free Myers-Briggs personality test, but I know it was the middle of the night during a particularly crazy cluster feed while I was on maternity leave. I mostly took this free personality test to stay awake.

This test was surprisingly helpful! The results gave me insight into my new patenting role and how it would effect my marriage. It gave a reason for why I was often left feeling frustrated with the work ethic of co-workers. It lent surprisingly clear insight into some of my future goals.

In the morning, I asked my husband to give it a try. I was curious about his results. He came to the same conclusion as I: this test is great!

CLICK HERE TO GET TO GET YOUR OWN RESULTS FROM 16 PERSONALITIES FOR FREE!


Here are my results:

Your personality type: “The Consul”(ESFJ-A)

Strength of individual traits: Extraverted: 52%, Observant: 54%, Feeling: 64%, Judging: 58%, Assertive: 72%.
Role: Sentinel
Strategy: People Mastery

What did you learn about yourself from this test? I’d love to know! 

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8 Things that You Need to Know Today About Child Marriage

Two days ago, Save The Children released a new report that analyzed the threat of a child’s education, health, and safety when forced into marriage at a young age. This problem is significant, it’s women’s reality in the 21st century, and it isn’t going away anytime soon. Even the most optimistic projections show child marriage not being eradicated until the year 2030.

Two days ago, Save The Children released a new report that analyzed the threat of a child’s education, health, and safety when forced into marriage at a young age.

I saw the press release, and I’ve read the report. I remember sitting in school as a young girl, probably 11 or 12 years old, and realizing that other girls my age in the world were already wives and mothers.

But, I had forgotten.

As I read the stories, it all came back.  I used to know about this!  I still care!

This problem is significant, it’s women’s reality in the 21st century, and it isn’t going away anytime soon. Even the most optimistic projections show child marriage not being eradicated until the year 2030.

Who even knows what the world will look like by then.

1. Every seven seconds, or approximately the amount of time that it takes to read this sentence, a young girl between the ages of 10-15 gets married.

How did Save The Children calculate this statistic? The UN surveyed adult women between the ages of 20-25 and asked them about the age they were married. Their survey allowed them to pinpoint the number of child marriages circa 2010. This rate was applied to 2015 global population figures.

2. According to findings, the husband is significantly older.

3. Where is this happening? Too many places. The short list is Afghanistan, Yemen, India, Somalia. In the Dominican Republic, 37% of women were married before they turned 18.

4. There are other factors that contribute to young marriage. Finances, for instance. In Nigeria, 40% of the poorest girls are given into marriage by age 15, but only 3% of the richest (which is still outrageous).

5. Countries at high risk for natural disaster areas make up almost all of the top 25 for child marriages.

6. Projections for ending child marriage aim for the year 2030.

7. This is more than a one-off violation of human rights. These marriages perpetuate an endless cycle of disadvantages. She is especially vulnerable to health threats, domestic violence, and rape.

8. Ending child marriage would have a multiplier effect –
improving levels of learning, survival and protection,
and leading to benefits from the individual and community level right up to the national economy and society.

Go, read the report in depth.

8-things-you-need-to-know-about-child-marriage

When you cast your vote in this presidential election, also consider these girls, and wonder if our country’s position as a contributor to global leadership will ever be able to assist in carving out a future for their next generation.

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Clean eating?

Last week I wrote about three things that are not in my grocery cart on my food blog, Non-Chef. It actually is the most read thing I have ever written on the internet. Since writing this, I’ve found myself being especially mindful of the grocery store choices I make.

Except, confession: I bought Hot and Spicy Cheez-It crackers to share at a soup potluck.

Confession: I bought peanut butter without checking for high fructose corn syrup. Another confession: I still haven’t checked the label, because I just don’t want to know.

Confession: I bought turkey for sandwiches, which is both meat and high in sodium. It was convenient and delicious.

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But, I also want to be clear about this, because through writing, I have a small impact on the internet: I’ve got much bigger concerns than grocery carts and what’s going into my mouth.

The heart of the matter: as a Christian, I’m more concerned about what’s coming out of my mouth.

Here’s what I’ve been thinking about recently.

Jesus called the crowds to him and said: “Listen and understand, What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean,’ but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean.; -Matthew 15:11, NIV

What goes into a mouth doesn’t make a person unclean?

But, I think, what about cancer? Isn’t there proof that we’re just feeding inexplicable diseases and foreign growths with the bad, unhealthy foods we eat?

What about overeating? What about gluttony? Isn’t that a huge problem in the American church today? There’s no way that’s ‘clean.’

Then my mind goes a whole different direction. What about the dirt and grime off those donkeys Jesus seems to always be riding? Or, shudder, the lack of modern toilet paper in Bible times?  Gag.

I’m no Bible scholar, but I do own and read a NIV Study Bible.  According to the notes at the bottom of the page, Jesus here was addressing the Jewish rabbi’s meticulous rules and regulations that were interpretations and applications of the law of Moses. My study Bible explains that these traditions were kept orally until about the year 200 A.D. when they were recorded in the Mishnah, which is a text that is revered in Judaism today (thank you, Google).

The tradition in question here was the fact that Jesus’ disciples didn’t wash their hands before eating. (Possibly relevant? Jesus had just fed 5,000 people using fives loaves and two fish the chapter before.)

So, the problem going into the mouth is an early concept of germs? Or just plain dirt?

Whatever it is, it doesn’t matter as much as the output.

Jesus asked them, “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man ‘unclean’; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him ‘unclean.’ v. 16-20

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Ok, last confession: my output-from-the-mouth sucks. The words I have used recently have been somewhere between a face-palm and a foot-in-mouth almost every day.  I think I’ve apologized for rudely snapping at my husband every day in the last week, probably longer.  I know that I’ve been brisk with my family members.

I haven’t murdered, committed adultery, stolen anything, or even lied, but, jeez, I’ve been far from that “little Christ” ideal that Christians are probably supposed to be like. I’m a work in progress.

Am I still concerned about what goes into my grocery cart and therefore into my mouth? Yes. I have an ethical problem with much that is found on grocery cart shelves, and I have a lot more to say about that.

But, the heart is so much more: grace, mercy, love, JOY! abounding and slowly growing in every are of my so-called Christian life.  I have a lot to say about that too.

I try. SO HARD. Many of you do too. So, I pray, like a child, mimicking a translation of a prayer spoken two millenniums years ago: Your kingdom come, Your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. I take my frustrated fists, turn my palms upward, and open my hands up a little bit, and write a blog post.

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3 Things That Are Not In My Grocery Cart

It’s been a few days since I released the FOREVER Grocery List.  Have you had a chance to check it out yet?

Take one look at that list, and I think you will realize that I’m WEIRD when it comes to grocery shopping.  It’s true, and I admit it. I’m very fine with my own weirdness in this area.

I graduated from college in the height of the recession. After turning in about 200 job applications, a family connection landed me a job as a cashier at a grocery store.

I’m picky about what I buy, because I’ve seen what people buy.

I really don’t care if you make a million dollars a year or if you have to dump a jar of pennies on the counter to pay, BUDGETING IS IMPORTANT.  It’s the only way to get ahead and make your money work for you. I don’t throw away money at the store; instead, I try to go in with a plan and stick to it.  I’m a careful shopper, and I make sure that every dollar I spend is on nutrient-rich foods that give me my bang for my buck.

That being said, I don’t always buy the cheapest or easiest option.  We are all voting with our dollars, and there are some highly unethical practices that appear on grocery store shelves today.

The biggest issue has recently been cleaned up, but only just this year: we were purchasing goods made by slaves in other countries.  That just baffles my mind! Another: we have been purchasing items where the farmer/rancher in another country was not fairly compensated or in an unsafe environment. So many items are available through fair trade certified route: alchohol, beans, grains, chocolate, coffee, fruits and veggies, spices, honey, nuts, sugar, tea. The products that are not fair trade certified are probably corrupt.

The last issue I am going to bring up: the average food travels 1500 miles before it lands on our plate, and that’s just not ok. It’s contributing to environmental issues and global warming, and consumers have no idea what they’re actually putting into their bodies. I buy from local farmers and ranchers whenever possible. And know what? The quality is AMAZING! Gotta love life in Kansas!

So here are a few things that are typically not in my shopping cart.

Here’s a disclaimer: I’m no nutritionist.  I took one class in college, and I read, but I don’t know your specific circumstances, and I’m not at all qualified to give you nutritional advice. If you have questions at all, I would advise that you speak to a medical professional.

Here are 3 things that are not in my grocery cart:

1. Snacks!

No chips, no crackers, no cookies. Or at least, very sparingly.

Why?

(1) These foods are typically high in sodium. Did you know that 90% of Americans are eating WAY TOO MUCH and it’s probably killing us? These foods are also high in calories and low in actual nutritional value.

(2) These foods are EXPENSIVE.  You can easily spend $20 or more and with 30 minutes of mindless eating, it’s all suddenly gone. And you’re hungry again an hour later.

2. Foods containing high-fructose corn syrup.

I have a fear of high-fructose corn syrup (and yes, it’s different than the corn syrup you can buy in the baking aisle, btw).

While the rest of America is fretting over our new clown epidemic, the thought of high-fructose corn syrup hiding out in my kitchen cabinet watching me has my knees knocking.

It’s in our juice, our soda, our breakfast cereal, our yogurt, our salad dressings, our bread, our candy, our energy snacks, our tomato sauces including ketchup, our peanut butter.

Basically, our society is consuming toxic levels of this stuff, but it’s not allowed in my house.

3. Meat.

Here’s a famous, old headline for you: the U.S. could feed 800 million people with the grain that livestock eat.  But, it’s true.  It’s much more efficient to eat plants than the animals who eat plants.

I’m picky about meat.  I don’t eat chicken that is injected with saline (paying $1.50/package for salt water, btw).  I don’t eat beef that wasn’t grass fed.

I actually barely eat meat at all!

Bonus: Yogurt.

Ok, this is a bonus, because I haven’t actually made my own yogurt before, but I plan to very soon!

Did you know that you can make yogurt?  Apparently it’s easy, but I haven’t tried yet!

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