7 Quick Takes – Vol. 5

Well, this has been a busy couple of weeks or so.  I’ve been dealing with tonsillitis that won’t go away – but apparently is “just” a virus – therefore no antibiotics for me, a kid with an almost-broken arm, another kid being a pain, a husband with a car that refuses to stay fixed, and a general feeling of depression/incredulity/anger at all the political nonsense going on.  BUT…I have rallied and have another fine (at least to me) selection of Quick Takes.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do….

1.  This is why I’m excited about the iPad:

The apps will be so cool and could revolutionize the way we do so many things.

2.  And while I don’t want books to go away for kids, here’s another reason to like the iPad:  Are Kids Destined to Grow Up With Tablets?   I could see this as an excellent tool for middle school and up.  It is a lot easier to carry a little iPad then a back-breaking bag of books.

3.  Have you ever wondered how to make a great bowl of soup?  Read what the Soup Peddler has to say.  Be sure to look at the interview he mentions at the beginning and then read the rest.

4. I found an interesting YouTube video yesterday – the Litany of the Saints from Pope John Paul II’s funeral.  I remember being so impressed by it at the time.  I’m not sure why…maybe just the prayerful repetition… but it is beautiful.

5.  Have you ever tried to color Easter eggs the old fashioned way?

When I was a kid my mom used to color the eggs with onion skins and beet juice.  I was not happy because we did not use the cool tablets they sold in the supermarket.  How old fashioned to do it with scraps!  While the eggs don’t come out real even like with the tablets, it is neat to try to color eggs with natural products, at least once.  I do not remember the techniques my mom used, but Mother Earth News has a great article to show you how:  How to Color Eggs With Natural Dyes.

6.  My resolution this Lent is to pay more attention to my kids and not give into frustration at interruptions.  Here is a ready made article about this.  If you are not in the corporate world you need to adapt it a bit, but it is helpful:  Nine Ways to Handle Interruptions Like a Pro.

7.  On a related note, here is a good article about 10 Reasons Why You Aren’t Done Yet.  This is about getting your stuff done and focusing.  It is also very helpful. 

Have a great weekend and skip on over to Conversion Diary for more 7 Quick Takes.

7 Quick Takes – Vol. 4

1.  So, last week I told you we were going to a concert with the Moody Blues. It was very nice and my husband and I, and our 6 year old enjoyed it.  It was a bit cold though, being outside and on the grass.  I wore my silk long winter underwear, turtleneck, sweater, coat and as a final touch the cashmere gloves & hat my mother gave me for Christmas.  I never get to wear those.  It is a bit much for a warm climate in March, but this is the coldest, longest lasting winter we have ever had here.  I’m enjoying it immensely.
7 Secrets of the Eucharist
2. One of my favorite books is 7 Secrets of the Eucharist by Vinny Flynn.  It has really helped me appreciate, and understand better, the Eucharist.  I just learned that a new study guide has come out that would be great for groups or individually.  Go to the Mercy Song website for information.
3.  Speaking of Mercy Song.  I love Vinny Flynn and his family’s song for the Divine Mercy Chaplet on EWTN.  It sticks in my head whenever I hear it, and when I think of the Chaplet, that is what I think of.  I found one decade of it on YouTube.  
4.  This article is interesting How to Easily Cut Your Calories – Eat Slowly   I believe this.  My husband’s grandmother was a firm believer of chewing slowly, and was thin as a rail her whole life.  She recommended chewing each bite of food 50 times!  That is a lot!  There are some very interesting bits in this article.
5.  If you grow tomatoes this might be a great article for you from Mother Earth News  The Best Tomatoes to Grow Where You Live 
6.  A friend of mine has been sick and wondered what medicines she could take since she is breastfeeding.  This can be a serious problem if you especially need drugs long term, like for high blood pressure, asthma, etc. or if you need cancer drugs.  Mostly moms want to know if they can take cold medicines or antibiotics, etc.  When I was breastfeeding, my lactation consultant recommended Dr. Thomas Hale’s website Breastfeeding Pharmacology.  Dr. Hale is the guru of what drugs you can take during pregnancy and breastfeeding.  He is a professor of pediatrics at Texas Tech University.  Honestly, most doctors and nurses, and even pharmacists, do not know this information and will just tell you not to take the drug, or worst of all to quit nursing.  They do this to cover their butt from lawsuits, not because the drug really is in the breastmilk.  This is my pet peeve – because it was my experience that most every drug reference, especially for lay people, would say to just about every drug, to quit nursing to take it, or just that they just did not know if it was in breastmilk or not.  In fact many, many drugs are OK, you just need to know the ones that are not.  So if you know a nursing mother, tell her to go to Breastfeeding Pharmacology and click on Breastfeeding & Medication Forums.  Under no circumstances should you quit nursing until you check this out.  And have your doctor buy his book, Medications and Mother’s Milk.
7.  I love most all things Google.  My favorite tech writer, Harry McCracken, has a great article: The Undiscovered Google: 7 Services You Need to Try.  Go to his blog Technologizer for other great tech stuff too.
Now, check out Jennifer’s 7 Quick Takes at Conversion Diary.

7 Quick Takes

Seven Quick Takes is a wonderful idea from Jennifer at Conversion Diary and I’ve always been too busy or too slow-witted to come up with 7 little things to share every Friday. This week however, I’ve come upon a bunch of new stuff and I thought finally I would be able to throw my hat in the ring.

1.  I was looking through some old issues of Cook’s Illustrated magazine I have saved and came upon a recipe for Oven Fried Bacon.  Now, you have to understand I have a love/hate relationship with bacon.  My husband is a bacon snob.  It has to be cooked a certain way, etc.   I love bacon, but am not picky and also don’t have the patience to baby the bacon while it is cooking, so I frequently either burn or otherwise mess it up.  So when I found this recipe I thought I would give it a try.  Get a jelly roll pan (aka:  cookie sheet with sides) line it with foil for easy cleanup, lay out bacon, cook at 400 degrees in the oven for 5-6 minutes, turn the pan around and cook another 5-6 minutes for regular bacon or about 8 minutes for thick sliced.  That’s it.  Serve.  When it is cool, throw foil with grease away.  Husband approved.  Wife happy and can concentrate on the pancakes.

2. I don’t care what the Apple/tech snobs say, I want an iPad.  I don’t have an iPhone because I don’t want to pay for a data plan every month.  I don’t have an iPod Touch, even though I lusted after one, because of all the cool apps.  I was not sure that reading books, etc. on one would be that great of an experience because of the size, and I investigated the Kindle but never was that enthused about non-paper books.  BUT when I heard Apple was going to be releasing a tablet I became really interested.  The snobs say “This is just a glorified Touch why would you want one?” or “It won’t replace a netbook or laptop.” or “It doesn’t have a camera or other features we think it should have.”  Well, by the time I save the money up to get one, it will probably be on it’s 2nd or even 3rd Generation by then and have all the cool features.  I’m looking forward to surfing the internet from the comfort of my recliner.
3. So what will I put on my iPad that I will someday, hopefully own?  First it will be the iBreviary.  I can’t wait!  Then I’ll get the Bible, probably Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition.  Hopefully, they will have highlighting and the ability to make notes.  Also, some books, of course.  After that, we’ll see.

4.  This week I also discovered a free language website at the BBC.  Now I can continue on my seemingly never ending quest to pick up Spanish.

5.  I am so saddened over the latest news from Haiti:  that the death toll is 230,000.  Which is the same amount as died in the terrible Tsunami a few years ago that swept over 6 countries.  And they are still counting the dead in Haiti.  Most of the churches are destroyed, most of the priests, seminarians and other clergy are dead.  I have not been able to find a good article with exact info but it is bad. I urge you to donate to Aid to the Church in Need:  Haiti

Update:  Haitian Churches Rising Out of the Ruins – Miami Herald

6. This is just fascinating.  Eric Sammons at The Divine Life has a fantastic (and short) genealogy of the Catholic Church:  Understand the Churches & Rites of the Catholic Church.  Who Knew?  Apparently not I.

7.  OK, just like you, probably, I love chocolate.  I have come to love the dark kind (but not too dark.)  A few years ago I discovered just the best chocolate.  I was using it for a truffle recipe and fell in love with Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate.  Now, I know it says “bittersweet” but it just does not seem bitter, and of course, it is not too sweet.  It is less than $3 in the supermarket baking aisle.  I have been a big fan of Dove Dark Chocolate, Lindt Dark Chocolate truffles, and Perugina Dark Chocolate for a long time, but this is my general snacking chocolate.  I take about a dozen chips and it really satisfies my chocolate craving. 

I hope you have a great weekend.  Be sure to go on over and visit Jen at Conversion Diary for more Quick Takes.

Me – Behind A Mask

Since I last posted, I have been really sick. No, it is not the regular flu, thank heaven, or even the Piggie kind, but JUST bronchitis. I laid in bed for days, almost passed out at the doctor’s office, and forced my hubby into “mommy mode.” It has not been fun. It started as a little cold and I tried for days, even with a high fever, to just try to tough it out without the antibiotics, but as usual I succumbed and found myself miserably suffering at the doctor’s trying to get a prescription for the miracle drug that would make me feel better. It is a good thing antibiotics were invented or I would probably be dead 20 times over.

One interesting thing happened, however. The doctor comes in after what seemed like an eternity, but was probably 30 minutes. I was lying on the exam table trying to make sure I did not succeed in fainting. She examines me, listens to my woes and my chest, and tells me she is going to fill out the chart and paperwork outside because I’m contagious, what with the 102 degree fever I have even after taking the ibuprofen. She comes back, very sympathetic to the fact I almost fainted waiting for her before, “You look so pale…” Then she tells me I have to wear a mask at home because I reek of contagions. I thought to myself, “Well, it’s a little late for that. I’ve been sick for almost a week.”

She then kindly tells me she will call in the prescription so I don’t have to walk from the car to the supermarket pharmacy, and escorts me out the back door which is closest to my car. I’m sure it was to prevent my walking far, but perhaps to avoid exposing her staff to my contagiousness? Nah.

So, I get home and dutifully dig out the box of masks I bought on a whim from WalMart. You know, just in case society stops because of the Piggie Flu – we should be prepared. I put one on. It’s hot. Well, it’s only hot when you exhale. My husband, who has been trying to keep far away from me for a week, thinks this is an excellent idea. All I can say is he better keep to his side of the bed, and get no where near my pillow. My 6 year old kept reminding me, “Mommy, put on your mask.” I tell him, “Well, I have to eat!” So, until my fever breaks I wear the mask.

Now, one of the joys of being really sick – besides losing 5 pounds – is having to lay in bed, staring at the ceiling, in a sort of semi-coma. Well, perhaps fog/sleep would be a better word. I spent two days and part of two more, “resting.” I say “resting” because how much can a mother really rest? My husband did take care of dinner – “McDonald’s.” And he wonderfully took the kids to their two schools and picked them up. What more could I ask?

As, I lay in bed I did get to enjoy lots of podcasts I thought I would tell you about. Since, I now have an iPod I can peruse iTunes to my heart’s content. I downloaded lots of podcasts awhile back and am going through them one by one. Here are some that I think you might be interested in. Remember you don’t need an iPod to listen to them. You can use an mp3 player or listen on the computer.

First, check out SQPN, the Star Quest Production Network. If you like podcasts this is the way to go. Try out the Daily Breakfast. Which is the #1 Catholic Podcast. Fr. Roderick Vonhogen is wonderful. When I first got the iPod I think I listened to dozens of his old Catholic Insider podcasts where he took us all over Europe in great audio tours, including the events surrounding the death of Pope John Paul II and the election of Pope Benedict XVI.

Also, check out at SQPN Catholic in a Small Town. You can also find this entertaining podcast of a young couple raising kids in a small town here. Catholic Foodie was quite interesting and I’m looking forward to listening to Grace Before Meals.

My absolute favorite podcast though is the Cardinal Arinze webcast. Francis Cardinal Arinze is my absolute favorite cardinal! He is succinct, accurate and very humorous. It is a joy to listen to him. You can also find his podcasts here and at the Familyland website. Some of these are only audio and others are video. One of these links should give you what you want.

One of the surprises within the Cardinal Arinze webcasts are the musical breaks. I have to admit, I don’t always enjoy this part in webcasts and sometimes skip over them, but I was simply blown away by the music of Olwen Ringrose that I found in
the webcasts discussing Deus Caritas Est. Several of the songs from Ringrose’s album “The Daughter of the King” were featured and they are simply beautiful. If angels could sing, this is what they sound like.

I hope you enjoy these podcasts and if you have any to recommend, please let me know.
I think I’m now going to go rest, well after I start the laundry.

Technology = Empty Pockets

We had a small crisis in our house recently. My 14 year old son’s iPod Touch had an, ahem….unfortunate encounter with our washing machine. It was both our faults – his for leaving his iPod on the floor under a pile of dirty laundry, and mine for just grabbing said laundry, and throwing it in the washer without duly checking it first. Oh yeah, the earbuds were washed too, but they came out just fine, of course.

So after letting it sit in a bag of rice for a week, then sending it in to Rapid Repair for an evaluation, we discovered it was just as expensive to buy a new one. Luckily for my son, Apple just came out with a discounted 3rd generation Touch with twice as much memory in the new one, for about the same price. Lucky him. It was an expensive mistake. At least I’m only paying for half.

Now, lest you think we are extravagant parents who just hand our kid a $300 music player, we’re not. We are what we call “Po.” This is said in a slight southern accident. In our house, “Po” is different than “Poor.” “Poor” is definitely a different thing and is a serious thing…a terrible thing. “Po” is what might be called “cash flow deficient.” We never seem to have enough cash flow. We won’t starve, and we still have DSL and Satellite TV, though it is pretty much our only entertainment. We don’t buy local channels, movie channels or anything extra. I do think DVR would be cool, but I suck it up. We also won’t be going out to dinner anytime soon, visiting relatives out of town, or going to Disney World. Our extra income goes to tuition.

So my son’s iPod Touch would be considered an extravagance. However, he seems to be the only one with cash flow. A year and a half ago, he acquired enough money from Christmas and his birthday to afford a 3rd generation iPod Nano. Since it was his money, we let him buy it, and he took good care of it. Then, as is the way with electronics, he wasn’t truly happy with it. His heart’s desire was the Touch. So, when Christmas rolled around he raked in bucks from generous relatives, added his savings, and bought a 1st generation Touch that was on an incredible sale. As a bonus, I inherited the Nano, since some of our money was his birthday gift.

If you spoke to him, he would be the first one to tell you he is electronically deprived. Yes, we do have 3 computers (soon to be 4) but they were ones his dad built from parts, or we got used, or refurbished. But we have no video game player. I have always said no to PlayStations, etc. because he spends enough time on the computer. Also, since we have only one TV, and that is by design, it would tie up the TV for the rest of the family. He should be playing outside or reading a book, instead.

I have to be honest though, I am rethinking the no video game player (shhh, don’t tell anybody,) because the effect is that he just always wants to be at someone else’s house, playing heaven only knows what. No one wants to come here because there are no video games to play. If they come, they bring their own. It was a big deal when he got a GameBoy and later a DS, both of which he paid for. What does my husband think about all this? He agreed, but does not feel strongly either way.

A phone was also a big bone of contention until this fall. Number one son complained several times in middle school that everyone in his class had a phone, and he was right. But as I told him, you will never be in a place where there won’t be a supervising adult who, I’m sure, will have a phone. I felt they can get into trouble with all the texting and, of course, it costs money. But now that he will be in high school he needs one.

So, as he graduated from 8th grade his present was a phone. The phone he wanted however, was not the $10, or free, cheap phone….NOOO he had to have a new model, more expensive than ours, which are smartphones. I told him to wait during the summer, and that he would have to pay half of it. It turned out that waiting was a very good lesson. The $250 (with contract) phone was on sale for $10 the week before school started! It still costs a lot every month for the service, of course.

Lest, you think “Aha! they have smartphones – certainly not frugal.” Well… first we have no data plan for it. We have smartphones for our business, so we can sync calendar and contacts to Outlook on the computer. But we don’t need, or have, a data plan for our phones. We have the cheapest family plan there is. iPhones would be great but you MUST have a data plan – well, it is unChristian, but I have a certain hand gesture for that. The phone I have does have Wi-Fi which is cool, but I would have to go to the county library or Starbucks to use it.

So we have a love/hate relationship with technology at our house because there are so many cool things to do, but not enough money to do them. Such as fix the radio in my car. My 15 year old Honda needs a new radio, but the money would be better spent elsewhere. So I have at times resorted to using a small AM radio, shaped like a baseball cap, that you can hang around your neck, to hear the traffic report. If you keep the brim of the “cap” facing East you won’t lose the station! Hey, what do you want for free. Such technology! And don’t ask my husband about the radio in his car. I mean don’t ask him.

One good thing about this technology though is my rich son passing on his Nano, because I have discovered podcasts. For awhile the attraction with the Nano was playing solitaire, but now that I have racked up over $25,000 in the game and I have worn out the center button (and my thumbs,) I have moved onto podcasts again, which I tried at first but was too busy mentally to enjoy.

I got used to the silence in the car, and do use that time for prayer or thinking… but now, assuming the earbuds don’t continue to fall out, I can enjoy listening to lots of really cool things that I plan on discussing with you in the future. And if you have any brilliant ideas on how to make this cool technology cheap, I would love to know.

Beauty In Our Midst

Ugliness bombards us from every direction, and sometimes we need to stop and look at the true beauty that exists around us – especially the beauty God provides us. Catholicism is steeped in beauty because beauty uplifts us, enlightens us and transforms our spirit. The beauty God surrounds us with is limitless, and I thought it would be great to share with you a couple of things I have found recently that have brought beauty into my life.

The first is National Geographic photography. Occasionally, I like to change our computer desktop picture and this is a great resource for beautiful photography. Last month, I used a photo of Mount Etna in Italy erupting at night. Yesterday, I changed it to an aerial view of Fiji and on our second computer I put up a beautiful view of a canyon in Arizona. There are so many beautiful pictures I could not describe them all to you. Go there and download them. They add new ones constantly.

This is very easy. Go to National Geographic online and click on “Photography.” Choose the “Wallpaper” tab and look at the different galleries of photos. Once you have chosen a photo, look at the bottom of the picture on the left and click on the “wallpaper” icon then choose the size you would like to download. Once the picture is open then “right-click” your mouse and choose “Set as Desktop Background” and you are done.

The second resource is the Earth Channel and is only available to you if you subscribe to DISH Network. DISH Network added a camera to its EchoStar 11 Satellite that was launched in 2008. Six years in the planning, it is the first camera on a commercial satellite and has a constant view of North and South America that does not change since the satellite stays in geo-synchronous orbit 22,300 miles above Earth. The Earth Channel is on channel 212. You can read more about it at Space Daily.

This continuous view of the Earth with light background music, is lovely and you might be able to see Venus occasionally as well as some unidentified flying objects. I’m looking forward to seeing weather patterns change and also the lights at night.