Sunday, March 21, 2010

March Madness 2010

Ah, March! The temperatures get warmer and more bearable; the snow (usually) melts; crocuses, tulips, and daffodils break out from their frozen prison....and college basketball has its year-end party involving hours upon hours of nail-biting, pulse-racing, bracket-checking, good-guy-vs.-bad-guy, I'm-so-stuffed-I-can't-eat-another-bite games. It's a thing of glory.
For the first four days of the tournament, this is a little what our living room looks like:
Brackets taped to the doors of the TV cabinet, TV on CBS HD showing one game, iMac on streaming online video of another game, and the fireplace sporting a cozy roaring fire. Sometimes Eric's laptop is streaming yet another game if there are three that need our particular attention. We're in the living room from noon to midnight for four whole days, being careful not to miss a single important moment. Ian brings his toys out and plays the day away, we eat when we get hungry and when friends come over to join us in our celebration, and everything gets shut down only when the last second of the last game of the day has been ticked off the game clock.
It's a beautiful and special time of year.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Oglesbee Odes

For pure silliness' sake, here's a track from Ian's "Songs from the Street" CD by Sesame Street (thanks, Adam & Sherri!). It gets Ian singing every time....and us, too, for that matter.

And here's another one from the same CD. It's Eric's favorite. :)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Menu Planning: A Modern-Day Fairy Tale

Once upon a time, in a land not so far away, there was a young married girl who was juggling work, college, friends, and a new husband on an extremely limited budget. She used to come home from a long day at school, stare into the depths of her refrigerator, emit a sigh of lamentation, and resign herself to either spending too much on take-out, or making spaghetti or frozen pizza yet again. Something had to change. There was a wealth of good, healthful, cost-effective recipes out there that just weren't getting used. She needed a plan and a little bit of organization.
One fateful day, the young woman was visited by a Beautiful Idea. The Beautiful Idea whispered in her ear and on that day, she met a new and valuable friend: the Oglesbee Meal Planning Routine. It saved the young woman's life, and probably that of her husband and her future children.
The Routine was simple. Step One: one or two days a week, look at the next 4-7 days and figure out some meals that might work. If necessary, get out one's trusty recipe book and sift through for help when the brain is stumped and clueless. Step Two: Write the meals down on a sheet of paper to be referenced throughout the week.*
Step Three: Using the recipe book, make a list of the ingredients that are needed. This particular young woman made her own grocery shopping list, organized according to the aisles in her favorite grocery store for ease of finding said ingredients.
Step Four: Go shopping for the necessary ingredients so that the kitchen is fully stocked for the meals on the menu.
Now, almost nine years later, when the not-so-young woman needs to make a dinner for her family, the ingredients are all there, ready and waiting. It's a fairy tale come true.

*PS: She also saves those menu lists, using one sheet of paper every four weeks, so she can see what she's made lately, thus keeping her family from having to eat the same meals over and over again.

So how do you plan your meals? What's your strategy?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Valuable Mommy & Son Time

We haven't been feeling well this week. On Tuesday afternoon after J-man left, we had run out of things we felt like doing and were in need of a boost. Since Ian had spent the entire afternoon pretending to make cookies with his play cooking tools, I suggested we make some real cookies together. This offer was met with much enthusiasm, as you can imagine.
I let Ian choose the filler ingredients, and here was his list: chocolate chunks, Craisins, oatmeal, walnuts, and coconut. Those bad boys were fully-loaded...and quite delicious! I was thankful I didn't have to talk him out of anything weird (like the black beans he had recently talked about putting into an imaginary pot of "orange juice soup," complete with jelly beans and gummy bears).
We sure love our baking time together.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Oglesbee Odes: Be Unto Your Name

As we've talked about before, Lent is a time for recognizing our need for God and adjusting our perspective such that we remember who and what we really are: dust, vapor, here for a moment, broken vessels. But with that comes the acknowledgment that God is forever, eternal, the Healer, and mighty enough to save us.

I first heard this song and learned to play it on the guitar while I was in Honduras in February of 2007, so it has an extra-special meaning for me.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Another Baby Step: Homemade Deodorant

About a week ago, I went out on a very inexpensive and low-risk limb and tried making my own deodorant. When I shared this with the world via Facebook, I got various reactions, including, "Interesting," and "Hope it works!" (Thanks, Mom!). It seemed like a lot of people were cautiously skeptical...and for good reason. Body odor is nothing to be messed around with in our society. You stink, you're not cool. But since I had over half a tube left of my good ol' chemical-laden standby, Dove Ultimate Clear for Sensitive Skin, I figured, why not try something more natural and inexpensive....just to see?

I was made aware of this recipe via one of my favorite blogs, EnviroMom, and since it was easy, cheap, and accessible, I chose to try it over countless others out there on the Internet. It seemed to me like a doable "baby step," and lo and behold, it was! I'm totally impressed. Granted, it's not 98 degrees out there with 98% humidity yet (we'll see how it works at the end of an Indiana July), but even through various sweat-inducing activities, my armpits have stayed pleasantly dry and completely scent-free. So, for those of you interested, here's the magic formula:

1/4 c. baking soda
1/4 c. cornstarch
6 T. coconut oil

Blend them together with a fork or a food chopper until they form a semi-solid mixture, mash them into an empty deodorant tube, and you've got yourself a handy B.O. fixer! I like it better than some of the other natural products out there (like those of Arm & Hammer and Tom's), and I even like it better than my former anti-perspirant.

As a word of caution, though, one thing about coconut oil is that it turns to liquid at 76 degrees Fahrenheit, which is fine in these cooler days of winter/spring, but in the summer, I don't keep my house that cool, so I'll probably have to store my deodorant stick in the fridge, which might be a tad of an adjustment. We'll see how it goes. Also, because of the aforementioned melting, when I'm finished applying the deodorant, there's usually a small amount of wet residue dripping down the side of my tube, simply because the contact with my body has made the oil melt. So, I have to take a small piece of toilet paper and wipe down the tube before placing the cap back on. To me, though, those things are worthy adjustments in light of the fiscal, environmental, and potentially healthy rewards of managing my body's odor.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Oglesbee Odes

More often than not, if you come to our house while we're making dinner, you'll hear either the entire soundtrack from the movie Once, or you'll hear this song in the middle of our own very special compilation of music we like to call "Rockin' Love Songs." It's one of our favorite songs from one of our favorite soundtracks to one of our favorite movies. Enjoy.

Oh, and if you haven't seen Once yet....well, should.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Edamame "Hummus"

Ok, ok, I'm not so uninformed to think that hummus made without chickpeas is still truly hummus (the word "hummus," after all, does mean "chickpea"), but bear with me. This stuff rocks. And its taste and texture is quite a bit like true hummus. It could be described as an imposter hummus. But its lively green color and slight Asian accent give it away, while at the same time seducing you into not even caring. It's hummus...sort of, and close enough. But hummus on a whole new level. Hummus after traveling the world -- a wiser, more chic, and sophisticated version of its true counterpart. A party animal reborn.

And I'm in love.

We were introduced just last weekend by my good friend Cary, who, always the perfect hostess, welcomed our presence to her Indianapolis home with a wonderful appetizer of grapes, crackers, chips, and....yes....edamame hummus. There was a spark of instant attraction, and soon, I couldn't get enough. Even after the fabulous meal of baked salmon, Israeli couscous, and steamed asparagus was over, I found myself wanting to strike up another "conversation" with my new acquaintance. So I had it for dessert. And thus began my new fling.

The dip Cary served was from Trader Joe's, but since South Bend isn't cool enough for stores like TJ's and Whole Foods, I'm "forced" to make my own. (Oh darn.) After perusing various recipes on the Internet, I formed what I thought might be a good version and tried it out. It was a teensy bit time consuming -- one is required to boil whole edamame shells, rinse them, shell them, then remove the skins from the bright green beans -- but totally doable, and even more fun with some funky music in the background to keep one company (I'm a big fan of lately).
Then you just follow steps that are eerily similar to traditional hummus, and wham! You've got edamame hummus. Enjoy. Here's the basic recipe of what I did for my first try:

1 16-oz bag frozen edamame
1 T. lemon juice
1 minced garlic clove
1/2 c. water or broth
2 T. sesame seeds (or 1.5 T. tahini)
2 T. olive oil
1 tsp. sesame seed oil
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the edamame in their pods as directed on the package, then rinse the pods to cool them. Shell the soybeans and remove the skins. Puree the shelled/skinned edamame in a food processor with the lemon juice, garlic, water, and sesame seeds. Puree to a fine consistency, then gradually add the oil while processing (to emulsify the mixture). Use more liquid to thin the dip to desired consistency. Serve with chips, veggies, or flatbread, garnished with sesame seeds.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Quadragesima: The Long 40 Days of Spring

Right now, we're on Day 12 of the 40-day journey known as Lent. Growing up, all I knew about Lent was that my middle-school friend Jessica wasn't allowed to eat meat on Friday, but I really had no clue why. Over the past five years or so, Eric and I have learned a bit more, and have even started practicing the tradition, thanks to our current church, which observes the traditional liturgical calendar.

For those of you who don't know, Lent is a 40-day season (not including Sundays) before Easter, during which we take time to recognize our sinfulness and our need for God's mercy. Traditionally, this is done through prayer, fasting, and giving of alms; however, today's observations often include both a "giving up" of something not sinful and a "taking on" of something beneficial. The whole party is kicked off by Ash Wednesday, a day where the symbolisms of ash (death, mourning, a reminder that we are dust) are worn on our foreheads in the shape of a cross. One key component to observing Lent is that of community support - it's not meant to be done alone and in secret, especially if the actions one is giving up and taking on are difficult. The need for encouragement and motivation from other believers is a huge part of recognizing our insufficiencies and learning to rely on Christ's power in our lives. From Ash Wednesday on, we're in this thing together.

We've found that by practicing Lent, Easter is all the more exciting and appreciated. Internalizing the fact that Christ died for the very sins that weigh us down and separate us from Him makes Good Friday all the more powerful. And after spending 7 and 1/2 weeks being reminded of our sin, the joyous celebration of Easter is that much more meaningful and breathtaking, inciting even greater gratitude.

This year for Lent, our family is giving up watching TV while we eat and taking on doing family devotions at both breakfast and dinner each day. So technically, we're "fasting" from sitting in front of the TV during mealtimes and incorporating prayer into our lives in a greater capacity. So far, it's been really nice. There have been evenings where we're feeling kind of tired and just want to plop down on the couch while eating dinner, but choosing to sit at the table together and read from God's Word has been so enriching and unifying. Hopefully, we're forming better habits that will help to stabilize our family in the future.

What is your background with Lent? If you're observing it this year, what are you doing and how are you being held accountable?

* Fun fact: Quadragesima is Latin for "the fortieth day," and is one traditional name for Lent, while "lent" is derived from the German for "spring" and "long"...because the days get longer in the spring.