random thoughts and good advice


Me:  What is it that I really want? Are there new houses on Realtor.com? How many people like my blog? Maybe I should try a new recipe for dinner tonight. What dress should I wear to church tomorrow? Ugh, I don’t want to mop the kitchen floor AGAIN! I don’t want to put away all those clothes. I washed them, I dried them, I folded them and I’m still not done. It’s Labor Day weekend. I should be having fun. But I need to clean. Blah. OMG?! How much time am I wasting thinking about random, stupid stuff and playing words with friends and checking to see if anyone commented on my blog? Why can’t I seem to keep a clean house?

What I imagine my mother would say: Get off your ass. Your arms work. Your legs work. Go wash your windows and clean your house! Put away the laundry. Quit worrying and just work. If you get your work done now, you can relax tomorrow and Monday. You think too much. Work more. Or think while you work, but work! For crying out loud!

Me:  Oh, OK.


I just ate WHAT?!


One of the most important things we can glean from the past is eating close to nature. I highly recommend the book NOURISHING TRADITIONS by Sally Fallon. Go to http://smile.amazon.com and type in the title. Will someone teach me how to embed a link with a cute little title? Seriously. Anyway, this book has really become a food bible of sorts for our family.

In order to eat close to nature, we really need to go before our grandparents (unless they only ate what they grew on their farms and didn’t use all the fancy pesticides available like DDT) and closer to our great-grandparents’ generation and farther, because the food industry has been royally screwing up our food for a long time.
I cook a lot of natural and organic food from scratch but I know that this is not always an option for my readers. It’s not even always an option for me with four hungry kids in the car going from school to work to soccer practice and chess club and the chiropractor and what-not. So, we have to eat conveniently sometimes. I won’t shame you for giving your kids McDonald’s for a treat. Most of us do from time to time, but the more I learn, the less often I give in to the fast-food frenzy and the more I tend to plan ahead for healthy meals and snacks on the go. I don’t like asking the title question.

BUT…what if the food from our fast-food restaurants and convenience stores could be healthy? Well, there is a woman named Vani (aka FoodBabe) and she is working to create a world with safer food. Here’s a link to one of her latest posts.

You’ll Never Guess What’s In A Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte Hint: You Won’t Be Happy.

It’s a good read and you can follow her to join us in the movement to put pressure on Big Food to clean up their act! It’s working 🙂

Stone Soup


I thought of calling this “FREE SOUP” but I decided a plagiarized title might catch your eye. 🙂

Having grandparents who lived through the Great Depression can teach a girl a lot if she will only listen. Here’s something I’ve learned:

When you buy chicken, buy the whole chicken.
Roast it for dinner and save the carcass and the juices. If you’re not ready to make soup, freeze the carcass and juices. OK, they didn’t have many freezers during the Great Depression, but this blog is subtitled “Taking the best of the past for the present” so just go with me, here.

When you cut up vegetables, wash them well and save the bits, peels, and ends of carrots, celery, potatoes, and onions–even onion skins, herbs and whatever else suits your fancy. Freeze them, too.

Boil the chicken carcass with your saved vegetable peels and ends and salt for about an hour, then take it out and let it cool a bit, take all the remaining meat off the carcass and set it aside in the refrigerator. Put the bones back in the water and boil everything either in a crock pot or on low for 24-48 hours, adding water as necessary. Or, if you have a pressure cooker, you can use that instead for probably 30-45 minutes.

Pour everything out into a big bowl through a fine mesh sieve. Let it cool and then skim some or all of the fat off the top according to your taste. You can use that chicken fat to cook other things in if you like. You can give the carcass to the dog now, he won’t choke on it because the bones should be very soft. Toss the mushy, overcooked veggie peels and ends into the compost. Do not eat them. All their nutrition and flavor is now in your stock.

You now have the most fantastic broth you can imagine. It is full of gelatin. That is why it looks like chicken jello in the refrigerator. THIS is the kind of chicken stock that cures colds. Not that crappy chicken water you get in a carton or can from the grocery store.

Next, take the chicken that you’d set aside plus the prettier bits of vegetables you’ve saved and/or fresh ones. Add more salt to taste and some noodles (you can make noodles by just mixing flour with egg and a tiny bit of water, rolling it out and slicing it up) or rice and voila…almost free soup.

It’s delicious.

You’ve made a huge pot of the most nutritious soup for next to nothing, reduced your garbage output, increased the quality of your soil by composting, and given your dog a free meal.


Not a Knight


You were not a knight in shining armor
I was not a captive princess
You did not rescue me from wickedness
I did not wear one glass slipper

Fairy tales and happily e’er after
Cannot be the reality
I know. I watched for them from my window
When I looked up from my Snow White

I am not as naive as I once was
But I am not jaded. I love you
More than a feeling, Love is a knowing
A fact, and yet, a dream come true

After the illusion of perfection
After we began to see faults
We still love each other better than before
Even if mice can’t be horses

There is so much more than romance
So much more than passion
Laughter, dancing, children, even bills
You are my perfect companion

While some will spend years wondering
Where is happily ever after?
My love for you is abiding
Better than a fairy tale

What’s Missing?


Anything Grandma and I did together was fun, but the “What’s Missing?” game was one of my favorites. After dinner, we went into the living room and sat on one of the 1960’s style flat brown couches that I thought were UGLY then, but have recently come back into vogue.
She laid a variety of tiny items in front of me: a pearl earring, a spool of thread, a tiny dancer broken off the inside of a music jewelry box, a building block, a collector’s spoon, a nickel. Every time we played, she chose different items, but it was always fascinating for me.  Next to the little assortment, she had an old, black clutch purse with the little brass clasp on top that you had to pinch to undo. My four-year-old fingers weren’t strong enough, but that didn’t matter. She could do that part. Let the game begin!
“Angel, are you ready? Close your eyes. No peeking!”
“Can I open them?”
“Not yet. Be patient…OK, now! What’s missing?”
I concentrated, trying to figure out which of her little trinkets she had hidden in the purse. “The ballerina?”
“What else?”
“The money?”
Grandma smiled her warm, wide, beautiful smile at me. She clicked open the clutch and dumped the tiny dancer and nickel back onto the couch. “You’re such a smart girl, Angel.”
We took turns for a long time–I could have played all night. I suppose at some point she grew tired of it, but never let on. She just smiled and asked, “Would you like some ice cream?”
“Yay! Can I have the special hard chocolate?”
“Of course.” She scooped the ice cream into a small bowl and I got to be big and pour the Magic Shell chocolate on top and watch it freeze. I loved how it broke when I pressed my spoon into it. I ate my ice cream and played with her little white china cats and kittens while she watched “Dallas” on the big console TV, and then it was time to get ready for bed. Daddy and Mommy would pick me up in the morning.
I’d forgotten my toothbrush, so she put a little bit of toothpaste on my finger and told me to rub it all over my teeth and she let me use her WaterPik to squirt and rinse my mouth. That thing was SO NEAT!
Then we went into her room and knelt down at the bed. We said the “Our Father” and asked God to bless Mommy and Daddy and all the aunts and uncles and cousins.
Then Grandma put plastic bags over the couch cushions “just in case” and covered it with a sheet and laid out an afghan and a pillow for me. She tucked me in with a kiss and a hug and we said goodnight. A few minutes later, I wanted a drink of water so I went to her room. There she was, still on her knees at her bedside, with her prayer cards with pictures of Jesus and Mary and angels.
“Can I have a glass of water?”
Ever patient, she took me into the kitchen and gave me an half-pint jelly jar half full of water and then tucked me back into bed. “Pleasant dreams, Angel.”
I fell asleep, and I’m sure I dreamed pleasant dreams because I was wrapped up in so much love.
My children love the “What’s Missing” game now and playing with them brings back such fond memories. I’d be lying if I told you it doesn’t bring tears, too. They’re flowing as I write this. Grandma died that next October at 63 years old. Now, when I play with my kids on my brown couch and look up at her picture that hangs on my living room wall, I hear her ask, “What’s missing?”
And all I can answer is, “You.”



Note to readers:
I wrote this post once already…and it was terribly witty. Right as I was ready to hit the button to publish it, my dog literally pulled the plug on it. She did. I swear it. She lay on the computer’s electrical cord and pulled it out of the wall. My entire post was lost. What you see below is my attempt to re-create what was going to make you laugh, nod in agreement, and write wonderful notes to me at 1downtoearthangel@gmail.com. You see, my blog is about the lessons and values I learned from my forefathers and foremothers and so I press on; because “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”



mesh and metal box
limits liberty and toys
clean, organized, happy home

When my grandmothers were bringing up my parents, aunts and uncles, they used collapsible, thinly padded playpens made of netting and metal to contain those children from destroying everything that they could get their grubby little fingers on. Today’s experts pontificate that the least restrictive environment is best for babies’ development. Today’s experts apparently have one child each–and a nanny.

As I was sitting down to post something creative, insightful and amazing on this blog last week, I heard a clanging sound. It was coming from the living room. One of the twins had overturned a basket for toys and used it instead as a stool to climb up on so she could reach a picture frame. The clanging sound was the babies sitting happily on the carpet, playing with the broken glass. My creative, insightful thoughts went skittering out of my brain as I cleaned up the glass.

Neither baby was cut and the frame is replaceable. The twins were understandably angry with me for taking away their cool new toy, but I placated them and got them situated and came back to the computer to give you something nice to read. (I’m working on a new song about friendship. You’ll like it. But it’s not ready yet. But I digress…) In the middle of that, I went to check on the little darlings again. Rebecca had got the nipple off her bottle and had dumped eight ounces of apple juice onto the carpet AND taken off her diaper and marched around the living room, marking her territory. Skitter away again, creative thoughts…

So, I put the babies down for a nap and pulled out a sharp utility knife and my trusty “do it yourself” attitude passed down to me from my parents and grandparents and proceeded to tear out all the carpet in my living room and hallway. My ugly carpet is a thing of the past and we are walking on a painted plywood sub-floor until we decide and can afford what is next. Walking on sub-floor isn’t exactly how one ‘keeps up with the Joneses’ but I couldn’t care less. I imagine Grandma would have said something like, “Clean and ugly is better than dirty and ugly.” Anyway, that’s what I say and I have hated that carpet since we moved in. I could never keep it clean and it was a hideous 1990’s mauve-pink color. Plus, it gives me a good reason to work faster on my braided rug (another lesson from the past, YAY!)

The babies are napping which has given me the opportunity to write this blog post (Twice!See note to readers above) but the living room sub-floor is covered in toys and I know I’m about to run out of the time I need to mop the kitchen floor before they wake up and start terrorizing the house again…so, does anyone have a giant playpen that my little raccoons–ahem, I mean babies–can’t climb out of?


Grandma’s Zucchini Bread


There is a TON of zucchini growing in my garden right now and we’re doing everything with it, but of course, everyone’s favorite is zucchini bread.

Here’s Grandma’s recipe

3 eggs
1 c. melted butter or melted lard or oil
2 c. sugar
1 T. vanilla
1/2 c. walnuts (or other)
2 c. finely grated zucchini
3 c. flour
1 t. baking soda
1 T. cinnamon
1 t. salt
1/2 T. baking powder

Mix eggs, fat, sugar and vanilla thoroughly in large bowl. Separately, sift together flour, soda, cinnamon, salt and powder and then mix with wet ingredients. Fold walnuts and zucchini into dough.

Pour mixture into 2 greased and floured 8″x 5″ pans
Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 min- 1 hour
Let cool and enjoy!

Note: Zucchini can be GMO. 😦 So look for organic if you don’t want spliced DNA in your zucchini. Or, come get some of mine. Totally GMO free. 🙂 Seriously, I have SO MUCH. You’d be doing me a favor to take some off my hands. 🙂

Grandma and the Ducks


Grandma still lived in the house where she’d raised Mom, my two aunts and three uncles. Grandpa had gone to Heaven when Mom was 11, so now it was just Uncle David and Grandma alone. The two story house had white siding and black shutters and sat way back off the road. There were two sets of railroad tracks that ran alongside the road and the long gravel driveway crossed them as it wound its way to the house. There was an old windmill on one side of the driveway and on the other side lay two cellar doors. As a little girl, it reminded me of Aunt Em and Uncle Henry’s house in The Wizard of Oz—a classic farmhouse.
The cows, pigs and chickens were long gone; all that remained was an old mare, a German Shepherd named April, and the occasional flock of ducks that would land in the pond. On a cool spring day, I begged to go out to feed them. Before I could leave the house, Grandma tied an old scarf on my head and smiled down at me, “You have to wear your babushka so you don’t get an earache.” Grandma was always taking care of everybody else. She made me wait at the top of the rickety cellar stairs while she went down to get the stale bread. I imagined it was quite spooky down there but Grandma was so brave. After a moment, she emerged from the dark basement and we were on our way.
I played dare-devil walking across the slippery rocks that crossed the tiny feeder stream as we made our way down to the pond. When I slipped, I delighted in squishing my red galoshes in the mud. When we were close enough, we threw the pieces of bread to the greedy ducks. They quacked and splashed as they tried to reach the white flecks before the others could steal them away. As we made our way back to the house, Grandma gingerly stepped around the big stones that lined the side of the driveway and laughed, “Angel, you’re getting too big. I’m going to put that stone on your head so you don’t grow any more.”
I didn’t want to stop growing. I had only turned four that winter and I had a lot more growing to do and many more springs with Grandma. I couldn’t know nor understand that soon she wouldn’t be fighting my growth, but instead the growth of something sinister inside of her, something that would steal her from me before I turned five. It was something I would hate and fear the rest of my life: cancer.

*                *                  *

Don’t worry. This blog will not be all memories of my grandmother.

I tell you this story as my first because my memories of Grandma have shaped me into the woman I’ve become in so many ways. When her dad and brothers died (of, I think, tuberculosis), she went to work to help support her family. I think she was 11. It was the middle of the Great Depression. As she grew older, she did everything: working in and out of the home, being a landlord, cooking, sewing, gardening, farming, raising children, loving deeply, and praying always.  I have always held her up as a primary role model for my life. But she died so young. She was only 63. She should have lived longer. Cancer should not have stolen her away so young. And so, that has made me want to learn about different causes of cancer and illness and how to try to avoid them so that I can hopefully live a long, healthy life to be there for my children and grandchildren. She was an amazing woman and I wish every day that she was still here for me to ask her questions. But she’s not, and so, I make it a point to remember as much as I can about her and from others who have come before us and weave it in with life in the 21st century. This is where I come from and what I hope to share with you.

Welcome to my blog.