Saturday, May 7, 2016

Sleight of Hand

A few years back, my husband and I had tickets to see a magician in Niagara Falls, Ontario. His tricks required a lot of skill:
  • The assistants needed to physically be able to contort their bodies into weird spaces.
  • The magician needed to be physically skilled enough to move his hands quickly and adeptly to hide or reveal something.
But there's another skill that is at the heart of every magician's act - the mental art of Misdirection.

You cannot have a magic act without misdirection. The magician gets the audience to focus attention somewhere else so he magician can further the trick somewhere else. By the end of the trick, he has manipulated the props/people in such a way that we are amazed.

A classic example is the disappearing coin. This trick works because you, the audience, are expecting a certain result. If I hold a coin in the air and appear to grab it with the other hand, you will expect the coin to be in the other hand.

You can see this trick explained/revealed here.


~

As I cleaned up the breakfast table this morning (a delifghtful breakfast of pancakes, berries, maple syrup and Nutella, prepared by my three children) I noticed a label and was briefly delighted to see that Nutella has "No preservatives or artificial colours."


Always slightly suspicious, I noticed that they omitted "artifical flavours" from the list. I wondered why that was and looked at the ingredients. "Sugar, modified palm oil, hazelnuts, cocoa, skim milk powder, whey powder, soy and/or sunflower lecithin, vanillin"

Looks pretty natural, right? I can pronounce them all (although sometimes I mix up the "c" and "th" in lecithin.

Well, for those of us who aren't aware, vanillin is imitation vanilla extract. It is chemically formulated to mimic the taste of vanilla, but it contains no actual real vanilla.

But no one really notices because of their clever marketing. NO ARTIFICIAL COLOURS! NO PRESERVATIVES!

(Honestly, anyone who cares about what they eat would notice the excess sugar and fat as well as the minimal protein. A conscientious consumer might be concerned about the palm oil and the devastation that its harvesting does to forests around the world.  But I digress.)

~

How else are we being redirected? I try to be aware of how marketing influences me, from Saturday morning cartoons to the evening news to free samples at Costco. What partial truths are you being told that redirect you from the greater truth that you need to pursue?

I have no answers for you. I think each of us needs to consider this question more often though before we eat an entire jar of Not-Natural-Nutella...


or vote for legislation that will "compassionately allow a person to die with dignity"...

or pass judgment on a family that has done their very best to care for the family God gave them.

What are we being told to think and what truth are we being redirected away from noticing?

There are no right answers because we all do it, intentionally or not.  Being more aware that it is happening is a giant step towards being autonomous in our consumption of ideas and principles.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Hearty Chicken Kale Soup

Yesterday was such a busy day at our house. (Thursdays generally are, through the winter.) I have to get our dinner prepared before 12:30.  Yesterday, I had a vague plan for dinner, but at 12:00 I started panicking (ever-so-briefly). I knew I wanted to make some kind of crock pot dish with chicken and kale, but I didn't yet have a recipe in mind. A quick Google-search for "chicken kale crock pot" turned up nothing that I wanted to eat.

So I decided to wing it.

I wung it. (That can't be right, but it sure is fun to say. But if someone swings a rope around and goes on to tell someone else that they swung the rope, surely I can wing a recipe and tell you that I wung it. English according to Wanda.)

So anyway, I wung it.

I put two frozen chicken breasts in a big pan and turned the pan on. I figured I needed some onions and garlic, so in they went. Hmm, maybe a touch of water to keep the garlic from cooking too much. Ah, maybe some chicken stock? Dump 1L of chicken stock in. Now what?

I knew I wanted kale, so I chopped that up and set it aside. I'd put it in when it was close to done cooking.

I took the chicken out and chopped it up because no one wants two whole chicken breasts in their soup!

How about noodles? That'd be tasty! I rifled through the cupboard, dug out some rotini noodles and decided they were WAY too big, so I spent the next few minutes breaking them in half and throwing them in the pot.

Oooh, some tomatoes would be good. But not too many tomatoes. Half a jar of crushed tomatoes would be perfect. (You can mix onion and garlic powder into the remaining tomatoes to make a lovely last-minute pizza sauce.)

I waited a few minutes for the noodles to cook most of the way, added some salt and pepper, and had a taste... Blech! Too bland. It was missing something. After a bit more salt and pepper I was still not satisfied.

Basil! I keep a paste of basil in my fridge for emergencies such as this. In it went and WOWZA! did it make a difference. I threw the kale in, decided it needed corn, threw a handful of that in, and called it done.

I put the soup in the fridge, went to our afternoon class, and rested assured that dinner was handled.

When we got home, the noodles had plumped up nicely and absorbed more of the liquid, so I added another 4 cups of chicken broth and reheated our soup.

The silence around the table, save for a few slurps and "mmms," told me this one was a keeper.


And so, after slightly more fan-fare than was necessary, here's the recipe.

Hearty Chicken Kale Soup

Serves 6
Time: 30 minutes

Fry or saute in a large pan:

2 large chicken breasts
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced

Add 2 Tbsp water or oil if necessary.
Remove chicken from the pan. Allow it to cool, then chop it into bite-sized pieces and return it to the pan.

Add:
300 mL crushed tomatoes
8 cups chicken broth
1 cup corn
2 Tbsp fresh basil
3/4 cup small, uncooked pasta

(I used rotini, broken in half.)

Allow mixture to cook another 15 minutes, until pasta is tender.  Season as you wish with salt and pepper.

Add:
2 cups chopped kale

Allow the mixtures to simmer another 5 minutes, then serve.

Listen, as your 10 year-old says, “Mmm! This is one of my favourite meals that you've ever made!






Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Finding a Spouse, Homeschool-Style

I wrote this Feb 7, 2015. I'm not sure why it sat unpublished for over a year, but I want to remember it down the road...

~

It's so fun to sit back and just listen to my children, letting them chatter away.

The youngest needed some “board game” time with Dad the other night, so I took the older two out to the local coffee and doughnut shop. We lingered over coffee and hot chocolate while we chatted about the day, the weekend ahead of us, and life in general. On the walk home, we got into discussions about money, marriage, and making sure you make a good choice in who your spouse is, before you ever say, “I do.”

It was at this point in the conversation (which really wasn't as deep as it may sound) that the younger of the two admitted something. “When we first started talking about homeschooling, I thought that I would never meet other kids and I didn't know how I would ever find someone to marry."

The older one chimed in with, “Me too! I pictured myself standing on the sidewalk somewhere and just asking questions of people as they went by. If they answered just one question wrong, then I'd move on to someone else until I found someone who answered all my questions correctly.”

We all had a good laugh at how absurd that seemed now, busy as we are with our many "school" events. I am so thankful for the amazing, quality friends that my kids have made in the last few years. Any fears we were told to have about “socialization” quickly went out the window when we started homeschooling. I love these kids that we're getting to hang out with every week and I love the sense of culture and community that these families are instilling in their children. Yes, I'll take homeschool-socialized children any day!


Grandma's bag of marshmallows

I have to tell you one of my favourite stories of my Grandma Hazel...

When I was a little girl, I lived in the same city as Grandma Hazel and Grandpa Ralph. They often visited our house, but just as often, we ended up at their house. I have many fond memories of sitting at Grandma's kitchen table, sipping tea and nibbling toast while we played Password. (I just loved that plastic red window through which I could see my word.)

But one of the reasons I loved going to Grandma's house most was that I knew she would have a bag of marshmallows which she kept tucked away just for us girls. So thought little 7 year-old Wanda. They were there  just for us girls! So of course, I asked for a marshmallow every time I visited.

As moms tend to do, my mom saw the need to curb my uncouth behaviour, more specifically, my unabashed begging for marshmallows. One particular day, as we drove to Grandma's house, Mom told us girls, "Now when we get to Grandma's house, I do NOT want you to ask for a marshmallow. If she offers you one, you may say 'Yes, please' but you may NOT ask for one." We understood and were dutifully ready to obey.

My mind started churning and it didn't take long for me to formulate a sneaky plan.

I walked into Grandma's house that day, gave her a big hug, accepted her kiss, and confessed to her that I wasn't allowed to ask for a marshmallow, but that if she offered me one, I was allowed to say "Yes."

Needless to say, I got my marshmallow that day.

Here I am, sitting on Grandma's lap, looking like I've eaten a few marshmallows at this point.

Grandma looks on as I blow out my candles.
She's probably wondering if she should continue to support my marshmallow habit.

It's been a while since I got a marshmallow from Grandma Hazel, but she still greeted me with a twinkle in her eyes over the last few years. She may have forgotten a few things, but she always had that same smile, hug, and kiss for me when I walked in to visit her.


Last year at her 100th birthday party, she looked on with that twinkle again as her grand-daughters helped her blow out 100 candles.

100 years of memories.

100 years of lives being touched with the same sweet, gentle, and oh-so-generous spirit that we celebrated that day.

100 years of serving others, thinking not of herself, but of how she could be Jesus to someone, to everyone, really.



She was radiant, basking in the joy of seeing people whose lives she had touched, people from near and far, coming around to celebrate her.








This week, we celebrate her once more. I'm so looking forward to the stories that we'll tell. I've never looked forward to a visitation and funeral like I am this week.

My Grandma was One of a Kind. She was the person who best exemplified what it meant to be Christ-like. I never heard a word of anger or judgment or hatred or envy from her. Just love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. She was a woman with God's Spirit in her, and now her spirit has returned to God. I look forward to the day we can worship at Jesus' feet together, but until then, I'll do my best to carry on her legacy, in my own meager way.

And just so you know, if you see me with a bag of marshmallows, you're not allowed to ask for one, but if I offer, you're allowed to say "Yes."

Monday, December 14, 2015

Bereans and burritos

The youngest just inadvertently came up with the perfect mascot for our little school...

We were discussing comparing what we hear around us with what the Bible says.  I told the kids that this is what the Bereans did in Acts 17:11 - "...they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so." (ESV)

After a bit more chatter about the Scriptures of that time being the Old Testament, the youngest came out with something that the "Burritos" did. And then, with a sly smile that betrayed his wit, he said, "What? Is that not what they were called? What was it then?"

We all had a good laugh and I declared that we would, henceforth, have "Burritos" as our school mascot.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

When you're just not sure

When the world seems to be spinning out of control and you don't know what to think, remember these simple words:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 
(Mt 22:37)

Love you neighbour as yourself.
(Mt 22:38)

If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn't do it, it is sin for them.
(Ja 4:17)

And go from there.

You are responsible for the choices you make and the actions you take. Take these verses to heart and make good decisions.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Because I want to remember the silliness, too






7:30 am


The girl: "I think it's one of those days where I just want to make a lot of noise all the time."
She's singing random syllables to the tune of "On Top of Old Smokey" now.
It's going to be an interesting morning.


8:45 am

More from the girl...
She: Propaganda!
Me: Did you just say, "Propaganda!"
She: Yep!
Me: Why?
She: I don't know... It just came into my head, and I was pretty sure it was a real word, so I said it.
Now she's singing, "Wise men say only fools rush in..."

It's not even 9:00 am, people.



11:15 am

As I'm getting leftover pizza out to put in the oven...
The girl sniffs: I love today! It smells so good.



11:50 am


To herself: Thank you.
To herself: Thank you for thanking me.
To herself: Thank you for thanking me for thanking you.
To herself: Thank you for thanking me for thanking you for thanking me for thanking you for thanking me for thanking you.
To herself: Ahh, I'm so confused.

~

I'm sure this will be continued...