cooking · faith · family · food · homemaking · Lent · motherhood

Thursday’s Health Report- Consumerism

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Much of what the defenders of the status quo believe to be following a healthy lifestyle is punitive in nature, brilliantly constructed for markets that are driven by profits. This is especially true in the health food market. As a result, we restrict, inflict, prod, poke, examine, analyze, correct, eat this and not that, and chain ourselves to labels.  We pay emotional damages for how uneducated we are, how undisciplined we are, how sick we are, how weak we are…and we believe we deserve it.

The punitive approach to health weighs most heavily on moms (women in general really) who struggle with being enough.  It is very hard to be all things at all times, to do all the right things for our family’s health and happiness.  Women, and especially moms, are brainwashed in a sense.  It’s a false- image of womanhood that includes EVERYTHING- everything we are conditioned to believe is healthy.

As I have struggled with unhealthy habits and the extreme pendulum swings I think will correct unhealthy habits I have discovered a few things.  The first being that I must mistrust the image of womanhood that is constructed by the advertising monopoly if I am to understand the true nature health.  I am convinced that our health has been monetized and re-engineered. We have abandoned age old traditions in favor of supposed advancements and innovation, resulting in a health crisis created by consumerism gone mad.

Sit with that idea for a moment.  Just acknowledging this relieves stress.  It brings back a sense of power.  It detaches us from the frenzy, and our eyes are opened to a lie.

Monetized health does not have to be the norm for me and my family.  I can choose to take a different approach to health, and this approach does not cost a lot of money, it does not require a degree in molecular biology, it does not demand too much energy, and it is NOT punitive. In fact, it’s not really an approach at all.  It is not ideological, exclusive, or secret.

Nothing concerning true health is new-quite the contrary.  It is as old as it gets.  What I want to share, and hopefully work through as I journal, is the journey of living a truly healthy life, the life I was created to live.  Health is about being.  No gimmicks, no tricks, no new revelations, no cutting edge expert advise.

My first Thursday’s Health Report begins in a funny spot, however I think it hits the bullseye. If we as women want to begin to live, and live fully, we might consider getting off the conveyor belt of monetized health. We can choose to unsubscribe to the polls, the statistics, the clicks, the next miracle, the headlines, and the health drama. We can become UN-consumers.  This detox is hard, because we are conditioned to follow the advise of experts.  For reasons that are evident, yet hard to understand, women have willingly forfeited our God-given genius concerning food and health.  We think health is too complicated, too scientific, too much for us to take on ourselves.  This is true in cases of illness, when we truly need the expertise of trained physicians and healers. However, this is not true when it comes to everyday living and living well.

A Country Christmas

I truly believe women have a built in sense about food.  It is a knowing- knowing what to cook, how to cook it, and how to serve it.  The clues we need to Hansel and Gretel our way back to health are present in our food traditions, cultures, and families.  It does not take too many paces for a woman to retrace her steps and find the old country ways. My own Texas farm heritage has wonderfully healthy food traditions; garden fresh vegetables, hearty beef, and lingering conversations at the supper table are three of my favorites.

Women have traditionally been the keepers of food traditions and the preservers of culture. There is something to discover in this- it is a blueprint of health that has preserved generations, and it is a beautiful part of womanhood. This unseen gift gets high-jacked by experts who through science and technology undermine the spiritual nature of the kitchen.  This loss of power, tradition, and confidence is where I want to begin my musings on Thursday’s Health Report.

Try this little exercise:

Go to your kitchen and stand in the middle of the room. Feel the space you take up, feel your weight, feel your body, connect with it.  Stay put for about three minutes.  Stay still until you feel something, anything. 

What did you feel?  Keep trying this exercise until your heart and kitchen connect.  Until you can pray with thankfulness for the opportunity to feed and nurture yourself and others. Often times when I do this, I feel a great sensation of warmth right in the center of my chest near my heart.  It is here that I pray to God.  It is our Creator that is the true source of health. True and deep prayer is also the protocol for a consumerism detox, and a rejuvenation of our food gift.   We have to give up our false- image and turn to the true Image. In this we experience joy, relief, healing, gentleness, mercy, and love- the very opposite of the punitive and rigorous nature of monetized health.

Thursday’s Health Report 3 Weekly Challenges

  1. Archive all the gimmicks and expert advise.
    This will be hard for me, however I know it is necessary.  Often times, I am distracted from being healthy by reading and studying about being healthy.  I want to fill up this extra time and head space with prayer, my duties, long walks, and cooking yummy healthy food!
  2. Don’t buy anything that has a health promise stamped on it. 
    This does not include prescribed medicines and supplements.  Otherwise, I am going to eat real food.  Nothing that has been over-processed, over-rated, or over-advertised.  This means I will do most of my shopping around the outside edges of the grocery store.
  3. Pray and wholeheartedly give thanks for the food that I eat.
    This might seem simplistic, but I wonder how often I do not connect with the Eucharistic nature of mealtime and food. I want to slow down and cultivate a heart of gratitude when it comes to food.  Food is so precious, and wonderful, and life giving. Glory be to God.

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    Will you join me, join the conversation, join me in a few real life challenges, join me in prayer?  This Lent I am hoping to regain health in my home, body, and soul.  I want to return and repent.  I want to regain power- the power that comes from a life that is centered in the right place.  Check back next Thursday for another report about where I am at in this journey. Thank you for reading.  Mandy

 

Christmas · cooking · family · food · homemaking · Nativity · winter

Christmas Dinner

I made a centerpiece for the Christmas table.  Just a simple arrangement of greenery in a vintage camping coffee pot.  This afternoon I am going shopping to purchase a new tablecloth.  My dining room doubles as our schoolroom which makes decorating and creating ambiance a bit of a challenge.  However, after some cleaning and rearranging I think I have it ready for feasting.  Looking forward to cooking and eating together around the table.

Dinner
Rosemary Roasted Chicken
Creamy Mashed Potatoes
Gravy
Almond Green Beans
Wilted Spinach Salad
Yeast Rolls
Desserts
Chess Pie
Christmas Candy
Cookies
books · food · kids · learning · seasons · winter

Long Cold Winter

“Ho, Mouse!” says Hare.
“Long time no see!”
So they pop white corn. 
And they brew black tea.
            -Bear Snores On
cooking · food · homemaking · nutrition

Pie for Dinner

I curled up on my bed with a blanket on Saturday afternoon and read the new Bon Appetit that came in the mail.  This issue featured some great savory pie recipes…great for winter comfort.  The pretty pictures inspired me to make a homemade chicken pot pie with the chicken breasts I thawed for dinner. Is there anything better than buttery flaky pie crust with creamy gravy and warm vegetables?  
I love working with a vinegar pie crust.  The dough is so forgiving and best when it has been refrigerated overnight.
Vinegar Crust 

2 1/2 cups unsifted flour
2 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. vinegar
2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cubed
1/2 cup ice water

Combine flour and salt in a food processor and mix for just a second or two.  Add butter and pulse until mixture is crumbly with a few of the butter chunks still visible.  In a small bowl combine water and vinegar.  Pour liquid into the crumbly mixture a little at a time and pulse until all ingredients are moistened.

Form into a large ball and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for two hours.  Overnight is better.  Divide ball and roll two large pie crusts on a floured surface.  Before baking brush the crust with an egg wash.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes or until crust is golden brown.       

*The vinegar makes the crust tender and easy to work with by not allowing the gluten to over develop.

Christmas · cooking · family · food · fun · http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post · kids · Nativity · parenting

A Country Christmas

We celebrated the Butler Christmas at a ranch in Abilene. My sister-in-law’s family invited us for a weekend in the country, and it was perfect.  I cannot remember when I have had a better time.  It was relaxing and hearty…good for the soul and senses.  Country folk really do have the most fun…especially if those country folk are from Texas!

Simple gifts…nothing extravagant.

Rustic ambiance. 
A warm and cozy bunkhouse.  My oldest brother Josh said, “This feels like church camp.”

We gather in the kitchen.  Lots of great conversation.
Tamales and our parents!  Two of my favorite things.
Lots of cooking.

More cooking.

A porch swing.

Cheese and wine.
The best food.  Featuring a prime rib with horseradish sauce and au jus. 

Outdoor fun!  We also took a Christmas carol hayride underneath the Abilene starlit sky.

Four wheelin’ on trails.  Throwing rocks in the pond.  Looking for wildlife.  Kickin’up dirt! 

A large covered porch for outdoor fun.

A spirited game of spoons!

Cousins are the best!

Amma brought a bag of Christmas books to read to the grands!

 Christmas dishes with red solo cups…what’s more country than that?  

 The girls made blankets together!

The smiles come easy.
The dogs are in heaven.
cooking · family · food · motherhood · nutrition · parenting

Our Family Cookbook

The best recipes are the ones your mother made….the ones found on the family tree.  The other day I was perusing a cookbook that my Granny authored, and I was struck by it’s prose and meditations.  It tells a story, as do all good cookbooks.  No fat grams, or calories, or nutrition facts…no, just good food made by hands and seasoned with the heart.

I love a good cookbook, but what I love more is knowing how to cook…I have a long line of matriarchs to thank for that…I think my husband and children join me in thanksgiving.

A good home cook can transform whatever is in the pantry into a feast, even if the ingredients are not the best money can buy. And resourcefulness and creativity are a home cook’s pleasure…what makes cooking fun.  It is amazing what my mom could do with a whole chicken back when she did not have a whole lot of money to spend at the grocery store.  We used to tease her and say that she could make four meals for five with one bird. Funny story, but when I really think about the wonderful meals my mother cooked when we were poor as church mice…well, I just stand in awe.

 I made a pumpkin and buttermilk pie today.  As I cooked these family recipes, I reflected on my Granny…now in a nursing home.  She is a great cook…the best kind.  Below is the cookbook’s dedication in her words,

…to Mama (Bertie Jayroe) for keeping the tradition of family meals and foods alive.  Mother’s farsightedness and commitment created this multigenerational history of family eats.  It contains a personal family tree from which nurturing and incredible resourcefulness is found in the skill of the kitchen and pantry…few women of today manage to create lunches and dinners from scratch every day, including desserts. 

She (Mama) made the best chicken and dumplings.  Her famous (from scratch) blackberry cobbler was the best there ever was.  Daddy liked her cobbler the best of all.  The berries were hand picked by Daddy from his blackberry patch in the orchard.  Mama and Daddy raised there own chickens then.  One was caught, killed, and plucked for the chicken and dumplings.  All this required time, so my parents always rose early.  As her children, we are very fortunate to have smelled, tasted, and eaten so well.  But more so to have the values of a good home so deeply engraved.  Again, thanks Mama.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone…may we offer true thanks for what the earth has given and human hands have made.   
baby · books · cleaning · faith · family · food · http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post · kids · learning · marriage · motherhood · organizing · Orthodoxy · parenting

Christ in Our Midst

Tonight I headed out to the art shed to look for a set of Logic books that I need for a class I am thinking about teaching in the spring.  When I opened the door to this small space I was aghast at it’s condition.  My two oldest daughters use this space the most, and it was amazing to me that such little care is taken with all the very expensive art supplies in their room.  This space is intended to be an artist’s retreat…a renovated plant shed fully furnished with oils, canvases, watercolors, chalks, charcoal, drawing pencils, instruction books, etc.  I left the little wreck of a room quite angry.  Before prayers I had a chat with the girls about caring for our home and respecting the things in it as objects of great value.  Because things do have value…and not just monetary value. They have value in themselves.

In a world that has gone spiritually mad it is often difficult to understand the material world…to value it in such a way that elevates it as holy.  And yes, I believe paint and pencils and books are holy things, along with everything else in the created world.  One of my favorite authors, Madeleine L’Engle, sums it up quite nicely in her wonderful book Walking on Water

 “There is nothing so secular that it cannot be sacred, and that is one of the deepest messages of the Incarnation.” (And if you love the subjects of art and faith this is a must read…a must purchase.)

When I first read that book in my early twenties it was like a butterfly effect in my life…a small change that created an earthquake later down the road.  And since, I have been utterly undone by the knowledge of the Incarnation and its implications.  A simple shift, yet so profound…no longer must the material world be subject to the murderous accusation of being evil, or worse, mundane. No longer must men decide if some thing is good…if some thing is evil.  Everything God created is good!

Christ became man, taking on flesh, showing that man can become by grace what Christ is by nature…we become the body of Christ.  Christ showed us that the material world is good, and real, and valuable.  It’s all very deep, and I do not intend to get in over my head in theology.  But, at the same time I know that this knowledge, however limited and shallow, has changed my life. This knowledge can change one’s entire inner posture and experience.  Because of Christ man has the power to redeem his world….to live the incarnation.  Every good work is essentially an incarnational work.  And what we would deem as bad works, or sin, have no material value because evil cannot create anything.

But, I am a common housewife…busy with so-called mundane tasks…tasks that go unnoticed and undervalued by a world that is high on ideological promises and rhetoric.  A world that believes ideas change the world, not home cooked meals and prayers before bed.  How can this common housewife be anything more than the one saddled with all the unpleasant necessaries…the stuff that has to be done so we can get on with the real business of the world?  Is my work really valuable…the work of my hands?  Is it incarnational…dirty diapers, really?  

And yet, here I am tonight thinking about art supplies and how they are holy and how if my children will value them it will grow in them a heart after God.  And how lately I have been in a modern mood…not really valuing things…and barely tolerating people.  A momentary lapse of heart…that’s what it really is.

After I came in from the art shed I opened the altar cabinet doors, and I decided to take care of something valuable…something I have been neglecting…the liturgical supplies.  Incense has permeated the wood along with the earthy smell of beeswax.  It is a wonderful smell, and it did my heart good to touch the things in the cabinet, holy things.  I looked across my living room and an interesting thought crossed my mind…everything in this room is holy. This is the antidote for my modern mood…for my lack of enthusiasm.  Every thing and every person in this home has value…in and of itself.  And I am the keeper…the keeper at home…the keeper of home.

My work is holy.  And every thing I encounter in my day; the laundry, the crying, the dishes, the food, the neighbor, the phone call…every demand, every interruption, every failure, every trill of laughter is…

Christ in our midst.

Most days these kinds of thoughts do not pass through my mind. Most days I just get up and put my work boots on…one at a time.  But sometimes it is good to remember, especially when life begins to stretch me thin and and I feel like my work is drudgery.  Sometimes we keepers at home can get in a bad way.

Tomorrow I am going to help the girls make things right in the art shed.  I plan on cooking a nice dinner and finishing up the laundry.  I hope to steal away for a bit and finish my Journey to Nativity calendar.  There’s always school that needs doin’, and babies that need rockin’, and dishes that need washin’.  And I am going to read this post again in the morning…and remind myself that all of this…this big life that wears me out…it’s holy…it’s valuable…it’s incarnational.

It’s Christ in our midst.