Saturday, March 14

Random Thought of the Day: Self-Mummification

When I think of mummies (which, admittedly, isn't often), I think of Evie from The Mummy excitedly explaining how mummification involves ripping one's brains out through one's nostrils... and Rick's prompt, disgusted response that he does not want to be signed up for that if they don't make it out of their adventure alive!

So I was both fascinated and appalled to find out that people can actually mummify themselves - as publicized recently by the discovery of an actual mummified monk inside a stature of Buddha.

Apparently, it's a pretty finicky process - and unpopular for all the reasons you might expect. But it's well documented and wasn't particularly uncommon among certain sects throughout history. It was considered a fairly sure path to sainthood (especially welcome if you were having trouble with the whole "performing miracles" option).

As usual, though, my line of thinking when discovering random (slightly gruesome), fascinating factoids like this quickly came around to "why am I only just learning about this?!" I was very privileged growing up. I had parents to loved to read, read widely, and made sure I was a good reader too. I read far more (and more widely) than most kids I knew. And still, there are so many things that never even showed up on my radar!

I know that schools get a lot of grief these days for everything we think they're doing wrong. Public libraries scramble for funding, and focus on technology because that's where the money is. Museums try to line up with common core and STEM - also largely for funding reasons. But I can't help thinking that we'd do so much better at keeping children's attention and spurring them to self-educate and become better readers and thinkers if they had access to these kinds of stories. Not as pre-packaged lesson plans or History Channel episodes, but as stuff to read and write about on their own, just because it's naturally engaging. (As I've mentioned before, anything with guts/gore/death is great for keeping kids' attention!

That's all... there isn't any great point or call to action for this post. Just a public service announcement that if winter and cabin fever have you suffocating under the mundane, there are still gloriously intriguing things available to revive and reinvigorate your brain.... only a click or the flip of a page away.   :)

Thursday, March 12

Realism or Terrorism?

Several weeks ago now, it was all over the news that ISIS had burned a captured Jordanian pilot alive. Fox News was supposedly the only outlet to air the entire, unedited video online. 

They took a lot of flack for that, with professionals in Washington griping about how doing so just aided the terrorists by spreading terror. To a degree, I see their point. 

On the other hand, I was surprised by the level of vitriol spouted in their direction. It was clearly marked as graphic and violent, and you couldn't stumble on it by accident - you had to intentionally search to find the video, and it'd be darn hard not to recognize what you were about to see before you clicked on it. 

Was it a horrific event that no sane person should ever hope to witness? Absolutely. But that doesn't make it any less real.

It happened, and in the face of apologist politicians, the gags of politically correct speech, and the wave of young people from democratic western nations abandoning their lives to go join militant Islamic causes in misguided perceptions of glorious holy wars, it seems like there may very well be a legitimate place for such appalling realities in our media and news coverage. 

Would those young people still perceive ISIS and its ilk in a positive light if they were confronted with this kind of carnage in all its too-real horror instead of the sanitized, "professional" summaries and carefully selected stills that populate most news reports? Would our politicians still talk about peace and compromise if they had to watch the video and imagine their sons and brothers in that pilot's place?

This war may not be happening on our own turf right now, but that doesn't mean it doesn't affect us. We have men and women in harm's way too, and they could be subject to this kind of horror just as easily. Burying our heads in the sand by suppressing these kinds of videos puts us at a disadvantage. It allows us to pretend or ignore or mitigate cold, harsh realities, and leaves us unprepared when they come crashing into our world. (9/11 anyone?)

The world can be a rough place, and I've no desire to make it any tougher on people by subjecting them to daily onslaughts of all that is dark and evil in the world. But trying to hide it and pretend that such things don't exist by simply refusing en masse to publish the evidence is a foolish and self-handicapping approach to dealing with the challenges we face. We can do better, and we should. 

What do you think? Where is the line between facing reality and unnecessarily spreading terror?

Tuesday, March 10

Blue & White Quilt - Finally Finished!

At the beginning of the year, I determined that I was going to finally tackle the pile of neglected quilting sprawled across our library. I hadn't been intentionally avoiding it. But between being very busy, multi-tasking my sewing space, and not having a clear plan for what needed to happen next, I just wasn't making any progress on it. 

I spent whatever free time I could find in February sorting, ironing, and organizing. As I got things put in some kind of order, I selected a blue and white quilt top as my first project to be finished. I picked a light blue cotton sheeting for the back, and re-purposed an old blanket as thick, warm batting. I found a very pretty dark blue fabric with a flowered print to use as a binding, and blanket-stitched it on for variety and durability.

It took longer than planned (everything always does), and I wasn't sure it was all going to come together, but I'm very happy with the finished product!  The darker binding really made it all work. 

It's an over-sized lap quilt, perfect for snuggling on the couch when it's stupid cold and gross outside or for dragging outside to lounge in the sun this summer. (Not that we actually ever have time to lounge in the summer, but it's a nice idea!)

Happily, all the sorting and ironing that went into prepping for this one set me up for success for the second finished quilt top from my stack! I found backing fabric for it, and it's all pinned up with batting and backing, and waiting to be stitched together. Hopefully I'll make time to stitch and bind that this week, and have another happy quilting post for you soon!  :)

Sunday, March 8

Winter: 2; Ash Bucket(s): 0

It's pretty universally agreed that the majority of the country is tired of winter right now. To say there has been a TON of snow, and that it has been crazy cold, is an understatement.

But nothing really brought the point home like killing two ash buckets in less than a month. We heat the house almost solely with wood, which is generally awesome, but when it's stupid cold and we're burning hard the ashes can pile up quickly, no matter how efficient we try to be.

When I went to pick up the first bucket from where I'd left it outside the front door, and bottom completely detached from the top, I wasn't really upset. It was inconvenient, but it had come with house. If everything else we've seen was any indication, it was probably cheap to begin with and God only knows how long the previous owners had had it. I figured it didn't owe us anything. 

Then I found out how expensive those things are! After I got over being appalled that someone would expect me to pay $70 for a bucket that I would use six months a year to dump fireplace ashes, I told myself it would probably last us forever. That would make the cost per use really low, and make it qualify as an investment...  Until it broke, two weeks later. 

Seriously?! Two ash buckets in less than a month?! *sigh*

Thankfully, I had filed the receipt so I can return it. I also discovered that such buckets can be bought cheaper... at Tractor Supply, of all places! So ultimately, it will work out to be a good thing, but I still take the demise of such utilitarian tools as a mark of nasty this winter has been.

We're on track to put the final nail in the coffin of our "indestructible" maul this year as well. No one said heating with firewood was easy on the tools! Still, I'm tremendously grateful that as our neighbors deal with high (electric/propane) heating bills and dump money into yet another pallet of pellets, we still have firewood from our own land laid up to see us through. We will definitely adjust our estimates of much to lay in every year based on this experience, though! And hopefully, the next ash bucket we buy will be the last...

Monday, February 23

Cocoa Toasted Cauliflower (Paleo/Whole 30 Approved)

Photo from The Clothes Make the Girl (link at left)
When I picked up Melissa Joulwan's Well Fed and Well Fed 2 cookbooks, I was a little skeptical of her recipe for roasting cauliflower with cocoa. Honestly, I haven't ever been much of a fan of cauliflower and have had a hard time wrapping my head around the apparent Paleo obsession with it.

However, having some frozen cauliflower on hand I gave it try anyway... and it was really good! Very different than anything I've had before, and not quite what I expected, but super easy and excellent.

Get the recipe free online at her site The Clothes Make the Girl.

(It's Whole 30 approved, so you know it's clean!)

Friday, February 20

Happy National Handcuff Day

Did you know that today is National Handcuff Day?

As I did last year, I would like to take this opportunity to suggest that you take a moment to go read the excellent post from ITS Tactical on how to escape from zip ties (which you're much more likely to be bound with than you are to be snapped into handcuffs in the event of a home invasion or other illegal attack).

Escaping From Zip Ties @ ITS Tactical

And, because no reference to handcuffs would be complete with a mention of the Doctor and his beautiful River:

Thursday, February 19

Alternative Pizza Crust Roundup

Since going wheat-free in December, I've been pleasantly surprised to discover that it was less difficult than I anticipated. (Albeit mostly because I can get decent rice-based pasta so I didn't have to completely give up my repertoire of last-minute back up recipes when I'm in a pinch.)

The biggest challenge has been figuring out what to do about our long-standing tradition of Pizza Fridays. I have been trying to avoid buying GF flours because I seriously doubt the quality of what I can get around here. I am capable of making my own, but officially too lazy to get into that right now. (Although a friend did send me a tried and true recipe if I find some good flour and decide to give it a go.)

Eggplant Pizzas - photo by Eat Good 4 Life
So, I scoured the web and looked at my alternatives. I finally settled on trying crusts made from cauliflower spinach, and eggplant. The verdicts?

Cauliflower: Good, but not a substitute for pizza crust. Might be a nice alternative breadstick option, but just didn't have the right consistency to work for pizza.

Spinach: Similar to the cauliflower, this was pretty good but not a substitute for pizza crust. Interestingly, I was way more impressed with this the next day when eaten cold.

Eggplant: I actually thought these would be great party appetizers. They were very cute, easy to put together and yummy. They were not, however, a substitute for pizza.

The end result of all this testing? We're switching Pizza Fridays to Cabonara Fridays until I find/break down and make decent GF flour to try my friend's recipe with. I'll make an occasional pizza with my beloved wheat crust for my husband, because he loves it and I love making the dough - I'll just do it when I don't plan to be home for dinner, or when I've got something else I'll enjoy just as much to eat.

Although not appropriate as pizza substitutes, all the recipes linked above were healthy, delicious, cheap, and tasted good. (And can be topped with any combination of things that sounds good.) So if you're looking to change up your recipes or try something new, give them a go!