Happy Thanksgiving. Let’s Talk Food Traditions

Food TraditionsIn the spirit of Thanksgiving, I thought I’d share a little memory of it.

Lefse.

My Mom is Norwegian. My grandfather was actually born in Norway, and my grandmother wasn’t too far removed from her Norwegian roots. Needless to say, Norwegian food traditions have been a part of my family gatherings since my birth and before.

So, let me explain a little bit about this strange stuff called Lefse.

Lefse is essentially a really flat potato pancake. You have to have a special iron and a special spatula-type thing that allows you to turn the individual lefse pieces. Very much like pancakes, only much much thinner. Once cooked, it can be refrigerated, frozen, and just generally abused and all you have to do is re-heat it a little, and voila! Good as fresh. You add butter to it, sugar, jams….whatever you’d like.

Lefse is good. It’s also a total mess to make. Picture flour all over your kitchen, and be sure to dedicate an entire day. You may also want to invest in extra flour. It’s a labor of love – like most food from the “old world” is.

Lutefisk.

Lutefisk is what I like to call “Famine Food.” Famine Food is stuff borne out of being extremely hungry and you think “What have I got to lose?”

Let’s listen in on a conversation between Ole & Sven.

Ole: Sven! I caught a cod!
Sven: Great! But…it has to last us. Who knows when we’ll catch another one?
Ole: Well, let’s see what we can use to keep it so it won’t go bad.
Sven: Hey! There’s some lye. I bet that will work.
Ole: Good thinkin’ Sven!

And thus Lutefisk was born. It’s cod soaked in lye. Or, as SubBro calls it “fish Jell-o.”

Let’s listen in on Sven & Ole again, after completing their yummy new creation:

Sven: Hmm.
Ole: Yeah.
Sven: I’ll try it if you try it.
Ole: Deal.

It’s stinky stuff. My Aunt & grandma were the only ones who ate it, so it was confined to their corner of the table.

It’s worth it to keep these recipes and traditions alive, especially when food has become increasingly Westernized and homogenized. Variety is good. Tradition is good. Learning the “old world” ways helps to keep our histories, and our futures, alive. Plus, you get to do all those wonderful yummies in a modern kitchen.

So, in the spirit of Thanksgiving…..take a moment to look behind you and at all the wonderful things – and maybe a few of the not so wonderful things, like lutefisk, – that give you your memories, context, and a slightly larger waistline. There is much to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving. Eat all the white food you can manage.

 

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Happy Eighth Birthday, Boy Child.

I love you. You make us smile, laugh, yell, cheer, and dream for you.

Your tender sweetness takes my breath away sometimes.

When you offer your sister a piece of your Halloween candy because you can tell she’s feeling sad, my heart bursts with joy. You know how to love, and show how to love.

All the feelings you have come bursting to the surface in your infectious laugh, your charming smile, your frustrated tears, and your warm hugs.

Now that you’re eight, I see my sweet baby ebbing away, and the little man you are becoming is working it’s way to the surface. When I think of you as a grown man, my fondest wish is that you keep that sense of joy, that loud laugh, and those feelings right at the surface, so the people in your life can see what love looks like. What joy looks like.

What being full of life looks like.

IMG_2847

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Growing Up Girl Child: Mood Swings

mood swingsMood Swings. The Bain Of Our Existence.

Ah, mood swings. A female rite of passage. One minute you’re fine, the next minute, you’re bawling for no apparent reason. It feels weird to be crying for no reason, so you make one up. That way you appear less insane.

This happened a few mornings ago. She poured herself some cereal without realizing that I had poured a bowl for her already.

Burst into tears. ?

So we had a conversation about the whole thing when she had calmed down a little:

Girl: “Has this ever happened to you?”

Me: Absolutely.

Girl: WHY? THIS IS AWFUL!

Me: Yep. Can’t lie about that. It stinks.

Girl: When did you have mood swings?

Me: When I was your age, and then at the end of my pregnancy with you. I remember the most ridiculous things would upset me. I swear, I would drop my pen on the ground or something stupid like that, and start crying because it was hard to pick up. My belly was in the way and it would send me over the edge. Your poor dad didn’t know what to do.

Girl: What did you do?

Me: Rode it out. It’s just a feeling. You don’t have to attach it to anything. When you feel that stress coming on, and you want to cry, go ahead. Just know the feeling doesn’t need a permanent home with some vague issue that’s not really an issue. It took me practically a lifetime to learn that. Feelings don’t need to latch themselves on to anything.

Girl: Ok. (*sniffle)

Remember ladies – feels can be bullshit.

mood swings

 

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GMO Labeling: Vote Yes On Oregon’s Measure 92

YGMO labelinges on 92: the GMO labeling initiative in Oregon.

Here are some facts:

1) GMO is *not* the same as hybridization. If someone says, “we’ve been genetically engineering food for centuries.” They’re only partially correct. Historically farmers and agriculturalists have crossed like with like. E.g., pluot, broccolini, etc. Genetic engineering is like with UNlike. E.g., Corn DNA with soil bacteria DNA. (BT Corn. Actual product in our food.) The two would never cross without human intervention.

2) Labeling of GMO’s is required in 64 countries around the world. The companies pouring in money to fight labeling actually already do it with the products they sell overseas. (General Mills, Kraft, Pepsi, Coke…) One reason European countries cite for labeling is the ability to track potential allergens.

Here is an example of Hershey’s syrup from the UK, where GMO labeling has been in place for many years:

hershey's UK label

Ingredients read:HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP* CORN SYRUP* WATER, COCOA, SUGAR* SALT, EMULSIFIER, (xanthum gum E415) VANILLIN, ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR. *produced from genetically modified sugar beets and corn.

 

3) A recent study found the GMO labeling cost to consumers? $2.30 per year. YEAR. Not day-week-month. YEAR.

4) Since the introduction of GMO’s to our food supply, the use of Glyphosate (aka RoundUp) and other agricultural chemicals has increased exponentially as the bugs and weeds evolve to withstand the heavy spraying. It’s in our rainwater, urine, breastmilk….and being sprayed or dripped constantly. The chemical has a proven (negative) effect on human cells. GMO crops are, in fact, increasing  dependence on agricultural chemicals, not decreasing it as was previously thought.

5) The definition of epigenetics: relating to or arising from nongenetic influences on gene expression. In other words, how we interact with our environment and the everyday things in it (food, chemicals, even social interactions, etc.) influences our genetics. Previously, it was thought that these “epi-tags” would not carry through from generation to generation. New research on genetic science (long after genetic engineering of food made the scene) has found that, in fact, what your grandmother ate or was exposed to environmentally actually affects YOU and your children. My argument: how do we know what we engineer now will appear two generations down the line? Learn more about epigenetics here: (and please pay particular attention to number 2: prenatal care and exposure to pesticides and herbicides.

6) The effects of what we interact with in our environment isn’t always known right away. An NPR story on rats and DDT illustrates the science of epigenetics: rats exposed to DDT had third-generation obesity amongst the population. Meaning, the DDT-exposed rat’s great-grandchildren were obese. DDT is a pesticide that was heavily used post-World War II. It was banned in 1972 because of concern over it’s affect on human health.

The science of epigenetics is emerging and we are learning more all of the time. It appears we won’t know the long-term effects of environmental exposures and changes to our food supply on human health for generations to come. Is exercising caution and implementing GMO labeling *that* big of a deal?

7) REMINDER: It’s a LABEL. That’s it. No one is telling these megacorps that they can’t use GM ingredients. We are telling them they should let us know, so we can make an informed choice. That’s it. Choice. If the presence of GMO’s in your food doesn’t bother you: no problem. If it does bother you or give you pause, shouldn’t you be able to choose?

I want to say, here, that I am not anti-science. I am grateful for all the discoveries science has brought us. Vaccines, antibiotics, the computer I’m typing this post on…the list goes on. What I do believe is blind faith in of-the-moment science can have consequences we aren’t prepared for. At one point we were collectively told formula was better than breastmilk, because science had produced a better product. We know, through science, that is simply not the case. We were told that margarine was better for us than butter, because science had concluded that the fats from butter were causing heart disease. Food science then created a product called “partially hydrogenated vegetable oils,” also known as trans-fats. Through science we have now concluded margarine is actually much worse than butter on human health.

Science is not infallible.

The time has come for GMO labeling.

Yes on 92.

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What Is Real Food?

real food

The Real Food Question

I’ve publicly talked about food, and how we as a country have become so far removed from the sources of what we eat. I’ve advocated for GMO labeling, largely because I think it’s a basic human right to know exactly what’s been done to what you are putting into your body. It’s your BODY for Pete’s sake. Make choices based on what you know, and when you know better, choose better.

But I’m seeing a sad trend in relation to food choices: shaming. “Ew, how can you EAT that? It’s not ORGANIC.” Or, I don’t feed my kids McDonald’s, how could YOU?”

We, as a family, volunteer once a month at our church with an organization called Faith Cafe, where we prepare and serve a free lunch to people in the area. No preaching, no evangelizing, just food, conversation, and care for hungry people. Seconds and thirds are available if asked for.

In the almost year that we’ve been volunteering there, not one single patron has asked me if the food we serve was organic. Not one person has asked if the hamburger was pink slime hamburger or “real” hamburger. No one has questioned whether the hamburger bun had the yoga mat chemical in it. It’s been a humbling and eye-opening experience for me. I’ve woken up to my own food snobbery. Based on my experiences with volunteering in this capacity, I’ve come to this conclusion:

Food that fills their tummies and blesses them so that they carry on another day is real food.

As we go hurtling headlong into the big food fight coming, I’m really concerned that we are creating a two-tiered food system: those who CAN buy “real food” and those who can’t.

Food that fills a body and allows that person to continue on is real food.

Should we rely less on a box of processed “food-like substances?” Of course. We’ve been given a bounty all around us of things to eat that help us grow, maintain our health, and even heal us in some cases. It’s unfortunate that the politics and the money machines have taken hold and made the least nutritious food the most affordable. It’s also unfortunate that we have been programmed by this disease of abundance to seek out only the things that give us a sweet or salty or fatty fix.

The topic of food is so incredibly complicated that I can’t even begin to unravel what we have done to our food supply in the last sixty years. However, the fact remains that food, regardless of its source, fills the mouths and tummies of those who need to eat it. Let’s keep the fighting about what is “good” and “real food” out of the mouths of the children and their parents who can least afford a hat in this particular ring.

Feed people. Teach them how to feed themselves with gardens and co-ops and books like this. Teach people what foods truly nourish theirs and their children’s bodies. But please, don’t judge and shame someone who has to choose between vegetables or making their rent this month. Because for them? What they can feed themselves and their hungry children is real food. And then, put your money where your organic mouth is and teach, share, and help. Looking down your nose at a person either making a different choice than you, or is forced to make a different choice than you is shameful.  If your attitude makes a person feel embarrassed about their food choices, the problem is yours.

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Growing Up Girl Child: My First Instagram Account

first instagram account

picture: Instagram http://instagram.com/press/

I finally gave in. Yep. Girl Child is now the proud owner of her very first instagram account. Seeing as she’s just heading into seventh grade, SubHub and I second guessed ourselves on this one quite a bit. She has my old iPhone 4 for her personal use, and at the moment she does not have cell service on it. So far, she hasn’t needed it. She texts over WiFi without any issues. When she has after school activities, she can text me using the school’s WiFi. So far we’ve dodged the “add a line” cell phone bullet.

And So It Begins

Instagram? A whole different animal than cell service. I made the decision when I started blogging in 2007 that I would share Girl Child’s story, including pictures. Oh, how naïve and cute that was. I think in the years following, many parents and an entire generation of kids have learned that a picture is worth a million reshares, whether you want it to get reshared or not.

This is one of those moments that I feel like it was a lucky twist of fate that I got into blogging and social media when I did. So, when the inevitable happened and she asked for an account, I was ready. As ready as I guess a parent ever really can be.

My First Instagram Account: The Rules

Here’s where I cop to being an extremely strict parent. I’ve been paying attention all these years to what gets shared, what makes viral headlines, and what just counts as obnoxious behavior from kids whose pre-frontal cortex needs some work that only growing up and life experience can make happen. A friend of mine says, “Kids run ’til they find the fence.” For Girl Child, the social media fence is close to the house where everyone can see it. These were the rules we agreed on:

  • Her account is private. Anyone sees her profile has to request to follow her.
    • She cannot let anyone follow her that she does not know in real life.
    • Conversely, she cannot request to follow anyone she does not know in real life.
  • She cannot put personal information in her public bio.
    • Personal information consists of: age, birthdate, address, her personal email address, etc.
  • I have to be one of her followers.
  • Her older female cousins have to be her followers also. They are 15 and 18 years old, and have experience.
  • For the time being, she asks permission of me to post a picture.
  • If she wants to leave a comment on someone’s picture, we talk about what’s appropriate and what isn’t, including the use of hashtags.
  • She cannot reshare other people’s photos if they have private accounts.

As you can see, her first instagram account is tightly controlled. It’s also working. She is very reserved socially at school, and this is afforded her an opportunity to share pieces of her personality that she’s too shy to let shine in big noisy groups. Her school acquaintances have found her and requested to follow her, and she is following back. It’s opening up new possibilities for her as she starts to consider what she thinks is “share-worthy” about her and her life.

The rule that she has to show me what pictures she wants to post has come in handy, too. She brought a picture to me that she wasn’t sure of. It was selfie she took where she had face paint on. This led to a very productive conversation about “What if this gets shared by people? How would you feel about that?” She decided against it.

In talking about this entire thing, we also had to prepare her for the potential for hurt feelings. Her friends may post pictures of things that they have done together, and she wasn’t invited to join. This can hurt, even if you’re an adult. And it happened. She WAS hurt, but took it in stride, didn’t make any comments on the picture, and moved on.

Maturity vs. Sophistication

I’m trying to help her build a pause button before she hits send. I see parents everywhere mistake sophistication for maturity, and I can’t help but wonder if it leaves the child confused, or with a false sense of their perceived importance. We all know that adolescence is when we, as humans, are the most inward focused. I’m doing my darndest to make certain that her sense of importance comes from real maturity, not just the illusion of it.

She knows where the fence is.

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Service Is To Serve

service

Service

It’s been an interesting transition for me going from “mommy blogger” (which everyone seems to have a distaste for lately) to a behind the scenes content person for small businesses. I’ve been writing less here because of it.

But oh….I’ve learned so much. I’ve learned about online marketing, SEO, improved my writing in areas such as tone, grammar, readability, word choice…and for a writerly nerd like me, it’s been fantastic.

Here’s one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned:

The best online marketing plan on earth won’t make up for rudeness and a lack of willingness to be humble with your customer.

I can spend hours writing a post with a friendly, welcoming tone, stating that the business is there for their customer’s needs 24/7. I can make it perfectly clear that the business WANTS business and will provide the service they are selling with a friendly face, kind words, and a smile.

When a person online reads this, believes my words, calls the business only to be met with defensiveness, rudeness, and an overwhelming desire to get in the last word, I’ve just been made a liar.

I spent many years on the front line of dealing with the public. I worked in retail, restaurants, front offices and phone software support. I’ve worked with children and their parents. I’ve seen people be crazy mad, upset, fearful, and even sad. Here’s what you DO NOT do:

Hang up on them. Turn your back. Tell them that their business isn’t worth your time or effort. Tell them that they don’t understand what YOU have to deal with being the owner of said business.

I get it. Being humble is hard. It’s really difficult to listen to someone bitching at you. Listen anyway. Because really, that’s what most of us truly want: to be heard.

Most of the time, when I was dealing with a person who was really hot, my silence while they vented was all it took to cool them down. I would say, “I hear you. This is my understanding of what happened. What would you like the result of this conversation to be?” If they interrupt you, let them.

If you are providing a service, you may believe that your customer needs you and your knowledge, and therefore when they have a complaint they couldn’t possibly know what they are talking about. You’re wrong. You don’t know what your customer has been through that day, that week, or that month, or even that year. That’s when you allow yourself to be a blank slate. They can call you any name in the book. Let it roll off your back. Get to the heart of the problem, do your best to fix it, and then move on. As often as possible make certain that the customer leaves the conversation feeling like they’ve been heard.

The root of the word service is serve. Did you know there are two definitions of serve? One is to perform duties and services for a person or organization. This is the second definition:

be of service to, be of use to, helpassistaid, make a contribution to,do one’s bit for, do something for, benefit

As a business owner, success depends on you embodying both definitions.

 

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Imperfectly Perfect Family Photo

Perfect family.

Pffft. Back in December, I had an epiphany of sorts.

We went tromping through muddy, melting snow with friends to pick out a Christmas tree. I forgot my “good” camera, so our phone cameras had to do.

Here is the picture we took of our “perfect family:”

perfect family

It captures us totally. Ok, fine. I did a little edge burn on the sides of the photo, but this is us.

I wanted to send it for our Christmas cards this year, but it was frowned upon by an older family member. I caved. And I’m sorry and kinda mad at myself that I did. In previous generations, the pressure to appear like everything was fine must have been intense. It permeates all the way down to our Christmas cards in 2014. “What will the neighbors think?”

I’ve decided that I don’t really care what the neighbors think. This is who we are, warts and all. Please note: not actual warts. I’m talking about the metaphorical kind. I think when the warts are out in the open, we’re all better able to understand that messiness is life. And that’s ok to let it stick out.

Say, for instance, on your Christmas card photos.

And truthfully, that’s what I want people to see. Not my shiny ‘everything’s FINE!’ Christmas card picture. I want people to see that there is joy in the mess. That there’s a mess in the joy. That you’re going to forget your good camera, that you’ll step in a snow puddle up to your knee, that only two of the four of you will be facing the camera at any given moment, and that’s life. And that’s a life I’m really proud of. Faking it is exhausting. And I also think that faking it eventually makes it all crumble down around you because you can no longer figure out what’s the real messy family and what’s the fake perfect family.

Boy Child went to school last week in pajama pants. He was happy as a clam. And comfortable. He didn’t care that they were pajamas. He was totally himself and full of joy that day because he didn’t have to fake being perfect and comfortable.

We could learn alot from Boy Child.

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#PrayForReynolds: Yet ANOTHER School Shooting

I wrote a post shortly after the Newton tragedy. And then, when there was a shooting earlier in the year in Colorado, I published it again.

Here I am. Sharing it once again.

Live civilly. Teach civility. Love on another. Lead your children with love. Show them. Prove to them that they mean something to you. And if they are hurting or troubled, get them help. Denial of trouble can lead to tragedy.

We can talk all we want about gun control; we can argue until we’re blue in the face about whose fault it is, what’s wrong with kids, what’s wrong with parents, what’s wrong with us…..as if there was one simple answer to the layers of sadness and desperation that surround us. Maybe there is a simple answer, but it won’t be legislated or broadcast on cable news in a split-screen debate.

There Is No Absolute

Children, who were essentially the same age as my children, were gunned down in school yesterday. We scream and cry, “how could this happen?” As parents, our greatest fear bubbled violently to the surface of our consciousness on Friday, and we are left fumbling in the dark for answers.

I don’t think there are any.

How could there be? It defies logic to any person whose brain is working the way it’s supposed to. And there’s the divide: brains working the way they’re supposed to.

I’ve seen so many say, “Gun control is the answer!” I’ve seen others say, “Evil reigned yesterday because we have become a Godless society!”

But the raw, ugly truth is that there is no absolute solution. You can’t force a person to believe in God. You can’t legislate sanity or courtesy. People are messy. We are all different.

At the same time, though, here’s what we CAN do: Love one another. Think before we speak. Teach civility, live civilly, and act on the impulse to reach out to others who are hurting. The people we reach out to may not reciprocate. Reach anyway. It’s worth the effort. People, no matter what their circumstance, are worth the effort, regardless of whether or not your efforts are appreciated. Try. Teach our children to try.

Peace in all of our hearts and minds will come when we truly understand that the essential nature of human beings is connection. Love combined with action drives out darkness. The person you avoid because they are so very different than you, could be the person who needs you the most.

“The good you do today,
people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.”

~Mother Theresa

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