Domestic skills

I was in the mood to cook tonight when I got off work, so I went to the grocery store and picked up ingredients for a classic hippie recipe: No-bakes, otherwise known as “ganja goo balls.”

Except, y’know, these will just be goo balls — sans ganja — since I don’t do the better-living-through-chemistry thing.

Recipe goes like this:

Half a medium-sized box of quick-cook oats (about 3 cups)
Bag of coconut
Bag of chocolate chips
Two sticks of butter, melted
About a cup of peanut butter
Honey as appropriate (start with about half a cup and go from there)
Chopped nuts if you want

Mix the dry ingredients first. Add the peanut butter and honey and mix everything together. Pour in the melted butter. If you let it come to a boil and pour it in while it’s still foaming, it will melt the chocolate chips so you get chocolate all through the mixture.

Stir it up and stick it in the freezer for about 15 minutes to help it set up a little bit. Take it out, roll into small balls, and store in Tupperware in the fridge. You can roll these in powdered sugar, nuts, or sprinkles or dip them in chocolate if you want, but I never bother. They’re good enough on their own.

Makes enough to feed an army. They’re awfully rich; I can’t eat more than two or three at a time before I’ve had all the sugar I can take.

On an unrelated note, I saw something interesting today at work: A walking stick was hanging out on the side of our building. It was a great big thing — probably four inches long — and it did, indeed, look like a twig.

Two of the guys in my office are pretty recent college graduates who had to take some entomology class at OSU. They know all sorts of things about bugs, so they told me all about what order the walking stick belongs to, and what other bugs it’s related to. If I’d had my camera with me, I would have gotten a picture of it.


17 miles

I was supposed to run 20 miles this morning, but every problem I’ve ever had with a run seemed to surface somewhere around the 13-mile mark today, so I wound up joining two others who caught a ride back to the parking lot after 17 miles. I just haven’t had time to train right this season, and I’m really struggling. I’ll be glad when the marathon is over.

On the up side, our run took us through a neighborhood I hadn’t explored in north Tulsa — one that I found fascinating, with lots of historic buildings and a lovely boulevard — and down the Katy Trail, which was beautiful. We also ran through a wealthy midtown neighborhood where the trees were absolutely spectacular, with red and yellow and fiery orange leaves. The foliage this fall has been kind of so-so because of the drought this summer, but all the lawns in this particular neighborhood have built-in sprinkler systems, and I think the fact that they got watered all summer made for much nicer fall colors. The mansions don’t really impress me (I’m not keen on conspicuous consumption), but the landscaping is nice. I always enjoy stealing landscaping ideas from the houses we pass on our long runs….


You want a peace of me?

I came home from work late last night and parked myself on the couch with Ron to watch the last inning of the ballgame. Of course my 50-pound collie mix — who frequently operates under the mistaken assumption that he is a lap dog — insisted on joining me. After all, I’d been gone for 12 whole hours. That could mean only one thing: Time to attach himself to me like a barnacle.

I had a good but long and very busy day at work today. I was pretty tired by the time I got off this evening, but my flagging energy took a turn for the better when a flock of Canada geese, flying low and in formation, passed over my car not once but twice as I made my way down 81st Street. They were absolutely beautiful.

I witnessed a different sort of bird on the way down Riverside. Some guy in a pickup truck came roaring up behind me, riding my bumper and flipping me off for no apparent reason. I don’t know why he was so upset, but he was clearly very agitated.

It struck me that this was an example of what Mrs. Eddy refers to as “mental assassins” — people who try to tempt us into expressing hatred and anger and all sorts of other dead-end emotions and thoughts and beliefs.

There was a time when an encounter like that would have upset me so much that I would have completely forgotten about the beauty I’d just witnessed minutes earlier, but I have been working hard to focus on goodness wherever I find it and to protect myself from such distractions, so I was well prepared to deal with the situation.

My first instinct was to pray for this person who was obviously not having a very good afternoon.

As I passed him while making a left turn at a stoplight a few blocks later, he took special pains to contort his face into all sorts of ugly expressions and flip me another bird or two.

I really wanted him to know that A.) if I’d somehow offended or upset him, I was sorry, and B.) I wasn’t about to respond to his aggressive behavior by getting mad or defensive or hateful.

I couldn’t very well stop to explain all that while I was making a left turn in heavy traffic, but the thought came to me that if he could use sign language to express himself behind the wheel, I certainly could, too.

Without hesitation, I smiled at him and held up two fingers — the universal sign for “peace” — as I made my turn.

It wasn’t a fake smile, either. The whole encounter — from the gleeful realization that I’d actually managed to keep my temper in a potentially annoying situation to the realization that this was probably the most hippified response I’ve ever given to anything — cracked me up so much that I laughed all the way home.

I hope it made him laugh, too. He looked as if he could use a good laugh.



As you may recall, I discovered in July that someone had plagiarized a book I wrote. It really hacked me off, and I had to figure out how to handle the situation without letting pride or anger or a vengeful attitude clutter up my response.

I took some steps in that direction, but for reasons too numerous to list, I never got around to following up on it after my initial contact with the guy (who was completely unwilling to own up to his mistake).

In the meantime, I developed some really annoying allergy-type symptoms that threatened to make me miserable for the entire season. They hung on for weeks and weeks. It was maddening.

I called a practitioner and asked her to help me with the allergy problem. She didn’t know about the plagiarism situation, and it had never occurred to me that there might be a connection between the two … until this morning, when, between sneezes, it suddenly came to me to check eBay and see if the guy was still selling his book on there.

He was.

I surfed eBay a little bit and learned that I could report his copyright violation in a way that wouldn’t get him in any real trouble but would let him know that I wasn’t buying his excuse. Basically, I could report him to eBay, and the eBay folks would cancel his auction and tell him to stop selling the book or risk being banned from the site forever.

It took me just a few minutes to file a claim with eBay. By the time I finished, I realized that I wasn’t sneezing or sniffling at all.

I don’t worry about physical causes for physical problems; I’ve found that invariably, physical symptoms are simply red flags alerting me to an underyling spiritual problem that needs to be corrected. Instead of dinking around with cold medicine to mask the symptoms, I’d rather cut to the chase and heal the spiritual problem itself.

In this instance, it occurred to me that we typically associate allergies with some kind of irritant — pollen, mold, smoke, pollution, whatever — so it stood to reason that an irritant in my thought (this situation with the plagiarist) would manifest itself with the physical symptoms of hay fever.

The instant I removed that irritant, my thought was healed, and the physical symptoms disappeared.

What a lovely healing … and what a lovely autumn.


Stove report

1. Baking on the woodstove in a Dutch oven did not work, but I think I’ve got it figured out. I put a boxelder log in there because most of our good stuff was too big to fit in that little firebox. (Ron is going to remedy this problem on his day off.) Boxelder doesn’t burn as hot as hardwood, so the temperature dropped significantly while the muffins were baking. Next time around, I’ll keep the fire a little hotter. On the up side, I had a primo excuse to eat warm, half-baked blueberry muffin batter out of the little cups with a spoon….

2. The soup was good. Here’s the recipe:

1 bag frozen mixed vegetables
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 can dark red kidney beans
1 single-serving bottle of V-8 juice
Fresh garlic, minced (I used elephant garlic from our garden)
1/2 large or 1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 tbsp. beef bouillon (optional)
olive oil
Dried oregano
Handful of macaroni

Saute the onion in olive oil until it’s clear. Add the garlic and cook briefly. Dump vegetables, tomatoes, beans, juice, bouillon, oregano, and onion-garlic mixture into a small stock pot, stir, and leave on the stove until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Add macaroni and cook until it’s al dente (done but not mushy).

NOTE: If you are not feeding an army, consider making the macaroni separately and adding it to each bowl of soup as you serve it. I made the mistake of cooking the macaroni in the soup, and of course by the time the leftovers sat in the refrigerator all night, the macaroni had soaked up extra liquid and turned to mush. Bleah. 😛

Other than that, the soup was really good….

My little sister posted two other soup recipes — including one for something her husband calls “Snot Soup” — in the comments section of the previous post.

I let the fire burn almost completely out because the house was getting too hot last night, but then the temperature dropped outside, and I stirred things back up again and added another chunk of hardwood before Ron got home. He was pretty happy with the stove’s performance and decided to toss another log on the fire and close up the dampers before we went to bed so the house would stay warm all night. It was a little bit cooler than I like when I got out of bed this morning, but I resisted the temptation to kick on the furnace. I really want to rely on the stove as much as possible this winter.

It was really nice to nap on the couch in front of the stove while I was waiting for Ron to come home last night.

I want to get a nice kettle that I can keep on top of the stove so I’ve always got hot water for tea. Twinings makes a wonderful decaf Irish breakfast, and of course I can never have too many cups of Red Zinger….


It worked!

Ron showed me how to build a fire and tend the stove this afternoon. It’s 55 degrees outside right now and 79 in the house — too warm, but it’s supposed to drop into the 30s in a few hours, and we wanted to build our first fire on a night when it was warm enough that we could open the windows if the stove started smoking or the paint wasn’t cured well enough or something.

I sauteed onions and garlic in a little cast-iron skillet on the lower (hotter) level of the stove and added them to a pot of vegetable soup that is now simmering away on the upper level. The onions cooked so well in the skillet that I decided to try making a quick supper: scrambled eggs.

If I’d added more butter instead of trying to cook them in the residual oil left after I sauteed the onions, they probably would have tasted better, but even if they weren’t the best scrambled eggs I ever made, they were certainly the most fun to cook.

The soup smells good. I think it’s going to turn out pretty well. If it does, I’ll post the recipe later.


This mockingbird was hanging out on top of the chimney when we went out to make sure the smoke was coming out like it’s supposed to. (It was, as you can see in the background.) Our chimney sweep bird-proofed the flue, so hopefully we won’t have any feathered intruders this winter.

Hope you’re having a nice, cozy Sunday evening wherever you are.


UPDATE: The soup is done, and it’s really quite good. Recipe forthcoming in the next post.

Learning something new

I’ve got a busy day ahead of me. It’s my turn to work in the nursery at church. When I get home, we’re heading out on Route 66 to have lunch and then talk to somebody for a Route 66 Pulse story.

Assuming the interview doesn’t take the entire afternoon, Ron is going to show me how to build a fire in our woodstove when we get home. I am very excited about this, because it means I finally get to do something I’ve wanted to do for a long time: Learn to cook on a woodstove.

My first project is going to be something very simple: Vegetable soup. L-A-Z-Y vegetable soup: A jar of canned tomatoes, half a bag of frozen vegetables, and some garlic from our garden. The goal for today is simply to warm up the soup without burning it.

Our stove is just designed for heating — it’s not one of those fancy-schmancy Irish cookstoves you get for a zillion dollars from the Lehman’s Non-Electric Catalog. It’s a compact little woodstove my parents gave us in exchange for our freezer, which we weren’t really using any more. But my mom used to make soup for us all the time on our old Earth Stove, so I know I can feed us this winter, even if most of our meals just involve some kind of soup.

I have a LOT of soup recipes, so we’ll be in good shape. 🙂

I’ll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, here are some links I found that have information about cooking with wood:
Sunset article
Mother Earth News article
Impractical but nostalgic article about somebody’s grandma
Bit of navel-gazing from Gardenweb, with practical tips sprinkled in

We’ll see whether any of this does me any good when the temperature drops down to 35 tonight. If this project goes well, I’m installing more shelves in my living-room-closet-turned-pantry and doing more gardening and canning next summer. The idea of living closer to the land right here in Red Fork makes me happy. I just hope I haven’t gotten so attached to my modern conveniences that I can’t bring myself to do it.


9 miles

I wish I’d had the camera with me this morning. I went to Owasso with my friend Terriann to run the “Great Pumpkin Challenge.” The Methodist Church up there sponsored back-to-back 5K and 10K runs that started next to their pumpkin patch this morning. You could run either or both. Since we’re training for the Route 66 Marathon, we went ahead and ran both.

The T-shirt and finisher’s ribbon were nice, but the biggest reward for getting up early to run in the cold was the sunrise. I don’t see the sunrise too often, but if they all looked like this, I’d get up for them more often — this morning’s was all golden and orange in the middle, with gorgeous pink clouds stretching out to infinity.

For those of you playing along at home, I finished my 5K in 30:45, which was my third-best finish time. Not bad at all, considering the way I’ve been running lately — my performance all season has been absolutely abysmal.

I’ve never run a 10K before, so any finish time I got was going to be a PR. I came across the finish line in 1:05:05. Not great compared to most of the other runners, but the combined times (1:35:50) would have been good for a middle-of-the-pack Tulsa Run finish.

Terriann posted PRs (and kicked my butt) in both the 5K and 10K. She’s worked really hard this season — much harder than I have — and has a lot to show for it. Up to this point, I’ve run stronger than she has in the races we’ve run together, so it was really cool to see her cheering me on from the finish line today. She’ll probably do it again in the marathon next month, too. She’s gotten her thoughts in order and run really well lately.

Next Saturday is a 20-mile training run. Yecch. We’ll see how I do. I may just Galloway it. I can’t see running the entire thing when I’m planning to Galloway the marathon itself. Especially not when I judge the success or failure of any run by the way I feel at the end, not the numbers on the clock. If I feel good and had a good time running, I’m happy. I’m not likely to qualify for Boston in this lifetime anyway, so why not just slow down and enjoy the course?

Speaking of Boston qualifiers, I am rooting for my coach. He’s looking to qualify when he runs Chicago in the morning. Tall order, considering he’s trained with my slow butt all season and is used to running 11:30 miles with Fleet Feet’s M4 group, but he posts some awesome times in the Tulsa Run every year, so I know he’s got it in him.


Same song, second verse

In the continuing saga of “Orion”: I have now purchased, from eBay, a copy of the sixth-grade Silver Burdett Music book — the teacher’s edition, no less — which contains the elusive “Orion.”

Next up: I’ll try to get hold of James Taylor’s people and see if I can talk him into covering it. (CAUTION: Music plays automatically when you click the link.) Judging from the interest in the song — I’m averaging a couple of hits per day from people searching for the lyrics — it would probably be worth the effort to record it.

If he’s not up for it, maybe Gordon Lightfoot could be persuaded to give it a go. That’d be cool.

No word yet on whether that record I looked at on eBay has the song on it.