Wednesday, November 25, 2015


Happy Thanksgiving Eve y'all.  The kids don't have school today, so I'm enjoying a lazy morning at home.  I'm sitting at our dining table, still in my PJs (which is not all that unusual), with the delicious scent of cinnamon and cloves gently wafting through the kitchen to my grateful nose (which is most definitely not a usual occurrence).  I've got pumpkin pie in the oven, and cake almost ready to go.

I'm really looking forward to tomorrow, my friends, because as much as I love spending time with extended family, there is nothing I like more than lazy days at home with just my favorite people.  Expectations are a breeding ground for disappointment, and when I spend time with others, even family and friends whom I love, I find myself mired in expectations that are spoken and unspoken.  It's stressful, y'all, like navigating a minefield.

I'm looking forward to tomorrow.  And the next day, and the next, because the five of us, me and my favorite people, will navigate these days together with love and grace.  We will bake and eat.  We will play football and watch football.  We will most likely go tree hunting and catch a thousand-pointer.  We will spend time outside.  These few days are a welcome respite from the ever-increasing demands of daily life.  For these few days, we will enjoy each other.  And ponder our blessings.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


I'm a mystery shopper.  That means I go in to businesses anonymously and evaluate their customer service and quality.  It's a fun way to earn a little extra money.  Emphasis on little.  But I do enjoy it, and I do it in my spare time, so it's all good.

Lately I've been doing a lot of internet shops.  I love these, because I don't have to leave my house or exit my pajamas.  There are two types of internet shops that I do; for one of them, I need to make an appointment for an oil change and tire rotation.  I have to make an appointment, but I don't have to keep the appointment.  I don't even necessarily have to own or have access to the vehicle I'm making an appointment for.  But I do need to cancel the appointment so they're not holding a time slot for a vehicle that will never show.

As I've said, I've been doing a lot of these lately.  The limit is 1 per day, and these shops are available 4 days a week.  I am currently in the middle of a 5 week streak of doing these shops almost daily.  Ten down, 8 to go, and new shops being added daily, so who knows how long this will go on.  That's not even counting the 14 shops I did in September and October.

So I've been canceling a lot of appointments.

And even though I go into each and every one of these shops knowing that I'm going to be canceling an appointment, even though there's no way these folks know that I'm making and canceling an appointment every day, I feel like such a flake.

What kind of a person makes and cancels 18 appointments in a month?  A flake, that's who.

Or ... a mystery shopper.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

On another note, I am so very excited.  The company that offered my very favorite mystery shop ever lost the contract.

That's not what I'm excited about.  That was a very sad day, when I heard the news.  I gathered with friends and family and a fellow mystery shopper (who happens to be all 3 of those rolled up into one awesome package) to mourn the loss.

What I'm excited about is I found the company that won the contract.  Oh, happy, happy day!  I might be back doing my very favorite shop by Wednesday (if no one else takes it before then).  Yahoo!

The End

Monday, November 23, 2015

Menu plan for the week of Happy Thanksgiving

Hello, my friends, and welcome to Thanksgiving week.  This is the week we celebrate a national day of thanks here in the U.S.

What are your Thanksgiving traditions?  What's your favorite Thanksgiving food?

When I asked my family if there was any food in particular they would like for Thanksgiving, my middlest child said he wanted asparagus and brussels sprouts.  I think he would be happy to skip the turkey and all of the other traditional fare in lieu of cruciferous veggies.  I am happy to indulge that boy's wants, in this case.

It strikes me as slightly ridiculous that we celebrate how thankful we are for all we have by stuffing ourselves as full as we possibly can with as much food as we possibly can, instead of sharing our bounty with others who don't have as much as we do.

Anyway, I am thankful for you.  And for food, because food is yummy.

Here's what's on the menu this week:



Friday, November 20, 2015


The following is an actual transcript of a real conversation held between my husband and me at 4:18 a.m. earlier this week as he was preparing to head out of town.

Hubby:  Why are you awake?
Me: Because I woke up.

As if I had chosen to be awake.  As if I had a rational reason.  As if I actually wanted to be awake.  No, no, no, a thousand times no!  At that point, I had already been awake since 3:02 a.m., and by no means did I want to be.  Or even need to be.

I have no idea why my son, my husband, my other son, random house and weather noises, and my bladder feel the need to wake me up at all hours of the early morning, but they do.  {OK, I do know why my bladder needs me to be awake...}  In the middle of the night, they need me to be awake.  Sometimes, I wake up for no discernible reason at all.

And then I can't get back to sleep.  But they, the serial mama-waker-uppers, slip right back into blissful slumber.  Job done: mama woken, they can rest in peace.

It's a curse.  It's a blessing.  It's just the way I am.

A blessing, you say?  How is that a blessing?  Well, yes, a blessing.  Sometimes, God wakes me up, usually so I can pray for someone, but sometimes to encourage me to do something.  God doesn't speak louder in the middle of the night, but it is easier for my imperfect human ears to hear, because there's nothing else for me to do in the still quiet besides listen.

Waking up before I want to, and subsequently staying awake longer than I need to, sometimes makes me cranky, sometimes sets the stage for a day-long headache, but the middle of the night is when God does some of his best work in my heart.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

P.S. Having once again woken before I wanted to, I was typing this post in the early morning with my laptop propped on my knees while lying down in bed.  Not sleeping.  Bubby came in and asked if he could lie in bed with me, and I said sure, but to be careful of my mouse.  My wireless computer mouse.  He thought I had an actual mouse in bed with me!  Funny boy.

P.P.S. Just in case you didn't already know, I have a don't-talk-about-Hubby-being-out-of-town-until-he's-back-in-town policy, so he's already back, safe and sound, waking me in the early hours for no good reason.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Truly Free by Robert Morris: a Review

It has been months since I requested this book for review.  More than 3, less than 6.  I know this, because BookLook Bloggers deactivates accounts that have had no activity after 3 months, and I've been deactivated once while they've been waiting for my review.  Ugh.   I hate when I don't follow through on my obligations.  But, in the spirit of better late than never, here goes.

The subtitle of this book, "Breaking the Snares That So Easily Entangle," provides a good summary of the premise.  We humans, because we have free choice, because we live in a broken and flawed world, get tangled up in all sorts of things.  And some of these things are good things, but we take them to such extremes that we become slaves to them, instead of slaves to Christ.

I found the beginning of the book to be very inspiring.  One illustration that really stuck with me was when Mr. Morris was talking about the Israelites, recently freed from slavery in Egypt, wandering about in the desert.  The were free, finally.  Free to make their own decisions and do their own thing.  They had been longing for freedom for centuries.  And do you know what they did?  They complained.  They said they would have been better off staying in Egypt ... where they were slaves!  They were longing for that which enslaved them.

I gotta tell you, that struck home for me, because I do the same thing.

The book consists of an introduction, along with a few introductory chapters, followed by six chapters addressing specific snares that we encounter in life, including pride, bitterness, greed, and lust, among others.  The final chapter is "A Prayer for Freedom," and the appendix lists resources to continue further along the road to being snare-free.

I really liked the book ... until about the 3rd or 4th chapter that was addressing a specific snare, because it started to get very repetitive and boring.  Truth?  I didn't finish.  Which is why it's taken me more than 3 less than 6 months to get this review written.

Bottom line: This is a helpful resource for people who want to overcome a specific snare in their lives.  Read the introductory chapters, along with the chapter addressing your specific snare or snares.

I received this book for free from the publisher through BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Who I am

Who am I?

I am Scarlet.

I am a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother, a friend.

I am creative, compassionate, sensitive, emotional.

I am thoughtful, resourceful.

I am an introvert, a writer, a baker-wannabe, a starter-but-not-finisher.

I am clumsy, cynical, sarcastic, impulsive, lazy, forgetful, competitive.

I am private, anxious, socially awkward, misunderstood, fearful.

I am powerful, courageous.

I am beautiful, worthy, grace-soaked, peaceful, faith-filled.

I am flawed.  I am enough.

I am all these and more.
I am human.

Who are you?

Good Good Father, by Chris Tomlin, has been playing in my head on an endless loop lately.  Have you heard it?  Click on the video below to listen.

This song says I am loved by God.  That's it.  It's who I am.  It's who I am.  It's who I am.  Loved.  No matter what else I am, what else I've done, regardless of all of my failures and shortcomings, my accomplishments and victories.  I am loved by God.

You, my friend, are loved by God.  It's who you are.  It's who you are.  It's who you are.

You are loved.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Hunting season

Hubby gave me a gift.  Wasn't that nice of him?  Not because it's November.  But kind of.

He gave me a blaze orange hat.  And then, a few days later, he asked me if I had worn it yet.

And I told him that I had not because the state park was not yet open to hunting.  Which of course led to me telling him all about hunting in the park ... when it opens to hunting, when deer gun season is, and that muzzle-loader season follows, and also that there are other creatures that can be hunted right now, like turkey and game birds, waterfowl, squirrels, rabbits, coyote, and fox, among others.

He said I know an awful lot about hunting seasons, for a non-hunter.  Which is true.  I do.  I made a point of knowing a lot more about hunting seasons this year than I did last year.  Because I don't want to give up hiking on my favorite trail, and I also don't want to get shot.

So right now, the park is open to hunting, but I feel pretty safe walking on my favorite trail, wearing my new hat, surrounded by thick underbrush.  Even if a hunter found a clear a shot, with that thick tangle of undergrowth, it's unlikely an arrow would stray enough to find the path, and me on it.  Next week, when the guns come out?  Not so much.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Menu plan for the week of November 16

It's the week before Thanksgiving, which means it's also we-won't-be-undersold-on-turkeys week.  Does this happen where you live?  Every grocery store advertises that they'll match any competitor's price for turkey, but none of the grocery stores actually lists a price for turkey.  Yeah.  So you can't actually price match to a lower advertised price, because no one advertises their prices.  That's great marketing, right there.  Offering promises that have no hope of fulfillment.

Did mid-November sneak up on you the way it did me?  I'm going along, knowing it's November, but since it's feeling so much like the beginning of October, my brain is telling me, yes, it's November, but it's early November... And now suddenly, it's mid-November, and the Thanksgiving holiday is a week and a half away.  Time warp going on over here.

So anyway, here we are, mid-November, and we've still got to eat.  Here's what's on the menu this week:



Monday, November 9, 2015

Menu plan for the week of November 9

So I realized I forgot to tell y'all about my new menu planning method for the month.  I mean, in September, I planned 5 weeks' worth of meals ahead of time.  Then in October, I planned one week of meals and repeated them 4 times.  You have to be wondering what the plan is this month.

I'm doing a little of both.  I have the whole month planned out (except for 1 day, and I think I know what I want to make that day, but I've got a little time to decide, and I'm leaving it open in case something better comes along), and lots of the meals are repeated every week, but there's a bit more variety than October.

Every Wednesday is something taco-y, and every Thursday involves turkey or bacon or both.  Friday is pizza day.  Sunday and Monday are grill days, and Tuesday is either spaghetti or chicken that is not grilled.  Saturdays are the wild card day.

I like it.  As with October, everything is something I know my family will like, and they are all things that I will still be willing to make even if Hubby goes out of town, so there won't need to be a whole lot of rearranging.  I will definitely be saving this monthly menu, and perhaps repeating it indefinitely.  Yay!

Here's what's on the menu this week:

  • Hamburgers with optional buns, carrots, applesauce, salad
  • Almond crusted chicken, broccoli/cauliflower/carrots, berries or melon
  • Nachos or taco salad
  • BLTs, grilled green veggie
  • Pizza or cauliflower crust pizza, salad
  • Hot beef sandwiches with or without buns, salad, broccoli/cauliflower/carrots, applesauce
  • Pork chops, green beans, garlic toast, grilled potato planks

Monday, November 2, 2015

Menu plan for the week of November 2

Today I thought I'd share my pizza crust recipe.  I got this recipe from Hubby's aunt, who claimed to have gotten it from Hubby's dad, but Hubby's dad denies all knowledge of said pizza crust recipe.  Either way, it tastes good, and should be a great addition to the selection of convenience foods in our freezer.

Bluefield Pizza Crust
1 c. warm water
1 T. active dry yeast
1 T. granulated sugar
3 c. flour (I use a mixture of whole wheat and white whole wheat)
1/4 c. olive oil
3/4 t. salt

  1. In a large bowl, combine warm water, yeast, and sugar, and let sit until bubbly (5-10 minutes)
  2. Add flour, oil, and salt and mix to combine.  Knead a few times, then cover and let rise in a warm place until double (30-45 minutes).
  3. Punch down dough.  Divide into two equal portions.  Spread each portion out on a pan (I use 14" round pans).  Cover and let rise for another 30-45 minutes.
  4. Top with your favorite toppings.
  5. Bake at 425 degrees F for about 15 minutes, or until done.
To Freeze: after dividing dough into two equal portions, wrap each portion and freeze.  
To use dough from freezer: allow dough to thaw overnight in the refrigerator.  Spread dough in pan, and allow to rise for 45-60 minutes.  Continue as written.

Here's what else is on the menu this week.


Planning ahead:

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

From a mix

AKD complimented my cake.  Like, the taste of the cake, rather than the design.

And I said, as is my practice when someone complements the taste of one of my from-a-box baked goods (full disclosure and all that), "thanks.  It's from a mix."

To which he queried, "when's the last time you made a cake from scratch?"

I had to think about that one for a bit.  As you might guess, I prefer to expend more of my energy in the decoration of the cake rather than in making the cake itself.  Cake mix is just so convenient.  And cheap.  I told him it's possible that the last time I made a cake from scratch was when I was in high school (after I thought about it more, I realized that isn't true, because I remember making a black forest cake with my clients back when I was working full time, but still, that was more than 16 years ago).

AKD was shocked, and I understand why.  I make (practically) everything else from scratch--why not cake?  Well, like I said, cake mix is just so convenient.  And cheap.  Why not use cake mix?

His question sent me to my cupboard to investigate what kind of disgusting things manufacturers are putting in cake mix these days.  You know how some folks say you should never eat anything that has ingredients you can't pronounce?  Well, organic chemistry took care of that one for me--I can pronounce just about anything they can throw in there--but I can pronounce plenty of things that I don't want to put in my body.

Like propylene glycol.  Which is used to produce plastics, to de-ice airplanes, and as a preservative in cake mix (don't believe me?  Go look).

Yeah.  Don't think I'm going to be able to eat cake mix again anytime soon.  I'm feeling a little sick right now just thinking about it.

So here's what you do.  You find a good cake recipe.  You mix up all the dry ingredients and you put it in a glass jar in your pantry.  When you need to make cake, you add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and bake according to the recipe.  Convenient.  And cheap.

If you need an even easier (easier in that you don't have to find a recipe first) method, check out these homemade cake mixes from A Few Shortcuts.

And, just for Beaver-ly (and me) ... here's a German chocolate cake mix recipe.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Menu plan for the week of October 25

I made pizza on Friday last week.  But then, you knew that.  At least you knew that was the plan.  'Cause I told y'all it was.  Weeks ago.  Or maybe you thought we were having take-out pizza each week.  Nah.  For one thing, we've got cheese-haters in our midst.  For another, who knows what goes into take-out pizza?  I know one thing that doesn't, and that's whole grains.

AKD happened to be in the kitchen while I was spreading the crust and making the sauce, and I commented to him that it seemed like a lot of work, making pizza.

First I proofed the yeast, and then I mixed in the rest of the crust ingredients, kneaded it, and let it rise, then I made the sauce.  Then I had to spread the crust in the pans and let it rise again.  Next I had to cut the veggies and assemble the pizzas, made easier by the pre-cooked sausage in the freezer, which is now gone, which means next time it's going to be that much more work.

For the first time ever, I found myself wondering if it was really all worth it.  I mean, I love pizza.  There was a time in my life when, if pressed to pick one and only one food to eat for the rest of my life, I would have picked pizza.  It's the obvious choice, really.  All the food groups in one yummy package, not to mention the endless variety possible in the pizza realm.  (Now I would choose salad, because ditto on all the food groups packed into one yummy package and endless variety).

It's just...  A lot...  Of work...

You know, compared to how much work I was putting in to cooking last week.  Which was minimal.

This is the last week of the October plan-one-week-and-repeat menu plan.  I'm still loving it--I love having default meals to fall back on--but I'm aware that it needs tweaks.  I'm just not sure what kind of tweaks.  I'll let you know when if I figure it out.

Here's what's on the menu this week:



Friday, October 23, 2015

Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook: A Review

I've been hearing a bit about the Trim Healthy Mama lifestyle, and what I'm hearing intrigues me, so I jumped at the chance to read and review Trim Healthy Mama CookbookEat Up and Slim Down with More Than 350 Healthy Recipes written by sisters Pearl Barrett and Serene Allison .

The book begins with an introduction explaining a bit about the book and touching on tools and special ingredients, then continues with the recipes, followed by a meal recap and a full index.

The recipes are divided into one pot meals, hearty mains and sides, sunrise eats, sweet treats, beverages, and all things smooth and crunchy.  Each food category is further divided.  For instance, one pot meals is divided into crockpot meals, family skillet meals, quick single skillet meals, family soups, and quick single soups.  The pages are thick and glossy, and about a quarter of the recipes are accompanied by gorgeous photos.  Recipes are labeled according to meal type; S, FP, or E, and some recipes contain variations to make it more than one meal type.

What I liked:
  • I love the wide variety of recipes in this book, and felt like I would like to try at least 1/3 of them.  It is rare for me to find a cookbook with so many recipes that I want to try.
  • These recipes are good, clean, and healthy.
  • I thought it was helpful that the recipes were labeled by meal type on the recipe itself and on the contents page in each section.

What I didn't like:
  • Pearl and Serene say that you don't really need special ingredients to make their recipes or to live the THM lifestyle.  They even tell you how to make some of the ingredients, like THM baking blend or their on-plan sweeteners.  However, time after time, I simply flipped past recipes that looked interesting because I didn't want to have to find and buy ingredients such as gluccie or whole-husk psyllium flakes.
  • I honestly thought the cookbook would contain at least an overview of the THM plan--something that would make the cookbook useful without having to buy the sisters' first book, Trim Healthy Mama Plan.  It didn't.

Bottom line:
I think the sisters said it best themselves: "the recipes in this book will only be truly understood and work in your trimming favor if you understand the concepts behind Trim Healthy Mama."

If you understand THM, and are following its principles, this book will be an invaluable resource for you.  You can eat very well using the recipes in this book and know that you're staying on plan.  If you are not following THM, you will find this cookbook frustrating and confusing.  If you are not yet, but would like to start, following THM principles, start with Trim Healthy Mama Plan, then get Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook.

I received this book at no cost from the publisher through Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Half & half

Last week I made a recipe that called for half & half.  Some of the folks who had prepared this particular recipe commented that they had used fat free half & half, which reminded me of the time I discovered the existence of fat free half & half.

I was walking through the grocery store with a young Bubby in my cart, keeping up a running commentary of our progress, as parents of young children often do. ...and now we need to get half & half.  Oh, look at that.  Fat free half & half.  What is that?  What is the point of fat free half & half?  How is that even possible? ...

Before we go any farther, perhaps I should explain.  Half & half, at least the dairy half & half, consists of half milk, half cream.  And cream is, basically, milk fat.  So half & half is milk with extra milk fat in it.  It cannot, by definition, be fat free.

One of the manager dudes overheard my commentary and obviously did not understand my objection to the fat free half & half.  He commented that some people like to use fat free things.  They're healthier.

Whatever.  I bought regular half & half and went on my merry way, still wondering how a fat free version was even possible.

So last week I set off to the grocery store in search of half & half for my recipe. Actually, I went in search of cream, figuring I have more potential uses for cream than half & half (like these yummy things or this thing that I can use to make the other thing), and I can make my own.  But I made a point of reading the ingredients on the regular and fat free half & half cartons.

Here's what I found.

Regular half & half: Milk, Cream, Contains less than 0.5% of the following: Sodium Citrate and Disodium Phosphate 

Fat free half & half: Skim Milk, Corn Syrup, Cream*, Contains less than 0.5% of the following: Carrageenan, Sodium Citrate, Dipotassium Phosphate, Mono and Diglycerides*, Vitamin A Palmitate, Color Added
* Adds a trivial amount of fat

Seriously?  Corn syrup?  Yuck.  And how many Americans blindly buy the "fat free" version, mistakenly believing it's better for them?
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