Monday, August 18, 2014

My Philosophy on (Romantic) Relationships

There are many formulas and rules set up nowadays for the forming of new relationships, whether one is part of the dating or the courting culture. But the lists of endless rules and man-made notions seem to be mainly based on man's interpretation of what is best, rather than looking to the Scripture. 

Yes, it is true that there are social guidelines which one would do well to follow as well - for instance, make sure you are polite and have good manners - but these are not things which should be required by a third party, nor should they be treated as if they are on par with God's Word.

We see from the Bible several obvious principles regarding romance:
  • Marry whomever you wish, (Num 36:6, 1 Cor 7:39) except,
  • Don't marry a non-Christian.(2 Cor 6:14)
  • It's more than okay to remain single.(1 Cor 7:8, 25-28, 37-40)
  • Follow God's rules for remaining pure. (1 Cor 7:1)
AAAANNND, despite what many Christians believe, that's about all we have specifically related to getting married.  Obviously, there are some other texts instructing husbands and wives on how to interact, but the scope of this post is the pre-marital stage.

Of course, there are countless other passages in Scripture which indirectly relate to the formation of any relationship, including one with a future spouse.  There are hundreds of verses and concepts which could be addressed here, such as:
  • Honesty, 
  • edifying communication, 
  • keeping God first in one's life,
  • praying without ceasing,
  • being long-suffering, 
  • forgiving others...etc, etc.
...the list is endless, but a Christian ought to be quite familiar with these concepts, and I don't think I need to try to list them.  These are verses that every Christian ought to follow all the time, not just when involved in a romantic-type relationship.

Then, there are common-sense guidelines which ought to be obvious (whether stated or not) to most people.  For instance:
  • Marry someone you want to spend the rest of your life with, 
  • be accountable to others, 
  • accept advice, 
  • don't continue the relationship if you know you won't marry this person, 
  • seek counsel, 
  • make sure you know this person inside and out before you commit to marrying them,
...and so on.  In other words, don't be stupid.  God gave you a brain, He gave you His Word, He gives us common sense.  We don't need to be walking around helplessly confused just because another human hasn't provided us with a hard-and-fast list of exactly what every element of your relationship process ought to look like.

Finally, it is worthwhile noting that the two (adults!) involved in this relationship should be the ones calling the shots about what their romance actually looks like.  If they want to spend most of their time together in the presence of their families and they call this "courtship", that's fine.  If they desire to be able to go out together interact one-on-one on "dates", that's okay too.  How, when, where, and who they communicate with is up to them. 

In other words: There are principles, which are set forth and enforced by God.  Then there are practical and common sense issues, which have their own natural consequences.  Finally, there is the matter of preference, which can be decided by the couple.  Note that none of these require the presence of a third-party human authority.

Every person is different.  They have different intellects, different ideas of what is humorous, different passions, different families, different backgrounds, different levels of sanctification, different dreams for the future, different ages, different locations, different ways of communicating, different hobbies, different resources... you get the picture.  To try to make a one-size-fits-all formula for how to find the "right one" is laughably ridiculous. 

Many teachers nowadays assert that there must be another earthly human involved making sure that the two involved in the relationship are following all the rules, whether they be God's rules or man's rules.  They do their best to assure us that this will cause the least amount of pain, and that this is God's best plan.  But is it, really?

If a couple violates God's rules or acts stupidly, they will be answerable to the Lord about that, and will likely have earthly consequences to their foolishness or outright disobedience.  To make them answerable to man, however, (even if it gives us a feeling of security because we can see mankind) is to usurp God's position.  God will not demand from us an account of other people's actions, but merely our own.  To make ourselves accountable for others messes up this principle big time, and is not excusable.

Furthermore, every person on earth is going to have a slightly different notion of what is best in a specific situation.  To place a fellow human (who will not be affected by his decisions in a position of power) over two people, (whose entire lives will be affected) assuming that they cannot be responsible before God by themselves, is not wise or logical.  Furthermore, even if this authority figure has identical beliefs as the two in the relationship regarding all possible worldview issues, this does not factor in personality differences and such.  Some issues which are vitally important to said authority figure might be regarded as trivial by the others, and endless discussions regarding this matter might result in vexation and frustration.

If two people are so unable to handle themselves that they require the physical presence and restraint of a human authority to make all their decisions with or for them, then they probably ought to wait several years until they are more mature and able to handle such a relationship.  Shockingly enough, they will not have the "luxury" of a third party telling them what to do after they get married, and they need to know that they can make wise and Godly choices before they enter into a lifelong commitment.

Man has a tendency to want to shield himself and others from any possible unpleasantness by setting up man-made governments and authorities.  Whether it be in politics, in churches, or in the family, the result is the same - a crippled authority structure ends up trying to fill God's role, and those under that person's authority find themselves smothered and unable to follow God's leading in their lives.  While there are certainly proper rules for government in the state, in churches, and in families, this government needs to be limited to its proper jurisdiction, rather than trying to usurp the throne of God.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Why I Want To, But Cannot, Vote For Ben Carson

 Just the other day I saw an article announcing that, though he cautioned his supporters not to be too optimistic, Ben Carson is forming a political action committee and may run for president come 2016. Given the amount of attention he received after his speech at the National Prayer Breakfast, and then again after his speech at CPAC, this really isn't terribly surprising.

About two years ago I wrote a blog post entitled, "Why I Will Not Vote Romney".  That was an easy post to write in many ways, given that I did not like Romney at all.  He obviously had no backbone, his integrity was lacking in every way I could see, and he was generally distasteful to anyone who loves liberty or freedom or America or principle or honesty or... you get the picture.

Writing about why I cannot vote for Ben Carson (should he run) isn't so easy.  I would love to have Mr. Carson as a neighbor, friend, or doctor.  I've seen the movie "Gifted Hands" which details much of his life thus far, and having the story climax even beyond neurosurgeon to that of President of the United State would be absolutely epic.

Furthermore, I've read Ben Carson's book, America the Beautiful: Rediscovering What Made This Nation Great, and I agree with a good amount of the common sense presented therein.  So far as I can tell, Carson is an honest man, a man of integrity, and one who I would trust to do his best job in in any situation.  He has character suitable for leadership.  Unfortunately, he does not (thus far) have a thorough enough understanding of what Constitutional government looks like, and this is why I cannot at this present time support any political venture he makes.

Firstly, his view on the 2nd Amendment is sadly lacking.  He stating when speaking to Glenn Beck that location should help to determine whether or not people should have access to firearms, that guns (semi-automatics were specified) should be limited in urban areas.  Obviously, this does not show either a proper respect for or understanding of the amendment.  Our right to bear arms is not allowed to be prohibited by government, and the ability to own weapons does not encourage, but prohibits crime.

If he personally felt that it would be foolish for himself to own a semi-automatic in a busy neighborhood and decided against it, that would be more than okay.  Should he caution his family and friends, informing them about the perceived danger of such a thing, that would also be more than okay.  But once one takes such opinions and perspectives into the realm of legislation, imposing them on others, that opinion is not at all okay.

Furthermore, while he has a lot of common-sense opinions on how governmental-aid programs ought to be restructured in a more practical manner, he fails to realize that they are not allowed in a Constitutional government.  For instance, in his book America the Beautiful he states:
"Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and our food stamp program, among others, are all socialist-leaning programs that help provide our nation with a social safety net.  Their growth, however, must be controlled, and self-sufficiency must be the goal of our society.  The masses should not depend solely upon these social programs; instead, they should be encouraged early in life to make provisions for themselves and their families well into the future."
But it is not the job of the civil servant to make sure that Grandma saves her retirement money wisely, or that Johnny has health insurance, or that Susy can buy food.  This ought to be the job of private charitable institutions, of churches, of individual persons, and of any other willing organization.  Government does not uphold society; government keeps the harmony by acting on behalf of an injured party as well as making sure the citizens are defended from other countries which would do it harm.

Should Ben Carson begin a charitable institution with the guidelines and common sense he has written about, I am sure it would be quite successful.  Actually, he does already help fund academic excellence with the Carson Scholars Fund, and I'm sure that that is set up in a very practical and truly beneficial way.

In fact, his scholars fund demonstrates just what I am talking about. I personally have huge qualms about public education, and I would not at all wish to see my tax dollars funding students in those schools.  I'd much rather find some way to make all schools become community schools (funded by those who benefit from them, run by those in the community, and in no way connected to the government) or home schools.

However, if Dr. Carson chooses to set up his own private organization to help those in public schools, good for him!  How he spends him money is up to him, and the fact that he is doing so to help others is commendable.... so long as it remains a private institution, funded by voluntary contributions rather than taxes (which obviously aren't voluntary contributions).

Should Dr. Carson come to a better realization of what the role and functions of government are, and should he, like Ron Paul, advocate common sense AND a Constitutional government, I would be more than thrilled to throw my full support behind him.  As it is, despite the fact that he has much common sense, he does not understand what equitable legislation is; his application of common sense is flawed, and it will not truly benefit America.

I'm really tempted to send him a copy of Bastiat's book, The Law...

Thursday, July 10, 2014

PSA: Life Update

I posted about pretzels in March, then proceeded to disappear from the blogging world for several months to get engaged, be held hostage, get married to my best friend Dylan, move halfway across the country, and now reappear on the blogging scene with the same blog title and a different URL.  And that's not even half the story.  Perhaps someday I will find time and energy to write for the world a chronicle of what happened, but for now, suffice it to say that:
1-I'm okay,
2-I'm still blogging, and am currently working to update this new blog with all the posts from the old one,
3-being married is awesome.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

“Legislating Morality”

Note: This was originally written about a year ago as a way for me to simply sort out my thoughts on the matter. I had no intention then of publishing it to my blog, but after polishing it up a wee bit I've decided to make my rantings/musing public.

I don’t care for this term. It is far too vague and can be interpreted too many ways for me to find it helpful. I've found four possible definitions, in fact.

First: Is legislation either moral or immoral? Yes, and we need to get our definition of ethics from a Biblical worldview. Should we legislate immorality? Of course not! Is this the definition of legislating morality? If so, then why would any Christian protest?

Second: Should we legislate something just because it is moral? Should we make laws against everything which is immoral? No – this would rapidly lead to an utterly tyrannical civil government.

This is where the issue of jurisdiction comes in. The civil government should be viewed as the safety net of all governments (family, self, church, etc) and is only to act when there is actually an injured party.

Take, for instance, the issue of drinking alcohol to the point of excess.  Is it wise to go get drunk? Is it moral? Of course not! But if I were to injure no one but myself while inebriated, there is no reason for the civil government to step in and punish me for this lack of morality. Instead, such morality should be enforced by self-government, and actively encouraged by church and family governments.

Thus, morality is not the only basis to determine what legislation ought to be passed by the civil government. Jurisdiction also MUST be a determining factor if we are to be free.

As a side note, I find it interesting that, every form of human government follows a pattern: the more people affected by it, the less amount of jurisdiction it has.
Self-government is the most powerful, as God grants salvation on a person by person basis (the names written in the book of life are not family names, nor are they town or country names.), and we are all to answer indiviudally to God on judgement day.
Family government is next, as parents have the ability to control almost every aspect of their children’s lives up until their adulthood, and it is the responsibilty of the parents to bring their children up in the fear and admonission of the LORD.
Then comes the governance of the (local) church, which instructs, guides, encourages and disciplines obvious and ongoing sins in the various families which make it up.
The various forms of civil government – town, county, state, and federal – also follow this same pattern.
God is the only governing authority with unlimited jurisdiction and power.

Third: Does legislation define morality? Is something which is technically illegal necessarily immoral? Absolutely not. The Ten Boom family was violating Nazi law when they saved Jewish lives, yet their doing so was not in any way immoral, and was the correct course of action for them to take in every way.
God is the only one to ultimately determine what is right or wrong, and if we say that any other government determines morality through their decisions, we are guilty of attempting to usurp God’s role in the universe. This is why Hitler’s regime was wrong, even though it was technically “legal”.

Fourth: Furthermore, should we seek to change society’s view of morality (be it a correct or false view) through civil legislation? Is this the job of civil government? No. The gospel is the only way to truly redeem people – civil government can never save us, and must stick to its God-given role — that of defending life and liberty from those who seek to harm them.

History shows us that state-established religion leads to chaos, corruption, and confusion in both the church and the culture. Whether we look at Constantine’s establishing Christianity as state religion and the rash of false conversions which followed, or the Church of England, which answers to the king before the Bible, there is no good which comes of this muddling of rulers.  All governments are answerable to God, but they are not to usurp each others roles and “force” them to do what is right.
When Joshua was to lead the Israelites into the land of Canaan, he was ordered by God to destroy the Canaanites and their property.

Now, Biblical scholars and Christians have for centuries stated that the only proper use of force and war is in self-defense. We do not attack countries without provocation, neither do we attack them merely because they are attacking another (who appointed us to be police of the world?). Rather, we are only to keep ourselves safe from harm.

The Israelites conquest of Canaan, however, was really not one of self-defense. They were entitled to the land, it is true, but it is likely that the Canaanites who originally settled there we unaware of God’s promise to Abraham, and indeed, they may have even been there before Abraham’s time. However, because God is above the law, he choose in this instance to order the Israelites to conquer the land through bloodshed and force.

Does this, however, set a precedent? Are we to go into foreign lands without provocation and slaughter the inhabitants? Were the crusades Godly and Biblical? Are wars not related to self-defense okay? Of course not! Just because God chose in one instance to allow his people this remedy does not mean that we are to presume that a precedent has been set for all time.

Likewise, I would argue that, in laws where God is the only “injured party”, we should not take the sword of the civil government to punish the evildoer, even when we see that God once ordered it in one case in the Old Testament.

First, we must take into account the fact that there was only a tiny amount of time in the Old Testament where a proper form of civil government was upheld – from Moses to Samuel. After that, Israel rejected God’s governance and appointed for themselves a human king. Throughout the rest of their history, they were ruled either by a king of Israel/Judah or by foreign kings who had conquered them.
These years of Israel’s history are mainly covered in Deuteronomy (and other books of the Torah), Joshua, and Judges, and 1 Samuel.

In Deuteronomy, Moses was the main judge over Israel. He had other, lesser, judges under him, and they judged small matters, but I think it safe to say that matters were a person’s life or a significant amount of property were at risk were brought before Moses himself. We also know that Moses was a prophet, and heard directly from God in a way most people did not – and even to this day, do not.

Numbers 15:35 and 27:5,6; show that Moses heard directly from God in regards to specific civil matters – Joshua 7 shows that the same was true for Joshua – Joshua 9:14 would indicate that their custom was to ask counsel of God, yet in this instance they did not and thus suffered.

Judges 2:18,19 would seem to indicate that God spoke to the other judges of Israel in like manner.
We know that Deborah was a prophetess (a fact which is highlighted for us, perhaps because, although normally a woman would not be qualified for such a role, God chooses to make exceptions at times and made her a prophetess, thus qualifying her for such a role). We also have recorded for us the fact that Gideon was spoken to by the LORD, and Samson had the Spirit of the Lord upon him. Samuel definitely was able to hear the voice of the LORD.

Unfortunately, Israel was corrupt all too often throughout these years, and the people did not follow God. I would state that this is not the fault of improper civil government, but of families who did not pass on to their children a fear and love for the LORD. Judges speaks of a generation rising up which did not know the LORD, and even Samuel’s sons were wicked. This goes to show that even when God himself is speaking directly to the civil leaders, good civil government alone cannot make people righteous – you cannot legislate morality.

Today, we do not have leaders – not even church leaders, but certainly not civil leaders -who hear from God in such a direct, case by case, personal manner. Perhaps someday God will choose to speak to people this way again, but we don’t know that He will, and if that happened I would have to reconsider my conclusions here.

That being said, I do not believe that civil government should be able to punish people for sinning against God and thereby “injuring” Him (insofar as a mortal can harm the Almighty). Self, family, and church governments should address sins, obviously, but it should be noted that they do not hold the sword – they really can’t resort to physical force, at least not to the extent that the civil government can. As such, I would advocate putting the civil government on as short a leash as possible (without thoroughly making it useless).
Take, for instance, the matter of the sabbath – most Christians today observe it on the 1st day of the week. Others feel that this is a Catholic perversion of the command to celebrate it on the 7th day, and so celebrate on the last day of the week. Should civil government then step in and determine for us what God has said? Are they to then force everyone to ignore their conscience and observe the sabbath on "X" day? Does the Bible say that man is the head of women, the state is the head of man, and God the head of the state?

Unless I am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is what God wants for us today I could not in good conscience support such laws. I would rather let a guilty man go unpunished until judgement day than to have a law punish people for things which are not crimes, and find on judgement day that I have blood guilt upon my hands.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Bacon-Wrapped Soft Pretzel Rods

Bacon-wrapped Pretzels

Bacon-Wrapped Soft Pretzel Rods

  • 4 cups flour (bread flour, or whole wheat flour, or a combination of the two)
  • 2 Tbsp wheat gluten, (optional but recommended if you’re using WW flour)
  • 2 tsp SAF yeast
  • 1½ tsp sea salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 lb bacon (not thick-sliced)
Pretzel Boil:
  • 2 – 3 quarts water
  • 2 Tbsp baking soda
  • 1 Tbsp sucanat/brown sugar
Mixing the Pretzels:
  1. Combine flour, optional gluten, yeast, and salt in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Heat water and milk in a small saucepan until lukewarm.
  3. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and knead, using either your hands or a mixer with a dough hook, until dough is smooth and somewhat elastic. (This is a rather wet dough, so expect it to be somewhat sticky)
  4. Place dough in a warm spot and cover with a moist tea towel. Let rise until nearly doubled. (About an hour.)
Shaping the Pretzels:
  1. Remove dough from bowl and divide into 1 oz. pieces. Roll pieces into 4 – 5 inch long sticks, then place onto well-greased baking sheets, leaving at least 3″ of space between pieces. Cover with a moist towel and let rise.
Boiling the Pretzels:
  1. Place water in a large pan or Dutch oven and bring to a boil while the pretzels are rising. (I recommend also prepping the bacon at this time – see below for instructions on that.)
  2. Once the water is boiling, add baking soda and sucanat.
  3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. (F)
  4. While keeping the water at a gentle but constant boil, drop the pretzel pieces, one or two at a time, into the water for about two minutes, turning pieces over after about a minute.
Adding the Bacon:
  1. Use a sharp knife to cut bacon slices in half, then separate the slices.
  2. Wrap bacon around freshly-boiled pretzels, securing with a toothpick if necessary.
  3. Make a few shallow slashes on the pretzels between the bacon.
  4. As each piece is boiled and wrapped, place it back on the baking sheet.
Baking the Pretzels:
  1. Bake for about 15 minutes until pretzels are a golden brown.
  2. Remove pretzels from baking sheet immediately after taking out of oven and let cool on wire racks.
  3. *Don’t burn yourself on the bacon grease!*
  4. Serve while warm.
-The pretzels pictured were made with all whole wheat flour (+ vital wheat gluten) -If your baking sheet doesn’t have edges I would recommend putting something underneath it in your oven – you don’t want bacon grease to drip everywhere.
-I’m not going to promise that the the ratio of bacon strips to pretzel rods will be perfect, but it ought to be fairly close. If you do run out of bacon, just bake the last few rods plain and serve them with butter or a condiment of your choice. And if you have extra bacon… well, you can probably figure out on your own how to use it.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Statism & Idolatry

Most Christians I know are tired of our current ungodly, tyrannical government.  They are sick of seeing their country attacked by the very ones appointed to serve it, and they wish it weren’t tyrannical, bloated, and supportive of evildoing.  They are also weary of seeing our society gradually become more and more ungodly and immoral.
Unfortunately, these some people seem to stumble when it comes to the concept civil government enforcing “good” things.  (Especially *ahem* when that government is filled with those in red ties.)  Why wouldn’t we want to have unhealthy food banned?  Why wouldn’t we want to have harmful drugs be illegal or restricted?  Why would someone oppose caring for the poor?  Why shouldn’t government help businesses and the economy?  Why is it wrong for government to monitor the citizens if they’re doing so in an effort to prevent another 9/11?  Isn’t it good for us to aid other countries who are fighting the “bad guys”?  Aren’t these laws based on good and Biblical principles and morals?  Keeping people safe and happy and healthy?
The problem is, these folks don’t ask about whether or not these laws and actions are correct actions for the civil government to get involved in.
Should we seek to be healthy?  Avoid harmful substances and foods?   Should we be charitable?  Is it good for us to seek to have healthy, prosperous businesses?  Should we seek to be safe and avoid trouble before it comes?  Should we seek to help those in trouble?  The answer to all of this, obviously, is a resounding yes.
However, it is not the responsibility of the civil government to keep us healthy, to care for the poor, to make us prosperous, to prevent anything bad from happening, or t0 help other countries in their struggles.  The state does not have the authority to get involved in such matters, and when the do so, they usurp the power and jurisdiction of others and become tyrannical.
When we expect the state to care for us, to ensure that we have a smooth retirement, to keep us healthy, to educate us, to protect us, to prevent anything bad from ever happening to us, to tell us whether or not such-and-such food is healthy, to rescue us out of every bad situation, to make sure we drive safely, to tell us when to do what, to dictate for us our consciences, etc., etc., we have made government into a god.  These  are not the roles of a just, Biblical, Constitutional government.  In setting up a government with these duties or powers we set up a tyrannical government which usurps the role of the Almighty.
The state is not responsible for making sure that our needs are provided for.  The family and individual are responsible for that, and if circumstances render them unable to do so sufficiently, the church steps up to help.  Ultimately, however, our needs are met by God, and we rely on Him for our sustenance and well-being.  When we turn to the state for this provision and care instead of turning to God we spite Him who gives us our lives and breath, trusting instead in imperfect rulers.
Do we not remember God’s reaction when Israel sought a king?  YHWH stated, “…they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.”  Yet we now seek to make our government more powerful and almighty than even the kings of Israel were.  Tyrannical as they were, those kings at least didn’t have the NSA or the TSA or a “See Something Say Something” campaign.  (So far as I am aware, anyway…)
God is the one who takes provides for us, who sustains our lives, who keeps from danger or gives us the grace to go through trials, who gives us the wisdom to make decisions and His Word to guide our lives.   He delegates various areas of authority to various governments (self, family, church, and civil are the main types) and these governments are limited in their power.  Only God rules over all, and He is the one who will ultimately judge all actions of all men.
Let the state fulfill it’s God-given role of punishing those who harm others; obey it in all things lawful – but never let it replace God or other God-given types of governments.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Me vs. "Convenience" Food

 It should have been an easy task.  Make crescent rolls?  From a can?  Why would that be hard?  I was babysitting, the five year-old was hungry, and she requested “cressies”.  Well, why not make them for her?
After all, I can make rolls from scratch without batting an eyelash.  From freshly ground wheat?  Of course!  Collect the eggs from the chickens outside?  Sure!  Knead the dough for almost-forever?  Why not?
So then, what was so hard about opening a can of crescent rolls and sticking them into the oven?
I grabbed the can and pulled out a can opener before realizing that this might not be so easy as it sounded.  This can was definitely not the type one used a can opener on; it was made partly of cardboard and there was no lip on the metal for the can opener to grab onto.
Concentrated juice is often put in similar cans, but those cans have pull-tabs on them.  It didn’t take me long to figure out that there was no such thing on this contraption.
I stared at it and decided to do what people always say should be done first: read the directions.
Only, there weren’t any.  Not regarding how to open the silly thing up, anyway.  I read the entire can at least thrice, hoping that I’d somehow missed some gem of wisdom.  But alas, there were no helpful instructions anywhere to be found.  “Remove dough…” Duh!  That’s what I’m trying to do!  ”Roll up triangles…bake on cookie sheet…”  Hey,  I can figure THAT out on my own… but HOW DOES ONE REMOVE THE PACKAGING?! 
At the point the five-year old was getting concerned and impatient.  “Do you know how to bake, Hannah?”
“Yes!  Of course I know how to bake… just… be patient for a minute!”
I vaguely remembered mom opening on of these things years ago, and suddenly recalled that the cardboard was supposed to come apart somehow.  I started tearing away at the paper label on top until all that was left was a sticky, blank, cardboard surface.  Ah, yes.  The seams were supposed to pop open, right?
After finding that the seams weren’t snapping apart no matter how much I twisted the contraption, I started banging it on the counter.
Whap!  Whap!  WHAM!
The five year-old was definitely worried at this point.  “Hannah, do you want to call somebody and ask them how to make crescent rolls?”
Ha.  No, I most definitely did not want to call anyone at this point.  I do have some amount of dignity, and asking how to pop open a can of crescent rolls would be far too humbling.  This was supposed to be something that even kids could handle, right?
I glanced down and realized that the seam between the metal and cardboard was starting to come apart.  A-ha!  Victory!  I grabbed the two edges and yanked them apart, revealing the dough inside.  I grabbed the dough with my fingers and started to pull it out of the side of the can.
It started to stretch.
I pulled, it stretched…  and I realized that the can still wasn’t opened enough.  The dough was stuffed in so tightly that trying to pull it out of one end was simply impossible.
Out came a butter knife, and I banged the seams and finally managed to demolish the can completely.   Success at last… that is, until I realized that I didn’t know how to turn their electric oven on.
Our oven has two knobs.  Just two.  One of the stays on “bake” 99% of the time, and the other simply needs to be spun to the desired temporature to turn the oven on.  Their oven had at least a dozen or so buttons, and not a single one of them was labeled “350″.  -_-
<enter panic mode>
For the record:  I did finally get those crescent rolls made.  They looked and tasted fine, but I was understandably somewhat miffed when the five year-old hardly even nibbled at them.  Pfft.  When she requested them again a week or so ago I had almost no trouble making them, so… I guess I’m not totally hopeless?  Of course, making popcorn in the microwave for the first time was also rather daunting, and I may have nearly panicked when I had to make not-from-scratch french toast…
At least I know how to turn brownie mix into brownies…

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Finished Project {Envelope Wallet}

I’m the type of person who likes lists and charts and organizational stuff, so the Dave Ramsey envelope system has always appealed to me. At this point I really don’t have enough expenses to make it needful, but I’ve been using it anyway. But after stuffing ugly paper envelopes into my wallet until they were nearly falling apart, I was getting tired of the less-than-lovely appearance. A quick Google search brought up multiple envelope wallet tutorials and ideas, and this is what resulted.
I used this method to print on fabric – I was originally thinking to print fancy text labels on each envelope, but decided to use various graphics and such instead – that way, if I want to change up my categories I can do so easily.  To me, the graphics I chose for each category makes sense (e.g., a vintage sewing machine for crafts) but I could switch them around if I want to later.
Most wallet tutorials had the envelopes stitched into the wallet, with zippers to secure them better.  I didn’t have zippers on hand, I don’t like sewing zippers when I don’t have to, and I wanted to be able to remove the envelopes – so I just made simple pockets instead.  They’re tight enough that my money isn’t going to fall out, and the button on the main wallet is more than enough to keep everything tightly secured when it’s all put together.
Inside the wallet is a cardholder/mini pouch – this was the most confusing and frustrating part of making the wallet.
(Oh, and for the record:  I don’t live in Pell City.  If I did, I’d have removed the library card before photographing this; I’m not going to publicly announce my location for any creepy people to find.  *ahem*)
DetailThis is a closeup shot of the button.  (Duh.)
I don’t like hand sewing.
I really don’t know why I’m giving you a closeup shot of my lame hand sewing.
Oh well.  Whatever.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Spider Bark

Now, before I give you the recipe, I need to give you an explanation of the name, lest any misunderstandings occur.
For years, one of my favorite homemade candies was “spiders” – chow mein noodles and peanuts covered in chocolate and butterscotch.  The name was derived from the shape of the candies, as their misshapen appearance vaguely ivaguely suggestive of a spider.  Now, we don’t often stock up on chow mein noodles, so it wasn’t surprising that I didn’t have any on hand on a certain day in 2012 when I was craving this candy.  I ended up improvising, creating my own version of the candy – a lumpy nut-and-coconut-filled chocolate-and-butterscotch-covered… lump.
Not surprisingly, the similarly-flavored candies also ended up being called spiders, though they no longer bore any resemblance to any sort of insect.  I eventually got tired of trying to spoon the mixture into similarly-sized lumps, so I chopped up the nuts and smoothed the mixture into a slab, making it into a sort of bark.  Despite my attempt to give it a more appealing name, however, my siblings didn’t miss a beat and started calling it “smooshed flat spiders”.
Anyway.  If you want to, feel free to think up your own name for this candy.  And if you don’t, rest assured in the knowledge that a spider’s bark is better than its bite.  :P
The first step is to melt a bag of chocolate chips.  If you have a microwave, you could do it in there.  Otherwise, the stovetop works fine, especially if you have a double boiler.  If you don’t have one, you’ll have to watch carefully to make sure you don’t burn the chocolate, but it’s still quite doable.
Oh, and you really must use dark chocolate.  Milk chocolate is sad.  So.
Next, measure out two cups of nuts.  I used pecans and almonds, since they happen to be my favorites; you can use whatever type you like or have on hand.  Raw, roasted, salted or not – all work fine, and it’s really an issue of preference.

Chop up those nuts in a food processor until most of ‘em are smaller than pea-size.  Larger chunks make it harder to chew and break bark into pieces, and smaller would make the nuts disappear in the chocolate and result in a loss of that delightful crunchiness.
(The camera battery died after I took the above photo, and I had to use our old low-quality backup camera for the next several photos.  Pardon the not-so-appetizing quality of these pictures, please.)
Stir those nuts into the chocolate, along with (unsweetened & toasted) coconut flakes and butterscotch-flavored chips.
Pour the mixture out onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.   (See how the butterscotch isn’t totally mixed into the chocolate?  That’s good.  We don’t wish for it to disappear – though we don’t want its flavor to be scarce, either.  Adding it in last helps keep it slightly distinct, but the heat of the melted chocolate will still be enough to make sure it melts a bit.)
Then, place another piece of parchment paper on top and smash it until it’s flat.  A rolling pin helps if it’s being stiff and lumpy.  When it’s flattened enough, stick it in the freezer.  And then wait.  And wait.  And try not to think about how good it’ll taste.  And keep waiting.  I know, I know, waiting… it isn’t easy.  But when it finally hardens, pull it out..
…and snap, smash, crush, or break apart in some way or another.
That’s it!  Now all you have to do is guard it from any family members who think it’s okay to claim it all for themselves.  ;)


Spider Bark

  • 12 oz chocolate chips
  • 2 cups chopped nuts
  • ½ cup coconut flakes
  • ½ cup butterscotch chips
  1. Melt chocolate in a double boiler.
  2. Add other ingredients.
  3. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  4. Pour mixture onto parchment paper and cover with another piece of parchment paper.
  5. Use your hands to smoosh the chocolate mixture into a thin layer between the papers. A rolling pin may be helpful if the mixture is being stubborn.
  6. Without removing the parchment paper, transfer the baking sheet to the freezer. Chill until hardened.
  7. Remove from baking sheet; peel off parchment paper. Break chocolate slab into small pieces.
  8. Enjoy! :D