Monday, August 27, 2012

In Search of a Better Liturgy

Well, I never thought it would happen, but it has.  About a month ago, the wife and I were subjected to a semi-heretical homily in which the priest, while not denying the miracle outright, suggested that what was truly miraculous about the multiplication of the loaves and fishes was not the feeding of the 5,000, but that the people had been moved by the example of the young boy with the five loaves and two fish to share with one another, as he had shared with Jesus.

Needless to say, I was more than a little upset with the good father.  I had been looking for an excuse to attend mass at a different parish anyway, one of a more ritualistically old-school frame of mind.  Sadly, as beautiful as St. Alphonsus Ligouri in Baltimore is, they have no parking lot, and I wasn’t too eager to just leave my car in the middle of downtown Baltimore for an hour and a half.  Having to dash out after Mass to rescue my car before the meter ended also meant that it would be difficult making friends at this church.

In the wake of Anglicanorum Coetibus, however, the banks of the Tiber have begun to flow a little wider here in Maryland.  Taking advantage of the Holy Father’s offer to come home while keeping their liturgical traditions intact, three Anglican parishes have entered into the fullness of the Catholic faith in Maryland: St. Luke’s in Bladensburg, Christ the King in Towsend, and our soon-to-be parish, Mount Calvary in Baltimore.

Nestled in downtown, Mount Calvary was founded in 1842 by a group of Episcopalians who were greatly inspired by the Oxford Movement then taking place in England.  From the start, the pastors and parishioners at Mount Calvary often got into trouble with the Anglican Diocese of Maryland for their “Romish ways.”  In 1868, Rev. Alfred Curtis, the pastor, sent shockwaves through the Protestant Episcopal Church when he began saying daily Mass at Mount Calvary; it was also around this time that (gasp!) confessionals were installed in the church.  Eventually, Curtis would leave Maryland, and go to England to be received into the Church by Cardinal Newman himself.  He returned to America and served as Bishop of Wilmington (1886-96) and Auxiliary Bishop of Baltimore (1896-1908) under Cardinal Gibbons until his death.

In the meanwhile, Curtis’ successor, Rev. Joseph Richey, was disciplined by his bishop for using altar candles, wafer bread, elevating the Host, making the Sign of the Cross, and carrying a crucifix in processions.  In 1899, the Eucharist replaced Choral Matins as the principal Sunday service; in 1910, the word “Mass” replaced “Celebration” in parish correspondence; and in 1916, the Good Friday Mass of the Pre-Sanctified was established to welcome new catechumens into the church.

Like the Anglo-Catholic parishes of London’s East End, Mount Calvary was also known for its charitable works.  It helped open and operate churches for black parishioners (at a time when most Marylanders still strongly believed in segregation), children’s hospitals and soup kitchens.  In 1872, the pastor founded an order of nuns, the All Saints’ Sisters, to operate the parish’s ministries in the city.  Like Mount Calvary, the Sisters were also accepted into the Catholic Church, in 2009.

Oh, and did I mention that in the late 1840s and early 50s, and young officer of the Corps of Engineers named Lieutenant Robert E. Lee attended services here with his family?

It is a beautiful little brick church, simple and yet elegant.  They have never been “wreckovated,” and so the high altar holds pride of place, unmarred by any picnic tables.  I have not heard their choir, which I am told is excellent, but the organ, the first Baroque-inspired organ installed in the United States, provides music of a quality that is sadly lacking in many Roman rite parishes today.  And in such a small parish (only 30 or so people), we were warmly welcomed the first time we attended Mass there. 

The reason we started going, of course, was the liturgy.  The more I attend the Anglican Use, the more I wonder why we had to retranslate the Mass at all.  Descended as it is from the old Sarum Rite, it seems closer to what a true English-language mass should be then the hodge-podge that is the Novus Ordo (a valid hodge-podge, to be sure, but hodge-podge nonetheless).  The chants follow the Gregorian style, so it is not too difficult to follow along for us poor Latin singers.  It is a beautiful liturgy, and I can only hope that more Catholics become acquainted with it in the future.   

In all fairness, I must admit that we did give our old parish another chance this past Sunday, but once again the homily was so wishy-washy, the priest so eager not to give offence that, according to my wife, if you had parsed his sermon, it would have come out as sheer nonsense.  One of the readings was the old “wives, be subordinate” section that has all modern priests shaking in their boots in fear.  Rather than actually explain what it meant for us today, the priest tried to explain it away, accusing St. Paul of being unable to think outside of his cultural upbringing, harping on “equality,” and in effect not saying much of anything substantial.  I have the okay from the wife to send a deregistration letter to this parish, and we will soon be joining the community at Mount Calvary.  Hopefully some of you can join us in the future.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

House of Cards: A Cautionary Tale

The Housing Crisis.  The Real Estate Bubble.  The Credit Crisis.  "The worst financial crisis of modern times."  We've all heard about it.  An incredible number of people experienced it.  I, for one, never understood it.  Economics is not my strong suit, and I was fortunate enough to be far too busy writing papers and studying for exams to give it much thought.  This documentary, House of Cards, made the whole process abundantly (and maddeningly) clear.  So, for anyone else of my generation who may have missed it, here's a breakdown of the financial train wreck we call the Housing Crisis.
  • September 11, 2001, happens.  Expecting a severe economic stall after the tragedy, Chairman of the US Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan preemptively lowers interest rates to encourage spending.
  • Encouraged by "the lowest interest rates in a generation," many Americans take the plunge, buying homes and committing to mortgages.  
  • Responding to demand, residential development increases.  Brand new neighborhoods start popping up.
  • While all this is going on, the actual price of a new home is increasing at a greater rate than the average American income because of the inflated demand.
  • Because the prices are rising, new homeowners (mortgage holders) find they have significant equity in their new homes as soon as they move in.  
  • As demand for real estate slows because of the rising prices, lenders and mortgage companies begin looking for new and appealing ways to package their product.
  • "Subprime mortgages" become popular, or mortgages for people with shaky credit who would ordinarily be considered a bad risk.  There is little or no vetting process for these mortgages, and as a consequence many people are granted loans they cannot afford.
  • A quick note about how the market works: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were government institutions established to increase homeownership by buying home loans from mortgage lenders.  As the new owners of these mortgages, these two companies would receive a steady flow of monthly payments, pool the money and sell shares.  These shares are called "mortgage-backed securities."  While they dominated the market, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were able to dictate the terms of the mortgages they would buy, terms which used to be strict.
  • However, while Fannie and Freddie are momentarily distracted by internal accounting scandals, a crop of new mortgage lenders in California takes advantage of the chance to sell risky subprime mortgages to Wall Street.  Suddenly there are no more rules.
  • Wall Street likes to sell their mortgage-backed securities to foreign countries, like China and India, which are suddenly flush with cash.  These countries see American mortgage-backed securities as low-risk, high-return investments, which would have been true under normal circumstances.  However, international demand in turn leads Wall Street to pressure the risky subprime mortgage lenders to supply more mortgages, regardless of quality.
  • Mortgage lenders drop all standards in order to meet Wall Street's demand, offering subprime mortgages to people who have no business taking out a loan.  There is no investigation, so it is simple for applicants to lie about their stated income.  Sometimes the lender will cook the books on the applicants' behalf, with or without their knowledge.  The lenders then flip the risky "liar loan" to Wall Street, which would then flip it to unsuspecting international investors.
  • None of the firms on Wall Street want to be the first to impose stricter standards, because such a move would be "suicidal" in that market.
  • Suddenly, many Americans in a lower income bracket find themselves able to "afford" a home loan, the American dream.
  • (Remember the rising cost of homes across the market?) "Adjustable-rate mortgages" become popular, mortgages with low interest rates for the first few years before jumping to a higher rate.  Borrowers who accept these terms usually plan to refinance before the rate changes, counting on the house continuing to increase in value.
  • When homeowners discover the new equity suddenly put into their homes by the rising costs of the real estate market, they are quick to refinance, a move which gives them ready cash but also a larger mortgage.  Small-town America goes on a spending spree, causing retail sales to improve.
  • While the mortgage-lending market is booming, everyone wants to get on the act.  People with no training and no qualifications begin selling subprime mortgages.  The more loans they close, the more fees they collect.  Any candidate is a good candidate.  Meanwhile, these are all profitable because of Wall Street's demand.
  • Encouraged by the sudden increase in homeownership (and the alleged economic recovery that implied) the government encourages the mortgage companies to invent still more kinds of mortgages to make them more accessible to those who essentially could not afford it.  They call these "greater mortgage product alternatives to the traditional fixed-rate mortgage."  Mortgage companies and Wall Street are both eager to comply.
  • Deceptively complicated products with cryptic names like the "pay option negative amortization adjustable rate mortgage" are created.  Laymen call it a "pick-a-payment mortgage," in which any unpaid interest will be added to the principal each month.  The end result is a mortgage that gets "paid up" rather than down, trapping the homeowner in debt.
  • All this risk is held together by the notion that home prices would continue to rise.
  • As the loans became riskier, the rating agencies (which the international investors relied upon to vet their investments) are convinced to bend the rules, giving a mortgage-backed security which originated in a risky subprime mortgage the same rating as another backed by a stable traditional mortgage.  AAA is the safest rating, and international investors would allegedly buy anything rated AAA.
  • While the market was booming, banks invent yet another way to repackage their product for investors.  A "collateralized debt obligation" (CDO) is a collection of several parts of several different mortgage-backed securities, a sneaky way to intermingle the bad mortgages with the good ones.  Only the mathletes understand them, and unwary investors take them on faith often without any idea what they are actually buying, trusting the fraudulent AAA rating.  Again, the appeal of these investments is predicated on the notion that housing prices would never fall and that homeowners would not default on their payments.
  • As international demand increases for CDOs and other mortgage-backed securities, Wall Street leans harder on the lenders and mortgage brokers, who in turn aggressively issue mortgages to anyone willing to sign the dotted line, qualified or unqualified.  All the while, everyone in the business is becoming fabulously wealthy.  This peaks in 2004-2005.
  • Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac find themselves missing out, and abandon the standards they had once enforced, embracing the subprime mortgage business.
  • Homeowners, made euphoric by the perception of their sudden affluence, spend whatever additional equity they have in their new homes.  With no ability to pay off such a huge mortgage, everyone plans on refinancing later to stay afloat, trusting prices to continue rising.
  • By 2006, subprime mortgages begin to default, beginning the avalanche.  Suddenly feeling the pain, Wall Street begins to cut off the risky mortgage brokers, driving them out of business.  With fewer mortgage brokers willing to make risky deals, prospective homeowners are no longer able to qualify for a mortgage.  With fewer prospective buyers, housing prices stall.  When housing prices stop rising, homeowners are not able to refinance and find themselves stuck with crushing debt, many trapped in adjustable rate mortgages.  As the interest payments on adjustable rate mortgages begin to increase, more mortgages default.  Many families find they owe more on their homes than they are now worth and abandon them to foreclosure.  Neighborhoods of new homes became ghost towns.  
  • As housing prices fall and mortgages default, the mortgage-backed securities and CDOs begin to sour.  International investors realize they have been sold a crate of lemons, setting off the global credit crisis.  Demand for those investments abruptly dries up, crashing the market.  Banks and investment firms begin dying like flies.  Hence the cry for bailouts.
This is why it's apparently a buyers market right now.  I think I'll pass.
The moral of the story: human nature is a b----.

Sunday, August 19, 2012


Have you noticed how few frozen dinners come with conventional oven instructions?  Nevertheless, I refuse to capitulate to the cultural tyranny of the microwave.

I never thought I would like burritos because I never thought I would like beans.  I still don't like beans, but somehow mixed up with meat, cheese, and salsa, they aren't too bad.  We may be eating quite a few of them before this kitchen fiasco gets worked out.  If the budget runs out, we'll be stuck with cereal.  Dry cereal.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Home Sweet Hole In the Wall

So, after little more than a year, our apartment has decided to self-destruct.  On Saturday night, the sink started backing up, full of nasty silt.  This happened once last year, so we thought we knew the drill.  Of course, this kind of thing always happens on the weekend, and I didn't think standing water in the kitchen sink really qualified as an emergency.  Unfortunately, when we returned from church on Sunday, we discovered standing water around the sink, under the sink, and on the floor.  Of course, the counter was cluttered with odds and ends, so all kinds of things were contaminated.  One large roll of paper towels and several disinfectant wipes later, the majority of the kitchen items were evacuated.

I called for emergency maintenance, and the office sent somebody over in one quick hurry.  He fiddled with the problem for a while, dragged up more foul-smelling silt from the drain, and declared himself out-classed.  He called some real plumbers, who in turned fiddled for a long while and also declared defeat.  They promised to return sometime during the week to "camera the line."

In the meantime, we must subsist on fast food.

They were back on Wednesday, prepared to perform a colonoscopy on our pipes.  From the back room, I heard lots of suspicious sawing sounds.  When they were done, they left a big whole in the wall, claiming to have found and marked a "break in the line."  They predicted it would be necessary to "tear out" the whole kitchen.  In the meantime, that hole has released all kinds of new noxious smells which continue to remind us of mildewy basements and old gym clothes by turns.  Hence the small and entirely inadequate air-freshener.  

I went down to the office today to inquire how long we'll have to put up with this situation.  After all, the sink is a muddy mess, the countertops are unsanitary and the whole place smells horrible.  It has kind of crippled any attempt to cook in there.  No one could tell me how long it would be.  They suggested it would be okay to use the sink and the dishwasher if the sink was draining.  I tried it.  The sink isn't draining.  I left a message.

In the meantime, our kitchen paraphernalia has taken up residence on the table and in plastic bins.  I think I will acquire more air fresheners.   Fun times.

In addition to the obvious problems, the water from Sunday's flood seems to have gotten into more than just the particle board.  Every other floorboard under the entryway carpet is suddenly severely warped.  They'll likely want to tear that up, too.

And, if they ever can get around to it, our bathtub isn't draining properly.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Fifty Shades Too Many

It's alarming how popular these books are.  Alarming, but not really surprising.

I'll have to admit my comments will largely qualify as an uninformed opinion, because I refuse to read it.  I ventured a cautious peek in the bookstore just because I was morbidly curious. Not only is it porn, as far as I could tell it's poorly written porn.  And it's a runaway success?

I'm not 100% against sex in novels.  It happens between characters and is often integral to the plot, but there are artful ways to imply it, gloss over it, etc.  It's about knowing what to describe and when to cut the scene.  If the book is so much about sex that there is no other plot, it doesn't have much chance of being an edifying read.  In short, the wild popularity of books like "Fifty Shades of Grey" are disturbing to me as a Catholic and insulting to me as a writer.

Fortunately, the Church is prepared for these kinds of things.  I'm pretty sure they didn't have pulp fiction in mind when they wrote this prayer, but it will do just fine.

O glorious Apostle of the Gentiles, Saint Paul, who with such zeal didst busy thyself in destroying at Ephesus those books which thou knewest well would have perverted the minds of the faithful: turn upon us thy gracious eyes also at this present day.  Thou seest how an unbelieving and licentious press is attempting to rob our hearts of the precious treasure of faith and spotless morals.  enlighten, we beseech Thee, O holy Apostle, the minds of so many perverted writers, that they may cease once for all to do harm to souls with their evil doctrines and lying insinuations; move their hearts to hate the evil that they have done and are doing to the chosen flock of Jesus Christ.  For us, too, obtain the grace of being ever docile to the voice of the Supreme Pontiff, that we may never allow ourselves to indulge in the reading of bad books, but may seek instead to read and, so far as it is given to us, to diffuse those books which by their salutary doctrine shall assist all of us to promote the greater glory of God, the exaltation of His Church and the salvation of souls.  Amen. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Prayer Fatigue

When I was growing up, my family said the rosary on a semi-regular basis.  When we started taking our faith more seriously, we began saying the rosary more often.  First daily, then three times daily, and inevitably when the new mysteries were added, four times daily.  Our homeschooling house started to resemble something like a domestic convent.

That isn't necessarily a bad thing.  In fact, it was my siblings and I who insisted that we add the Luminous Mysteries to our routine.  However, an excess of prayer without an excess of piety can make the mind wander.  Cue the robot voices.  (Have you ever tried to pray the rosary with another family?  Everybody's rhythm gets messed up.)

When I left home for college, suddenly there was no one making me stop and say the rosary at regular intervals everyday, and I quickly fell out of the habit.  I've been trying to take it up again recently, but it's been difficult.  The whole point of the rosary is that the repetition is conducive to meditation, but unfortunately I find myself meditating more about my grocery list than about the life of Christ.  I have to make myself sit down and do it because it seems like such a chore.  It's my fault for not praying it properly, but I can't seem to focus for more than two Hail Mary's.  When friends or family suggest, "Hey, let's say the rosary!" my first thought is unfortunately, "No, not again!"  I think I'm suffering from rosary burnout.

My prayer life in general really hasn't been great these past years.  Between not wanting to pray the rosary and dealing with all the emotional drama, I settled into a numb resignation to what was apparently the will of God.  All my prayers were reduced to simply praying that God's will be done, which seemed a little superfluous after a while.  Surely God would do His will regardless.

It deteriorated to the point that we were Catholics on Sunday, and living what my husband would call "the life of the virtuous pagan" during the week.  It was time for a change of approach.  The rosary is great, but there are thousands of other devotions to chose from.  We instituted a designated prayer time in the evenings (which we're still trying to stick to), and since neither of us can get excited about the rosary yet, we each read silently from whatever we find edifying at the moment.  My current favorite is a 1957 edition of The Raccolta we found at a second-hand book store.  The difference is night and day.

For those who are unfamiliar with it, the Raccolta is self-described as "A Manual of Indulgences (Enchiridion Indulgentiarum): Prayers and Devotions Enriched with Indulgences In Favor of All the Faithful In Christ Or of Certain Groups of Persons."  Although this edition is apparently long out of date and many of the indulgences no longer apply, it's still a treasury of some incredible prayers for every occasion (with the official Latin versions).  My prayer life is three-dimensional again.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Are We Losing a "Right to Lose?"

I've been watching Nightline again.  Apparently a guy named Dave Mitchell in London feels so badly for the fourth-place Olympians that he's commissioning medals for them from his local trophy shop.  He says, "I just think stopping at three is nowadays too soon, too early."

Mr. Mitchell argues that there's no reason not to include another category, perhaps a pewter medal for fourth place.  After all, it's the age of no-score children's sports and participation trophies.  The bronze medal was only established in 1904.  Most Olympic athletes, however, seem to think a fourth place medal would be embarrassing, a "pity medal."  

Sports psychologist Michael Gervais makes the obvious point.  "If we're not dealing with loss," he says, "we're playing in a make-believe world."  The attitude that everybody has a right to be a winner doesn't establish the athletic utopia it's proponents expect.  What is the point of winning if nobody loses?  Why practice if you win regardless of how well you perform?  It's human nature, the same thing which makes capitalism work and dooms socialism to failure.  

When I was in seventh grade, we attended an awards ceremony at the end of the year.  The same thing had happened in sixth grade, but now there were apparently some new limitations.  No one student was allowed to publicly receive more than three certificates lest the other children feel inferior.  I received three on stage, and afterwards was secretly handed at least three more.  

If fourth place is worthy of a prize, what about fifth place?  Will it ever stop before everybody gets a ribbon?  It's not a matter of compassion, it's a matter of maturity.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Happy Birthday!

My little sister turns 23 today, which makes me feel really old.  It's not a good weekend for a visit, but we're celebrating in her honor with some of her favorite gluten-free cookies.  

My confirmation patron is St. Joan of Arc, and hers is St. Thérèse.  We always thought it would be neat to find a poster or banner with the two of them together for our bedroom, but we never managed it.  I was, however, able to find some pictures.  :)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

When Modesty Is the Better Part of Valor

Catholic Bloggers Network
Lest anyone accuse me of just picking on the men, I'll share some of my personal fashion tips for the ladies.  Today's lesson: skirt length.

If there's one fashion concern for women that gets a lot of attention in Catholic circles, it's modesty.  That word usually conjures up images of jumpers and t-shirt dresses, but one doesn't have to go to extremes of frumpiness to be socially modest.  In many cases the more conservative choice actually looks better.  They say less is more, and that can also apply to skin.

Last Sunday, we heard a priest share an amusing quote.  "A sermon should be like a woman's skirt," he said; "long enough to cover the subject, but short enough to be interesting."  Let's examine some examples.

Forgetting the moral argument for a moment, the dress on the left isn't terribly flattering.  She isn't bad-looking, but that flouncy little skirt isn't doing anything good for those skinny legs.  It makes her look more like a stork than a supermodel, or perhaps she's borrowing clothes from her baby sister.  It might look cute with a pair of capris, but she seems to have left her pants at home.  Don't leave home without your pants.  The dress on the right is, I think, a sophisticated alternative.  

Here we have much the same problem, along with the "bath towel" look.  Not only is it not flattering, it's in poor taste.  Don't show up to a party wearing something that implies you just stepped out of the shower and might "bare it all" any minute.  And girls, your knees are not always your best asset.  Shrunken dresses can cheapen your natural beauty and make you look like a stripper or a floozie.  Don't dress like a floozie.  There are alternatives.

Try something like this.  It makes you look like a grown woman with a mature mind and better things to do than throw herself at men.  Knee-length skirts also flatter a wide range of body types.  Radiate self-respect, and you just might get some respect in return.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Free Onions!

Here are my scallion stubs in various stages of regrowth.  So exciting!  Can't have much of a garden in an apartment, but these are easy.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Gentlemen, Please Wear Socks

Just out of curiosity, I went on a quick browse through the "Men's Fashion" category on Pinterest.  I'm not sure what I was expecting, but the selection did not feature many styles which were actually flattering to the male physique.  I thought high-water pants used to be an unforgivable fashion sin.  Are bare ankles in this year?

The emasculation of our society continues.  The fashion world tries so hard to be trendy, I think they forget that some things just look bad.  Sometimes knobbly ankles and toothpick legs are a fact of life, but for heaven's sake, don't advertise them.  High-water low-rise pants make it look like the wearer had a sudden freak growth spurt.  Gay or straight, you don't have to look silly.

Gentlemen, this is how you may wear pants.

Quick and Easy: Lemon Pepper Pork with Scallions and Peas

This is my current favorite recipe.  What my favorites always seem to have in common is that they are cheap, easy, and don't require hours of prep.

  • pork (I like the boneless country-style ribs because they're both affordable and tasty.)
  • lemon pepper (Find a brand without MSG.)
  • scallions
  • frozen peas
  • light olive oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Place pork, lightly coated in olive oil, in a baking dish.  Cover the top of the pork with lemon pepper.  Bake for 20 minutes per pound.  While the pork is baking, let the frozen peas thaw in a bowl of cold water.  With about 10 minutes cook time left for the pork, cut up the scallions and fry them in a generous amount of olive oil.  Strain the peas and add them to the cooked onions and oil; salt to taste.

Not bad for budget food.  The scallions drown the peas in mild oniony goodness to help endear them to those who might not be huge fans.  Also gluten-free and dairy-free.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Gluten-Free for the Heck of It?

On Monday, ABC Nightline ran a segment about the "gluten-free by choice" craze among this year's Olympians.  Apparently they "just feel better" when they go off gluten.  They say some benefits of the diet can include weight loss, feeling more energized, fewer aches and pains, and better sleep.  However, advocates of an elective gluten-free lifestyle admit there is currently no medical studies or literature to confirm these benefits.

That's not new to me.  While dealing with my fertility issues, I was told by several specialists that there wasn't much they could do for me because there was no medical literature on my condition.  Great.  We'll just move on without the literature.

During the discussion, the inevitable question was raised: were there any risks associated with a gluten-free diet?  The news crew even went to far as to suggest an elective gluten-free diet "could be dangerous."  Dr. Peter Green of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University was in the hot seat, and I eagerly awaited his explanation.  "A gluten-free diet is not entirely healthy," he said.  "Often it lacks fiber, and the manufacturers of wheat flour fortify wheat flour with vitamins and minerals."

. . . Seriously?  Is that it?  Eat more vegetables and take a multivitamin.  Problem solved.

I'm assuming the news crew didn't edit out juicier bits, and if that's the worst that can be said for going gluten-free I just might try it.  My sister is gluten-free for medical reasons.  We have already cut out pasta and most bread products because my husband and I are trying to lose at least twenty pounds each.  We already avoid processed food because of my newly-informed aversion to MSG, dangerous unsaturated fats, and carcinogenic preservatives.  It shouldn't be too much of a lifestyle adjustment.

So, with apparently nothing to lose, I will try a gluten-free diet for two weeks starting Monday.  If it can help me get through a night without at least three stress dreams, I'll be happy.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Things I Learned From Pinterest, Vol. I

1.  Spiders apparently aren't fans of cayenne pepper, so mix equal parts pepper and white vinegar and you have a non-toxic spider repellant.  I just applied this to all our outdoor window frames and had the little buggers running for cover.  However, don't try to put this concoction into a squirt bottle; use an old paint brush.

2.  Rubbing dry bar soap on itchy bug bites will afford almost instantaneous relief.  I tried this on a mosquito bite I acquired while applying the aforementioned spider repellant, and it worked like a charm.  Why, oh, why didn't we know about this while we were living in Texas?!

3.  You can grow a new batch of scallions if you put the rooty white ends in a glass of water.  I'm currently trying this, because I love scallions . . .

4.  BRILLIANT IDEA:  Freeze individual servings of fresh herbs in olive oil for future use, perhaps in an ice cube tray.  No more buying a whole bundle of cilantro just to let most of it wilt in the fridge!  Just pop out a cube as needed and toss it in the skillet.

5.  White vinegar is a great (and cheap) cleaning agent, but it can make your whole house smell like a pickle factory.  Make citrus-infused vinegar for cleaning by letting citrus peels soak in your vinegar for about two weeks.  Be sure to remove all the fruit pulp because you don't want sticky fruit sugars in your cleaning solution.  When your better-smelling vinegar is ready, dilute with water and you're ready to go.  This will be my next project.

6.  A random fact:

That probably says a lot about my sheltered adolescence. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Easy No-Bake Cookies

I use old fashioned oats and all natural peanut butter, but there's really nothing you can do to fudge the Nutella (pun intended).  It's a quick and easy fix when there's no time to deal with a lot of ingredients.  Shoot, don't even bother making individual cookies; tastes just as good straight out of a bowl.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Conservatives and Reverse Boycotts

Sadly, we did not participate in "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day" because I already had plans for dinner.  Also, I could not help but feel a twinge of sympathy for the employees on what must have been a crazy busy day for them.  However, we are already die-hard fans of the place, and we were just there last Saturday for no other reason than to spite the liberals of the world.  We will probably be back sometime this week to spread the appreciation around.  Apparently a relation of mine recently overheard some of these liberals whispering amongst themselves as they ate their chicken sandwiches, admitting that "We really shouldn't be eating here."  You can't argue with a good product.

These attempts by the "progressive" community to blackball this or that business always seem to backfire.  We conservatives can be a quiet bunch, but we're always willing to take reverse recommendations from liberals when it comes to which establishments to patronize.  Just yesterday I was reading about a cake shop which was boycotted for refusing to provide a homosexual wedding cake.  Despite the boycott, or perhaps because of it, the owner says business has never been better.

For Rent

A month ago my mother-in-law asked me whether we were thinking of buying a house soon.  Quite honestly, that was the farthest thing from my mind.  She's right about it being a buyer's market right now, but even if we weren't considering a move in a few years I don't think I would want to bite off that kind of financial commitment, particularly in this political climate.

At the moment, I'm much more passionate about paying off our household debt and bracing for the allegedly imminent financial collapse of the country and/or the implosion of this inflated currency we're using.  Also, while still being something of a novice navy wife, my experience of the lifestyle so far has left me reluctant to lock my landing gear in place.  If someday we have to pack up and cut all ties, I want to be free to do that, which is why it makes sense for us to buy a brand new car and not a house.

Speaking of the car and paying off debts, if we scrimp and squeeze the blood out of pennies, we can have everything paid off in three years.  It will be right about that time that David will be considering a career change.  If we can be debt free by the time we have to pack up and start a new life, it will be awesome.  At that point we can reassess our budget and start socking away cash for adoptions.

That's personally why we rent, and apparently we're not alone.  I was getting caught up on my belated news, watching episodes of ABC Nightline on Hulu, and they ran a segment about how more Americans are renting whatever they possibly can.  The website Airbnb advertises short term rentals (much like you would rent a hotel room) directly from private owners "in 27,266 cities and 192 countries."  Some people are apparently using the site to sublet rooms they are themselves renting.  This economy is being dubbed the "share economy."  Have you ever thought about letting someone rent that bridesmaid's dress you never wear anymore?  How about the tools in your garage?  Some choose to rent rather than buy those baby toys the children grow out of so quickly, although in the Catholic tradition of large families we usually get our money's worth out of those.  RelayRides allows car owners to offer their cars for rent to other members of their community.  The renters say it's cheaper than owning a car, and the owners say the renting pays for maintenance.  It's an interesting trend, but I'm sure there are all kinds of insurance violations going on.

There are some of my belongings I wouldn't mind pimping out for some extra cash, but I'm still far too possessive of my car.