Monday, August 31, 2009

So I've done it.

This morning, just a few moments ago, I made my very first dish using a Julia Child recipe. I've been intrigued and inspired by her ever since I saw the movie and last night, I was up late catching up on laundry and ironing and lo! There on PBS was an original episode of The French Chef! I was so excited I nearly burned a hole in the shirt I was ironing!

I had never actually seen Mrs. Child cook before. She was making omelets. Daria heard her distinctive tones from upstairs and came down to investigate and we watched it together. By the time she had finished the first omelet I turned to Daria and said, "Let's try that right this very minute". Daria's more sensible mind prevailed, however, and she merely rolled her eyes at me and went back upstairs, fresh, hot cuppa in hand.

I was a wee bit disappointed at first. I muttered reproachfully, "Even I know how to make an omelet." HA! Famous last words, my friends, famous last words.

Mrs. Child (I cannot bring myself to call her Julia) first brought me up short by declaring that an omelet only takes 20 seconds to make. WHA-AAA-AT???!!! That made me shut right up. And she proceeded to demonstrate.

Two or three eggs, cracked in a bowl ("don't worry if some shell gets in, it will float to the bottom and most likely not slide into the pan"--this is my kind of gal).

A little water, about a teaspoon.

Whichever dry ingredients you like.

Slosh it all up with two chopsticks! You can, of course, use a whisk if you like but Mrs. Child prefers chopsticks. Interesting...

The pan must be hot so set it on the highest setting. This sent a bolt of fear through my and eggs and high heat do NOT get along! This just couldn't be!

A healthy tablespoon of butter (and no one, except Meryl Streep, says butter like Julia Child, have you noticed that? It rolls off her tongue like a lover's name) into the pan...

And just before it turns brown (which is, like, instantly) dump the beaten eggs into the hot pan.

Now. *This is where the magic began.*

Let the eggs sit in the bottom of the pan for a moment, then shake the pan. Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear. Shake it around flat but in a circular motion so the eggs swirl all over the place. Deardeardeardeardear...

Then...heavens...slightly tip the pan away from you and flip lightly with small, sharp jerks toward you. This (in theory) folds the eggs over onto themselves into a handy dandy tidy little pocket of omelet. Oh dear oh dearohdearohdear...

Then turn the pan so your thumb is at the top of the handle and turn the omelet onto a plate, flipping it over so the better side shows, feeling free to manipulate it with a few forks to nudge it into shape, if necessary.

The whole thing did indeed take about 20 seconds and Daria and I stood there open mouthed in amazement. Immediately, visions of spectacular breakfasts prepared in single-digit minutes bombarded my mind. This was incredible! And then I realized Mrs. Child wouldn't be cooking in my kitchen, I would.

Say it with me, ACK.

Mrs. Child did it about 18 more times, each time with the same child-like glee and enthusiasm she showed the first time. She demonstrated how to practice swirling and flipping the eggs with a pan full of beans (I commented to Daria that I would be picking beans out of all my drip pans if I tried that trick) and then tossed the beans into the garbage with a saucy grin and a "voila!" She burned the butter for one omelet and had to toss it out and start again. She burned her fingers on a pan she took out of the oven. She insulted her mother-in-law, saying she would give her a chicken liver omelet, "that will take care of her good" and then sheepishly admitted she had no mother-in-law. She stumbled over her words, dropped things, laughed at herself and was so real and human and wonderful!

So, this morning, first thing after dropping Redheaded Snippet off to school (and before there were any witnesses), I grabbed my non-stick pan, two chopsticks and the remaining three eggs in the fridge. What was the worst that could happen? Actually I stopped that train of thought before it got out of the station, I've learned not to ask that question in the kitchen.

Deep breath. Pan set on high heat, eggs crack'd, tsp water, smidge of thyme, basil, salt and pepper, generous pat of butter in pan (EEK nearly browning), pour, sizzle, pleading eyes to the heavens, swirlswirlswirl, jerk jerk okay must have confidence FLIP FLIP FLIP, jiggle (oh dear I don't recall Mrs. Child jiggling), weak flip once more, thumb on handle, WHERE'S THE PLATEohyes right there, sliiiiiiiide and one more feeble flip and...excuse me there's no avoiding it--voila!

I couldn't find my camera or I would have definitely taken a photo once I'd started breathing again. Because there, steaming on the plate in my kitchen, was a French omelet that looked just like the one Mrs. Child had cooked on tv last night! I was flabbergasted. I quickly sprinkled some cheese on top, finished preparing my tea and sat down to investigate.

Unbelievable. I had never had an omelet like that before. Soft, fluffy, light, melting in my mouth. And it literally took only moments. What on earth had we been passing as "omelets" in this house before this? Leathery, rubbery wads of overcooked egg, that's what! It was a revelation!

So, I really need to get that cookbook! And a copy of all the episodes of The French Chef wouldn't hurt either. Of course, I plan to make the children watch them with me. It is my rather new-found belief that children should graduate from high school knowing how to cook for themselves. Interestingly, Man-Cub actually has a natural interest in cooking that Redheaded Snippet completely lacks. She can cook, but doesn't particularly like to. Man-Cub, on the other hand, despite his initial concerns that boys shouldn't be interested in cookery (we set him right straight on that one, believe you me, "what will you do if you have no wife to cook for you (and with that attitude you may very well not)"), has started creeping up next to me asking to help, asking what I'm making, what's in it, what is that deliciousness he smells. I smell Future Foodie. That may even help him find a wife! You're welcome, future daughter-in-law, whoever you are!

So, I'm off to strip and remake beds, launder linens and hang them out to dry, if the weather holds out. I have not been able to use my clothes line much at all in the last month. We seem to be alternating between torrential rains and saturating humidity around here, both of which make line-drying quite difficult.

I'm also compiling a recipe/menu database for myself to further streamline my meal planning and Mrs. (Councilor)Nugent is coming over this week to help me organize things like the pantry and bathroom closet! It's pathetic how flat-out excited we both are about this event! Squee!

More on the database and organizing later! I have to wake up a very cranky 8-year-old as part of our Rising Early For School Conditioning.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Well, I'm bushed!

What a whirlwind of a day! Redheaded Snippet went to practice, I talked to Lobelia on the phone, I picked Snippet up, dropped Man-Cub off at a friend's pool party, chatted with the other moms for a bit, dropped Snippet off at Mom's, ran out with Dad to find a restaurant for EGOD's birthday in two weeks, took Mom to get her car, took Snippet to get a new field hockey stick, stopped in at my favorite British import shop for a few lovelies, and took Snippet to Plato's Closet and made it back home in time for dinner at 6:30! We got a lot done!

The Viking (bless him) had dinner waiting for us when we got home. Doesn't it look yummy? It's pho, a Vietnamese beef noodle soup. It's got paper-thin slices of beef (but I had eaten all of mine already before I'd taken this photo) and rice noodles and then oodles of other things which you have the option to add. I only like lime, Thai basil and cilantro in mine with a wee dab of Hoisin sauce. The Viking likes onions, scallions, bean sprouts, peppers, lime, Thai basil, cilantro and sriracha sauce in his. He's crazy! But he's wonderful for picking up pho and bringing home for us!

After dinner, Redheaded Snippet and I showed off our purchases which included the sharpest brown wool trench coat, an olive drab jacket, a green American Eagle sweatshirt, and an oatmeal, sleeveless hoodie lined with faux fur (all for only $65), the new hockey stick, a packet of decaf Typhoo, a packet of McVities Digestives and a belated birthday present from Redheaded Snippet and Daria, this:

It's a Brown Betty teapot though it isn't at all brown. I wonder if that makes it, technically, a Red Betty though that does not have the same ring to it? I have been admiring this teapot for over a year! Every time I go into the British import shop I pick it up, turn it around, sigh and put it back down again. Once I mentioned to Redheaded Snippet, "Someday, I'm going to get this teapot." Well, my sweet girl remembered those words and prompted Daria to order it for me. It came in yesterday and, since we had to stop by for tea anyway, Snippet decided to just tell me so we could pick it up today. I love it! It holds 6 cups, has an infuser and it's red! It's perfect.

Later, Mom and Daria stopped by with a visitor. Daria's sweet, faithful Westie, MacKenzie, sadly died at the ripe old age of 13 earlier this week. She and Mom have taken it very hard and decided a new puppy would help to fill the void and hasten the healing process a little. Mom walked in with this little bundle of fluff sitting placidly in her purse:

She's 9 weeks old and is a Yorkie-Poo, half Yorkshire Terrier, half Teacup Poodle. Here she is with Man-Cub, getting acquainted:

And here she is nested in Man-Cub's slipper.

Man-Cub is absolutely over the moon about her and I don't know if he'll recover from the shock of reaching into Mom's purse thinking he was going to find her ringing cell phone only to find the cutest little puppy he's ever seen!

After a family council meeting to discuss a new and improved housekeeping plan, we managed to get the downstairs tidied so I am blogging guilt free! It's so nice when that happens! But we do have an early morning tomorrow so I'd better get myself to bed. After a bedtime snack of tea and biscuits, of course!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Veg Night

Aye me, what a week it's been! Normally, I'd be relieved and grateful it's Friday, but lately, our weekends haven't been very different from our weekdays. Redheaded Snippet has to be at school at 8:00 tomorrow morning, The Viking is working an extra job all day (raising money to pay off the credit card and install the wood stove) and I have to do school shopping all day long. I am NOT looking forward to it. I hate shopping. If I had the money, I'd have a personal shopper. And a Mrs. Doubtfire, though not to take care of the children. But I think I've beaten that topic to death.

Tonight we are trying to relax. Man-Cub has just discovered Tom and Jerry so we've rented a dvd and are planning on cozying up in front of the telly this evening. I made a quick "catch-up" meal of Eggs in a Basket, one of my old stand-bys for when The Viking isn't eating at home (he doesn't like breakfast for dinner). And I had a loaf of French bread lying around that had gotten hard enough to brain someone with so I hacked it into pieces, soaked it in custard and in only 20 more minutes it will be (hopefully) lovely bread pudding! Mmmmmm, bread pudding and Tom and Jerry! It doesn't get much better than that, does it?

I managed to get the worst of my school shopping done this week: the dreaded clothes shopping with Man-Cub. We got 3 pairs of pants (1 black, 1 khaki, 1 red and grey swooshie), 5 shirts (1 lime green T, 1 olive green T, 1 cream and grey striped T, 1 navy blue long-sleeved with yellow stripes on the arms--very dramatic, and 1 green and blue plaid flannel), and one very smart pair of shoes (kind of a cross between a sneaker and a loafer) all for $55! Gotta love consignment shopping! And, though my Snippet refuses to believe it, we'll be doing consignment shopping for her as well (hello, Plato's Closet).

Well, The Viking has returned, the bread pudding is out of the oven and it's time for vintage cartoons! But before I go, I leave you with two favorite recipes recently approved by my household.

Beef and Potato Burritos
from Everyday Food

There have been (sadly) few meals I've made that have made us grunt delightedly with our mouths full, but this is one of them. It's gooooooooood.

1 large baking potato
2 T canola oil
3/4 lb ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 jalapeno chile, finely chopped
14 oz can chopped tomatoes with juice
1 1/2 t ground cumin
2 t paprika
4 10-inch flour tortillas
1/4 c sour cream
1/2 head iceberg lettuce, shredded
1/4 c grated Monterey Jack cheese
1/4 c fresh cilantro (EF calls this optional, but we call it essential)
1 lime, plus wedges for garnish

1. Peel potato; cut into 1/2-inch dice. In large pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add potato; cook, stirring occasionally until golden brown, about 6 minutes. Add beef, onion and pepper; cook, stirring, until beef is thoroughly browned about 4 minutes. Add tomatoes and juice, cumin and paprika and 1 t salt; cook until liquid has evaporated, about 6 minutes.

2. Heat tortillas, one at a time, in a dry skillet over medium-high heat, turning once, until lightly browned, about 10 seconds.

3. Leaving space on bottom and sides, layer tortillas with sour cream, lettuce mixture, cheese and cilantro; squeeze lime juice on top. Fold bottom upward, leaving top end open. Serve garnished with lime wedges or whatever.

And for dessert:

Easiest Fresh Blueberry Pie EVER

I first saw this recipe in the book, Once a Month Cooking by Mimi Lagerborg and Mary Beth Wilson. I loved the premise of the book, and diligently tried it for quite a while, but was severely lacking in the necessary skills required to cook for my family one day a month. However, reading it was the first step in my quest to become a decent cook and this blueberry pie recipe is one I've always held on to. It's so easy you hardly even need to measure anything.

1 or 2 pints fresh blueberries
red currant jelly
sour cream
graham cracker crust (or your favorite recipe for same)

Rinse and pick over blueberries. Heat about 10 oz red currant jelly in a saucepan until melted. Mix in blueberries. Pour into crust. Spread with enough sour cream to cover berries completely and seal edges. Chill and serve.

That's IT! I'm not kidding! Every time I make it I feel guilty like I'm cheating and everyone is always so impressed and cannot believe it's only 4 ingredients including the crust and then I feel even more guilty.

Right. I'm off to veg on sofa.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Blogging it up, Old School

Which means, the way I used to do it all the time before I succumbed to the peer pressure to include lots of lovely, artistic, or at least charmingly candid, photos in posts that must be witty, informative and have, at the least, a point.

I think I've had enough of that. This is my blog. And I will do with it what I want! And I suspect only about 3 people even read it anymore, what with having to be underground and by invitation only and blasted (alleged) defense lawyers and their (alleged) political (alleged) correctness and my, oh, my, didn't I just go a bit overboard just then? Anyway.

I'm turning over a new leaf. Again. Which I don't even know why I am italicizing because I really should be glossing right over it, pretending it isn't there because I should be ashamed of its presence and not (allegedly) using it for humour's sake. And, no, I'm not British, but we all know I wish I was so is it so bad for a girl to inject a little British spelling every now and then? I mean, really?

So, yeah, this new leaf. I do this a lot in the Fall, no pun intended. Okay, well, maybe a little. I love Fall, or Autumn if you want to be posh, which I do. It's my favorite Season, my favorite time of the year. I hate Summer and feel like a part of me dies a bit each August, but when the cool breezes and crisp frosts of September blow in, I experience a kind of rebirth, a reawakening. It's like my New Year. And a new school year starts (even though I hate hate hate that) so I take the opportunity to revamp things.

This year, we are embarking on the perils of high school. That makes me want to bang my head on the wall, but there it is. Redheaded Snippet has been up at the school all Summer long allowing the field hockey coach to force her body and mind into wee bits and rework them to form a lean, mean athletic machine so she's getting used to the place, but she hasn't encountered the work yet. Nor the boys. She's coming from a school of about 325 students, PK-8. She has spent every school day of the past 9 years with the same 14 boys. And now she is going to be thrown into an ocean of strapping, youthful, virile and, no doubt, novel and attractive young men, some of whom will be 18 years old and have their own cars. There will be hundreds of them! And they'll have muscles and masculine jawlines and I think I'm more concerned about them being interested in her. I know her father is (sorry about all the italics, but I am part Italian and you can't use frantic, frequent gestures in blogs so frequent, frantic italics have to do). Redheaded Snippet is rather lovely, if I say so myself. And she is, a casualty of having had a comparatively protected upbringing, a tad naive. And she thinks she's invincible. Fortunately, she has also gained a ton of muscle tone from running herself silly on the hockey field, has oodles of self-respect and takes no guff from anyone (least of all a dreamy boy), and she knows how to use that stick!


Like a fool, I suggested to my Snippet that we do something to her room to make it a little more grown up and teenagery. Nope, not a word, but we're moving on. Like, maybe, perhaps a fresh coat of paint. In, perhaps, a shade of green just shocking yet sweet enough for us to agree on. She wasn't all that enthusiastic before so I forgot about it. And now, now, when high school is breathing down our necks and drooling on our shoulders, now she wants to do it. So we'll see.

She also made the JV hockey team, did I tell you that? Field hockey around here is like football in Texas. And this hockey team is the stuff of legends. Forget the fact that no other team in the state can touch them and they've swept the state championship every year for over ten years. They are the THIRD BEST high school team in the COUNTRY. The country. They are fierce. The coach is fierce. Training is fierce. And Redheaded Snippet has been given the opportunity to play on the JV team as a freshman. It's quite an honor. But she's a bit overwrought with it already. I like the fact that, now, no matter how "mean" I am to her (and I do have a reputation as a "Mean Mom"), I am no longer the meanest person in her life. I can shoot back at her, "Am I as bad as your coach?" That's not fair. But it's good.

Also underneath this leaf? A new and improved daily schedule for chores and other household duties. I've let the kids go kind of feral this Summer, which I usually do. They march around all year like little soldiers doing everything the school board tells them and it's my belief that, in the Summer, when they're mine all mine, they need a break. They need to rest and relax and be children, not mini adults as our schools seem to want them to be. So I relax the housekeeping standards and ease up on the chores. Yes, I know that makes it harder to get back into the swing of things come Autumn and the new school year, but it's worth it.

Soooooo, I am revamping our chores schedule and, don't tell the kids, but I've already been gradually implementing it. I've been getting myself up a little earlier each day and doing the same with Man-Cub. Redheaded Snippet has been at school by 8:00 every morning for almost a week now so I'm not worried about her, though she does need a new alarm clock. It's on the list. I've also been working on creating a comprehensive chores schedule and finding ways to post it around the house. I think I need a bulletin board in the kitchen. Or maybe a chalkboard. Some kind of household control center where I can posts updates, schedules, reminders and lists...

Speaking of lists, I'm making up shopping ones. Clothes and shoes for Man-Cub, some (but not many) clothes and perhaps some shoes for Snippet, a new backpack, two alarm clocks (where can one find a simple, but reliable and also not modernly ugly alarm clock, I mean honestly), pencils, pens, notebooks, thermodynamicmetaphysicalnuclearcoldfusion calculators, a lunch box, maybe even a new jacket, umbrellas, you get the drift. I hate school shopping. And I have to do it this week.

Sigh. Well, it has now taken me three days to complete this post thanks to a mysteriously but intensely sore shoulder. I don't know what I did, other than sleeping on it funny, but I think there may be a pinched nerve in there. There's a dull pain throbbing under my shoulder blade and pains running down my arm to my wrist and sometimes my arm feels faintly numb. Fun, fun stuff. Rubbing it hasn't helped, ibuprofen doesn't help. The only thing that helps is to sit very still in the recliner with a heating pad on it. And I can't do that all day (I tried on Sunday) so I sit with heat on it for a bit and then I get up and try to accomplish something. Then it starts to hurt again and I have to sit back down with heat on it. It's been a very frustrating three days. And I may have to see my doctor, which I don't want to do. It is better, but I have too much to do to sit around heating my arm waiting for it to heal at this rate.

So it's off to the recliner and heating pad for me. I'll work on my lists.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Just Being Myself

I've had enough of trying to make my blog look and sound like other people's blogs. That never works, when will I ever learn?

So, I'm just writing what I want, how I want. Get it?

Until I slip back into old habits and start stealing glances at others again, comparing myself to them and, invariably, finding myself wanting, and trying to be just like them again. Oh, it's so junior high!

The Viking and I went and saw Julie & Julia last night. Or is it Julia & Julie? Julie & Julia rolls off the tongue easier so I'm going to assume that's the right one. No, I am not going to Google it, as usual.

I casually mentioned, after seeing a commercial for the movie while loafing on the couch with The Viking one night this week (and, can I interrupt myself to ask, "Is there anything better than loafing on the couch in front of the tv with the husband of your youth with whom you are still very much in love after 15 years shackled together?" And, of course, the answer is: Maybe a few things, but not much), so I mentioned in front of my fellow couch-loafer that I would like to see it. The movie. About Julia Child.

Two days later, I get a text message from self-same couch-loafer: me, you, julie & julia, friday night, your mom has [Man-Cub] (punctuation and capitalization mine; The Viking, unlike me, does not adhere to proper grammar and punctuation in text messages). Aw, what a sweet guy. But, don't think him too much a martyr, he actually liked the movie, though there are several friends to whom he would probably not admit it.

I have been thinking about checking out Julia Child's work for a while now. I've recently learned to cook and, though I never would have thought it possible, have been secretly wondering if I might be ready to take that next heady step and embark on the journey of learning to Master The Art of French Cooking. I never said anything to anyone, not even my cooking buddy, Lobelia (who, it may be stated here and now is a vastly better and more talented cook than I will ever be), but it's true just the same. So when I saw the ad for the movie, and that Meryl Streep was in it and, by all accounts, brilliantly portraying Julia herself, well, I was there.

Of course, after seeing the movie, I have an unbearably urgent need to go buy the book. Julia Child's book, not Julie Powell's book (the former is a necessary classic, the latter is full of profanity and Republican-bashing and there is no need, or room, for that in my home.) I wanted to go right out immediately and get it last night. But we had other pressing matters to attend to. Like finding a place that serves Boeuf Bourguignon, Floating Island and Raspberry Bavarian Cream in South Jersey at 10:30 on a Friday night. Let me tell you, we live in a culinary wasteland. The only places open at 10:30 on a Friday night are Fridays, Friendly's, Applebees and dance clubs (I don't even know the names of any, I'm so old and farty). Well, as Applebee's certainly wasn't going to cut it, we had to settle for one of the area's institutions, a diner that is more like a family restaurant that's been around for over 40 years, always serves great food and is reputed to be the only place that keeps an immaculate kitchen in the entire area. Have to say, while not being sublime French food, the French Onion soup, Cinnamon Rolls and fresh Side Salad were simple and fresh and good and did just the trick.

I found the movie to be inspiring. I hate saying (or even thinking) that about anything that comes out of Hollywood, but it's true. I would have liked the whole movie to be about Julia Child, but the modern parts were certainly tolerable and marginally amusing. I had not known that Mrs. Child began her cooking career so "late" in life. She was 37. I am right now 37. She, according to the movie, did not really know how to properly chop onions or boil eggs. I, actually, do know how to do those things reasonably well, though I'm sure if someone showed me how to do it properly there would be room for improvement. She was a rather ordinary woman (though with a diplomat husband because of whom she was forced, forced to live in Paris), a housewife who decided to learn French cooking because she loved it so much and wanted to delight her husband's sophisticated palate. Incidentally, how is it that The Feminists are not howling about this movie? Well, she didn't have children, so that probably appeases them. She wasn't happy about that, but it's probably easy to miss or choose to ignore that part. And she manage to make a ton of money (though she did it with her husband's last name. As did Martha Stewart. But I digress).

Anyway, while I recognize I have some limitations that Mrs. Child did not (namely a much tighter food budget, limited access to really great ingredients here in this culinary wasteland, two somewhat picky children--though I hardly think Mrs. Child would have counted them a limitation so I need to just knock that off--and, I confess, a rather high level of personal ignorance in regards to the finer things in life), surprisingly, I feel that if she could do it, so can I.

I can't believe I just said that. That is so unlike me!

In other, unrelated news, yesterday, Man-Cub and I went out with Daria and rediscovered the wonders of the free county library! We each took out two books and I took out two movies and I can't wait to cuddle up with them!

Now I just have to decide which to choose first!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Out of the Mouths of Babes

So, this evening, eight-year-old Man-Cub sighs and says to me, in all seriousness, "I've had a pretty good life so far, huh?

When I nodded in slight surprise but great expectation as to what was coming next, he continued.

"I only have one regret...that I don't have opposable toes."


As I'm typing this up, thinking he's being all cute and hilariously profound, he comes over and realizes what I'm writing and tells me...

He got it from Calvin and Hobbes! He got me. He totally got me!

Little Monkey.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

A suggested Christian worldview, boiled down to two vital points: The Fall and The Hope

Oh feh.

Ever have those times? Those times when you look around only to find you are absolutely unimpressed with everything you see? When all is bland, blah, dull, nondescript?

Especially yourself and your home?

I have been walking around like a grumpus for a week now, casting aspersions on everything I see and touch. I am unsatisfied with the size of my home, its decor, the neighborhood in which it is situated, all the fancy features it lacks. I am unsatisfied with myself, my weight, my haircut, my skin tone and elasticity, my cheap, old and outdated clothing, my manicure, the color of my teeth and the short stumpiness of my legs and feet.

I have wasted countless hours escaping into worlds where things are the way I want them to be in stark contrast to how they actually are. I read or watch Anne of Green Gables, Harry Potter, stories by Rosamunde Pilcher and Agatha Christie. I actually imagine ways to change my life to be more like the characters in the stories.

I waste even more time on the Internet "researching" ways to make those deluded imaginings come true. I won't give more details on that. It's way too embarrassing. But I have neglected my household duties and my family in my quest for a fairy tale, my departure from reality. Dinners have been late, half-hearted, of inferior quality: why bother when I can't afford to feed my family (translation: myself)the way I want to/should be able to. Chores have been left by the wayside: why put forth the energy to try to improve something beyond improvement? That living room will still look as shabby and mismatched if it's vacuumed and dusted.

My focus has been increasingly on myself and what I feel I'm entitled to and increasingly, well, let's face it, evil. Because what I'm entertaining here is envy. Pure, simple, unadulterated, soul-sucking, God-estranging envy. I am begrudging the things that I see others have and I want. And why shouldn't I have it? I should have it! And they shouldn't! I hate them!

See? Envy. One of the Big and Deadly Seven.

Deadly sins. What a horrific term. Sin is sin and we know that the wage for all sin is death so all sin is deadly. But most sin can be categorized (by us mere mortals--to God, of course, a sin is a sin no matter how small) into seven snappy little categories. And envy is one of them. And like all sin, it leads to misery, isolation from God and, ultimately, death.

So, I've been walking around, slowing griping myself to death. And looking in all the wrong places for the cure. Looking to man-made solutions for my problem. Which only compounds the problem, adding idolatry to my evils. Nice. No wonder my household has not been a peaceful, joyful one lately!

I'm not sure what made me see the light today (I don't mean to be trite, really). It could have something to do with having the opportunity to sit down with two bright, sincere, devoted, feisty women who love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, and mind and being able to talk a few things out with them. It could be that I finally turned to where I should have turned eons ago, God's word, the only authority on truth I need. It could be the Holy Spirit knows I've had about enough of myself and has turned the light of conviction on my darkened, shriveling soul.

Whatever the reason, how sweet that I can now get on with the confession, repentance and thankfulness parts of the process. How comforting that forgiveness is freely given, a mere thought away, and that all my wickedness, though it will be all too easy for me to remember, has already been completely and thoroughly forgotten. How lovely to have a clean slate with which to repair the damage done to house and family! And how helpful to have a renewed sense of perspective, priority and purpose.

Now, where is that laundry pile?