Monday, December 31, 2007

Where Free Reigns Supremely

Do you have an item you need to get rid of that’s still usable but you hesitate to throw in the trash? The Freecycle Network is a nonprofit organization that can help you find a non-landfill home for it. I call Freecycle an Internet “trash to treasure” bonanza since everything is entirely FREE.

If you go to the Freecycle Web site, you can enter where you live and see if there’s a local group nearby. You will receive instructions from the local moderator about the particulars of joining. This grassroots organization was founded in 2003 in Arizona and is now international in scope. There are over 4,000 local groups and if there’s not one near you, you can start your own.

To recycle a Martha Stewart quote, “It’s a good thing.”

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Christian Marketing and Redeeming the Fallen

Republican Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa has launched a senate probe into TV ministries. He’s asked for financial records from six major televangelists including Paula White, Joyce Meyer, Creflo Dollar, Eddie Long, Kenneth Copeland and Benny Hinn.

The senator is questioning the ministers’ spending practices for possible abuses of their tax-exempt status. Some of those elaborate sets with the gold “thrones” seemed a bit over the top to me. Yet, the very scope of the inquiry has been attacked as too broad. Grassley has been quoted as saying that the investigation “has nothing to do with church doctrine” and that he wants to make sure the organizations are following the law.

However, I suppose the timing of the advertising insert for “Morningside, A Place of Refuge” couldn’t have been worst for one Branson, Missouri, televangelist you may recall and the Branson developer, Jerry Crawford, working with him. A four-page color advertisement for this new venture appeared in the Dec. 28, 2007, Springfield News-Leader. The AP story about Sen. Grassley’s investigation was on page 9A and the advertisement for this new planned community was tucked among ads for JC Penney after Christmas sales and DirectTV promotions.

Crawford, a supporter from Bakker’s old days of The PTL Club, had encouraged the fallen televangelist to come to Branson, and Bakker and his second wife, Lori, are building a TV ministry here. Perhaps the “Gospel of Prosperity” theology once associated with Bakker has been exchanged, and the years he served in prison for fraud have molded a new and redeemed man. But one thing hasn’t changed. Bakker hasn’t lost his love for televangelism.

Will the new venture, Morningside, evolve into something similar to Heritage USA, once the third-largest theme park in the U.S.? It’s too early to say but the ground has been broken and the development is under way in Blue Eye, Missouri.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Some of my New Year’s Resolutions are Green

Ah yes, it is fashionable these days to wrap yourself and your home in green. Sustainable is tossed around here, there and everywhere, and I actually understand more about what that means than I did a few months ago.

Husband is on the sustainability council at Drury University and produces a newsletter for the group. He playfully points out “no trees were harmed during the production” of the electronic newsletter. In addition, he’s like a hawk with the recycling at home recently. We have paper sacks of paper and a plastic bin for the bottles, cans and plastic that our waste hauler picks up every other week. And I can’t sneak a non-energy-saving light bulb by him even if it is to rid ourselves of the old-style bulbs. If it’s up to him, our next car will be a Prius. He is fully on the green bandwagon. We are even recycling the Christmas tree, which Bass Pro and a local Boy Scout troop will take to Table Rock Lake to help the fish habitat.

Well, I’m getting there with the recycling, which leads me to my New Year’s resolutions. I have to give credit to The Daily Green for the inspiration after I read “7 New Year’s Eco-Resolutions for 2008.”

On Annie Bell Muzaurieta’s list:

1. “It’s time to clean out, and stop the crap collecting,” she says. You go girl! This is on my list too. This problem is vastly aggravated by the habit of shopping for recreation. Keep thee out of shopping malls and centers, so says me.

2. “I will avenge my phantom load.” She’s talking about computers, cell phones and other electronics that continue to use energy while plugged in. She suggests using a power strip and turning that off when the devices aren’t in use. I suppose I could shut the computer down. Okay, I’m adding this one too.

3. “I will be smarter than bottled water companies and drink for free what they are trying to sell me.” This does not apply to me (note the sound of me patting myself on the back), and I am therefore, leaving it off of my list. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that a small bottle of water should not ever cost $3. Also, the skeptic in me wonders if that Wehrenberg movie theater water fountain was REALLY “Out of Order” the other day.

4. “If I can remember to TiVo “Dancing with the Stars,” I can remember to bring my own bags to the grocery store.” Annie, I think I want to try this one. There are plenty of cheap eco-friendly bags for shopping instead of the plastic ones offered by merchants. Of course, if you shop less frequently, you may be like a pack mule loading up for the trek home.

5. I’m deviating from Annie’s list now to my unique set of enviro-issues. A dirty little secret is thus revealed dear gentle readers. I take long and I do mean long showers. I hearby resolve to save water, energy and time with shorter shower-time.

6. And in general reduce, reuse, recycle and conserve.

What else can you do to green up your new year? The sky’s the limit. Get the bike out of the garage and use it instead of the car. Offer a friend a ride if you are both attending an event. Plant a tree. Replace an old furnace with a high efficiency Energy Star make. We did this and Springfield's City Utilities offered us a $250 rebate. Use compact fluorescent light bulbs, which use 66% less energy and last 10 times longer than regular bulbs. You’ll save an average of $30 in energy costs over the life of the bulb. Buy as local as possible. Use old t-shirts and towels instead of paper towels for cleaning chores. Put up a clothesline. Wash with cold water whenever possible.

And on the subject of New Year's resolutions in general, is it silly to come up with them at all as some have suggested? Alex Epstein of the Ayn Rand Institute doesn’t think so. He writes:

This New Year's, resolve to think about how to make your life better, not just once a year, but every day. Resolve to set goals, not just in one or two aspects of life, but in every important aspect and in your life as a whole. Resolve to pursue the goals that will make you successful and happy, not as the exception in a life of passivity, but as the rule that becomes second-nature.

If you do this, you will be resolving to do the most important thing of all: to take your happiness seriously.

To expound and expand on the Epstein message regarding passivity, I would like to encourage us all to think about how we can make life better for others too. I resolve also to get up off of the sofa and test my passions with actions. Hope you will too. May the new year bring you hope, joy, healing from emotional and physical ailments, peace and much love.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to You

When I launched this blog in the summer of 2006, I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t think the readership would grow much beyond a few family members, but I have cyber-met people from all over the world. I appreciate this connection. So, with five days to go until Christmas, I wish for those who visit me regularly that you may make warm memories with those you love, that the new year will be kind to you and that may you find the strength to face with grace whatever comes your way.

Note: This was my Christmas message last year and it seems good enough for this year too.

However, I want to add a thank you to all kind readers who held my hand as the nest emptied and College Boy left for Hendrix College. Rev. Jay reassured me that CB would be fine and he was and is. Jay, I don’t know if it was the Sonic Boom alarm clock or the roommate who helped CB get up for his classes, but that wasn’t an issue as I had feared. Jay also happens to be a reader I’ve actually met in person.

Marion has been a cyber-sage throughout the year for me with a quiet and compelling wisdom I truly appreciate. The Palm Springs Savant is where I go for a fun and upbeat look at life, and Rick always posts great photos of his travels and adventures in fine dining. Lorelei and Marsha are favorites as is my British cyber-friend, Naomi, who has seen her blog picked up by Reuters. Sarge and Miss Bee, Miss Trashahassee, and floridagirl, who received that print of Jesus I wrote about recently, are my Florida connection. Don from Alabama keeps me in the loop about politics. Joe touches my heart. Sank is funny. I’m sure I left someone out.

But thank you all. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Are You SAD

Symptoms of winter-onset seasonal affective disorder according to the Mayo Clinic include:
* Depression
* Hopelessness
* Anxiety
* Loss of energy
* Social withdrawal
* Oversleeping
* Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
* Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
* Weight gain
* Difficulty concentrating and processing information

Should You Seek Medical Help
If your sleep patterns and appetite have changed, if you feel hopeless or have thoughts about suicide or if you rely too much on alcohol to ease the mood, you should see your doctor.

Treatment for SAD
* Take medications as directed and attend therapy appointments as scheduled.
* Expose yourself to as much light as possible. Open blinds. Get outdoors.
* Engage in physical exercise, which can help relieve stress and anxiety, both of which can increase SAD symptoms.
* Be nice to yourself. Get enough rest, eat a balanced diet and take time to relax. Avoid alcohol or non-prescribed drugs.
* Learn how to better manage stress.
* Socialize. Stay connected with people instead of withdrawing.
* Take a winter vacation in a sunny location.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Redneck Christmas or It Takes All Kinds

Jeff Foxworthy has made quite a career out of redneck comedy. I thought of him when I noticed gifts for the redneck advertised at the top of this morning’s post. Just because the blog is called Alabama Kitchen Sink doesn’t mean everyone from Alabama is a redneck, and I certainly don't purport to be one. However, rednecks are some of my favorite people, and let’s just say I have encountered my share of them. Most are lovable, colorful and rather benign except when it’s deer season or they've had too much beer. Both of those events can be interesting or deadly.

Click on over to check out a new-to-me redneck, Slidawg and the Redneck Ramblers for a new Christmas song called “Did You Heared What I Heared?” and slap a smile on your face. Appropriately, the CD is available at Wal-Mart.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I Know Why Santa is Plump

Have you heard that some think Santa Claus is too fat? As is often the case, our icons evolve over time. Apparently, Santa Claus wasn’t always fat. Wait a moment. Let me think of another way to say that. I don’t like calling SC fat. How about portly? Where Santa Claus came from is hardly a mystery. With pagan and Christian roots, he has been around for some time.

Thomas Nast, a political cartoonist in the 19th Century noted for his illustrations in Harper’s Weekly, drew a stouter version of Santa than previous artists, and this image of a plumper Santa stuck. After all, there is more of Santa to love. Nast, of course, must have been influenced by his German roots and St. Nicholas.

Haddon Sundblom’s Santa, which he created for Coca-Cola advertising in the early 1930s is probably the image most of us latch onto. And back to that weight issue. Hey Santa, lay off the Coke!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Hold the Ice

Let it snow! But please, hold the ice. Unfortunately, it’s too late. Nature isn’t listening. She is too busy raining on southwest and central Missouri this morning. And with temperatures hovering around freezing, we have an ice storm.

When I peek out the window, the ice-laden limbs seem to sag even lower. Treacherous streets and walks mean I’ll stay inside and prepare for College Boy’s return tomorrow. He has one more final and the first semester will be a wrap. Helicopter mom has learned much and so has CB.

Photo from last January's ice storm that hit this area, downing thousands of trees and leaving people without power for days. This storm shouldn't be nearly so bad.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Christmas Music Memories

I haven’t bought any new Christmas music this year, but if Oprah’s embrace of Barack Obama is as successful as her endorsement of Josh Groban’s new CD, Noel, we will have him as our Democratic presidential nominee.

Today as I write, Chris Isaak Christmas is playing on my computer. I love his Pretty Paper rendition, and his Mele Kalikimaka is playful when traditional grows old. A Charlie Brown Christmas with the Vince Guaraldi Trio is classic as is Nat King Cole’s Christmas Favorites. You can’t top Aaron Neville’s Soulful Christmas with its Louisiana Christmas Day. These are all some of my favorites.

However, I can’t help but think back to the Christmas music I grew up with--Burl Ives’ and A Holly Jolly Christmas, Gene Autry with Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer. Later today, I’ll sit down at the piano and plunk out a few tunes, most likely written by Johnny Marks. I will start and stop when I hit the inevitable sour note. And when I’m through, I’ll be smiling and I’ll be happy. Music does that to me.

For now, though, I work at the computer and sip my lemon lift tea and hope the ice storm is not so bad.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Unique Christmas Gift Idea

I made this personal gift for my two sons three years ago. I compiled some favorite recipes and designed the cards where they fit into a CD jewel case, which flips over to provide a stand for the recipe. It is definitely a unique Christmas gift, because the recipes are family favorites that the guys insist upon when I cook a holiday meal.

I kept to one theme with the artwork I chose for the project; in this case, I selected old copyright-free etchings. You could take a more contemporary approach if that’s your style or the intended recipient’s style. I designed the cards on my computer and printed the project on cardstock on my Epson printer. I trimmed the cards with an xtacto-knife (please, please be careful if you attempt this project) and assembled the contents. Wrap the jewel case with kraft paper and a pretty wired fabric ribbon, and you have a very personal Christmas gift than costs only your time and the packaging materials.

You can also create a strictly electronic version of the project, but I like having the recipes close at hand when cooking.

Note: I can work with you to create your own family’s favorite recipe CD if you are interested. E-mail me for details. Also, coming for January, I will be offering custom recipe calendars through my shop at CafePress.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Enough of Christmas—How About a Little Hanukkah

For the sake of seasonal balance, I’m including a link to Old and in the Way, where Sank gives us a brief primer on what it’s like to be Jewish this time of year with
Musings on The Meaning of Hanukkah. Sank writes:

I don't buy much for this holiday. A few games and books for kids, and the customary gift certificate and catalogue, with suggested items circled for Mrs S to Victoria's Secret, which she ignores for this seasons latest patterned flannel head to toe burqua.

I would dearly love to know if Mrs. Sank ever reads her husband’s blog. Thankfully, mine doesn’t.

A Christmas Homecoming

College Boy will be home for winter break in six days. Final papers, tests and assignments will have been completed and CB’s first semester will be history. I sense a note of anxiety in his voice when he makes those less frequent calls home. At this point, my job is to reassure him that he can do it even for the class whose professor gives “hard exams.” With advice like, “You study harder and more than you ever thought possible,” I also tell him that all I expect is that he gives it what he’s capable of doing.

I did, however, receive an unexpected phone call this morning at 8. “I’m just calling to let you know I’m up,” CB said. “My politics and terrorism final is at 8:30, and I didn’t want you to worry.” “Oh,” I replied, “I didn’t realize it was then. And I really don’t worry. I know you’ll do what it takes.”

Yes, I especially look forward to this Christmas homecoming even if it means the grocery bill will spike upwards for the next few weeks. It will be good to share the nest with him and catch up on movies and pop culture and hear all about his new life and friends.

I’m lucky and don’t think I don’t know that.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Christmas in Branson, Missouri

The White Flight exhibit at Branson, Missouri’s Butterfly Palace provides a rather unique twist on the meaning of white flight. Now regular dear gentle readers know that last summer we moved from Montgomery, Alabama, to Springfield, Missouri. When you mention white flight down South, it certainly doesn’t mean pretty black and white butterflies flitting around Poinsettias. I never thought I could say white flight is pretty.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Good Works at Christmas

If I had money, I’d want to give a lot of it away to organizations and schools. I’d give some to the Salvation Army since I know the kind of work they do to help the disadvantaged. I’d give some to my son’s old performing arts high school, Booker T. Washington Magnet High School in Montgomery, Alabama, for a stage. The school is full of talented kids who have to rent out a stage in order to perform for larger audiences. I’d give money to build a Habitat for Humanity house. I’d give enough money for a scholarship or two. The wonderful community college, College of DuPage, which taught me a thing or two about design could see a student benefit, and maybe I’d give some to the University of Alabama. Save the Children, the local food bank and other worthy charities might receive my money.

But, you know what? I wouldn’t want my name on anything, not even if they insisted.You can skip publishing my name in any publication. Better yet, use that space to write about the good you are attempting to do. Here's the thing. I’d want to be like that little old lady in Mississippi who cleaned houses all her life and who through her frugality amassed a fortune, which she left to charity when she died. Until I amass my fortune, I always stuff a dollar of two in the Salvation Army's kettle this time of year. Don't you think you could too?

Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Face of Jesus

We see so many illustrations of what artists think Jesus might have looked like, and I don’t know if there is a divinely approved version out there. Rev. Jay, can you weigh in with a theologically correct answer here?

Touring museums in Italy, I saw many Madonna and child paintings. There was a common element almost as if the Church had its own graphic design standards manual. More modern thoughts on the question can be found at Web sites such as Tom Brown Ministries where he answers that Jesus looks like an artist’s version based on the Shroud of Turin. This he bases on a vision he had one day at a nursing home.

Beliefnet covers the question with “Images of Jesus Through Two Millennia.”

The reason I thought of this was that I came across a 1940s print of one such artist’s view of Jesus. Here’s the little story behind how I acquired this. I had searched for picture frames to repaint for some of my paintings and came across Jesus at a flea market one Saturday. The seller priced the frame right but wanted to know what I intended to do with Jesus when I explained why I was interested in the frame. He added, “Please don’t throw Jesus in the trash.”

And that dear gentle readers is why I still have this image. I just don’t know what to do with Jesus. Yeah, I’m superstitious. I’ll admit it. Anyone out there interested in receiving Jesus, may e-mail me and I’ll send Jesus to you.