Friday, May 21, 2010

Boys Life. And Minestroni, Orange Crunch Muffins, O Henry Bars

Mixing up the order of things today. Ruminations first, because it seems most important.

Ruminations: I start this out feeling annoyed, justified, and a little weary. Read on...

A young man, about 17, knocked on my door today. He spent about 5 minutes chatting, telling me how he was earning points so he could go on a trip with his family and have money for college books. A good cause, sure. He was charming and charismatic, chatty and affable. He asked what I did, and said he earned 50 points because I was a "domestic goddess" and 40 points because I had been a lawyer. He was trying to practice communication, he said, and that earned him points. Great. So far so good. Then I asked the question I ought to have asked first, "What are you trying to sell?"


I am so tired of magazines. I don't need more. I have the ones I want - National Geographic, Runner's World, Bicycling, US News & World Report, Reader's Digest, Scouting, the Ensign and Friend (in three different languages!). Good grief! How many magazines do we need!

But I wanted to be nice and help him get his points, so after browsing through a brochure of pointless magazines (I don't want a Muscle magazine), I decided on Boys' Life. That's as good as any, better actually (for my boys). He beamed, and said he was an Eagle - since last week.

"How much?"

Lengthy spiel about how much we're saving off the cover price.

"You still didn't tell me how much."

Lengthy spiel about the difference between a 2-year subscription and a 3-year subscription, and about how we'd be getting a magazine every two weeks. Great, just what I need - a new magazine every two weeks. I tried to smile.

"So, how much is it?"

Finally he told me. Okay, I can handle that. $48 is doable for two years, although I'd rather do it a year at a time. How many Boys' Life magazines do we really need?

So while he chatted I got out my checkbook. I was trying to be nice and help him win his contest so he could go on a trip to Israel. "Ever been there?" he asked. "Yes." I didn't elaborate. I didn't tell him that I had actually worked in a real job to earn money to pay for my study abroad. I didn't tell him that I had also worked in school really hard to earn scholarship money to pay for my books and tuition. It didn't seem appropriate to tell him that. But that doesn't mean I wasn't thinking it. Good feelings were leaving.

He filled out his paperwork, got all my information, and handed me the paper to sign, pointing to the X and slightly covering up the tally.

The tally. I would've seen it eventually, since I had to write the check. I was not prepared for this.

"Why does it say $63?"

Oh, that's for shipping and handling, he explained. And part of it goes to charity, he added lamely.

Uh huh. I can write a check for $63 and ALL of it will go to charity, I thought to myself.

Still trying to be nice, I said, "Can't I just write you a check to help on your trip?"

No, he said, it's not legal. He was not being his charming self anymore.

"Can I hold on to this and think about it?"

No, he said. I can't come back.

"Doesn't $63 seem like a lot of money for a magazine?"

No, he said, he pays $12 a month for his Muscle magazine.

Well, if he has $12 a month for a Muscle magazine, he has money enough to save for books and a trip. I am not a happy lady any longer. He can choose to spend his money the way he wants, but he cannot expect me to step up and fill in the consequences of his choice.

I told him I'd have to pass, and I was sorry. His entire countenance fell and he was a very different person. His face turned red, his eyes hardened, he scribbled out my information, and marched out the door, muttering loudly, "It's always the rich people..."

Well, maybe in another part of my life I might have left that alone, but this is not that part. I was grown-up enough not to be furious, and kind enough not to beat him up, but the mother in me was not going to let the boy get away with that.

I took a moment to think over what had happened as I watched him (from the window) canvas the neighborhood. When he got to our backdoor neighbors' house, I walked out back and waited. It wasn't long until he came back from their door. I stopped him in the driveway.

I don't know if he thought I'd changed my mind or if he was scared, but he was certainly surprised to see me. I guess people don't chase after him much.

Nick, I said (I learned his name), I need to tell you something. You can't just walk out my door muttering, "rich people" like that. It is so wrong to judge people by what they have. It hurt my feelings.

He said he'd spent 3 years in India where people would give him the shirt off their back if he needed it.

This is not India, but I would give you a shirt if you needed it. My discretionary money is used for things like piano lessons, doctor's bills, car repairs, oh, and little things like groceries (we do have to eat!), and our other money goes to pay for our home. You can't assume that I am rich. The house I live in has to be paid for somehow.

And, I said, you cannot judge me by where I am. If it makes you understand me better, I'll share with you that I was homeless for months during my life. I am NOT my house, nobody is what you see them as - they are more. Much more. Nick, do not judge people so rashly. If I think $63 for a magazine (and to send you and your family to Israel) is not a wise use of my money, then let that be my choice and respect that.

He apologized, said he'd had a rough day, and that he was just being a stupid teenager. I know. You were. But you're also a very sweet teenager. And I was just explaining to you the lessons I would want my own sons to know.

It is so interesting the judgments passed on me during my life because of where I live - whether in a tent in a campground, a little rented house (that my girlfriends refused to use for a group date because it was...well, you know), the basement of my parents' home, or the house that we just built. I would rather this didn't happen, but it does. I hope I learn the lesson, too, and respect people for who they are, and not for what they buy - or do not buy.

Reading: I started "Left to Tell." I can not even imagine living through what Immaculee did. I am angry at her world for letting genocide happen - I thought we had evolved beyond that. I suppose there are parts of humanity that just are sick and wrong that will always be around for us to combat. Her relationship with God is inspiring, to say the least.

(Horatio Hornblower remains in the grasp of the French, to be rescued at a later date when I have time to read him again).

Running: Did 7 1/2 yesterday, and I'm using today as a forced rest day, but I did spend 1/2 hour doing some core work with my girls, just for fun.


Crockpots are the stuff dreams are made of! I love putting all the stuff in the pot in the morning and spending the rest of the day knowing dinner is done (and having the delicious aroma in the house!).

Crockpot Minestroni Soup
3 medium carrots, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
3 ribs celery, sliced
3 small potatoes, diced
2 Tbs. chopped parsley or 1 Tbs. dried parsley flakes
1 - 2 large garlic cloves, minced
4 tsp. beef bouillon granules or 4 beef bouillon cubes (if using cubes, dissolve first with the water further on this list)
2 tsp. dried basil leaves, crushed
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 can (15 oz) red kidney beans with liquid
1 lb. hamburger
4 cups hot water (or, if using bouillon cubes, dissolve cubes in water)
2 (15 oz) cans diced stewed tomatoes

8 oz. cooked short cut pasta noodles of choice (small shells, small elbow macaroni, or whatever). Note: boil pasta in pretty heavily salted water (about 1/8 + cup. salt in large pasta pot) for great taste.

1. Brown hamburger in skillet, drain.
2. Layer in crockpot in order: carrots, onion, celery, potatoes, parsley, garlic, bouillon granules (or, if using cubes, don't add the bouillon cube/water mix yet), basil, salt, pepper, kidney beans with liquid, and browned hamburger. DO NOT STIR.
3. Pour water or water/bouillon mix over everything. Add more if needed to cover everything (1 tps. or cube bouillon to 1 cup water). DO NOT STIR.
4. Cover and cook on high for 4 4 1/2 hours on high or on low for 8-9 hours or until vegetables are tender.

Now spend the rest of the day doing other things while it cooks :)

5. Stir in stewed tomatoes. Immediately cover and cook on high for 10-15 minutes until heated through.
6. Gently stir in cooked pasta. Serve hot. We like cheese cubes or slices with the soup. Yum.

Orange Crunch Muffins featuring Grape Nuts
These are typically breakfast muffins, but the sweet muffin really compliments the salty soup and I don't mind breaking rules and having muffins with dinner. My mom used to make these when I was little and I have always always always loved them, especially with melty butter and raspberry jam. Oh, so good.

Sift or stir together in a medium mixing bowl:
3 C. flour
1/2 C. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. soda
3/4 tsp. salt

Add: 1 1/2 C. Grape Nuts cereal (or store brand taste-alike cereal).

In a separate large mixing bowl combine:
3 lightly beaten eggs
1 1/2 Cups Orange Juice (if using concentrate, mix up w/water first)
2 -3 tsp. grated orange peel (or none if you want a milder orange flavor)
1/2 C. vegetable oil

Stir dry into wet, just until moistened and there are no lumps of flour.
Grease muffin tin or line with baking cups.
Bake at 400 for 18-24 minutes. Do not over bake.

O Henry Bars

I first tasted these last week and as soon as I got the recipe I made them (really, like within minutes of getting it). (I didn't cite the recipe owner just to maintain her privacy) So good! And, as a bonus, they are gluten free (if you need that - as long as your choc. chips and oats are made in gluten free environments).

1/2 C. melted butter
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. peanut butter
1/2 c. Karo syrup
1 tsp. vanilla
4 c. oats
6 oz (or 1 c.) choc. chips

Mix together first 5 ingredients. Heat until dissolved (microwave is great). Stir in oats and chips. Press into greased 9x 13 pan. Bake at 375 for 15 min. Do not overbake. Cut into bars.


  1. Recipes look delicious. And I love the Boys Life story. FYI...If you really want another magazine laying around and your sons are registered scouters, Boys Life can be ordered through your council for just $12 per year.

    I love the way you write. You are very witty!
    Lova ya!

  2. I was going to tell you that Boys life is really cheap, but someone already did that. I was also going to tell you that sometimes you pay and those mags don't come and you contact the place... or you pay and you get them for a year and they automatically renew and it is a hassle to cancel...

    But maybe what I should tell you is what I tell all telephone and doorstep marketers. "I have already determined where my money for charity will be given. Thank you for calling." Then I hang up or close the door. I might say, please take me off of your calling list. I occasionally spend some time if I know the salesman personally (former seminary student or my neighbor's kid) and I might even buy something from them, but I refuse to give referrals. - I get so annoyed when someone gives my name as a referral. I will admit that since a couple of the kids have worked for phone survey companies that I will spend time with those survey kids, but I always ask for an estimate of the survey length and hold them to it - too many surveys are advertising in disguise. I think you pushed one of my buttons with your story. But I figure, the quicker I get rid of the sales person, the sooner they can find a better customer. It is not meanness to send them on their way quickly - it is kindness. Or at least that is what I tell myself. :)

  3. Stephanie, what fun to read some of your posts! Tha magazine story struck a nerve with me too. I remember once when we were living on a tight budget, and my toddler needed new shoes. We were in the mall, which I already knew would be too expensive, but I looked at shoes anyway. One cute pair cost something like $50. I said no. The salesman tried to convince me by saying what good quality they were and how they wouldn't wear out. I still said no, and as I was leaving I heard the salesman mutter, "some women are so cheap." I turned around and marched back into the store and gave the young man a lecture, the jist of which was that little people who hardly walk always outgrow their shoes before they wear them out and that I was being fiscally responsible by not spending more than my checkbook would allow. Anyway, we do feel better when we stick up for ourselves, don't we?

  4. Oh, I better explain, this is Eileen! Mommas is the nickname my youngest son gave me (he is also the child who did not get the pricey shoes!)

  5. i LOVE those orange crush muffins and think the oh henry bars sound gooey! the book sounds sad and the story was great! i'm glad you set that boy straight! i hated having to sell junk in HS and Jr High for our extra curricular activities. its such a pain. that said, i'm very glad i learned to work at a young age and was able to work for the things i wanted/needed as a youth so i didn't have to depend upon others. i think it transfers to adult life better at any rate. i don't want to live off of selling people over-priced things to pay for my livelihood or recreation. i'd rather work for my pay. phew! glad that is in the past!