Archive | eating

the why and how of fair-trade chocolate

halloween is really scary when you're a slave on a cocoa farm

tis the season to stop supporting slavery









(Pin these images and spread the word!)

The bitter truth about chocolate is this: it’s not made by an eccentric man with a flying elevator and his happy umpa-lumpas. It’s made by kidnapped children forced into slavery.

When I first learned this, I wanted to ignore it, but somehow I couldn’t. After all, I drank chocolate milk with Hershey’s syrup in it almost every morning and I had since I was four or five. I didn’t want to give that up. As a matter of fact, I was scared to. When I realized that my life-long Hershey’s purchases were paying for slaves, I finally put my foot down. Unable to find any fair-trade chocolate syrup, I gave up my chocolate milk addiction. I lost a little weight and tried not to complain about my lemon water when in fact, I very much missed my old breakfast.

Thankfully, I have discovered ways to continue to enjoy chocolate without throwing my ethics out the window. I would like to say though, that if there was no such thing as fair-trade chocolate, I would have to give up chocolate entirely. There is no excuse for funding companies that blatantly maintain the slave trade.

Many people still don’t realize that mainstream chocolate companies such as Hershey’s, Nestle, Dove, Ghirardelli and Mars purchase their cocoa from The Ivory Coast of Africa where child-slavery is prevalent. Not only this, but these companies have been informed of this atrocity and continue making profit through slavery.

You might hear “child slaves” and wonder if I’m exaggerating. Are we talking about 15-year olds who aren’t technically supposed to be hired but needed the work and were hired secretly? Are we talking about kids working on the family farm after school? No.

We are talking about traffickers kidnapping children from their parents in other African countries, trucking them to the plantations and forcing them to harvest cocoa beans with machetes. We’re talking no chance to go back to school, no understanding of the language, no contact with their parents, no hope.

And all this so I can have my chocolate milk in the morning.

If this bothers you in the least, I have news for you. There is a way to stop slavery. Stop buying from slave-owners. If the whole world stopped buying chocolate, coffee, t-shirts and one-night-stands from slave-owners, slavery would be demolished. In the case of chocolate, one of the most straight-forward slavery operations I know of, we must support the fair-trade companies that are making an effort to stand against slavery.

As a chocolate lover, the discovery of the slavery issue entwined in the cocoa industry did nothing but launch me on a journey to find fair-trade chocolate. I have been on this journey for a couple of years now and, as I munch on this chocolate chip cookie, I shall give you my recommendations. (See? I’m a chocolate addict. It’s kind of a problem.)

1. Don’t give someone a slave for Christmas.

Holidays are no excuse to give in and buy unethically produced chocolate. With a little extra effort your trick-or-treating, Thanksgiving baking and stocking stuffers can all be fair-trade! Of course, fair-trade chocolate is more expensive (think of it as actual price as opposed to slave-produced price) so every bite is a little extra special. Consider passing out non-chocolate candies on Halloween or stuffing your stockings with other items.

2. You can still bake!

For a while, our kitchen was sadly barren of chocolate goodies. Now we bake with fair-trade chocolate quite often. Here are my top picks for baking at this point in my journey:

3. Got those candy munchies?

This past Easter, my sisters and I bought fair-trade chocolate and created several of our favorite Easter basket classics in our own kitchen.We made “Reese’s Eggs” and “Buterfingers” that I promise were better than the store-bought ones. Of course this was extra effort, but it was delicious and well worth it.

However, I don’t always have time to make my own candy. In this case, I might grab a chocolate bar while I’m grocery shopping. My all-time favorite is Green & Black’s milk chocolate almond bar. All of Green & Black’s chocolate bars are delicious and they can be found in the organic section of an ordinary grocery store.

4. Educate yourself..and the rest of the world!

Find out where you can purchase fair-trade chocolate. Adapt your family recipes to use fair-trade chocolate. Share this post on Facebook or Twitter to let others know about this issue and how it can be solved. Watch this short BBC documentary on YouTube and see the real-life story of a slave boy on a cocoa farm. Follow my “All’s Fair” Pinterest board for fair-trade ideas. Use other resources such as The Better World Shopping Guide to make wise purchases.

Remember, “Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.” -Anna Lappe


tutorial for life

My parents were out of town for an old friend’s wedding and I was taking the day off from the things I usually deem “important” and focusing on what is probably always most important. Hanging out with my family, giving them my attention, making sure everyone is comfy and safe and happy. I decided to take the kids to a yard sale where they were selling lemonade and books and other interesting items and then we came home and ate lunch before heading to the park. We had such a good time at the park. Our completely unpredictable Texas weather (no, it is not always hot) was ideal for sitting on a rubbery bench and reading while Willin and Jubilee played on the jungle gym and roller bladed along the pathway.

The jungle gym was never my favorite piece of playground equipment. I was definitely more of swingset type of girl. I was never very strong or very fast, but I was both on the swingset. The jungle gym wasn’t very entertaining to me, unless we could pretend it was something else entirely, and when I see a jungle gym at a distance that’s just crawling with kids who have their tennis shoes in each other’s faces, making it look like a ball of ants, I feel a little claustrophobic.

IMG_0178Watching Willin and Jubilee play on the jungle gym by themselves, I realized why so many children enjoy them. Willin gave it a good shot, but soon tired of dangling aimlessly from his appendages and went back to rollerblading. Jubilee, however, played on that jungle gym. She hung from her feet, from one leg, from one hand. She jumped from one end to the other, climbed up the straight poles like a monkey and slid down like a fire chief. She did the monkey bars forward and backward, jumped onto the high hang bar and did pull-ups. Aha! I thought. The jungle gym would’ve been much more fun had I been built like Gabby Douglas, here. 

Three cheers for Willin, however, who, though he is like myself when it comes to jungle gyms (learned how to do the monkey bars just before getting too tall to hang from them) he is quite good at rollerblading, something I never even really attempted to learn. He rolled around and Jubilee dangled and I made them both wear their helmets the entire time. A little black girl asked me if I was their teacher. Birdie snapped photos and we headed home in time to make dinner.

As I mentioned a couple of rabbit trails ago, my parents were out of town this day, so I decided to try a new recipe that I didn’t think they would like. A recipe, however, that I was pretty sure my little snaggle-toothed minions would gobble up. Meatloaf.

I had bought the ingredients the day before, so I simply pulled up the recipe on my laptop and set to work. The recipe was fairly easy seeming, but there was one thing that troubled me. There was only one picture.

Now I know this is very upperclass, snobbish, modern whiny-baby of me, but I like pictures with my recipes. I mean, quality photography. I want to know, not only what this dish should look like when I’m done, but preferably what it should look like every step of the way. I don’t trust plain old words when it comes to cooking. If you expect me to try a recipe, you better show me what I’m trying to do. In color.

Meatloaf isn’t known for looking appealing, but raw meatloaf is even worse. After I mixed all the ingredients together, I snapped this picture. Perhaps IMG_0180I just impulsively wanted this recipe to have one in-process photo taken of it before it was eaten. Perhaps I wanted to remember that a delicious meal always starts off looking pretty awful. As I kneaded the cold meat and chopped the onions and mixed in the eggs and obsessively checked the measurements, I thought about how tutorial-driven I am.

I want a tutorial for everything. I don’t always follow the directions, but, in moments of panic, I want to be able to blame the author of the instructions for anything that goes wrong. When I checked the meatloaf and found that it was very runny, I commented on the blog post wherein I had found the recipe and asked her what I had done wrong??? I ended up draining it several times and cooking it extra and serving it to munchkins who never knew the difference. They didn’t know that I had never made meatloaf and didn’t know if I myself would like it. They didn’t know that I thought it looked kind of gross and had poured juice out of the pan just moments before. All they knew is that it was meat (yum, right?) and that I was the cook. They trusted me. They ate the meatloaf. They told me I was “the best.”

I thought the meatloaf was pretty good. I wouldn’t want it every day, but it was a fun change. I like making new things for the kids that’s not on our usual, less-meaty menu. Recently, my amazingly talented chef sister lent me a few of her cookbooks. One of them has no pictures. But I’ve put a lot of sticky bookmarks in it and I’m hoping to try some of those recipes soon. The sticky bookmarks are marks of trust. Maybe this author actually knows what he’s doing. Maybe I can make something and take my own pictures.

Maybe it’s good, not to know sometimes, you know? Maybe it’s best if we don’t know that, before I get to be “the best,” I’m going to have a bowl of runny meatloaf and a decision to make.


p.s. if you’re even thinking about making meatloaf, you need to watch this important video first.


daily bread

I have been thinking about bread.

I do this a lot. I’m kind of a carbaholic. I could absolutely eat a whole loaf of bread, plain-and-dry, by myself. My dad has always made homemade bread, usually searching for the perfect honey wheat recipe. The loaf he made a few days ago was exquisite (and gone much too soon.) I’ve been meaning to make rosemary bread for weeks now. It’s another favorite of mine.

But, you know how my mind works. It’s kind of tangled. As Reggie says in Charade, “I associate a lot of things with a lot of other things.” Everything connects. Everything represents something else. Everything reflects.

So I’ve been thinking about bread symbolically. And as is usually the case, when I begin to think about something, I suddenly hear about it everywhere. And see it everywhere. (And no, I haven’t just been sitting in a bakery.)

One of my ministers is doing an excellent series on The Lord’s Prayer. The last talk I got to hear was on the line, “give us this day our daily bread.” You can listen to it (or watch it) for free here or on itunes. It’s really quite good.

But have you ever pondered that verse of the prayer? Ever noticed how Jesus doesn’t tell us to ask for a storehouse of bread? Or access to a local bakery, night and day? Or even enough bread for today…and tomorrow? It’s interesting. At least to me…

This year will be the first time my family recognizes Lent. I wrote before about our Advent journey. We, as a family, are trying to be more Christ-focused and we’re finding that many Christ followers who have gone before us have given us useful tools for this. Advent was one good tool and we feel that Lent will be another. We’re excited. But a little scared too. Advent was, in a way, about getting excited about Jesus. Lent is, in it’s own way, about repenting of our own sins and handing them, again, over to God. Watching them placed on Christ’s shoulders as He hangs on the cross. It’s a weighty business.

When we had a family meeting about Lent, we talked about the purpose and history behind it. We told the younger children about the significance of the forty days and of giving something up. We came to a conclusion to all give something up as a family. It was a moment of nervous laughter. Not one of us will forget this Lenten season, I can be sure.

Yet, again, we spoke of bread. We spoke of Jesus’ 40-day fast and the words of the tempter, “turn that stone to bread, if you’re so hungry!” But Jesus wasn’t as hungry for bread as was for “every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” 

So as I was spending my Valentine’s Day with the charming Charles Spurgeon, I found this little passage. It is Spurgeon’s thoughts on a passage in 2 Kings which is very interesting. A man named Jehoiachin is receiving daily rations from a kindly king, but it can teach us  much about how God provides for us. It is preparing my heart for Lent already…

“And for his allowance, a regular allowance was given him by the king, according his daily needs, as long as he lived.” 2 Kings 25:30

“Jehoiachin was not sent away from the king’s palace with provisions to last him for months, but i was given to him as a daily supply. In this He provides us with a picture of the happy position of all the Lords’ people. A daily portion is all that a man really wants.

 We do not need tomorrow’s supplies; that day has not yet dawned, and it’s wants are as yet unborn. The experience that we may suffer in the month of June does not need to be quenched in February, for we do not feel it yet; if we have enough for each day as the days arrive, we shall never know want. Sufficient for the day is all that we can enjoy.

We cannot eat or drink or wear more than the day’s supply of food and clothing; the more we have, the more we have to store, and we worry about it being stolen. One cane help a traveler, but a bundle of sticks is a heavy burden. Enough is not only as good as a feast, but it is all that the greediest glutton can truly enjoy. This is all that we should expect; a craving for more than this is ungrateful. 

When our Father does not give us more, we should be content with his daily allowance. Jehoiachin’s case is ours; we have a sure portion, a portion given to us by the king, a gracious portion and a perpetual portion. Here is surely ground for thankfulness.Beloved Christian reader, in matters of grace you need a daily supply. You have no store of strength. Day by day you must seek help from above. I tis  avery happy assurance that you are provided with a regular allowance. 

In the Word, through the ministry, by meditation, in prayer and waiting upon God you will receive renewed strength. In Jesus everything you need is provided for you. So enjoy your continual allowance. Never go hungry while the daily bread of grace is on the table of mercy.”



This post contains confessions about Chicken Helper, Chocolate Chip Waffles and ABC’s “Once Upon A Time”. Be prepared to judge.

During my week of being “Marmee” I’ve learned to take things day-by-day. Things have really gone quite smoothly this week, though we do miss our parents very much and I can’t say that there haven’t been a few moments in which I’ve looked for them and thought “What am I supposed to do?”

I think one of my best choices this week was to read Willin and Jubilee Aunt Nancy and Old Man Trouble before they went to bed one of the first nights. This is a story about how to stay positive when things go wrong. I love it-clever and cute. Old Man Trouble definitely tries to sneak into Eyrie Park whenever my parents leave, but I think we’ve kept him away pretty well through prayer, positive attitudes and preparation. 

Another choice that I’m very glad I made was to cook every day this week. Actually, today I made curry chicken salad sandwiches for lunch, so that can’t really count as cooking. But on the other hand, I plan to cook dinner on Monday, which will mean that I’ll cook seven times before my parents get home. Not to mention those chocolate chip waffles…

I have really enjoyed planning meals, gathering ingredients, grocery shopping, posting the menu, cooking, serving (and eating!) this week. It’s been fun and made me feel productive. It’s something that is necessary yet can be enjoyable when well organized and the whole family gets to enjoy the results. The best thing about this week has been that I’ve known exactly what my priorities were to be-taking care of the family. I didn’t have to wonder if I should schedule in writing or reading or anything else that I normally try to do for myself because I knew that that wasn’t my priority. And I (as you can see) have found spare time to write anyway. 

{Above: Marmee prepares to leave her daughters in charge of Orchard House while she visits Mr. March in the hospital. I may or may not pretend to be one of the March girls while I take care of Eyrie Park…}

So here’s the Day-By-Day of my week, for anyone who is interested:

My parents left in the afternoon, flying out of our local airport. That day I took all of the Christmas decorations down, did a lot of cleaning and rearranging and washed all of the sheets. This is also the day that the rabid raccoon met his fate on our deck. I made the Boredom Solution Jars that night.

Baked potatoes, bacon, fixings and salad

Joey, Sabrina, Donavan, Birdie and Sam all read the instructions for “Diplomacy” while I worked, played, ate, slept and thanked the Lord that I didn’t get involved. The game is still not over. Meanwhile, I taught Willin and Jubilee how to play “Battleship.” This is a war game that I approve of. 

Tortilla Soup with the help of Birdie. Of course, it isn’t really tortilla soup at all (we’ve changed it so much) so we should call it Spicy Vegetable Soup. Plus chicken, in this case. Served with chips and cheese. Yummy!
Donavan also brought two rotten bananas which were married to our one rotten banana in a delicious bread.

I went to the grocery store twice (forgot to get extra sour cream after some of it was used on left-over potatoes) and cooked, did laundry and probably played games or watched a movie (don’t recall.)

Sour Cream Enchiladas, salad, chips. Then Marie Calendar provided us with an apple pie. Blue Bell ice cream tagged along as well…

My parents celebrated 27 years of marriage!
My friend M. came over and helped me cook dinner. She also introduced me to Deanna Durbin movies (which I now love.) I couldn’t remember the name all evening and kept calling her Debbie Durrant. Then we ate dinner, talked about life, made no-bake cookies and promised to see each other again before she has to be whisked off to college. It was very nice “taking an evening off.” The diplomats focused on the war and I again praised God that I didn’t get tied into that days before…

Fettucini Alfredo, spinach and dinner rolls. I’m not going to lie…I had a “helper” with this one. “Chicken Helper.” Actually, I was nervous about this because it was my first time to use “Chicken Helper.”
But, no shame…no shame!
Also: Birdie made no-bake cookies. Yum!

Deanna Durbin (middle) in “Three Smart Girls”

My sisters and I watched “Little Women” which is tradition to be watched with sisters during the Winter. Of course, it was in the 60’s outside, but we imagined that it was bleak out. We all got choked up at the right parts and then ranted and raved afterward. Then Jubilee put on a long, plaid nightgown and asked to carry a candle to bed. We, of course, accommodated her. 
Also, my wonderful brother-in-law took my younger brothers to the park to rollerblade. This was a huge help!

Baked parmesan tilapia, steamed broccoli and yellow squash and rice. This meal was so easy and successful! And at dinner time, I ruined the healthfulness of this day by giving into my craving for chocolate chip waffles.

Sabrina and Donavan were so kind as to take Jubilee off of my hands for a while. She had a blast getting a banana shake from Sonic, flying a kite in the park, rolling down hills (her hair tells the story) and coloring at their awesome apartment. 
I, meanwhile, got to sneak out and meet M. for coffee. Only, neither of us really drink coffee. Smoothie, java shake and conversation were all excellent. 

Well, nothing really. But I did whip up some delicious Curry Chicken Salad which we ate on crescent bread. We paired this with dill pickles and lemon iced tea and picnicked on the deck until it got too hot and we came inside. Yes, January 6th and I was sweaty.

Happenings Plans:
Church, Beth over to watch at least part of “Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel” (we’re on a girl movie kick with Jubilee…she says that “Pride and Prejudice” has to be next!) Then dinner and “Once Upon A Time.” Because yes, we watch a show on ABC. It’s true. I’m sorry. We know it’s dumb but still look forward to it all week. Judge away. 

Cooked: Supposedly Cooking:
Stir fry with chicken, rice and sauce. Yummy, easy, healthy and did I mention yummy?
This meal is my childhood enemy turned lover. 

Monday Again:
Chores, babysitting, grocery shopping, cooking, welcoming my parents back at last!

Supposedly Cooking:
Yet to be decided. Any suggestions?



“thank you, Jesus, for this day”

That’s how we were taught to always begin our prayers. The day is a good thing to thank Jesus for first…without the chance to live to this day, so many other blessings would be lost. I love how Jubilee misinterpreted this and always began her baby-prayers: “Jesus loves me…” So cute!

495. the letter I got in the mail

496. the letter I still have to respond to 

497. Birdie, my constant and brilliant “idea-bouncer-offer”

498. our “writer’s conferences” late at night, discussing my not-yet-existent novel

499. all of the delicious, nutritious and sometimes exotic meals Sabrina has cooked for us over the past few years…thanks to the marvelous chef as well!

500. the pleasure my family, friends and I gain from sharing funny Jubilee quotes

501. dinner out with the family, even if the restaurant was very loud and crowded

502. good news about a baby we’ve been praying for-the cancer has shrunk and not spread!

503. my piano teacher who was so kind as to let me reschedule my lesson last week when I was hungry and unprepared!

504. making fun plans for this Summer

505. my mother who deserves for every day to be Mother’s Day

506. watching a funny movie with my sisters and mom and Mother’s Day evening

507. Genevieve, my ipod, who makes chores go by faster

508. watching Willin sing and do motions with the children’s choir on stage Sunday

509. watching Jubilee’s baby dolls “help” her with her chores

510. the fact that my future-brother-in-law got into both the classes he needed to graduate

511. my first letter from my sponsored child!

512. all of the precious humming birds that have been buzzing around our yard lately

513. watching my dad and Birdie creating contraptions to take close-ups of the hummingbirds

514. 1 Samuel


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