Houses in Austin

are expensive compared to here. There is only one house below $160K that is anything like what we have here and in a decent Austin location.

I’ve been gone too long. That seems atrocious to me.

But we didn’t live in Austin. We lived in Pflugerville and there are still houses in that area available for less than $160K. Those are 4 bedroom houses. We might could get away with a three bedroom house if there is a room we can use as a bedroom.

E will be gone soon, but M and E need more time apart than a shared bedroom would give them.

Evelyn’s mac and cheese receipt*

Last year Evelyn brought a macaroni and cheese casserole to my home when I was ill. My husband loved it.

Finally, 13 months later, I have obtained the recipe:

2 c elbow macaroni
12 oz cheddar cheese
8 oz some other kind of cheese
1 stick butter
5 c milk
salt and pepper to taste.

Spray or oil a dish.
Add the macaroni and then everything else.
Cook in the oven at 325 degrees for 1 hour.


Guess what we’re having for dinner?

*receipt is an old word for recipe

Teaching kids to read

I am spending a little over an hour three times this week with ten kids going into fourth grade, helping them to read. We are reading books, talking about them, and then they are reading the book out loud to someone.

I have been looking and looking for a book that we can read as a group and read quietly in smaller groups and I have found one. It’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I’ve done that book with fourth graders before, so I know they can understand it, if you take long enough.

Of course, before I did the book in 13 weeks. I only have two days left. But I think it might be intriguing for them to read the book in class, not all of it, but parts of it. I wish I could send my copies home with them, but I need them for my college class this summer, too.

I have some kid-aged things to do with AiW and I am going to make copies of those things. We may only spend a little bit of time on the other book, maybe thirty minutes, and spend the rest of the time reading and writing on Alice. We still won’t get through with it, but I think we could read some of the fun parts. And do some of the fun things.

We could write an “if you give a mouse a cookie…” type story as a class. But would we have time?

Two chapters are 30 minutes to read. Then talking about them is 15. Then the animal stuff is 15. That’s an hour. We only have an hour and 15 minutes a day.

Maybe we could do one chapter and a writing exercise. And then the day after do another chapter and a writing exercise. I have an easy-to-read version, but I only have one copy of it.

Okay. What if I read a chapter 15 minutes. And then they read a chapter, 20 minutes. After that we could do the fantastic creature writing. And if we had time we could talk about the animal stuff.

Then the day after I could read a chapter and they could read a chapter and we’d do the poem and the puns.

All told we’re only going to be able to read four chapters. I need to pick which ones we read. The first two and the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party and… the croquet game? My personal favorites are the Mock Turtle and the Gryphon, but those aren’t very little kid friendly. Although it does let them know about the puns. I guess we’ll just do the two pages on puns that I have for that.

I think that is the best idea I have. I will also offer to let them take home a donated book. I have several at different levels. The library here donated four boxes worth!


are something like trying to ride a crocodile.

You don’t get anywhere and it’s a bit scary.

Or maybe like riding a tiger…

There was a young lady from Riga,
Who smiled as she rode on a tiger
They came back from the ride
With the lady inside,
And a smile on the face of the tiger.

Reading in the US: More, from Gallup

Half of Americans are in the middle of reading a book. (Oops! I just finished mine. Better start another.)

The median number of books read a year is 5. (I probably push that one high, or would if someone would just ask me!)

83% of Americans report having read a book in the last year.

Number of books read is up from 1990. (Survey is June 2005.)

Reading books is massively more popular than it was in the 1940s and 1950s.

Dean’s World had the quotes. The original is available for only $95 a year from Gallup Poll.

Reading in the US: More

I found all kinds of disturbing reading information. But there’s nothing about reading online. It doesn’t even count. Yet I read 100+ blogs everyday. I think that’s reading.

Most of this I found at Para Publishing.

One-third of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives.
58% of the US adult population never reads another book after high school.
42% of college graduates never read another book.
80% of US families did not buy or read a book last year.
57% of new books are not read to completion.
–Jerrold Jenkins.

But according to National Endowment for the Arts’ monograph, 57% of adults over the age of 18 read at least one book that was not for work or school in 2002.

The National Endowment for the Arts also said that 96 million Americans read literature in 2002 which was not required for work or school.

According to this same study, Americans read 2.1 billion (BILLION) books in 2002. I don’t think they were counting my 700+. No one ever asks me to fill out these kind of surveys.

Most readers do not get past page 18 in a book they have purchased.
63% of adults report purchasing at least one book during the previous three-month period. (Most were probably exaggerating).
–Bookselling This Week, November 10, 1997.
I have purchased four books in the last week. So if that were at least an average, which it probably is since sometimes I purchase 200 books in a weekend, I purchase over 200 books a year. (Why do I purchase 200 books in a weekend? Booksale at the library. A hardback is $1. Two paperbacks are $1.)

53% read fiction, 43% nonfiction. The favorite fiction category is mystery & Suspense, 19%.
–Publishers Weekly, May 12, 1997, page 13.

Of the top fifty books, fiction outsells nonfiction about 60% to 40%.
Fiction peaks in July at 70% but nonfiction reaches almost 50% in December.
–USA Today, April 30, 1999.

55% of fiction is bought by women; 45% by men.
–Publishers Weekly, May 12, 1997, page 13.

Thirty percent of Americans surveyed by the Harris Poll say they would rather read a book than do anything else; twenty-one percent said watching TV is their favorite activity. That’s the good news. The bad news is that only 13 percent selected “spending time with family.”
–Publishers Weekly email Daily, July 9, 1998.

70% of Americans haven’t visited a bookstore in five (5) years.
–Michael Levine, June 2002
I have trouble believing that one since I’m in one at least once a week.

Customers 55 and older account for more than one-third of all books bought.
–2001 Consumer Research Study on Book Purchasing by the Book Industry Study Group

People reduced their time reading between 1996 and 2001 to 2.1 hours/month.
2001: per capita spending on books per month was $7.18.
–Publishers Weekly, May 26, 2003

Only 32% of the U.S. population has ever been in a bookstore.
–David Godine, Publisher.
Okay. How likely is that to be true?

The time Americans spend reading books.
1996: 123 hours
2001: 109 hours
–Veronis, Suhler & Associates investment bankers
What does this mean in terms of books? For me that means about 75 books. I am fairly sure that is not true for everyone else.

According to the National Endowment for the Arts’ monograph, I qualify as an avid reader. That means I’ve read at least a book a week. But 1 in 6 people read at least a book a month in the US.

According to page 20 of the same monograph, 24% of Americans read 8 books or more a year. In the UK, 52% read 8 or more books a year. We fall in the bottom third compared to Europeans. They probably also watch way less TV than we do.

And, finally, for your knowledge pleasure, the most likely literary readers are white females between the ages of 45 and 54 with a graduate degree and a household income of over $75,000. Hmm. That sounds familiar.

Writing books in the US

As any long term reader knows, I have written the first of a trilogy in fantasy and am working on the second. I am about half way through the first version of that. I have the outline for the third.

So what did I find about people in the US writing a book?

81% of the population feels they have a book inside them.
27% would write fiction.
28% would write on personal development
27% would write history, biography, etc.
20% would do a picture book, cookbook, etc.
6 million have written a manuscript.
6 million manuscripts are making the rounds.
Out of every 10,000 children’s books, 3 get published.
–Jerrold Jenkins. 15 May 99.

There are approximately 350 million people in the US. And only 22 million book titles have been published since 1775. So 6 million manuscripts is quite a lot.

(Quote above found at Para Publishing.)

Reading in the US

According to the National Institute for Literacy:

According to the 1999 National Household Education Survey, 50% of the population aged 25 and over read a newspaper at least once a week, read one or more magazines regularly, and had read a book in the past 6 months.

I don’t meet that. I read a book at least once a week. (My average for ANY book is once a day.) I read three or for magazines regularly. I read a newspaper about once every six months.

Things I stumbled upon

I was using Stumble and I found:

a hobbit home built as described in the Tolkein books with georgeous architecture and pictures.

Stacks of pennies to show how bridges are built. It is the replacement for the domino effect and the card towers as a time waster. But cool looking.

The History, Art, and Culture of Ancient Mesoamerica. The pics of the gods are funky. They’re taken from original pics and they look kind of cartoonish, hanging out in a rectangle waiting for you to click on one.

Good stuff on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. History, ms, etc.

10 Strangest Weapons throughout History include pre-Wolverine metal hands, guns as flashlights, and a flexible coiled sword. It could be worn as a belt.

Very odd picture of 9/11 taken of people out on a lunch break with the plumes of the World Trade Center in the background.

Ow. Ow. Ow. Poor puppy. Results of dog v. porcupine pics. Dog has 1,347 quills in him.

All about the 8 Ball. Including the fact that the blue liquid inside causes a few minutes of numbness to the area which it touches on the human body. Hmm. Maybe it’s not water with blue dye after all.

A short short story about time displacement.

“Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” An article by Philip K. Dick.

A picture of Microsoft 1978.

A TV news presentation on witches flying around and attacking policemen. The translation leaves out some of what is being said, but keeps with the facts.

What does McDonald’s food look like after ten weeks? The answer is here. Hint: French fries look the same.

An introduction to Grimm’s Fairy Tales by National Geographic.

Happy birthday, Mr. President.

It is George W. Bush’s birthday today.

It also would have been Donna and Martha’s birthdays. But they both died this last year.

I called their remaining sister, just to say hi. I wonder if I should call Mike. But you don’t want to remind them if they forgot.

How likely is that?

Please pray for a Marine’s hand specifically

Jaime Martinez is home in the US for his sister’s funeral; she died of cancer. He went to the emergency room two days ago for a pain in his finger. He was treated and released. The infection worsened significantly. He is having surgery. The doctors think they may have to take the hand.

One of the other men in his unit was airlifted out of Iraq with a similar problem. He lost his hand.

Please pray for Jaime, the other men in his unit, and the Marine who has already lost his hand.

Also pray for the rest of our troops as well.

Update: Jaime had surgery Friday morning (7/6/07) and they were able to save his hand. Thank you, God.

Mexican steak v. puerco pibil

an email to my brother:

I’m still looking for the original Mexican Steak recipe. But I found this. And I know that there was some orange juice or orange zest in the orig. Also, R made a dish that smells very similar once cooked, but doesn’t taste as sweet. You might want to try it. As is it uses pork butt. But you could probably use steak. R thinks this is the origin of Mex. steak. Maybe someone came home and tried to recreate it 35+ years ago when this stuff wasn’t avaiable.

Mexican steak:
3 twenty ounce bottles of Del Monte Ketchup (Other ketchups have less sugar and so taste less sweet. You can change for your personal preferences.)
6 empty ketchup bottles of water (Makes sure you get the last of the ketchup out, too.)
12 Tablespoons of mustard (We always use yellow, but brown would probably just add a bit of kick.)
12 Tablespoons of Lea & Perrin Worchestershire sauce (This is non-negotiable in my opinion. But if you have a favorite W- sauce you can sub it.)
1 Tablespoon tabasco (If you don’t like any heat at all, you can lower this. If you like more, you can add. My dad can’t have it too spicy. Update: I put in 1.5 T and that is TOO much. My lips are burning. I had to drink soda in order to eat and the rice wasn’t enough to stop it.)
2 cups lemon juice
garlic (The recipe as it was originally calls for 18 cloves for this mix. I usually just use a whole head and call it done.)
onion (The original calls for 18 onions. -Because the original was much more about the onion than the ketchup. My family aren’t big onion fans.– I usually just use two. But you want to chop them up well.)

flour- enough to coat steak
oil (Don’t use anything that has a strong taste.)
6 pounds of steak

Take the flour. Mix in pepper and salt. (I just salt and pepper the steak before I coat the steak.) Coat steak. Pan fry until light brown outside. Then the steak in with the sauce and bake at 350. Cooking time: 2-8 hours. Longer is better.

2 sticks of butter in the recipe. I don’t use any butter in the recipe. I find that no one tastes the difference and I don’t look at butter on top of the sauce after it’s been in the fridge the way I make it. The butter is original to the recipe.

If it’s too spicy:
Add more of the other wet stuff.

The one I thought smelled and tasted like Mexican steak, maybe in its original incarnation is Puerco pibil. I got it off the internet at the Spice House.


5 pounds pork butt, cut into 2 inch cubes
5 tablespoons annato seeds (aka achiote)
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 tablespoon whole black pepper
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
8 whole allspice berries
2 habanero Peppers, fresh or dried, cleaned and minced (optional)
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup white vinegar
8 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons salt
5 lemons
1 shot of tequila (I don’t know what a shot is. I figured 2 TBS.)
banana leaves (optional)
Preparation Instructions

Grind the annato seeds, cumin seeds, whole peppercorns, whole cloves, and whole allspice in a spice grinder or coffe grinder.

Blend the cleaned and chopped habanero peppers with the orange juice, vinegar, garlic and salt.

Mix the dry spices with the liquid.

Add the juice of 5 lemons and a nice splash of tequila. (I decided a splash was 2 T)

Place the cubed pork butt in a large zip lock bag and add the marinade. Soak 4-6 hours, in refrigerator, turning several times. (CHRIS! This is not a step in the original. I think adding this step in may be what made the thing too salty for reviewer #2.)

Line (8×13) baking pan with banana leaves. Pour in pork along with the marinade. Cover with Banana leaves and seal the pan with foil.

(CHRIS! We didn’t find b.l. But it was still delicious.)

Bake in a 325 F degree oven for 4 hours.

(CHRIS! R only cooked it for 3 hrs. It may be like Mex Steak and get better the more you cook it. )

Helpful Hints

Banana leaves are optional, because I haven’t found any locally yet.

Take it easy on Habanero peppers. HOT!HOT!!HOT!!!

Preground spices can be used in place of the whole spices, but the brilliant flavor of freshly ground spices really makes this dish what it is!

(CHRIS! The orig MS recipe didn’t have much sauce. Neither does this one. If you want more, I’d triple the recipe to start.)

(Editor’s note: It may be helpful to read the hints left in the reviews of this recipe. Another suggestion, given to us by Dennis from Rawlins, Wyoming, is to add brown sugar to the marinating mix, use limes instead of lemons, and only cook 3 to 3 1/2 hours in aluminum foil.)

Credit: This recipe was provided by Kenton Bolte from Seattle to the Spice House.

Note: Mixing the dry and wet goods did not make them mix better. I had a lot of the dry goods left in the mixer and the bag. So, I think I might just chop the habanero and garlic very fine and put all the wet and dry goods in the baking dish, mix them there, and then add the pork. If you aren’t marinating the pork it is a waste of plastic to put them in the bag anyway.

One line stories.

I went online yesterday and read a bunch of one line stories. Some of them were boring. Some funny. Two of them were heart sickening.

One was

I went to a party the day we had an abortion, it made me feel good not having to be a parent. -We, honey, didn’t have an abortion. And you were a parent. You just murdered your child.

Another was along the lines of:

It was hard to go through with the abortion after finding out just seconds beforehand that I was pregnant with twins. -Yeah, hard. I bet it was a lot harder on your twins.

There is something wrong with a society that thinks hooking up doesn’t hurt anyone and that neither does having an abortion.

How many people “go” to your church?

This is an interesting array of numbers.

On any given Sunday, about 450 people are counted. That means they’re sitting in the auditorium ten or fifteen minutes into the sermon.

So I wondered where the folks are coming up with 700. And where we are getting 80-120 youth. So I started counting. I went through the directory, which includes all our members. We have 761 people listed. Everyone who is going to college somewhere is still listed as a member. So I’d say we probably have at least 30 less. I didn’t count college people separately.

But I did count 6th through 12th graders. They’re in our youth ministy program. We’ve been saying we have 120. So I decided I would see how many we actually have. We have 95 listed members in the phone book. Now there is at least one who is not in the phone book, Skyler. She comes but her mother doesn’t. And I wouldn’t be surprised to find that we have four or five who are like that. Certainly no more than that though. So at the most we have 100 youth group. That’s close to the number we’re saying, high but close.

However, we say we have 800+ on our website. We only have 761 in our phone book. And we only have ~450 on Sunday.

So we’re overinflating our numbers somewhere.

It seems very unlikely that we have 300 people absent on one Sunday and a different 300 absent on another. I think it is much more likely that some of those people come once a year or so, Christmas and Easter. Maybe we should differentiate between members and attendees.

The Towers

During wartime cities were told to turn down the lights and what does New York do? It sets up the brightest lights in the country, a beacon that could be seen from 20 miles away! It was, at once, a defiant gesture and spiritual recognition of the lives lost. And we will remember.

On March 11, 2002 apparently New York had thirty days of lights in the place of the towers. Some pictures and the above paragraph can be found here.