dangerous tea ball

I recently bought a tea ball made by Good Cooks/Bradshaw. That’s a little stainless steel ball with holes in it that you use to brew tea leaves. It was for my daughter’s 9th birthday present. However, we have all been very disappointed with it.

The tea ball is extremely hard to open, even for my husband. My daughter can not open it at all, and I rarely can. Not only is this tea ball hard to open, it is hard to close as well. The screw threads do not align well.

Once open, it has very sharp edges. This has caused minor cuts to our fingers.

While it does make a good cup of tea, due to the problems and very real threat of getting cut with each use, I am throwing it out. Shipping it to the manufacture would cost more than I paid. This tea ball needs to be redesigned to be easier to use and safer to use. It is dangerous and should be recalled.

Cheap entertainment

In today’s fast paced world of expensive electronics, I’m glad to say I have found a way to get my kids away from it. It’s a way to provide cheap entertainment. Literally. What am I talking about? A bird feeder of course!

Two years ago, the kids studied about local birds as part of their homeschool. They bought a bird feeder and seed. We placed it right outside our living room window. Each day, they were to watch it and then write or draw in their journal what they observed.

This will be the third winter we have put up the feeder. Last week, we went to WalMart and bought local bird seed. We usually go through 2 or 3 bags in a winter. The past few days, we all eagerly awaited our small, feathered friends’ return. After awhile, we can tell individuals apart. There’s fatso (the biggest, fluffiest chickadee), weirdo (a redpoll with an unusual shaped beak), nutty (the nut hatch), and many more.

Today the first chickadee found the feeder. They along with redpolls and an occasional nut hatch will provide a little nature time each day even when it’s too cold to get outside. We enjoy watching the greedy chickadees and the more territorial red polls in their antics. It’s “cheap” entertainment.

FAQ of cape dresses

Three years ago, I wrote a post about cape dresses being comfortable. I had spent about 2 weeks amount conservative Mennonites that summer. It was my first experience with a group of other women who wore cape dresses. This weekend, I made my own cape dress for the first time. Now, I’d like to talk a bit about why this style of modest dress is important to me and dispel some myths about modern women who chose to dress this way.

As America’s popular society has lost respect for God in the last 50 years or so, it’s way of dressing has become less modest to the point today that a woman can wear a bikini off the beach without stares. This is why modest dress was more common in the past than it is now.

Being a woman who wears modest dresses and headcovering, I can say it isn’t always easy, nor is everyone as respectful of my decision. However, in general people are more polite toward me and my family since I started dressing this way.

What is a cape dress? A cape dress is a traditional dress worn by women in conservative Anabaptist Christian denominations including Amish, Mennonite, Brethren, German Baptist, and other non-affiliated churches. It is a long dress, typically falling at least mid-calf. The dress gets it’s name from the extra piece of fabric over the bodice (upper body), called a cape. This is to provide extra modesty. However, there is no one single cape dress pattern. In fact, there is a lot of variations within the general cape dress style.

Sleeves come at least to the elbow but are often 3/4 length or full long sleeve. The sleeves are usually gently gathered at the top, allowing more freedom of movement. They can have plain hems, cuffs, or elastic gathers.

The waist can be gathered with or without elastic, pleated, fitted, or belted. The cape can be in both the front and back or just the front. It is usually tapered to the waist. German Baptist capes are more like a wrap and come to a point in the front and back and partially cover the arms. Most capes are sewn to the dress. However, in some Old Order groups as well as Amish, the cape is actually a separate piece along with an apron so their dresses are in 3 pieces.

Most cape dresses have a hidden zipper in back to hold them shut. However, they can also have buttons in either the front or back. I recently read about a woman who uses a short zipper on one shoulder for her dresses.

Are you stuck in the past? No. Dressing modestly and wearing a headcover isn’t to preserve the past, but to respect God. There are many ways women dress to adhere to modesty. Some simply dress normally but with higher necklines and looser clothes. Others wear jumpers. Others like me wear long dresses including cape dresses.

Is it just for Amish or Mennonites? No. God calls all women to be dress modestly. 1 Timothy 2:9 “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;”

But why a cape dress instead of a regular, modest dress? I am a conservative Christian, but not Amish or Mennonite. However, I like to wear the cape dress because it is not only modest but very comfortable. I had a hard time finding modest comfortable dresses (especially at a decent price) before I bought my first cape dress. Now I have several and they are among my favorites. Believe it or not, I get many compliments on them too. It’s also a lot cheaper because I’m aren’t always having to keep up with the latest fashions.

Way back in high school, I was caught up in fashion. Every season I had to get a new wardrobe. That spent most of the money I earned doing 4H. It was never ending. I wasn’t outgrowing the clothes like young children do. I just didn’t want them longer than a few months before something new and better came along. I was like most young women. I hung out at the mall. I was vain.

Now I realize vanity is a sin. The Bible says in Psalm 119:37, “Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way.” Wearing a cape dress keeps me from being vain following fashion. Some people may claim that wearing a cape dress is vain because it is different from society. Some even go so far as to think it is a prideful, holier-than-thou type “fashion”. I think just the opposite. I see those claims as excuses to still be vain. As Christians, we are called to be separate from the world around us. 2 Corinthians 6:16-18 commands, “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you”.

Being separate should apply to all parts of our life as Christians, not just when convenient or only on Sundays. Fashion, entertainment, and other lifestyle choices are especially important because it is through these choices the world will judge us. It is through these choices that others may be won to Christ. Sadly, it is also through these choices that many see modern Western Christians as hypocrites. I don’t want to be seen as a hypocrite. Wearing a cape dress not only tells the world I am a conservative Christian, it is also a reminder to me to be careful in my choices.

Women wearing cape dresses

What about variety? Another objection people have to cape dresses is that they are a uniform and do not allow individuality. Yes, they are a uniform, but so is fashion. Most people today would not think of putting on jeans and a t-shirt. Yet, that can be seen as a uniform of Western culture. The main difference is who sets the standard: the church or society.

As you can see if you look carefully in the above photo, there are several differences in sleeves, collars, fabric, and waist even though they are all wearing cape dresses. I’ve already described many these differences above. It’s just that modern society is not used to seeing this type of dress so doesn’t notice the differences.

Isn’t it legalism? No. While cape dresses are similar, very few churches insist on exactly the same dress pattern among the women. In fact, most female military uniforms have fewer variations compared to cape dresses. However, few would criticize the military as being too strict or legalistic. They understand that a uniform gives group identity. So do cape dresses. They identify the wearer as a conservative Christian, usually from an Anabaptist group.

Dress making

Since I’m doing a lot of just sitting around while my knee is healing, I decided this would be a good time to make a few dresses for me and my daughter. I had been buying them from E-bay. However, I’ve been having trouble finding them in my size lately. Last spring I ordered a cape dress pattern from Candle on the Hill, but hadn’t made one yet.

This weekend I went to visit friends. They are conservative Mennonites with 4 daughters, so she is used to making dresses. She had lots of good tips and advice. Since she has a daughter the same age as mine, it was easy to get a pattern. She also helped me to sew my first cape dress for myself.

Friday we went to JoAnn’s Fabrics to pick out the fabric and other things needed for the dresses. We got enough material to make 2 dresses for my daughter and 1 for me. We made a dress for my daughter first. It was finished Saturday, so she was able to wear it to church Sunday. Unfortunately, we didn’t quite get finished with my dress. It still needs sewn shut below the zipper, and the skirt and sleeves hemmed. That should be fairly easy since the process is still fresh in my mind from making my daughter’s dress. Then I’m going to make the other one for my daughter. I’d like to make at least 2 or 3 dresses for each of us before we leave on our vacation in 2 weeks.

I brought along a few of my favorite cape dresses so we could compare them to the pattern. After much measuring and planning, we decided just to make my dress using the size large of the pattern. The only changes were to the sleeves, which we made shorter and less full. We were able to finish it enough so I could try it on, and it fit great! That will make it easier to sew more dresses instead of worrying about pattern alterations.

1. cut fabric

2. attach bodice front/back at top (attach collar if desired)

3. attach cape front/back at top

4. attach cape to dress

5. gather sleeves

6. attach sleeves

7. close bodice & sleeve sides

8. attach pocket

9. gather skirt

10. attach skirt (add optional elastic or ties to waist)

11. attach zipper

12. sew back closed

13. hem length

14. hem sleeves (add optional elastic at cuffs)


As I write this it is -34F at my house outside of Fairbanks, Alaska. In town it is -42, and over in the community of North Pole it is -45. This morning they had -47 at 10am. The Fairbanks Daily Newsminer had an article about the cold overnight lows with some pictures showing lows down to -60 in some areas. The frigid weather is supposed to start warming up slowly tomorrow then snow in the middle of the week before heading back down to -30. Hopefully it will be warm enough on Thursday for the kids ski lessons. The cut off is -4. Last week was -2 at the start, but dropped to -8 when we left an hour and half later.





Even by Alaska’s unreliable standards, the weather forecasts have been very poor this winter. Usually they are fairly good about 3 days out, but they can’t even get it right for the same day lately. They keep changing it, sometimes several times in an hour. (yes, I kind of obsess over things like that). Anyway, tonight’s forecast for Friday really is a head scratcher on Weather Underground.

Mostly cloudy. Fog early. High of 10F. Winds less than 5 mph. Chance of snow 20%. Overcast with a chance of snow and rain showers in the evening, then partly cloudy. Fog overnight. Low of -6F. Winds less than 5 mph.

If the high is only supposed to be 10 and it’s supposed to go below zero, how in the world is it supposed to rain? Temperatures need to at least be near freezing (32F) for that to happen. Yes, it does sometimes rain in the middle of the winter here in interior Alaska, but not when it’s near zero all week. Now the possible rain on Sunday with expected temperatures rising from the upper teens to high 20’s makes more sense. If that happens, I’m not looking forward to driving Monday or Tuesday. Luckily, since I’m the boss right now, I can give myself the day off if necessary and put everyone else on minimal schedule so they can stay off the roads as much as possible.

A healthy soup that satisfies

Soup. The word often means watery, thin side dish that doesn’t fill you up or leaves you hungry soon after. Otherwise, it means high fat, cream based soups that don’t help your diet. Well, have I got the cure for all that! It’s a bean stew loaded with healthy veggies like tomato, garbanzo beans/chick peas, onion, and spinach. Yes, spinach. It’s low fat, filling, and it tastes great! Even my kids are excited when they see me getting out this recipe.

I got this recipe from a magazine (Prevention’s Biggest Loser edition, May 2010) a few years ago. I’d been reluctant to try it because, well frankly, it was a bit outside our normal. It uses spices like cumin and chili powder. You need fire roasted tomatoes. And spinach. While we like spinach, the idea of it in a soup was rather off putting. HA! If I’d just tried it, we would have a new favorite soup that’s actually healthy long ago. Instead, I stayed in my comfort zone.

While looking around for recipes to fit our new clean eating, I opened this old magazine again and decided to give the bean stew a try. Not only does it taste great, but is super healthy and best of all, easy to make.


1 Tbsp olive oil

1 large onion chopped

1 Tbsp chopped garlic

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp chili powder

28 oz (1 large or 2 regular size cans) fire roasted tomatoes

3 cans drained and rinsed (or 4.5 cups cooked from dry) garbanzo beans/chick peas

4 cups fat free low sodium chicken broth

1/4 cup chopped cilantro (I used freeze dried)

3 cups fresh baby spinach leaves (3 big handfuls), chopped kale, or swiss chard

Saute onion in olive oil until tender, add garlic and cook 1 more minute.

Add spices and tomatoes. Simmer about 5 minutes. Add 3 cups (2 cans) of the beans and 2 1/2 cups broth. Bring to boil then reduce to simmer.

While that is heating, put the remaining beans, broth, and cilantro in a blender. Puree until smooth. Add mixture to stew. Add spinach and heat until wilted. Stir well and serve hot.

According to the magazine, each 1 cup serving has 160 calories, 8g protein, 26g carbs, 7g fiber, 3g fat, 0 staturated fat and cholesterol, 330mg sodium. It’s also naturally packed with vitamins and minerals like vitamins A, C, E, K, folate, zinc, and calcium.

So if you’re looking for a dish to make on “meatless Mondays” or a hearty soup on a cold day, give this bean stew a try. Come out of your comfort zone. Oh, and did I mention it only takes about half an hour to make? No more cooking all day for soup with this recipe. So it could be a great option on days you are short on time instead of mac&cheese casserole.