Sunday, March 28, 2010

Where's Jana? -- The Conspiracy Theories Abound

Lately there's been lots of wondering "Where's Jana?" She's barely noticeable in the background and not talking much at all on the show. Do we know why? No. Do we have ideas and theories? Heck yeah! Among the blogs there are dozens and here are just a few:

a) She has survivor's guilt and is taking Josie's being in the NICU very very hard
b) She is engaged and because of Josie's premature birth is unable to announce her engagement and show her happiness, therefore is keeping a low profile; also sad that she's far from her intended--also there was a big "to-do" over Josh's engagement and now her's is on the back burner because of Josie and she's sad/guilty over that as any newly engaged girl would be
c) She's 20 (?) and as an adult can legally decide how much time she wants to be on camera and has made the decision to pull back and not do the show as much
d) She just has PMS and that's that
e) She's suffering from depression from having to care for all her younger siblings and it's getting to her and she's about to snap (that was posted by someone on one of the blogs who doesn't particularly like the Duggar family way of life)
f) She misses the kids she bonded with in her volunteer work back home in Springdale and is homesick and doesn't like "camping out" in the new home

and finally my new theory....

Back when Josh and Anna got engaged and Jim Bob and Michelle and a few of the older girls were watching the video of him proposing on the computer, JB commented off-handedly that he gets a lot of emails from all over from guys offering to marry his daughters. I believe it was Jinger who jokingly mentioned most of them were from "creeps" or some other equally derogatory word. I'm wondering if Jana is purposly being kept off camera because she's getting too much unwanted attention from someone through email on their website or through the TLC website blog, or some other way.

The Duggars do not make themselves hard to find. They show on TV exactly where they live both in Springdale and in Little Rock and practically invite people to come visit them and share worship services. While in theory I understand Jim Bob's reasoning for doing this from a Christian missionary standpoint, from a parenting safety standpoint it's unfathomable. Yet when you realize that these people don't have TV in their home and don't watch themselves on TV--even when they watch the show they watch it on the computer so it's still not "tv" and they still don't "get it." It's as if they don't quite understand that millions of people know exactly where they live all the time.

But again, it's just another theory. We have no idea why Jana is a no show. Jinger I believe has mentioned she doesn't like doing the interviews. You can tell some kids are more comfortable in front of the camera than others, which is normal, some ham it up and some just sit there and nod.

So what's your theory? And is this family safe?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Josh and Anna: A Mystery Wrapped in a Riddle

Josh is one of those guys you just sometimes want to smack, but can't. He was the guy in high school that told the lame jokes that weren't funny that you were embarassed for and you wanted to crawl under your desk just to get away from the on-going discussions of whatever it was he and his friends were talking about.

Josh really does have some potential. He unfortunately is Jim Bob 2.0. I am not sure that's a bad thing, except that he's not really taking the best qualities of Jim Bob, he's taking the smarmy, lame qualities of Jim Bob instead. He's the carsalesman/Politician huckster mug-for-the-camera (where as Jim Bob will admit that he actually is quite nervous when it comes to public speaking, former State Rep or not) kind of guy instead of the morally just and proud father making sure everything is running smooth Jim Bob 1.0. Wow I really hope that paragraph made sense.

I really do think Josh wants to follow in his father's footsteps. From the early days of the 1 hour specials when he was a mid-late teen he said he was interested in politics and thought of law school. He's a definate republican and active in the electoral process since following his dad to the capitol all those years ago. He is also starting with the car business just like his dad did, he's starting by marrying young, just like his dad did. Let's hope he's staying debt free, just like his dad is now.

Of all the Duggar children I think the TV show is affecting Josh the most. I think he's the hungriest for fame. I don't think he wants Paris Hilton fame--he probably doesn't know who she is--I think he wants to use his name recognition to one day get him into the state house just like his dad. He may start with city council and work his way up---but of all of them--he's the camera fiend. Afterall, he was the one that built the audio/visual studio in the new house and filmed everything. He even got some credits on the documentaries--at least one.

As for Anna, she's a hard read. For someone who has lead such a sheltered life, she adapted REALLY well to being on camera, interviewed, and giving birth to a nation of fans. That surprised me. Seriously, how does that happen? We've seen where she came from, where she grew up, and now she's on TV and not even a blush or a stutter. Of all of them, she's impressive! She just walked right in and made herself at home. Good for her! And for having a baby so soon, with the world's most famous mom as her mother-in-law, that has to be intimidating--she has a great teacher to go to, yet she probably thinks she also has her watching her every misstep as well. You'd think Josh would know everything about babies, yet he's goofed a few things up on camera too. It's nice though, show's his human side.

One thing I do think is funny is that people on the blogs are always complaining how she's always sitting on his lap, or they are always holding hands and always kissing. Are they kidding? Both of these kids were raised in homes that discouraged dating (didn't forbid) but these two chose not to kiss until they got married and chose not to date until they were engaged. Frankly now that they're allowed to touch each other all they want, we're lucky they aren't publicly mounting each other!

I'm not sure where these two are headed. Sometimes I think Josh is jockeying for a show of his own when his family's show ends. Why else would his car business be such a low priority? The hours they are open are something like 10-5 M-Sat I think someone posted on a msg board. They either get a stipend from TLC because they are over 18 or he saved a bunch of money from work he did before he got married and is living of dividends.

Like I said, a mystery wrapped in a riddle. Any thoughts? Ok other than he's gotten a little fat....

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Season 4: Free Pass or Fair Game?

Season 4 is going to be different that the previous 3 and that needs to be taken into consideration. However in light of that, people still have no problem posting on blogs about how they think the Duggars should live their lives, treat their children, stop procreating, and stay off TV. Some things I personally think we should remember are:

a) this family is in crisis
b) they are living in a strange home and trying to live as normally as possible for the little kids--it may seem odd to us to take a day trip when their child is in the NICU, but they can't be in the NICU 24/7 even though they may want to be, and they have to paste smiles on their faces even though their hearts are breaking and show their other children that life is still going on around them and hasn't stopped just because Josie is in the hospital
c) foodwise they don't have the storage space and refridgerator space that they have back home so they are making the best of a terrible situation---they are also living in "stress mode," and frankly "comfort food" mode and who of us haven't been there before?---I gained 15 lbs when my husband was in the hospital with double valve replacement, not an excuse but and example of how some of us cope
c) They are "camping out"...that isn't their home so it's not what the first 2 seasons were...we aren't going to see them at their best when it comes to school work, house work, cooking, diet, or just about anything except sticking together and loving each other and supporting each other

So, do we give them a free pass and wait for them to get back on an even keel? Do we wait and see what happens with Josie before we start in on all the negative comments? Or because they have chosen to remain on national television does that give people the right to comment however they see fit on the Duggars lifestyle?

What do you think--free pass or fair game?

Is #19 a Sign that Enough is Enough

There has been much speculation in the blogging world that they pushed their luck and this is a "sign from G-d to stop." Since there have been no quotes in the media from Michelle's doctors about her health regarding any chance of future pregnancies, we don't know what her future holds.

What we DO know is that their faith in G-d hasn't changed and that they still believe it's up the G-d to decide what will happen. Do you think they will take this as a sign and take a break? Do you think it's possible she's had so much damage that she's probably incapable of more pregnancies? Do you think they are even focused on that right now?

Too Controlling? The Patriarcal Lifestyle at a Glance

The Duggars live their lives by the Biblical model of a patriarcy. The father is the head of the household and the wife defers to her husband. Now anyone watching the show can plainly see that this couple is clearly in love with each other as if they were still in high school, so it's not as if he was leading her around and ordering her what to do. Michelle is clearly in control of her own destiny and makes decisions.

Now, again, full disclosure time, I too live in this type of marriage. For the interest of discussion, I personally have found it to be quite freeing. Most people see it as oppressive and demeaning. I find it liberating--as in, nothing is my fault! hahaha The bills didn't get paid or something was late? Not my fault, hubby is in charge! My role is to grocery shop, take care of the house, the laundry, and be the mother to our lovely daughter. Frankly on most days I'm more Peg Bundy than Joan Cleaver, but I usually pull it together and since I love to cook, things run pretty smoothly around here. But we have a sense of humour. To put in simply--my husband takes care of me by taking the role of leader. I like that. I like being loved and cherished that much that someone wants to take the burden of worry off of me and take care of me by making sure the household bills are paid, our money is wisely invested, I have money to buy our food and essentials and extras, and still trips to Europe twice a year. By the twinkle and glow in Michelle's eyes and on her cheeks I'd say she feels the same way.

As for the kids "not getting to have choices or freedom" well I don't see that. They sure get to do a lot of things. Even before TLC came along the family made regular trips to conferences and did a huge trip along the east coast. TLC just happened to come along when the Duggars were planning their trip to the west coast so it happened to get filmed and a few extras added (like Disneyland) but if you'll notice, all the kids said the Dude Ranch was their favourite part of the trip--something the Duggars planned on their own. They play family sports with other families in their worship group, the individual kids all have hobbies of their own--some of the girls do volunteer work with children. Point being---THEY DON'T FILM EVERYTHING!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Is TLC the "Big Bad Wolf?"

I've always contended that the Duggars would be debt-free even if TLC had never come a knockin'...since they were living debt-free for years before TLC showed up. But since they decided to do a 30-minute weekly program, their lifestyle has changed a little bit--more trips, visits, etc. But we are still led to believe that they are living by their same old maxim of "buy used, save the difference."

I maintain that their core value system has remained the same while they are enjoying their good fortune. I think that's possible. You don't have to turn into the Gosslins or fall into the televangelist's trap of the '80s. The Duggars maintain that they are on the air soley to encourage others by showing that you can live debt free while living a Christ-centered life. At his core, Jim Bob is a carsalesman/Politician and now a real estate agent so he is a businsessman and is always on the hunt for a new deal. They live off that income. From what I understand TLC is paying them nothing close to what they paid the Gosslins because they film them no where near as much as they filmed the Gosslins--no where near the episodes.

We have also noticed product placements in the show, some obvious (Michelle and I blieve Jana talking to the camera while lamely wiping a cabinet with Swiffer products showing--and using Swiffer floor sweepers) and others that may or may not be paid endorsements (a lot of Gap clothing has been seen lately as well as aeropostle.) There was some debate over whether Josh was wearing a Christian version saying "our apostle" that sells quite inexpensively, but in a recent episode it was quite obviously aeropostle and also american eagle.

Now he could have bought them second hand, we don't know. They also could have been provided for product placement. Another option is that this family appears in A LOT of photo shoots for magazines and a lot of TV show inteviews where clothing is provided. It's possible the clothes are a perk they get to keep. Who knows?

So, is TLC bringing this family down in their moral values, keeping them at an even keel, helping them to help others, or helping them to line their own pockets and reap the rewards of a capitalist system? Or maybe a little of each depending on the day.

The Buddy System: It Worked at Summer Camp...

Lately as the Duggar brood seems to be growing and the older Duggar girls are exiting their teens and/or about to be exiting their teens, there is much debate over who exactly is parenting the smaller Duggar children: the Duggar girls or Michelle and Jim Bob.

In the early 1 hour specials the buddy system was touted as a great idea in that mom couldn't be everywhere at once and your buddy helped you get dressed, find breakfast, study your homework, and get ready for bed. Basically, they helped you do things an average big brother or sister would normally do in a functional household. I say "functional" in the opposite form of today's overused "dysfunctional" as so many homes today seem to have siblings that don't interact with one another, let alone help or mentor each other. I think that is why the Duggars get so much flack for the buddy system--it's so foreign to see kids helping each other.

However now that the babies keep coming and coming and the girls are older, it's looks more and more like the girls are raising the kids than Michelle. I haven't actually noticed this in the 30 minutes we see. So I'm leaving it up to you all to discuss. She has been seen in all the shows swaddling a baby and often nursing, which leaves the others to handle the other kids. But do we really see everything in a person's life in 30 minutes?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Dressing Like a Duggar--Not Laura Ingalls

Just what is "modest modern?" Modest clothing isn't all that a big deal. You wear a skirt or a dress that goes below the knee--the girls lately have opted for ankle-length as a group--the tree trunk skirts were in style so they all went for them in denim. And while they wear short sleeves, a high neck is a requirement. The whole idea is to draw attention to your face, and what's wrong with that?

In the first 1 hour specials the girls were younger--preteen age and were wearing pinafores or prairie dresses and they got some criticism for that. I think it was more their age than their religion that dictated the dress back then. Now that they have hit their teen years they care a little bit more about fashion, they've also traveled more (NYC anyone?) and see what others are wearing. Their parents have no problem with style as long as it's modest and Michelle has said that--modern is perfectly fine. In fact Michelle says the girls pick clothes that are even more modest than even she herself would choose.

Why do they dress alike? Some say cult. Jill was asked that in an interview question on one of the shows and the answer was simple she giggled through the whole thing as if it was obvious---"because girls want to dress like their friends!" Think about it, at any mall or public school look at a group of girls hanging out and they look identical. How is that any different from the Duggars? Are those girls at the mall or public school accused of being in a cult? No they are just "in style." They are all pierced, tattooed, and wearing black shirts and jeans and dressed the same, yet say they are "individuals" and people ask the Duggars why their girls can't dress individually--huh?

I was like Michelle and entered my marriage still wearing pants. I was also into mini skirts. I sold all my mini skirts on ebay. I love the long dresses and skirts and to be honest I don't miss pants one bit. Seriously, it's like wearing your nightgown all day long! Ok so I gave away the secret! It's just more comfortable!

There was a scene in El Salvador where one of the Duggar boys was wearing "board shorts"...the shorts that fall well below the knee. Normally we don't see the boys in shorts. But when discussing clothing Jim Bob did say shorts below the knee for boys were allowed. A few of the girls have worn skirts on film that are higher than ankle length--mid-calf. Again their rule is below the knee. Anna has been wearing mid-calf skirts lately (and from a strictly fashion standpoint UGLY plaid skirts lately what's up with that?) Poor Anna and Josh are having trouble dropping the baby weight--it's ok Anna, I've been there--mine's 3 and I'm just now losing it.

I wrote a little about labels earlier, but name brands have popped up. We've seen them numerous times shopping in thrift stores and of course name brands wind up there. They also travel a lot and it wouldn't surprise me if they'd visit a second hand store while on the road (especially NYC if they had the time--JACKPOT). But these could be product placements. However for younger children it's highly likely they are used. You can find used name brand clothing from yard sales most likely than thrift stores. I was at a yard sale yesterday with piles of boys items from The Gap and we've seen a lot of the mid-size Duggar boys wearing a lot of GAP items. No way of knowing if they are new or used. Josh is wearing a lot of aeropostle and american eagle---new or used or product placement? No way of knowing unless someone can document it.

So, if the girls decided to wear jeans, what would happen? Afterall....Jim Bob does allow them to hang out with cousin Amy, who wears pants, dates, listens to heavy metal, and lives a very vocal non-secular life---so the girls aren't THAT overprotected.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Duggar Diet--Boring? Simple? Easy? or Just Frightening?

Now as someone who follows the 1990's book "The Tightwad Gazette" I am all for bargain grocery shopping. I also understand the Duggar need for ease in the kitchen when cooking for a large number of people--afterall did you notice that when you eat at a school cafeteria the larger the school, the worse the food? Even colleges seem to have the phenomena--private colleges don't seem to be exempt, at least mine weren't.

The Duggars published their own book "20 and Counting" and included many of their own recipes. I will say for those that haven't read it, it's mostly just opening cans and heating. There is very little "flavour" or creativity involved, which is sad considering that these people live in the south which is known for some fabulous flavours. I often wonder if the meals are so easy to prepare because it's the girls who are preparing them and it's been their job to prepare them since they were quite young (around 11 or so.) And the family just got used to simple, humble meals. It's also true that simple meals are inexpensive meals and that's part of their financial plan.

There are some things that do bother me about their financial part of shopping:

a) not any 1 source of groceries will provide the lowest cost of every item, you have to shop around and create a price book so you buy the items you need at the lowest price at the right store and they seem to only shop at 1 store---while Aldi is known for rock bottom prices, they could be missing out on loss leader specials from local markets, restaurant suppliers for bulk items (#10 cans instead of all those small cans, large bags of flour, etc), meat wholesaler's, etc. I often wonder if Jim Bob has investigated these options.

b) they don't cook from scratch which is cheaper--a lot of their recipes involved 6 or more cans of beans and a crockpot, if they soaked dried beans the night before and cooked them the next day in the crockpot they would save a HUGE amount of money and it wouldn't take any more work than opening all those cans; they do bake a lot of their own bread but they buy premade pizza when they could make their own in no time with their industrial kitchen equipment and it would cost about $1/pizza; they buy frozen burritos when they could use the crockpot beans to make their own so cheaply

c) they only recently started to garden, but it wasn't even their idea--it was a friend who wanted to garden for himself and thought he'd also teach their kids how--if they did a full-scale garden and learned how to home can and freeze their produce they would save an amazing amount of money on their food bill

d) with a family their size I often wonder if they've considered either buying beef or pork buy the whole and having it slaughtered, or even raising it themselves on their land; or even buying a side of beef or pork; they could also raise chickens for the eggs as well as the meat and let the kids take care of them--it would all be a great learning experience, but then with traveling it may be prohibitive

Many comment on the amount of processed foods they eat: the frozen burritos, pizzas, canned beans, chilli, etc. However most of their meals do include fresh veggies or fruit, or at least frozen veggies. They do love a recipe for green beans they tout often.

One thing you have to admit, with the exception of Jim Bob's middle-aged expanding waist, all the children are in great shape. None show signs of being overweight at all or even close to it. For some reason Jana joined Weight Watchers with Michelle a few years back, but she's in excellent shape. Josh did gain quite a spare tire while Anna was pregnant, but hopefully he'll lose it while she loses her pregnancy weight (no rush Anna, you're doing just fine!) So I'm not sure what the grand uproar is about other than it all comes from cans? Anyone?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Cook Like a Duggar: Share Your Simple Recipes

I've had requests for some of the recipes I've talked about in comments and blog posts. And after some contemplation, I've decided to start a thread on recipe sharing. I'll post a few recipes that are simple, easy to do, and most importantly, inexpensive. I'll include any easy to do changes to make them personal to your own tastes (seasonings, etc) and ways to alter it to make it faster if you can (bread machines, slow cookers) but you don't have to use them if you don't have them.

Feel free to add your comments you have about the ones I've posted (successes, failures, things you added on your own--changes, etc that you thing we'd like to try) believe me, I don't call these my own so feel free to make them your own!

I'm sure we'd also love to have YOUR favourite simple, humble, easy to make recipes as well...share your family favourites, if you're willing to give up your secrets! :)


Indian Naan or Italian Pizza Dough (You decide!) adapted from Paul Hollywood

This can be made as Indian naan--a tradition fry bread for Indian food (or any other food really--sandwiches even) or you can spice it right and make a great pizza dough!

4 cups white flour (or use 1/2 white and 1/2 whole wheat)
1 TBSP olive oil or any cooking oil
1 pkg yeast or 1 TBSP yeast
1 1/4 c water (usually end up needing more)
necessary seasonings depending on which you're making

For naan: for plain naan just add 1 1/2 tsp salt, you can also add curry powder, cummin, and/or garlic in any combination or by themselves to taste

For pizza dough: add garlic powder, onion powder, italian seasoning, pinch of salt, and red pepper flakes (optional) ....I never measure but would estimate about 1/2 teaspoon each or to taste ...if you don't have certain spices, it's ok, make it anyway

If you have a bread machine, USE IT! Put all the ingredients in EXCEPT WATER and press start...add the water and see if it forms a ball...add more water until it forms a ball...when you have a ball that is slightly tacky, but not gooey, pull it out and put it in a bowl--turn off bread machine and put it away

Otherwise, mix together dry ingredients, add oil and water until you have a bread dough consistency. The dough will be sticky and that's ok.

For naan: heat a skillet on high and add a few tsps oil, divide dough into 6 balls and you can flatten them with your hands into patties or you can roll out on floured board with a rolling pin...fry 1 or 2 at a time until browned on each side---add a bit of oil each time you add more dough to pan

For pizza dough: make as same as above....either in bread machine or by hand. I let my pizza dough stand for awhile, sometimes overnight--it will get a yeasty smell to it that smells like a pizza parlour :) but it's not required, you can use it right away....simply roll it out on a floured board, or right onto a non-stick pan and top with sauce and toppings...if you are using a board and moving it from one space to another, make them small, as they are hard to move once they are topped--i top mine and then move them to a pizza stone already hot in the oven


Mexican-style Refried Beans or Ranch-style Beans

I only know how to make these in a crock pot/slow cooker, so if you don't have one, you'll need to figure out how to make the adjustment to stove top.

Again, I don't measure, but I'd guess I use about 6 cups of dried pinto beans or black beans (are they called black pinto beans?), I basically cover the bottom of my slow cooker about 3 inches in dried beans. You can make more or less, it doesn't matter--judge for you family and your needs.

Cover the beans with water plus about 4 inches and put the lid on and leave them over night.

In the morning, change the water, rinse the beans, and add new water, filling to about 1/2 full. Add about 3 tbsp salt and turn on slow cooker to high. Let the beans cook all day.

After about 4 hours give them a stir and if you want to add some taco seasoning--depending on your tastes, and the salt content.

Keep checking every 2 hours or so and giving them a stir, if there is too much water you can drain some off. Then if you want to add a can of diced tomatoes.

When it comes time to serve, decide if you want refried or ranch--refried you need a handheld blender/stick blender and just blend them while they are in the slow-cooker, otherwise leave them as they are and they are ranch style.

...quick can cook pretty much all dried beans like this just flavour them however you want to :) once I try "Laura Ingalls baked beans" I'll post the results!

Lentil-Rice Casserole (from The Tightwad Gazette)

this can be cut in 1/2 for a smaller amount--i doubled it so there would be leftovers

1 1/2 c lentils
1 c white or brown rice
3/4 c dried onion flakes or 1 chopped fresh onion
1 1/2 t. italion seasonings (or to taste)
1/2-1 t. garlic powder (or to taste)
6 c chicken stock or vegetable stock (you can use 6 c. water and 6 boulion cubes)

stir with a spoon in crock pot (covered)and cook on HIGH until done--takes about 3-4 hours...the longer they go after "done" the mushier, but that isn't necessarily bad, just a texture preference

I have also added peas and carrots the last 1/2 hour to make a whole meal

You can top with grated cheese

This can also be done in the oven--stir in a casserole dish and bake (covered) in the oven at 300 degrees for 1 1/2 hours--add cheese the last 20 minutes.

The other flavour option is to change the seasoning from italian/garlic to taco seasoning (keep the onion) and use as burrito filling (keeping the peas and carrots)