Archive from December, 2014
Dec 30, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on The Aforementioned “Downstairs Bathroom Book”

The Aforementioned “Downstairs Bathroom Book”

Which, again, makes it seem more like TMI than it is.  I’ve had Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life in the downstairs bathroom for at least three months, and several times a week, I’ve shampooed my girls’ hair in the shower and then read 1-2 pages while waiting for them to rinse.  (They actually shower every day, but sometimes I switch laundry instead.  The glamour of it all!)  The format lends itself perfectly to this sort of reading, because the book is exactly what it says it is:  an encyclopedia with entries centered around one woman’s (fairly) ordinary life.  It’s set up alphabetically, with entries for Answering Machine; Kids’ Meals on Flights; Opinion, Fragile Foundation of Strong; and Winking.  (To name a few.)  The author makes it clear at the beginning that lists and definitions and, well, encyclopedic entries are her preferred way of writing, and while it’s a bit odd, it does work.  (Except, of course, when you read another book by the same author at the same time, and some of the random bits seem repetitive.  One can hardly blame AKR for that, though.)  Some of the entries, indeed, are laugh-out-loud funny; some are mundanely insightful; and some, granted, just make you shake your head and wonder why someone would think such a random thing in the first place.  (After all, no one ever completely understands another human being, right?)

All in all, then, I quite enjoyed this book (although the impact was probably lessened by the amount of time it took me to read).  It was another Borders promo, and I’m both glad I picked it up in the first place and glad of the chance to pass it on.  I absolutely enjoyed it, but I don’t see myself re-reading it; on the other hand, I’m pleased at the thought that passing it on means someone else will have the chance to enjoy it as well.

Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life

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Dec 28, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on A Surprise Hit (Take Two)

A Surprise Hit (Take Two)

I was contemplating dinner the other night, and since it was the night before Christmas Eve, and there was going to be a lot of cooking then, I decided to go with my easy standby, breakfast for dinner.  (I know.  You’re shocked.  But the kids had also had Frosties with Grandma at 3-ish, so I didn’t want to make a huge meal; I didn’t know how hungry they’d be.)  I scanned Pinterest for something I had all of the ingredients for, and these PB&J Lunchbox Muffins caught my eye.  Why not?  After all, I had all of the ingredients on hand, and it would certainly be something different than our normal fare.  The decision made, I went to town.  I halved them, because really, that’s a lot of muffins for a first try, but my other changes were minor. I didn’t have coconut oil, so I subbed in canola and threw in a few drops of coconut extract; luckily, I was chatting with my friend Andrea while I was mixing them, because I was unaware that coconut oil will fluff more like butter when creaming in the mixer. (The lack of fluffiness didn’t seem to hurt anything, mind you–I’m just glad I was warned so I didn’t get frustrated.)  I also subbed about 1/3 cup of the flour for whole wheat flour (I was being more conservative than usual; I’d probably do more next time.)  Other than that, I pretty much followed the recipe, except for the whole “Cool for at least 1 hour before serving” thing.  (I didn’t see that until we were pretty much at the table and the oven had less than a minute left.  It so wasn’t happening.)

Anyway, the kids’ reactions were funny.  I wish I could give you a soundbite of the eye-rolling kind of voice in which my oldest said, “Are we having peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner?”  (She’s got my sense of smell.  She could tell what ingredients were involved by sniffing the kitchen.)   Nobody seemed any too sure about them, but they all ended up enjoying them quite a bit.  I did do some with grape and some with strawberry jam, but I don’t know that the difference was as pronounced as I thought it would be.  (Although I will say that the strawberry freezer jam’s still slightly frozen quality seemed to prevent it from sinking to the bottom of the muffins quite as badly.)  I may just try serving these up for lunch one of these days.  After all, they got a thumbs up from everyone!

Dec 26, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Imperfect Timing

Imperfect Timing

I finished The Mother’s Guide to the Meaning of Life:  What Being a Mom Has Taught Me about Resiliency, Guilt, Acceptance, and Love a few days ago.  And here’s the thing–it was funny.  I enjoyed it.  Amy Krouse Rosenthal writes amazing picture books for children, but her adult writing is entertaining as well.  (Possibly not quite AS entertaining, but that’s partly due to just how fun her picture books are; note the link to one of our favorites.)  Her style, however, is on the strange side.  She likes to make random lists, and tables, and write random paragraphs, and throw it all in together.  (It’s actually kind of fun, although it takes a bit of getting used to.)  The problem I had with that tendency in Mother’s Guide, however, was that I am also reading her Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life–I’m most of the way through it, in fact–and some of the vignettes and thoughts are repeated.  That made some of the end of Mother’s Guide less entertaining for me.  Of course, unless you happen to end up reading two books by the same author at the same time in this way, this isn’t a problem you’re likely to have!

(For the record, the doubling up happened because Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life has been my downstairs bathroom book for months.  And while that sounds like TMI, it’s actually not; it’s there to pick up in that 3-5 minute window I sometimes have between when I shampoo my girls’ hair in their shower and when they’re ready to get out and have me put their lotion on.  Sometimes I switch laundry in the gap, or put it away; sometimes I do other brief tasks; sometimes, however, I don’t have time to do anything productive.  And so I keep a book that lends itself well to being read a page or two at a time in their bathroom.)

On a different note, I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas, or a wonderful Hanukkah, or an enjoyable holiday.  We’ve been blessed to have been able to spend time with a lot of family.  And while I’d love to elaborate further, I am 7 plus months pregnant and exhausted from making magic for my three kiddos, so I will bid you all goodnight!


Little Pea

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Dec 22, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on More Muffins

More Muffins

By now it’s common knowledge that I’m a breakfast-for-dinner kind of person; it will come as no surprise, then, that the other day, when I needed a quick and easy meal plan that was comparatively soft on my sore throat, I went hunting for muffin recipes.  It didn’t take me long to settle on these Easy Morning Glory Muffins; as a rule, I don’t actually care for carrot cake, but these had a lot of other flavors going on as well, so they seemed worth a try.  Being me, of course, I did make a couple of changes.

Leaving out the walnuts was a no-brainer, since my oldest is allergic to tree nuts; I also substituted Craisins for the raisins, because I love the one and really don’t care for the other.  I didn’t notice what kind of coconut it called for until almost the last minute, but even then, buying unsweetened flaked coconut doesn’t have a great deal of appeal for me.  I just used the sweetened stuff and cut the sugar by 1/4 of a cup.  I’m crazy for nutmeg, so I cut the cinnamon by a half teaspoon and used nutmeg instead.  I think I subbed in 3/4 cup of the white flour for wheat, and the apple I used was fairly large.  (It was also a Honeycrisp, since that was all I had left.  Not something I usually bake with.)  Anyway, everyone seemed to like them, more or less.  The boy picked out all of his Craisins (infuriating, since he happily eats them plain), but really, he’s two.  I did end up wishing I’d cut the oil; the amount noticeable in the muffin tin after removing the muffins was a bit scary.  Other than that, though, I was happy with the result, and they went over well.  They were relatively filling, but also tasty enough that the kiddos and I had them again for breakfast the next morning.  If the recipe sounds appealing to you, give them a try!

OH!  Just so you know, it made 18 muffins, not 12.  I took a good look at the amounts involved and didn’t even attempt anything else; it worked out quite well.

Dec 18, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on First Novel, Known Author

First Novel, Known Author

When I started Ruth Reichl’s Delicious!, I told my husband that I was nervous about reading it.  He gave me kind of a funny look, but when I told him that I LOVED Reichl’s memoirs (or most of them) but I wasn’t at all sure how her writing style was going to play in a novel, it made sense to him.  Now that I’ve finished, I can safely say that I am more or less pleased with how it turned out–but that I was right to be nervous.

First, the disclaimer:  it’s December and crazy and I’m pregnant and scattered and tired, so it took me longer than I wanted it to just to read the book in the first place.  On top of that, reading a book in smaller segments like that tends to mess up my ability to sink into the flow of a novel (weirdly, it’s not a big problem with non-fiction), so I can’t comment accurately on that flow.  It didn’t feel as smooth to me as I wanted it to, but that’s quite possibly just a function of how I read it; I’m perfectly willing to give Reichl the benefit of the doubt.  And now, on to opinions I can be more confident about…

I’ve been told a common first novel mistake is to have too many plot threads, and I will say that there are a LOT of threads woven into this storyline.  None of them felt extraneous, particularly, but I rather think the overall impact would have been greater if there had been less going on. (That said, I have no idea what I’d cut.)  Also, the romantic relationship portion of the book felt under-developed to me.  The jump from low-level acquaintances to “I’m totally into you” and subsequent sex seemed sudden; some of that is possibly my own faith-based views on sex, but I suspect others might also think ‘wow, that escalated quickly…’  (It might have seemed more realistic had there been some awkwardness there, but it was a romance-novel level of instant feeling and comfort in a book whose main character didn’t seem at all the type for it.)

Now that I’ve covered my few issues with the novel, however, I have to say that I did really enjoy it.  The plot was intriguing enough to get me past my worries about an incredible non-fiction writer’s fiction, and the journey lasted until the very end.  I learned some random food facts–I love random facts, and I love food–and I really did enjoy all of the characters.  If I’m being frightfully honest, I would probably be gushing about it if Reichl’s memoirs weren’t such a tough act to follow.  My first exposure to her was Garlic and Sapphires, which I COULD NOT PUT DOWN.  (SO good.  A must if you love food.)  I followed that up with her previous memoirs, Tender at the Bone and Comfort Me with Apples; the first was enjoyable, but I had a hard time with the second.  Reading about the break-up of someone’s marriage is never easy, but the choices she and her first husband made drove me bonkers.  (By Garlic and Sapphires she is happily re-married.)  A few years down the line, however, I chose Not Becoming My Mother as my book club pick, and I found that fascinating.  It’s brief and thought-provoking and gives a glimpse of life in a different time period that begs for discussion.  (It’s also been re-titled For You, Mom, Finally for the paperback edition.)  Anyway, to try (too late) to make a long story short, Delicious! is good fiction.  I’m just not sure that it matches the amazing quality of some of Reichl’s memoirs.

Dec 16, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on The Cookies

The Cookies

Okay, I did actually know that I didn’t include the link for the cookies we made on Sunday; honestly, I was just too poopered from the day to even go there.  Here you are, though–we took this recipe for Pinwheels and Checkerboards and used the quantities as written to make a double batch of pinwheels.  (Given how everyone felt, checkerboards felt like an impossible dream that we’ll dream when the kids are older.)  We did use red food coloring in the vanilla dough, so the pinwheels are chocolate and as-red-as-your-basic-food-coloring-really-gets; it seemed more festive that way! And they are tasty.  Not as sweet as you’d think, but perhaps I was assuming they would taste like sugar cookies and chocolate sugar cookies, which they don’t actually claim to be.  (There’s also a bit more of a flour-ish taste going on than seems usual for cookies, but Daddy had lots of help measuring the flour, so I wouldn’t presume to blame the recipe.)  If you wanted them to be sweeter, all you’d have to do would be to switch out the unsweetened chocolate with bittersweet (or milk, I suppose); I rather like them as is, though.  They end up feeling very semi-sweet, which is what I use in cookies anyway.  (Also in almost anything else, since I don’t love milk chocolate.)  My hubby ended up wishing he’d rolled the dough out thinner, since there wasn’t as much rotation in the wheel part of the pinwheel as he was expecting.  (I’m just grateful that he did that part.)  I was happy with them, though.  The girlies weren’t incredibly enthusiastic about them, although they seemed to enjoy them; the boy is sick and anti-eating at the moment, so he was unable to give an opinion of any kind.  My hubby would probably have preferred them sweeter.

At the end of the day,  however, we had family time, and that’s what matters.  Of course, the problem is that I find home-baked goods just about irresistible.  If only I weren’t home all day with what’s left of them…


Dec 14, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Doing What You Can

Doing What You Can

Today was one of those days, in a way.  I went to bed at 11:30 and was up at 1, 2, 3, 5, and 6 (I think I missed 4).  The boy has a fever and no appetite, which is difficult because when he doesn’t eat enough he turns into an angry, hysterical mess who then won’t eat until I practically force-feed him.  My hubby didn’t feel terrific either, and it was tempting to spend the day doing only what was strictly necessary.  Thankfully, that voice in the back of my head pointed out that it’s now less than two weeks until Christmas, and while there’s no way this 7-months-pregnant mommy can do everything I’d like to do for my family this year, I can at least do what I can.  That’s why my hubby and I took the kiddos to see Santa at RC Willey yesterday and then grabbed dinner somewhere with a playplace; it’s also why we opted to make cookies today.  Cut-out cookies were always a part of the fall and winter holidays when I was a child, and I want my kids to have that same experience.  On the other hand, the chaos involved when your children are 8, 5, and 2 isn’t something I could deal with on so little sleep and with sickies in the house; thankfully, it finally occurred to me that any kind of cookie-making, if done together, would be a Christmas experience.   So we hauled the Kitchen-Aid over to the table, where all of the kids could see it in action, and we made pinwheels, mixing chocolate into half of the dough and red food coloring into the other half.  The kiddos enjoyed helping, and one of the blessings in my marriage is that my hubby and I complement each other so well when it comes to activities like this; the parts I most dislike are the parts he’s happier to do.  And so we have cookies, and while it wasn’t a typical Christmas memory, it was a family Christmas activity nonetheless.  And while it terrifies me to think how close I came to just not bothering, I am that much more grateful for the voice in my head that reminded me to do something doable.  The family time was more than worth the effort.

Dec 12, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on What I Fake For My Kids–And What I Don’t

What I Fake For My Kids–And What I Don’t

Have I mentioned that this year, for the first time, I am entering the (completely alien) world of the ‘Dance Mom’?  My 8-year-old loves new experiences and brims with energy, and I’m well aware that she would have enjoyed something extra-curricular before now; this year, however, was the year it seemed doable, and so she and my 5-year-old are now enrolled at a dance studio.  It’s only 7-10 minutes from our house and the prices are very reasonable; it’s also not competition focused, which I appreciate.  (That’s a world I have no desire to enter.)  Tonight was their first real performance (since last week’s stint at a local retirement home involved tap dances on carpet, which I found somewhat amusing), and we have all survived!  (It was touch and go with my 2-year-old; he loved bouncing in his seat for the first half hour or so, and then he took to saying “Done!” after each dance…)  I can’t help feeling like a fake among the other dance moms, though.  When we got to the nursing home last week I looked at the hair and make-up on some of the other girls, and I couldn’t help feeling sorry for mine.  Make-up never even occurred to me; as for hair, I’ve never been good at it, and my best efforts don’t hold a candle to what most of the other moms produced.  I also didn’t realize that the ribbons in their costume bags were for their tap shoes, although as soon as one of the other mothers clued me in, it made sense.

Part of the problem, of course, is that I have zero experience in the dance world.  (On the other hand, I ought to make a fairly decent band mom someday.)  Everything I know about dance I know from watching old movies, and to be perfectly honest, my sister and I always fast-forwarded the “Choreography” number in “White Christmas.”  (We can’t be the only ones out there…)  I know that Gene Kelly makes dance masculine in a way that Fred Astaire does not; I went to a modern dance performance that my modern-dance-major roommate choreographed, and I sat through the whole thing knowing that it’s not something I get.  (I feel somewhat the same about jazz–I respect it as an art form, but it’s not one I personally feel connected to–except that I know enough about music to recognize more of the kind of talent involved in jazz.)  I know that after watching my niece’s 6-year-old dance recital, I was compelled to acknowledge Shirley Temple as a talent worthy of a great deal of respect.  (She was incredible compared to other kids her age; I still can’t stand her movies, though.  She’s cloyingly cute and several wonderful pieces of children’s literature were butchered into vehicles for that brand of cuteness.  Her “Heidi” made me want to scream.  On the other hand, she was fun as a teenager in “The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer”–you should give that one a try!)  Basically, what I don’t know about dance would fill a studio the size of Asia.  Someday, however, I want my girls to know this:

I’m absolutely faking it when you think I know where exactly we’re supposed to go.  I’m faking it when you think I know what I’m doing, and I’m (badly) faking fancy hairdos.  (Sadly, this shouldn’t take them long to figure out.)  I’m faking any knowledge of dance you think I possess, and I’m absolutely faking being a ‘dance mom’ (on the theory of ‘fake it ’till you make it.’)  What I am NOT faking, however, is the delight I take in seeing you perform something you have worked at for weeks.  I’m not faking it when I say I love to see you dance.  And I’m not faking it when I sit in the audience and think–that’s my daughter!  She’s beautiful!

Because that part of being a dance mom?  That’s one I’ve got down.

The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer

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Dec 10, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on This Time of Year

This Time of Year

I’m sure no one else feels like their evenings are unusually busy right now, right?  That’s just me?  Right?

I’m sure.  On the off-chance, however, that I’m not the only one, I thought I’d share the recipe I made tonight.  Be warned,  however–if you’re looking for a gourmet meal, or even a recipe that you’re going to make and think that “this is AMAZING!”, well, this is not the post for you.  If you’re looking for a recipe, however, that you can make and think, “Hey, that was pretty good, and INCREDIBLY easy.  I can totally get behind that!”, then look no further.

I should point out that when I pinned this recipe, it turned out to be a picture with directions as the caption rather than a link, so while someone clearly deserves credit for coming up with this–and it’s not me–I don’t have any idea who that someone is.  That being said, here is the recipe:

Asian-Style Crockpot Pork Chops

1/2 C reduced sodium soy sauce

1/2 C light brown sugar, packed

1/2 C ketchup

2 cloves minced garlic

@ 2 1/2 lbs of pork chops (this is flexible)

And the complicated directions?  Stick the meat into a (sprayed) crockpot.  Mix together the remaining ingredients and pour over the meat; cook on low for around 5 hours.  Serve over rice.

To be fair, I stick at least a couple of tablespoons of cornstarch into the sauce mixture before I pour it over the meat, so the sauce has a nice thickness to it, but that’s the only extra thing I do.  (I’d know your crockpot, though.  Five hours can be too long, depending on how hot it tends to run.  If you’re not sure, check after three or so.)  The sauce is tangy and tasty over rice; my meat tonight was amazingly tender; and all you have to do is cook up a green vegetable to get a complete meal.  It’s perfect for this time of year.

Dec 7, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Sensible or Lazy–You Be the Judge

Sensible or Lazy–You Be the Judge

I was in charge of a green vegetable for Thanksgiving with my in-laws this year, and while I contemplated a few different options, I settled, in the end, for an easier version of these Bacon-Wrapped Green Bean Bundles from ‘Our Best Bites.’  I also happen to think that it’s a better version, you understand; I’m all about bacon and green beans together, but I’ve never had bacon that was used to wrap something be crisp enough to be completely appealing.  To be fair, I didn’t try this particular recipe as is, but still.  Instead of making actual green bean bundles with fresh green beans–which sure aren’t affordable for much of the year–I cook up frozen green beans according to directions, dice and cook the bacon until crispy, and then follow the directions for the butter/sugar/rice vinegar/red onion/garlic sauce.   That just leaves me to drain the green beans and the bacon and combine the ingredients, and I’m done.  And it’s delicious.  (I may or may not have drunk a bit of the leftover sauce.)

I’d like to wax a bit more poetic about them, to be honest–they really are lovely–but I’m literally falling asleep at my keyboard.  Bidding you all a good night seems the wiser option, right?

Good night…