Sunday, November 30, 2008

Weird Eats

Are you bored? Is the rainy weather getting you down? Do you need some entertainment? Then a shot of bizarreness might be just the thing for you! And if you have an affinity for outlandishness, check out the site in its entirety (it is also on my list of links, down at the very bottom).

Ps. Thanks, Aunt Pat, for tipping me off.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Sparkly Confession

I like jewelry. You would never guess it from looking at me, though, because I hardly ever wear the stuff. Of my ragtag selection of necklaces that hang from the light fixture over the bathroom sink, I have one necklace that I love—I think it looks Celtic. I have one bracelet that I bought for, oh I forget, maybe eight dollars. And I have a simple golden wedding band. (The first time I wore it in the shower on my honeymoon, a chunk of soap stuck to it and I was quite alarmed, thinking that I had somehow damaged it. I’m not kidding when I say I don’t know much about jewelry.)

Jewelry makes me nervous. I’m afraid that I’ll wear something tacky. Does this bracelet look stupid? Chintzy? Does this necklace go with a v-neck shirt or a turtleneck? Does it have to match my belt? What are the rules for this type of thing? Are there any rules? I end up not wearing anything (I do keep my clothes on) because it’s simpler.

I still check out the jewelry at the thrift stores and on the clearance rack at Kohl’s. Once in a great while I find something that I can imagine wearing. But invariably something is wrong with the clasp, or one of the little baubles is missing, and I end up wearing it once, or not at all, and then dropping it into the garbage can.

If I could be freed from my inhibitions (and if I had the money) this is what I would wear: Gothic-type necklaces (the silver pendulums and such), antique-type jewelry (tarnished silver and white gold) with intricate, yet modest, detail. I would wear small hoop earrings, or little dangly cock-eyed stars. An ankle bracelet. A toe ring. Definitely a toe ring.

No pearls, no diamonds.

This is funny, my jewelry crush. I don’t even have my ears pierced. My mother always said, “Why would you want to poke holes in your body? If you do that then you’ll be just like the women in those African countries that stretch their necks out with rings till they look like giraffes! Or those other people who poke holes in their lips and then keep putting bigger and bigger rings in the hole till their lip hangs down lower then their chin. That’s really no different then poking holes in your ears, right?”

Back then, I never wanted to get my ears pierced, so it wasn’t like we were having a conflict or anything. We were just discussing.

Eventually I did get my ears pierced, back when Sweetsie was about eight months old. I had the afternoon to myself, and I had a (pre-meditated) plan. I first went to the hairdressers and got my hair chopped off (I had only had long hair, ever since grade school) and then went to the mall to get my ears pierced. I figured that earrings went with short hair. I wanted to make sure I still looked feminine—what with my flat chest and cropped locks there was a slight chance that I was going to look genderless, and that was a little worrisome.

I can go through unmedicated childbirth just fine, thank you very much, but getting a piece of metal shot into my ear unnerved me entirely. Would there be blood? What if she missed and shot the stud into my skull? Did that ever happen? It turned out to be no big deal—I gave dainty little yelps and she didn’t shoot me in the head so everything was cool.

I cried off and on for a week over my hair, and my ears were sore. I finally adjusted to my short hair, but my ears stayed sore, even though I cleaned them religiously. My lobes swelled and were red (and yes, I got the non-allergenic kind of stud, whatever that was), but I persevered. But then it came time to take the studs out and put in some earrings. I could not put the earring in. It wouldn’t go. The hole wasn’t big enough. I pushed harder, but my eyes smarted. I just couldn’t do it.

I called my girlfriend Kelly. “Just push really hard. It will go through,” she said.

“But it hurts,” I sniveled.

“It won’t after you get it through,” she pointed out, amused.

My girlfriend Kelly is super tough when it comes to ear pain. When she was in middle school, her parents forbade her to get her ears pierced so she did it herself using a needle and a raw potato. She didn’t get the holes even, so now her piercings are lopsided. It doesn’t really matter though, because she’s beautiful. And she has long hair.

I tried a few more times to force the ring through, but then I gave up. Going through all that pain just to look beautiful was stupid, I chided myself, attempting to turn my failure into some kind of virtuosity. You know, sour grapes. I let the holes grow shut, but I kept the cleaning agent and the studs and rings. I just may decide to make another stab at earlobe beautification someday.

Is this crazy, my distress (granted, it is minor) over something so superficial? Yes, maybe. But there is a deeper longing under all that glitz, I think. There’s something so winsome, cheeky almost, about the spangles and bangles, loops and hoops. They catch the light and dance about, saying, “Look at me! Look at me! Look at me now!” Jewelry stands out; it is confident and bold. It has attitude. I like attitude.

I’ve got plenty of pizzazz (if you doubt me, just check out those blue shoes in the upper right corner—I wore those to church), but I’m downright shy when it comes to jewelry.

You’re probably thinking something along the lines of:

1. What’s important is who you are, not the decorations you drape over your hot little body. (Thanks for the compliment.)

2. Give your extra money away to people who don’t even have shoes to wear.

3. Just wear what you like and stop worrying about it.

Yes, well, that’s why I call this a confession. None of this truly matters, and I know that. I’m just talking, blowing smoke, so to speak. This is a little snapshot of how my mind works: I am inconsistent and I fret over the unimportant.

And I’m willing to bet my bottom dollar (whatever that is) that you also fret over the unimportant. Hmm?

So, go ahead and confess. I sure could use some company.

Ps. And while we’re on the subject of piercings: When our first foster daughter came to live with us, she had a pierced tongue, multiple ear piercings, and a pierced belly button. She had one extra-big stud that she used to keep all her piercings open. She sat at our kitchen island entertaining Miss Becca Boo by first poking the ring through her ear (the high-up piercing), then her tongue, and then her belly button. “See, I can put it anywhere,” she explained, totally pleased with herself. (So much for sheltered homeschooled children.)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Two Thanksgiving Things (and a bunch of parenthesis)

1. I keep a yellow legal pad on my desk so that I can jot down notes for this blog whenever new ideas pop into my head. Back when I first started this blog I jotted down “Thanksgiving—Pieces of April”. I nearly forgot about that note, too, because there is a fairly large chunk of pages separating that page from my present scratching page.

But I remembered, thank goodness. And this is what I wanted to tell you. If you are in need of a refreshing and uplifting (my opinion, yes) movie (not appropriate for young children, though I can’t really remember anything questionable---maybe one sex scene?) for the Thanksgiving weekend, go rent Pieces of April.

The plot is this: A young woman is estranged from her family (she was a wild child) and is living with her black boyfriend, and her family (her mother is dying of cancer) is coming to their apartment for Thanksgiving dinner. That’s it. But you should see it, if for nothing else then for the sight of her stuffing the turkey with entire stalks of celery.

2. What is a post on Thanksgiving without a pumpkin pie? That's right. It's not a Thanksgiving post. Therefore, I shall gift you with my recipe. (You best mind your manners and be thankful.)

I normally make this recipe from butternut squash, but because I don’t have any butternuts this year, I’m making do with the pumpkins and squashes I pulled from my garden—they serve the purpose just fine (though I think they are a bit more watery).

My children adore pumpkin pie. Yo-Yo Boy could easily tuck away a half a pie if I let him. And I often do because this recipe makes two pies (one an 8-inch and the other a 9-inch) so there is plenty to go around.

And besides, I consider this pie to be a breakfast pie; in other words, good enough to eat first off in the morning. It’s mostly made of pumpkin, eggs, and milk, and if you use whole wheat in the crust, it couldn’t get much more nutritious (don't argue with me about this). (Sure there’s some sugar in the filling, but hey, it’s not all that much---my baked oatmeal recipe uses almost as much sugar.)

Of course, the pie is very good with a dollop of whipped cream on top, but we reserve that for special occasions. My children are thrilled enough when they hear I’m fixing pumpkin pie—they don’t even miss the whipped cream.

Pumpkin Pie
Adapted from The Mennonite Community Cookbook

Updated, December 2015: Fill one large 9 or 10-inch pie shell with as much pumpkin pie filling as possible. Put the remaining 1-2 cups in a container and freeze. The next time you make pumpkin pies, thaw the leftover filling and then you'll have enough for two large pies.

2 cups cooked pumpkin
1 1/3 cups brown sugar
2 cups milk, scalded
4 eggs
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon
2 unbaked pie shells (8-inch and 9-inch)

Using a hand-held mixer, blend together the pumpkin, eggs, sugar, and spices. Turn the mixer on low and slowly add the hot milk. Divide the pie filling (it will be very runny) between the two pie shells and bake at 400 degrees for ten minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake for another 25-35 minutes, or until the filling has set and the pie is golden brown and slightly puffy.

Note: If you don’t want to make two pies, just reduce the milk and pumpkin to 1 1/4 cups each, cut back the sugar to one cup, and keep the other spices the same—you should then have enough filling for one 9-inch pie. (I think.)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Feminism: Part Two

So after the dinner we retired to the lounge for a devotional and then a movie.

Oh-woman-of-nine-children led the devotional which was pleasant and even somewhat inspirational (this is high praise since modern day devotionals tend to make me angry rather than inspired). She shared her story, how she was a single mother and then got married and had stair-step children (as in one per year). She told of some debilitating illnesses she had experienced (such as one with the quaint name of, get this, “flesh-eating septicemia”) and how she and her husband had come to the decision to be foster parents. I didn’t agree with everything she said, but I appreciated where she was coming from. I respected her.

But things went downhill when they got the movie out. Oh-woman-of-nine-children was totally thrilled to be showing us the movie. She kept saying that she couldn’t believe that no one had ever taught her this stuff—she had seen the movie for the first time just a couple months before. “We need to be teaching this to our daughters!” she trilled. So all the kitchen staff daughters joined us for the movie and the ensuing conversation.

I can not imagine, ever, showing that movie to my daughters.

I don't remember what the video was called, but it was from the camp of Women Against Feminism and it consisted of two young women, beautiful and stunningly intelligent sisters in their early twenties, speaking at a father-daughter conference about why feminism was wrong and the importance of the father-daughter relationship. I agreed with a part of what they said, I disagreed with another part, and I was sickened by yet another part. I don’t want to go into all the gory details, yet (I feel a Part Three coming on), so this is what I will give you.

They believe that:
1. Females are to be under the covering of a man at all times—first their father’s, and then once they get married, their husband’s.
2. Everything women do is to glorify their fathers/husbands. They are to carry out the vision that the men have. The women may do many different jobs/occupations, but whatever they do needs to further their father’s/husband’s mission.
3. Women are to be selfless in all ways, gentle, listening, humble, intelligent, courteous, etc. They are also to take good care of their appearance so they are pleasing to look upon and bring honor to their husbands and fathers.
4. They are to fully support their husbands and fathers, never questioning and challenging, but always helping them obediently.
5. And so on.

A discussion time followed the movie. One military wife shared about how in six years of military service she had acquired more medals than her husband had in twelve. She realized this (her success) was hurting him and so she left the military and thus saved her marriage. The ex-military woman said that her mother was a feminist who criticized her husband in front of the ex-military woman. This made Ex-Military Woman sad and upset and she vowed to not talk negatively about her husband in the presence of her children.

(It is never right to disrespect another person. I did not realize that “feminism” equaled “disrespect for men”. In fact, according to my dictionary [and maybe my dictionary is outdated?] feminism means that men and women are equal. And the word “feminism” also refers to the organized activity surrounding the interests of females.

So then, by that definition, those young women in the movie were feminists. They said, at one point in their lecture, that their mother was not superior to, but also not inferior to, their father. In other words, equal. [They just had different roles, no?] And they were speaking on behalf of an organization that focuses on the interests of females in a way that they believe makes women more fulfilled and whole.

“Feminism” has taken on so many connotations that it may be hard to get to the root of the word, but from what I gathered, the speakers were equating “feminism” with the women’s liberation movement, and from what I’ve heard, some of those women in that movement were downright hateful and disrespectful to men. And like I said, it is never okay to be disrespectful and hateful to another human being. Ever.

Maybe it would be more accurate for the women in the video to refer to their activity and organization as “Feminists Who Love Men”?)

Another woman said that when she and her husband were first married and both working, she had been bringing home more money than he had. She felt bad about this and apologized to him. He laughed, “Honey, it don’t bother me none. Keep it comin’!” She told us, “Now, eighteen years later, we are no long in the same place as we were then, praise the Lord. It has taken some adjusting for us to get to this place, but now my husband agrees it is for the best.”

(Wait a minute. But who led you to make that change? Your husband liked it the way things were, so did you force him to change? Were you, a mere woman, in charge of that decision?)

The same woman later said that when she “comes before her husband—”

(Eek! Does her living room sport a throne? The only throne in my house is the white enamel kind.)

—with a question, she words it very carefully because she doesn’t want to sway her husband either way since it is very important for him to make is own decisions.

(First of all, if I want to talk to my hubby I’m more likely to squawk, “Ho-o-o-ney, get your tight little hiney in here! I gots something I wants to say to you!”

And second, are men such weak and fragile little creatures that we must tiptoe around them? That they can’t handle a different perspective? That they must be pandered to and babied like a six month old? No-no-no. I respect men way too much for that. Yes, they need to be built up and encouraged and loved and respected. We all do. But I respect men too much to tiptoe around them—they are real, solid, strong people who are big enough to handle differing ideas and opinions without wilting. At least I thought they were.)

I badly wanted to join the conversation to state my observation that it seemed they were painting men as weak creatures, in dire need of our female protection; that the way they were talking it seemed like they thought women were more powerful than men; that I thought men were much stronger than they were making them out to be.

But I didn’t say anything. These women were sincere, good women. We had just had wonderful pre-devotional conversation, and as a result I respected them and cared enough about them that I didn’t want to say anything to upset them. This was a time for them to be recharged and encouraged, and it wasn’t my place, nor would it have been appropriate, to antagonize them. So I kept my words to myself.

Until the next morning when I lectured Mr. Handsome for over an hour about the kind of wife that he was supposed to have.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Fighting The Cold

I’ve been so cold lately; I can't warm up. My feet feel like rocks---hard, heavy, and rough.

We have an open-air house; there are lots of open spaces where the air can get in. And the air doesn't just quietly sneak in; it blasts in. The other day Sweetsie told me that it was snowing in the house. I said, “It is not,” and went about my business, but she kept saying the snow was coming in the house, so I finally went over to the closed kitchen door where she was standing and sure enough, the snow was blowing in through the crack in the door. (When Mr. Handsome got home, he pointed out that you have to close the door all the way if you don’t want the snow to blow in. Duh, honey. I thought it was shut.)

We also have holes in our floors. These holes are big enough for us to have “lost” numerous toothbrushes (the monsters in our basement have plaque-free fangs). We also have big cracks in between the floor boards and under the front door. Furthermore, the kids have a bad habit of opening the windows (they like to climb in and out---more fun than the door, I guess) and then neglecting to shut them. To make matters worse, we live on the side of a valley (not to be confused with living on the side of a mountain) and we get tremendous winds that pound the house, rattling the tin roof (sounds like an earthquake—I was in a small one in Guatemala and it scared me senseless), and knocking the porch rockers over backwards.

All this means that even though we try to keep the main part of the house at 70 degrees, the floors remain icy cold and my feet get chilled despite my lusciously L.L. Bean slippered feet, and everyone knows you can't really warm up if you have cold feet.

As a result of all this coldness, all I want to do, all day long, is sit around by the fire. (I’m in front of the fire right now. I fell asleep by the fire last night. I did my SSR by the fire this morning. The fire is a good place to be.)

And it means that a bowl of hot soup holds great charm.

I made a good soup the other night. Actually, it wasn’t that great the first time around because I was off on my calculations, but the next day I corrected them and then the soup was fine. It’s a classic recipe, so you've probably already heard of it: Julia Child’s Potato-Leek Soup.

I first heard of it when I read Julie and Julia a couple years ago. The author of the book (hear, hear, Oh Blogger Brethren—her book started as a lowly blog!) talked about this soup, imparting only the sparsest of directions, so I made it and it was simple and every bit as good as she promised it would be.

I don’t normally buy leeks, but now, with this dearth of potatoes cluttering up my basement, I decided to make the soup again. It certainly couldn’t be any more simple to make: potatoes and leeks simmered in water, roughly mashed, and seasoned with salt, black pepper, butter, and cream.

A pleasant bonus: the kids liked it. The Baby Nickel scoured his bowl with his tongue.

Potato-Leek Soup
Adapted from Julie and Julia, by Julie Powell

These amounts are only guesstimates. You are aiming for a semi-thick creamy soup of pure coziness.

If you include the green part of the leeks, the soup will take on a greenish tint, but if you use just the white part of the leeks, the soup will have a cleaner potato-look It’s up to you; I put in the greens.

Of course you can garnish the soup with chives or parsley or rosemary or cheese or bacon or boiled eggs, etc, but this bare-bones soup needs not a single enhancement. It does not, in any way, disappoint.

6 cups potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
4 cups leeks, well-rinsed and roughly chopped
salt and pepper to taste
2-4 tablespoons butter
½-1 cup cream

Put the potatoes and leeks in a soup pot and add just enough water to cover. Simmer till the veggies are tender. Roughly puree the soup with an immersion blender, or with a hand-held potato masher. I like it to be just slightly chunky. Add salt and pepper, the cream and butter, and heat through (do not boil). Eat.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Feminism: Part One

According to Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 10th edition, “feminism” means: 1 : the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes 2 : organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests.

Last Friday I attended a dinner for homeschooling mothers. The teenage daughters served us our chicken and rolls and salad. For dessert we got to choose from a wide array of thinly sliced (so you can try different kinds, we were told) cheesecakes and tarts, and there were pots of herbal teas. One of the girls played the harp during the dinner; I heard whispers that she will be attending a national competition. I sat beside a conservative Mennonite woman (eight children) and her sister (four children). Diagonally across from me sat the events organizer, a bubbly, smart woman (nine children). Conversation flew along at a rapid clip.

From the woman of four children: she has two PKU children and has to measure and chart everything they eat. They can have no protein or soy, and if they do, the consequences are not just a simple stomachache, oh no, they can have brain damage. She has to cook two different meals, every meal. It made my little food squabbles with my children look like silly knock-knock jokes.

From the woman of eight children: They buy raw milk (under the counter from their neighbor’s farm) for a four-dollar donation per gallon. They only get two gallons a week because it costs too much to buy more, but once when the farmer friend had to dump a tank of perfectly fine milk because of some technicality, they went speeding over and filled five gallon bucket after five gallon bucket. “Drink all the milk you want!” she gleefully told her children. She was genuinely interested when I told her that we grew our own red beans. They eat a lot of beans she said, and a lot of tortillas. I asked if she buys her tortillas from the tortilla factory in town, but she shook her head, no, she makes her own. With Maseca flour, I inquired? No, with her own grains that she grinds herself. I started laughing at how far off track I was, “Lemme back up the boat!” She happily explained how she grinds up corn, wheat, and sometimes millet, and adds oil, lecithin, and water. She presses the tortillas in a hot press thingamabob that then cooks them. (Has anyone heard of this dohickey? Would it be a worthwhile purchase?) She had just finished up her apples, turning them into 78 quarts of pie filling, 50 quarts of applesauce (won’t be near enough, but it’s a little something, she said), apple butter, and dried apples. Then we chattered away about our dehydrators.

The woman of nine children and the woman of eight children began comparing their freezer space and how much canning they had done. For the first time this year oh-woman-of-nine-children had kept count of how much she had canned—900 quarts of produce. About 400 quarts were tomato products and several hundred of those tomato products were spaghetti sauce. (I’m a little fuzzy on those numbers because right around that time my eyes popped clear out of my head and I had to blindly slap about on the table to locate them so I could stuff them back in their eye sockets. So that’s why I was kind of a little distracted.) Well, yes, you probably use two quarts for a meal, woman-of-eight-children said. No, oh-woman-of-nine-children laughed, We use a gallon; well, we have leftovers but that is intentional since my teenagers eat five meals a day.

I commented to the oh-woman-of-nine-children that she must be in the kitchen all day long, and she said that no, she’s actually hardly in the kitchen at all—the kids do most of the cooking. I pounced: So how did you get there? I explained my frustrating problem: the older kids are ready to cook but the younger ones are always in the way clambering to help and I go bonkers and lose my patience and it goes downhill really fast. She said, with great feeling and understanding, “Oh I know. It is really hard.” I scooted forward to the edge of me seat, which was a mistake since I was already on the edge of my seat, but by grabbing the table edge and tensing my leg muscles, I was able to keep one butt cheek demurely on the chair edge so I don’t think anybody noticed—when someone knows how hard it is, then I’m ready to listen to any morsel they toss my way because there is a very good chance it's a gem. This is what she said, so listen up ya’ll.

When her kids reached eight or nine years of age, they got to choose a lunch that they wanted to learn to make (ham and cheese sandwiches, mac and cheese, whatever). The child was assigned one lunch a week, say every Tuesday. For several weeks, or months, that child made that meal. For the first several times the mother was right there, directing, assisting, and teaching, but eventually she removed herself until she was totally out of the kitchen. The first few weeks were tough, she admitted, because there were all the other kids in the way, but eventually the cooking child was working alone. Once the child was proficient at that meal, he moved on to another meal. And so on. Eventually she could call on the child to make that meal for supper if she was sick or too busy. And now she’s not in the kitchen all that much.

So now Yo-Yo is making buttermilk pancakes for lunch every Tuesday and Miss Becca Boo is making bologna and cheese sandwiches, carrot sticks, and apple slices every Thursday. There is a purpose to these intense kitchen lessons, and in short order I will reap the rewards. They do not need to know how to bake a cake and make a lasagna before they are able to make a full meal—this is revolutionary for me. We can start small and move forward steadily. And so we will.

Ps. I later heard oh-woman-of-nine-children say that at one point she had five kids in diapers at night and three during the day. And she was using cloth diapers. Gulp.

Pps. There is more coming, in case you wondered (thus the title "Feminism: Part One")---this post is background/warm-up. Hold tight.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


A number of you have notified me that you are not able to comment on my blog. This is strange because I have set everything to be the most open as is possible---I think it is a blogspot problem. Anyway, I have taken away the word verification feature to see if that helps at all. So, if you have been having trouble commenting, please respond to this blog. If I don't hear from you, I will assume there is still a problem.

Waiting to hear from you...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Buying You Off

I’m gearing up to write my thoughts on feminism and since I’m certain I’ll probably and most-likely upset (not intentionally, of course) at least a couple readers I decided that I should hold off just a little bit longer.

Just long enough to give you a recipe for brownies.

My hope is that you make these brownies right away and then stash them in the freezer and when you see that I’ve posted about my thoughts on feminism, you will quickly run to the freezer, snatch a brownie and start gnawing on it before you read the post. Then, while you read through my long-winded pontifications (that's redundant, right?) your brain will be thinking lots of how-dare-she-think-that and I-can’t-believe-she-said-that thoughts, but your mouth will be saying oh my word, these are so incredibly delicious, and so in the end everything will turn out just fine between us and you’ll still read my blog and I’ll still dare to speak my mind, though I will always throw you a sweet morsel beforehand. Promise.

You better make a double batch of these brownies. No, no, I’m not preparing to make multiple disconcerting speeches, just the one for now, but I'm saying you need to make two batches because the brownies freeze really well, and well, they taste really good.

I’ve tried many different recipes for brownies, trust you me. I even made the brownies out of Cooks Illustrated, and those people always tie themselves up in knots, trying to create the best of everything. Their brownies, were good, really good, in fact, but I still prefer to make these when the urge for a brownie hits me smack upside the head. I’m not sure why that is. Maybe because I grew up making them and so the recipe is a part of my life experience, just like being homeschooled when I was little, being an oldest child, and being born with a chicken breast (don't ask). These brownies are, like, a part of my identity.

And they are really good. Did I say that yet?

Why are they good? I’m not too skilled at food writing, but I’ll give it a shot. Um, well, if you don’t bake them too long and burn the edges and dry them totally out, they get moist, chewy, and dense. They are not cake-like, nor are they fudge-like; they are chocolate-y-like. You can add nuts and chips and frosting, but these additions are adulterations of the one, true brownie. This is a pure brownie. It is virtuous and undefiled, virginal and chaste. It's wily and winsome, but yet modest. You see it and you want it.

So how's that for food prostitution?

These brownies stand up very well on their own (in other words, served all by their lonesomes), but I also like them with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and some caramel sauce. Like, you know, every afternoon with my coffee, while they last.

Now go on—make yourself a stash. My feminist thoughts are just about ready to serve up (you haven't sensed any vibes, have you?). I’ll dish them out soon enough. You best get prepared.


2 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate
7 tablespoons butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
½ cup flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

Melt the chocolate and butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan on low heat, stirring occasionally, and once the chocolate and butter have melted, remove the pan from the heat.

In a separate bowl mix together the sugar and eggs. Add the egg mixture to the chocolate mixture and whisk well.

Add the flour, baking powder, and salt and stir to incorporate. Add the vanilla and stir a little more.

Pour the brownies into a greased, square (9 x 9) glass pan, and bake at 350 degrees for 22-27 minutes. The cake tester (or toothpick, in my case) should have little smears of chocolate on it when you check, but the brownies should be fairly firm to the touch.

Cut the brownies while still warm, but cool completely before transferring them to a plastic container (put wax paper in between the layers) and then to the freezer.

Monday, November 17, 2008


One of the things I have been doing to hoist myself out of this blah-rut that I’ve been slip-sliding around in is this: during the kids’ rest time I drag my laptop from its usual station on the dusty desk in the kitchen and carry it, life cord dangling, into the living room. I set it up on top of the little footstool, plug it in (the battery is dead and costs ninety dollars to replace but I opted to instead spend that money on a pair of luscious slippers from LL Bean and dressy black boots), and plunk myself down on the carpet in front of the blazing fire, my travel mug of coffee sitting levelly beside me on one of the children’s laid-flat library books.

I feel pretty good right now: coffee, toasty fire, chocolate brown slippers, quiet house, and a keyboard. True, there is no internet connection in front of the fire, but that’s okay. This way I have nothing to distract me but my thoughts. This is my writing time.

But back to the title of this post: SSR. No, it does not stand for feminism (which, by the way, I will write more about when I have finished chewing-slash-stewing). It means Sustained Silent Reading.

I am in the process of reading several books, one of which is The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. I bought this book a couple years ago because I wanted access to the extensive list of recommended age-appropriate reads that made up the second part of the book, but I never read the first half of the book until now.

I am finding the book inspiring and motivating on many fronts, but especially in the area of SSR. Trelease is a strong advocate for sustained silent reading, meaning 20-30 minutes of quiet reading each day (this happens quite naturally for homeschooled kids, but not so frequently for school kids during the school day), but it occurred to me that I don’t have sustained silent reading. Oh, I spend lots of time reading, but most of it is skim-reading. I read a short chapter of In Defense of Food, I skim the newspaper, rarely reading an article from beginning to end, I blitz through a bunch of different blogs, I read cookbooks and emails and magazine articles and stories to my children. It’s all reduced to sound bites—a little of this and a bit of that, ideas that are reduced to their bare bones, not delved into and thoroughly explored from all angles. And, sadly enough, most of it isn’t great literature.

So last week when the kids had their rest time, I sat myself down in our new recliner (thanks, Mom and Dad) by the fireplace with a couple books. I told myself I had to read for fifteen minutes before I could go do my writing, but I ended up reading from the Handbook for twenty minutes and then I shifted to In Defense of Food for another fifteen minutes. (Yes, I chuckled at myself for not sticking with one book for the duration, but well...) When I got done reading I felt good. I had absorbed a bunch of solid ideas, delving into topics that were filled with scientific facts and well-though out theories. I comprehended what I read, and I came away smarter, more centered, and fulfilled. I had accomplished something. I had done myself a good deed.

Since then, I have been trying to read more to myself, for extended periods of time, not just little snatches here and there. I also realized that I don’t often read novels, so I picked up several when I was at the library on Saturday. Yesterday I started Jodi Picoult’s The Tenth Circle. I’m loving learning about Dante and hell and all that jazz (really edifying, that hell stuff).

All this to say, do you get your daily dose of SSR? What are you reading now? What would you like to be reading?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Just Curious...

What is the definition of feminism? Don't cheat and go look it up in the dictionary. I want to know what you think it is.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Good Kind Of Flop

When my mother visited us earlier this week she told Yo-Yo and Becca Boo one of her Billy and Susie stories.

My mother started this story-telling tradition back when I only had two children, and when Sweetsie came along she added Marie Ann to the make-believe family, and then after The Baby Nickel, she added Jakey. My children beg for her dramatic stories (sometimes they involve a little play-acting on my mother's part, so enthusiastic and flair-ish is she), so when she comes to stay with us (or vice versa) Mom usually takes over the bedtime story responsibilities.

She schemes these stories in the car as she drives over the mountains to our house, or as was the case this last time, after we had finished dinner, right before it was time to tell the tale: I looked over at the vacated table and there was Mom, absentmindedly gnawing on her fork prongs and staring fixedly at the pumpkin cake. I thought maybe she had overdosed on the Julia Child potatoes, or that she was having an intense internal debate as to whether or not she should have a third piece of the cake, but when I gently called her name, she just grinned and said, “I’m thinking about the Billy story I’m going to tell.” Oh.

Once in a while I put in a request for the kind of story I want since the stories tend to be chock full of important moral lessons (my mother is a very moral woman): Can you do a story about lying, please? We’ve been having a little trouble in that area. Or, The name-calling has got to stop; do a story about that, okay?

I didn’t hear the Billy story this last time, but apparently the mama in the story (that mama is generally much more attentive to her children than I am---Mom, are you trying to tell me something?) made a cinnamon flop for breakfast because Yo-Yo Boy asked me later what a cinnamon flop was. I told him it was like a coffee cake.

“Have I ever had one?” He asked.

“Yes, you probably have,” I said.

“Can you make us a cinnamon flop?” he persisted.


He didn’t pester me about the cinnamon flop, but he didn’t let it go, either. I could tell he was curious, and slightly confused, wondering what this floppy food could possibly be like.

So last night after the kids were in bed I googled “Cinnamon Flop”. By then those two words had bored a hole down under my skin and had me hungering for some of that floppy cake myself, so my intentions weren't purely altruistic. But then, you probably already caught on to the fact that I don’t make a habit of committing purely altruistic deeds—it’s not my style. Anyway, I googled up a recipe that looked both simple and yummy.

I’m pleased to report that it was both.

This cinnamon flop is quite similar to the Rhubarb Cake recipe, though not as rich. I like this recipe because it is a blank slate, an easy recipe to play around with: cut back on the sugar, add a glaze topping, throw in some chopped nuts or berries, play around with the spices, add more whole grains, whatever. You can’t really mess this cake up.

You are making a flop, after all.

Cinnamon Flop
Adapted from some recipe I found on Google (naughty me, not taking notes—again!)

1 cup flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder (is it necessary to use this much?)
Pinch of salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 egg, beaten
1 1/4 cups milk
½ cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 cup butter, melted

Mix together the first five ingredients (the dry ones). Add the vanilla, egg, and milk. Pour the batter into a greased 9 x 13 pan. In a small bowl mix together the brown sugar and cinnamon—sprinkle it over the batter. Drizzle the melted butter over it all. Bake the cake for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Peanut Butter Cream Pie

This past weekend, as part of my malaise treatment plan, Mr. Handsome and I watched The Waitress. It was an okay movie, humorous and quirky with a small dash of reality, and it served it’s purpose well by helping me escape from my humdrum existence for an hour and a half.
  Mom had warned me about the pies in the movie: “They’re gross,” she said, and she was right. Lots of unnaturally-colored (lime green, brilliant purple) pudding pies with chunks of chocolate and smashed bananas. Not the kind of pie I’m fond of (though a smidge here and there can be mighty pleasing, I’ll admit). I normally prefer fruit pies, or old-fashioned molasses pies (better known as shoo-fly), or pecan pies, with a dollop of whipped cream or a couple scoops of ice cream served up alongside. But that movie did a number on my brain and got me to hankering after a custard pie. To be more exact, a peanut butter cream pie.
  I stalled, instead making that potato-sausage quiche (in a pie pan, yes), but the hankering did not go away, so yesterday I submitted to my carnal desires and made myself a pie, Waitress-style. And I’m calling it: Got Me A Hankering Peanut Butter Cream Pie. Or wait, how about Persistent Peanut Butter Pie? Or, No Humdrum Existence For Me Peanut Butter Pie? Or Quirky Malaise Treatment Plan Peanut Butter Cream Pie? Or Smithereen Smashing Peanut Butter Pie? 

This is kind of fun. I might have to do like The Waitress and start naming all my pies. 

Several years ago I went on a peanut butter pie rampage, trying to find myself The Best recipe. I obsessively experimented, trying out pies with chocolate cookie crusts, pies loaded with cream cheese and whipped cream, pies garnished with chocolate shavings and chopped peanuts. And then, from a compilation of several different recipes, I finally discovered/created what I was longing for. 

It goes like this: In a pre-baked pie pastry you spread a layer of peanut butter crumbs, pour in the hot egg custard filling, seal the top with a meringue, and then sprinkle the rest of the peanut butter crumbs on top. Bake the pie for 15 minutes, chill it well, and there you have it, the classic peanut butter pie.
Got-Me-A-Persistent-Hankering-For-A-Quirky-Malaise-Treatment-Plan-That-Will-Kick-My-Humdrum-Existence-To-Smithereens Peanut Butter Cream Pie 
Adapted from my recipe card notes and the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook 

3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar 
1/4 cup flour 
½ cup creamy peanut butter 
3/4 cup sugar 
1/4 cup cornstarch 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
3 cups milk 
4 eggs, separated 
2 tablespoons butter 
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla 

For the crumbs: 
In a smallish bowl, mix together the confectioner’s sugar, flour, and peanut butter. Set aside. 

For the custard: 
In a small bowl, mix together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Pour the milk into a heavy-bottomed kettle and whisk in the sugar-cornstarch mixture. Heat the milk over medium-high heat, stirring frequently at first and then constantly as it starts to get hot, until thick and bubbly. Cook it for two minutes more, stirring constantly. 

In another bowl, lightly beat the four egg yolks. Add one cup of the hot milk to the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Pour the tempered egg yolks into the milk mixture and heat, stirring steadily, till bubbling. Cook for another two minutes. 

Remove the kettle from the heat, add the butter and vanilla, and set aside. 

For the meringue: 
Beat together the four egg whites, 1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar, 2 tablespoons sugar, and ½ teaspoon vanilla until stiff peaks form. 

To assemble: 
In the baked pie shell, sprinkle two-thirds of the peanut butter crumbs. Pour the hot custard over the crumbs. (You may have some extra custard—I’m sure you’ll figure out what to do with it.) Spread the meringue over the custard, and sprinkle the remaining crumbs over the meringue. 

Bake the pie at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes until the meringue is golden brown. Cool the pie at room temperature for a couple hours before cooling in the refrigerator for another four hours. The pie needs to be completely chilled before you cut it, or else the custard will be runny, which may or may not be a problem—that’s up for you to decide.

Sunday, November 9, 2008


As this blog has evolved, different themes have emerged. There are the recipes, of course, and then the sourdough bread. There is the list of all the books that I've read to my children, put out there for you to use as a reference. And lately I've begun to notice yet another theme: the excerpts from the book that my mother and I had been working on.

So now, in an effort to be as clear and precise and obsessive as possible, I have created yet another index for this blog that I have titled Book Bits. At this point it's still a small list, but I suspect that over time it will evolve and expand. (This blog seems to have a habit of doing that.)

Take a minute to go check it out (see the link on the side bar). Like I said, it's not much, but I did post some (slightly embarrassing) pictures of my mother and I, for your entertainment edification.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Using It Up

I ran down to the freezer to get a bag of green beans and a wave of despair and dismay washed over me. There is so much food in this house! How are we ever going to eat it?

I feel guilty for saying this---there are so many people out there starving, and here I am fussing about my larder’s bounty.

Don’t get me wrong. I am very thankful for all that I have. This is how it should be at this time of year, after the harvest has been brought in; the shelves groaning under the weight of the jarred produce and freezers so full you can hardly close them. So it’s not that I’m ungrateful; it's just that I’m daunted. I’ll need to stay super-focused and employ all my creative powers in order to use up the buckets of potatoes, baskets of apples, containers of pesto and grape pie filling and Swiss chard and strawberries.

As I worked in the kitchen this morning, mixing up a new batch of rosemary-olive oil bread, I pondered what I should make for lunch. The potatoes were weighing heavily on my mind, and I had a jar of creme fraiche in the fridge that I had made last week. Hmm, what to do with potatoes and creme fraiche? Then I recalled my Aunt Valerie saying that she sometimes grates up a couple potatoes and uses them for a quiche crust instead of the standard flour-oil crust. I consulted with Simply in Season and sure enough, they had a potato crust recipe—just some grated raw potatoes, the peels still on, and mixed with a little oil, and then pressed into the pie pan.

I went right to work, grating the potatoes and then, for the filling, mixing up some eggs with the creme fraiche. I added cheddar cheese, some browned sausage that I had in the freezer, and then, at the last minute, I sauteed up an onion and added that, too. The end result was a simple, hearty, flavorful meal that the kids (most of them, anyway) loved. I liked the edge of the crust best of all because the grated potato pieces got all crispy-crunchy, like stick potato chips. We nearly finished the whole thing off in one sitting—there’s only one little piece left over.

So, three potatoes down, about five bushels to go. I don't think we can eat that much quiche, so I'm going to need some help here, dear readers. Please enlighten me: What smarty-pants ways do you employ in order to use up all those potatoes you have stashed down cellar? (Just so you know, that last line is not a typo---it's how I talk.)

Sausage Quiche with Potato Crust
(The crust recipe is adapted from Simply In Season.)

3 medium-sized potatoes
2-3 tablespoons canola oil
5 eggs, beaten
2 cups cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup creme fraiche (or a mixture of cream and milk)
1 onion, chopped and sauteed in a bit of oil
1 cup sausage, browned
salt and black pepper

For the crust:
Wash three medium potatoes, grate them, and toss with several tablespoons of oil, a sprinkling of salt, and some black pepper. Press the potatoes into the bottom and up the sides of a large pie plate and bake at 400 degrees, on the bottom rack (to make it good and crispy), for about 15 minutes.

For the filling:
Mix together the eggs, creme fraiche, cheese, onion, and sausage. Add some salt and pepper. Pour the mixture over the hot potato crust and return the quiche to the oven for another 20-30 minutes, or until the center is set and the pie is golden-brown.

Friday, November 7, 2008

No Zip

I’m feeling down and out, like there’s no zip or pizzazz to my life. Blah.

This malaise is rather puzzling since I’m in good health, PMS is not a factor, and it’s sunny outside. Oh, you know what? I think I must be suffering from Election Obsession Withdrawal. I was such a bundle of nerves and anxiety beforehand and then there was that climactic thrilling night of wows, and now ... well, it’s just me and my life once again. Whoop. Dee. Doo.

It’s kind of like having a baby. You obsess for months on end about the heartbeat and maternity clothes and which midwife and what birth plan. You watch movies of women pu-pu-pu-u-u-u-shing. You make phone lists and pack your bags and arrange child care for the older sibs. And then The Moment comes and life is intense and full, unlike anything you’ve ever experienced, and you are a totally amazing woman and then... it’s over. And you have a baby. And you’re happy, very happy, of course, but your house is still dirty and the other kids still hit each other and now, to top it all off, your bottom hurts.

Does any of this make sense? Are you following me?

I got outside yesterday and cleaned my flower beds in hopes of kicking the blah-blues. My garden clippers had disappeared, so I had to cut back the mint and daisies and oregano with my kitchen scissors. (Of course, Mr. Handsome found the clippers as soon as he came home from work.) I hauled all the pots of dead flowers out to the barn. I raked the sticks and leaves and brown flowers into several piles and then went back inside. Still with a case of the blah-blues, and with dirty fingernails, too.

So I cut my fingernails.

I think I know what the solution is: I need to make some plans. You know, get a project started, hang out with some friends, plant my garlic, go for a walk, etc. I need to give myself something to look forward to. Like a movie tonight, just me and Mr. Handsome. And then, maybe, just maybe, we could create ourselves a little donut party. Yes, now that I wrote that I think that would be a very wise decision. A movie and popcorn, and then, in the near future, some donuts. That just might be enough to kick these doldrums to smithereens.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Living History

I wish I had a photograph of me casting my vote but I guess a word picture will have to suffice: The Baby Nickel riding on my left hip, the other three children crowded round the little stand, listening to me explain who was who, and watching, barely breathing (okay, I am stretching it a bit), as I blackened in my oval. “That’s it?” they asked. “That’s it,” I said, and we trooped over to the machine where The Baby Nickel helped me feed the ballot into the machine. We all got stickers from a sweet lady who apparently remembered us from the last time (oh dear?). The kids wore them proudly, wanting everyone to see that they had voted. I tried to explain to them that they didn’t really vote, but they, especially Miss Becca Boo, were convinced that yes they did, so I didn’t push the subject. I did not want to be responsible for dis-empowering my children.

At the polling station my kids got to eat cookies served up by some kind supporters of the other side. They were delighted with their treats, but when I told them on whose side those people were, their eyes grew wide in disbelief and amazement. Apparently I had failed miserably in my job as a teacher of peace and justice and ethics and mediation and the sermon on the mount, so I informed them, clearly and loudly (we were in the car, so I wasn’t shouting out to the cookie-givers), “Just because people think differently than us does not mean that they are bad people.” My kids looked at me blankly. Oh dear.

We were planning to have a relaxed evening at home but after voting, I developed a bad case of itchy feet and nerves, so after a quick pizza supper and speed baths, I loaded the kids into the car (Mr. Handsome opted to stay home and enjoy the quiet) and drove into town to watch the animated election play-by-plays (a first for me) on my girlfriend’s TV. And to eat her snacks and raid her Halloween candy stash.

At first all the kids ran off to play, but then, as the evening wore on and the little girls and baby boys dropped off to sleep, one by one, sprawled over the sofas and floor, the older boys spent less time playing and more time huddling around the computer, tracking the blues and reds, keeping a tally of who was winning, doing mental computations to figure out how many more votes were needed in order to reach the magic number of 270. They played with a US puzzle map, picking out the states that had been colored in. They petitioned for more cookies...and got them.

One big boy politely asked permission to yell when the final results came in, and we approved the plan most graciously, just to humor the little imps, but then, when the time came, we joined in ourselves, simultaneously jumping for joy and attempting to shush the babies who were screaming in bleary-eyed alarmed terror.

On the return trip home, Yo-Yo, Becca Boo, and I listened to the concession speech. It ended shortly before we reached home, so after hauling the kids up to our room where Mr. Handsome had rigged up the TV-we-don’t-have, we watched the acceptance speech. Well, Mr. Handsome and I watched it.

Sweetsie didn’t hear a word, I don’t think.

And Miss Becca Boo didn’t hear more than about seven words.

Yo-Yo Boy heard bits and pieces, while reading his Harry Potter book in his pillowed fortress on our couch, before drifting off to la-la land himself.

And The Baby Nickel? He didn’t even make it upstairs with us—he was still on the sofa where I had dumped him when I first flew into the house.

And thus ends the year’s second history lesson.

Now today, because I am school board, faculty, and staff all rolled into one, which means that I am all-powerful and the total boss (or, totally bossy), I declared a holiday. When it comes down to it, though, I don’t think I had much of an option because the kids have been in serious melt-down mode ever since they woke up and I’ve had to spend the day wiping them up off of the floor. Right now they are in Extended Rest Time...

Perhaps I should not have taken their real-life history lessons so seriously?

Nah, I don’t regret it, not for one second.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Tea, With Lemon

Oh, my. I’m drinking coffee. Ahh. It’s been forever since I’ve drunk/drank/drinked coffee. Forever being, more specifically, since Saturday morning when I took donuts to my Balding Bro’s house. Because then I got sick and I can not abide coffee when I’m sick (it’s the first thing to go when I’m pregnant, which I’m not).

This morning I drank two cups of black tea, and then all during lunch and while I was putting The Baby Nickel down and while I was reading to Sweetsie and then to Yo-Yo and Becca Boo, I pondered whether or not I should make myself my afternoon cup of coffee. I really wanted to, but I still didn’t feel one hundred percent well—there was still that niggling little ouch feeling in my tummy. But I was reasonably certain that my stomach wouldn’t get any worse...

I waffled, literally flitting about the kitchen, turning the computer on, starting the water to boil, and then just stalling, not sure whether to go for the tea bags or the aeropress. Tea just seems so anemic, I thought, and that did it. I whipped out the jars of coffee grounds, poured a mug of milk and set it in the microwave to heat up, and went to the jelly cupboard to cut myself a slice of yesterday's apple pie. There were also lemon squares in the freezer, but I decided against those since they are tooth-jarringly sweet, and they go best with a cup of anemic tea (sorry, tea-drinkers!) after all.

I love coffee. I do, I do. I love coffee so much that when I hop into bed at night I start to get all giddy excited because in only a few short hours it will be morning and then, oh joy!, I can have my coffee!

I’m serious. I really do that. You’ll still be my friend, won’t you?

But now, let me tell you about the lemon squares (that I didn’t eat with my coffee). These are gooey little lemony squares (or rectangles, depending on the accuracy, or lack-thereof, of your bar-cutting abilities) of pure sweet goodness. We got the recipe from a kids’ cookbook, back when I was a kid, and we (we being my mother and brothers and I) have been making them ever since. We always make them at Christmas time, and then other times, too. I think we made them for my wedding (am I right about that, Mom?).

Lemon Squares
This recipe comes from a children’s cookbook that we no longer have, and more recently from a card from my recipe box which I could not find, so I called my mother and she told me the recipe over the phone. Not that you needed to know all that.

You must use fresh lemon juice and zest for this recipe, no cheating allowed.

1 cup flour
½ cup butter
1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons lemon peel
2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs

Mix the flour, butter, and confectioner’s sugar together with your fingers until well-incorporated. Press the crumbs into the bottom and up the sides a little of an ungreased square glass pan. Bake for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

While the crust is baking, beat together the rest of the ingredients. Pour the frothy yellow mixture (it’s prettiest if you use farm-fresh eggs because their yolks are so brilliantly yellow) over the hot crust and return the pan to the oven and bake for another 25 minutes, or until the mixture no longer wobbles all loosey-goosey like when you tap the pan.

Cool the bars completely before cutting and serving. To freeze, place the cut pieces on a cookie sheet and set in the freezer for about an hour to firm up (they will still be a bit gooey—the result of being so saturated with sugar—yum!) and then place the squares in a bag or plastic container, putting a sheet of wax paper between layers.

Blessing Hearts

I’m sitting down and laying my fingers on the keyboard with nary a plan for what to say but with a big desire to chat. I missed you guys, did you know that? Yesterday a nasty little stomach bug kicked me in the gut and laid me flat, and the day before I spent running around town like a chicken with its head cut off and spending money like it grew on trees, so I haven’t had much time for cyberspace communing. It feels good, splendid, to be back.

So are you all enjoying the time change? Was it easier to get up and out of the house this morning now that it wasn’t like you were leaving in the middle of the night? Mr. Handsome was still late for work. He’s always late for work. If we had an extra five hours he still would’ve been late for work. Bless his heart.

Speaking of blessing hearts, I learned through a friend of a friend that you can say whatever nasty thing you want to say about another person as long as you preface it with a “bless his/her heart”, best said in a southern drawl. For example, “Bless her heart, that woman never knows how to shut up! Did you hear what she said at church yesterday? You’d think she thought she was god incarnate, the way she went on and on.” (I’m not talking about anyone in particular, so don’t go trying to figure out who I’m talking about. Since I’m not talking about anyone. And if I was, it wouldn’t be about you.)

I’m torn over how I feel about the time change. For weeks ahead of time, I dread the time changing, the falling back an hour. You’d think I would like it, getting an extra hour to do something, but that’s not how it works in my house, at least not since the kids arrived. I don’t know what’s wrong with those little buggers, but as the days get shorter and it takes longer for it to get light in the morning, they start to wake up earlier. Does that make any sense? I didn’t think so. Last week Sweetsie was pitter-pattering down to our room at 5:30, happy as a lark. The happy-as-a-lark part only lasted for about an hour, and then she turned into a bear, roaring about everything and anything under the sun, which had finally come up.

The Baby Nickel was waking up at six.

Are you following me? That means that now my children, bless their hearts, are waking up at 4:30 and 5:00, respectively. They are insane! And grumpy. I hate having grumpy children, especially when the solution is so obvious—just sleep longer, you little stinkers.

As for the evenings, well, I dreaded them being so long and dark, but now that they’re here I kind of like them. We wait to eat supper till it’s dark and then I light candles and we get baths and read books by the fire. I don’t feel obligated to start projects or do work because it’s dark outside and we should be sleeping.

Now if I were to be totally truthful I should tell you that the evenings aren’t always so delightfully peaceful. Of course. The kids tend to get a big energy boost after dinner and run around like lunatics, bouncing off the walls and each other, hurtling the sofa, thundering up and down the stairs. They want to play hard and rough, and I can’t send them outside (well, I suppose I could, but that would involve lots of coats and boots and gloves...), so it’s really loud and crazy inside and then someone gets bonked on the head and starts wailing like they’ve been mortally wounded and Mr. Handsome starts yelling at the kids and I start yelling at Mr. Handsome and then we haul the kids upstairs and throw them into bed and stomp back downstairs where we sit on the sofa in our cozy, candlelit home, steam pouring out of our ears. Then Mr. Handsome and I vent, I mean talk, about our children and we say “bless his heart” and “bless her heart” an awful lot.

Okay, so neither picture is totally accurate, it’s more of a mix between the two. I mean, everything in life is on a spectrum and life operates as a pendulum (my theories---they help to keep me sane so don't knock them), so we hit on everything in between and not everything at one time.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Tiding Us Over

We’re down to the last couple loaves of sourdough bread in the freezer, so the other morning I got my starter babies out of the fridge and began to rev them up again. In the meantime, however, I mixed up a triple recipe of oatmeal bread. We needed something to tide us over for the following several days, and I realized that I hadn’t made oatmeal bread in a long time, at least as long as I’ve had this blog. I was quite surprised that I had gone for so long without making something as basic as oatmeal bread. And something as delicious as oatmeal bread. I love oatmeal bread. (How many times did I just say “oatmeal bread”?)

This bread is like candy, soft and sweet and tender and chewy. Yesterday we ate it fresh—thick slices spread with butter and honey or grape jelly, along with our dinner, a soup of collard greens, ham, and lentils.

(The kids hated the soup, but they gagged it down. Literally. Yo-Yo Boy dry-heaved once. I had no mercy, snapping at him, “If you’re going to do that then go to the bathroom.” It took them about an hour to eat that one ladle of soup. An hour! I got so furious at them for turning their noses up at what I considered to be perfectly reasonable and delectable fare that I had a screaming hissy fit about how I was sick of cooking good food and then having no one eat it, and then I stomped off upstairs to get my shower and sulk. When I came back down, Miss Becca Boo, who was still eating, happily showed me a dollar bill that Yo-Yo Boy was going to give her if she finished her soup. My son was paying my daughter to finish her soup? I will never understand my children.)

But back to the bread, the oatmeal bread. It makes really good toast, sandwiches, dinner rolls, whatever. It’s just really good.

Oatmeal Bread
Adapted from the More-With-Less Cookbook

Don’t try to bulk up this recipe with whole grains, at least not the first go-round. Make it as is, so that you get to taste it in all its glory. After that, feel free to dump in more whole wheat, flax meal, and whatever else makes you feel self-righteous.

1 cup quick oats
½ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups boiling water
1 tablespoon yeast
½ cup warm water
5 cups white flour

In a small bowl, mix together the yeast and ½ cup warm water and a pinch of sugar and set aside to dissolve and froth.

Measure the first five ingredients into a large bowl and then pour the boiling water over them, stirring well to combine. Allow the mixture to sit for at least 15 minutes so that the grains can soften and plump and so the water can cool down enough to not kill the yeast. When the mixture is only slightly warm, add the yeast, stir well, and then add the rest of the flour. Knead for five to ten minutes, adding more flour if necessary. Sprinkle the bottom of the dirty bread bowl with flour and set the dough back in, dusting the top with flour and then covering with a cloth. Allow the dough to rise until doubled, then cut into two loaves and place in well-greased bread pans. Let rise till nearly doubled, and bake at 350 degrees for 25-40 minutes.

A single recipe makes two loaves, a double recipe makes three (I make generous loaves), and a triple recipe makes five loaves.