Thursday, September 27, 2012


My birthday was on Tuesday.

from my sister-in-law and niece

The kids were super excited and spent lots of time planning the day. But then we got wind of what they were planning—to get up at 5 am to make me breakfast and have the day off of school work—and the poo hit the fan.

So then I had to mediate between my hyped-up kids and a husband who never plans anything. By “mediate” I mean “yell at.”


To my husband: ENGAGE, BOB. NOW.


And then I sent them all upstairs to work it out.

lunch, by the kids: note the copious amount of tinfoil 
and the napa cabbage in place of lettuce (it was actually quite delicious)

My expectations for the day were fairly low. No cooking (unless I wanted to), I said. I wanted writing time, my husband to come home early from work, lots of evening time in which I could read out loud to the kids, and a movie after the kids were in bed. When my husband asked me what I wanted for supper, I said, “I don’t care, but everyone has to like it and there needs to be a vegetable.”

I spent the afternoon of the birthday day shopping for clothes and drinking coffee, no kids, no supper responsibilities, no nothing. It was lovely.

Also, I had my first famous person spotting. When I told my husband, he said, “Don’t tell me. Let me guess. Was it a political figure?”


“A celebrity?”


“Someone from the newspaper?”


“From the cooking section!” a child interrupted.


“The Amish Cook?”

Huh? She’s not from around here, so “No.”

“Um... I don’t know anyone else...” He was studying his plate, thinking hard. I caught the kids’ eyes and made a jabbing motion towards myself.

“You!” they all yelled, and we about fell out of our chairs laughing because I was the famous “spotted” person.

The Story: I was walking through Wal-mart when a woman stopped me and asked if I write a cooking column. I quickly wiped the glazed-over stupid look, the one I get when I’m shopping, off my face and beamed, “Why yes!” She’d clipped the mac and cheese recipe from the paper, she told me, and her grandsons love it. We stood there in the florescent lighting and bonded over the column and recipes in general and husbands who sometimes cook and what they make (cracker stew) and Amish heritage. I couldn’t stop grinning.

After a supper of sloppy joes, green beans, chips, and pineapple upside down cake, I sat on the brick hearth and the kids gave me their gifts: candy, candy, and more candy. Pure sweetness. We started our new read-aloud, The Westing Game, and then my husband and I watched another episode of Once while I ate a bowl of my birthday cereal, Reese's Puffs.

This same time, years previous: she outdid herself, the skirt, birthday minutia

Monday, September 24, 2012

the quotidian (9.24.12)

Quotidian: daily, usual or customary;
everyday; ordinary; commonplace

I discovered this picture on my camera, courtesy of one of the kids. 
It spoke to me.

Awaiting the arrival of a girlfriend.

Hanging out in the grape arbor.
(A no-longer permissible activity as they were damaging the vines.)

Apple pie: every September should have one. Or six. 


Soaking up every minute of a visit from The Greats.

Helping Grandma stuff envelopes for a mailing.

Trying to close a closet door with his toes. 
Back story: I showed the kids some videos of Tisha UnArmed 
Immediately afterwards, I told the kids to blitz the house. 
However, thanks to Tisha, they insisted on doing all the chores with their feet: 
dusting, sweeping (didn't go over so well), putting things away, folding blankets.
The house didn't get very clean, but they had a blast.
 (Thanks, Kate!)

Studying the algebra. 
Actually, in this case, it's more a lesson in the importance of being neat 
than of numerical computations.

Apples, popcorn, and Sunday night movie: a tradition.
(It's quite the letdown when the Netflix movie doesn't work, though.)

This same time, years previous: when the relatives came, Thousand Island slaw with roast chicken, hurdle-free molten brownie cakes (I forgot about these!), soiree 2010, we love Fred, soiree 2009, simple roast chicken, one hot chica

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

candid camera

My husband and I have hardly any pictures of us together. There are several reasons for this.

1. We rarely think to take them.
2. My husband isn’t fond of having his picture taken.
3. I’m usually the one taking pictures.
4. We rarely wear nice clothes.
5. My husband has no patience for smiling at a black box.
6. It takes time.
7. My husband hates posing.

The other night when we were on our way out the door to go to a wedding, I grabbed the camera, husband, and a willing daughter, and stomped them into the front yard. You stand here, I ordered my daughter. We’ll stand over here. Get pictures from the waist up. Click fast. Go! Go! GO!

I knew we only had about 14 seconds before my husband stalked off. If she held the clicky-thing down for the full 14 seconds, there was a slight chance we’d get something halfway decent.

Except that we were squinting into the sun, so, without knowing it, we shot any chances of a good picture all to smithereens before we even started, dagnabbit.

Which didn’t really matter much because I was too busy looking like a crazy lady.

Dying flower, courtesy of our little boy.

And my husband was too busy looking like a Class-A Dork.

But, looking like a dork rather than an Uptight Angry Man is an improvement, I say. Baby steps, people! Baby steps!

And then I about ripped his head off his neck trying to get him to kiss me.

Not-So-Little Secret: my husband hates it when people get in his personal space. When I (or the kids) get too close, he hunches his shoulders and whaps the air with his arms, exactly like a panicked duck. And then I say, “You’re flapping again, honey.”

Even Sam, the guy he works with, knows all about this personal space thing. In fact, sometimes when they’re talking, Sam will intentionally move closer.

And closer.

And closer.

Sam gets a big kick watching my husband try to edge away discreetly.

About 13 seconds in, my husband announced he was done.

“Oh no we are NOT!” I informed him.

See? That’s me informing him.

But then my daughter, in an effort to get a better shot, took a step backwards and fell smack into the forsythia. I had to help her extricate herself.

We tried a few more shots, but attention spans were waning. My daughter, however, was just catching on to the idea of continuous clicking, and I had to tear the camera out of her hands.

But not before she blurred me up real good.

The end.

PS. The wedding was lovely. These glasses were the favors, and now the kids fight over them at every meal.

This same time, years previous: the potluck solution, cornmeal whole wheat waffles, hard knocks

Monday, September 17, 2012

the quotidian (9.17.12)

Quotidian: daily, usual or customary;
everyday; ordinary; commonplace 

Painted piggies.

Chilly mornings: this little guy got to light the first fire.

Picked without permission, but so pretty I couldn't bring myself to care.

My newest (and cutest) student: so far, she's learned her name 
and the commands for sit, stay, and down
Next, to teach her not to jump up (my biggest doggie-related pet peeve).

The perfect bar for whenever I need something sweet, and fast.
Lately, I've been making these with alarming frequency.

Supper, foraged.

Proof that we are completely uncivilized.
(Yes, that's the dogs' water bucket.)

How he's supposed to do it.
(The little sinker.)

Playing hard: at our annual church retreat.

Retreating, of a Sunday morning: crisp and bright, fresh donuts, friends.

When it's over: heading home to recuperate.

The look I get when my husband realizes that he's doing all the work 
while I'm standing around snapping pictures.

Of her own volition: I now have a clean fridge!

Summer evenings: after supper, I dole out ice cream cones
and we head out to the porch to lollygag ... and wrestle.
 Always, to wrestle.

Golden, my evening writing time: sequestered in my room.

This same time, years previous: goodbye summer, hello fall, a new day dawningGreek pasta salad

Friday, September 14, 2012

September studies

We started our book learning early this year. With no garden to obsess over, I honed in on the kids, poor dears.

It took us a couple weeks to get up to speed, and we’re still not quite there yet. Workbooks are arriving in the mail every other day, and I’m eagerly awaiting my one big splurge—three different magazines from Cobblestone. I know I could check them out of the library but don’t want to bother. I want to read these magazines out loud at our leisure. So there went nearly a hundred bucks, ouch.

Our schedule is pretty full. I’m sure I’ll relax as we get into the year, start cutting corners and all, but for now, we need the structure. I’m being all sorts of strict, operating under the mantra that declares new teachers should never smile at first. Or something.

I’m surprised by how much I’m enjoying myself. I get bored sometimes, but I’m figuring out how to balance the tedious with the games (this one's the current favorite), videos, and fun read-alouds. At the end of the day I feel like I’ve accomplished something important. It’s a nice feeling.

study breaks: he's making a serious dent in the log pile

But for the details! Oh, the details!

What’s it like to homeschool four high-energy children, you ask? How do I juggle different grade levels and abilities and curriculums and minuscule attention spans and bad attitudes? How do I work in meals and cleaning and puppy training and blogging and business phone calls and walks and movies and a newspaper column? It’s simple, really—

a lesson in getting along


It’s not simple, not at all. Oftentimes, I'm like a not-funny clown in a really bad juggling act—the kind that drops balls and gets hit by balls and finally, in desperation, hurls balls against the wall. I get irritated and grumpy and then I bite my husband’s head off when it’s not even called for (sometimes it is), like yesterday morning when I came downstairs to discover that all the laundry he had folded was still sitting on the table in neat little stacks.

“How am I supposed to teach the kids when the table is covered in laundry?” I snapped. “If you’re going to do something, do it all the way. I’m sick of following through with the kids—don’t make me have to follow through with you, too!”

He, in turn, has been bemoaning the lack of anything edible in the house. The other morning, he asked, “Where’s all the food we canned this summer?” When I looked up from my writing, there he was, standing by the jelly cupboard, a confused, peeved look on his face.

“ the basement?” My voice dripped sarcasm. “I haven’t had time to bring the jars up. Obviously.”

We’re not always at each other’s throats. Just sometimes. No need to stage an intervention. Yet.

Anyway, back to homeschooling. Where was I? Oh, right. The details.

studying up on his US history

They are as follows: studies all morning, lunch and rest time, a few more random studies, supper, reading, and bedtime, with play and chores scattered throughout.

Old Yeller, one of our favorites
(she's not crying, just tired) 

I know, I know! That was entirely unsatisfactory. Maybe one of these days I’ll take minute-to-minutes notes of my day. It’d probably make me look ADD, though. Or schizoid.

our suppertime reading material

But maybe I’ll see if I can work it in.

This same time, years previous: whole wheat jammies, coffee fix ice cream, ricotta cheese, and pesto torte

Thursday, September 13, 2012

cinnamon sugar breadsticks

My newspaper column ran yesterday. It was about cinnamon sugar breadsticks.

I had to sit on the recipe for more than two whole weeks while I waited for it to be published. It was agony. I was all squealy-giddy over it and there I was, stuck. With no way to tell you. It was food blogger purgatory. I thought I’d die.

But I didn’t, and now I can finally share the recipe. Thank goodness.

I’ve made these breadsticks on three different occasions. First, I made them on the day that I invented them (duh). Second, I made a double batch when my husband’s sister and her five kids were visiting. Third, I made them this morning immediately after I brought in the paper. I had to push my husband aside while he was reading the column so I could see the ingredient list.

The kids weren’t thrilled that we were having oatmeal for breakfast, but when they heard that we’d have a mid-morning study break with fresh cinnamon sugar breadsticks and milk, they perked right up.

They devoured the whole pan in two shakes of a rat’s tail. I knew they would.

These remind me of cinnamon buns, fresh dinner rolls, and donuts, all rolled into one. They are so easy to make that they’re practically mindless. In fact, they’re almost perverse in their simplicity—no recipe this slapdash should ever be so rewarding.

But hey, I’m not complaining.

Cinnamon Sugar Breadsticks

2½ teaspoons yeast
1 cup warm water
3 cups bread flour
3 packed tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup oil
4 tablespoons butter, melted
½ cup white sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted
½ teaspoon vanilla
milk or half-and-half

In a small bowl, combine the yeast and warm water. Set aside for five minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, and salt. Stir in yeast and oil. Knead until satiny smooth. Flour the bowl. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with a cloth, and let rise until doubled.

Grease a large, sided baking tray. Roll/press the dough so that it covers the bottom of the pan. Cut the dough down the middle lengthwise and then crosswise about 11 times, aiming for about 24 sticks. Cover the dough and let rise for 30-60 minutes.

Bake the breadsticks at 375 degrees for about 12 minutes. Brush the hot breadsticks with the melted butter and sprinkle generously with the cinnamon sugar (you will have some leftover).

Combine the confectioner’s sugar, vanilla, and enough milk to make a runny icing. Drizzle it over the breadsticks. Serve warm.

Updated March 2014: 
The overnight version: mix up the dough at bedtime and put it straight into the refrigerator in an airtight container. At 3-4 am when you get up to go to the bathroom, put the container on the counter, remove the lid, and cover the dough with a cloth. When you get up for real, roll the dough into the baking tray and follow the recipe as specified.

This same time, years previous: camping, lemon butter pasta with zucchini