Friday, December 30, 2005

Post Christmas MeMe

I stole this from Writing and Living. Portions of it I'm not even bothering to rewrite because they're exactly perfectly true.

If you received a Barnes and Noble gift card in your stocking (or just wish you had)...

As a matter of fact, I did. Because nothing says "I love you" like a Barnes and Noble gift card.

1. Do you go to the brick and mortar store or use it online?
Brick and mortar store. But I'm hoarding it for the next Dickens book.

2. Do you think "This is mine, all mine!" or "I've been wanting such-and-such read aloud for the kids?"
All mine. But I if Max is with me when I spend it, I won't be able to tell him no.

3. Do you buy yourself a nice B&N coffee from the cafe, or consider that a waste of good Book Money?
Hot cocoa. I've been coffee free since, um, whenever that was that the Bishop gave a resounding 5th Sunday lesson on cranking things up a notch spiritually. I thought the least I could do was give up a bad habit on account of it being one of the most interesting Sunday School lessons I've attended in ages.

4. Does a $50 value on the card mean
A)Spend as close to $50 as possible without going over.
B)Buy one book and save the balance for next time.
C)Take $50 off a purchase of $100 or more.

It means D) Spend as close to $50 as possible but you can go over a smidge -- so long as the debit card isn't declined.

5. Do you take the children and consider it a fun family outing, or plan your trip for when your hubby can watch the kids?
With some exceptions, I usually won't bring more than one child with me to B & N. It's for their own good. I have some attention span issues when reading and literally can't hear and read at the same time. The incescent "Mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy!" from a child trying to get my attention makes other grownups want to kick them.

6. And finally, do you make a beeline for your favorite section (and what section is that?) or do you browse the new releases and recommendations up front when you walk in the door?
I browse but there are are sections I ignore. I don't usually check out those sections upfront with the big flat books. I don't usually go to the parenting/pregnancy section anymore. Computer How-to? Not so much. But knitting, fiction, biographies, and cookbooks get a good browse.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

December 29th

Ahhh, December 29th. To much of the world, 'tis but a sluggish day between holidays. To the Planning Personality, 'tis a day that can be spent avoiding all true responsibilities and work by planning, planning, planning the new year.

Although I am, in fact, a Planner, this year I *didn't* go overboard with any of the above. I did sign each of the kids up for another class -- but only one. See? I'm learning. The twins get the first level of swim lessons at the YMCA and Max gets 4 ski lessons through the public school's intramural ski program. I'll grant you that he's still got basketball -- but only two days a week -- and a ton of piano -- but that's like apologizing for making the kid read, learn Latin, and do math every day. Ooooh, mean mommy.

The only "change" I've made to Max's school plans is the one that has become traditional with us -- we resolve to crank up the writing in the second half of the year. The reading change doesn't count. That wasn't a resolution so much as a response to changes I saw in my student's needs.

I don't feel moved this year to any other larger resolutions. I think in part this is because I am experiencing some success in the areas in which I used to make resolutions. I'm gradually losing weight in a healthy manner. I'm getting more exercise and in a way that also addresses my need for more time for myself. I had already cut up all but one credit card. We didn't come here to dig in deeper. Uh-uh. We came here to make it all better. All. of. it.

I have some books I'm reading and some books I plan to read. I have some knitting and needlepoint projects at hand. I received a swift for Christmas -- a gift I really, really, really wanted and just did NOT think I'd get -- I expect it to get some use (I've had a ball winder for years).

I got an RCA Lyra and it's been great for inspiring me to hit that go-faster button on the treadmill. I got a ton of kitchen stuff and I've already used it all. Even the fat separator.

This will be a busy year. Steady work (I'm booked through August, and possibly beyond), my baby sister's wedding, J and K's first baby, the twins will almost certainly learn to read and write (some more) and add and subtract. Max will continue to learn new sports and Chris will continue to follow his muses. I will continue to grow our food storage, shrink our debt, and play the role of family spiritual leader (albeit with a level of uncertainty I usually reserve for sports involving hand-eye coordination -- which I largely lack). We're not waiting on our ship to come in. We came here to build it with our own hands. I've never been afraid of hard work. I might be getting too old for some nonsense, but hard work and praise for all God has given us only seems to come easier as I age. Funny how that works.

Not that I'm feeling cocky. Hardly. I have NO idea how I'm going to find time for everything. But you know, you can't tell me Noah didn't occasionally have to take out a section and redo it. "Oy. Look at that. No way is that right. Yo, son! How many cubits was I supposed to make that?"

"32?!? Shoot. I thought it was 23."

God gave and gave and gave this year. He gave and gave and gave and gave. So did Chris. I'm so grateful.

Monday, December 26, 2005


We still have a full house over here. We're eating a lot of good food and seeing lots of relatives and having a grand old time.

But jeez, I'm ready for bed :)

Saturday, December 24, 2005

And one more to celebrate Dy's return to the Blogosphere

Taco Pizza

(wait till after the baby, Dy. I don't want to be responsible for your heartburn.)

This makes two pizzas so you'll either need two pizza trays or pans or you'll need to cook the pizzas one after the other.

First mix:
5 cups bread flour
1 T yeast dissolved in 2 cups of warm water
1/4 cup olive oil (okay, say, hypothetically speaking, that you had bought some pumpkin oil back in September and you wanted to get rid of it but it turns EVERYTHING you put it in bright green. For THIS recipe, that's A-OK. Just reassure anyone in your family old enough to know that green pizza-dough is WRONG that it's um, CHRISTMAS pizza.)
1 tsp salt

place in well oiled bowl (more pumpkin oil or olive oil) and let rise till doubled

In the meantime, or when you get around to it, brown 1 1/2 to 2 lbs hamburger meat with taco seasoning. Drain. Set aside.

check on dough.

check on dough.

Okay, it's doubled. Divide into two pieces and roll out the dough in the shape of your trays or baking stones.

Poke it ruthlessly with a fork.

Preheat oven to 400.

Smear spaghetti sauce in whatever quantity pleases you over the dough. Sprinkle half of the hamburger meat on each pizza. Cover in shredded cheese. Pretty much any of the usual suspects will do. (Brie or blue cheese, not so much.)

Place in oven and cook for about 20 minutes. The cheese should be melted all the way through, the edges should be nicely browned.

WARNING: This method produces a nice head of steam in the oven. PLEASE step back when opening the oven to check on your pizza. Kids should admire from a distance. It really can get you and it's scary when your eyeballs hurt like that. I would think. If that ever happened to me. Which it hasn't because I know my way around a kitchen, yessirree.

This meal is cheap, easy, and good. Promise.

Merry Christmas and Happy Channukkah everyone.

Friday, December 23, 2005



In your kitchenaide Krusher 5000 mix:
2 tsp active dry yeast
3 1/2 cups bread flour
1 T sugar
1 cup water

place in greased bowl and let rise till doubled.

While you're waiting for it to double, mix up the innards:

1 lb ground pork
2 scallions, chopped, or 1 leek
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 egg whites
1 celery stalk, minced
1/2 cup cabbage that you ran through the food processor (1/2 cup AFTER being processed)
2 or 3 big handfuls of baby spinach, put through the food processor (2 or 3 big handfuls BEFORE going in the processor)
some salt, pepper, and sesame oil to taste

Check dough. Nope, still not quite ready. Dig through your pots and pans. Darn. You finally threw away that bamboo steamer someone gave you as a wedding present but you didn't know what to use it for. Okay, no worries. Open three cans of dog food or something, peel off the labels and clean out the cans completely. Fill a LARGE pot with about three inches of water. Fill the cans with water and space them out in the pot. Find an oven-safe plate that will rest well on the cans and fit in the pot. Grease that plate well. Set the plate aside. I actually use the round Pampered Chef baking stone type thing with the edges. It's not one of the pizza stones and it's not a pie plate -- so whatever the other round baking stone thing with edges is called.

Let's assume the dough has finally doubled. Feed the kids some crackers or yogurt because you're still an hour from done.

Now divide the dough into about 24 pieces.

Roll out each piece into something that resembles a circle. Place a glob of innard in the center. About 2 Tablespoons, but mostly you just want to fill the circle enough so that it's worth eating, but not so much that it's hard to pinch the dough closed around it. Use what you know about potstickers to pinch it closed so it looks vaguely potstickery. Place each completed pot sticker on the greased plate. You'll have more than will fit. Put the others on other plate and cover them all losely with some wax paper or something. Let them all rest (rise) for about a half hour. After twenty minutes turn on the heat on the stove so the water starts boiling. Place the plate carefully in the pot (steam should come up and around the plate, but no boiling water should touch the plate). Set timer for twenty minutes.

Find frying pan. Put some oil in it. Heat it to medium-high heat around 3 minutes before the steamed dumplings are done.

Move steamed dumplings to pan. Place some more potstickers on the plate in the steamer. Set timer for twenty minutes again. Keep an eye on potstickers -- when they're brown on the bottom, they're done. The insides cooked completely during the steaming, so the frying pan is just to get that yummy crunchy bottom.

To make potsticker dipping sauce, pour a lot of soy sauce in a dip bowl. Pour about a teaspoon of sesame oil in the soy sauce. If you want it spicey, add a dash of hot sauce.

That's it. They'll look a little bloated coming out of the steamer and maybe while still frying, but they'll look like they ought to after having cooled enough to eat.


Milk and Honey White Bread

makes two loaves

In a pot mix 2 1/2 cups milk with 6 T unsalted butter (or regular butter if that's all you have), 1/3 cup honey, and 1 1/2 tsp salt. Bring to a boil, remove from heat, let cool to room temperature. Mix in 1 rounded tablespoon of yeast. Add the liquid/yeast mixture to 5 cups of white bread flour in the Kitcheaide Bowl. Mix with a dough hook. Add 1 to 2 more cups of
white bread flour until it can be handled. Knead and add a smidge more flour as needed. The dough should be soft though -- only add more flour if it's totally sticking to your hands or the table. The kitchenaide did most of the keading. Don't bother doing too much here.

Place in a greased bowl and let rise till double.

Divide in half, roll out till very, very thin so you get all the air bubbles out. Roll up and placed in well-greased bread pan. Repeat for second loaf. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place till double (will take half the time as the first rise). Preheat oven to 375.

Bake for about 35 minutes. Test for doneness. If done, dump out immediately on cooling rack, let cool out on counter for at least five hours before wrapping. Or, let cool 20 minutes, stick bread in car and drive the three blocks to your friend's house. Eat the bread with her.

Makes great sandwhiches if allowed to cool on counter overnight (assuming you took it out of oven after, say, 8 pm at night). Makes great anything, really. It's too much work to use it for soup bowls, though.


Not whole-wheat dog treats

You'll recall that Thor is allergic to wheat. So, no wheat here. They love these.

Thawed and frozen real fruit can be subbed for jam. I was being lazy and just grabbed fruit jam I'd made off the shelf.

4 cups organic barley flour
2 tbsp flaxseeds (the real seeds are pretty cheap)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup water
1/2 cup blueberry jam
1/2 cup peach butter
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp canola oil
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla.

Mix everything together, the roll out dough into 1/8-inch thickness. Cut into rectangles. Move rectangles onto nonstick or lightly greased cookie pans or baking stones. Cook at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Take out tray and let cool on the tray. (Ok, I only own one large baking stone and one cookie tray, so I mostly moved the cookies to a cooling rack so I could do the next batch. This worked fine.) When all the batches have been baked, turn heat down to 300 and bake ALL the cookies AGAIN for 30 minuts. When done, they shouldn't be burnt, but the should be very crunchy.

Let cool completely on cookie trays and then bag for up to 30 days.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Marital Strife

Yes, it's true. Chris is upset with me tonight. Why? Because I made 5 dozen cookies . . .

. . . for the dogs.

I told him that if he really wanted one he could have one. The fiber content is roughly equivalent to that of eating three entire celery plants and it would probably keep him on the toilet all day tomorrow, but if he really wants one, there they are! He said, "No thanks," and rummaged through the Christmas chocolate stash looking for solace in the form of the kind with the rice crispies in them.

This is tough time of year for him ;)

So now that the doggie treats are done, I can hand out some Christmas goodies to the neighbors. Well, almost. I need to bake some bread, but then each family will get a small loaf of bread, a few jars of jam, and some cookies for their dogs (except the Millers who don't have a dog).


Last Friday was Max's piano lesson (as usual) and I wasn't sure if we were having another lesson closer to Christmas or not. So we brought her the Piano-teacher-Christmas gift. Now, recently we'd had a few problems with getting to her class on time -- more problematic, we had some problems with me getting there at all. This was not entirely my fault. She went through a period where she was changing our piano-lesson time two or three times a week. Since my memory just isn't what it used to be and since in November I was up to my eyeballs in work, I plum forgot the "new" time two lessons in a row.

She was apoplectic at the time. I was sincerely concerned we were causing her medical problems, or worse, that she'd drop us and go find someone more punctual. So I offered to clean up my act if she'd just stop changing our lesson time.

She hasn't stopped changing our lesson time but she does it half as frequently.

Annnyway. So I wanted to give her something nice for Christmas, but as a former public school teacher, I never, ever, ever give teacher-type gifts that aren't consumable. NOONE needs 742,326 little dust collectors that say "World's Best Teacher". And noone needs that many candles.

So we made her my favorite loaf of white bread -- scalded milk, honey, butter, white bread flour, yeast -- it's so fattening and so delicious. And since my future BIL (who is from the Ukraine, as is the piano teacher) recommended tea and raspberry jam in particular, we went to Wegman's and found the Russian Tea Section (That's not a joke. They really have one.) and picked out two different boxes with the Kosher symbol on the bottom. We don't actually know what her faith is. But BIL said, "Her last name is Bernstein and she's a piano teacher from the Ukraine?!? I'm 98% sure she's Jewish." So we wrote "Happy Holiday and Snovem Godem" on the card and got the Parve tea, just to be safe. Snovem Godem means "Happy New Year." When I say it, it sounds awful as I am a Pennsylvanian-American, but when he says it, it sounds very festive. Picking the jam was a chore. Hmmm, regular raspberry jam? Or the raspberry cider jam? Well I know the blueberry jam came out well . . . . We picked the raspberry and the blueberry and then two others that I can no longer recall.

It's just that it all HAD to be perfectly perfect. This piano teacher has been wonderful for Max and she must be kept HAPPY.

Then, five minutes before it was time to go, I realized I had no basket to put it all in. So we used an Amazon box with the flaps cut off and stuffed it with blue tissue paper. Not very beautiful, but everything fit.

We went to the lesson, Max gave her the box, she exclaimed over its size (well, the little loaf of bread and boxes of tea took up a lot of space), and then we had the lesson and Max was pleased as punch because she had a little bag of sugary goodies for him.

Well, tonight she called (to reschedule the lesson for this coming week ::slaps thigh::) and said that she loved everything in the box, especially the bread (ask Jill, it really is the shizznizzle as Chris would say), and was really touched by it.

And I was just soooooooooooooo relieved. The piano teacher is happy. My work here is done.


I'm feeling much better. I was feeling especially like death-warmed-over last night and Chris looked at me around midnight (as I was avoiding going to bed because my throat hurt more when I was laying down) and said, "You're not going to church tomorrow" and that was that.

I slept until 12:30.



I can't remember the last time I slept that late. Even when we were having our weekend away together, I think 11 am was our record for sleeping in.

I do vaguely remember someone letting the dogs in at some point this morning. So I slept half the morning with Herself snuggled up against one side of me and Himself snuggled up against the other and I had weird dreams about meeting Chris for the first time and wondering when he was going to kiss me, only we were the ages we are now. The dogs probably had weird dreams about wondering when I was going to wake up and feed them.

So eventually I did. I spent the first half of the afternoon in the living room chair doing nothing and then I finally decided I should maybe do something. So I picked up the living room, cleaned up the back porch, spent a few minutes on the laundry situation and the decided to start dinner.

I made potstickers. I had to make the potsticker dough first. While it was rising I made the innards. Then I threw together the dog-cookie dough. I left it in the mixer and went back to the potsticker project. The dough should have made 24 potstickers. I had divided the dough into two pieces and the cut one of the pieces into 12 smaller pieces. Then I rolled out each small piece and put a spoonful of pork/veggie mixture in the middle, pinched the dough closed, and placed it on a greased baking stone. I'd done two and was in the middle of a third when the doorbell rang. It was my home teachers, come to bring us goodies and say Hi.

In the time it took me to answer the door, Emily ate the innards of the potsticker I was making and four pieces of potsticker dough. Sheesh. I threw away the piece that I'd been working on, covered everythign else in plastic wrap and put it on the counter away from Emily's nose while the home teacher's were here. They stayed about 15 minutes and left. I continued making the potstickers.I started rolling out the doggy treat dough.

Jill stopped by in time to eat some potstickers with the twins. It was while I was checking on the 2nd batch of potstickers that were steaming that I started thinking about Emily and that dough again. This was yeasted dough. I pictured it "rising" in her tummy. Oh, gosh!

So then I got to spend the next half-hour on the phone trying to find out what I could do to prevent bloat in my standard poodle, while simultaneously monitoring baking dog cookies, steaming potstickers, and preschoolers eating rice. (Milo gets tired of the whole fork charade and starts grabbing it by fistfulls to shove in his mouth. I don't like that. Ick.)

In the end we decided there was nothing to do for Emily by now -- over an hour and a half had passed since she'd eaten the dough -- except watch her. So far, so good.

The potstickers turned out well. Not perfect, but well. The rice was good though.

And now I am tuckered out and going to bed.

Friday, December 16, 2005





:::sn--BIG NOSE BLOW:::

:::tosses soggy tissue into trash:::



Thursday, December 15, 2005

Apparently I was grouchy

Because I was coming down with a cold. I woke at 1:30 because Chris was snoring his head offI had a swollen throat and a raging headache. I took drugs and went back to bed but woke in the morning feeling none the better. I spent most of the day trying to work, drink hot tea, and not be too grouchy. It was actually a fairly productive day. Motivated by something Chris said to him, Max was incredibly responsible about getting his work done. He kept plugging away at his list -- only stumbling over a Latin exercise relating root words to their derivatives. It is in this one area that the age difference between the student for whom the program was written and the age/grade of the student in my house becomes a problem. I let him cheat and use the online etymology dictionary. It was some help.

Because it's been so flippin' cold, I finished putting plastic over the windows in our bedroom and living room. The improvement was immediate. I still need to do the windows in the twins' room and two windows in the basement and then I'll be done. I'm not fond of this task, nor particularly good at it. Oh, well.

In the late afternoon I took the twins to go run a few errands. This ended up taking three times longer than I thought it would, but we survived and came home. I was working on our Christmas packages as it seems that tomorrow is the 15th already and I'd better get things mailed. I had some diet mountain dew and then since that was good I had another cup and then another and THEN I realized that seeing as how I've really, really cut back on the caffeine lately, it probably wasn't wise to drink three cup of mountain dew at 7:30 at night.

So here we are . . .

at least I got more work done.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Gnash, Gansh, Grind, Grind

I have no good reason AT ALL to be in as foul a mood as I am today.

And yet there it is.

I hate the world! I hate you all!

Not really, but I am pretty grouchy.

At one point I tried to cheer myself up by taking my Most Gorgeous Dog and going to Petco and the grocery store. This *was* rather fun. Hanging around Emily at Petco is like being (I imagine) in Nicole Richie's entourage. You're with the beautiful girl who is Worshipped and Adored For No Particular Reason (and, she looks like she could maybe eat a bit more--'cause she's a poodle).

But when I got home one of Max's friends came over and a Great Bit of Boy Noise ensued. I just didn't have the patience for it today. I did my best but by dinner time I would have duct taped them all if it wouldn't have interfered with eating. At least dinner came out well. Roast chicken.

So at 8:10 I drove Max's friend home and Max and I went to the Y where I walked very very fast for a great long while on the treadmill until I felt better.

Now I am going to attempt to get some work done and then go to bed. I picked up two of the rustiest, menacing-looking cast-iron muffin pans you ever saw through freecycle last night. I didn't see how bad they were till I got them home. Awed, I went to the Internet to see if there was anything to be done for it short of a blow-torch. I found a few suggestions. So last night I put all my cast-iron pots -- including the relatively new one which was just fine, but had some burnt-on rice on the bottom. It was sort of the control group. I left the pots in the oven on self-clean mode for three hours, then turned off the oven and went to bed without looking.

In the morning I was delighted to find that the pots, all three of them, were in fact, perfectly clean, save but for some lingering ashes. These rinsed right off. Now, the newish pot just needed to be oiled again and re-seasoned. The older pots however, still had their rust to contend with. They were very CLEAN now, but still rusty.

I worked on them a bit with an SOS pad. This worked great -- except that on the back of the pan there were the inevitable nooks and crannies of a muffin pan. Unlike a tin muffin pan, the cast-iron version is very compact. On the back side, there is no real space between the "bumps." The edges come together at the base and the whole SOS pad method is pretty useless.

What to do . . .

If I were a teenager still working at Taco Bell, I'd have stolen a box of red sauce and meticulously opened all the packages and coated the pots in those. That rust would have been gone in 60 seconds. (Needless to say, although I've gotten over the experience enough to eat at Taco Bell again -- I don't ever use the red sauce.)

Instead I went to the grocery store with my big poodle and got four 2-liter bottles of Coca-cola. I brought that home, filled a plastic bucket with it, and submerged the muffin pans for a few hours. This did the trick pretty well. I can still see the faintest of red casts on the back of the tins, one more so than the other, but 98% of the rust is gone. Enough that I have proceeded with re-seasoning all three pots. They're in the oven now, having been generously coated with melted Crisco using a silicon brush.

I wonder if I need to do the seasoning process more than once before using them? I imagine not for the new one. I'm afraid if I jump in too soon with the muffin pans, that I'll end up with muffins welded to my "new" pans. Maybe not if I just generously grease them first.

Saturday, December 10, 2005


I've never been a huge fan of Wal-mart. In general, it's really low on my list of places to shop. The products I do look for there are all-cotton t-shirts for the kids and canning supplies when my other two places have run out. I've never shopped there for X-mas presents.

This year however, their layaway policy seemed promising. I'd never done layaway before but I decided I'd give it a try this year. I went in and located the items I wanted to get the kids for Christmas, put down $60 (more than the 10% required, but still just a token amount), and left.

I went back yesterday to finish the transaction.

60 minutes later I left having given them all my cash, with no presents. The computer burped whemn printing out the receipt and they thought they'd somehow credited my credit card hundreds -- while agreeing that was impossible because a) no manager had turned the key and b) we weren't working with those kinds of numbers.

I went back with Max 30 minutes later (I'd had to pick him up from basketball) and tried again to make some progress. At least this time I left with my copy of the receipt. I'd paid a LOT of money for a few expensive toys and had NOTHING.

This morning I went to my bank, obtained proof that they hadn't put anything into my account, went to Wal-mart. Thirty minutes later they were ready to give me a $10 gift card and send me on my way still with nothing while they "figured things out."


I got a refund. And the $10 gift card. But it was too much. They refunded me the amount they owed me PLUS $88.77. I told the manager this when he gave me the money but he pointed to the receipt and swore it was right and I was now flustered enough to just take the money and go.

Halfway to Target I realized where the guy had gone wrong in his math. I was NOT going to go to hell for Wal-mart, but at the same time I wasn't going to turn around again.

I shopped at Target, got back in the truck, went to Wal-mart, gave back the the $88.77 and went home.

Personally? I think it should have been a $20 gift card, but for now we'll consider a simple sign that my usual inclination to shop in bright, clean, organized RED Target instead of dark, cold, massive, disorganized Wal-mart was spot on. Wal-mart is for canning supplies. Target is for everything else. At least for me.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Ten Things I Just Don't Need for Christmas

Feel free to treat this as a meme -- just come back and leave a link in the comments if you do.

10. I have no need for one of these:

9. We are not their target market:

8. We are past the point of a need for these (but if you're not, these are the real deal -- far, far, far more absorbant and long lasting that the Gerber stuff at Wal-mart):

7. Not under my tree:

6. Not for that kind of money (although the kids would love it)

5. I have no need for faux-fur or festive snowmen appliques.

4. I don't need anything with "ab" in the title. (Where is the guy in the last picture going?)

3. I found a guy who will cook and ship me lutefisk. Tempting, but . . .

2. With the noise my kids make, I'd be living under strobe lights.

1. Please don't. The real pets make enough noise. And Emily would see this thing move and pounce -- ta da! Dead robopet. (If your kids really want one and you're okay with that kind of thing, there's a nice price on them at Sam's Club.)

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Happy Birthday Baby Boy

December 9th is the anniversary of the birth of our second son, Emmett, who did not survive the birth. He was 8 inches, 8 oz, and beautiful. Some years I've felt overcome with grief. Not this year. This year I want to laugh and cry all at the same time. He feels closer than ever, more mine than ever, more our child than ever. He would have been 6 this year.

Max was three and a half when we lost the baby. Old enough to grasp what was going on, not old enough to understand. For reasons only understandable by Max, he took an interest in the brother he lost this year. On more than one occasion he said to me, "If my brother had lived, we could have done _____ together." I never knew what the right answer to that was. Was he saying this because he sensed that it was important to me that Emmett be remembered? Or was it just the wistful voice of the-brother-that-has-no-twin? I don't know. I don't encourage the comments, but I always find something to say at the time. It's been a few months. I won't mention it to him tomorrow. Tomorrow will be filled with sledding and snow throwing and the giddiness of a true snow day (at least if the weather reports are to be believed) as we are getting 6 to 8 inches over night and apparently our street is one of "THE" streets to sled on. I don't expect to feel Emmett's presence any more than usual. I've been blessed to have truly wonderful sons and I feel deeply that Emmett was no different. He is often with me. A great comfort to me, his mother.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

After much discussion and a pass through the bookshelves at Barnes and Noble

Max and I have decided to reintroduce ourselves to the world of literature study with The Hobbit. And a study guide from Veritas Press. Any relatives who would like to read along may purchase their copy in paperback from their local B&N and email The Boy with insights and questions.

But not till January.

Ben is sick. I'm sitting here watching him sleep in The Green Chair. I never let him sleep in the chair and he often begs to. But tonight he had so completely nailed the whole poor sick waif routine that I let him.

Chris is 36 tomorrow. Go give him some love.

Guest Blogger: My Mom

(Dec. 7, 2005)

2005 was a year full of blessings
Like ironing wrinkles through several pressings.
We have a new neice
Expanding our clan.
Elspeth arrived in February's élan.

Then Konrad arrived in mid-June--
Swelling numbers;
They both have been noted for
Ubiquitous slumbers.

Our friends have survived
The disasters from storms

While our new home has kept us first cool
And now warm.

It's a lovely old place
With two huge gracious trees
And a deck in the back
To catch a fresh breeze.

Please note new address
And also phone number.
We've spiffied the place with fresh paint and new lumber.

Indian Summer is here-
So warm, birds are singing;
To you thoughts are winging

Thanksgiving is over
We're grateful and fasting.
And now turn our thoughts to life everlasting.

Have a Happy New Year 2006;
Add some joy and some peace
Into the mix
Stir gently until
Any woe you can fix.

Peace, Judith

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


I'm listening to XM Kids on the computer because, well, it's funny, althoug D. Dynamite is my least favorite dj on this station. I like Mindy and the Animal Farm guy in the morning. They make me laugh.

Today was all over the map. It was a day of gettin' things done, but no more than a few hours on each task. This evening I worked on lesson plans. We've been doing a lot of "turn page, do next lesson" for the last two months and while that works pretty well, every so often I find it wise to sit down and take a look at the curriculum and see what is working, what's not, and what I might want to do differently after Christmas break.

Here's what I came up with:

1. Math. This will be the first year since we started homeschooling that we didn't pluck up the whole family and move it thousands of miles sometime during the school year resulting in two and a half months "off" in the middle of the year. We've always been able to get "everything" done in that time anyway in spite of some serious slacking during periods of intensity during my work. So the first thing I noticed was that at this rate we'll be done with the math textbook in, um, the first week of March. Like, March 2nd or so. Let me tell you how often we reached the end of the math book when I was teaching in the classroom (and let me remind you that while there are subjects I may avoid and that I didn't hit that hard when I was in the classroom, say, um, science, that MATH is the subject I got done no matter what plague I might have come down with while taking attendance. For one thing, it's a subject the kids did quietly, for another, I've mentioned before that I just like it.)

That sentence is a gramatical disaster so let's abandon it and move on.

Never. Never is how often I reached the end of the math textbook while teaching in the classroom. So here we are, on track to reach the end of it March 2nd. We've nailed multiple digit multiplication and long division and here it is December 6th. We're coming up hard on addition and subtraction of fractions and using decimals instead of remainders. hoo-wee! We can't be stopped.

So what's a girl to do? Well, I'm all for hitting algebra early so you can hit calculus for the first time sophomore year, but we're already on track for that, so there's no sense in moving on to the next level of math. I'd rather switch to a different "approach" and just dig in deeper with what the boy has already learned.

Frankly, my biggest problem with Saxon is that it breezes so quickly through some of this stuff.

Here's long division! Got it? Cool, move on . . .

This hasn't been a problem for Max because our gene pool is cool with math. If it were spelling he'd have been dead in the dust on the first week of school. But my experience is easy come, easy go, so we'll have some cake March 3rd and then the following Monday dive back into Right Start Level E. (I LOVE Right Start but it is soooo working Mom unfriendly. My only "complaint" with this program continues to be that it is SO parent-intensive. That and the price for fancy photocopies. Anyway, I'll have to suck it up for March, April, and May.)

So that's math. Finish up by March 2nd, switch to "enrichment" program until end of year.

2. Writing. Historically I've skimped on writing during the first half of the year. The first year I did so because Max broke out in hives and dissolved into a whimpering blob of little boy when I put a pencil in his hand, so we did very controlled exposure to the pencil until that reaction was eliminated. Last year we needed to spend the first part of the year really focusing on spelling. In January we started doing more writing and we kept that up until the move two and a half months later. Yeeeaaah. ::cough:: Nevertheless, he continues to look just fine on the ITBS in that department except for the whole capitalization and punctuation thing.

So this year I got a book just on capitalization and punctuation and we've done formal composition using the "writing process" sometimes six weeks in a row -- and then nothing for a month. So looking ahead to January all I know is that I have to put it in the same category as math and Latin -- the things we still do even when we can justify dropping everything else.

3. Science. I'm sorry all you better-than-me homeschooling teachers. The best I can come up with here is to vow to continue telling him to turn the page and read the next lesson. Be glad I bought the 4th grade textbook and that he loves reading it. Puuurty pictures. On the days he doesn't read Science, he reads a 4th grade Health textbook that PA wants us to read -- that is, they want us to "teach health" so we bought a Health textbook and since I'm not easily offended, it works fine for us. He loves it. We have interesting conversations afterwards. So, no changes planned in '06.

4. History. History is a problem because PA would kinda like us to cover basic American history and we're doing SOTW 3, which means we're all over the map from the same time period, but we only hit the main ideas. Not a lot of details. I'm thinking maybe we'll get a Harcourt fourth grade social studies textbook and then spend two years reading it on the side. I don't see much reason to spend 5th grade "studying the states." We'll go back to Ancient Civilizations and then read the American history book on the side. So, um, sometime in January we'll add that in. I haven't even ordered the book yet.

5. Latin. We seem to have dropped Latina Christiana entirely and are just happily bumping along at a leisurely pace in Cambridge Latin Course. I really LOVE this curriculum. You could NOT start it any earlier than fourth grade and you really, really, really have to be cool with spending literally weeks longer on each lesson than it's written for because it's written for high schoool. But it's a lot of fun, has SO many activities (in the Student Edition and in the workbook at and the website), and is just not nearly as deathly dull as LC can be. I can still see why you'd want to do both, but I couldn't keep up with two programs after two months.

6. Spelling. No change. Still love Sequential Spelling by AVKO.

7. Reading. We've been doing a basal since January of last year and that has served us really well. This year I haven't been eager to move out of it because frankly, when your nine year old is reading HP 6 and HP 3 simultaneously so as to more closely track character development and link past events to recent events -- well, chances are he's developing nicely. Get out of the way and let the boy swim. But come January he'll be done with the HPs and thrashing around hungrily for something new to sink his teeth into. So I've dusted off the old WTM and looked around online and chewed on my lip a lot. That's as far as I've gotten with that.

8. Music. We just do what his piano teacher tells us to do. She tells us to do a lot, so that's pretty much it. No changes.

I didn't make any plans for the twinkies. We keep picking up 100 Easy Lessons whenever I think of it and the twins make it clear that they could and would do it a LOT more than I pick up the book, but they're saddled with me for a teacher so they're up a creek.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

For Yeah and Verily, I Hath Been Tagged

A meme from jojo

1.) Seven things I hope to see or do before I die:

My pre-pregnancy weight. The first pregnancy.

The underside of the Bridge of Sighs


Alaska (the state)

Finish a mini-triathalon

my grandchildren's weddings

the inside of the sealing room of any LDS temple

2.) Seven things I cannot do (right at this moment, but subject to change)

pie crusts


groom my own poodles

reroof the house by myself

speak any language other than English -- fluently

knit fair isle anything

put my children in public school

3.) Seven Things That Attract Me To My Husband

his BEAUTIFUL brown/green/gold eyes

his pee-my-pants sense of humor

his nearly bald head -- what can say? It works for me.

his height


the fact that he sings all the time

his stubbornness (mostly)

4.) Seven Things I Say Most Often:

I love you!

Max says I say, "Because they're only four, that's why."

Chris says I say, "Maaaaaaax!"

crap. (I know, but there it is.)

Did you drink my last diet mountain dew?

Would you mind going to the store for more pop?

Is it somebody else's turn to cook tonight?

5.) Seven Books or Series that I Love

The Phantom Tollbooth

Always Coming Home and the Earth/Sea trilogy

Jude the Obscure (I know, but there it is.)

Winter Wheat by Mildred Walker

The Changeling by Zilpha Keatley Snider

The Pushcart War

Goodnight Gorilla

6.) Seven movies I would watch over and over again if I had the time

This is just so not my media.

7.) Seven People I Want to Join In and Do This Meme Also:

Anyone who hasn't already?

Friday, December 02, 2005

Turkey Redux

Since I actually had a little bit of money earlier this week before giving it all away to the stack of envelopes on my desk, I went grocery shopping, erm, repeatedly. In one of those trips I picked up six turkeys on deep clearance. I already had a HUGE free turkey that one of my brother's work places gave him and he didn't want (they don't usually eat meat, my brother and sister-in-law) and I did want it, so I got it. Chris said, "Are you sure these are going to FIT in our freezer?" as he dutifully helped schlep them from the truck to the house. I said something noncommittal and sure enough, all but one fit in the freezer. What to do? Well, duh, eat it! So I stuck it in the downstairs fridge and decided this morning, four days later, that it was probably thawed now and I should do something with it.

Now, last year I went the brine-the-turkey route and that was tasty, but time consuming. This year I wasn't serving anyone but the family and all I wanted was it to be done, so I pulled out Betty circa 1983 and SHE said to stick it in the oven with maybe some salt on the inside, some oil on the outside, no water in the pan, and that was it.

That's it?

Betty circa 1983 swore that was it.

So I rinsed off my turkey, salted the inside, plopped it in the roasting pan and preheated the oven.

The turkey whimpered. I took pity on it. I took the skins off a couple of small onions and stuck those inside the turkey and sprinkled some dried, diced garlic in there. Then I oiled the top of the turkey with pumpkin oil, sprinkled some garlic salt on it, liberally dusted it with ground basil, and stuck it in the oven.

The Holy Ghost, or my schizophrenia, hard to say which, said, "do NOT leave it in that dry oven while you go to Max's piano lesson for two hours." I apologized to Betty circa 1983 and dumped in 4 cups of water and a pint of raspberry cider to the bottom of the roasting pan. I crammed the meat thermometer in the thigh, and leaving the turkey uncovered, I closed the oven and went my way.

Returning 3 hours later, I opened the oven to find that it had that "Yo, get everything else together because I'm almost done!" look. The meat thermometer agreed. Shizzle. I told it that no matter what, it was cooking for another hour because I wasn't ready for it yet. It sighed. I reminded it that it was just shy of 14 lbs and it needed to cook longer. It sighed again.

I planned, since this is, after all, only Friday night's dinner and not even Sunday night's dinner, much less Thanksgiving, to make the stuffing that I thought I was going to make for Thanksgiving months ago. I'd been collecting the butts of all of my weekly homemade bread, chopping them into large, vaguely crouton shaped chunks, baking them in the oven for 20 minutes or so to dry them out, and then freezing them. At one point I'd made 8 loaves of cranberry-orange bread and it was darker, thicker, and more adult-bread-like than my usual loaves, so I had a lot of that left over. I'd say that 2/3 of the 6 quarts of dried bread chunks were cranberry-orange whole wheat bread. The rest were ordinary homemade white or wheat or a mix of the two.

Betty couldn't tell me how to make stuffing. She knew how to make stuffing using fresh bread -- it involved no liquid beyond a vat of butter. I knew that wasn't going to cut it, but I borrowed her list of herbs for my recipe. I guessed on the liquid. I used a quart of chicken broth, heated that up, tossed in two cups of dried, chopped apples, the spices/herbs, and another pint of raspberry cider. I had a lot of left over cider from jelly/jam making. I added 1/3 cup of butter to that (half of what Betty wanted me to use, and Betty was using half as much bread as I was). I sauted some thinly sliced celery (if it's too chunky, Chris notices it, and then he won't eat it) and red and white chopped onions in some fake butter substitute, then mixed that in with the bread. I poured the liquid/rehydrated apples over the bread crumbs, mixed it well, and dumped it all in a huge greased casserole dish.

I liberated the turkey from the oven. It was looking beautiful and I needed the oven space. The dogs at this point had come to lay themselves prostrate on the floor. By golly, if they had to trip me to get some of that turkey, they would. I turned up the heat, covered the stuffing in foil, and put it in the oven for a half hour. I pulled the rack that supported the turkey out of the roasting pan and dumped the contents of the roasting pan into my dutch oven (through a strainer to get out the gook). I don't have a fat separator. That would make a good Christmas present. I stood there for ten minutes trying to spoon it off the top. Shyah. But I got some of it. [While we're on the subject, isn't this a nice salad spinner? and can't you see me using this?] I have a terrible time getting my gravy to not be lumpy, so I blended some of the raspberry cider/turkey drippings with the whole wheat pastry flour in the blender and then poured it all into the boiling cider/drippings and POOF -- gravy. Ohmigosh, it tasted heavenly. Still some lumps but not nearly as lumpy as my gravy usually is. What can I say? We all have flaws.

Okay, turkey: check; stuffing: check; gravy: check -- need a vegetable. I rinsed off the green beans, cut off the ends and cut the beans in half because my weird family is strangely suspicious of green beans that aren't the same size as those in cans. I put those in boiling water -- somewhere in here I put dog food in the dog bowls, spooned some of the gravy over the dog food (oh, c'mon, you don't do that?) threw the neck in one bowl and gizzards in the other and let the dogs know, as only I know how, that I love them dearly. They burped and let me know they love me, too.

Then, poof! It was all done! Milo was crying hysterically at this point because he was going to D-I-E if he didn't get to eat turkey N-O-W!! So I sent him down to spread the good word to Dad that dinner was ready. He and Ben raced down together to do that. I carved the turkey, served everyone, and we sat down to eat a meal far less ordinary than our usual Friday night dinner. Gosh it was good and there were lots of leftovers although Chris had to be physically removed from the kitchen to keep from on tryptophan (at his request -- he had a lot of work to do and couldn't afford to pass out like he did last Thursday).

And just because some days are like this, as I was working on carving the left over turkey to go into the fridge, the phone rang. Brian wanted us to know that Santa was coming to Pine Grove Mills to light the little Christmas tree between the two tiny, old churches in downtown PGM and they were going to be serving a couple of metric tons of cookies. Did we want to go? Well, of course, it would save me a trip to the North Pole! (See post below.) So we dressed the boys (better late than never) and bundled up and headed to the old churches. It. was. so. cold. And freakishly windy. Between the incredible darkness and cold and wind, it was really something out of a scary movie, but we were warmed by thoughts of Santa and persevered.

Milo was in heaven. Here he is, having placed himself as close to Santa as anyone dares.

And later, he was third kid on Santa's lap.

Ben ate a few cookies and then took his turn.

And then the rest was cake cookies.

So up next on the agenda was Christmas carols, but I was tiiiired by this time, so Max stayed for that with Brian and his Mom and I took the twins and headed home. By now, it was Siberia outside.

We made it two blocks home -- and folks, I shoulda driven the three blocks with the twinkies. With the wind it was just toooo cold.
AccuWeather Quick Look

Currently at 9:36 PM
Pine Grove Mills, PA Current Conditions

Temperature: 23 degrees F (-5 C)
RealFeel: 9 degrees F (-13 C)

But what are you going to do? So you keep swimming and then suddenly who should come around the corner in his little white bread Fred truck? Superman! He pulled over and we piled in to the tiny passenger seat (Dude, it was coooold, we MADE it work.) and drove the rest of that long walk up the hill home in his toasty warm truck.

Yay, Dad!

That's it. With all that excitement everyone hopped into pjs early and Chris is the only one planning to stay up tonight. G'night.

Mommy . . .

Milo: Mommy . . .
Me: Yep.
Milo: Mommy, I'm gonna go to the North Pole. I guess I better go potty first.
Me: I guess!
Milo: Then, um, then, um, then I'm gonna put on pants and shirt and socks and shoes!
Me: Yep, you'd better dress warmly if you're gonna do that.
Milo: [Thinks better of it.] Maybe I could wear my jammas to the North Pole!
Me: Ohhh, well . . .
Milo: But!
[Mom pauses in stuffing preparation to look at him expectantly.]
Milo: I'm gonna wear my SPIDER MAN jammas!
Me: Ah, yes, well, at least they'd be clean.

Yes, it's 3:45 pm and Milo is changing out of one pair of jammas and into another. It's been a rather laid-back day for them :) Although, apparently, Milo has big plans for the evening . . .

Thursday, December 01, 2005


We had a day. Math and Latin -- I let Max wiggle out of history because he has temporarily "lost" the book. He sat in the other green chair and sang silly songs to himself about the Latin words in his worksheet. Goofy Goober.

We worked out at the Y again this morning. He walked on the treadmill next to me for fifteen minutes and then went to swim laps. He's charmed the male lifeguard who is there in the mornings -- the young man tosses diving toys into Max's lane as Max swims past the chair -- then Max has to swim faster to get the toy. When I'm done walking on the treadmill and killing myself with crunches, I sit in the chairs near the pool and watch him swim while I knit. Then we go home and get to work. It's a WONDERFUL way to spend an hour. Gosh I love my kids so much.

He had his group piano lesson today. I did some grocery shopping and dog grooming. It was a moderately quiet day. Tomorrow I launch back into work -- around getting to the Y and Max's individual piano lesson.

It's snowing. It's beautiful. Life is good.