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Monday, June 30, 2008

More Organics

Generally speaking, we have preferred just about everything that we have been able to get organic (though we know that the standard varies). There have been two exceptions to this. One is canned beans, Private Selection Brand. This is the nicer store brand at our grocery store. We've been pretty happy with their offerings, and can usually save some money over other brands when we buy it. The organic tomato sauce they make is very nice. The beans, well, if you drain them well and cook them with lots of other things, they are okay. That's the best I can say about them. S & W still wins for canned beans, they know how to select good beans, prepare them for canning, so if they come out with an organic line, I will try it, but otherwise, I'm sticking to the inorganic beans they offer when we get them on sale.

The other disappointment we've had lately is also from a brand we normally like. Nancy's, which makes the whole milk, organic yogurt I used to get our batch started, and also pick up when we somehow let ours die, makes cultured cottage cheese. It was marked down for $1.49, so we picked some up. It is SALTY! Way too salty. The children commented on it when I gave it to them with their lunch last week, and I thought that cottage cheese is usually salty, so how bad could this be. Well, it was so salty, I could barely eat it. We have unsalted chili powder and adding that helped, because it needed the salt, but I don't know that we'll be buying this again. We'll go back to buying the store brand when it's on sale, and possibly learning how to make our own.

There are some organic foods that we didn't think would taste much different, but we were able to get them on sale cheaper than the regular, and we ended up switching. Organic garlic and sweet potatoes were so noticeably better than their inorganic counterparts that we now buy those exclusively, even though they are often a bit pricier. The garlic is usually firmer (I honestly think they just take the time to cure them properly) and has fewer blemishes, so I lose less of it and the flavor is incomparable. The sweet potatoes tasted astoundingly good and made for great lunches for me and the children.

As an aside, it kind of annoys me that factory farmed food which is full of pesticides, is farmed using all sorts of bad for the soil methods, etc is the normal kind and organic is marked as distinct. It seems to me that the "regular" kind should be marked out as factory farmed and the organic should be the normal.

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Continuing to Catch Up

This post is going to be heavy on photos. I was going to do several different posts chronicling the events of the last three and a half months, but I decided to just give you a pictorial here.

February 26:

Amira and Elijah are probably the most affectionate of our children, but they are also the two who are most often at each other's throats. They are most alike in personality, and I think between that and the fact that they are of the opposite sex, they are more likely to have strife. This photos is one of them at their best. In a way, it is a relief that they don't get along and cooperate all the time. I cannot imagine the chaos in our home that would ensue if they figured out that they could work together to get all that they want done.

Easter:

Even though the weather wasn't that great on Easter, it was just dry enough that the children were still able to do their egg hunt. I was hoping we had gotten a photo of all the boys in their dress clothes and ties, but evidently we did not. There are a few shots of them hunting for eggs, but this one of Amira is really one of the best.

NW Catholic Home Education Conference

Alexander is sitting with Jerome here during our picnic lunch at the conference. They played remarkably well, and enjoyed shopping the vendors as well. Dominic bought something which he was able to repay me for quickly (they didn't bring their money with them), Alexander joined the vast majority of Americans and went into debt to get his toy. He still needs to work off nearly $6.00 to pay me back for what he bought. We figure a Saturday morning of weeding ought to cover at least $5 of that.

Our Ballerina



These were taken just after I had finished Amira's bun and leg warmers. I couldn't decide which was a better picture of her.

One of my Mother's Day Cakes

We actually have a second cake (chocolate) in the freezer still. The supermarket we shop at had a deal where you bought a $4 cake, and the children could decorate with frosting, picks, rings, sprinkles, etc. They had no idea our children were coming to use six extra pounds of frosting and five pounds of sprinkles. The cakes were quite, um, festive.


All of these were buried in the frosting and sprinkles. You could not actually see them until you unearthed them from the top of the cake. There were seven on the cake.

Miniature Horses

Our neighbors down the hill raise and keep miniature horses. They offered to let our children visit them anytime they wanted. We finally took them up on it and aside from looking at the different horses, feeding them carrots, learning a little about them and about showing, we also (all of us) got to ride in the cart, pulled by one of them. This cart held me and the lady driving at the same time.

Bird's Nest

You can see how often we use our jogging stroller here. It was in our car port. We kept seeing a little bird flying in and out, but we figured it was just stealing some of the grass seed from in there. Then we started hearing the peeping. She had built a nest in the back pocket of the jogging stroller. Rich snapped this shot to show the children the baby birds. They are out of the nest now, but a new set of eggs is in it. We may never reclaim our jogging stroller.

May 19:

Amira and Jerome in their rocking chair. This chair always ends up belonging to the toddler in the house, but we're at the point where it's kind of between them. This is a cause of conflict sometimes, with Jerome trying to push Amira out of the seat and saying "Get off, Meewa!" She is very generous with Jerome, though, and so she just rocks with him in the chair.

June 7:

Here are my guys in our town's festival parade. Amira was supposed to be in it with her dance studio, but they ended up not participating. This was actually okay with me, as it meant I didn't have to walk with her while pregnant and pushing a stroller. So, Elijah, Amira, Jerome, their grandparents and I sat on the sidelines watching the parade and collecting toys, candy, trinkets, canned salmon, balloons, coffee, and other goodies from our local government, organizations, schools and businesses while Rich walked with our two older boys and tossed chocolate to the admiring crowds.

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Menu Plan Monday: June 30



This week's Menu Plan Monday is being hosted by Laura at Heavenly Homemakers, in case you are confused by the button taking you somewhere different.

I am eight days out from baby day. This is the final week I can prepare, and I have an urgent need to get things made. So, I will be doubling up on a couple more meals this week, to put in the freezer, and making more cereal, yogurt, things like that to get ready for my in-laws coming and taking care of the children while we are in the hospital. Please be praying for us during the surgery, as I've come home from each of the c-sections with an infection contracted in the hospital, and my only real fear is that I will need blood and they make it such a big deal to take blood from my own husband who is the same blood type and, let's face it, has already been passing whatever germs he may have to me anyway. I've never needed blood before and I have no reason to think I will this time, it's just the fear that is at the back of my mind as I prepare for surgery.

We have been enjoying the grilling weather we've had lately. Yesterday, one of our local markets, which has exquisite produce and meats, as well as providing lots of foods and wines you won't find other places, had their anniversary event. Aside from providing us lunch by giving grilled bratwurst and bottled water out to everyone who wanted them, we got some great deals and brought them home. We picked up some green garlic, a flat of fresh picked local strawberries, bratwurst, sauerkraut, skirt steak, an organic baguette and a tasty melon that they were sampling. The prize, though, was prime grade top sirloin steaks at a freakishly low price of $5 a pound. I won't tell you just how much I bought. Rich sprinkled them with good salt and freshly ground pepper tonight and grilled them to perfection. He's improved his grilling skills quite a bit, and can now provide us with medium to medium rare relatively easily. So we ate the steak, melon and strawberries for dinner. We had a snack tray of marinated mozzarella, the baguette, cornichons and olives beforehand. We will likely be grilling more this week.

The children's godparents will be arriving on the 4th with their son, so we should have a fun weekend. We still have no real plans for Independence Day, so we may just have an outdoor dinner and watch the fireworks from our yard.

I will provide any recipes on request, as usual.

What is on your menu this week?

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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Birthdays

Since I missed posting on several birthdays this year, I thought I'd give a snapshot of each one. Literally. Here are the photos from three of our birthday parties: Amira's, Elijah's and Dominic's.





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Church Clothes

We dress up for church in our house. We see it as presenting yourself at your best while in the presence of the King. It is being respectful to the Church, but most importantly to God. Neither of us has any problem with people not coming in dressy clothes, and we don't make the boys wear suits, I rarely wear stockings, and Rich doesn't often wear a tie, but we wear nicer clothes, the boys have church clothes and shoes set aside for Sundays, Amira and I wear dresses or skirts and nicer tops and Rich wears dressier shirts and pants. Our three older boys actually seem to prefer wearing ties to church, so they wear them a bit more frequently than we'd make them (specific Holy days, weddings, etc), they certainly wear ties to church more than Rich does.

Well, this morning, as we were getting ready for church, we were out of time, so asked Alexander to help his sister find appropriate clothing for church. She came down in her Getting to Know You costume, complete with the tights, and her flower pin in her hand. Since we were already running late, and she was already dressed, and it certainly wasn't everyday play clothes, we decided to let her wear it. I even did her hair the way she wore it for the show, though I did not put any makeup on her. She then put on her church shoes and got into the car.

Since we were already late (nearly an hour, I told Rich that it appeared we were only coming for coffee hour, but we made it before confession!), our entrance made quite the stir, especially because of Amira's attire. Everyone thought she was beautiful of course, though her Asian style was from the wrong part of the continent for her heritage. She was quite hot, though, in 90 degree weather with a polyester, long sleeved, lined dress with tights and extra dance pants. When we got home, I made sure she changed out of her dress into play clothes, so she wouldn't burn up.

We did say that we wanted her to wear the outfit as much as she could this summer, but I'm hoping it won't be on her next Sunday.

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Jerome at Rest

Jerome talks and sings all the time, jumps probably half the time he's awake, runs everywhere he goes and is very active and athletic in general. He can throw a ball straight at whatever he wants to without any help from us. He loves playing sports and running. We have no idea where this comes from, as neither of us is particularly athletic. We try to play ball with him and other active games, so he gets a chance to exercise this aptitude. He's also quite good with his hands, articulate and musical. Kind of a renaissance boy, it will be interesting to see who exactly he becomes as he grows. When he is asleep, though, he is just as seriously asleep as he is about any other activity. Rich caught this picture just before Easter this year.



Some of you may remember that I made (designed, in fact) a knit blanket for him. That, however, is not his favorite blanket. I hasten to add that he does like it. This quilt, made by a young woman who used to go to our church (her father is a military chaplain and they had to move last summer), is his blankie. He prefers to sleep with it above all other coverings, he calls for it when he can't find it. We have not had any other children who were so attached to any one blanket. He's like Linus when he's tired, though, thumb in mouth and blankie dragging behind him.

Anyway, I love this picture. He's just sacked out, not even under his blankets, with the sun shining down on him. Completely at rest with not a care in the world. His arm is still around the blanket, and his thumb is just dropped out of his mouth. I've always loved these pictures of our children, asleep and content.

I evidently was as asleep and content as this last night, says my sweet husband. Probably because he had done me the favor of making me a milkshake with fresh picked local strawberries and organic vanilla ice cream. For dinner. He didn't take any pictures of me asleep, though. For which I am eternally grateful.

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Saturday, June 28, 2008

Family Photo

Here we all are in Arthur and Michelle's backyard. Squinting into the sun, and not all looking the same direction, but it's a recent picture of us all. This was only about three weeks ago.



Here are the children playing in the park two days before. The first picture is a better shot of Dominic, but the second is a better shot of everyone else.



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Amira's Debut

Here is the first picture from Amira's recital last Saturday. Her official photo will be ready sometime in July, they tell me.



Their dance number was from the King and I, Getting to Know You. Adorable.

I worked out how much it cost us to attend our own daughter's recital. Not counting the photo order, we spent on the costume, tickets, and babysitting (we took the boys to the dress rehearsal instead) about $130 to see our daughter dance for two minutes on stage. This only saved us about $6 over our taking the boys with us, but we didn't want to have to keep them in their seats watching two hours of other performers politely, so the babysitter was well worth it.

Fortunately, the costume has a little room, so she can dress up in it all summer, and possibly use it for a Halloween costume. This was Amira's first time wearing makeup, and she just couldn't have been more delighted. I did her makeup for the dress rehearsal, and she couldn't help herself from staring at her reflection the whole time. She just lit up with excitement. Her ballet teacher told us to use Got 2 B Hair Glue, which we did, to keep their buns up and the rest of their hair in place. That stuff is serious. We were warned not to brush their hair until we'd washed it out. It was such fun for Amira, and we were thrilled to see our pretty little girl dancing her heart out with her partner.

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Photos at Last!

We got my new computer on Friday. It came with a free iPod Touch, so I'm speeding into the 21st century. I can post photos again, and I will start with the things I've finished over the last couple months.


Here is the Four Corners dishcloth.


A couple crocheted sponges made of leftover cotton yarn.


Amira's pink ballet leggings.


Her bun warmer, in her hair.


Another crocheted sponge.


Finally, a tiny diagonal dishcloth knit with the leftover blue cotton yarn.

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Nesting

It turns out that when I nest, it isn't by cleaning or setting up the baby's room (which will be our room for the first six months). We have tons of baby things, there isn't a whole lot more for me to arrange, as we know the routine of what we'll do and where she'll go. However, I have been cooking and making cleaning supplies for some time. I just finished a double batch of the granola recipe I posted here. In the last few weeks, I've made fabric softener, laundry detergent and glass cleaner. I'm trying to finish Amira's pillow and the new baby's dress in the next 12 days. I have been doubling and freezing meals, making tons of extra bread, and still have a batch of yogurt, some chocolate syrup and some "grape nuts" to make.

I found this recipe in a farm magazine. To fill our container, I would make 3/4 of the author's recipe, which is about three times the recipe I'll post below. I use real maple syrup and not flavoring when I make this. I'll also post the chocolate syrup recipe, which I got from Martha Stewart Living.

Homemade Fake Grapenuts
2 1/3 cups brown sugar (or 7 cups)
3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (or 10 1/4 cups)
1/4 teaspoon salt (or 3/4 teaspoon)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda (or 4 1/2 teaspoons/1 1/2 tablespoons)
1/2 teaspoon maple syrup (or 1 1/2 teaspoons)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or 4 1/2 teaspoons/1 1/2 tablespoons)
1 quart of cream, give or take, (or about 3 quarts of cream)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease cake pans.

Mix all dry ingredients, except baking soda, in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle, and pour in three quarters of the cream. Dissolve the baking soda in this puddle. Add flavorings and mix together until all flour is wet. Add more cream as needed. Do not over mix. The dough will be quite thick, with no spots of dry flour left.

Fill greased cake pans no more than half full and bake until a toothpick comes out dry, this should take about 40-50 minutes, but check on them starting at 30 minutes. Invert cake pans on a rack to cool slightly. While they are still warm, wrap them in plastic bags and let stand overnight.

The next morning, break the cakes in chunks and rub through the medium holes on your grater, or through 1/4 inch hardware cloth, to crumble the cakes .

Dry the crumbs in a moderate oven, 275-300 F, until dry and crunchy, stirring often.

Store in airtight containers.


Chocolate Syrup

3/4 cups unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder, sifted
1 1/2 cups water
2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Bring cocoa powder and 1 1/2 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium-low. Stir in sugar and salt until both are dissolved. Simmer, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Add chocolate, stir until it is melted. Pour through a fine sieve into a large bowl or jar and discard solids if necessary. I don't find it to be necessary if I whisk everything as I stir. Stir in vanilla. Let cool 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Syrup can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Stir before serving.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Once in a Lifetime

Rich gets to do something very exciting today. For the cost of a return flight (which will be under $100, or even free, because a friend of his was flying east anyway and is returning home), Rich gets to fly in a surviving WWII B-24. He is the only passenger, it's just the crew, and he gets to go for free. They offered him the very slight chance yesterday, and only late yesterday afternoon did he get the go ahead to do it. Normally, this costs over $2000. He should be home by dinner time, and have this experience which few people can say they've ever even had a chance to do.

I'm really glad he gets to go, and that it came up before we had the baby so he could go. We don't do a whole lot for his birthday anymore, so this kind of a very nice belated treat for him. We are praying for a safe trip for all of them and a quick return tonight, with no delays.

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Monday, June 23, 2008

Blueberries, Blackberries & Crabapples! Oh My!

I am so excited! We just found out about a park nearby which has over 4000 blueberry bushes, in about five different varieties that are free for the picking to anyone who wants to bring buckets and do the work. The season, because of the different varieties, lasts from about mid-July through October.

This means that the fruit for most of our preserves will be free this year, as we have blackberries all over the place, and the park where we are allowed to pick crabapples. We have two friends with orchards, and we're trading pollination for fruit with them, as well as some honey and jars of preserves.

The hard part is going to be picking and preserving, because of the new baby, but Rich and the boys are good for real help, and some families from church and from our local homeschool group said they would come help for some instruction on how to make jams, jellies, etc and can them. I should have many hands to help me this year, which will be useful.

Last year, I found out that making three batches of blackberry lime jam and two batches of crabapple jelly is just enough for our entire year's worth of preserves including gifts. My goal is to make at least one more batch of each this year. I would like to make blackberry syrup as well, but we'll see how it goes.

I make a lovely blackberry peach jam that I'd like to do again, if we can either get peaches from our friends, or a really good deal from Yakima. Raspberries and strawberries would be nice as well, but I'm not sure how feasible this year. With the blueberries, though, I can make syrups and preserves. We also plan on freezing as much of the blueberries and blackberries as we can, in a single sheet at a time, then vacuum sealing them into bags to use as the winter days come on.

The other thing I am looking forward to doing with the blueberries is making loads of lemon-blueberry pound cake and freezing those. Amira plans on making blackberry pies with her grandmother, and we might get them to freeze some of those, too.

We will be having house guests between the week before our baby arrives and the month after. The children's godparents arrive first, on their way to a church function of theirs, with their son. Then Rich's folks, then a week or two on our own with Rich off of work, then a good friend of mine who will be visiting and helping me with the house and the children, probably toward the end of July and leaving the middle of August. This should help me get at least some of the projects I want to do completed this summer, which is another thing I'm looking forward to about seeing them.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

The WHO

This past weekend I was able to attend the WHO conference. We were all going to go together, but Rich ended up having to chase down some stuff on the airport late into the night the night before, so he and the children slept in and I went by myself.

There were all sorts of fun things for children and families to do there, so we're planning on making sure all of us go next year, if possible. However, it was nice to go and take a look at the vendors and hear the speakers on my own. I ran into three friends of mine, so we wandered the exhibits together and held babies or shopping bags for each other. I was able to pick up some curricula for next year at a good price, and because of our membership with WHO and signing up at the conference, I was able to get a $25 discount off of our HSLDA membership, not to mention the free entrance to the conference, so we more than made up for our annual fee this year.

Kim and I had a good time looking at the fun bags and t-shirts and what not on sale, though we both agreed that the ones that either said outright or implied that our children are smarter/better behaved/better than your children ones weren't exactly doing a service to the image of homeschooling or homeschoolers. There were a couple I really liked, though. They were positive about homeschooling without being negative about anyone else. One was a shirt with pictures and names of famous people who were homeschooled, presidents, scientists, artists, mathematicians, etc, there was a homeschooling father one I particularly liked the sentiment of, though it was a bit cartoonish and Rich would never wear it, but the one I really liked had an image of Mount Rushmore with the words Homeschooling, You Never Know Where You Might End Up. I'm almost regretting not picking up a couple for our children.

So, as of two days ago, I am five books away from having our entire set of curricula for all the children, plus reference type books for me, bought or ordered and on their way. Last year, I think we ended up spending about $2500 for all the children's school related things, including school supplies, a file cabinet and a new book shelf. That was purchasing rather extravagantly, as well, anything I thought we might need or use, not to mention just the initial set up costs of some larger curricula packages. This year, I think our grand total will be closer to $775-800 including the books I still haven't bought, some book ends and new school supplies. Not bad. That doesn't include out YMCA membership, nor the new computer, but since those aren't strictly for school purposes, I don't think they count anyway. I'll still hunt freecycle for more bookshelves, and we still use our library for most of the fiction and dvds we use. I'm not sure how much baseball is going to cost for Alexander, because he really wants to start that , Dominic and Elijah's gymnastics are free with our Y membership, Amira will still be doing ballet, and that ends up being about another $500 a year, but it's more extracurricular than actual school money. I'd like to start some music lessons, but it is hard to find a good teacher at a good time for us with our other activities. In the meantime, we are learning church hymns, Latin music and I have an introductory book on music theory for the older children, Elijah and Amira have been getting exposure to classical music through their school work, and I can start them on the basics of how to treat an instrument and what the notes sound like with my violin.

We're out for the summer now, though I will be doing some history reading and astronomy with them. Both of those are things they all enjoy, and summer seems like a good time to do the astronomy anyway. We'll do some math practice with the boys, and keep up reading work with Elijah and Amira, but in a much less structured way. This way also, if I can't keep up with it over the summer, it will be something light we can do as a family when Rich is home.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Two for One

Today is Rich and Dominic's birthday. Eight years ago we had Dominic, early on a Father's Day morning. This year, Rich is 38 and Dominic is eight. Rich has pretty much given up his birthday to Dominic, as things like that matter more to a little boy than a grown man, but I try to do something for him anyway, and make sure the children acknowledge it as well.

I haven't been good about making my birthday posts over the last year or so, but I wanted to at least get this in and perhaps start again.

Eight Great Traits of Dominic


38 Things About Rich that Make Me Love Him


Happy Birthday Rich and Dominic!

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Monday, June 16, 2008

Some Questions

If I am already driving 10 miles above the speed limit and there is a car directly in front of me, what exactly do you expect to accomplish by riding my tail?

If there are two lanes and I am in the right lane when this happens, and there is a wide open space in the left lane, why don't you just move over?

Are the fire departments going to start discouraging us from eating hot dinners soon? We're already not supposed to have Christmas trees, wrapping paper and fireworks, no longer should we roast marshmallows and hot dogs, have fires in our fireplaces when it's cold or have firepits in the summer, what else will be taken away?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Wedding Bells: Part II

Evidently, one of our children is already settled.

Amira asked me yesterday if she was going to marry one of her brothers. I explained that it didn't work that way, that God doesn't want us to do that, and that she and they would not want to do that. She seemed alright with that. Then she said that she had forgotten, Christopher already married her at church on the stairs.

Rich wants to know when he's going to start supporting his wife.


Christopher is our priest's youngest son, so when I called his mom to talk to her about something else, I mentioned this marriage thing. She said she was glad they at least started at the church, though it would have been nice if we'd been let in on it.

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Monday, June 09, 2008

Menu Plan Monday: June 9

It has been a while since I've posted a menu plan here, and although this may not end up a regular thing for a week or so still, I thought I'd get my plan up and see if anyone else is interested. Also, I'm being a bit more serious about the doubling up on meals from here on out so I can have things in the freezer for us when our daughter arrives, since we have 29 days until we meet her. Doubling a recipe in our house is quite a bit of food, but it will be nice to have the extras when we are too tired to cook or think about food.

As always, I will provide any recipes upon request.


What is on your menu this week?


AFRICAN CHICKEN

I found this recipe on a cooking newsgroup several years ago. I've changed it a litlte bit, and it doubles and triples well.

4 lbs. chicken, cut up
salt & pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
15 oz. can tomato sauce
1/4 cup red wine vinegar

Season chicken with salt and pepper and arrange in a 3 qt. baking dish (13x9-inch).

In a 10-inch skillet heat oil and add onion and garlic. Cook gently, stirring often, until soft. Stir in peanut butter, coriander and red pepper flakes. Gradually stir in tomato sauce and vinegar.

Pour over chicken. Bake uncovered in a preheated 400F oven until chicken is tender, about 50 minutes. Serves 6-8.

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Thursday, June 05, 2008

Not Quite Fair

Something that I have often lamented is that the funniest things that happen in our home are things about which I cannot blog. Either they are too personal to broadcast on the internets, or they would embarrass the children too much. So, I have to sit on them, knowing that I could be making fifteen people laugh a great deal.

Maybe Alec Baldwin, Too?

So, the first Hollywood celebrity has come out saying that she will leave the country if John McCain wins. Presumably, Susan Sarandon will take Tim Robbins with her as well.

If only these people would actually act on their promises. I think half the reason that Bush won the last election is because people thought that by voting for him they might have a chance to get rid of Alec Baldwin and the others who all swore they'd defect. Oddly enough, only Robert Altman (I think that's his name) actually went. Yet another campaign promise broken. Maybe they found out how much taxes are in the other countries they were considering and were advised against it by their financial advisors.

Since I don't particularly care for any of our candidates, most of the people I liked were knocked off early in the game (you know, about six years ago), voting for someone to get rid of pompous celebrities seems like as good a reason as any. I think McCain should make it part of his campaign: Vote for me and get rid of Hollywood whiners.

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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Arabian Spaghetti

Stereotypically, when mothers run out of ideas for dinner, they make spaghetti. It's easy, tasty, filling, the family will usually all eat it and, generally speaking, it is inexpensive. We don't eat a lot of spaghetti around here. Mostly because the little children can't handle the noodles, and it makes a huge mess. When I make pasta, it is generally penne or something like that.

Last night, I was uninspired and needed to come up with something for dinner. Amira has also decided that she wants to help me make dinner every night, so I wanted to make something that would be easy to find jobs for her to do.

So, I made a meat sauce and cous cous. If I had thought about it even about a half an hour earlier, I would have made slow sautéed green beans with olive oil and garlic, but I didn't. I figured the onions and tomatoes counted as vegetables. The thing about this meal is that it made a pound of ground beef, an onion, a few cloves of garlic and a cup and a half of cous cous feed a family of seven. No leftovers, but everyone was satisfied.

Some people do the whole brown the meat, drain it, add oil and cook the veggies in that. I don't. We buy locally raised, pasture fed beef. I use the fat from the beef. So, I started browning the beef, tossed in the chopped onion and garlic and cooked it until the meat was brown and the onions were translucent. I had Amira toss in a can of diced tomatoes, a can of tomato sauce, and I refilled the sauce can with some broth I had hanging out in my fridge. I normally would have put in a stick of cinnamon, but we only had Mexican cinnamon and it was crumbly and would have left splinters all over, so I put about a half a teaspoon of ground cinnamon, a tablespoon each of coriander and cumin, salt and pepper, stirred it all up and let it simmer, covered for about 20 minutes. While it did that, we boiled broth, olive oil and a little salt, and cooked up the cous cous in that.

That was it. Dinner. Everyone liked it, everyone went away full, and Amira got to help. What more can a mother ask for?

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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Jack Update

This has nothing to do with me or our family or knitting or crocheting or sewing or homeschooling or anything. However, I was so thrilled when I read the update on Jack's Blog last weekend, and I wanted to make sure you had an opportunity to hear about it. Not only did he not require surgery immediately, he may never need it, except for cosmetic reasons. What a glorious God!

They will be checking him out at about a month of age, and decide where to go from there. Please go read about this wonderful surprise.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Arabian Warrior Slippers

That has to be one of the better sets of search terms used to direct someone to this blog. I've mentioned how much I love the statistics on this blog before. I can't remember if I ever posted about my visitor from, I think it was, Niceville, Florida. It sounds like such a great place.

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Monkey Business

We just spent the greater part of last week in Richland, visiting the children's godparents. Rich had a business conference there, and since we have friends there, we all went. I brought the children's school books and work, and we spent the mornings on school, and the afternoons at the park, or visiting farms and other fun things like that.

Arthur had cooked up a treat for the older boys, but it wasn't something that was going to be easy for Amira to do safely. Well, conveniently enough, they had won these gift certificates for a "Sparkle Manicure" and "Sparkle Makeover" at this kiddie salon. Every time Rich and I drive into Richland we see this place just off the freeway. We've always assumed it was a hair place geared toward children (at least we've hoped so, because otherwise it might be a very strange establishment indeed). It is called Monkey Dooz.

Well, it was from this fine place that the gift certificates were issued. Michelle and Arthur ran the idea past us, and we said why not, so we made an appointment. Now, we have places like this here. We live in a rather affluent town, and we have no shortage of tanning salons, nail shops, day spas, hair salons, botox clinics, plastic surgery offices and chi-chi children's salons where you can spend $40 for the privilege of having them cut your two year old's hair. We've mostly avoided those places, taking the boys to a barber shop, and not cutting Amira's hair at all. Evidently, you can also spend something like $50 for your daughter to have a manicure and pedicure. The place I go to twice a year for that will do it for less than $5 when you bring a little girl with you, but why concern yourself with price, when you can set up your daughter to be critical of her appearance with all the treatments she needs even at age four, and program her up to be a consumer of the mass marketing directed toward women's self-loathing.

Anyway. We figured a one time fun trip like this wouldn't damage her, it's not like we think that nail polish and makeup are evil, and she certainly dresses up at home, and that it would distract her from not getting to go with her brothers on a trip. The only opening they had that weekend was after church on Sunday. So, we made an appointment for 1:30, and got on with our weekend.

There was a luncheon at Arthur and Michelle's church after the service, so we had a nice time there, washed up and while the boys walked home with Arthur, Rich drove Michelle, Amira and me to Monkey Dooz. We found the place, went to open the outer door and found it locked. It also looked dark inside. Hmmmm.

So, we thought maybe this was their first appointment of the day, and they decided not to come in until just before, but it was 1:20. Rich called the number. No answer, but the message did confirm that they were open noon to 4:00 on Sundays. Michelle walked all around the building to see if there was another door. No luck. So, she called home to see if a message had been left there, as she had made the appointment and left her home number. Nada. I called, left a message wondering why nobody appeared to be there during working hours. Michelle called and asked about the time and date of the appointment which had only been made the day before. No response.

We decided to wait. Maybe our first thought was correct, and they were just running late, and it would be a shame to leave only to have them show up ten minutes later. We saw a woman with her two daughters approach. They, too had an appointment. At 12:30. No show, no answer. There was no sign on the door explaining that something had happened and none of the staff could be there (maybe they were all attending the birth of another employee, who had gone into labor at 11:30 that morning). Nobody had called us, or this other lady, who had travelled from another town somewhat nearby to do this with her daughters. So, after giving them about another 15 minutes, we went back home to finish packing up to leave for home.

I called the place one more time to express my disappointment in their business and customer service, asking for someone to call us once again, and explaining that we were visitors from across the state, so would not be able to reschedule, and what a let down it was for my little daughter who had been excited to go to a salon. I reminded them that we were not the only people stood up, and that although the other group came from a relative distance, we came from quite a further distance. We've still received no call.

Initially, I had figured on leaving a nice tip for the people when we went. After all, we were using free gift certificates that had been won at a school auction or something like that, and chances are they were donated, so I thought it would be nice to give the service people something for their time and trouble. When we still had hope that someone might show up, I thought I'd still take Amira, because she had been looking forward to it, but that there would be no tip involved. After it was clear that there was no chance, I thought I'd recommend against going to this place and supporting their poor business skills.

As I said, we still haven't had a phone call, so unless the entire establishment's employees died from some glitter related accident, I can only assume they aren't interested in their customers' satisfaction or the word of mouth reputation they earn. After all, although we don't live in the Richland area, the lady we met with her two daughters did, as do Arthur and Michelle and their son, who all have friends, work associates, go to school or belong to churches where the behavior of the company might come up. I'm beginning to think that our horrified ideas of what Monkey Dooz might provide if it weren't a children's salon might be a more apt depiction of their business.

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