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Monday, September 26, 2011

Another Finished Object

This is really not the final thing. I needed to do a mock up of a pattern both to see how it would work and to see how much yarn it would need, for a class I am teaching at the co-op. So, this is it. It will also be a gift to a friend of mine.

Alexander is taking my knitting class, and he chose this as his project, so I may be posting one of his finished objects in a couple months.

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Review: The Hour That Matters The Most

I was sent a copy of The Hour that Matters Most: The Surprising Power of the Family Meal by Les & Leslie Parrot, Stephanie Allen and Tina Kuna to review. I'll be honest and say that after I panned the last book I was sent, I didn't think I'd ever get another review opportunity. In any case, this book covered a topic that was near to my heart.

It was definitely aimed at those who don't already have dinner together as a family, as we do. So, in that sense, it was a little irrelevant. However, what it had to say was good. There were some strategies for dealing with conflict and chaos that I appreciated. The recipes included were rather basic, which makes sense for the audience to which it was aimed.

I had three complaints with the book. One, that statistics were held up not as back up for truth, but as somehow defining truth. You might think this is true, but there has been a study showing this, so it is true. Things can be true even without a study and some studies are false. Two, there was a comment about how "working" mothers don't have time to spend at the grocery store. As though, one, mothers at home aren't working, or two, they have scads of time in between eating those bon bons and watching television. I remember shuttling children back and forth to school and scouts and other activities, and moms at home with school children don't have time to go to the store either. Moms with little children have to manage around naps, or try to work out a time to go when the children aren't with them. We homeschooling mothers are teaching our children and can't just hop to the store at any point. Not only that, but nearly every child now has some sport or drama or music or some activity that requires the mom taxi, and mothers with children at multiple ages have to juggle all of these different issues. So, yeah, that rubbed me the wrong way. While I am able to start dinner earlier in the day, or do prep work earlier (like while the children are having lunch), it's not quite the same as having hours of free time with which I don't know what to do. The third complaint I had was with a kind of heavy handed presentation of a freezer meal company at the beginning of the book. Although the rest of the book wasn't a hard sell, I was always a little on guard, waiting for it.

This book was a light read, each chapter covered a different topic from why and how to have a family dinner to the various emotional challenges, skill and schedule challenges that come up in a family. I liked the things the authors had to say about conversation and keeping the joy in mind when preparing for and having dinner with the family. It is very easy to get caught up in the work and forget that. Because the book was aimed at people who don't spend most of their meals with their family as I do, there was a lot in there that wasn't as useful to me, but I think it would be useful to families trying to establish this habit. The most valuable hints, I think, were the steps and preparations that could be made ahead of time or to freeze a particular meal. Those are great things to know and very helpful to anyone, whether just starting out or well on her way.

This is probably a book I wouldn't have picked up on my own. I did find enough that was useful or helpful in it that I found it worthwhile. I would recommend it to someone who was struggling with establishing a routine of family meal times.

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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Menu Plan: September 25 - October 1

Well, fall is here at last. Temperatures are supposed to be below freezing at night in a little over a week. We are now entering the time when I miss our old home the most. It turns out I don't like all four seasons. I liked our milder falls and milder winters which weren't even winter, but had about two weeks of snow and that was all. We're still using the last of the summer produce, but are now getting into winter squash and fall meals, too. This is the time of year I wish I could hibernate. Instead, I decided to teach two classes in our homeschool co-op, thus making sure I could not miss any of them without serious illness.

Speaking of illness, but not serious, we have been fighting off a small cold for the past few days and have finally succumbed. We're not terribly sick, and we're handling it fairly well, but we would appreciate your prayers for a quick recovery.What is on your menu this week? If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can. If there are any starred recipes, I will follow up separately with a weekly recipe round up on Saturday.

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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Menu Plan: September 18 - September 24

We had several winners last week. Rebecca's slow cooker chicken Tikka Masala was a hit with everyone, as was the Creole beef daube and the poblano "lasagna." Having so much delicious, fresh produce has been a huge blessing to us. We are reaping the benefits of the last of the summer produce, but the seasons have definitely turned already. Fall has arrived.What is on your menu this week? If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can. If there are any starred recipes, I will follow up separately with a weekly recipe round up on Saturday.

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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Weekly Recipes: September 17

Tuna Bean Salad 2 cans of the best tuna you can find, preferably only tuna with its own juices or high quality tuna packed in oil 1 cup cannellini beans, cooked in water, olive oil, salt, a few sage leaves and several cloves of garlic and drained (about 3 cups cooked or about two cans of beans, drained) 1 raw onion, halved and sliced paper thin 2 tomatoes, diced very finely 4 carrots, scraped and shredded 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley 1/2 cup olive oil 1/4 cup red wine vinegar salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste Flake the tuna into small chunks and mix with all the other ingredients and toss to mix. Serve immediately or chilled. You can serve it on a bed of lettuce as well, or inside a hollowed out tomato or avocado. Herbed Summer Squash Fritters 2 cups shredded summer squash (crookneck or zucchini or kousa or some other summer squash) 2 eggs, separated 1/2 cup flour 1 tablespoon dried oregano (or about 1/4 cup fresh, finely chopped) 1 tablespoon dried thyme (or about 1/4 cup fresh, finely chopped) 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper 1/4 - 1/2 cup whole milk oil for frying Whip egg whites to stiff peaks and set aside. Mix all of the other ingredients together, including 1/4 cup of milk. Fold in the egg whites, gently. If the batter is too stiff, slowly add up to 1/4 cup more milk. Heat oil until a bread cube will sizzle immediately in the pan. Fry the fritters by the tablespoonful and allow to drain on a rack over a pan. Serve hot.

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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Menu Plan: September 11 - September 17

Well, we are on the recovery side of last week's sickness. Rich did get it. So far, Yasmina has not. Food is sounding good to people again, though. Thank you to all who have remembered us in prayer.

We were able to go pick a whole bunch of great produce for our use. I'll be attempting to make sauerkraut this week and using some of our Gravenstein apples to make applesauce for the winter. I may even make an apple cake soon. One of our neighbors had u-pick corn a dozen for $2.00, so we are going to see if they are still selling, since our corn may not produce at all. If so, we'll get a whole lot in the freezer for the winter and spring.

I cannot let this day pass without a remembrance, however. I know where I was and I know I will never forget. Our lives have all been irrevocably changed and unless something changes drastically in our country and in the world, our children will never know how fearless we Americans were. How safe we felt. How strong we were. I grieve that they will not know that.

However, let us all be living memorials to those who lost their lives in the terrorist attack on 9-11 and to all who fought the hijackers and laid down their lives to save the lives of others. There is only one positive thing I can think of to come from this, and that is this: No person will ever think of negotiating with their captors again. No flight crew or ship crew will ever try to satisfy a terrorist's demands again. These events showed how foolish that is. These people are willing to kill hundreds and thousands of people, themselves included, so you might as well go down fighting them.

Our Patriarch said this today:

The knowledge that the dreams of freedom and liberty will not be silenced and speak louder than the hate ranting of evil tyrants gives us strength. We will remember the sight, sound, and smell of death. But more importantly we remember the courage of thousands and the light that so many brought with them into the ashes of Ground Zero. May the souls of the departed rest in peace.What is on your menu this week? If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can. If there are any starred recipes, I will follow up separately with a weekly recipe round up on Saturday.

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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Finished Objects!

I finished two projects while we were on our travels in August. I'm just now getting to posting photos of them.

The first was a reusable coffee (or tea or cocoa) cup sleeve. The cup I photographed with it is insulated, so does not need a sleeve, and clashes with the yarn. It fit, though. I didn't have any paper cups lying around the house.

The second project I finished on our trip was a vintage inspired baby cloche for a friend's daughter. I was getting ready to mail it to her when the plague hit our house, so I am going to wash it this coming week and mail it after all the bugs have left our home.

I based it loosely on this pattern from Looking Glass Knits and used up all the rest of the molasses color, most of the red color and more of the avocado color from my $30 yarn purchase to make the $15 apple hat. I have now made four finished objects from that yarn, making the cost for each approximately $7.50, so Mariam's apple hat is now half the price of that snooty baby shop's. And made of alpaca instead of cotton. And I have more of the red and avocado to make some felted fruit or another baby hat. And just think of the hours of pleasure I had knitting.

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Weekly Recipe: September 10

This is just one of the things that was not actually made this week. Tuesday at 3:00 a.m. Alexander came down with a violent illness. Thursday afternoon, three more people had it. Friday and Saturday saw two more people down. We would appreciate your prayers.

Ranch Dressing

This is so simple and very inexpensive to make. Like most other bottled salad dressings, once you have made your own, you will wonder why you spend the money on the marked up, poor ingredients version. If you make your own buttermilk and/or mayonnaise, you will find it even less expensive.

2 cloves of garlic, mashed or crushed
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons lemon or lime juice
1/4 cup finely chopped herbs (I usually use parsley and chives)
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients well. Serve or refrigerate immediately. That's it. Really.

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Sunday, September 04, 2011

Menu Plan: September 4 - September 10

I woke up yesterday with a really bad crick in my neck from sleeping funny, so I just wasn't up to making the things I wanted to make. All our meals yesterday were switched around, Rich made dirty eggs for breakfast and I made quesadillas for dinner, so I'm just repeating them for Sunday's meals. I was going to have some re-purposed turkey leftovers today, but I will just freeze the meat and use it another day. I'm trying the pear banana bread recipe with less sugar to see how it tastes. If it works out well, I'll post the recipe here.

Our first two days of school went pretty smoothly. This week is our first full week and has tons of activities. It looks like that is how the rest of our year is going to be, too. Or maybe the rest of our lives. Because I am not that bright, I volunteered to teach two classes at our homeschool co-op. With a baby who won't go to anyone without screaming. Whee! Our menus this year are going to reflect our crazy schedule. When we limited the children to one extracurricular activity, we thought that would reduce our running all over the place. However, it turns out that having seven children, five of whom are in extracurricular activities, still makes for a crazy week. Especially when there are two days that are double booked. And when you add in church activities. So, we're entering that stage of our lives and are not sure how well we will handle it.

Rich is just happy because twice this week we get to eat sandwiches. I always look at sandwiches as lesser meals and not to be eaten at dinner unless they are hot. So, I'm making some quicker and simpler to make, but still heated, sandwiches for us to work with our schedule weirdness.What is on your menu this week? If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can. If there are any starred recipes, I will follow up separately with a weekly recipe round up on Saturday.

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Saturday, September 03, 2011

Weekly Recipe: September 3

Eggplant and Chick Pea Curry

This is pretty quick to put together and is delicious. It's vegan, which is unusual for us, though perfect for abstinent days. It's also a great way to use up a lot of summer produce. We usually serve a salad of tomatoes, cucumbers and onions, with olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Sometimes feta, but then it's not vegan, if you care about that.

extra virgin olive or coconut oil to saute
2 large onions, diced
6 small potatoes, scrubbed and diced
6 small or 4 medium eggplants, diced
8 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons curry powder (I use a vindaloo seasoning)
10 plum tomatoes, diced
2 - 3 cups cooked garbanzo beans
2 cups coconut milk
salt, to taste

Heat a large frying pan over medium high heat, add oil, onions and potatoes. Cook until onions wilt and potatoes start to brown. Add the eggplant and cook until they soften, adding more oil if necessary.

Make a paste with the curry powder and water, about equal quantities, maybe a little less water, and add to the pan along with the garlic. Cook until the water evaporates. Add in the tomatoes and garbanzo beans, cook down for about five minutes, to reduce the tomato liquid a little. Pour in the coconut milk and simmer until the potatoes and eggplant are fully cooked. Season with salt to taste.

Serve with brown rice or cous cous.

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