Monday, February 27, 2012

In which I discuss Mother Teresa, Pinterest, and My Shopping Addiction



The woman is at the heart of the home. Let us pray that we women realize the reason for our existence: to love and be loved and through this love become instruments of peace in the world. ~ Mother Teresa

I found this quote over on Betty BeguilesShe's going to the Behold Conference too, and she is the reason why I now own a Clarisonic and Kiehl's Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate.

I also recently read this post from Modern Mrs. Darcy, which led me to buy The No Brainer Wardrobe ebook, which led me to clean out my closet with Susan as my buddy.

Well, the time I had allotted got whittled away, so maybe I just cleaned up my closet, not a total cleansing.  I did come away with two bags of shoes and clothes to donate, though.  Plus, I found that missing part of the vacuum cleaner. 

Now, according The No Brainer Wardrobe ebook, the author recommends Pinterest.  It's actually a very small part of the 82 page ebook. 

So, I've been giving some thought to Pinterest. Several of my FB friends use it.   But I have some serious reservations: 

I love to shop, too much.  I love it too much and I shop too much.

I try practice my own version of Chastity of the Eyes by throwing out all catalogs as soon as I remove any coupons, and unsubscribing from all store emails.  (I said I try.  I didn't say I'm always successful.)  My theory is that if I need something, that is the time to look for it.  I can read about sales and look up online coupon codes then.

I fear that Pinterest is just a big gluttonous load of homes and clothes that I will covet and never have, creating general unhappiness with my life, which I like pretty much the way it is. Though I would like to re-do the upstairs bathroom.

I think I have a definitive understanding of my "style" and "colors" and I don't need to be wasting more time on the interweb.

    I just went back up to the top of this post to add an image of Mother Teresa, and noticed how happy she is!  She obviously never used Kiehl's Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate (or if she did, I just got ripped off).

    So can Pinterest help a woman be "an instrument of peace in the world?"

    Well, if not the world, than at least "at the heart of the home?"

    Perhaps. What do you think?

    Friday, February 24, 2012

    7 Quick Takes First Friday in Lent


    --- 1 ---

    I witnessed guardian angels at work today. 

    It snowed here last night, a couple of inches of the heavy wet stuff that clings to bare tree branches and look beautiful.  Not enough to merit a snow day mind you.  As Baby J and I were driving Lucy and Edmund to school, I saw a mighty big limb come flying down into the street, RIGHT BETWEEN two moving cars.  This limb would have done some serious damage.  Edmund surmised that should this limb have hit our car, it may have made the airbags go off.  I suspect Edmund would love to see the airbags go off.

     --- 2 ---

    I'm exhausted from THREE weeks of a coughing, snot-faced baby.  There.  I said it.  I make it a point not to complain on Facebook or on my blog (well, I try).  I hate reading posts about kids barfing in the night and status updates about other people's sinus infections and migraines.  Heads Up!  Everyone's kids barf in the night!  Nighttime is for barfing, or couging up lungs, or just couging every 30 seconds followed by gagging and barfing.  That's what parenting is all about. 

    Now, I feel better.  And I might go to Starbucks today.  Because it's worth it.

    --- 3 ---
    Which leads me to Quick Takes #3.  Marcel.  I adore Marcel.  I quote him incessantly.  I coax Baby J along just like Marcel coaxes his pet piece of lint.  I wish there was a full length movie.  Who knew I could love a shell so much?



    --- 4 ---

    Quick Take #3 has me already feeling more chipper less bittcher.  That's a combination of bitter and another word.  So have some more Marcel, on me.



    --- 5 ---

    March 10th, Baby J and I are going to the Behold Conference in PeoriaJen Fulwiler gives the conference a shout out in her Quick Takes today.  She's going to be there too.  I'll try not to make a fool out of myself if/when I meet her, like I did when I met Mashup Mom in the grocery store.

    --- 6 ---

    Yesterday, when I got all verklempt about my kids growing up, I mentioned Fr. John, but I neglected to mention that he was my classmate at the University of Dallas many moons ago.   He kept looking at old yearbooks while we were prepping dinner and then warning us not to let our kids see our yearbooks.  Curious.  What could be in there?  I must have a look-see.


    --- 7 ---


    An update from my Meatless Mania post.  The Falafel Pitas were very yummy.  We put the falafel (falafels?) into pita pockets with red pepper and cucumber slices and Tzatzaki sauce from Costco.  That Tzatziki sauce is good stuff.  I use it as dip, sandwich spread, and salad dressing.  You might think I was a paid sponsor of Costco, but I'm not.  Though I'd like to be.

    For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

    Thursday, February 23, 2012

    A Few Things About Edmund


    Last week, I missed the all school mass.  A friend called to see if I had been there.  I said, "No, why? Did Edmund answer a question?"  "What do you think?"  was her reply.

    Now, I have given Edmund strict instructions not to answer any questions at Mass. You just never know what he's going to say.  I've chuckled when some kid confused Mother Teresa and Oprah.  Or when one little tike promised a visiting priest her dad's tickets to the Bears vs. Packers game.

    I knew it would happen someday.

    Actually, Edmund did not embarrass himself.  He answered the question quite well.  It was after the homily, when our pastor decided to share with the congregation the comment Edmund made 5 years ago when they first met.

    "You're old."

    Apparently, everyone thought this was hilarious.  Especially, Edmund's third grade class.  In fact, they couldn't stop giggling.  Fr. Tom had to reprimand them, "It's not that funny."

    Right now, the assistant chaplain from Peter's prep school is watching the Knicks game in my family room.  I can hear Fr. John cracking up because Edmund had to give him a "gun" show.



    He's the only nine year old I know who works out.  He does pull ups on our stairwell.  He likes to do sit ups and push ups too.  He's always asking me to check to make sure he's doing his push ups correctly.  Like I know or something.

    Today, I was walking the mall with a friend.  I think we may have burned more calories gabbing than walking, but the great thing is....I didn't buy anything.  Figures, since I have a store credit that I couldn't find anything.

    Any who, we were talking about how little kids turn into big kids SO freaking fast!

    And it makes me ache.  The way one day, they can't fall asleep without you and the next day they are taller than you and the only thing they want from you is unlimited texting.


    Edmund has some allergies, and he frequently has eczema.  Last night, he was particularly itchy, so I made him a bath with one of these.


    After his bath, I was slathering Eucerin creme all over his scaly limbs, and I said, 


    Remember when you were little, and I used to lie down with you on your bottom bunk to take a nap?  You used to say, "I don't want to take a nap."  And I would tell you, "You don't have to go to sleep, you just have to lie here quietly for awhile."  And we would pretend to be bunnies hiding under leaves in a forest."


    He said, "Yeah, and I used to always make sure I was touching you, because I thought if I'm touching her, I will wake up when she gets up, but I never did."

    Oh, to snuggle my little guy again.  To nap in his cozy bunk, to sneak downstairs with my mad ninja skills only to hear his little feet coming down moments later.  

    Damn, I love that kid.

    Wednesday, February 22, 2012

    Meatless Mania

    A friend of mine started a Facebook group asking for meatless meal ideas for Lent.  However, I just gave up Facebook for Lent.

    Just Facebook.  Not blogging or reading blogs or online shopping or Words with Friends.  Just Facebook.  Among an Easter basket of other assorted good intentions.  We'll see how it goes.

    Since I cannot share my meatless meal planning with her on Facebook, I will share with everyone here!  Huzzah!  (One of my intentions is to use more colorful words like "Huzzah!" instead of the colorful words I usually use.)


    Meatless meal planning at Chez Housewifespice is more involved because the Chef does not eat fish or cheese.*

    *Unless the cheese is on pizza, in ravioli, in Nickson's Smoked Cheddar Grits, in pasta, or good parmesan.  He says he's allergic.  (eyeroll.)  Huzzam.  One of my intentions was not to roll my eyes at or about the Chef.  Flurbt.

    So, here is a link to a good meatless pasta entree that I love, and I don't love pasta.  It's that good.  The smoky sundried tomato flavor mimics bacony goodness.  Plus cream.  I adore cream.

    Also, on the menu this month is another one of these.


    This one is for Mediterranean Herb Crusted Tilapia.  I can either wait for a night when the Chef is not home to make this, or I'll serve a side of gnocchi with it.  Costco has some delicious gnocchi, vacuum sealed, super easy to make.

    I'll also try to sneak in an Asian Sesame Salmon.  I adore salmon.  If I could eat salmon daily, I would.  The Chef says it smells up the house.  I am NOT rolling my eyes here.

    The Chef is a lost cause, but I have done an excellent job creating non-picky eaters.  With one exception.  Peter won't eat any fruits except apples and grapes.  And he'll eat strawberries, but if and ONLY if they are dipped in dark chocolate.  He says he's allergic.  Hmmph.

    Maybe my kids' aren't picky eaters because we never do the jarred baby food thing.  Babies eat what we eat, just milder versions.  Everyone has to taste everything (except the Chef, no eyeroll).  If you don't like what's for dinner, you may have cereal, toast, or a peanut butter sandwich.  In Edmund's case, a soynut butter sandwich.

    Once, Susan declared that she no longer liked Chicken.  Any Chicken at all.  Chicken nuggets, fried chicken, chicken piccata (The Chef's Chicken Piccata is divine), chicken noodle soup, chikin in a biskit crackers, you get the idea.

    We did what parents sometimes have to do.  We ridiculed her out of it.  We use sarcasm and humor as parenting tools.  We laughed at her.  Then she laughed at herself.  Now, she eats Chicken.

    Edmund tried the same thing with Soup.  He refused anything in the Form of Soup.  It didn't matter what kind of soup it was, if it was served in a bowl with a spoon, he wanted no part of it.  He was a little too young to appreciate mockery, so I did what any parent would do.  I ignored him.  I kept serving soup.  He eventually realized that either I was never going to make a separate entree just for him, or that we serve some fine soups and he was missing out.  Now, he eats Soup.

    Back to meatless meals, I will make this at least once during Lent.  Cause it has Lent-ils.  Hee-hee.

    Curried Lentil Burritos with Cilantro-Scallion Spiced Yogurt

    Originally from Cuisine at Home April, 2005
    This is a fabulous meatless meal, perfect for fish haters.
    This recipe is written to serve 2 people, but I have tripled, quadrupled and quintupled it with great success.  You just have to know your way around fractions.  And since the magazine said it would take 45 min to make 2 burritos, the time lengthens somewhat for each tortilla you have to fry.  It’s a labor of love.

    For the filling-
    1 T. vegetable oil:
    ¼ c. onion, diced
    1 t. curry powder
    1 t. jalapeno, minced
    1 ½  c. vegetable or chicken broth ( Chicken broth does not violate the meatlessness of the dish for Church purposes.  Just ask Catholic answers, or my husband.)
    ½ c. tomatoes, chopped
    ½ c.red potatoes, cubed
    ¼ c. brown lentils
    1 bay leaf
    ½ c. frozen chopped spinach, or 1 c. fresh spinach
    Juice of ½ lime
    Salt to taste

    Saute onion, curry powder, and jalapeno in 1 T. oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook until onion begins to brown.  5-8 minutes, stirring often.
    Stir in broth, tomatoes, potatoes, lentils, and bay leaf.  Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until lentils are tender, 20-30 minutes.  Meanwhile, prepare the spiced yogurt while lentils cook.  Finish lentils with spinach (if using frozen spinach, no need to thaw it first), lime juice and salt.

    For the Spiced Yogurt-
    1 c. cilantro leaves and stems
    ¼ c. scallions, sliced (white and green parts)
    2 t. fresh ginger, chopped
    1 t. sugar
    ¼ t. ground cumin
    2 cloves garlic, chopped
    Juice of the other half of the lime.
    Salt and cayenne to taste
    ½ c plain yogurt (Please not the nonfat kind.  Eeewww.)

    Process all ingredients except yogurt in a food processor until minced.  Stir herb paste into yogurt; chill until ready to serve.

    For the tortillas-
    1 egg
    1 T. milk
    1 T. chopped fresh parsley
    10”tortillas
    Shredded Monterey Jack cheese

    Blend egg, milk, and parsley in a pie plate.  Heat a 12” nonstick skillet over medium high heat.
    Dip the tortillas in the egg mixture.  Fry in 1 T. vegetable oil until golden brown on one side, about 1 min.  Flip.  Sprinkle with 1 /4 c. shredded Monterey Jack cheese and continue frying until second side is brown, about 1 minute; transfer to a work surface.  Add another T. oil and repeat for all tortillas. 

    To assemble the burritos, place ¾ c. filling on the lower third of each tortilla, then roll the bottom of the tortilla over the filling to cover.  Fold in both sides and roll to the end.  Serve with the yogurt ladled across the top and sprinkled with chopped parsley to look pretty.
    Everyone loves it.  No fish, no eggs, and it's darn tasty.  Lots of work though.  

    And my last meatless-fishless-cheeseless meal is Vegetarian Black Bean Chili.  This isn't my recipe.  I can't find mine for some reason.  But this recipe looks an awful lot like the one I use.  

    I'd call my mom to get the original recipe, but she just had a hip replacement, so she won't be able to get up and find her copy, and my father and brothers are no good at that sort of thing.  I could wait until my baby sister gets home from school.  She's eleven.  Yes, I have an eleven year old sister.  Weird.  I know.  But I don't want to wait that long to publish this post.  Baby J is going to wake up any minute.

    This recipe is especially like mine in that it involves lots of chopping.  Get some kids to do those parts.  Edmund loves to chop.  Edmund loves knives in general. Add some serrano or jalapenos to the skillet with the onions , if you like spicy things.  We like it hot here.  Don't let the kids cut the chili peppers though.  Of course, you already knew that.

    Maybe I will get the Chef to make a guest post to share his Pasta Puttanesca recipe.  Don't google translate Puttanesca.  It's not a nice word.  But it's a good pasta dish with black olives and capers.  Capers are my favorite vegetable.  



    Tonight I'm serving  Falafel Pitas.  I picked up falafel at Costco, when I went nuts for packaged vegetarian items.  I also picked up veggie burgers (in the kids' lunches today) and some spinach/chickpea patties that looked good.  I might try the spinach/chickpea patties in pan covered with spaghetti sauce and topped with mozzarella and parmesan.  Sort of a vegetarian Chicken Parmesan.  I'll let you know how it goes.

    If anyone has a delicious potato soup recipe to share, I'm looking for one.  Or if you'd like to share how you meet the meatless challenge, I love comments.  And I'm off Facebook, so I'm sort of desperate for adult interaction. 

    Sunday, February 19, 2012

    Lenten Sacrifice: The Possibilities Are Endless

     

    It's crunch time.  Ash Sunday.  And as usual, I don't have a clue as to what I'm going to give up.  Scratch that.  I can't even decide if I'm going to give something up or do something extra.

    I usually figure it out a week or two before Holy Week.  I mean that I try on many different penances and figure out the one that I can actually stick with late in the game.  I have a problem with setting my expectations too high, setting too many goals for myself and then not accomplishing anything rather than just focusing on one thing.

    Focus.

    We went to confession yesterday.  The whole fam.  I personally knew 9 out of the 13 people in line in front of me, not including my own kids.  I think I'm hanging out with the wrong crowd.  All the sinners.

    Anyway, my penance was to spend two or three minutes in silent prayer, reflecting on what would be a good Lenten sacrifice this year.  So, I went to the cry room, released Lucy from her task of watching Baby J, turned out the lights and sat down.  Then three other kids showed up to tell me they were ready to go.  I kicked them out and tried again to focus.

    My mind has Attention Deficit Disorder.  This is how the two minutes went.

    I thought about giving up shopping and thought about how hard it would be to give that up, because of course I have to get super cute coordinating Easter outfits for my brood, especially because we are going to visit the Colonel and his wife in Georgia.  And making large families look good is part of my vocation.

    Then I thought about Georgia, and wondered how hot it will be, and how I will have to dig up summer wear for everyone.

    Then I thought about summer wear, and how none of it fits me yet.  I got away with just two post-pregnancy pairs of capris last summer. I thought how joining Weight Watchers to get rid of the last of the baby weight could be a Lenten thing, but it's pretty selfish, based on appearance, and I don't really think He cares how much I weigh.  It's something that bothers me, not Him.

    I dismissed the "Doing something nice for the Chef" because it isn't concrete enough for me to decisively do something extra or not do something every day.  I can fake it for 5 weeks and then look back and realize I haven't done anything at all.  Plus, should being nice to my spouse really be a penance?

    I dismissed giving up caffeine.  Don't want to punish the family with extra irritability.

    Exercise and prayer and eating better and getting organized are all things I should be doing anyway.

    I rationalized away every single idea.  Out of all of these ideas, I just don't see the one thing that will bring me closer to Him.

    I have these vague thoughts like, "For Lent, I want to be more like Mary."  Could I be any less precise?  

    I have had some good Lents.  Once, I gave up ice.  It was subtle.  I drink iced tea A LOT, so it was something that I had to give up several times a day.  It didn't cause me to be irritable.  Last year, I gave up "spicy."  Pregnant and pouring Frank's Red Hot on everything, it worked for me then.  Wouldn't work now.

    There should be some kind of Facebook quiz or iPhone app to help people find the perfect Lenten penance.

    What to do.  What to do.  My two to three minutes are long past but I still don't have a clue. 

    Friday, February 17, 2012

    7 Quick Takes Friday


    --- 1 ---

    Baby J is the host of her own reality show, "So You Think You Can Stand."

    Ridiculous.  I don't know why she ends up sideways.  I swear I'll move to WordPress soon.  Any Blogger bloggers who can help?

    --- 2 ---

    The rink is pretty much done.  But the weather is gorgeous!  I do not recall such a temperate and SUNNY February!  I saw a 5 followed by, not preceded by an 0 on my car's temp gauge today.

    And this one too!  Anyway, this is my beautiful dogwood tree that gives color year round as you can see.
    My dear friend, Churchlady helped me landscape my front yard. 
    --- 3 ---
    I've had lots of great responses to my Great Lunch Makeover post yesterday, but several of them were Facebook comments.  I'll try to copy and paste those in my combox later this long and lovely weekend.

    --- 4 ---


    Just for fun:  Downton Abbey Paper Dolls!  But they don't have the "tuxedo people that live in the basement."



    --- 5 ---
    My last three quick takes are three book reviews.  They are all "girl" books.  Sorry, boys.  I'll read for you soon, I promise.

    Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai – I think this was on the Newbery list this year.  1975, Saigon, a girl and her family make the tough choice to leave Viet Nam and become refugees in America.  Told in free verse.  Beautiful.  She gets bullied when she starts school in Alabama but learns some Bruce Lee moves from her older brother.

    --- 6 ---

    A Year Without Autumn by Liz Kessler – Kessler wrote the Emily Windsnap series which  I haven’t read.  This book is about a girl on vacation at her family’s time share condo.  They come the same week every year. She has a 6 year old brother and her mom is 8 mos. pregnant, which I think is very cool. Her best friend’s family also comes to the same condo village for the same week each year.  She discovers (to her dismay) that when she takes the newly-repaired, antique elevator up to her friend’s condo on the second floor, she has been transported one year forward in time.  One year in the future, tragedy has struck and everyone is affected.  Can she go back in time to fix everything?
    --- 7 ---

    Right now, I'm reading Gail Carson Levine's latest, A Tale of Two Castles.  So far, so great!  Young, poor girl from the boonies makes her way to the big city of Two Castles to become apprenticed as a "mansioner" or actor.  She finds out that free apprenticeships for the poor are illegal now.  With nowhere to go, no money and no food, she finds herself taking a position as the assistant to the city's only dragon.  Her task, to go undercover as a kitchen maid in one of the two castles, the one that happens to belong to the city's only ogre, and uncover who wants to kill the ogre and why.  This book reminds me of the Dragon Slippers series by Jessica Day George and The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede (Dealing with Dragons, etc.). 
    For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

    Thursday, February 16, 2012

    The Great Lunch Makeover

    Susan and Lucy are both down with strep throat.  I feel like I have to do everything with one arm tied behind my back without them.  Their illness makes me realize how much I take for granted every time I ask one of them to unload the dishwasher, dress the baby, change the load of laundry, set the table, fetch and carry etc.  

    Edmund has been helping out more though.  He loves to work in the kitchen. Last night, he did most of the prep work for Spanish Chicken Skillet.  Gotta love those McCormick Recipe Inspirations.  We've tried nearly all of them and every one is a winner.  (I do recommend cutting down on the salt, especially when doubling or tripling the recipe.) 

    Take last night's dinner.  Boneless, skinless chicken breasts simmered in a rich sauce with lots of vegetables.  I served it with brown and white rice medley (using up half empty boxes of stuff) and a green salad.  Healthful and delicious. 

    Speaking of last night's dinner, I made a big announcement, which I will share with you after some backstory. 

    About six years ago, my children switched from one school with very strict lunch guidelines (and even breakfast guidelines) to another school with no guidelines.  In fact, I was informed that the soda machines had just been removed from the cafeteria, but that I should feel free to send soda from home.

    Now, I have never sent soda, but I have been sending:
    a sandwich,
    a fruit or vegetable, 
    chips, 
    AND cookies or other sugary treat.  

    But after reading this story about the girl whose lunch was confiscated and replaced by chicken nuggets,  
    I've been wondering if my kids' lunches should be confiscated and if the chicken nugget lunch might be healthier than some of the stuff I've been packing.


    Confession 1:  I hate packing lunches.
    Confession 2:  I hate eating square sandwiches of square meat on square bread.  
    Confession 3:  I wouldn't eat most of the sandwiches I make.

    yuck.

    We've recently made a few changes in the things we eat.  The Chef has gotten more and more concerned about food additives and steroids and hormones and things that I don't generally care about.  We switched to hormone free, antibiotic free milk

    And, in an effort to avoid square meat and preservatives and the exorbitant prices at the deli counter, I gave The Chef an electric food slicer for Christmas.  We've sliced some turkey breasts and boneless hams, but it's kind of a pain in the neck to haul the appliance out of the basement, use it, clean it, pack it back up again, and move it downstairs.  I'll quit whining.

    I've been buying the Sara Lee whole grain white bread from Costco for three reasons.  It's cheap.  My kids will eat it unlike the 100% whole wheat bread I buy for myself.  And it's cheap.  Plus, it says it's whole grain right on the package.  But recently, Costco has been carrying delicious Labriola pretzel buns that smell amazing, my kids LOVE them, and one bun has a whopping 17 grams of protein.  No more squares.

    I'd like to have more variety in the school lunch, but how? 

    I have invested at least at least hundred dollars into Thermos corporation, but my dingbats will throw them away, or lose them, or leave hamburger noodle casserole sealed to ferment for weeks to the point where I throw them away myself.  


    I have sometimes send leftovers in Rubbermaid.  But half of my people don't have access to a microwave.  Plus I have concerns about microwaving plastics. Whenever I do this, The Chef and I have had long discussions about whether to heat it up in the morning, thus letting the food slowly cool over several hours and encouraging bacteria growth (my way), or to send it cold and gross which is how it will most likely return, uneaten (his way).  Exciting conversations, I know.

    So the big announcement.  

    I informed the family that henceforth they will no longer be receiving chips and cookies, but they may choose chips or cookies.  To replace the lost item, the will now be receiving a serving of fruits and a serving of vegetables or two fruits.  Only one person complained.  But when I explained that I had been to the grocery store and Aldi, and that in our two refrigerators we have pineapple, clementines, apples, strawberries, blueberries, grapes (green or red), mini cucumbers, baby carrots, celery, and sugar snap peas, he was subdued.



    Did I mention that none of the produce I bought is organic? 

    Am I over-thinking this?

    Did you know this whole post probably stems from the fact that my mom vacillated between "super-crunchy/healthy wheat germ on wheat toast" and "no holds barred Twinkies every day/Cookie Crisp for breakfast?" 
    also yuck.

    Do you know what I did with that whole wheat toast topped with wheat germ?  

    I couldn't choke it down before the bus came and so she MADE me carry it to the bus stop.  The bus stop was on one of those street sewer drains, and every day I threw my toast in the sewer

    How's that for a confession?


    Until one day, when we got off the bus after school, and I saw a crew of workmen working on my toast sewer!  Did they find two years worth of whole wheat toast?  Was the drain clogged with wheat germ?  Did they find my Strawberry Shortcake wristwatch that fell down there one morning when I was disposing of my toast?  I'll never know.

    So, help me out internet friends. 

    What do you pack for lunch?  Are pickles a vegetable?  Do raisins count as fruit?

    I need some inspiration.  Or some therapy.  Or both.  I look forward to your wise responses.  And, yes, I did figure out how to unlock my combox so everyone is welcome.


    Tuesday, February 14, 2012

    My Valentine's Date with My Fifteen Year Old Son


    Peter broke his arm in gym class on December 1st. That's the view from the side.  Arms are not supposed to bend there.

    It was pretty bad.  The school called an ambulance for him.  They neglected to mention the ambulance when they called me to tell me he had broken his arm and was being taken to the hospital.  Communication at an all boys school with an all male staff is not the best.

    I was torn between driving the 30 minutes north to be with him and waiting it out at home.  The Chef was at the hospital quickly.  Word on Fire's office is not far from there.  The Chef kept telling me things like, "By the time you get up here, we could be headed home."  That's what he said at 2 pm and every half hour until 10:30.

    I was also torn because Susan had her Christmas concert, in which she was playing bass G and bass A in the handbell choir's performance of The Little Drummer Boy.  The Chef was supposed to go to that. 

    I was supposed to go to Lucy's Drama Showcase, in which she recited a poem and performed some improv.  And I did go, to the Showcase, not the Concert, because I can't bi-locate, but I'm working on it.
    My father-in-law went out of his way to drive me, Baby J, and Edmund to Lucy's Showcase.

    Gratuitous Baby J photo. Now you know why we call her the Turtle and celebrated her namesake's feast day last week with Turtle Brownies.  Though I have uploaded the upright version of this photo 10x, it remains sideways.  arrgh.

    No one went to Susan's handbell performance.  I hope she doesn't need therapy for that in the future. 

    Peter was sedated when the doctors set the bones.  When he was coming out of the anesthetic, he kept saying things like,
    "Dad!  Dad""
    "What is it, Peter?"
    "I luuuuuv you."

     Or my favorite,
    "Dad! Dad!"
    "Yes, Peter?"
    "Dad, my arm hurts like a b*&%#."

    Eventually, he came to.  But then he started vomiting and had to stay a few more hours for observation.  Oh, and at some point pre-setting-of-the-bones, The Chef stopped letting me talk to Peter, because we would both end up in tears.

    Basically, I should have gone up there, and I've regretted it ever since.



    Fast forward to today.  I made the romantic gesture:  Heart-Shaped Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf. 

    I also wasted most of my day making my family's secret recipe, Great-aunt Sister Cristella's Sugar Cookies, in the shapes of hearts and lips, as my Valentine gift to my brood. Plus, I love them. I frosted them and put sprinkles on them. Well, Lucy frosted the pink ones.  Here is a photo of Lucy with a sugar high.  That's her in the background. 


    Edmund and I were just getting started on the Smashed Potatoes when Peter remarked, "I love Valentine's Day, because it's the day I get my cast off."  

    AAAAUUUUUUGGGGGHHHHH!

    The appointment with the orthopedist was for 6:10 pm.  We got there 10 minutes late.  The nurse removed the cast.  We saved it to give to the kid who accidentally caused the break in gym class.

    Weird things about getting a cast off:
    •  The arm in the cast has way more hair.  
    • The skin on that arm keeps flaking off.  I have bits of dermis stuck to my jeans right now.
    • The inside of the cast has cotton padding.  That cotton padding is sweat stained where his hand was.
    • The skin on the cast hand is weirdly smooth and freakishly cold.  Like corpse skin.  Peter keeps trying to touch The Chef's face with his corpse hand.
    I know you really wanted to know all of that.  But wait it gets better.

    There were red pepper flakes stuck to his hairy, peeling arm.  I don't know why.  I just thought it was worth mentioning.

    In the parking lot, he kept sticking his nose in the cast and inhaling deeply.
    I told him to stop.  "Gross." "That's weird."  "Cut it out."
    "But Mom, it's such an interesting smell.  Kind of musty."

    You'd think I'd know better.
    I don't.
    I smelled it.
    It smelled like cologne and butt.
    He said, "That's because I shoved that fragrance slip from American Eagle in there."  I'm guessing that was the cologne smell, not the butt smell.

    I told this story so well when we got home, that the Chef had to take a whiff too.  He agrees with my assessment.

    Now, every few minutes, we hear Peter say things like:

    "I will now open the closet with my left hand!"  "Ow."

    "I'm going to shower tonight and at least once every two days from now on."

    "Now, I can put deodorant in my right armpit."

    "I will now smack my little brother with my left hand."  "Ow."


    He still has to wear a removable arm splint for four more weeks.  No gym for four more weeks.  No baseball yet.  But soon.  And he can drive again.  Yee-haw!

    I just heard him say, "I am now turning the page with my left hand."  Deo Gratias!
    Happy Valentine's Day!

    Saturday, February 11, 2012

    Things I love about The Chef and a few book reviews too.

    The Chef said one of the most romantic things ever last week.

    It was Superbowl Sunday.  I asked him, "Don't you just want to skip the game and watch Downton Abbey with me instead?"  And he said, "Yeah, kind of, I do."


    He just finished reading The Trumpet of the Swan to Edmund and they are looking for their next bedtime book.  I suggested Little Britches by Ralph Moody, or Prince Caspian as we just listened to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

     
    Or the new Richard Peck book, Secret at Sea.  But I'm reading Secret at Sea right now, and it's kind of girly.  It's not only that the main characters are three girl mice and one boy mouse, but there are lots of dresses and hats and corsets and duchesses and princesses and husband-hunting throughout.  That's what I mean by girly.  But it's very good!  Of course, anything by Richard Peck is worthwhile reading in my opinion.  But maybe not the best choice for a manly man who reads to his man-child at bedtime. 


    I also finished reading My Unfair Godmother last week.  It has no objectionable content, but man, it was hard to get through.  Waaaaaaaaaaay tooooo long.  About halfway through, I thought, "Well, that wraps everything up, should be over soon."  Boy, was I wrong.  It went on and on and on. 


    I'm sure there are plenty of seventh grade girls who would love to spend several hours, days, weeks reading about modern day Tansy Miller, her wacky "fair" godmother (but she's not that good at being a fairy godmother), and her three wishes.  One wish brings Robin Hood and his merry gang of thieves to the present, and another sends Tansy and her whole family plus her brother's cute friend to England during the reign of Prince John (Robin Hood's Prince John) which also happens to be the fairytale of Rumplestiltskin.  Confused yet? 


    If you would like to read a good re-telling of the Rumplestiltskin story, check out Gary D. Schmidt's Straw into Gold.  Much better.

    Friday, February 10, 2012

    7 Quick Takes Sketchbook Edition


    7 quick takes sm1 Your 7 Quick Takes Toolkit!

    --- 1 ---




    Peter has had this sketchbook for at least 5 or 6 years.  We were recently reminiscing over some of his best work.  On this page, he said he started to draw a puma, but it began to look like a weiner dog, "so I just went with it."
    --- 2 ---

    I vaguely remember this when it was attempted, and fortunately, failed.

    --- 3 ---



    I'm sort of nervous that I don't remember anything about this.  And I can't find summer plans #1-21. 

    --- 4 ---

     

    This is before Peter learned about musculature.  He named these dwarves or gnomes after Edmund and a cousin.  The Chef keeps saying, "They look like they have jello in their sleeves."

    Susan shared that Peter once started a "Sketchy Club."  She said that all of her and Lucy's drawing from that time are super muscular.  Maybe I'll post theirs next week.

    --- 5 ---

     There are lots of drawing of fantastical creatures.  Most of them have weird groins.  This was one of the few that didn't make me feel funny.  But now that I look at the butts....I don't know.

    --- 6 ---



    This is an attempted portrait of Susan, with which he got discouraged with the eyes.  All of the criticisms are his own.  Uncle Jack saw this and noted that Peter may have a future as a teacher.


    --- 7 ---



    And then there was this page.
    It's drawn on the back of the Enlithian page.  Not sure if this is Peter's work or someone else's.  Maybe the girls took over a session of the Sketchy Club. 

    For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

    Wednesday, February 8, 2012

    Kids at Mass: It Can Be Done!

    We get compliments a lot after Mass.  Our kids are really well behaved in church.  It has been known to happen that total strangers will give them donuts (back when Krispy Kreme was available after Mass) or even cash just because, "They are so good!"

    Truly, if they are ever good, it's in Church.  Lord knows it's not in the car on the way to Church, or on the way home.  Years of research have given us some insight into church and children, which I now will now share with you for this low, low price of absolutely nothing.  I'm not making any promises.  Maybe these tricks won't work for you.  Every child is different, every church is different.  But they did work for us.  You get what you pay for, I guess.

    We Always go as a family.  Good cop, bad cop.  Four arms are better than two arms.

    We Always sit toward the front.  "The better to see you with, my dear."  We (I) have the best intentions of getting there a good 10 minutes early (The Chef is fine with 3 to 1 minute early), so we can take a whole pew on the side where we can see if our altar servers are paying attention.  Then we have room to pile our coats and spread out so we are not touching each other. No fourteen or twelve year old girl wants her brothers of any age touching her.  Ever. We prefer to sit with outside aisle access for clean get-aways.

    The Chef and I rarely, if ever get to sit next to each other.  Divide and conquer.

    When anyone is overcome with restless leg syndrome, or drumming fingers on the pew back in front of you syndrome or picking off all my nail polish syndrome (more on this below), I've learned not to use the Death Claw of Pain, but instead really gross out my kids and try to hold their hand.  Lovingly.  They hate it. 

    We Never bring snacks or juice.  I learned the hard way that those cheerios will end up stuck to the pants of the dear souls in front of you.  As a sidenote to this, don't let your teen daughters pick off their nail polish at Mass.  Those flakes of Purple Passion also end up stuck to the rears of those poor souls in front of you.

    We Never bring toys that have wheels, or anything that might roll toward the altar.  Our church is on an incline.  I learned the hard way that a Hot Wheel in motion tends to stay in motion.  We only bring silent playthings for babies.  And we've said that too.  "Toys in church are for babies.  You are a big boy!"

    We did bring religious picture books and/or coloring books or maybe just the envelope I write my grocery list on and a pencil.  And occasionally a few crayons.  Maybe 4.  That's it.  No baby dolls or GI Joes, or anything else that's going to distract the kid behind you.  I once witnessed a darling person in the pew in front of us unzip her purse and turn it upside down.  Out fell about 50 poker chips, which clattered and spun.  Another time, I spent 55 minutes trying not to watch the little girl in front of me do her lipstick and her hair over and over and over again.  No purses either, except mine.  I'll take charge of the crayons.

    Once a child is four of five, the picture books should do it.  At age six or seven, a child's picture missal should about cover it.  First Communion is right around the corner, so they should be paying attention and participating.  Fake it til you make it.

    I have used gentle reminders throughout Mass. I've whispered things like, "You know the Our Father, here it comes."  "Hear the bells?  This is the most important part."  "Wait for the basket.  Here is the envelope."  Now that my brood is mostly older, and we switched to electronic giving, I just open the missalettes to the song or reading page and pass them down. 

    We exit stage left as soon as, if not before, a child makes a fuss and becomes loud.  Everyone heard the thunk when he whacked his head on the missalette rack.  We might be able get him out while he is still holding his breath before the big scream.  Don't do it for the parishioners.  Do it for the priest.  I've heard from more than one priest that a crying child is very distracting, and makes saying Mass and giving a homily much more difficult.

    When we leave the main body of the church with a child, whether to a cry room, the narthex, a gathering space, outside, WE DO NOT PUT THEM DOWN.  If you put the child down, he or she will wander and play and have a grand ole' time.  Then next week, when she is bored or fractious, she will misbehave and fuss, until you take her out and then she gets to play again.  See a pattern here?  It's a pain the back, but if held, the child will learn that she has slightly more freedom and a more enjoyable time if she behaves and stays in the pew.

    Daily Mass Disclaimer:  Now, anyone who sees me at daily Mass, alone in the cry room with Baby J, knows that I do put her down and let her do Tobias rolls (gosh, I wish I could find a clip of this scene from Arrested Development) and eat goldfish.  But that's daily Mass.  I have no helpers.  Baby noises in church at daily Mass are way louder.  And I usually have to jerk her out of a deep sleep to bring her.  

    We DON'T let them leave the pew.  Just like a roller coaster, please keep arms and legs and hands and feet inside the pew at all times.  Put someone on the end who can play by these rules, like a Dad.  You may not think anyone notices, but we are all watching Junior take his shoes off and stick his legs in the aisle.  Though he is adorable, the old lady with the walker is going to trip.  And meanwhile the rest of us just want to spend some time with our Lord without wondering when he's going to make a break for it.  Because he will.  Either up the aisle or around the altar.  I know parents who've changed parishes after such events.


    We occasionally surprise them with donuts.  Our church doesn't have Coffee and Rolls.  But sometimes...you never know when...everyone gets rewarded with a trip to the bakery after a good showing at Mass.  And sometimes everyone gets lectured about what went wrong and why, and then we get donuts anyway and eat emotionally and promise to do better. 

    This is all much easier if everyone is well rested and fed and watered.  That's why we go to the late Mass.  We like to sleep in and have a leisurely breakfast with a variety of pork products, before we realize the time and make a mad dash for our two bathrooms.  "Don't Flush!  I'm taking a shower!" Or we just show up smelling like bacon.

    Tuesday, February 7, 2012

    Attachment Parenting and Permissiveness

    Lots of people parent, everyone has been parented, and everyone has strong opinions on the subject.  Some people confuse parenting with discipline.  Some people confuse parenting with friendship.  It is neither and both.

    Recently, I liked this article (about the practices and success of French parents compared to American parents) on Facebook.  I also read a few blog posts about it.  In the combox of one blog in particular, I noticed some negative comments about attachment parenting and permissiveness.

    I would say that I practice attachment parenting.  The fact that I use a highchair, 2 exersaucers, and a stroller means that lots of attachment parents would disagree with me.

    By attachment parenting, I mean that I breastfeed for up to 2 years (maybe longer, never needed it longer), and we co-sleep.  We want our baby sleep on our schedule (if I stay up late, she'll sleep in late) and do not impose some other time table.  And we do not purposely let her cry.

    Not that she cries anyway.  Really.  We've never had a baby like this one.  She's always happy and smiley and jolly.  She's the polar opposite of our firstborn who cried from 1996 through 1998.  Though I did not intend to "let him cry it out," that's just what I had to do, because I had met all of his needs and nothing made him stop crying, except Steve Earle CDs or running water.

    But permissive?  I don't think so.  Yes, our firstborn slept in our bed for 2 years and then in a sleeping bag on the floor next to our bed for another 3 or 4.  But we taught him the word, "No" and what it meant from a very early age. Go ahead and ask him.  We are the meanest parents he knows.  Ask him what we always say when he tells us about somebody else's parents.  "We don't give a rat's a$$ what other people's parents do."  He knows not to tell us about other parents.  That's when we get ugly mean.

    We have rules.  No Wii unless it's raining, you're sick, or you have a friend over.  No technology in your bedroom.  Say Please and Thank You.  When I call your name, come to me and say, "Yes, Mom?" or "Yes, Dad?"  You don't get to holler, "Whhhaaaat?"  from the next room.  Permission required for using the computer or the television, and both have time limits. 

    One of the more difficult and newer rules that my kids hate is that we require 24 hours notice for social events, playdates, basketball games, whatever.  Tell me the night before, because if you're asking the day of, the answer is no.  Of course, there are exceptions.  It became very important for everyone to learn to make plans and to not take your ride (Dad) for granted.  In the same regard, I cannot take my babysitters for granted and also must plan ahead. 


    I think the key point in the article about French parents is that they say "non," and they say it with conviction. It's important that kids learn that you mean what you say.  Baby J is learning the word, "No," right now, every time she tries to touch the fireplace screen.  Our other kids learned it this way, she will too.  Even if I do wear her in an Ergo sometimes.

    Monday, February 6, 2012

    The Most Romantic Thing I've Ever Done

    Every year on Valentine's Day, I make a heart-shaped bacon wrapped meatloaf.  The Chef says that this is the most romantic thing I've ever done.  He really loves my meatloaf.

    I originally posted this on Pots and Peter Pans.

    My meatloaf recipe comes from a cookbook, The Best Recipe, by Pam Anderson. She recommends a meatloaf mix of 50% ground chuck, 25% ground veal, and 25% ground pork. I'm too lazy and cheap to do that. I use a very gourmet mix of 80% lean ground beef and 93% lean ground beef. It probably doesn't matter how lean the beef is for this, because most of the fat drains out of a free form loaf anyway.

    Bacon-Wrapped Meatloaf with Brown Sugar Ketchup Glaze
    Serves 6-8

    Brown Sugar-Ketchup Glaze

    ¼ cup ketchup or chili sauce
    2 T light or dark brown sugar
    2 t cider or white vinegar

    Meat Loaf

    2 t vegetable oil
    1 medium onion, chopped
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    2 large eggs
    1 t dried thyme
    1 t salt
    ½ t ground black pepper
    2 t Dijon mustard
    2 t Worcestershire sauce
    ¼ t hot red pepper sauce
    ½ c milk, buttermilk, or low-fat plain yogurt
    2 lbs. ground beef ( or ground pork, ground turkey, or any combination of)
    2/3 c crushed saltines (about 16), or quick oatmeal or 1 1/3 c fresh bread crumbs
    1/3 c minced fresh parsley leaves
    6 oz bacon (8-9 slices)

    1. Glaze: Mix all ingredients in a pyrex measuring cup and set aside.

    2. Meat Loaf: Preheat oven to 350. Heat oil in a medium skillet. Add onion and garlic, and sauté until softened, about 5 min. Set aside.

    3. Mix eggs with thyme, salt, pepper, mustard, Worcestershire, pepper sauce and milk or yogurt. Add egg mixture to meat in a large bowl, along with crackers (or oatmeal or bread crumbs), parsley and cooked onions and garlic; mix with fork until evenly blended.

    4. To bake free form: Cover a wire rack with foil; prick foil in several places with a fork. Place rack on a shallow roasting pan lined with foil for easy clean up. Set formed loaf on rack. Brush loaf with all of glaze, then arrange bacon slices, crosswise over loaf, overlapping them slightly and tucking them under loaf to prevent curling. (This is where you can get super romantic and shape your meatloaf like a heart for Valentines' Day.)

    5. Bake loaf until bacon is crisp and loaf registers 160F, about 1 hour. Cool for 20 minutes. Slice and serve with smashed potatoes or sweet potato fries and a green salad.

    Saturday, February 4, 2012

    Lament of the Pear


    Fashion-wise, I would have done much better in any other century. Look at these hip hiding gowns!


    It seems to me that most women in the world are hearts or apples or hourglasses or rectangles, but very few of us are pears. It's definitely true that in any given store, 75-100% of the pants are designed for people with "noassitol" or "some bun plus a tummy". Me and my kind: we have mismatched body parts. God took a perfectly lovely size 4-6 top half and stuck it to the bottom half of a snowman.


    Poor Susan has it too. Not so noticeable in her lithe size 00/2 body, but even those jeans are too big in the waist.

    Too Big in The Waist is a style my lovely tailor is quite familiar with.

    You've heard of pantylines? Pear girls have pocket lines. My ample thighs make extra long front pockets visible from 30 feet away. My tailor fixes those for me too. Why, oh, why did Mr. Eddie Bauer think that really long pockets would be perfect on those Blakely for Pear-Shaped Women chinos/capris/shorts? Do the designers think we have extra large hands as well as hips?


    Whiskering. Worst idea ever. Some cruel designer said, "Let's make some jeans for the girls with hips. And let's put lots of subtle horizontal lines right at their widest point."
    And their evil sidekick hissed, "Yesss, and let'sss add sssome big faded patchesss on the thighsss."

    A Few Rules for Pears.

    If at all possible, find a tailor, and be very kind, complimentary, and respectful of him/her. Try to bring her things with plenty of time to do a nice job. No one likes to be rushed.

    Back pockets are important. Mr. Talbots should learn this lesson. Curvy girls have big buns. No one wants to see that much unadorned denim.


    A-lines are A+. The A-line accentuates our normal waists and skims all of our problem parts. Pears have a very difficult time pulling off knit skirts, skirts cut on a bias, empire waist dresses, drop-waist dresses, pleated skirts, most prints, and shorts.

    Pears can pull off a pencil skirt, but only if the skirt fits properly (get the waist taken in). This skirt from Target is serving me well, which is surprising because usually only the most expensive brands fit this well without alterations.
    Regarding tops. Based on what I've seen at the mall and in catalogs like Garnet Hill, pears are being prejudiced on the top as well. The waist is the part we want to focus on, but all of the current trends look like this.


    Or this.

    So this spring, I may go really retro and try to bring back this style.


    A more casual daytime look:


    And for those formal occasions, such as visiting your nosy, photographer boyfriend with a broken leg, who's uncovering of a dastardly crime will soon put you in mortal danger:



    Maybe something like this will detract from my lower half.


    Maybe not.

    Monday, February 27, 2012

    In which I discuss Mother Teresa, Pinterest, and My Shopping Addiction



    The woman is at the heart of the home. Let us pray that we women realize the reason for our existence: to love and be loved and through this love become instruments of peace in the world. ~ Mother Teresa

    I found this quote over on Betty BeguilesShe's going to the Behold Conference too, and she is the reason why I now own a Clarisonic and Kiehl's Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate.

    I also recently read this post from Modern Mrs. Darcy, which led me to buy The No Brainer Wardrobe ebook, which led me to clean out my closet with Susan as my buddy.

    Well, the time I had allotted got whittled away, so maybe I just cleaned up my closet, not a total cleansing.  I did come away with two bags of shoes and clothes to donate, though.  Plus, I found that missing part of the vacuum cleaner. 

    Now, according The No Brainer Wardrobe ebook, the author recommends Pinterest.  It's actually a very small part of the 82 page ebook. 

    So, I've been giving some thought to Pinterest. Several of my FB friends use it.   But I have some serious reservations: 

    I love to shop, too much.  I love it too much and I shop too much.

    I try practice my own version of Chastity of the Eyes by throwing out all catalogs as soon as I remove any coupons, and unsubscribing from all store emails.  (I said I try.  I didn't say I'm always successful.)  My theory is that if I need something, that is the time to look for it.  I can read about sales and look up online coupon codes then.

    I fear that Pinterest is just a big gluttonous load of homes and clothes that I will covet and never have, creating general unhappiness with my life, which I like pretty much the way it is. Though I would like to re-do the upstairs bathroom.

    I think I have a definitive understanding of my "style" and "colors" and I don't need to be wasting more time on the interweb.

      I just went back up to the top of this post to add an image of Mother Teresa, and noticed how happy she is!  She obviously never used Kiehl's Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate (or if she did, I just got ripped off).

      So can Pinterest help a woman be "an instrument of peace in the world?"

      Well, if not the world, than at least "at the heart of the home?"

      Perhaps. What do you think?

      Friday, February 24, 2012

      7 Quick Takes First Friday in Lent


      --- 1 ---

      I witnessed guardian angels at work today. 

      It snowed here last night, a couple of inches of the heavy wet stuff that clings to bare tree branches and look beautiful.  Not enough to merit a snow day mind you.  As Baby J and I were driving Lucy and Edmund to school, I saw a mighty big limb come flying down into the street, RIGHT BETWEEN two moving cars.  This limb would have done some serious damage.  Edmund surmised that should this limb have hit our car, it may have made the airbags go off.  I suspect Edmund would love to see the airbags go off.

       --- 2 ---

      I'm exhausted from THREE weeks of a coughing, snot-faced baby.  There.  I said it.  I make it a point not to complain on Facebook or on my blog (well, I try).  I hate reading posts about kids barfing in the night and status updates about other people's sinus infections and migraines.  Heads Up!  Everyone's kids barf in the night!  Nighttime is for barfing, or couging up lungs, or just couging every 30 seconds followed by gagging and barfing.  That's what parenting is all about. 

      Now, I feel better.  And I might go to Starbucks today.  Because it's worth it.

      --- 3 ---
      Which leads me to Quick Takes #3.  Marcel.  I adore Marcel.  I quote him incessantly.  I coax Baby J along just like Marcel coaxes his pet piece of lint.  I wish there was a full length movie.  Who knew I could love a shell so much?



      --- 4 ---

      Quick Take #3 has me already feeling more chipper less bittcher.  That's a combination of bitter and another word.  So have some more Marcel, on me.



      --- 5 ---

      March 10th, Baby J and I are going to the Behold Conference in PeoriaJen Fulwiler gives the conference a shout out in her Quick Takes today.  She's going to be there too.  I'll try not to make a fool out of myself if/when I meet her, like I did when I met Mashup Mom in the grocery store.

      --- 6 ---

      Yesterday, when I got all verklempt about my kids growing up, I mentioned Fr. John, but I neglected to mention that he was my classmate at the University of Dallas many moons ago.   He kept looking at old yearbooks while we were prepping dinner and then warning us not to let our kids see our yearbooks.  Curious.  What could be in there?  I must have a look-see.


      --- 7 ---


      An update from my Meatless Mania post.  The Falafel Pitas were very yummy.  We put the falafel (falafels?) into pita pockets with red pepper and cucumber slices and Tzatzaki sauce from Costco.  That Tzatziki sauce is good stuff.  I use it as dip, sandwich spread, and salad dressing.  You might think I was a paid sponsor of Costco, but I'm not.  Though I'd like to be.

      For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

      Thursday, February 23, 2012

      A Few Things About Edmund


      Last week, I missed the all school mass.  A friend called to see if I had been there.  I said, "No, why? Did Edmund answer a question?"  "What do you think?"  was her reply.

      Now, I have given Edmund strict instructions not to answer any questions at Mass. You just never know what he's going to say.  I've chuckled when some kid confused Mother Teresa and Oprah.  Or when one little tike promised a visiting priest her dad's tickets to the Bears vs. Packers game.

      I knew it would happen someday.

      Actually, Edmund did not embarrass himself.  He answered the question quite well.  It was after the homily, when our pastor decided to share with the congregation the comment Edmund made 5 years ago when they first met.

      "You're old."

      Apparently, everyone thought this was hilarious.  Especially, Edmund's third grade class.  In fact, they couldn't stop giggling.  Fr. Tom had to reprimand them, "It's not that funny."

      Right now, the assistant chaplain from Peter's prep school is watching the Knicks game in my family room.  I can hear Fr. John cracking up because Edmund had to give him a "gun" show.



      He's the only nine year old I know who works out.  He does pull ups on our stairwell.  He likes to do sit ups and push ups too.  He's always asking me to check to make sure he's doing his push ups correctly.  Like I know or something.

      Today, I was walking the mall with a friend.  I think we may have burned more calories gabbing than walking, but the great thing is....I didn't buy anything.  Figures, since I have a store credit that I couldn't find anything.

      Any who, we were talking about how little kids turn into big kids SO freaking fast!

      And it makes me ache.  The way one day, they can't fall asleep without you and the next day they are taller than you and the only thing they want from you is unlimited texting.


      Edmund has some allergies, and he frequently has eczema.  Last night, he was particularly itchy, so I made him a bath with one of these.


      After his bath, I was slathering Eucerin creme all over his scaly limbs, and I said, 


      Remember when you were little, and I used to lie down with you on your bottom bunk to take a nap?  You used to say, "I don't want to take a nap."  And I would tell you, "You don't have to go to sleep, you just have to lie here quietly for awhile."  And we would pretend to be bunnies hiding under leaves in a forest."


      He said, "Yeah, and I used to always make sure I was touching you, because I thought if I'm touching her, I will wake up when she gets up, but I never did."

      Oh, to snuggle my little guy again.  To nap in his cozy bunk, to sneak downstairs with my mad ninja skills only to hear his little feet coming down moments later.  

      Damn, I love that kid.

      Wednesday, February 22, 2012

      Meatless Mania

      A friend of mine started a Facebook group asking for meatless meal ideas for Lent.  However, I just gave up Facebook for Lent.

      Just Facebook.  Not blogging or reading blogs or online shopping or Words with Friends.  Just Facebook.  Among an Easter basket of other assorted good intentions.  We'll see how it goes.

      Since I cannot share my meatless meal planning with her on Facebook, I will share with everyone here!  Huzzah!  (One of my intentions is to use more colorful words like "Huzzah!" instead of the colorful words I usually use.)


      Meatless meal planning at Chez Housewifespice is more involved because the Chef does not eat fish or cheese.*

      *Unless the cheese is on pizza, in ravioli, in Nickson's Smoked Cheddar Grits, in pasta, or good parmesan.  He says he's allergic.  (eyeroll.)  Huzzam.  One of my intentions was not to roll my eyes at or about the Chef.  Flurbt.

      So, here is a link to a good meatless pasta entree that I love, and I don't love pasta.  It's that good.  The smoky sundried tomato flavor mimics bacony goodness.  Plus cream.  I adore cream.

      Also, on the menu this month is another one of these.


      This one is for Mediterranean Herb Crusted Tilapia.  I can either wait for a night when the Chef is not home to make this, or I'll serve a side of gnocchi with it.  Costco has some delicious gnocchi, vacuum sealed, super easy to make.

      I'll also try to sneak in an Asian Sesame Salmon.  I adore salmon.  If I could eat salmon daily, I would.  The Chef says it smells up the house.  I am NOT rolling my eyes here.

      The Chef is a lost cause, but I have done an excellent job creating non-picky eaters.  With one exception.  Peter won't eat any fruits except apples and grapes.  And he'll eat strawberries, but if and ONLY if they are dipped in dark chocolate.  He says he's allergic.  Hmmph.

      Maybe my kids' aren't picky eaters because we never do the jarred baby food thing.  Babies eat what we eat, just milder versions.  Everyone has to taste everything (except the Chef, no eyeroll).  If you don't like what's for dinner, you may have cereal, toast, or a peanut butter sandwich.  In Edmund's case, a soynut butter sandwich.

      Once, Susan declared that she no longer liked Chicken.  Any Chicken at all.  Chicken nuggets, fried chicken, chicken piccata (The Chef's Chicken Piccata is divine), chicken noodle soup, chikin in a biskit crackers, you get the idea.

      We did what parents sometimes have to do.  We ridiculed her out of it.  We use sarcasm and humor as parenting tools.  We laughed at her.  Then she laughed at herself.  Now, she eats Chicken.

      Edmund tried the same thing with Soup.  He refused anything in the Form of Soup.  It didn't matter what kind of soup it was, if it was served in a bowl with a spoon, he wanted no part of it.  He was a little too young to appreciate mockery, so I did what any parent would do.  I ignored him.  I kept serving soup.  He eventually realized that either I was never going to make a separate entree just for him, or that we serve some fine soups and he was missing out.  Now, he eats Soup.

      Back to meatless meals, I will make this at least once during Lent.  Cause it has Lent-ils.  Hee-hee.

      Curried Lentil Burritos with Cilantro-Scallion Spiced Yogurt

      Originally from Cuisine at Home April, 2005
      This is a fabulous meatless meal, perfect for fish haters.
      This recipe is written to serve 2 people, but I have tripled, quadrupled and quintupled it with great success.  You just have to know your way around fractions.  And since the magazine said it would take 45 min to make 2 burritos, the time lengthens somewhat for each tortilla you have to fry.  It’s a labor of love.

      For the filling-
      1 T. vegetable oil:
      ¼ c. onion, diced
      1 t. curry powder
      1 t. jalapeno, minced
      1 ½  c. vegetable or chicken broth ( Chicken broth does not violate the meatlessness of the dish for Church purposes.  Just ask Catholic answers, or my husband.)
      ½ c. tomatoes, chopped
      ½ c.red potatoes, cubed
      ¼ c. brown lentils
      1 bay leaf
      ½ c. frozen chopped spinach, or 1 c. fresh spinach
      Juice of ½ lime
      Salt to taste

      Saute onion, curry powder, and jalapeno in 1 T. oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook until onion begins to brown.  5-8 minutes, stirring often.
      Stir in broth, tomatoes, potatoes, lentils, and bay leaf.  Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until lentils are tender, 20-30 minutes.  Meanwhile, prepare the spiced yogurt while lentils cook.  Finish lentils with spinach (if using frozen spinach, no need to thaw it first), lime juice and salt.

      For the Spiced Yogurt-
      1 c. cilantro leaves and stems
      ¼ c. scallions, sliced (white and green parts)
      2 t. fresh ginger, chopped
      1 t. sugar
      ¼ t. ground cumin
      2 cloves garlic, chopped
      Juice of the other half of the lime.
      Salt and cayenne to taste
      ½ c plain yogurt (Please not the nonfat kind.  Eeewww.)

      Process all ingredients except yogurt in a food processor until minced.  Stir herb paste into yogurt; chill until ready to serve.

      For the tortillas-
      1 egg
      1 T. milk
      1 T. chopped fresh parsley
      10”tortillas
      Shredded Monterey Jack cheese

      Blend egg, milk, and parsley in a pie plate.  Heat a 12” nonstick skillet over medium high heat.
      Dip the tortillas in the egg mixture.  Fry in 1 T. vegetable oil until golden brown on one side, about 1 min.  Flip.  Sprinkle with 1 /4 c. shredded Monterey Jack cheese and continue frying until second side is brown, about 1 minute; transfer to a work surface.  Add another T. oil and repeat for all tortillas. 

      To assemble the burritos, place ¾ c. filling on the lower third of each tortilla, then roll the bottom of the tortilla over the filling to cover.  Fold in both sides and roll to the end.  Serve with the yogurt ladled across the top and sprinkled with chopped parsley to look pretty.
      Everyone loves it.  No fish, no eggs, and it's darn tasty.  Lots of work though.  

      And my last meatless-fishless-cheeseless meal is Vegetarian Black Bean Chili.  This isn't my recipe.  I can't find mine for some reason.  But this recipe looks an awful lot like the one I use.  

      I'd call my mom to get the original recipe, but she just had a hip replacement, so she won't be able to get up and find her copy, and my father and brothers are no good at that sort of thing.  I could wait until my baby sister gets home from school.  She's eleven.  Yes, I have an eleven year old sister.  Weird.  I know.  But I don't want to wait that long to publish this post.  Baby J is going to wake up any minute.

      This recipe is especially like mine in that it involves lots of chopping.  Get some kids to do those parts.  Edmund loves to chop.  Edmund loves knives in general. Add some serrano or jalapenos to the skillet with the onions , if you like spicy things.  We like it hot here.  Don't let the kids cut the chili peppers though.  Of course, you already knew that.

      Maybe I will get the Chef to make a guest post to share his Pasta Puttanesca recipe.  Don't google translate Puttanesca.  It's not a nice word.  But it's a good pasta dish with black olives and capers.  Capers are my favorite vegetable.  



      Tonight I'm serving  Falafel Pitas.  I picked up falafel at Costco, when I went nuts for packaged vegetarian items.  I also picked up veggie burgers (in the kids' lunches today) and some spinach/chickpea patties that looked good.  I might try the spinach/chickpea patties in pan covered with spaghetti sauce and topped with mozzarella and parmesan.  Sort of a vegetarian Chicken Parmesan.  I'll let you know how it goes.

      If anyone has a delicious potato soup recipe to share, I'm looking for one.  Or if you'd like to share how you meet the meatless challenge, I love comments.  And I'm off Facebook, so I'm sort of desperate for adult interaction. 

      Sunday, February 19, 2012

      Lenten Sacrifice: The Possibilities Are Endless

       

      It's crunch time.  Ash Sunday.  And as usual, I don't have a clue as to what I'm going to give up.  Scratch that.  I can't even decide if I'm going to give something up or do something extra.

      I usually figure it out a week or two before Holy Week.  I mean that I try on many different penances and figure out the one that I can actually stick with late in the game.  I have a problem with setting my expectations too high, setting too many goals for myself and then not accomplishing anything rather than just focusing on one thing.

      Focus.

      We went to confession yesterday.  The whole fam.  I personally knew 9 out of the 13 people in line in front of me, not including my own kids.  I think I'm hanging out with the wrong crowd.  All the sinners.

      Anyway, my penance was to spend two or three minutes in silent prayer, reflecting on what would be a good Lenten sacrifice this year.  So, I went to the cry room, released Lucy from her task of watching Baby J, turned out the lights and sat down.  Then three other kids showed up to tell me they were ready to go.  I kicked them out and tried again to focus.

      My mind has Attention Deficit Disorder.  This is how the two minutes went.

      I thought about giving up shopping and thought about how hard it would be to give that up, because of course I have to get super cute coordinating Easter outfits for my brood, especially because we are going to visit the Colonel and his wife in Georgia.  And making large families look good is part of my vocation.

      Then I thought about Georgia, and wondered how hot it will be, and how I will have to dig up summer wear for everyone.

      Then I thought about summer wear, and how none of it fits me yet.  I got away with just two post-pregnancy pairs of capris last summer. I thought how joining Weight Watchers to get rid of the last of the baby weight could be a Lenten thing, but it's pretty selfish, based on appearance, and I don't really think He cares how much I weigh.  It's something that bothers me, not Him.

      I dismissed the "Doing something nice for the Chef" because it isn't concrete enough for me to decisively do something extra or not do something every day.  I can fake it for 5 weeks and then look back and realize I haven't done anything at all.  Plus, should being nice to my spouse really be a penance?

      I dismissed giving up caffeine.  Don't want to punish the family with extra irritability.

      Exercise and prayer and eating better and getting organized are all things I should be doing anyway.

      I rationalized away every single idea.  Out of all of these ideas, I just don't see the one thing that will bring me closer to Him.

      I have these vague thoughts like, "For Lent, I want to be more like Mary."  Could I be any less precise?  

      I have had some good Lents.  Once, I gave up ice.  It was subtle.  I drink iced tea A LOT, so it was something that I had to give up several times a day.  It didn't cause me to be irritable.  Last year, I gave up "spicy."  Pregnant and pouring Frank's Red Hot on everything, it worked for me then.  Wouldn't work now.

      There should be some kind of Facebook quiz or iPhone app to help people find the perfect Lenten penance.

      What to do.  What to do.  My two to three minutes are long past but I still don't have a clue. 

      Friday, February 17, 2012

      7 Quick Takes Friday


      --- 1 ---

      Baby J is the host of her own reality show, "So You Think You Can Stand."

      Ridiculous.  I don't know why she ends up sideways.  I swear I'll move to WordPress soon.  Any Blogger bloggers who can help?

      --- 2 ---

      The rink is pretty much done.  But the weather is gorgeous!  I do not recall such a temperate and SUNNY February!  I saw a 5 followed by, not preceded by an 0 on my car's temp gauge today.

      And this one too!  Anyway, this is my beautiful dogwood tree that gives color year round as you can see.
      My dear friend, Churchlady helped me landscape my front yard. 
      --- 3 ---
      I've had lots of great responses to my Great Lunch Makeover post yesterday, but several of them were Facebook comments.  I'll try to copy and paste those in my combox later this long and lovely weekend.

      --- 4 ---


      Just for fun:  Downton Abbey Paper Dolls!  But they don't have the "tuxedo people that live in the basement."



      --- 5 ---
      My last three quick takes are three book reviews.  They are all "girl" books.  Sorry, boys.  I'll read for you soon, I promise.

      Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai – I think this was on the Newbery list this year.  1975, Saigon, a girl and her family make the tough choice to leave Viet Nam and become refugees in America.  Told in free verse.  Beautiful.  She gets bullied when she starts school in Alabama but learns some Bruce Lee moves from her older brother.

      --- 6 ---

      A Year Without Autumn by Liz Kessler – Kessler wrote the Emily Windsnap series which  I haven’t read.  This book is about a girl on vacation at her family’s time share condo.  They come the same week every year. She has a 6 year old brother and her mom is 8 mos. pregnant, which I think is very cool. Her best friend’s family also comes to the same condo village for the same week each year.  She discovers (to her dismay) that when she takes the newly-repaired, antique elevator up to her friend’s condo on the second floor, she has been transported one year forward in time.  One year in the future, tragedy has struck and everyone is affected.  Can she go back in time to fix everything?
      --- 7 ---

      Right now, I'm reading Gail Carson Levine's latest, A Tale of Two Castles.  So far, so great!  Young, poor girl from the boonies makes her way to the big city of Two Castles to become apprenticed as a "mansioner" or actor.  She finds out that free apprenticeships for the poor are illegal now.  With nowhere to go, no money and no food, she finds herself taking a position as the assistant to the city's only dragon.  Her task, to go undercover as a kitchen maid in one of the two castles, the one that happens to belong to the city's only ogre, and uncover who wants to kill the ogre and why.  This book reminds me of the Dragon Slippers series by Jessica Day George and The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede (Dealing with Dragons, etc.). 
      For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

      Thursday, February 16, 2012

      The Great Lunch Makeover

      Susan and Lucy are both down with strep throat.  I feel like I have to do everything with one arm tied behind my back without them.  Their illness makes me realize how much I take for granted every time I ask one of them to unload the dishwasher, dress the baby, change the load of laundry, set the table, fetch and carry etc.  

      Edmund has been helping out more though.  He loves to work in the kitchen. Last night, he did most of the prep work for Spanish Chicken Skillet.  Gotta love those McCormick Recipe Inspirations.  We've tried nearly all of them and every one is a winner.  (I do recommend cutting down on the salt, especially when doubling or tripling the recipe.) 

      Take last night's dinner.  Boneless, skinless chicken breasts simmered in a rich sauce with lots of vegetables.  I served it with brown and white rice medley (using up half empty boxes of stuff) and a green salad.  Healthful and delicious. 

      Speaking of last night's dinner, I made a big announcement, which I will share with you after some backstory. 

      About six years ago, my children switched from one school with very strict lunch guidelines (and even breakfast guidelines) to another school with no guidelines.  In fact, I was informed that the soda machines had just been removed from the cafeteria, but that I should feel free to send soda from home.

      Now, I have never sent soda, but I have been sending:
      a sandwich,
      a fruit or vegetable, 
      chips, 
      AND cookies or other sugary treat.  

      But after reading this story about the girl whose lunch was confiscated and replaced by chicken nuggets,  
      I've been wondering if my kids' lunches should be confiscated and if the chicken nugget lunch might be healthier than some of the stuff I've been packing.


      Confession 1:  I hate packing lunches.
      Confession 2:  I hate eating square sandwiches of square meat on square bread.  
      Confession 3:  I wouldn't eat most of the sandwiches I make.

      yuck.

      We've recently made a few changes in the things we eat.  The Chef has gotten more and more concerned about food additives and steroids and hormones and things that I don't generally care about.  We switched to hormone free, antibiotic free milk

      And, in an effort to avoid square meat and preservatives and the exorbitant prices at the deli counter, I gave The Chef an electric food slicer for Christmas.  We've sliced some turkey breasts and boneless hams, but it's kind of a pain in the neck to haul the appliance out of the basement, use it, clean it, pack it back up again, and move it downstairs.  I'll quit whining.

      I've been buying the Sara Lee whole grain white bread from Costco for three reasons.  It's cheap.  My kids will eat it unlike the 100% whole wheat bread I buy for myself.  And it's cheap.  Plus, it says it's whole grain right on the package.  But recently, Costco has been carrying delicious Labriola pretzel buns that smell amazing, my kids LOVE them, and one bun has a whopping 17 grams of protein.  No more squares.

      I'd like to have more variety in the school lunch, but how? 

      I have invested at least at least hundred dollars into Thermos corporation, but my dingbats will throw them away, or lose them, or leave hamburger noodle casserole sealed to ferment for weeks to the point where I throw them away myself.  


      I have sometimes send leftovers in Rubbermaid.  But half of my people don't have access to a microwave.  Plus I have concerns about microwaving plastics. Whenever I do this, The Chef and I have had long discussions about whether to heat it up in the morning, thus letting the food slowly cool over several hours and encouraging bacteria growth (my way), or to send it cold and gross which is how it will most likely return, uneaten (his way).  Exciting conversations, I know.

      So the big announcement.  

      I informed the family that henceforth they will no longer be receiving chips and cookies, but they may choose chips or cookies.  To replace the lost item, the will now be receiving a serving of fruits and a serving of vegetables or two fruits.  Only one person complained.  But when I explained that I had been to the grocery store and Aldi, and that in our two refrigerators we have pineapple, clementines, apples, strawberries, blueberries, grapes (green or red), mini cucumbers, baby carrots, celery, and sugar snap peas, he was subdued.



      Did I mention that none of the produce I bought is organic? 

      Am I over-thinking this?

      Did you know this whole post probably stems from the fact that my mom vacillated between "super-crunchy/healthy wheat germ on wheat toast" and "no holds barred Twinkies every day/Cookie Crisp for breakfast?" 
      also yuck.

      Do you know what I did with that whole wheat toast topped with wheat germ?  

      I couldn't choke it down before the bus came and so she MADE me carry it to the bus stop.  The bus stop was on one of those street sewer drains, and every day I threw my toast in the sewer

      How's that for a confession?


      Until one day, when we got off the bus after school, and I saw a crew of workmen working on my toast sewer!  Did they find two years worth of whole wheat toast?  Was the drain clogged with wheat germ?  Did they find my Strawberry Shortcake wristwatch that fell down there one morning when I was disposing of my toast?  I'll never know.

      So, help me out internet friends. 

      What do you pack for lunch?  Are pickles a vegetable?  Do raisins count as fruit?

      I need some inspiration.  Or some therapy.  Or both.  I look forward to your wise responses.  And, yes, I did figure out how to unlock my combox so everyone is welcome.


      Tuesday, February 14, 2012

      My Valentine's Date with My Fifteen Year Old Son


      Peter broke his arm in gym class on December 1st. That's the view from the side.  Arms are not supposed to bend there.

      It was pretty bad.  The school called an ambulance for him.  They neglected to mention the ambulance when they called me to tell me he had broken his arm and was being taken to the hospital.  Communication at an all boys school with an all male staff is not the best.

      I was torn between driving the 30 minutes north to be with him and waiting it out at home.  The Chef was at the hospital quickly.  Word on Fire's office is not far from there.  The Chef kept telling me things like, "By the time you get up here, we could be headed home."  That's what he said at 2 pm and every half hour until 10:30.

      I was also torn because Susan had her Christmas concert, in which she was playing bass G and bass A in the handbell choir's performance of The Little Drummer Boy.  The Chef was supposed to go to that. 

      I was supposed to go to Lucy's Drama Showcase, in which she recited a poem and performed some improv.  And I did go, to the Showcase, not the Concert, because I can't bi-locate, but I'm working on it.
      My father-in-law went out of his way to drive me, Baby J, and Edmund to Lucy's Showcase.

      Gratuitous Baby J photo. Now you know why we call her the Turtle and celebrated her namesake's feast day last week with Turtle Brownies.  Though I have uploaded the upright version of this photo 10x, it remains sideways.  arrgh.

      No one went to Susan's handbell performance.  I hope she doesn't need therapy for that in the future. 

      Peter was sedated when the doctors set the bones.  When he was coming out of the anesthetic, he kept saying things like,
      "Dad!  Dad""
      "What is it, Peter?"
      "I luuuuuv you."

       Or my favorite,
      "Dad! Dad!"
      "Yes, Peter?"
      "Dad, my arm hurts like a b*&%#."

      Eventually, he came to.  But then he started vomiting and had to stay a few more hours for observation.  Oh, and at some point pre-setting-of-the-bones, The Chef stopped letting me talk to Peter, because we would both end up in tears.

      Basically, I should have gone up there, and I've regretted it ever since.



      Fast forward to today.  I made the romantic gesture:  Heart-Shaped Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf. 

      I also wasted most of my day making my family's secret recipe, Great-aunt Sister Cristella's Sugar Cookies, in the shapes of hearts and lips, as my Valentine gift to my brood. Plus, I love them. I frosted them and put sprinkles on them. Well, Lucy frosted the pink ones.  Here is a photo of Lucy with a sugar high.  That's her in the background. 


      Edmund and I were just getting started on the Smashed Potatoes when Peter remarked, "I love Valentine's Day, because it's the day I get my cast off."  

      AAAAUUUUUUGGGGGHHHHH!

      The appointment with the orthopedist was for 6:10 pm.  We got there 10 minutes late.  The nurse removed the cast.  We saved it to give to the kid who accidentally caused the break in gym class.

      Weird things about getting a cast off:
      •  The arm in the cast has way more hair.  
      • The skin on that arm keeps flaking off.  I have bits of dermis stuck to my jeans right now.
      • The inside of the cast has cotton padding.  That cotton padding is sweat stained where his hand was.
      • The skin on the cast hand is weirdly smooth and freakishly cold.  Like corpse skin.  Peter keeps trying to touch The Chef's face with his corpse hand.
      I know you really wanted to know all of that.  But wait it gets better.

      There were red pepper flakes stuck to his hairy, peeling arm.  I don't know why.  I just thought it was worth mentioning.

      In the parking lot, he kept sticking his nose in the cast and inhaling deeply.
      I told him to stop.  "Gross." "That's weird."  "Cut it out."
      "But Mom, it's such an interesting smell.  Kind of musty."

      You'd think I'd know better.
      I don't.
      I smelled it.
      It smelled like cologne and butt.
      He said, "That's because I shoved that fragrance slip from American Eagle in there."  I'm guessing that was the cologne smell, not the butt smell.

      I told this story so well when we got home, that the Chef had to take a whiff too.  He agrees with my assessment.

      Now, every few minutes, we hear Peter say things like:

      "I will now open the closet with my left hand!"  "Ow."

      "I'm going to shower tonight and at least once every two days from now on."

      "Now, I can put deodorant in my right armpit."

      "I will now smack my little brother with my left hand."  "Ow."


      He still has to wear a removable arm splint for four more weeks.  No gym for four more weeks.  No baseball yet.  But soon.  And he can drive again.  Yee-haw!

      I just heard him say, "I am now turning the page with my left hand."  Deo Gratias!
      Happy Valentine's Day!

      Saturday, February 11, 2012

      Things I love about The Chef and a few book reviews too.

      The Chef said one of the most romantic things ever last week.

      It was Superbowl Sunday.  I asked him, "Don't you just want to skip the game and watch Downton Abbey with me instead?"  And he said, "Yeah, kind of, I do."


      He just finished reading The Trumpet of the Swan to Edmund and they are looking for their next bedtime book.  I suggested Little Britches by Ralph Moody, or Prince Caspian as we just listened to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

       
      Or the new Richard Peck book, Secret at Sea.  But I'm reading Secret at Sea right now, and it's kind of girly.  It's not only that the main characters are three girl mice and one boy mouse, but there are lots of dresses and hats and corsets and duchesses and princesses and husband-hunting throughout.  That's what I mean by girly.  But it's very good!  Of course, anything by Richard Peck is worthwhile reading in my opinion.  But maybe not the best choice for a manly man who reads to his man-child at bedtime. 


      I also finished reading My Unfair Godmother last week.  It has no objectionable content, but man, it was hard to get through.  Waaaaaaaaaaay tooooo long.  About halfway through, I thought, "Well, that wraps everything up, should be over soon."  Boy, was I wrong.  It went on and on and on. 


      I'm sure there are plenty of seventh grade girls who would love to spend several hours, days, weeks reading about modern day Tansy Miller, her wacky "fair" godmother (but she's not that good at being a fairy godmother), and her three wishes.  One wish brings Robin Hood and his merry gang of thieves to the present, and another sends Tansy and her whole family plus her brother's cute friend to England during the reign of Prince John (Robin Hood's Prince John) which also happens to be the fairytale of Rumplestiltskin.  Confused yet? 


      If you would like to read a good re-telling of the Rumplestiltskin story, check out Gary D. Schmidt's Straw into Gold.  Much better.

      Friday, February 10, 2012

      7 Quick Takes Sketchbook Edition


      7 quick takes sm1 Your 7 Quick Takes Toolkit!

      --- 1 ---




      Peter has had this sketchbook for at least 5 or 6 years.  We were recently reminiscing over some of his best work.  On this page, he said he started to draw a puma, but it began to look like a weiner dog, "so I just went with it."
      --- 2 ---

      I vaguely remember this when it was attempted, and fortunately, failed.

      --- 3 ---



      I'm sort of nervous that I don't remember anything about this.  And I can't find summer plans #1-21. 

      --- 4 ---

       

      This is before Peter learned about musculature.  He named these dwarves or gnomes after Edmund and a cousin.  The Chef keeps saying, "They look like they have jello in their sleeves."

      Susan shared that Peter once started a "Sketchy Club."  She said that all of her and Lucy's drawing from that time are super muscular.  Maybe I'll post theirs next week.

      --- 5 ---

       There are lots of drawing of fantastical creatures.  Most of them have weird groins.  This was one of the few that didn't make me feel funny.  But now that I look at the butts....I don't know.

      --- 6 ---



      This is an attempted portrait of Susan, with which he got discouraged with the eyes.  All of the criticisms are his own.  Uncle Jack saw this and noted that Peter may have a future as a teacher.


      --- 7 ---



      And then there was this page.
      It's drawn on the back of the Enlithian page.  Not sure if this is Peter's work or someone else's.  Maybe the girls took over a session of the Sketchy Club. 

      For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

      Wednesday, February 8, 2012

      Kids at Mass: It Can Be Done!

      We get compliments a lot after Mass.  Our kids are really well behaved in church.  It has been known to happen that total strangers will give them donuts (back when Krispy Kreme was available after Mass) or even cash just because, "They are so good!"

      Truly, if they are ever good, it's in Church.  Lord knows it's not in the car on the way to Church, or on the way home.  Years of research have given us some insight into church and children, which I now will now share with you for this low, low price of absolutely nothing.  I'm not making any promises.  Maybe these tricks won't work for you.  Every child is different, every church is different.  But they did work for us.  You get what you pay for, I guess.

      We Always go as a family.  Good cop, bad cop.  Four arms are better than two arms.

      We Always sit toward the front.  "The better to see you with, my dear."  We (I) have the best intentions of getting there a good 10 minutes early (The Chef is fine with 3 to 1 minute early), so we can take a whole pew on the side where we can see if our altar servers are paying attention.  Then we have room to pile our coats and spread out so we are not touching each other. No fourteen or twelve year old girl wants her brothers of any age touching her.  Ever. We prefer to sit with outside aisle access for clean get-aways.

      The Chef and I rarely, if ever get to sit next to each other.  Divide and conquer.

      When anyone is overcome with restless leg syndrome, or drumming fingers on the pew back in front of you syndrome or picking off all my nail polish syndrome (more on this below), I've learned not to use the Death Claw of Pain, but instead really gross out my kids and try to hold their hand.  Lovingly.  They hate it. 

      We Never bring snacks or juice.  I learned the hard way that those cheerios will end up stuck to the pants of the dear souls in front of you.  As a sidenote to this, don't let your teen daughters pick off their nail polish at Mass.  Those flakes of Purple Passion also end up stuck to the rears of those poor souls in front of you.

      We Never bring toys that have wheels, or anything that might roll toward the altar.  Our church is on an incline.  I learned the hard way that a Hot Wheel in motion tends to stay in motion.  We only bring silent playthings for babies.  And we've said that too.  "Toys in church are for babies.  You are a big boy!"

      We did bring religious picture books and/or coloring books or maybe just the envelope I write my grocery list on and a pencil.  And occasionally a few crayons.  Maybe 4.  That's it.  No baby dolls or GI Joes, or anything else that's going to distract the kid behind you.  I once witnessed a darling person in the pew in front of us unzip her purse and turn it upside down.  Out fell about 50 poker chips, which clattered and spun.  Another time, I spent 55 minutes trying not to watch the little girl in front of me do her lipstick and her hair over and over and over again.  No purses either, except mine.  I'll take charge of the crayons.

      Once a child is four of five, the picture books should do it.  At age six or seven, a child's picture missal should about cover it.  First Communion is right around the corner, so they should be paying attention and participating.  Fake it til you make it.

      I have used gentle reminders throughout Mass. I've whispered things like, "You know the Our Father, here it comes."  "Hear the bells?  This is the most important part."  "Wait for the basket.  Here is the envelope."  Now that my brood is mostly older, and we switched to electronic giving, I just open the missalettes to the song or reading page and pass them down. 

      We exit stage left as soon as, if not before, a child makes a fuss and becomes loud.  Everyone heard the thunk when he whacked his head on the missalette rack.  We might be able get him out while he is still holding his breath before the big scream.  Don't do it for the parishioners.  Do it for the priest.  I've heard from more than one priest that a crying child is very distracting, and makes saying Mass and giving a homily much more difficult.

      When we leave the main body of the church with a child, whether to a cry room, the narthex, a gathering space, outside, WE DO NOT PUT THEM DOWN.  If you put the child down, he or she will wander and play and have a grand ole' time.  Then next week, when she is bored or fractious, she will misbehave and fuss, until you take her out and then she gets to play again.  See a pattern here?  It's a pain the back, but if held, the child will learn that she has slightly more freedom and a more enjoyable time if she behaves and stays in the pew.

      Daily Mass Disclaimer:  Now, anyone who sees me at daily Mass, alone in the cry room with Baby J, knows that I do put her down and let her do Tobias rolls (gosh, I wish I could find a clip of this scene from Arrested Development) and eat goldfish.  But that's daily Mass.  I have no helpers.  Baby noises in church at daily Mass are way louder.  And I usually have to jerk her out of a deep sleep to bring her.  

      We DON'T let them leave the pew.  Just like a roller coaster, please keep arms and legs and hands and feet inside the pew at all times.  Put someone on the end who can play by these rules, like a Dad.  You may not think anyone notices, but we are all watching Junior take his shoes off and stick his legs in the aisle.  Though he is adorable, the old lady with the walker is going to trip.  And meanwhile the rest of us just want to spend some time with our Lord without wondering when he's going to make a break for it.  Because he will.  Either up the aisle or around the altar.  I know parents who've changed parishes after such events.


      We occasionally surprise them with donuts.  Our church doesn't have Coffee and Rolls.  But sometimes...you never know when...everyone gets rewarded with a trip to the bakery after a good showing at Mass.  And sometimes everyone gets lectured about what went wrong and why, and then we get donuts anyway and eat emotionally and promise to do better. 

      This is all much easier if everyone is well rested and fed and watered.  That's why we go to the late Mass.  We like to sleep in and have a leisurely breakfast with a variety of pork products, before we realize the time and make a mad dash for our two bathrooms.  "Don't Flush!  I'm taking a shower!" Or we just show up smelling like bacon.

      Tuesday, February 7, 2012

      Attachment Parenting and Permissiveness

      Lots of people parent, everyone has been parented, and everyone has strong opinions on the subject.  Some people confuse parenting with discipline.  Some people confuse parenting with friendship.  It is neither and both.

      Recently, I liked this article (about the practices and success of French parents compared to American parents) on Facebook.  I also read a few blog posts about it.  In the combox of one blog in particular, I noticed some negative comments about attachment parenting and permissiveness.

      I would say that I practice attachment parenting.  The fact that I use a highchair, 2 exersaucers, and a stroller means that lots of attachment parents would disagree with me.

      By attachment parenting, I mean that I breastfeed for up to 2 years (maybe longer, never needed it longer), and we co-sleep.  We want our baby sleep on our schedule (if I stay up late, she'll sleep in late) and do not impose some other time table.  And we do not purposely let her cry.

      Not that she cries anyway.  Really.  We've never had a baby like this one.  She's always happy and smiley and jolly.  She's the polar opposite of our firstborn who cried from 1996 through 1998.  Though I did not intend to "let him cry it out," that's just what I had to do, because I had met all of his needs and nothing made him stop crying, except Steve Earle CDs or running water.

      But permissive?  I don't think so.  Yes, our firstborn slept in our bed for 2 years and then in a sleeping bag on the floor next to our bed for another 3 or 4.  But we taught him the word, "No" and what it meant from a very early age. Go ahead and ask him.  We are the meanest parents he knows.  Ask him what we always say when he tells us about somebody else's parents.  "We don't give a rat's a$$ what other people's parents do."  He knows not to tell us about other parents.  That's when we get ugly mean.

      We have rules.  No Wii unless it's raining, you're sick, or you have a friend over.  No technology in your bedroom.  Say Please and Thank You.  When I call your name, come to me and say, "Yes, Mom?" or "Yes, Dad?"  You don't get to holler, "Whhhaaaat?"  from the next room.  Permission required for using the computer or the television, and both have time limits. 

      One of the more difficult and newer rules that my kids hate is that we require 24 hours notice for social events, playdates, basketball games, whatever.  Tell me the night before, because if you're asking the day of, the answer is no.  Of course, there are exceptions.  It became very important for everyone to learn to make plans and to not take your ride (Dad) for granted.  In the same regard, I cannot take my babysitters for granted and also must plan ahead. 


      I think the key point in the article about French parents is that they say "non," and they say it with conviction. It's important that kids learn that you mean what you say.  Baby J is learning the word, "No," right now, every time she tries to touch the fireplace screen.  Our other kids learned it this way, she will too.  Even if I do wear her in an Ergo sometimes.

      Monday, February 6, 2012

      The Most Romantic Thing I've Ever Done

      Every year on Valentine's Day, I make a heart-shaped bacon wrapped meatloaf.  The Chef says that this is the most romantic thing I've ever done.  He really loves my meatloaf.

      I originally posted this on Pots and Peter Pans.

      My meatloaf recipe comes from a cookbook, The Best Recipe, by Pam Anderson. She recommends a meatloaf mix of 50% ground chuck, 25% ground veal, and 25% ground pork. I'm too lazy and cheap to do that. I use a very gourmet mix of 80% lean ground beef and 93% lean ground beef. It probably doesn't matter how lean the beef is for this, because most of the fat drains out of a free form loaf anyway.

      Bacon-Wrapped Meatloaf with Brown Sugar Ketchup Glaze
      Serves 6-8

      Brown Sugar-Ketchup Glaze

      ¼ cup ketchup or chili sauce
      2 T light or dark brown sugar
      2 t cider or white vinegar

      Meat Loaf

      2 t vegetable oil
      1 medium onion, chopped
      2 garlic cloves, minced
      2 large eggs
      1 t dried thyme
      1 t salt
      ½ t ground black pepper
      2 t Dijon mustard
      2 t Worcestershire sauce
      ¼ t hot red pepper sauce
      ½ c milk, buttermilk, or low-fat plain yogurt
      2 lbs. ground beef ( or ground pork, ground turkey, or any combination of)
      2/3 c crushed saltines (about 16), or quick oatmeal or 1 1/3 c fresh bread crumbs
      1/3 c minced fresh parsley leaves
      6 oz bacon (8-9 slices)

      1. Glaze: Mix all ingredients in a pyrex measuring cup and set aside.

      2. Meat Loaf: Preheat oven to 350. Heat oil in a medium skillet. Add onion and garlic, and sauté until softened, about 5 min. Set aside.

      3. Mix eggs with thyme, salt, pepper, mustard, Worcestershire, pepper sauce and milk or yogurt. Add egg mixture to meat in a large bowl, along with crackers (or oatmeal or bread crumbs), parsley and cooked onions and garlic; mix with fork until evenly blended.

      4. To bake free form: Cover a wire rack with foil; prick foil in several places with a fork. Place rack on a shallow roasting pan lined with foil for easy clean up. Set formed loaf on rack. Brush loaf with all of glaze, then arrange bacon slices, crosswise over loaf, overlapping them slightly and tucking them under loaf to prevent curling. (This is where you can get super romantic and shape your meatloaf like a heart for Valentines' Day.)

      5. Bake loaf until bacon is crisp and loaf registers 160F, about 1 hour. Cool for 20 minutes. Slice and serve with smashed potatoes or sweet potato fries and a green salad.

      Saturday, February 4, 2012

      Lament of the Pear


      Fashion-wise, I would have done much better in any other century. Look at these hip hiding gowns!


      It seems to me that most women in the world are hearts or apples or hourglasses or rectangles, but very few of us are pears. It's definitely true that in any given store, 75-100% of the pants are designed for people with "noassitol" or "some bun plus a tummy". Me and my kind: we have mismatched body parts. God took a perfectly lovely size 4-6 top half and stuck it to the bottom half of a snowman.


      Poor Susan has it too. Not so noticeable in her lithe size 00/2 body, but even those jeans are too big in the waist.

      Too Big in The Waist is a style my lovely tailor is quite familiar with.

      You've heard of pantylines? Pear girls have pocket lines. My ample thighs make extra long front pockets visible from 30 feet away. My tailor fixes those for me too. Why, oh, why did Mr. Eddie Bauer think that really long pockets would be perfect on those Blakely for Pear-Shaped Women chinos/capris/shorts? Do the designers think we have extra large hands as well as hips?


      Whiskering. Worst idea ever. Some cruel designer said, "Let's make some jeans for the girls with hips. And let's put lots of subtle horizontal lines right at their widest point."
      And their evil sidekick hissed, "Yesss, and let'sss add sssome big faded patchesss on the thighsss."

      A Few Rules for Pears.

      If at all possible, find a tailor, and be very kind, complimentary, and respectful of him/her. Try to bring her things with plenty of time to do a nice job. No one likes to be rushed.

      Back pockets are important. Mr. Talbots should learn this lesson. Curvy girls have big buns. No one wants to see that much unadorned denim.


      A-lines are A+. The A-line accentuates our normal waists and skims all of our problem parts. Pears have a very difficult time pulling off knit skirts, skirts cut on a bias, empire waist dresses, drop-waist dresses, pleated skirts, most prints, and shorts.

      Pears can pull off a pencil skirt, but only if the skirt fits properly (get the waist taken in). This skirt from Target is serving me well, which is surprising because usually only the most expensive brands fit this well without alterations.
      Regarding tops. Based on what I've seen at the mall and in catalogs like Garnet Hill, pears are being prejudiced on the top as well. The waist is the part we want to focus on, but all of the current trends look like this.


      Or this.

      So this spring, I may go really retro and try to bring back this style.


      A more casual daytime look:


      And for those formal occasions, such as visiting your nosy, photographer boyfriend with a broken leg, who's uncovering of a dastardly crime will soon put you in mortal danger:



      Maybe something like this will detract from my lower half.


      Maybe not.