Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Giveaway trends

I've noticed an annoying trend lately in the land of bloggy giveaways. It used to be (maybe last year?) that giveaways were fun. You left a comment, usually answering a fun or humorous question, maybe browsed a bit in the archives, and crossed your fingers. I enjoyed them because I found fun blogs that way sometimes. One of my favorite blogs was a giveaway discovery!

Unfortunately, most giveaways aren't fun anymore. Instead of "please leave a comment on X,Y,Z" we get something like this:

1) MANDATORY ENTRY: follow me through "Blogger Friend" AND follow my friend Trippy Tulip.

*For additional entries* (Leave a separate comment for each thing you do.)

2) "Like" me on facebook.

3) Follow me on twitter

4) Tweet about this giveaway.

5) Put this giveaway in your facebook status.

6) Put my button your blog sidebar.

7) Blog about this giveaway.

8) Send an email to five friends telling them about this giveaway.

9) Tell me which of the following linked posts in my archives includes the name of my cat.

10) If you do ALL of these, you'll receive a bonus entry!

Suddenly, this giveaway isn't fun and friendly anymore. For one thing, it takes too long to read and figure out what I'm supposed to do to enter. It would take WAY too long to actually do all those things. I don't even LIKE twitter and I really don't like it being used this way. And speaking of used, now I feel used, like this giveaway wasn't just meant to be fun and for kicks, but solely and entirely intended to boost the blogger's "stats".


If you've read this far, you probably deserve a prize. :) So here you go: a $10 gift card of your choice: Starbucks, CVS, Target, or Panera. All you have to do is tell me which one you'd like. If you're feeling friendly you can also tell me what you think of this rant. ;)

Oh, and in case you clicked all those links above? I don't actually have a cat.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Art study: Vincent van Gogh (take two)

We're slowly (veeeerrrrry slowly) working our way forward in our artist study. I have a difficult time clearing space in a morning for time intensive painting. Working on that. :) This morning we managed it, and we had a great time. We were copying Van Gogh's Roses.

Here is Jonathan's reproduction:

He started with the vase - note the blue and yellow coloring, and the handle. Then he decided that the rest of the picture was boring and needed extra color, so he added red and black roses. :)

Jonathan feels pretty intimidated before he actually starts. If I start painting too, it seems to help him settle in and enjoy it. I understand the intimidation, because I rarely want to start painting either! But once I get going, it is usually quite fun. Here's my copy:

Do you do art with your kids? How do you choose to do it?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Smoothie recipe

2 oranges
2 large handfuls baby spinach
1 handful blueberries (frozen)
1 handful grapes
1 peach (frozen)
1/2 banana (frozen)
2 T. chia glop
splash of orange juice
splash of milk
8 ice cubes

Blend until smooth and thick (like soft serve).

So good the neighbor kids ask for their own "ice cream"!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Triple playtime (I mean bedtime)

Tonight we're moving Josiah into the boys' bedroom. I anticipate quite the party in there!

It sure looks like a lot of little boys when you see them all stacked up like this, doesn't it?

(Please excuse the blurriness of the photo...some little fingers found my camera this afternoon!)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Vegetable bouillon

As summer is turning into fall, I've started to think about soup recipes again. Most soups, even "cream based" ones, start with a beef, chicken, or vegetable broth. Until recently, I used homemade stock if I had it in the freezer (rarely) and otherwise used a bouillon cube or paste. They're so convenient!

Sadly for convenience, I've been reading lots about nutrition. And I've started reading labels. Do you know what is IN bouillon cubes??
Ingredients: Salt, sugar, hydrolyzed soy protein, salt, partially hydrogenated soy oil, hydrolyzed soy protein, silicon dioxide, partially hydrogenated corn oil, autolyzed yeast extract, salt, sugar, whey powder, lactic acid, spice, onion powder, dehydrated cooked beef, caramel color, dried beef stock, disodium inosinate, disodium guanylate, autolyzed yeast, flavoring.
And then they have the gall to say "No MSG added."

Personally, I don't think I want to feed that to my family anymore. So today I made fresh vegetable bouillon paste! The recipe inspiration came from here and here, although I made some of my own changes and estimated a lot of the weights of vegetables!

2 large leeks
6 small carrots (what I had - a few more would have been nice)
4 ribs celery
3 crimini mushrooms
1.5 ounces sun dried tomatoes
1/2 bunch baby kale (don't use too much of this - it is STRONG stuff!)
1 bunch spinach
1/2 bunch cilantro
1/2 bunch parsley
2 shallots
4 cloves garlic
1 cup sea salt

First I chopped everything in a food processor. It is a lot of vegetables, so you have to do a little at a time, scrape it out, do the next bit, rinse, repeat.

Isn't it a lovely blend of colors?

I used the food processor because I was following the directions. In retrospect, I think I probably could have just used the Vitamix blender from the beginning. In any case, I wanted it to be a smoother paste than the food processor was creating, so I threw it in the blender.

Added salt - yes, that is a LOT of salt. But keep in mind that a teaspoon of the finished paste will make a whole cup of broth.

Finished product:

(Plus at least this much again in the freezer.)

Verdict: it tastes amazing. A little too much kale for my personal preference, which can be changed next time. But as a soup base, I think this will be just perfect.

Peanut butter play dough

I have fond memories of running around outside on blustery days when I was a child. Sadly, my children have thus far spent their life in the land of no seasons. They are something like shocked when the temperature drops below 70 degrees. Misty wet weather, like we had last week, sends them running inside (and then bouncing off the walls!)

My mom reminded me of this fun treat a few days ago when I called her, slightly desperate for creative ideas. You take a large glop of peanut butter and add honey. Don't ask me how much - I didn't measure any of this. Until it looks right. :) Stir together, then slowly stir in whole wheat flour until it reaches the consistency of soft play dough. Serve with a variety of fun foods that can be stuck on/into the dough, such as nuts, seeds, raisins, oats, etc. Whatever you have in your cupboard!

The kids had a great time - Thomas was thrilled that he was being told to play with his food!

And it tastes like peanut butter cookies. :)

Yes, it's a little messy, but hands wash!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Toy swap!

When you have three boys with four grandparents, not to mention aunts and uncles who love them, you end up with a small mountain of toys and books in the house. One of the ways we handle this is to have at least half of the toys squirreled away in our closet, out of sight and mostly out of mind.

Initially this was just my way to keep toys that were no longer age appropriate for Jonathan, but would be wanted for later children. Later I realized that it was also a way to keep toys fresh and interesting. If all the toys are out all the time, they all get boring. But put those toys away for 4-6 months, and they are even better than new when they reappear!

Today we gathered all the currently-played-with toys. All four of us sat down together and decided which toys should be thrown away (if broken beyond repair), which would be good to give away, and which we wanted to put away for later. This is the first time I've done this with input from three little boys, and I was expecting lots of disagreement. Surprisingly, it went very smoothly. We ended up with good sized pile to give away, and all boys were in agreement! (It helps that they know where these toys will be going: to the La Habra Life Center just up the street. We've been donating there for years, in person and with the boys' help, and it has been a wonderful way to teach the boys compassion for children who don't have as much as they do.)

The "put away" pile disappeared into the depths of my closet, and then the best part: getting out the "new" toys! All three kids are happily playing while I type, and I'm enjoying the break. :)

What do you do with an abundance of toys, readers?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Simple food

Sometimes the very best lunch is also the easiest. Fresh, hot, homemade bread, and a spoon of peanut butter on the side. Mmmm.

I'm trying something new on Mondays. It is one of our stable "at home" days, and I always feel so much more energetic coming off the weekend with Gabe. So Mondays have been designated "laundry day" and "cooking/baking/food preparation day" I'm still struggling with the laundry part, probably because it feels (is!) unending, but I think I like the cooking part. So far today I have baked a loaf of bread and boiled eggs for breakfasts/snacks during the week. There is a pot of vegetable soup simmering on the stove, and chicken salad is half-way made. It would be nice to also make a batch of muffins and cook the base for potato cheese soup, but I may not get to that. We'll see. Either way, this is a great start for good, healthy, home-cooked meals and snacks this week, which will make the not-at-home days much simpler.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Freedom to enjoy food

One of the stellar parts of eating the way I do now, is that I suddenly have the freedom to really enjoy food. Before, food always came with an aftertaste of guilt. Too many calories, or too many carbs, or too much sugar, or simply too back brain really never stopped berating me. Because I knew that if I was not constantly vigilant (perhaps hyper-vigilant) the scale was going to go up. And if it went up, I didn't really know how to make it go back down. If you haven't been in this situation, where the "normal rules" of dieting just don't seem to apply, you probably can't understand the incredible freedom that came with finding an eating plan that works.

I still have problems with my back brain. It has been in charge for a long time, and change isn't always easy! But overall? I like eating again. Not in a rebellious, frustrated, "I'm just going to eat it anyway" kind of way, or the horrible guilt-ridden "eat everything in sight and regret it later" addiction, but simple enjoyment without the worry and fear that used to come with it.

Today's lunch includes two things that used to be nutrition no-no's: cookies* and summer sausage.

Today I eat them with true enjoyment, and when they're gone, I'll still be happy. Also? Dinner is going to be amazing. :)

* Those cookies, decadent though they certainly are, do fit into my eating plan. They are made with organic whole wheat flour, organic evaporated cane juice, coconut oil, and a few other basics that are almost all found in my kitchen. Love it! (If you're interested, the brand is called Late July.)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Cleaning house

Jessica has inspired me. Last Saturday karate was canceled, and Gabe and I cleaned house! We're planning to take 3 or 4 Saturday mornings and work really hard, giving the house a good old fashioned "spring" cleaning. I'm also re-organizing my chore cards and considering using them again. They fell by the wayside for awhile, but I think it might be a good idea to go back to that system. I'm pretty good at basic dailies and weeklies on my own, but that isn't enough to keep a really clean house, as opposed to a tidy house.

I forget, in the busyness and mess of day to day living, what a blessing it is to have a truly clean house. But oh, what a pleasure it is to walk into our beautiful bedroom now! Just being in there feels relaxing!

Happy Birthday, Josiah Patrick!

Birthday posts that are two weeks late is what happens in this busy household, little son. We're so busy loving you and enjoying you, writing about it often gets overlooked.

You're so independent now, always chasing after the big boys, trying to do just what they're doing. You want to be in the thick of things! But you still have a need for snuggles with Mama, and you're pretty good at letting me know about that. This morning you held up your arms to be picked up, pointed to the rocking chair, and said "baby". We rocked and sang the songs that I used to sing to you when you were a baby: Baby Mine, Tender Shepherd, Today, Swing Low, Down in the Valley. You laid your head on my shoulder and snuggled for about ten minutes, and then you were ready to play with your brothers again.

This year your big birthday present was a play kitchen. Grandma and Grandpa, Aunt Libby and Uncle Jon, and Aunt Abbey all went in with us on it, and I'm so glad! You love that kitchen. You're always bringing your creations to me for taste-tests. So far my favorite is the egg cooked with grapes in the stew pot.

You definitely have your own opinions about things. You don't like much of what I serve for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and you frequently choose to skip meals rather than eat what you've been given. (This doesn't bother me too much, since you still have some lovely baby rolls on your legs.) You have mastered the word "mine!" and use it frequently, at high volume, to express your displeasure at sharing your toys.

Your personality is such an interesting mix. You're so outgoing, flirting with strangers in the grocery store and making friends with any "baby!" that you see. But you also need your space, and you know when you need it. When the chaos around you gets to be a little too much, you ask to be put into your crib. You lay down, snuggle your blanket, and suck your pacifier. A few minutes later you'll ask to get back out, and be ready to play again.

I look at this photo and realize that this baby of mine isn't much of a baby anymore. But I'm glad that you still need snuggles.


I could eat this all day!

Upside down apple crisp

3/4 c. whole wheat flour
1 and 1/4 c. rolled oats
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. nutmeg
1/2 c. evaporated cane juice
6 T. butter
10-12 medium apples and/or plums

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix flour, oats, cane juice and spices in a bowl. Cut in butter, then gently press into a 9x13 glass dish, reserving just a bit for sprinkling later. Core and slice apples/plums. I like the slices to be kind of chunky, because they hold up better while baking instead of turning into mush. Toss with about 1/2 t. of lemon juice, then dump them into the baking dish and sprinkle with oat mixture. Bake for 40-80 minutes, until apples are soft. (The time really varies, depending on how thick your apple slices are.) If you want to speed baking time, you can cover the pan with foil, although this does change the texture of the oats on the bottom.

Serve warm, room temperature, or cold, with a glass of milk. Mmmm!

Sunday, October 10, 2010


Fair warning? Ok.

This is one of the most perceptive essays I have ever read on the current political climate. Peggy Noonan always writes well, and frequently has an ability to tease out the non-obvious (yet truly important) bits hidden in the political maelstrom. I read her article today and thought "yes, this is what bothers me, and I never knew what to call it."
For those who wonder why so many people have come to hate, or let me change it to profoundly dislike, "the elites," especially the political elite, here is one reason: It is because they have armies of accountants to do this work for them. Those in power institute the regulations and rules, and then hire people to protect them from the burdens and demands of their legislation. There is no congressman passing tax law who doesn't have staffers in his office taking care of his own financial life and who will not, when he moves down the street into the lobbying firm, have an army of accountants to protect him there.
. . .
This is part of why people dislike "the elites" and why "the elites," especially in Washington, must in turn be responsive, come awake, start to notice. People don't like it when they fear you are subtly, day by day, year by year, changing the personality and character of their nation. They think, "You are ruining our country and insulating yourselves from the ruin. We hate you." And this is understandable, yes?

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Star Wars, revised

Jonathan has never seen Star Wars. Nevertheless, he knows all about Star Wars. That is, he knows most of the characters, and he thinks they're really, really cool. He can't wait for the day when he'll be allowed to watch the movies.

Until then, he's making do with his own imagination. In his most recent version of the story,

*spoiler alert*

Luke dies. (That's him in red, lying dead at Darth Vader and Yoda's feet.)

Little boys and weapons

"My house will never have toy guns inside."

"My kids won't play war games."

"My kids will (in a nod to their being male) only use swords and bows/arrows to, um, kill things. But only animals."

My kids just turned their scabbards into automatic weapons.


I think I need to figure out a workable philosophy on this one. I'm interested in what others have chosen to do. Leave a comment?

Rain complicates things

I love the rain. I love the freshness in the air prior, during, and after a storm; the green trees brightening against grey clouds; the cold drops falling on my face. I love staying indoors and cuddling up with a book and a cup of hot tea, raising my eyes to watch drops rolling down the window and dripping off the roses into the kids' pool.

I love rain, but it does complicate things. You see, my children love the rain, too. The moment the first drop falls, they're running outside, cheering, encouraging God to send "more rain!" Now that we've had a real storm, there is mud outside, and puddles, and bits of wet leaves that stick to small legs and wet heads ("How did your hair get muddy?" "I don't know?")

They disrobe just inside the door, standing on a long-suffering and lately-filthy rug. Boots, socks, pants, underwear, shirts, sweater, jacket, soaking in a pile on the floor. Kids go directly to the shower, do not pass go, do not collect $200, clothes go directly to the washer. Another full load (how many have I done today?)

Washed, children climb into dry clothes and move on to the next game. Washed, wet clothes are added to the backlog in the basket. You see, the dryer is outside. In the rain.

Photo credit

Monday, October 04, 2010


This morning Jonathan was working on math. He finished a problem (3+6=9) and then looked at it for a moment, got a huge smile on his face, and proclaimed "Mommy! Three twos make SIX!!"

I love watching his brain file facts away, only to bring them out in new combinations later. It is fascinating.

Friday, October 01, 2010

I guess 5 for 5 was asking too much...

We had a lovely 4 days, Monday through Thursday. Good, happy days, school enjoyed, chores accomplished, meals on the table.

This morning everyone got up on the WRONG side of bed. Cranky, cranky, cranky. Josiah threw a full-blown 2 year old tantrum: head, fists, and feet banging on the floor. It was almost funny. Only not.

Jonathan is irritated that we can't go to PE right now! And so has been in a rotten mood all morning.

Thomas is fine except that his brothers are both being mean to him, poor kid!

Mommy is considering sending EVERYONE back to bed. Myself included. Doesn't a fresh start sound appealing?