Recently tried recipes

Here are some of the best recipes I've tried lately.


Trip of a lifetime

Red Chief and Mr. Mordecai took a big trip in March and I completely forgot to write about it here. For Red Chief's tenth birthday, we offered him a trip of his choice to anywhere (within reason).

He did a lot of research (and we had to veto a couple, like space) before he settled on Easter Island.

He researched plane fares, hotels, and travel plans: this trip was over 18 months in the making. And in March, he went there. The worst part was the four-leg plane trip, but on the bright side, he got bonus day trips to Santiago and Sao Paulo.

Red Chief chose what to do on the trip. They saw all the moai (the Easter Island statues), climbed the tallest mountain on the island (not that tall), and Red Chief spent six hours swimming in the ocean.

He arrived home sunburned, tired, and happy, full of stories about the island, and also about the restaurant chickens, street dogs, and hotel cats that he met.


Big bed

Pip, at the age of 3.5, has finally graduated to a big bed. He is the latest of my three children to get out of the crib, and the only one to use a toddler bed (which was just his crib converted). He loved it, and I didn't see a reason to make him change.

But this morning he laid down in the twin-sized bed in his room and I saw how much of it he filled up. I asked him if he wanted to take down his crib and start sleeping in the big bed, and he said yes.

So without any planning ahead, my husband and Pip took down the crib together, and we shuffled some furniture, and here we are.

Now the final step toward big boy–hood is getting this kiddo potty trained. You'd think I'd know what to do on the third child, but nope, they're all different!


Good things this spring

  • The pairs of ducks flying overhead
  • And the ducklings
  • The robins building their nests
  • The pink snow that happens when the trees lose their blossoms
  • The sunshine
  • The shedding of our coats for the morning walk to school
  • Young people we know growing up and graduating and getting married
  • Red Chief learning to mow the lawn
  • Red Chief's horn lessons being moved to a place equally far away, but with a more scenic drive and a park across the street for Pip to play in
  • Our new fruit trees survived the winter
  • The kids are growing
  • Pip playing with water in the back yard
  • Tiger Lily making chalk art on the driveway with the twins next door
  • All three kids playing in the rain together


Convincing myself

I felt that I had to wheedle myself like a stubborn child to get anything done today.

"I'm tired. I don't want to do anything today."
"But you need to go to the store. You didn't go yesterday."
"Fine. I'll go. It's better than cleaning the house anyway."

At the store: "Don't buy the French bread. You can make some. It will be much healthier."
"Okay, I guess."

At home: "Why didn't I buy the bread? Now I have to make bread for dinner tonight. I don't want to."
"It won't take long. You can watch a movie while it's rising."
"Fine. But I'm not grinding wheat."
"Why don't you make that vegan pound cake you found the recipe for last night, while the bread is rising? It would go well with those strawberries you just bought."

Make the bread. Grind wheat after all. Make the cake.

"That wasn't so bad I guess. But I don't want to clean up."
"The bread is still rising. The cake is in the oven. Just see how much you can do in three minutes."

And in three minutes, it was done.


Intentional vs. reactive housework

"An increasing number of households do housework without any system, schedule, or routine, more or less reacting to each situation as it arises. This makes things harder, not easier. With systematic housekeeping, most of the time you live comfortably: supplies are not exhausted; dirt and laundry do not overaccumulate; plans and resources for at-home occupations and entertainments are in place.  
"In nonsystematic housekeeping, chores are tended to only when the resources are exhausted: when there are not clean clothes or linens and there is school in the morning and stale beds tonight; when it is the dinner hour and the cabinet is bare; when dirt and disorder are beyond tolerating.  
"When you keep house like this, domestic frustrations and discomfort begin to be felt long before you reach the point where you decide to do something about them. But when this point is reached, often the troubles cannot immediately be remedied because, without rational schedules, nothing ensures that time or resources will then be available to tend to the house. . . . And, worst of all, the only time you get to experience anything like a well-kept house is immediately after the emergency response measures are taken. The rest of the time—most of the time—you live badly." 
—Cheryl Mendelson, Home Comforts (paragraphs added)

I've been meandering my way through Home Comforts again. I read and loved it several years ago, but this time I'm reading it with the idea that I'll go slowly and integrate some of its advice as I go along. The passage above really struck me as I read last night. I've been slowly drifting toward a more reactive form of housekeeping, and I love how it's laid out so clearly for me here why reactive housekeeping tends to feel more frustrating.

In honor of this passage, here's my new daily and weekly schedule. I find that I have to revamp my chore lists every few months to match our constantly changing schedules and lives.

Make beds
Clear kitchen counters
Pick up
Sweep and vacuum as needed
Fake-clean bathrooms and change hand towels
Preschool with Pip

Monday: Clean upstairs and change beds
Tuesday: Errands
Wednesday: Clean downstairs
Thursday: Grocery shopping
Friday: Odd jobs (deep cleaning, baking, projects)
Saturday: Outside chores

We'll see how that settles in!


Something new: Soy curls

Image courtesy Butler Foods

I'm an adventurous cook and eater, and I love trying new things. I kept hearing rave reviews about a new product called soy curls. They're one ingredient—soybeans—and to be honest, I thought they sounded weird.

But, being curious, I eventually tried them (when the price on Amazon got low enough). And we like them! They are hands down the best meat substitute we have tried. They come dehydrated, which makes them a great food storage product. Half a bag is enough for my family of five. You need to soak them for ten minutes in warm water and season well when you add them to the recipe, because they don't have any flavor of their own.

So far I have tried a teriyaki stir-fry and fajitas, and we've enjoyed them both.

Now that I know we like them, I'll be ordering in bulk directly from the manufacturer (Butler Foods) to save money. I'm happy to have this new ingredient in my pantry!


A three-year-old's favorite books

Little Pip is getting decidedly opinionated in his choice of books lately. Here are some of his favorites that he requests again and again.

  • What Was I Scared Of? by Dr. Seuss. Pip can't get over his fascination with the pale green pants with nobody inside them. He has deemed this book too scary to actually take to bed with him, but he still asks me to read it to him almost every night. This book is a favorite with our whole family.
  • Jamberry by Bruce Degen. We read this book every night for months. It says a lot about the book that I still enjoy reading it.
  • The Wicked Big Toddlah by Kevin Hawkes. Too funny! A story about a gigantic baby who gets into all sorts of trouble. It is full of inside jokes about Maine (which I don't really get, but still enjoy), and the illustrations are the best. I notice something new and funny almost every time I read it to Pip, and I've read it a lot!
  • Triangle by Mac Barnett. Pip is fascinated by this book and now wants to play "sneaky tricks" on everyone. This book has also been deemed too scary to take to bed.
  • The Saddest Toilet in the World by Sam Apple. We've been reading dozens of potty books lately, but this one that personifies a toilet who's sad because a little boy won't sit on it takes the cake. Pip loves it.
  • Ducks Away! by Mem Fox. Every. Day. Until I took it back to the library. So cute, Mem Fox can't be beat!
  • The Gingerbread Man by Jim Aylesworth. Pip is fascinated by the gingerbread man and doesn't seem to mind him getting eaten at the end.
  • Snipp Snapp Snurr and the Gingerbread by Maj Lindman. I got him this book because he loved The Gingerbread Man so much, and boy did he ever love reading about three little boys falling into the gingerbread batter and running around town!
  • But No Elephants by Jerry Smath. One of my favorites in my childhood, now a favorite of Pip's.
  • Risseldy, Rosseldy by John M. Feierabend. This is a random book I grabbed off the shelves at the library that turned out to be a hit. The rhythm is so catchy, I would hear Pip chanting it in bed on nights we read it.
  • All for Pie, Pie for All by David Martin. The illustrations are just adorable.


Books for a picky third-grade reader

My Tiger Lily is a great reader, but I've never met a pickier one. She has walked out of the library before complaining that there's nothing to read in there.

This year, as she started third grade, I was frustrated that she was still reading (mostly re-reading, actually, as she'd already read them all) simple, formulaic series books like A to Z Mysteries and Thea Stilton. She could tear through one of them in about 20 minutes, a sign to me that she needed something a little more challenging.

Now, three-quarters of the way through the school year, she's finally moved on. I am starting to understand her reading tastes a little better (and they're similar to mine, if a lot narrower). She likes girl heroines, siblings, good friends, not too scary, and a little bit of magic (especially dragons).

Here are some of the books that have gotten her reading this year. Now that you know her tastes, do you have any recommendations for her?


The Dragon Slippers series by Jessica Day George. Tiger Lily just tore through these books, ordering me to the library when a new one was required.

Ellen Tebbits and Otis Spofford by Beverly Cleary. I'm so glad she was able to see the everyday magic in Beverly Cleary's books.

The Candy Shop War by Brandon Mull. She tore through this one in a day, but she didn't want to read the sequel: it was a little too scary for her.

The Tuesdays in the Castle series by Jessica Day George. I know that Tiger Lily will like this series, as she likes the author, and I think it is even more age-appropriate for her than the Dragon Slippers books. She's just started it and is enjoying it so far. Getting her to even start a book is half the battle.

The Doll People series by Ann M. Martin. Featuring illustrations by the celebrated Brian Selznik, Tiger Lily has really enjoyed the books from this series that she has read.

Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate. This is a book that Tiger Lily's teacher read to her, and I keep hearing about it, so it must have been good.

The Oz series by L. Frank Baum. These books have been hit and miss with her: there a few she adores, and others it's been harder for her to get into.

The Where the Mountain Meets the Moon series by Grace Lin. I adore this series and I couldn't be happier that Tiger Lily loves it too.

The 100 Dresses series (starting with If the Magic Fits) by Susan Maupin Schmid. These books are filled with cuteness, and magical dresses, perfect for Tiger Lily.

And, just for my own reference, here are some books I think she would like, if I can get her to try them.


The Dealing with Dragons series by Patricia C. Wrede. She loved the last dragon books she read, and I think she would like these, too. I love the sense of humor in these books.

The Twins at St. Clare's series by Enid Blyton. I'll admit that this series is a bit shallow and didactic, but it's fun, and I think Tiger Lily would enjoy it.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly. Every girl should read this book, and luckily it's no chore.

The Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace. She has actually already read the first two, and tolerated them, but I know she would like the next two in the series better since she is closer to their age.

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. Perfect for a little girl who loves to write.

The Rose Legacy by Jessica Day George. This one is coming out soon, and we have pre-ordered it. She's a fan of the author, and it has a horse on the cover. One look at the cover and she wanted to read it.


Spring wash

Tiger Lily woke up with a sore throat. With the end of term at school and a trip coming up for some family members, I decided we needed to do some cleaning and airing out to freshen up our house—and with any luck, it will help us stay healthy.

First I started on the beds, stripping off everything and washing them. It feels good to make up a bed with all fresh bedding. I wish I could hang it out on the line like the lady in the picture, but since we don't have one, I settled with opening all the windows. It rained overnight and the air is nice and fresh and not too cold outside to have the windows open.

Two beds down, two to go!