The parent Olympics

I was thinking this week that there should be a parent Olympics.

  • Putting socks on a kicking baby
  • Changing a baby in the car
  • Doing ____ while holding a baby (too many possibilities here)
  • Listening to two children talk at once and give appropriate replies
Family pictures might be a challenging event. This week we had to get everyone dressed in coordinating outfits, make it to the location happy, walk around at the sandy, woodsy riverside and not get dirty, and all smile for the camera at the same time. We lost points for a child stepping in the river first thing and having sandy feet in all the photos. More points off for the baby who figured out how to scratch both arms at once and wouldn't put them down the whole time. Then minus a few more for the boy who wouldn't stop making funny faces.

I don't think we won the family picture event.

What other events should be on the list?


Easiest black bean tacos

I've been making lentil tacos and lentil nachos for years, but this month I found something faster and easier.

It's my pantry-based take on these tacos, and it's my new go-to for times when I need to get dinner on the table in under 30 minutes. In fact this filling comes together in less than 10 minutes.

I always look forward to having the leftovers for lunch the next day. Even black bean–hating Red Chief likes these tacos. He says they taste like meat. I've started keeping hard taco shells for him in the pantry (the rest of us like tortillas). They last forever in their box if you replace the plastic inner wrap with a zipper bag to keep the air out.

Whenever I make tacos, it seems I always forget to put something on the table: I will be so focused on remembering all the toppings that I'll forget water, or I'll focus so much on the toppings I have to prepare (chopping tomatoes, grating cheese) that I'll forget the salsa and sour cream that take no effort. And no matter what I make for dinner, I always, always forget the napkins.


Easiest black bean tacos

2 cans black beans, drained (I use my own that I've frozen)
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
salt to taste (I use about 1 teaspoon, but my beans have no salt)

Cook everything together until heated through and mash the beans a bit.

Serve on taco shells or tortillas with whatever toppings sound good: salsa, chopped tomatoes, sour cream, lettuce, cheese, avocado, corn, cilantro.

You could stir a can of corn into this filling to make it serve another person or two.

Serves 4–6.

Image source


Things I love right now

Rainy nights and fresh mornings
The first blooms in my hanging baskets
New radish-scented cleaner
A clean, empty kitchen sink
Baby smiles
Time with friends and family
Playing violin
Vegetable-eating children


Recently tried recipes

Garden salad with lime-cilantro dressing. This looked so good in the pictures, but I was underwhelmed.

Green bean stir fry. Yum. I started with frozen green beans.

Spicy barbecue loaf. This is the second lentil loaf I have tried and by far the best. It had a great texture and lots of flavor. We loved the barbecue sauce recipe that went along with it. Bonus: I had all the ingredients on hand so I was able to make it a few days after I should have gone to the grocery store but didn't. I will rewrite this recipe for efficiency: when I printed it out, it was three pages! It's not really that complicated.

Slow cooker aloo gobi. So good. I used a bag of frozen cauliflower instead of the fresh.

Slow cooker coconut chickpea curry. Good! I will make it without the honey next time though.

Also: I have been cooking my way through Vintage Cakes by Jane Brocket. Everything has turned out beautifully: Welsh cakes, marble cake, Victoria sponge cake, pancakes—we've loved them all.


A huge pot of soup

Last time I made some soup from this recipe, it disappeared too fast. This time, I planned ahead for leftovers—serious leftovers. I could eat this for days and not get tired of it. I'm not sure how much this actually made, but it could have been two gallons.

I took lots of shortcuts using frozen and pre-chopped veggies so I wouldn't have to spend all afternoon at the cutting board. I was able to get it going in under thirty minutes. This soup is highly flexible and I'm sure you could substitute any sort of veggies that sound good.

I pulled out some of the veggies and puréed them and Baby thought it was the best thing he had eaten since mashed bananas.


Asian vegetable soup

1 bag frozen onions (12 oz), or 2 onions, chopped
2 pounds carrots, chopped (or more!)
1 bunch celery, chopped
1 bag frozen green beans (16 oz)
1 bag shredded cabbage for coleslaw, or 1/2–1 head cabbage, chopped fine
3 c zucchini, sliced or shredded
1/4 cup garlic (I used some from a jar; if you're using fresh you can get away with less)
1 gallon water
2 cans coconut milk
3/4 cup rice or small pasta
1/4 cup soup base (I used half veggie and half mushroom, but chicken would also work well)
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1–2 tablespoons red curry paste, or more to taste
salt to taste

Get out a huge pot that can hold 2–3 gallons. Sauté onions, carrots, and celery in a little olive oil or water. Add remaining ingredients (except rice or pasta—time that according to what you're adding and how mushy you want it to be. I let my rice get mushy and it was good). Let simmer 30–60 minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste. You will want to have enough red curry paste for flavor but not so much that it burns your tongue off (unless you want a huge quantity of tongue-burning soup). It is the curry paste that makes this taste magical.


Brontë reading update

Remember how I was going to read all the Brontë sisters' books this year? I went crazy for awhile—and enjoyed myself very much—then got stuck on Charlotte's biography by Elizabeth Gaskell. She doesn't just talk about Charlotte's life: she gives a history of all the places she lives, and of all the places her family and friends live and have ever lived, in an effort to better understand her. It's interesting, but it's so very, very long, and I just don't have the attention span for it right now. I'm going to set it aside and work on reading other things for now, and maybe (maybe) come back to it later this year.

Books I've already read in past years (but will still read again this year) are marked with asterisks.

Charlotte Brontë
Jane Eyre*
The Professor 
Tales of Angria

Emily Brontë
Wuthering Heights*

Anne Brontë
Agnes Grey
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall*

Poems by Currer, Acton, and Ellis Bell (the Brontës' pen names) 
The Life of Charlotte Brontë by Elizabeth Gaskell (on hold)
The Brontë Sisters: The Brief Lives of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne by Catherine Reef


Every day


I haven't been a very good blogger lately, have I? I'm going to chalk it up to apathy, inhibition, busy-ness, and lack of sleep.

But here are some things I've done lately that I don't do every day:
  • Work on our will
  • Plant currant bushes in the garden
  • Help the young women in our church sew aprons
  • Have my aunt to visit for a few days
  • See Cinderella with my daughter
  • Get Baby's blood drawn for an allergy test (results: he is fine!)
  • Purge items we don't need and sell on Facebook (Day one: $20 made, $15 spent. Ha.)
  • Watch Red Chief in his piano recital
  • Speak in church
  • Have pink eye
And here are some things I do just about every day:
  • Dishes
  • Laundry
  • Help the big kids with homework
  • Host play dates and shuttle Tiger Lily to her friends' houses
  • Walk the kids to school
  • Nap with Baby
  • Bathe Baby and grease him up with hydrocortisone cream, petroleum jelly, and Cetaphil in an effort to stave off his eczema
 Life is busy. Life is good.


Garage: clean

The garage was cluttered. And dirty. It was long past time for a cleaning, and we did it last week. We took everything out, swept, hosed off, organized, and got rid of quite a lot of junk.

Red Chief made parking spots for the bikes with masking tape. We put the emergency water storage on shelves instead of all over the floor. We wiped the sawdust and grime off of everything. Our trash and recycling bins are full, full, full. 

I knew I didn't like the dirt, but I never knew what a negative effect it had on me until we got it clean.

It feels so nice in there now.



I thought this documentary was fascinating (there are three parts). I can't wait to read the book: Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century: 32 Families Open Their Door.

Can you imagine having someone come over and photograph in all the hidden nooks and crannies? I know we have too much stuff. I want to get rid of what we don't need. Every time I take a trunk load to donate, it feels so good.


Moving along

I guess I haven't been much of a blogger lately. Life happens. There are a rare few days here and there when I think that I have it all together, but between I'm generally overwhelmed to some degree. Lately we've been hit with a nasty cold. It's so sad to hear Baby coughing and see his cheeks diminish as he refuses to eat. He seems to be on the mend now, though. Then I realize that Red Chief was supposed to have a big school project done today, and I've forgotten the Lucky Charms for "Leprechaun Day" tomorrow, and I'm behind on laundry again . . .

I've had to make some compromises lately to keep my sanity. One is going back to simpler meals and slow cooker meals, and buying our bread. I like super-healthy cooking and I want to go back as soon as I can, but for now, my sanity has to take precedence. I have more energy and attention for the children as well when I don't have to stress over dinner.

But life is good. We keep busy with things we enjoy (and some we don't, but such is life). I love watching Baby grow and develop. He's so happy. I'm in constant denial about the scope of his growth, with the result that his clothes are always too small, and by the time I get out the next size up, it's often on the snug side already.

My favorite thing lately is reading to the kids at night. We're nearly done with the second Oz book. I have to relax about bedtime sometimes to get our reading in, but I'm glad we do it. We all look forward to it, and my mind is full of hundreds of books I want to read to them.