February 28, 2014

Inherited Books

This week, we finished up the Little House (Laura) books on CD. We have been listening to them off and on for about three years. We would get a CD out of the library and listen to it and get another one and then repeat, mixing them up with lots of other stories. I wasn't sure if the later books were age appropriate for 5 and 6 year old girls, so we listened to a lot of Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie and On the Banks of Plum Creek. I know, I know. How could they not be age appropriate? Orianna tends to be a worrier (can't imagine where she got that) and I wasn't sure how she would handle Mary's blindness, wolves on the lake, Mrs. Brewster and the knife, etc. Then, since we were having such a cold and snowy winter, I decided we needed to listen to The Long Winter. And one thing led to another and we had to listen to all the other ones. (Orianna asked alot of questions about blindness, the habitat range of wolves, and eventually moved on.)

We just listened to These Happy Golden Years and oh! the excitement. Squeals, jumping up and down, and kicking their legs about. Almanzo coming in his jingle-belled cutter, taking her hand, taking her driving, getting engaged, getting kissed, and then....married!! Squeal! As Nellie Olsen would say, it was all "utterly too too." And all of us loved it. Even Justin said "Almanzo is quite the guy." which is high praise, from Justin.

Books I love are old friends to me. As an adult, I still reread kids books. Several of the books I read as a kid don't charm me as much as an adult. But then there are some that are as awesome now as they were then. Laura, Anne of Green Gables (actually ALL LM Montgomery books) Charlotte's Web, Ramona books, My Friend Flicka books, Betsy-Tacy books.... and so many more. They were all written ages ago, but all have something timeless about them. No matter how old they are, how far removed that world is from ours, they remain relate able. There is a simple complexity (I know, oxymoron) to them that makes them fun as a kid and still interesting as an adult. They all deal with real issues in life, but with a light enough hand that kids can love them.

And then, the Laura books are so....American. They overcome obstacles and near disasters, while steadily looking on the bright side, working hard, being adventurous, and never wavering from their principles. Which seems like the synopsis for the most boring book series on the planet. And yet, they aren't. There is enough contrariness and humor in them all (mostly Laura and Pa) to redeem them from being sanctimonious Pollyannas.

I know there are a lot of great stories out there being written in the here and now and we enjoy those too, but having them read books I read as a kid is like.... well, like introducing them to someone very special to me. And having them love those books makes my childhood self feel like a friend of theirs. As though we are kindred spirits--of the race of Jacob, as Anne would say.

Books are a part of me. I know it is silly. I know I have too many books. But it still remains that who I am today, to some extent, was shaped by the books of my childhood. Some made me think, some just entertained, but they all showed me a different world than my own. Taught me empathy, sparked my imagination, and let me escape, for a few hours, my own childish problems. Books are important. And I am so glad my kids love these stories.

February 27, 2014

Winter Break

We had a lovely winter break. Uncle Tyler was here for a few of the days, which made the kids happy. They are pretty fond of Uncle Ty. The Whites came up and Clover and kids remained for most of the week. Since it wasn't bitterly cold, they were able to burn off energy outside. It was all lovely.

Tyler rebuilding some part of a tractor. 

I would like to take this moment to apologize for my picture taking abilities. My lens on my camera has finally given up, meaning I have to manually focus each shot, and I do not always get it right.

Enthusiasm over something 

Dad thinking he is clever, blocking his face with a clipboard so I can't get a picture of him. 

Elsie and her nanny, Cheyenne who loved taking care of Elsie. Elsie adores her.

The girls, posing as something I forget 

Lily was disgusted with me making her wear this particular sweater. 

Ashley's seashells

I love this piggybank

Silly boy-o's

An attempt at a boy picture. Lincoln curled into a fetal position, Gilbert being excessively cheesy, and Elliott having a hard time hanging on to Hoyt. 

Cuddled up

Owen and Ashley's Maple Avenue

Cheyenne rocking out

Gilbert and Penny

Lily running in the snow

Playing on the giant snow piles

Evan gave the kids turns driving the tractor

Snowy Penny

Penny about to bite Coyote's nose off

Tractor coming back

Lily in trees

Girls in trees

Best buds

Snowy tractor

Clearing off the table outside

Justin thrilled the kids by towing a little sled behind the tractor

Hollering, laughing, and singing Jingle Bells

Morning moon



February 26, 2014

Fish Tacos, Atkins friendly

Yes, I have joined the Atkins bandwagon, about a decade after the cool people did it. I tried it for a month last summer and it went well, but I had to go off it, due to conventions, pig roasts, and birthdays. And then it didn't make sense to go back on before this or that. And then it was almost Thanksgiving. And then, what is the point of going on a diet before Christmas? There isn't, that's what. Finally I ran out of reasons to postpone it, and started it again. It isn't too bad. At least I don't have to count calories, which always is so terribly complicated if you cook homemade food all the time. Or at least it is for me. Who has time to weigh every little thing to figure out the serving size? Or more to the point, who is that organized? Not me, unfortunately.

I know everyone thinks of bacon and butter when you say Atkins, but I prefer to think of it more as a whole foods diet. I do have a bit of bacon and sausage here and there and I haven't been brave enough to make my own mayonnaise (so daring! Ha!) so I do eat those processed foods. Otherwise, it is meat and vegetables. (Oh, and my one indulgence is a square of 90% chocolate every day. Did you know 90% chocolate only has 2 grams of carbs per square? (See? There I am, counting things anyway.) I am not sure if chocolate would every be considered an Atkins food by any purist, but what do they know? If it means I stay on the diet versus diving into a platter of chocolate cupcakes, then I will eat it without guilt.) And after salad upon salad and various cuts of meat, you start craving something with a bit more zip. Which is where fish tacos come in.
Clover made these several years ago and I loved them then. They seemed a bit complicated for regular living, but I loved them so much that I made them again. And being me, I didn't have this or that and didn't feel like doing the other thing, so these ended up a bit different from the original version from America's Test Kitchen.

A couple dozen batches later, I still love these. And I haven't met too many other people who don't like them, except my Dad, who has an obsessive dislike of cilantro. Every other week or two, I mix up a batch of these and eat them for lunches that week. Once I started doing low carb, I adapted them to low carb-ness, which was quite simple. For those of you who are bored with low carb nonsense, I will include the fish breading part at the end.

For those of you interested in low carb creds, I calculate a total of 24 carbs in ALL the cabbage slaw, chipotle mayo, and seasonings, so if you divide it up into four servings, it is about 6 carbs per serving.

Fish Tacos
Adapted from America's Test Kitchen (I think) 

Cabbage Slaw
4 cups shredded cabbage (1/4 of large or 1/2 of small cabbage)
3 Tablespoons minced red onions
2 Tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix together, set aside.

Chipotle Mayonnaise
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1-3 teaspoons chipotle peppers in Adobo Sauce, chopped
1 Tablespoon lime juice
1 Tablespoon minced cilantro
1 medium garlic clove minced or pressed

Mix together, set aside.


Tilapia, Cod, Haddock or any other white fish fillets. 
Oil or butter for pan
Onion powder
Garlic powder
Cayenne Pepper
Smoked Paprika

Heat oil in pan, until very hot/slightly smoking. Put in the fish fillets (I cook them straight from the freezer, no thawing) and sprinkle generously with the above seasonings. Cook for 5-8 minutes on one side, flip and cook for another few minutes until fish is solid white and cooked through. 

Serve on a bed of cabbage slaw with a dollop of chipotle mayonnaise or on warmed corn tortillas, with a little cabbage slaw and chip. mayo inside. 

For those of you who like extra work and more dishes, here is the breading info for the fish.

First of all, you have to thaw the fish, which I find time consuming and silly. Then, for 1 1/2 pounds of fillets, mix together
1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 tablespoon chili powder

1/4 cup vegetable oil

Pat fish dry with paper towels and coat with flour and chili powder mixture. Place in hot skillet and fry in the oil for 5 minutes. Flip over and cook until the fish just begins to flake apart. Eat on tortillas as above. 

February 24, 2014

My Monday Morning

It is a coldish, snowy Monday morning. We had a lovely interlude of spring temperatures, 30's and 40's, but we are back to real winter with below zero temperatures expected in a day or two. It was nice while it lasted anyway. And really, having warm weather for the kids February break was awesome! This morning was a return to cold and to routine. After two weeks of family and being over at Mom and Dad's a lot, I needed a little routine to keep the house from descending into wrack and ruin. 

The grey snow of February....

 Monday mornings tend to be rather intense around here anyway. I have lately become one of those people who like to keep their house clean. (Or, I should say neat, since I will never be capable of the ordered 1950's housekeeping where I pull out my stove and fridge at regular intervals to clean behind them.) I like being able to walk through my living room without a GPS. I heartily embrace this change. As does Justin. Up until the past year or two, I have taken a rather detached and depressed view of the state of my house. An out of body experience--"I am surely not responsible for this living room that has gone from neat to disaster in half an hour, am I?" As a teenager, I firmly believed that there were more interesting things to do than to keep the house neat. Housekeeping was what you did when there was nothing, and I mean nothing, else to do.  I assumed I would magically be able to manage housekeeping after I got married, as though a housekeeping gene would be flipped on when the keys to our first apartment were handed to us. Ha! After realizing my complete lack of the housekeeping gene, I tried to ignore the teetering piles of clutter and envied my OCD friends who vacuumed behind dirty feet and washed a dish the minute it hit the sink.

My sweet little morning mess makers

More civilized

And now, miraculously, through some trick, housekeeping has become enjoyable to me. It is not my favorite thing in the world. But there is a satisfying sense of accomplishment in folding the last basket of laundry, knowing that under the kids bed is clean, that I even recently swept behind the sofa. I feel like I might be setting feminism back a few decades by admitting a sense of accomplishment in these things, but it is so. There is a rhythmic comfort in picking up the days messes and piles before bed. Like recharging the house to full capacity before the next day.

So things now tend toward neatness in our house. Except on weekends, when things get a little frayed around the edges. There is so much for the kids to do, (except for the inevitable "I am SO bored!" comments at 2:30 PM Saturday) that I hate to be nagging them to pick up, pick up every 10 minutes or so. And laundry tends to pile up, as well as dishes and the like. I hope to discover a weekend housekeeping gene soon. Until then, Monday mornings are busy. Several loads of laundry, an hour or two of picking up, sorting, and organizing, paying bills, a good sweep, changing sheets, making beds, and a dishwasher load later, I am definitely less enchanted with housework. But, my house is neat.

I am not sure that my house will ever be company ready at all times. But it is now capable of looking neat within a half hour or so. And for me, that is accomplishment enough.

 Now for my afternoon tea and a chapter or two of a book...

Watching the snow