Saturday, August 11, 2012

The August of Muffins

There is something about August that makes me crazy. The first few days I am plunged into deep mourning over the loss of summer and wail for the rapidly looming beginning of a new school year.

piled up furniture is more fun than toys
Usually the kids snap me out of that very quickly by being pretty annoying for a couple hours; I find myself saying "thank goodness school is about to start" which kicks me in to major nesting mode hence the past two posts documenting a frenetic cleaning phase.

Although thank GOODNESS for my crazy cleaning last weekend; when the floor guys came they had to pull out the stove to use the more powerful outlet for their sander. They were able to do so without being attacked by mega dust-bunnies or crusted up kitchen grime.

This year add into the mix: having the majority of our main floor sanded and refinished. I'm thrilled with the almost-done result, but living in the remainder of the house, sleeping on an air mattress in the basement, adjusting to a chronic fume-induced sore throat is getting old.

Plus having to hang out around the house for the workers is making me a little sad; I had big plans this summer and we don't have many days left in which to do all the things. Such is life.

Underfill the muffin cups for easier freezing
I did, however, have a chance to try a few STUNNING muffin recipes from a free Muffin eBook. The peanut butter banana muffins were everything they promised to be, and more. A batch of blueberry muffins made me completely aware that I have been cheating myself by buying muffin mix. I made 2 batches, the first was a wash since I ran out of muffin papers so the poor things got stuck in the pan (don't worry, I scraped them out and we gobbled up the crumbs). I'm not even going to include the recipe here, because you owe it to humanity to download the eBook and begin making muffins like mad.

The second batch was perfect, and I slightly under-filled the cups so that I could freeze them for those rapidly approaching school year breakfasts.

For freezing: I let the muffins cool completely (I lost a few in the process thanks to the sneaking fingers of Little Frog and Mastermind), peeled off the papers and individually wrapped them in saran wrap. I flash froze them on a cookie sheet so that they wouldn't get smushed in a ziploc bag. After the flash-freeze I popped them all into the labeled ziploc bag. Because they're individually wrapped I'll be able to grab a few out of the freezer easily, toss them into the microwave or into a lunchbag. I'll probably pop one or two into Ox's snack bag straight from the freezer. They will be nice and thawed by the time he has afternoon snack.

Seriously, if you like muffins, make these muffins. Even uncooked you can tell the muffins are far superior by their ultra-silky batter and aura of hopefulness. I've realized muffins are a recklessly hopeful kind of food. Cranky people don't make muffins by scratch, and if they do, they will not be cranky by the time the muffins come out of the oven.

Well. The kids are off with Mastermind on a morning bike ride. I stayed behind to "clean the kitchen" which today means reading The Cat Who Lived High and writing this blog post. The floor guys might be by today to buff and put on the last coat of clear stuff. . . or they might be here on Monday. I don't know for sure.

Thankfully the kiddos have a date scheduled with their grandma, they need to get out of the house. . . I might make more muffins.

I leave you with the picture at right; Little Frog and Ox are once again reenacting the Judy Moody movie.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Oyster Crackers and the Minnesota Tease

August is funny in Minnesota, we woke up this morning to a very cool day. So cool we could open the windows. That's right, Autumn is in the air. It's a definite Minnesota Tease, but the first cool day of the end-of-the-summer means our days are numbered.

Or in this household, it means I had the nesting urge that comes with my last few days of summer break. So I scrubbed, and scrubbed, and pulled off the stove knobs and got the last bits of grime out from behind the butcher block. It was SO rewarding, that I cleaned my self-cleaning windows, and vacuumed Little Frog's room. . . after I took a few minutes to make one of our favorite snacks: oyster crackers.

I make these often throughout the year - they're super for a school snack, or while reading a good book (after the kids are in bed). I make them so often that I generally keep the ingredients on hand so all I have to do is pick up a couple bags of oyster crackers when feeling so inclined.

2 packages oyster crackers*
1/2 C vegetable oil (olive oil tastes the best)
3 Tbsp ranch dressing mix (or 1 package Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing mix)
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. lemon powder
1 tsp dill weed

Combine it all in a large bowl. You can attempt to mix it all in a gallon sized ziploc bag, but the crackers will just barely all fit in. It will seem oily at first, let it all sit together and dry out a bit. You'll end up with a snack that completely satisfies that salty craving.

*If you get the Nabisco brand of oyster crackers use 2 bags, there is another brand that I prefer, the crackers are much more of a distinct hexagon, and for those I use 3 bags. Target sells the Nabisco, Cub sells the hexagons.

Lemon powder is hard to find, I keep it on hand solely for this recipe and end up using it a lot more as a result. I have a thing for Penzey's spices, and my tastebuds tell me when I use Penzey's this stuff ends up much tastier. I'd call myself a Penzey's snob, but it's not any more expensive than any other spice, it's just tastier. So I'm not a snob, just healthily biased. Their lemon peel is fantastic! 

Have I mentioned how much I love baking soda? I use so much of it (and it's partner, vinegar) that we get it in huge, economy sized boxes. I wish I had known how easy it is to clean the nasty rings around my stove top burners with baking soda paste. It's completely non-abrasive and so easy I rub the grime off with my fingers.

The burner pans themselves are a different story, and require some tough stuff. Ammonia. Yech. I learned this trick and had to buy Ammonia for the first time to try it out. I scalded my sinuses for a few days, but my burner pans were bright and shiny.

<--Cleaning my burner pans Toss two burner pans into a zipper bag with a half-cup of ammonia. Zip tightly, and put on a cooking sheet in the garage or some other far away place for 24 hours. A quick scrub with hot water will remove any trace of grime from the pans. Hold your breath as much as possible, this stuff is nasty. 

Alright, time to put the kids to bed and curl up with some oyster crackers and my latest installment of the must-read series, The Cat Who Went Underground. . . I finished up the latest Sookie Stackhouse last night, it was fantastic!

So don't forget to clean your burner pans (is that even what they're called? I don't know, but mine are clean!).


Saturday, August 4, 2012

Jammy Waffle Sticks (for the freezer)

So I bought a waffle maker. A waffle stick maker. Ox will eat 6 waffles for breakfast, no problem, and while we don't use syrup or butter, that is still not incredibly healthy (even if I opt for the Nutri Grain Eggos. . . they're still Eggo). I'm not hugely excited about finding storage for another appliance, but after my first waffle experiment I'm pretty sure this baby will be in frequent use. My goal is to make a double batch every weekend (or so) for easy, yummy breakfasts before school this year.

So here's the fantastic, delicious, super tasty recipe I found. It was, amazingly enough, one that came with the waffle stick machine. I was very, very impressed and it needed hardly any tweaking to fit our tastes.

4 Tbsp Jam*
6 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 C milk
3/4 C yogurt - or a 6 oz yogurt*
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 C flour
3 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder

*Think of the possibilities by combining different flavors of jam and yogurt. You could do strawberry jam + strawberry yogurt to make it very flavorful. I picked up some orange marmalade that I'm going to try out, too.

I used the homemade Jam that Mastermind makes, in this case a currant rhubarb. I also used Stonyfield Farm French Vanilla yogurt, because we always have it on hand and it's super yummy.

Combine jam and butter in a small bowl. Heat in microwave for 1 minute and stir. if the butter isn't melted yet, cut it up into smaller bits and heat for another 30 seconds or so. Stir, and set aside. 

In another bowl, combine dry ingredients. 

In yet another bowl, combine liquid ingredients and (not hot, you don't want to cook the eggs yet) melted butter mixture. I'm thinking this is a lot of bowls and will do it differently next time. 

Pour liquid mixture into the dry. Whisk together until it is just mixed. Batter should be thick, but pourable. Add a little milk to thin it out if needed. When it sets a bit it gets kind of puffy. 

Pour 3/4 cup batter across the waffle plate

Then with a knife quickly spread it out to all the corners of the mold. This was really important, my first batch had some nice puffy waffle sticks from the middle of the waffle maker, and some flat ones from the edge. The picture shows what NOT to do (leaving those edges bare).

Bake for 4 minutes until the waffle sticks are golden brown. This batch turned out great! 

At this point, I flash froze the waffle sticks. Since they contain not a lot of liquid, I left them in the freezer for only about an hour before putting them in a labeled ziploc bag.

<--Waffle sticks getting ready to be flash frozen, along with Clabber Girl Baking Powder. I love Clabber Girl Baking Powder, it makes me happy, and reminds me of when Anne Shirley won the Rollings Reliable Baking Soda contest. 

To reheat, put desired amount of waffle sticks on a plate and microwave them for 30 seconds. Top with syrup or jam or eat them plain like we do. The jam and yogurt in the recipe make them flavorful enough that there is no need to cover them up.

Of course the fun part of waffle sticks is giving the kids a bit of melted jam or syrup in a cup and letting them dip away. . . Maybe a fun lunch this week? A waffle stick dip buffet!

These waffle sticks were so easy to make, despite all the bowls. I could have tripled the recipe to freeze a huge batch. I probably will have to do so in the future, considering the bag lasted all of 24 hours. They made a great snack later that day, and of course, breakfast the next morning. I'm looking forward to trying different combinations and I have a Orange Marmalade and Craisin recipe waiting to be tried. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Lazy Day Experiment

8:30 AM

I used to hear other families say "Oh we never watch TV" and I always looked at them a little sideways. Really? I would think. None at all? What do you do when your kids wake up at 5 in the morning?

Well, we've become one of those families. Not the "never" kind, although we do go through the odd week here and there with none at all. It started in April, one regular Monday morning when Ox hopped out of bed at 6. I simply said "No TV today, because it's not good for our brain." He said "Oh, okay." and proceeded to play happily on his own. Amazing. Just like that, we were off of TV. It became so much easier to get the kids ready in the morning (we have to be out the door before 7 during the school year), I felt like I was getting more quality time with them as a result. 

Ox during Judy Moody
Of course it is summer now. Deep summer. Little Frog was woken by a thunderstorm just after 5 this morning. Oh yes I turned on TV. Oh yes, she watched 3 episodes of Dora and 1 episode of the new cranky My Little Pony. 

I went back to bed. 

Ox got up at 7, and asked for Judy Moody and the Not So Bummer Summer. Again. Hmmm, I thought. Could I? Could I possibly do a movie day? As in movies all day? Without feeling guilty? Yes we can, but I will probably feel guilty. 

Still. I'm all for an experiment (and, to be honest, I'm crampy, so am much less activity-inclined than usual). I am curious to see how this will go. Will they really watch movies all day? Will I really let them? 

Little Frog during Heidi
10:16 AM

4 hours in (OMG!) and we're starting to feel restless. I know recent statistics said on average (AVERAGE!!) kids watch 6 hours of TV a day - - apparently that takes a lot of practice, because this is tough. 

We just finished up with Annie, and on to Heidi (the Shirley Temple version) which begs the question. . . what is with all the good movies starring girls? I may need to do a little research again, all the kids' favorites are about girls (Labyrinth, Judy Moody, Matilda, Pippi Longstocking, now Annie and Heidi. . . )

Anyway, I'm starting to feel brain-dead. Not sure we're going to make it through the whole day.

Ox is already more interested in the cat than in the movie - they're playing with a fly together. Of course the black-and-white of Heidi is majorly freaking him out.

LF, me, and Ox during Chamber of Secrets
12:08 PM

Gurgle. Gurgle.

Heidi hooked Ox after all, although I had forgotten how far the movie deviates from the book (which is always annoying). I may have to introduce the kids to more Shirley Temple, though. More musicals too I think. I showed Eli part of Oliver! once and he liked it a lot (thank you Metropolitan Boys Choir for expanding his musical taste).

The girl movies started to wear on me so we're on to Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. They've seen the first HP a couple times, but not CoS. . . which is way better than the first.

Oh, and Jimmy Johns for lunch. I had an Unwich. It was gross.

1:00 PM

Yeah. About 10 minutes after that picture I couldn't handle it anymore and: did the dishes, changed the cat's litter and water, cleaned out the inside of my car, cleaned out the inside of the big garbage can/dumpster thingie, vacuumed the sun room, made an estimate appointment to get our floor resanded, made eye appointments for the kids, weighed myself. All of that slightly helped the brain-drain, but not much. I think the movie has about 5 minutes left before I must kill it. Maybe 3.

1: 30 PM

OUT OF THE HOUSE At Last!!!! To the library for the Brodini Magician show. We were a little early so we grabbed a few Elephant and Piggie books, another Stink book, and a Babymouse.

We tried to find the Annie Soundtrack, because Ox declared it the best of all the movies we watched today and he wants to listen to the songs when he goes to bed, but the library didn't have it.

However we did see signs for the local community theater production of Annie, coincidentally going on this weekend. We may need to take a family field trip to the theater. Ox is hoping an actual dog plays Sandy. I'm kind of hoping the part will be played by a portly, middle-aged woman. Because that would be funny.

4:03 PM

Experiment DONE and here are the results: The thought of turning on the TV again makes me nauseous, we are NOT finishing Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets any time soon. Apparently watching as much TV as the average American kid makes us all crazy and feel kind of carsick. I don't recommend anybody else try the experiment, but at least my kids can't complain when they ask to watch TV; I can say "remember that day I let you watch movies ALL DAY?!?" Blech. Apparently I would no longer be able to watch Cupcake Wars all day if I could, I guess TV is an acquired taste. Who knew?


Monday, July 23, 2012

Homemade Frozen Burritos

Here's the July Edition of my meal swap recipe. Frozen Burritos x 90

This is a combination of several recipes and my own family's taste preference, and they turned out really great! They were seriously kid-approved, and since I used ground turkey rather than beef they were healthier than some other varieties out there. 

I made the following recipe x 9 (for approximately 90 burritos) for my Meal Swap, and once I got my basic recipe down it was a relatively easy assembly line. 

Homemade Frozen Burritos
Makes approximately 11

1 pound ground turkey
1 Cup chopped onion
2 Tbsp minced garlic
1 (4 oz) can green chilis, diced
1 pkg taco seasoning (or make your own: recipe)
1 (8 oz) pkg cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 Cups black beans (or 1 can, drained and well-rinsed. I made mine from dry beans)
1 can fat-free refried black beans (always choose fat-free, otherwise you're eating lard - YUCK!)
12 large tortillas (get 2 packages of 8, you will be able to find a use for the others, easy)
1 1/2 Cups shredded cheese

Extras: aluminum foil for individually wrapping burritos. KEEP the tortilla bags, 10 finished foil-wrapped burritos will fit very nicely inside a tortilla bag to pop in to the freezer at the end. 

                   THE BEGINNING...

All the ingredients ready for my mega assembly line. I got a deal on 3 lb packages of ground turkey. My original recipe called for taco sauce (on the right side of the picture) but I didn't use any. Rather than be stuck with 4 jars of taco sauce I froze them in to ice cube trays and distributed a baggie of the cubes along with the servings of burritos to my meal swap pals. 

                      STEP 1

Saute the onions, garlic, and green chilis in a skillet with some oil, for 8 minutes or so. The onions won't get very brown due to the extra moisture from the chilis. This is okay. Add the ground turkey and mash it up into the onion/chilis. Continue to mash and stir until the ground turkey is fine and brown. You don't want big chunks, rather a smooth texture. Add the taco seasoning and simmer approx. 10 minutes.

My skillet was WAY not big enough for the 3x batch I was making, I had to do some pot shifting to accommodate it all. The dried black beans are getting a quick soak in the silver pan here. 

                    STEP 2

Transfer the meat mixture into a larger bowl/pot (unless you were smart and started sautéing in a stock pot). Add the softened cream cheese and mix thoroughly (I softened it in the microwave so it was very soft). Add the refried beans and mix thoroughly. Add the whole black beans and mix thoroughly. It should be nice and smooth. Refrigerate the whole thing for easier handling later. 

              STEPS 3 & 4

Get comfortable, especially if you're making in large quantities. Download a nice audio book from the library, and figure out how to arrange the items around you for easy reach. In this shot you can see I was placing the finished tortillas on a baking sheet to flash-freeze them. I changed my mind later, and individually wrapped them in foil because I had so many (and flash freezing 90 burritos takes a long time).

STEP 4: Scoop a half-cup of meat mixture on the bottom half of the tortilla, sprinkle on about 2 Tbsp of cheese. 

          STEP 4 Continued. . .

Fold the bottom of the tortilla over the meat and kind of smoosh it around to get out any air. Fold over the sides, and do one more roll. I had to tuck in some left-over flaps. 

<--This is really a two-handed process hence the not-so-great picture. Also, I used less than a half-cup in this picture so the burrito was smaller (if you use less meat then there will be extra tortilla to roll up, and you'll end up with a chewier end-result. Still tasty. 

             TO FREEZE:

I wrapped the burritos in aluminum foil, and then tucked 10 in an empty tortilla bag and then popped the bag in to the freezer. The tortilla bags are not official freezer-bags but the extra layer of foil should keep the burritos fresh for up to 3 months. If you want to flash freeze them, place the just-made burritos on a baking sheet and freeze for 2 hours, then place in a labeled freezer bag. 

<-- prior to packing the tortilla bags I printed up labels with reheating directions, with a swatch of clear packaging tape on the label to prevent the cold from making the label fall off. 



Oven (for a crispy outside): Bake burritos at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, turning over half-way through. 
Microwave: for 1:45 minutes on each side. *I like the potential of grabbing a foil-wrapped burrito and popping a sauce cube in a mini-tupperware to take to lunch. 

<--Ox really, really liked these burritos and was fascinated with the whole process. I may have to make mini burritos for his school lunch, to eat cold. 

Librarian that I am I did a bit of research for this recipe, and feel the need to give credit to the useful sites I used. CamillesCasa was very helpful, as was This Recipe on AllRecipes (specifically the comments on it, I love reading what other readers have done), but probably the most useful was Macheesmo's Making Frozen Burritos At Home. I am very interested in incorporating rice into the burrito, so I am sure I'll be trying out his specific recipe later. Thanks!! 


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Like a true bookworm. . .

Game of Thrones - Epic! 
Many apologies for the scarcity of MamaStar posts during the last few months (I am sure my followers have been noticing a decline in their general quality of life due to a lack of blogging) but I have been completely distracted by some truly fantastic discoveries in the world of great books.

I haven't forgotten you, my friends; in fact I have mentally composed many posts and taken many pictures to-be-used but by the time the kiddos go to bed my fingers reach for the next installment in Game of Thrones or Charlaine Harris mystery. Any true bookworm out there knows that when you have a good book in your possession, all other lifely details are just things you do before you have time to read again. For the sake of being a balanced Mama and my growing annoyance with the false sociability of Facebook I'm going to refocus my attention back on my blog:

Facebook:People Magazine::this blog:Jane Eyre
Charlaine Harris - All of Them!! 

(okay, maybe I exaggerate a little, but I do know that I'd rather take the time to blog than to get sucked in to Facebook world. . . so here I am).

Without digressing too much, I feel the need to introduce you to the books that I've been reading so hungrily since April or so, but I'm not going to. I may do so later. . . but for now I'm busy making 8 batches of turkey and black bean burritos for my meal swap. You'll have to be satisfied with a few cover shots of my springtime favorite books.

All I can say is my reading personality has taken a turn for the macabre thanks to all the quirky murder mysteries by Charlaine Harris. I'm kind of glad, there are some truly fantastic writers out there that I have missed completely because I've been avoiding this genre, specifically Charlaine Harris' Real Murders series about a slightly mousy librarian who solves crime. Rock it, Aurora Teagarden!!

BookAWocky DONE!! 
Ox has joined me in my book-worm tendencies. . . he already completed his library Book-A-Wocky by reading 20 hours this summer; no small feat for a 6 year old. His reading skills have skyrocketed as a result (I told him he could only fill in wedges for time he read, not if I read to him) but better yet, he now considers himself a good reader which is much more important.

Pretty cool, his school will also reward any kids who bring their completed reading program to school on the first day. Nothing better than being doubly reinforced for a job well done!

Now to find more books about cats, because he has developed a real preference for anything feline. I may have to start stashing the Warrior series by Erin Hunter away now for the future, along with the Guardians of Ga'Hoole series by Kathryn Lasky. . . he adored the movie, and might be thankful for some non-cat books at some point. I am keeping my eye out for good books for boys, since there is a definite spin toward girl books out there. We're still in the early reader phase, at least for independent reading, but since Eli easily read me the first few pages of Stink: The Incredible Shrinking Kid the other day, it's time to start stocking up on chapter books (seriously exciting!)



Thursday, May 31, 2012

card carrying member

I'd use it, would you?
 I am a card-carrying member of the IBD society, enabling me to freely use any bathroom I need to use, regardless of "for patrons only" or "for staff only" rules.

It's the law, in MN and 11 other states, thanks to the tenacity of a fourteen year old who used a humiliating experience to better IBD community.

Although it is definitely true that if you look like you walk like you belong there, and give a smile and a nod, nobody will say a thing about "that bathroom is for patrons only," especially helpful if you have a 3-year-old to drag along with you, to complete the MAMA MEANS BUSINESS look. I have only once been told NO and that was before I knew about Ally's Law (which does apply in Michigan).

My travels across the Twin Cities and parts of Wisconsin have made me familiar with some of the best bathrooms out there, and I thought I would share with you my observations.

Moste Importente Observation - the condition of the bathroom in any establishment is in direct correlation to how much they value you as a customer! Unless their ambience is overall 'Dive' in which case, you get what you expect. Accept it as a part of the overall experience.

  • Rule Number 1: Coffee shops have fantastic bathrooms mainly because they smell good, and you have an excuse to get a chai after. Coffee Shop Northeast in Minneapolis (NE of course) has the added benefit of being owned by my cousins, so I get to say hi, and don't feel awkward, and they have fun wall art and stickers on the mirror to keep the kids occupied while mama uses the facilities. I think coffee shop owners understand that if you drink a lot of their beverage, you're going to have to use it, so they might as well make their bathroom nice. Caribou is great, too.
    *Tea Source is the best - the bathroom is lovely, with grass-patterned tiles, and a wonderful,  strong tea aroma. Plus the tea-on-tap afterwards. Kids will be entertained by their bathrooms.
  • Rule Number 2: Restaurants are good, too. Specifically Subway (the bathrooms smel like freshly baked bread), Perkins (open 24 hours), and McDonalds in a pinch (there are so many of them!). I'm partial to the Subway on the corner of Lowry and Central in Minneapolis, because you can swing in their mini-parkinglot and sneak in the back door. The bathroom is right there, and I feel rather Jane Bond for being so sneaky.
    **Ritzy restaurants have ritsy bathrooms, but scope out if they have a Maitre'd or hawk-eyed host - walk in with confidence, and don't forget the smile and nod, and you'll be fine. The Lowry in Uptown has lovely bathrooms, just past the fireplaces.
  • Rule Number 3: Gas Stations are almost always a bad idea. I can't figure this out. Do they not clean them? Does the presence of a condom machine make the bathroom fair game for sleaziness and dirt? While some gas station bathrooms do have interesting graffiti, it's not worth it in general unless you have time to go home and take a shower afterwards because you'll feel gross all day.
  • Rule Number 4: Porta-Potties & Outhouses are not as scary as gas station bathrooms. In fact, often they are cleaned more regularly than gas station bathrooms. My most whimsical bathroom experience ever was in a porta potty at the MN Scottish Festival. I am not sure what will ever top the experience of using a porta potty and having a bag pipe band march by, about a foot away.
  • Rule Number 5: When times are tough, and parks become necessary, please be courteous enough to remove yourself far away from the line of the public. I was once horrified to find a hairy man pooping in the middle of a path in a park. Really? REALLY?!? No card-carrying member of the Gotta Go Now club would ever sanction this behavior.  Especially since he was hairy. Gross.

I'll leave you with that.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012


I read. I read. I read.

I read when I'm happy.
I read to feel happy.
I read because I don't have a choice.

(I like to read real books, I like to read on my iPad, I like to read on my phone, I read in the bathtub, I can't read in the car. I get pukey just thinking about it)

"How do you find time to read?"
I don't know, how do you find time to breathe?
I know how lame that sounds, but I don't care. I'm lame.

When I'm really needing an escape, when nothing on my shelf feels right, I have a few that get me back in the groove. The ones that will stop me from feeling funky and wonky and _ _ _ky. After one or two of them, I'm back in the running for something new.

I fall for the fads, I got swept away by The Hunger Games just like everyone else; but it didn't make The List. This is not my list of Top Books of 2011, or Best Books I've Read Lately. These ar comfort books. Like spaghetti and garlic bread, or a fire on a cold day (or spaghetti, garlic bread, and a fire on a cold day. With a cat.) The books I would take with me to a deserted island (especially if it had a fireplace, cats, and lots of spaghetti and garlic bread).

Just so you know.
These are THE books, the elites. My List. THE LIST.
I read them often, just to stay grounded in who I am.
Just compiling the list is a little like yoga.

The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver (sequel not so good)
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Life of Pi by Yahn Martel
Tall Pine Polka by Lorna Landvik
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Davita's Harp by Chaim Potok
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
The Good Earth by Pearl Buck
Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt
The Hobbit by Tolkein
Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen (hard to choose just one)
Sunshine by Robin McKinley (or maybe Chalice)
Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
Cloudy Jewel by Grace Livingston Hill (a couple Hills are on my B List, but this one's the best)
Bloody Jack by LA Meyer (series, first one is the best)
Five Little Peppers and How They Grew by Margaret Sidney


Monday, May 28, 2012

I had no idea.

First week of kindergarten. SO LITTLE!
I realize now I was overly confident that being a teacher for 10 (!) years had prepared me for life as a parent of a school-aged child.

I had no idea.

I was SO excited for Ox to start kindergarten. I was thrilled at the start of school, started buying the kindergarten wardrobe the spring before, school supplies as soon as the list came out. . .

. . . and I'm pretty sure I suffered post-traumatic-stress-disorder for a month or two after kindergarten actually started. Seriously. I think it was WORSE because I was so used to knowing every detail about a school, from the routine of the woman who vacuumed the library to how the prep schedule was created, that NOT knowing all these details about Ox's day made me crazy.  Poor Mrs. T, she really had to train me in. I promised her I wasn't going to be "THAT parent" but I think I was. For a little bit anyway.

With only 8 days left of kindergarten, I think I'm settling in.

In April. . . King of the World!
I will say this, though, having a child in the schools really made Mastermind and I step up the community involvement. Mastermind just signed up to be Den Leader of Ox's Cub Scout troop (and talked me in to being the Troop 412 Webmaster), and I volunteered to be Secretary of the PTA for the next two years, pending official voting in at the first meeting in September. In my defense, it was out of need (as in, the just-voted-in secretary is moving to Switzerland), not any sort of desire to be in the limelight.

. . . can a PTA secretary be considered "In The Limelight?" I guess a star takes any role offered, especially if it is for the greater benefit of mankind, er, schoolkind.


8 days left of kindergarten. First grade is going to be a breeze.

Who am I kidding? Nothing about being a parent is a breeze. . . if it gets too easy, I'm sure I can ask to switch places with the Treasurer.


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

What Do Librarians do on Spring Break. . .

I rarely ever, ever have a day off to myself. I felt a little guilty sending Little Frog off to preschool this morning, but I had a lot to do. Laundry, dishes, scrub the floor.


I went shopping instead. Easter stuff. Mastermind got a ton of Easter candy a couple of weeks ago, but we all knows what happens when Easter candy is bought too early. So I had to go shopping, and I bought NO candy.

Log pillow that we all need.
Mastermind and I decided to get each other Easter baskets this year, for the first time ever. I was all excited until I remembered how hard he is to shop for. He just buys everything he wants, and most of it is complex and specific.

So I went to Patina, which is always dangerous, but I have never failed to find something "important" and "necessary" there like the log-shaped floppy pillows that I nearly bought four of (hey, we would all NEED one, right?). I resisted, for now.


Anyway, Easter basket stuff aside, I went to the library. While I was at the library I realized how funny it was that I, a librarian, was at the library on my day off. I found it so funny that I decided to go to another library.
Not only am I a librarian, I am also a dork, and not above laughing at my own jokes even if nobody else finds them funny. 
In my defense, I could NOT find a single David Bowie CD at Target, which Ox needs to have in his Easter Basket so I thought I'd run to my usual library to see if they had any. And then realized I had never been to the one that opened a half-mile away from my house and I probably should go there, too, just to visit.

and SCORE!! I actually got a MN Zoo museum pass!!!! I have never, ever, been lucky enough to get one, and that zoo is expensive!! We were going to go yesterday, but I just cannot spend $50 on a trip to the zoo.
It is okay, however, to spend $60 on four log pillows. . . right? Not that I bought them.
So I think I'll take the kids on Friday. To the Zoo. To see the baby animals and llamas and sloths.

Now I have an hour left of my all-by-myself day. Laundry. . . dishes. . . nah. I'll read me some Sookie Stackhouse in the sunshine. Which would be SO much more enjoyable if I had a log pillow on which to rest my head, but I'll cope.

I think a Cadbury Creme Egg would help.

Monday, April 2, 2012

SB d1

Nothing like the kids sleeping in to kick off Spring Break. If you have no idea how remarkable this is let me fill you in; Little Frog wakes up at 5:30 every. single. morning. Today she woke up at 7:08 - It was amazing.

Our Day in Pictures

First Up - Easter Package for the boy we sponsor
at Emmanuel Children's Home in Juarez. I think everyone
should sponsor a child - especially if you have children yourself.
Ox is especially excited because I found the first 4 books in 
The Magic Treehouse series in spanish. 

Second - my attempt to grate crayons was a failure.

So I used my food processor, ice chop feature.
I'm not sure it will ever be the same, but it was cool to watch.
We made sun-catcher eggs.

I found the BEST project (more crayons) on Pinterest - HERE
This turned out WAY cooler than I imagined. 
If only I could get a pose that truly
expressed my children. . .

We're going to take the cat to the vet now. She has to get fixed.


Sunday, April 1, 2012

Spring Break has Sprung!

Okay I admit, I adore Spring Break. . . I hope schools never give it up. 

Ox and Grandpa P
I am terribly disappointed that Ox's Spring Break was two weeks ago, though. He had TONS of fun on his, but not with me, which hurts the MamaPride a little bit. I had to pass him off to every grandparent, and he got to spend the night at his cousins' house, too.
Little Frog not to be left-out
So I'm letting him stay home from school with me tomorrow (I had to get special permission from the principal, so that it was excused). I'm regretting it a bit, as it is the kick-off of Career Month in Kindergarten; they have a different parent coming the entire month to share their careers (I'm up on Thursday).
Mowing with Grandpa B

I am hoping to take the kids to the MN Zoo tomorrow. I'm not 100% sure I'm up for it, so I'll come up with a back-up plan. . . thanks to Pinterest it is much easier coming up with cool things to do.

Busy Weekend

Heron Egg Hunt + sneeze
Our weekend was SO busy I had very little time to take pictures. But I got a few. Yesterday we went on our first ever park-sponsored easter egg hunt, which we've always avoided like the plague (umm, crowds AND over-competitive parents? No thanks!!) but the one at North Mississippi Regional Park was unique; it was a Heron Egg Hunt. They used to host a heron rookery but it got damaged by last June's tornado. Luckily 4 baby herons were rescued and later released back in to the wild.

And lucky for us the park is still awesome, just minus a few trees.


Overly competitive parents aside (there were a few) the hunt was great. . . and I got to hold a baby chicken. I loved it and named it Otis and then had to give it back before it peed on my hand. I am still nursing a desire to get chickens but I'm going to wait until my sister-in-law gets them first and then learn all the chicken ins-and-outs from her.

Sunday Palm Day pose

Today was Palm Sunday. Or as the kids keep saying "Sunday Palm Day."

I adore Palm Sunday. I never gave it a thought until my kids were old enough to walk through the service holding palm branches and waving them. So I let them dress up today (okay. . . I confess, I got 3 different 'Easter' outfits for Little Frog, two for Ox, and just love a chance to let them dress up).

Little Frog refused to go to Sunday School (okay, until the last 5 minutes when she realized Big Church had no toys) but Ox and my nieces looked super-cute waving their palms.

We had our Palm Sunday BBQ after with my family. Which I got up at 3:30 for to put beans in the crock pot and never fell back asleep. I must be getting old.

At least the beans were good.

Hmm I swear it WAS a busy weekend. . . what did we do? Cooked and Cleaned, oh, right, also choir practice (anyone want to buy a raffle ticket?) and a Saturday afternoon benefit for Mastermind's brothers' niece who is going through treatment for leukemia. As horrific as it was having Little Frog in the NICU when she was born, I thank my lucky stars it was when she was too little to remember.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

St. Patty's Day

The jury is still out on how much Irish we are - there is a smattering of ancestors from the Emerald Isle on all sides - but I'm all for playing up holidays; if only because it breaks up what can be a monotonous search for "what should we do today?" and "what should we eat today?"

We didn't actually do anything too terribly Irish, I would have loved to go to the parade, or maybe an Irish festival, but we weren't that organized. . . plus Ox had choir practice.

It was a gorgeous day. The kind of day that sets your green thumb to itching so we decided to take a trip to Linder's. I love Linder's, if only to browse and smell and soak in the colors.

We let each kid pick out a cactus. Ox named his David Bowie (he has been very impressed with the movie Labyrinth - both of them are, actually).

Little Frog named her succulent "Debbie."

Ox is so funny, he loves his cactus.

I'm just glad it's a cactus and requires very little attention.

What was especially cool about this trip to Linder's was their new line of Fairy Houses. My kids each have a fairy house that they decorate and redecorate every so often, so they were pretty impressed, too.

I would have bought a couple, but they were crazy expensive. I took pictures instead.

English Cottage

Seaside Cottage, maybe?

Do you see the elf?
My favorite - I love the giant plant!

I'm glad my imagination isn't dried up yet - I can picture myself living in every one of these little houses. I entertained a brief thought of buying them all and creating a fairy mecca in our back yard. But then I looked at the prices. 

I think we'll stick to wood chips and seashells for our fairy decorations.