Saturday, July 31

Off with his hair!

My firstborn son was beginning to develop the John the Baptist look.

My parents-in-law gave me a very nice haircutting kit, complete with electric shaver, all kinds of combs, scissors, and those nifty hair clamps.

The first haircut I attempted was horrible. You should have seen the hairstylist laugh at me when I took Alex for a haircut later. I swore that I wouldn't touch his hair again.

But he was getting so shaggy. My sister-in-law cuts her boys' hair, and she just gives them a buzz cut, what my brother used to call a Butch.

So I handed the shaving kit to Ryan and said, "Whack it off."

It wound up being a joint effort. Alex had about a metric ton of hair on his little head. We cut and cut and cut.

The results:

And having all that hair off instantly sent him into the heights of hyperactivity. He ran around like a lunatic for the rest of the day. It must have felt really good.

Thursday, July 29

The sedentary blogger

I visited my Mom's yesterday. My sister-in-law came, too, and we sat around and exchanged blogging stories.

One thing that filled me with dismay was when my mom started talking about blogging comment etiquette. If somebody leaves a comment on your blog, you leave a comment on theirs, and if you want to drum up a lot of hits on your blog, comment on lots of people's blogs.

Then she told a story about a lady who had been real active in the blogging community, who suddenly went AWOL for a while. And people were leaving her nasty comments because she hadn't posted on their blogs in so long. Turns out she had had a family emergency and just hadn't been around a computer.

This story filled me with horror. I used to run a fairly large videogame website, and talking to whiny people was what I did, day in and day out. Most of them being hormone-ridden teenagers didn't help matters. And the trouble was, I HAD to talk to them because half the time something on MY site was giving them trouble.

I ran that site almost ten years. I still have what you might call "web admin burnout". I have no desire to go back to being at the beck and call of the general public, no matter how nice they are.

Blogging, for me, is a nice, small way to have a website with no strings attached.

But this blogger etiquette thing would make me dump this blog faster than you could say "flame war". So if you comment here, and I don't go to your blog and comment, it's nothing personal. I'm just very sedentary when it comes to blogging. I can't handle the social demands of an active internet life again.

Tuesday, July 27

Devotion: Waiting for hope

From Streams in the Desert:

For we through the Spirit by faith wait for the hope of righteousness" (Gal. 5:5, RV).

There are times when things look very dark to me--so dark that I have to wait even for hope. It is bad enough to wait in hope. A long-deferred fulfillment carries its own pain, but to wait for hope, to see no glimmer of a prospect and yet refuse to despair; to have nothing but night before the casement and yet to keep the casement open for possible stars; to have a vacant place in my heart and yet to allow that place to be filled by no inferior presence--that is the grandest patience in the universe. It is Job in the tempest; it is Abraham on the road to Moriah; it is Moses in the desert of Midian; it is the Son of man in the Garden of Gethsemane.

There is no patience so hard as that which endures, "as seeing him who is invisible"; it is the waiting for hope.

Thou hast made waiting beautiful; Thou has made patience divine. Thou hast taught us that the Father's will may be received just because it is His will. Thou hast revealed to us that a soul may see nothing but sorrow in the cup and yet may refuse to let it go, convinced that the eye of the Father sees further than its own.

Give me this Divine power of Thine, the power of Gethsemane. Give me the power to wait for hope itself, to look out from the casement where there are no stars. Give me the power, when the very joy that was set before me is gone, to stand unconquered amid the night, and say, "To the eye of my Father it is perhaps shining still." I shall reach the climax of strength when I have learned to wait for hope. --George Matheson

Monday, July 26

Whatchagot Ramen soup

A friend gave me a large sack of chicken Top Ramen, and I've discovered that you can do all kinds of stuff with it.

For instance, you can add stuff to it and make a halfway decent soup.

My recipe tonight was mostly Whatchagot Stew. I happened to have on hand:

Top Ramen
1 can mixed vegetables
Leftover Fried Potatoes
Cooked beans (about 1 cup)

I was going to use 2 packs of Top Ramen, so I heated up 4 cups of water and dumped in both flavoring packets.

Yes, I know you should use bouillon or chicken broth instead of the flavor packets. But I'm out of chicken bouillon. And I'm putting in potatoes! Potatoes suck up the salt, right? Right?

Anyway, after all of the above had come to a boil, I added the noodles and simmered it until they were soft.

It made some pretty tasty soup. The kids ate it all up.

Also, the noodles together with the beans make a complete protein, so you don't even need to add meat. I'm getting better at this!

Sunday, July 25

Holy smokes! Roasted veggies

This stuff was so good, I ate it all up before I remembered to take a photo.

Anyway, I made roasted veggies with fettuccine pasta tonight for dinner.

I'd been reading a lot of food bloggers who talk about all the ways to roast veggies. Basically, you cut up your veggies, toss them with oil, salt and pepper, spread them on a cookie sheet, and bake for 30 minutes at 350, or 20 minutes at 400-450, or 10 minutes at 500.

What veggies or other flavorings you use seem to vary according to the tastes of individuals and what was on sale at the farmer's market, or what was being produced by the truckload by the single squash plant in the garden.

Anyway, my Mom gave me a couple bags of bell peppers, chili peppers, jalapenos, and tomatoes last time I was over there. It was originally to make salsa. I made salsa, and it was indeed good, but I had some veggies left over.

So this afternoon I made a marinade of:

1 cup water
1 Tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp basil
1 tsp kosher salt
1 minced garlic clove (1 tsp powdered?)
small handful of diced onion (2 tsp minced?)
1/2 tsp black pepper

Then I just chopped my two small tomatoes, two small bell peppers, a jalapeno and a chili, because I was doubtful about their actual heat content. I tossed them all in a bag with the marinade and let it sit for an hour.

Notice there's no oil. It's because I ran out. But in my research, I discovered that if you cook veggies in the oven without oil on them, the outside of the vegetable stays at 212 degrees, no matter the heat of the oven, and all the moisture inside dries out, leaving you with limp, grody vegetables. (Quoted verbatim from Gluten-Free Girl.)

So I did the next best thing.

I stir-fried them in melted butter before putting them on the cookie sheet. And it wasn't butter. It was that mysterious butter-like substance called Blue Bonnet. Some sort of weird vegetable oil spread like margarine, I think. Anyway, I only fried it for about a minute. Just long enough to toss everything real good.

Then I spread out my veggies on a cookie sheet and hosed them down with a layer of cooking spray, just to be safe.

Twenty minutes later they smelled divine. I don't like mixed vegetables, as a rule. Especially not when raw tomatoes are involved. But man, this came off that cookie sheet with delicious black burned specks all over it, and the vinegar marinade had instilled a deep tang, and the butter stir-fry had turned to a browned butter coating.

We tossed it with fettuccine noodles, some Parmesan and some diced cubes of Colby Jack, sucked it down, and looked for more.

I need to start making a lot more noodles, for one thing.

And Mom, I need more veggies. I'll even take squash. As long as I peel the zucchini, nobody will know what it is! *rubs hands together*

Saturday, July 24

Playing outside

Our 100 degree weather dropped down into the 90s, so the munchkins have been able to play outside in the cool mornings.

Alex was carrying in his toys and singing. They may not be all smiles in these pictures, but that's because they were so very busy playing. Playing is serious business.

Friday, July 23

Spelt bread

Well, it's not technically spelt bread. It's spelt mixed with white flour.

Spelt is a nice grain that is related to wheat, but it has a nuttier taste. (Ever notice that brown rice, whole wheat flour, and any kind of other grain all taste "nutty"? It's like the grain version of "Tastes like chicken".)

Personally, I think spelt tastes like popcorn.

My mom had a big jar of whole spelt in the back of her pantry, and she generously gave me some. I've been grinding it in my blender and adding it to my bread in place of whole wheat flour. It contains gluten, but it's more delicate than wheat gluten, so everybody says not to knead it longer than 4 minutes or it will collapse.

I made mine half spelt half white wheat, kneaded it about ten minutes and had no problems.

The trouble is, the bread has such a nice popcorn overtone that the kids are eating it up. Alex has about 5 pieces of toast with his eggs every morning (slathered in butter and jam, so that might have something to do with it).

I guess I'll just have to make some more. :-)

The recipe is just a general bread recipe from Betty Crocker. You can find millions of bread recipes, and the only thing I changed was altering my usual half white half whole wheat to half white half spelt flour.

Thursday, July 22

Fun with the hose

A few pictures are worth a thousand words. :-)

Tuesday, July 20


My last pan of granola bars never made it to the blog. I used Alton Brown's granola bar recipe, and while it tastes fabulous, I didn't have honey, so it came out a tad dry. And as it's aged, it's turned to rock. I enjoy it, but the kids, eh, not so much.

So I've been pondering what other kind of snack I might make with my limited resources. And I thought of caramel corn. Specifically, a recipe like this one.

Caramel Corn
(Not my photo. I'm not even sure if I'm allowed to use it, because for some reason Flickr is in Italian and I don't know how to get English.)

Anyway, I think the kids would enjoy it, and I've always been partial to a good bag of caramel corn, myself.

Monday, July 19

Devotions for Monday

I had some good thoughts in my various devotionals today.

Isa 58:11
The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.

Have faith in The Lord, wait on Him and He will bring
you through your trouble. He is guiding you even though may not see it, for we walk by faith and not by sight.

"The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?" (John 18:11).

This was a greater thing to say and do than to calm the seas or raise the dead. Prophets and apostles could work wondrous miracles, but they could not always do and suffer the will of God. To do and suffer God's will is still the highest form of faith, the most sublime Christian achievement. To have the bright aspirations of a young life forever blasted; to bear a daily burden never congenial and to see no relief; to be pinched by poverty when you only desire a competency for the good and comfort of loved ones; to be fettered by some incurable physical disability; to be stripped bare of loved ones until you stand alone to meet the shocks of life--to be able to say in such a school of discipline, "The cup which my Father has given me, shall I not drink it?'--this is faith at its highest and spiritual success at the crowning point. Great faith is exhibited not so much in ability to do as to suffer. --Dr. Charles Parkhurst

Friday, July 16

Interest in the bird

Let the cockatiel out of his cage this morning, to the amusement of the chilluns.

Provides everybody with valuable exercise and stimulation, especially my fat, bored cockatiel.

The Grand Vegetarian Experiment continues. And I'm discovering that an important part of the vegetarian diet is ... vegetables. Which we're not eating enough of.

I've always been anemic in one way or another, but now I'm reaching the terribly low iron levels that I usually only hit when I'm pregnant. (I'm pretty sure I'm not pregnant.) I've stepped up my vitamins, but I suspect that the calcium in them is canceling out any iron absorption.

So! What vegetables (that are in season right now) are wickedly high in iron? Broccoli and spinach are all that come to mind, and those are winter vegetables.

Tuesday, July 13

Eggless pancakes

Today I set out to make pancakes, and realized that I had run out of eggs.

So I hunted around for an eggless pancake recipe, and found this.

2 cups flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 Tbsp oil
1 1/2-2 cups water

Combine all dry ingredients with a fork. Add wet ingredients, and pour in the water slowly as you mix, until it reaches a pourable consistency.

I suppose you could use milk instead of water, but I'm stingy with milk in cooking. The pancakes turned out just fine. If I had added a bit of cinnamon, they would have tasted just like the ones I usually make.

I'm poking around to see if it's possible to make an eggless cake, but the various vegan recipes I'm finding all look completely revolting. I think I'll just stick with regular egg-full cakes, once I get some more. :-)

Side note: Anybody notice that in order to eat vegan, you have to eat a lot of super-processed soy products? Isn't that kind of ... missing the point? I'd rather eat natural milk and eggs rather than processed man-made bizarre bean derivatives.

Monday, July 12


The past few days, we've been trying to go on walks early in the morning, before it gets too hot.

I'm trying to get into better shape, because I have this terrible habit of not working out in the summer. It's just too hot. I walk a lot more in the winter, just to stay warm.

But Ryan has been going for walks, so we've been going part of the way with him. I plan to work up to going the whole distance (all the way to the mall!) but it's a bit too hot right now for munchkins to have a comfortable ride. I'm going to wait until the heatwave breaks, or until fall, when the heat is over. Then I should definitely be strong enough.

I know swimming is the best exercise, but the apartment pool here has been closed for weeks for treatment. And when it's open, it's full of weird people. I'm funny about that. I don't want to swim with strangers.

Sunday, July 11

More on minimalist cooking

More-With-Less Cookbook (World Community Cookbook)

My mom loaned me the More With Less cookbook. I wish I'd had it four years ago, when I got married and had no idea how to eat or cook nutritious meals.

She has a formula in this book about how dairy should be eaten with grains, and legumes should be eaten with grains. That way you maximize the nutrition and protein of both foods.

Your body doesn't absorb much nutrition from your food anyway (I think about 20% actually goes toward nourishment, while the rest goes toward heating your body and things like that). But you can increase the amount of nutrition absorbed by eating certain things together. Dairy products are high in some nutrients and low in others, while grains (pasta, breads, etc.) are high where dairy is low, and low where dairy is high.

Legumes and grains compliment the same way, so eating rice and beans together is actually quite efficient, nutrition-wise. (Or eating a peanut-butter sandwich, or beans and tortillas, or lentil soup and muffins ... the list goes on.)

So anyway, I made an interesting dinner of mashed navy beans and garlic (white bean spread), toasted strips of salted bread to dip in said spread, and white rice. And it was actually really tasty and filling. We actually ran out of bread much faster than I thought we would, because the bread strips were like long, crunchy croutons, and the kids devoured them.

It's hard having to live on a pretty-much vegetarian diet, but when money's tight, meat is too expensive. We still get eggs and milk, and sometimes cheese.

Thanks to my neighbor and her food care packages for the ministries she works for, I have a pantry stuffed to the gills with beans. So we won't run short on beans. I do wish that I had some soybeans, because those are the highest in protein, but in the meantime I have all the other beans. And life goes on.

Saturday, July 10

Granola bars

I went digging for this granola bar recipe I had used once. It involves sweetened condensed milk, oatmeal, coconut, and various dried fruits and nuts.

I read the comments on the recipe this time, because comments always have cool ideas. One of them mentioned that she cut hers into commercially-sized bars and wrapped them so her husband could take them jogging as energy bars.

I thought that was a great idea.

The recipe is thus, and I found it here:

3 cups quick oats
1 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup flaked coconut
1 cup sliced almond
1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries

Heat oven to 350. Grease 9x13 pan. Mix all ingredients together with your hands until well blended. Press flat in prepared pan. Bake 20-25 minutes or until golden brown on the edges. Let cool for 5 minutes, then cut into bars. Let cool completely before serving.

I know there's more nutritious granola bar recipes out there, but I had a ton of sweetened condensed milk and was trying to find something to do with it. Also, instead of cranberries, I used that sour plum fruit leather that I made a few weeks ago. I just diced up a hefty slab of it into little squares and mixed it in. It makes wonderful little savory patches that aren't quite sour, but aren't overwhelmingly chewy, either, because they're so thin.

The last batch I made with chocolate chips, and I thought the bars actually tasted better without them. The delicate sour of the fruit was upset by the uber-sweet of of the chocolate.

Then I wrapped them individually in plastic wrap. Instant snackage! A box of granola bars at the store generally has anywhere from 8 to 12 bars, and my pan made 18. I think the cost per bar is probably a lot lower, too, but I don't have all the precise prices to do the calculations.

Friday, July 9

First hollyhock

My little hollyhocks are starting to bloom!

And the first one is white with a faint pink center. I'm excited, because that wasn't one of the colors that my mom had, yet she gave me the seeds. So there must have been some cross-pollination going on.

I have to keep fighting the kids about not picking it. There's lots of buds coming on, and I know there will be lots of flowers later, but I just can't bear the thought of my first flower getting picked.

I'm somewhat afraid that the gardeners will hack my hollyhocks. They seem to have a vendetta against flowers. They've hacked my rosebush two weeks in a row. You know how often you're supposed to trim rosebushes?

Once a YEAR.

No more roses for me until next spring, now. They keep all the new (read: flower-bearing) growth completely chopped off. I even begged one guy not to chop my rosebush. He skipped over it. And then the next morning at 6 AM, I was awakened to the tell-tale sound of CHOP CHOP CHOP as they hacked my rosebush. Was it the same guy? I will never know.

I'm not bitter. Not a bit.

Thursday, July 8

Spoiled chickens

We visited my parents yesterday. My mom let her chickens out in the yard, and the current batch, being very tame and spoiled, came up on the porch to hang out.

The munchkins found it entertaining.

Holly continued trying to touch chickens, and one hen in particular kept walking right up to them. Maybe expecting food?

Alex got in on the action, too.

Then so did Sasha, who wanted to herd chickens in the absolute worst way. She stood there in this position for almost a full minute, moving only her eyes. It was kind of creepy and amazing at the same time.

Wednesday, July 7

Solar system theory

Warning: Creationist rant incoming. If such things annoy you, stop reading.

Monday, July 5

Nice weekend

We had such a wonderful time this weekend with our family (families?), and I didn't take a single picture.

Not one.

Fortunately my dad snapped some, which you can see here. I was too busy stuffing myself with hamburgers and homemade ice cream, gabbing with family, and taking Alex to the bathroom repeatedly to even think of the camera.

Alex is pretty much potty-trained now. There are no pictures of that, for which you will thank me. It's taken about a month of me getting my act together to remember to take him to the bathroom, and then not letting him talk me into putting him back into a diaper. He's even out of diapers at night, because his diapers were always dry when he woke up in the morning.

Alex likes this whole independence thing. He runs to the bathroom now without me having to take him, and gosh, Holly hardly goes through diapers at all. Except right now, she's kind of sick because she's teething two molars. She's making a lot of dirty diapers.

I have a fantastic story-rant I'd love to post in here, but it involves a lot of Creation theory, and I'm afraid of getting flamed. Sigh.

Sunday, July 4

Happy 4th!

Every time I've sat down to update this blog lately, two small children climb into my lap and kick the keyboard away from my fingers. So not much blogging has gone on.

I also get into kicks where I update this blog a lot, and ignore my art blog, or update my art blog a lot and ignore this one. Guess what! My art blog has been updated a lot over the last week! And this poor blog has been neglected.

We had a July 3rd get-together at my brother and sister-in-law's last night, and had a terrific time. The kids got to run around and play, and of course my camera languished in my diaper bag until it was too dark to take pictures. I wanted to try snapping some fireworks, but forgot about that until after the show had started, then I didn't want to leave and miss anything.

I'll try to take pictures tonight. I almost said "better pictures", but when I didn't take any at all, any pictures will be better.


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