Tuesday, September 28

I love fall

I opened the front door this morning, and it was wonderfully cool and damp. It smelled like rain.

I stepped outside hopefully, because there was a smattering of clouds, but alas, I was only smelling the sprinklers. Still, at least I could imagine it had rained.

The munchkins escaped outside, screaming and yelling, as they do, and I cringed for our neighbors, all of ten feet away.

The kids immediately found a worm on the sidewalk ("Found a snake!") and then a large slug, and then a spider.

October's always been my favorite month, and it looks like the heatwave will break right as October hits. My Dad and I have birthdays in October, two days apart. Funny how Dad's cake never lasted until my birthday. I'm the oldest of six kids, and cakes never stood a chance.

I also like Halloween. Carving pumpkins, dressing up, all the fall decorations. It's the last holiday with no pressure. Dress up if you want, or don't. Go to a Harvest Festival at a church, or don't. Go Trick or Treating if you want, or don't. You don't have to entertain relatives or throw a party or cook a huge dinner if you don't want to.

My mom always makes the neatest Halloween decorations, and grows the coolest pumpkins. Once the munchkins are old enough, I'll totally do Trick or Treating and carving jack o' lanterns.

I feel like a bad Christian, admitting this. ("I love Halloween and I don't call it Harvest Festival!") Yeah, I know that Halloween is Samhain, the Celtic new year and the spirits of the dead were supposed to walk around at night and people put out gifts of food to appease them. But how does that affect little kids dressing up as Batman and getting candy from the neighbors? It's so much fun, and you get so much loot.

And then you spend the first few weeks of November sick, but we don't mention that. Hee.

But my sister made me the coolest gray cloak from Lord of the Rings, and I just love dressing up as an elf and getting to wear it. It's actually pretty heavy material, so it's too hot to wear otherwise. I can't wait to dress up the kids as cats or Batman or Spiderman or whatever else they fancy. Alex might be old enough this year to even enjoy it.

Monday, September 27

Monday "Menu"

First off, here's the munchkins enjoying some pumpkin muffins I whipped up the other day.

They made a good snack, and were gone by the end of the day.

Anyway, here's my "menu" for two weeks, meaning it's more of guidelines than actual rules. :-)

Wednesday - Baked chicken
Thursday - Chili
Friday - Burritos
Saturday - Mac
Sunday - Breakfast
Monday - Chicken Caesar pasta
Tueday - Fajitas
Wednesday - Taco soup
Thursday - potato soup
Friday - quesadillas
Saturday - Chicken Parmesan potatoes
Sunday - Eat out
Monday - Chili?
Tusday - Chicken Parmesan potatoes

I was running out of ideas there at the end. Most of the recipes are out of the 30 Minute Cookbook, which I love because not only are the recipes fast, they're usually pretty cheap, too.

I shuffle meals around according to what sounds good and what the weather's like. This week it's about 100, so I've had to push back a lot of my soups and cook more pastas and tortilla-related things. Last week it was in the 70s, and so glorious and fall-like.

I hear down in LA, they hit 113 and broke their 80 year record. Phoenix, AZ was only 104. How is that for ironic, that LA is hotter than Phoenix?

Monday, September 20

More baskets

Want to see what I did all weekend?

On Saturday, I began this:

It's about eight inches long at the moment. It's my first non-circular basket, and I'm excited to be trying an oval shaped one. I had to quit Saturday because my fingers were so sore.

Sunday, I made this over the course of the kids watching a movie:

There's a quarter beside it for size comparison.

Alex had kept asking me for a basket, so I made him this tiny little one. Naturally it has since vanished. I'll probably find it in the toy box or under the bed. Holly likes the way it smells and walks around with it over her nose.

Then today I finally processed those pumpkins. I started taking pictures and then got distracted halfway through. It took all dang day. First you chop your pumpkins in half, clean out the guts, cut them into small pieces, then bake them on a cookie sheet at 350 for about an hour. Then you peel the meat off the skin.

I unfortunately let mine get cold, and the skin-peeling part was more like Let's Gouge It Off With a Spoon.

Ever stab yourself with a spoon?

It hurts.

Then you put all the pumpkin sans skin into a blender, along with enough water to help it blend. Then you pour the resulting puree into a bag or container and freeze it.

Two containers, all day of work. Then I turned around and made pizza for dinner from scratch.

I'm exhausted.

Saturday, September 18

Pine needle baskets

Pondering getting into making baskets again. It's kind of a unique craft, and the baskets turn out so pretty afterwards.

This is a pine needle basket I started and stopped a couple times over several years. You can see where I ran out of certain colors of raffia and had to switch.

I'd like to try using waxed linen as the stitching, because a lot of people use that and it seems to work well. And it comes in lots of colors. I wonder if I could find it at a craft store? I even saw one where the lady had used copper wire to make a really tough basket for daily use.

My problem with raffia is that it eventually dries out and cracks, so the baskets don't seem to last as long. I made my mom one for Christmas a few years ago, and I've noticed that it's started to unravel a little. I think I should have made sure to tie all my new strands in knots, rather than just try to weave it in. (Raffia is actually the fiber from a certain kind of palm tree.)

Here's instructions on how to use a gourd as a base: http://www.americangourdsociety.org/slideshow/pineneedles/print.html

This appeals because my mom has a whole trash bin full of cured gourds, just begging to be used.

And here's a neat blog with nifty baskets and designs. I'm getting ideas from them.

Friday, September 17

Kids love heavy machinery

You know how the munchkins' latest fixation has been dirt?

Well, there's great, sandy dirt everywhere at Grandma's.

And also Grandpa's tractor.

I look at the tractor and go, "Oh, it's so small."

They look at the tractor and go, "Oh, it's so huge!"

I'm sure my Dad will get on his tractor and wonder why all the gears are totally out of whack.

I'll have to let the munchkins onto the side yard more often, just for the dirt. At one point Alex was tossing handfuls of dirt in the air and watching the clouds of dust go drifting away. Alas, I didn't get a picture.

Wednesday, September 15

Water in the sand

Thought I'd show you something cool I found.

When water runs off the beach, it makes little patterns like this, right? (Not my photo)

So take a look at this beach. (Click to enlarge)

Except that it's the Mojave Desert seen from Google Maps.

Isn't that cool? It's not a desert, it's a huge beach!

Either that or Hell. Click on that second map. There's a town called that. XD

Genesis 8:1-5
But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded. Now the springs of the deep and the floodgates of the heavens had been closed, and the rain had stopped falling from the sky. The water receded steadily from the earth. At the end of the hundred and fifty days the water had gone down, and on the seventeenth day of the seventh month the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. The waters continued to recede until the tenth month, and on the first day of the tenth month the tops of the mountains became visible.

Psalm 104:5-9

He set the earth on its foundations;
it can never be moved.
You covered it with the deep as with a garment;
the waters stood above the mountains.
But at your rebuke the waters fled,
at the sound of your thunder they took to flight;
they flowed over the mountains,
they went down into the valleys,
to the place you assigned for them.
You set a boundary they cannot cross;
never again will they cover the earth.

Tuesday, September 14

Tuesday Menu

As I sit here eating the last of a container of guacamole and reading blogs, I was suddenly struck with the desire to update.

I was craving avocados like nobody's business. Probably some kind of critical amino acid or something in them.

Anyway, here's the menu:

Today: Chicken fajitas

Wednesday - Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Thursday - Some kind of stir fry (probably Teriyaki, if Ryan isn't sick of it)

Friday - Pizza (if I make the crust a day in advance)

Saturday - Potato Soup (because I want soup, and will probably make bread to go with it)

Sunday - Nachos, which might get moved to tonight and be changed to "party bean dip and more guacamole".

Monday - Chicken penne. It started out as Penne Arrabiata from Macaroni Grill, but I lack the fancy frills like artichoke hearts.

Also, I still haven't cooked the two pumpkins I got from Mom's. They've sat patiently on the counter, looking all festive and orange, waiting for me to dice them up and puree their succulent flesh. But each day, I've had such a lot of things to do that I haven't wanted to bother.

I also figured that I'd roast the pumpkin seeds. I found all kinds of recipes, and I think I'll just salt them and oil them before I try any other fancy seasonings.

Sunday, September 12

Dirt: good for the soul

Just to assure everyone that this blog isn't actually a cooking blog, here's what the munchkins have been up to.


Lots of dirt!

The past few days, they've gotten hyped up on Kool-aid and gone running up and down the sidewalk for hours at a time. When they get tired of that, they go play in the dirt. They are well equipped with spoons as shovels and lots of bucket-like objects.

Thursday, September 9


Well, just found out that munchkin number 3 is on the way, and will arrive sometime in March.

God says that the fruit of the womb is a blessing, so I'm clinging to that. Right now, in the midst of morning sickness, it's hard to see it as a blessing.

But things are looking up a bit. I have enough to eat now, so I can hold morning sickness at bay by never letting myself get hungry.

Our financial needs will be met until May.

We have a place to live, running water, electricity, food to eat, and gas in the car. Ryan has struck on a possible career path that looks promising in the long run. The kids are healthy and very busy.

I know I can manage a third one, because it will work so hard to catch up to its siblings, the way Holly did to Alex. The day she was home, she turned her little head to watch Alex because she knew his voice, and from then on it was all baby-exercise movements until she could crawl, and then walk, so she could do everything he did.
Up on her toes
I think that's why she did everything so early. Like when I told her that she couldn't go outside until she could walk. Man, she walked very soon after that.

And Alex has been wanting a brother, I think. He keeps calling Holly "Hank". I ask who Hank is, and he points at Holly and says, "Holly's Hank!" Like she's his imaginary brother or something.

If this new one is a boy, we are not naming it Hank.

Wednesday, September 8

Easily influenced

First, my sister in law posted this ridiculous recipe for cinnamon rolls. I drooled over them for days. But the weather remained at 100 degrees, and who wants cinnamon rolls when it's that hot out?

Then, things changed.

The temperature dropped to 70.

We finally bought groceries.

And now these are rising on my stove top.

I am easily influenced by pretty pictures of sweet desserts. I want so bad to bake these up now and have them as a late lunch.

I didn't put brown sugar in the filling, though. Just couldn't bring myself to do it. Sorry, Meg. :-)

Edit: When I got to the glaze stage, I discovered that eating powdered sugar on pancakes had reduced my powdered sugar supplies to about half a cup.

Thinking quickly of a Good Eats episode where Alton Brown made caramel sauce, I threw a cup of white sugar, 1/3rd cup of water, and a tablespoon of butter into a saucepan. I let it come to a nice rolling boil, and babysat it, stirring only occasionally to keep it from crystallizing.

Once it tasted caramelly enough (I think somewhere in the 200 degree range), I dumped it over my cinnamon rolls.

Once they cooled enough to eat, we fell upon them and devoured half the pan. Oh man. Oh man. You can't imagine how good it tasted.

Sunday, September 5

Tomato sauce

We're at the tail-end of the grocery-shopping cycle, and we have to somehow last until Tuesday with little to no food in the house.

Mom had given me a bunch of tomatoes that I hadn't done anything with. Being out of tomato products of every kind, in desperation I decided to try to make sauce. Roughly, Mom's tomato sauce recipe calls for:

Bell peppers
Hot peppers
Parmesan cheese

And ... I'm sure there's more to it, but I can't remember the rest off hand.

Anyway, in between texting Mom for the ingredients, I threw all of the above into a pot to cook down. I had no idea what sort of cooking time was involved, but in less than an hour it had reduced by half.

I strained it through a screen colander, smushing it all down with a potato masher until the skins and things were nearly dry. In the pot beneath, I had wonderful fine tomato sauce. It was so acidic that it about burned through my tongue, though. It only came to about 3/4ths of a cup. I split it and made half into spaghetti sauce for that night.

Tonight I'm making a pot of chili with the rest. It has a very fresh, bright flavor, but I think I overcompensated for the acidity with too much sugar, because now I have chili that tastes like it started as baked beans. Oh well! It's still tasty.

Wednesday, September 1

Welcome to September

Now, if only it would actually FEEL like fall ..


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