Friday, January 28

Attack of the giant centipede

I was checking our weather satellite to see if the valley fog was letting up any.

See that big long chunk of white? That's the fog sitting in the basin of the San Joaquin valley.

Anyway, as I looked on it, I noticed this. Click the picture to see the GIANT CENTIPEDE.

Look at it! Coming ashore to attack California! And nobody even noticed it!

Thursday, January 27


Munchkins enjoying their breakfast of oatmeal and cut up bananas. They like having their picture taken, too.

It's been horrendously foggy lately, but sometimes the sun comes out in the afternoon, and it warms up to about 60. I've taken to pitching the munchkins outside, for my mental health and theirs.

They found a muddy spot in the grass and turned it into a nice hole.

This is them putting sticks and bark into it. A nice afternoon.

Friday, January 21

What do you get when ...

What do you get when you cross Pioneer Woman's Eggs-In-A-Hole recipe with the Sizzler Cheese Toast recipe?

Happy munchkins!

And even happier mom and dad, who thought it tasted divine. Here's our reaction:
(Original pic here)

*heavenly choir*

Tuesday, January 18

Special chicken pockets

I wanted to make chicken pockets for dinner tonight.

Chicken pockets (or packets, depending on your recipe) usually involve some cooked shredded chicken, mixed with cream cheese and something like onion or garlic salt, then folded into the middle of some kind of bread, usually canned crescent roll dough.

I've made them a few times, and my husband has complained that they're too bland.

So I was trying to think of a way to jazz them up. I decided to make one of his favorite recipes, chicken and stuffing, and turn that into a chicken pocket filling.

Recipe as it turned out:

A pound or so of cooked, shredded chicken
1 half can of cream of chicken soup (or more depending on your amount of chicken)
1 box of Stove Top stuffing
Dough of your choice, canned or homemade

If you're making homemade dough, make it ahead of time and let it rise. I just used a general Dinner Rolls recipe, doubled, because I was making orange rolls, too.

Cook your chicken and shred it up. Mix it with your cream of chicken soup. Prepare stuffing according to package directions and toss it with the chicken and soup mixture. Mix it just enough to distribute the stuffing throughout the mixture, but not enough to turn it into mush.

Drop a large spoonful of filling into flattened triangle of dough. Pull corners of dough up and seal together at the top, forming a funky little ball. Place on greased jelly roll pan and bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

My husband pronounced them a success. I thought they would have been nice with some kind of dipping sauce, maybe a chicken gravy. They were a bit dry, I thought.

Then I also made orange rolls, using orange marmalade instead of juice and zest on the inside.

Seeing as this was blood orange marmalade and blood orange juice in the glaze, they were this pleasant fruity, citrusy sweet roll.

Sunday, January 16

The Simple Woman's Daybook

Outside my window... Dark and gloomy. I had hoped to see the sun today, but alas, it was not to be. It's not very cold, thankfully, just dark.

I am thinking... about whether the kids are in there fighting quietly or actually going to bed. About making my requests known to God, and delighting myself in Him, and he will give me the desires of my heart. To date, he's given me everything I ever asked him for, and more. So I'm composing my next list of heart's desires for Him to look over. :-)

I am thankful for... our finances working out so that we have food this month. The past few Januarys have been dubbed "Starvation Januarys" and I'm so thankful we didn't have to go through that this year.

From the learning rooms... If I do what I want, my kids turn into little grouches. But if I put aside my own wants and attend to them, they get so happy, and are much better at obeying their dad and me.

From the kitchen... I tried making a banana bread recipe, but substituted a half pint of peach butter for the bananas. It came out surprisingly good, and this way I can get rid of some of that horrid peach butter before next summer.

I am wearing... pajama pants and a sweater. When you're pregnant, sitting at the computer in jeans is just uncomfortable.

I am creating... nothing much at the moment. Trying to get my writing mojo back on by doing this survey. None of the voices in my head are talking these days, and it's hard to think of stuff to write without them. Must be a hormone thing.

I am going... to try to walk every day this week. It'll be busy with school starting this week, though. Gotta get Ryan out the door early.

I am reading... Enchanted Glass by Diana Wynne Jones. Gosh, I love that book. I'm missing my Melendys books, though. Someday I shall repossess them from my mom, bwahaha!

I am hoping... many things pertaining to this year and the next. I want a house, but many, many dominoes have to fall over, first.

I am hearing... soft music, and finally silence from the bedroom. The kids must be asleep at last.

Around the house... the house is grungy. House cleaning tomorrow! At least it's fairly well picked up.

One of my favorite things... sitting down with a cup of sweet coffee, a plate of some kind of snack bread, and a good book. This doesn't actually happen that often.

A few plans for the rest of the week: Make menus, do the grocery shopping, watch Inception, start work on at least one commission picture. Remember to drink my nettle tea every day.

Here is picture for thought I am sharing: Blue sky, something we have not seen in days.

Saturday, January 15

Blood orange marmalade

Isn't it just the prettiest stuff you've ever seen? Shame about the name, though.

"Hey, want some blood orange marmalade on your toast?"

"No thank you, I'm on an O-positive diet."

It's really about half blood oranges and half navel oranges, and for some reason I didn't get a lot of juice from either. Maybe it was because I was hand-juicing them and my arm was tired.

Anyway, used this recipe from Simply Recipes. I used her lemon marmalade one and it turned out nicely, so I gave her orange one a shot, too.

The trouble with orange marmalade, as I discovered upon researching it, is that it's traditionally made with Seville oranges, these tiny, sour, seedy oranges. When canned, they have the best flavor. Navels and other "sweet" oranges aren't supposed to be as good. I just used less sugar and made sure to taste it.

My goodness. Those blood oranges made the batch taste like I used rose petals, or some other kind of edible flower. It smells like citrus, but also this wonderful springtime floral smell. It's the smell I think of when I read a book where they use "rose water".

2 cups juice + 4 cups peel + 2 cups water + 3 1/2 cups sugar, and I got 5 half-pints. But this marmalade is so powerful, you only need a tiny bit at a time. I'll bet it makes some really interesting "orange marmalade" bread. :-)

Wednesday, January 12

Lemon marmalade bread

Photo from Taste of Home

I was trying to think of something to make with some of that lemon marmalade I have sitting in the fridge. Then I wondered ... could I made lemon bread with it?

I whipped out my Glazed Lemon Bread recipe, which isn't exactly like this one, but is very close:

Taste of Home's Lemon Bread

* 1/2 cup butter, softened
* 1 cup sugar
* 2 eggs
* 2 tablespoons lemon juice
* 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
* 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 1/8 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 cup 2% milk

* 2 tablespoons lemon juice
* 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar


* In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, lemon juice and peel. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt; gradually stir into creamed mixture alternately with milk, beating well after each addition.
* Pour into a greased 8-in. x 4-in. loaf pan. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.
* Combine glaze ingredients. Remove bread from pan; immediately drizzle with glaze. Cool on a wire rack. Serve warm. Yield: 1 loaf (16 slices).

The only thing I changed was instead of lemon juice and zest in the bread, I just gouged out three large teaspoonfuls of lemon marmalade and dolloped them into the batter.

Instead of glaze on top of the hot bread, I warmed up some marmalade and spread that over the top. It was good, but a little bit of overkill, especially when you hit a chunk of lemon peel. I think it would have been better had I just stuck to the glaze.

I'd have posted a pic of my lemon bread, but I left it in the oven a bit long and it got a wee bit dark. So instead of black bread with a yellow center, I'm throwing in Taste of Home's, which is much prettier (and what mine should have looked like).

I'm loving marmalade more and more. It'll be especially wonderful in the summertime.

Sunday, January 9

The trouble with playgrounds

Here's the munchkins enjoying one of their favorite games, SimCity 2000. I found it as abandonware for free, and it runs wonderfully well on a dosbox frontend called D-fend Reloaded.

Alex loves to build miles and miles of train tracks, or highways, or roads, but he hasn't yet got the knack of connecting power lines from his power plant to un-powered zones. Once he masters that, he'll be building his own cities with no help.

Today was yet another of those gray, raw January days where the overcast sky is so low it seems barely beyond the treetops. It gets oppressive, like being in a room with too low of a ceiling.

When it's like that outside, this apartment gets really, really small. So we busted out of it at lunchtime and took the kids down to the indoor playground at McDonalds a block away.

I forgot that on Sunday, a lot of families hit up McDonalds to let loose the children who have been sitting still for an hour and a half.

I sat and watched my children like a hawk to make sure they didn't get hurt, or hurt other kids. Alex was particularly hyper, so this was a reasonable concern.

Something I noticed:

When your one-year old and nearly-four-year-old are playing with kids in that age range, between ages 1 and 4, there is a limit to how much damage they can inflict on each other. Little kids just aren't very strong.

It's when the big strapping 10 year olds come in, and start climbing up the outside of the play equipment, and kicking off the walls, that I get nervous. Because when a kid is that much bigger and stronger, there is no limit to how much damage they can do to a smaller kid.

To my relief, Ryan declared it Time To Leave after the big kids showed up. The munchkins came home and slept for three hours each.

There is an upshot to letting them run around like maniacs for an hour.

Saturday, January 8

Marmalade adventures

My mom has a little tiny Meyer lemon tree. It is currently breaking all its branches because it's so loaded with lemons.

My citrus craving has reached its usual winter pitch, expanding into a longing for all foods citrus-flavored. So the idea to make marmalade popped into my head.

I'd never had marmalade and had no idea what it might taste like. I had a vague idea it might be kind of like lemon candy, only spreadable, and you can put it into meat marinades and desserts.

I surfed around, looking for recipes. I found one that looked likely for a while, but upon studying it, I found it worrisome that she boiled the lemon slices, then poured off the water. Seeing as all the pectin is in the peels, hadn't she just poured off all her pectin?

Then I found this recipe, and it made much more sense. And you don't have the extra step of juicing all the darn lemons, either. You just dice them up until you have six cups of chopped lemon, saving the seeds, pith, and membranes. The seeds, etc. you put into a cheesecloth bag and boil it with your diced lemon. This is where your pectin comes from.

Did you know commercial pectin is made from limes? Just a fun fact I found out during my research.

Anyway, here is how many lemons I had before I started.

This is how many lemons I had after I achieved six cups of diced lemons. It only took about 12 lemons. Talk about depressing.

Here's the diced lemons and pectin bag, all boiling together. You boil it about half an hour, until you can eat a lemon slice and they're extremely soft.

Then you take the pectin bag out, let it cool a bit, and squeeze extra pectin out of it. I did, and the clear slimy goop that came out was exactly like the stuff that comes out of the commercial packet. And it feels really gross on your hands.

Anyway, then you pour in six cups of sugar and cook the stuff until it his about 218 degrees F, which takes about half an hour of medium-high boiling. In the recipe, she has a few techniques of testing if your jelly is done or not. I did them and it worked fine.

I got four pint jars of beautiful lemon marmalade. The others were more full than this one. This was the one where I ran out of marmalade, so of course it was the one I opened and sampled. It tasted almost exactly how I had imagined.

There's probably no vitamin C left in it, because vitamin C doesn't like being cooked, but it sure tastes nutritious.

Sunday, January 2

Winter flowers

Undaunted by frost, rain or neighbor kids playing kickball, these hollyhocks greeted us upon our return.

Today the wind is blowing, and it's spotting rain, like it can't decide whether to actually rain or not.

For some reason I keep thinking of this poem in Fellowship of the Ring, by Tolkien:

Now let the song begin! Let us sing together
Of sun, stars, moon and mist, rain and cloudy weather,
Light on the budding leaf, dew on the feather,
Wind on the open hill, bells on the heather,
Reeds by the shady pool, lilies on the water ...

Saturday, January 1

Thoughts in the new year

(Not my photo)

This was my Streams in the Desert for today:

"The land whither ye go to possess it is a land of hills and valleys and drinketh water of the rain of heaven: a land which the Lord thy God careth for: the eyes of the Lord are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year" (Deut. 11:11-12).

Today dear friends, we stand upon the verge of the unknown. There lies before us the new year and we are going forth to possess it. Who can tell what we shall find? What new experiences, what changes shall come, what new needs shall arise? But here is the cheering, comforting, gladdening message from our Heavenly Father, "The Lord thy God careth for it." "His eyes are upon it away to the ending of the year."

All our supply is to come from the Lord. Here are springs that shall never dry; here are fountains and streams that shall never be cut off. Here, anxious one, is the gracious pledge of the Heavenly Father. If He be the Source of our mercies they can never fail us. No heat, no drought can parch that river, "the streams whereof make glad the city of God."

The land is a land of hills and valleys. It is not all smooth nor all down hill. If life were all one dead level the dull sameness would oppress us; we want the hills and the valleys. The hills collect the rain for a hundred fruitful valleys. Ah, so it is with us! It is the hill difficulty that drives us to the throne of grace and brings down the shower of blessing; the hills, the bleak hills of life that we wonder at and perhaps grumble at, bring down the showers. How many have perished in the wilderness, buried under its golden sands, who would have lived and thriven in the hill-country; how many would have been killed by the frost, blighted with winds, swept desolate of tree and fruit but for the hill-stern, hard, rugged, so steep to climb. God's hills are a gracious protection for His people against their foes!

We cannot tell what loss and sorrow and trial are doing. Trust only. The Father comes near to take our hand and lead us on our way today. It shall be a good, a blessed new year! --N.L. Zinzendorf

Everybody's posting new year's resolutions. I'm going to have a new baby in April, so that's the big one: get through labor without too much grumbling.

Other things I'd like to do but can't really resolve to:

Make more baskets and get better at it

Try my hand at making orange or lemon marmalade

Read more classic books

Walk more and get in better shape

Enjoy my kids

Spend more time with God every day

Update my blogs more often. :-)


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