• Weird Eats

    Are you bored? Is the rainy weather getting you down? Do you need some entertainment? Then a shot of bizarreness might be just the thing for you! And if you have an affinity for outlandishness, check out the site in its entirety (it is also on my list of links, down at the very bottom).

    Ps. Thanks, Aunt Pat, for tipping me off.

  • A Sparkly Confession

    I like jewelry. You would never guess it from looking at me, though, because I hardly ever wear the stuff. Of my ragtag selection of necklaces that hang from the light fixture over the bathroom sink, I have one necklace that I love—I think it looks Celtic. I have one bracelet that I bought for, oh I forget, maybe eight dollars. And I have a simple golden wedding band. (The first time I wore it in the shower on my honeymoon, a chunk of soap stuck to it and I was quite alarmed, thinking that I had somehow damaged it. I’m not kidding when I say I don’t know much about jewelry.)

    Jewelry makes me nervous. I’m afraid that I’ll wear something tacky. Does this bracelet look stupid? Chintzy? Does this necklace go with a v-neck shirt or a turtleneck? Does it have to match my belt? What are the rules for this type of thing? Are there any rules? I end up not wearing anything (I do keep my clothes on) because it’s simpler.

    I still check out the jewelry at the thrift stores and on the clearance rack at Kohl’s. Once in a great while I find something that I can imagine wearing. But invariably something is wrong with the clasp, or one of the little baubles is missing, and I end up wearing it once, or not at all, and then dropping it into the garbage can.

    If I could be freed from my inhibitions (and if I had the money) this is what I would wear: Gothic-type necklaces (the silver pendulums and such), antique-type jewelry (tarnished silver and white gold) with intricate, yet modest, detail. I would wear small hoop earrings, or little dangly cock-eyed stars. An ankle bracelet. A toe ring. Definitely a toe ring.

    No pearls, no diamonds.

    This is funny, my jewelry crush. I don’t even have my ears pierced. My mother always said, “Why would you want to poke holes in your body? If you do that then you’ll be just like the women in those African countries that stretch their necks out with rings till they look like giraffes! Or those other people who poke holes in their lips and then keep putting bigger and bigger rings in the hole till their lip hangs down lower then their chin. That’s really no different then poking holes in your ears, right?”

    Back then, I never wanted to get my ears pierced, so it wasn’t like we were having a conflict or anything. We were just discussing.

    Eventually I did get my ears pierced, back when Sweetsie was about eight months old. I had the afternoon to myself, and I had a (pre-meditated) plan. I first went to the hairdressers and got my hair chopped off (I had only had long hair, ever since grade school) and then went to the mall to get my ears pierced. I figured that earrings went with short hair. I wanted to make sure I still looked feminine—what with my flat chest and cropped locks there was a slight chance that I was going to look genderless, and that was a little worrisome.

    I can go through unmedicated childbirth just fine, thank you very much, but getting a piece of metal shot into my ear unnerved me entirely. Would there be blood? What if she missed and shot the stud into my skull? Did that ever happen? It turned out to be no big deal—I gave dainty little yelps and she didn’t shoot me in the head so everything was cool.

    I cried off and on for a week over my hair, and my ears were sore. I finally adjusted to my short hair, but my ears stayed sore, even though I cleaned them religiously. My lobes swelled and were red (and yes, I got the non-allergenic kind of stud, whatever that was), but I persevered. But then it came time to take the studs out and put in some earrings. I could not put the earring in. It wouldn’t go. The hole wasn’t big enough. I pushed harder, but my eyes smarted. I just couldn’t do it.

    I called my girlfriend Kelly. “Just push really hard. It will go through,” she said.

    “But it hurts,” I sniveled.

    “It won’t after you get it through,” she pointed out, amused.

    My girlfriend Kelly is super tough when it comes to ear pain. When she was in middle school, her parents forbade her to get her ears pierced so she did it herself using a needle and a raw potato. She didn’t get the holes even, so now her piercings are lopsided. It doesn’t really matter though, because she’s beautiful. And she has long hair.

    I tried a few more times to force the ring through, but then I gave up. Going through all that pain just to look beautiful was stupid, I chided myself, attempting to turn my failure into some kind of virtuosity. You know, sour grapes. I let the holes grow shut, but I kept the cleaning agent and the studs and rings. I just may decide to make another stab at earlobe beautification someday.

    Is this crazy, my distress (granted, it is minor) over something so superficial? Yes, maybe. But there is a deeper longing under all that glitz, I think. There’s something so winsome, cheeky almost, about the spangles and bangles, loops and hoops. They catch the light and dance about, saying, “Look at me! Look at me! Look at me now!” Jewelry stands out; it is confident and bold. It has attitude. I like attitude.

    I’ve got plenty of pizzazz (if you doubt me, just check out those blue shoes in the upper right corner—I wore those to church), but I’m downright shy when it comes to jewelry.

    You’re probably thinking something along the lines of:

    1. What’s important is who you are, not the decorations you drape over your hot little body. (Thanks for the compliment.)

    2. Give your extra money away to people who don’t even have shoes to wear.

    3. Just wear what you like and stop worrying about it.

    Yes, well, that’s why I call this a confession. None of this truly matters, and I know that. I’m just talking, blowing smoke, so to speak. This is a little snapshot of how my mind works: I am inconsistent and I fret over the unimportant.

    And I’m willing to bet my bottom dollar (whatever that is) that you also fret over the unimportant. Hmm?

    So, go ahead and confess. I sure could use some company.

    Ps. And while we’re on the subject of piercings: When our first foster daughter came to live with us, she had a pierced tongue, multiple ear piercings, and a pierced belly button. She had one extra-big stud that she used to keep all her piercings open. She sat at our kitchen island entertaining Miss Becca Boo by first poking the ring through her ear (the high-up piercing), then her tongue, and then her belly button. “See, I can put it anywhere,” she explained, totally pleased with herself. (So much for sheltered homeschooled children.)

  • Two Thanksgiving Things (and a bunch of parenthesis)

    1. I keep a yellow legal pad on my desk so that I can jot down notes for this blog whenever new ideas pop into my head. Back when I first started this blog I jotted down “Thanksgiving—Pieces of April”. I nearly forgot about that note, too, because there is a fairly large chunk of pages separating that page from my present scratching page.

    But I remembered, thank goodness. And this is what I wanted to tell you. If you are in need of a refreshing and uplifting (my opinion, yes) movie (not appropriate for young children, though I can’t really remember anything questionable—maybe one sex scene?) for the Thanksgiving weekend, go rent Pieces of April.

    The plot is this: A young woman is estranged from her family (she was a wild child) and is living with her black boyfriend, and her family (her mother is dying of cancer) is coming to their apartment for Thanksgiving dinner. That’s it. But you should see it, if for nothing else then for the sight of her stuffing the turkey with entire stalks of celery.

    2. What is a post on Thanksgiving without a pumpkin pie? That’s right. It’s not a Thanksgiving post. Therefore, I shall gift you with my recipe. (You best mind your manners and be thankful.)

    I normally make this recipe from butternut squash, but because I don’t have any butternuts this year, I’m making do with the pumpkins and squashes I pulled from my garden—they serve the purpose just fine (though I think they are a bit more watery).

    My children adore pumpkin pie. Yo-Yo Boy could easily tuck away a half a pie if I let him. And I often do because this recipe makes two pies (one an 8-inch and the other a 9-inch) so there is plenty to go around.

    And besides, I consider this pie to be a breakfast pie; in other words, good enough to eat first off in the morning. It’s mostly made of pumpkin, eggs, and milk, and if you use whole wheat in the crust, it couldn’t get much more nutritious (don’t argue with me about this). (Sure there’s some sugar in the filling, but hey, it’s not all that much—my baked oatmeal recipe uses almost as much sugar.)

    Of course, the pie is very good with a dollop of whipped cream on top, but we reserve that for special occasions. My children are thrilled enough when they hear I’m fixing pumpkin pie—they don’t even miss the whipped cream.

    Pumpkin Pie
    Adapted from The Mennonite Community Cookbook

    Updated, December 2015: Fill one large 9 or 10-inch pie shell with as much pumpkin pie filling as possible. Put the remaining 1-2 cups in a container and freeze. The next time you make pumpkin pies, thaw the leftover filling and then you’ll have enough for two large pies.

    2 cups cooked pumpkin
    1 1/3 cups brown sugar
    2 cups milk, scalded
    4 eggs
    ½ teaspoon salt
    1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
    1/4 teaspoon ginger
    1/4 teaspoon cloves
    1 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon
    2 unbaked pie shells (8-inch and 9-inch)

    Using a hand-held mixer, blend together the pumpkin, eggs, sugar, and spices. Turn the mixer on low and slowly add the hot milk. Divide the pie filling (it will be very runny) between the two pie shells and bake at 400 degrees for ten minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake for another 25-35 minutes, or until the filling has set and the pie is golden brown and slightly puffy.

    Note: If you don’t want to make two pies, just reduce the milk and pumpkin to 1 1/4 cups each, cut back the sugar to one cup, and keep the other spices the same—you should then have enough filling for one 9-inch pie. (I think.)

  • Feminism: Part Two

    So after the dinner we retired to the lounge for a devotional and then a movie.

    Oh-woman-of-nine-children led the devotional which was pleasant and even somewhat inspirational (this is high praise since modern day devotionals tend to make me angry rather than inspired). She shared her story, how she was a single mother and then got married and had stair-step children (as in one per year). She told of some debilitating illnesses she had experienced (such as one with the quaint name of, get this, “flesh-eating septicemia”) and how she and her husband had come to the decision to be foster parents. I didn’t agree with everything she said, but I appreciated where she was coming from. I respected her.

    But things went downhill when they got the movie out. Oh-woman-of-nine-children was totally thrilled to be showing us the movie. She kept saying that she couldn’t believe that no one had ever taught her this stuff—she had seen the movie for the first time just a couple months before. “We need to be teaching this to our daughters!” she trilled. So all the kitchen staff daughters joined us for the movie and the ensuing conversation.

    I can not imagine, ever, showing that movie to my daughters.

    I don’t remember what the video was called, but it was from the camp of Women Against Feminism and it consisted of two young women, beautiful and stunningly intelligent sisters in their early twenties, speaking at a father-daughter conference about why feminism was wrong and the importance of the father-daughter relationship. I agreed with a part of what they said, I disagreed with another part, and I was sickened by yet another part. I don’t want to go into all the gory details, yet (I feel a Part Three coming on), so this is what I will give you.

    They believe that:
    1. Females are to be under the covering of a man at all times—first their father’s, and then once they get married, their husband’s.
    2. Everything women do is to glorify their fathers/husbands. They are to carry out the vision that the men have. The women may do many different jobs/occupations, but whatever they do needs to further their father’s/husband’s mission.
    3. Women are to be selfless in all ways, gentle, listening, humble, intelligent, courteous, etc. They are also to take good care of their appearance so they are pleasing to look upon and bring honor to their husbands and fathers.
    4. They are to fully support their husbands and fathers, never questioning and challenging, but always helping them obediently.
    5. And so on.

    A discussion time followed the movie. One military wife shared about how in six years of military service she had acquired more medals than her husband had in twelve. She realized this (her success) was hurting him and so she left the military and thus saved her marriage. The ex-military woman said that her mother was a feminist who criticized her husband in front of the ex-military woman. This made Ex-Military Woman sad and upset and she vowed to not talk negatively about her husband in the presence of her children.

    (It is never right to disrespect another person. I did not realize that “feminism” equaled “disrespect for men”. In fact, according to my dictionary [and maybe my dictionary is outdated?] feminism means that men and women are equal. And the word “feminism” also refers to the organized activity surrounding the interests of females.

    So then, by that definition, those young women in the movie were feminists. They said, at one point in their lecture, that their mother was not superior to, but also not inferior to, their father. In other words, equal. [They just had different roles, no?] And they were speaking on behalf of an organization that focuses on the interests of females in a way that they believe makes women more fulfilled and whole.

    “Feminism” has taken on so many connotations that it may be hard to get to the root of the word, but from what I gathered, the speakers were equating “feminism” with the women’s liberation movement, and from what I’ve heard, some of those women in that movement were downright hateful and disrespectful to men. And like I said, it is never okay to be disrespectful and hateful to another human being. Ever.

    Maybe it would be more accurate for the women in the video to refer to their activity and organization as “Feminists Who Love Men”?)

    Another woman said that when she and her husband were first married and both working, she had been bringing home more money than he had. She felt bad about this and apologized to him. He laughed, “Honey, it don’t bother me none. Keep it comin’!” She told us, “Now, eighteen years later, we are no long in the same place as we were then, praise the Lord. It has taken some adjusting for us to get to this place, but now my husband agrees it is for the best.”

    (Wait a minute. But who led you to make that change? Your husband liked it the way things were, so did you force him to change? Were you, a mere woman, in charge of that decision?)

    The same woman later said that when she “comes before her husband—”

    (Eek! Does her living room sport a throne? The only throne in my house is the white enamel kind.)

    —with a question, she words it very carefully because she doesn’t want to sway her husband either way since it is very important for him to make is own decisions.

    (First of all, if I want to talk to my hubby I’m more likely to squawk, “Ho-o-o-ney, get your tight little hiney in here! I gots something I wants to say to you!”

    And second, are men such weak and fragile little creatures that we must tiptoe around them? That they can’t handle a different perspective? That they must be pandered to and babied like a six month old? No-no-no. I respect men way too much for that. Yes, they need to be built up and encouraged and loved and respected. We all do. But I respect men too much to tiptoe around them—they are real, solid, strong people who are big enough to handle differing ideas and opinions without wilting. At least I thought they were.)

    I badly wanted to join the conversation to state my observation that it seemed they were painting men as weak creatures, in dire need of our female protection; that the way they were talking it seemed like they thought women were more powerful than men; that I thought men were much stronger than they were making them out to be.

    But I didn’t say anything. These women were sincere, good women. We had just had wonderful pre-devotional conversation, and as a result I respected them and cared enough about them that I didn’t want to say anything to upset them. This was a time for them to be recharged and encouraged, and it wasn’t my place, nor would it have been appropriate, to antagonize them. So I kept my words to myself.

    Until the next morning when I lectured Mr. Handsome for over an hour about the kind of wife that he was supposed to have.

  • Fighting The Cold

    I’ve been so cold lately; I can’t warm up. My feet feel like rocks—hard, heavy, and rough.

    We have an open-air house; there are lots of open spaces where the air can get in. And the air doesn’t just quietly sneak in; it blasts in. The other day Sweetsie told me that it was snowing in the house. I said, “It is not,” and went about my business, but she kept saying the snow was coming in the house, so I finally went over to the closed kitchen door where she was standing and sure enough, the snow was blowing in through the crack in the door. (When Mr. Handsome got home, he pointed out that you have to close the door all the way if you don’t want the snow to blow in. Duh, honey. I thought it was shut.)

    We also have holes in our floors. These holes are big enough for us to have “lost” numerous toothbrushes (the monsters in our basement have plaque-free fangs). We also have big cracks in between the floor boards and under the front door. Furthermore, the kids have a bad habit of opening the windows (they like to climb in and out—more fun than the door, I guess) and then neglecting to shut them. To make matters worse, we live on the side of a valley (not to be confused with living on the side of a mountain) and we get tremendous winds that pound the house, rattling the tin roof (sounds like an earthquake—I was in a small one in Guatemala and it scared me senseless), and knocking the porch rockers over backwards.

    All this means that even though we try to keep the main part of the house at 70 degrees, the floors remain icy cold and my feet get chilled despite my lusciously L.L. Bean slippered feet, and everyone knows you can’t really warm up if you have cold feet.

    As a result of all this coldness, all I want to do, all day long, is sit around by the fire. (I’m in front of the fire right now. I fell asleep by the fire last night. I did my SSR by the fire this morning. The fire is a good place to be.)

    And it means that a bowl of hot soup holds great charm.

    I made a good soup the other night. Actually, it wasn’t that great the first time around because I was off on my calculations, but the next day I corrected them and then the soup was fine. It’s a classic recipe, so you’ve probably already heard of it: Julia Child’s Potato-Leek Soup.

    I first heard of it when I read Julie and Julia a couple years ago. The author of the book (hear, hear, Oh Blogger Brethren—her book started as a lowly blog!) talked about this soup, imparting only the sparsest of directions, so I made it and it was simple and every bit as good as she promised it would be.

    I don’t normally buy leeks, but now, with this dearth of potatoes cluttering up my basement, I decided to make the soup again. It certainly couldn’t be any more simple to make: potatoes and leeks simmered in water, roughly mashed, and seasoned with salt, black pepper, butter, and cream.

    A pleasant bonus: the kids liked it. The Baby Nickel scoured his bowl with his tongue.

    Potato-Leek Soup
    Adapted from Julie and Julia, by Julie Powell

    These amounts are only guesstimates. You are aiming for a semi-thick creamy soup of pure coziness.

    If you include the green part of the leeks, the soup will take on a greenish tint, but if you use just the white part of the leeks, the soup will have a cleaner potato-look It’s up to you; I put in the greens.

    Of course you can garnish the soup with chives or parsley or rosemary or cheese or bacon or boiled eggs, etc, but this bare-bones soup needs not a single enhancement. It does not, in any way, disappoint.

    6 cups potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
    4 cups leeks, well-rinsed and roughly chopped
    salt and pepper to taste
    2-4 tablespoons butter
    ½-1 cup cream

    Put the potatoes and leeks in a soup pot and add just enough water to cover. Simmer till the veggies are tender. Roughly puree the soup with an immersion blender, or with a hand-held potato masher. I like it to be just slightly chunky. Add salt and pepper, the cream and butter, and heat through (do not boil). Eat.

  • George’s Seeded Sour

    I loved this bread the last time I made it. The seed combination is brilliant, a perfect combo that mirrors a seeded sourdough bread I used to buy at our farmer’s market that made me go all swoony.

    But I made a mistake this time. (I’ve been making a lot of mistakes, but I try not to dwell on them too much because then I get discouraged and am no fun to be with.) I used seeds that had not been stored in the freezer (I do know better) and had been piled listlessly in the corner of my kitchen cabinet for a year, or, oh I’m so embarrassed, more. So the seeds were a little bitter, which kind of ruined the effect.

    Moral of the lesson—buy fresh seeds if you are going to make this bread, and then store them in the freezer until you need them again.

    George’s Seeded Sour
    Adapted from Breads from the La Brea Bakery by Nancy Silverton

    2 1/4 cups (1 3/4 pounds) white starter
    1/4 cup (2 ounces) milk
    2/3 cup (3 ½ ounces) whole wheat flour
    ½ cup (1 1/3 ounces) dark rye flour
    2 tablespoons bread flour
    1 ½ cups (10 ounces) cool water
    2 ½ tablespoons quinoa
    2 ½ tablespoons millet
    1/4 cup amaranth
    1 tablespoon poppy seeds
    5 cups plus 2 tablespoons (1 pound and 5 ½ ounces) bread flour
    1 tablespoon sea salt

    Start the bread in the late afternoon of Day One:
    Make a sponge with the first five ingredients: using a spoon, mix them altogether in a bowl, cover tightly with a shower cap and leave the bowl sit on the counter until it has doubled, about three hours.

    Put the water, sponge, grains, poppy seeds, and flour in the mixing bowl and knead for four minutes. Let the dough rest for twenty minutes.

    Add the salt and mix for another five minutes. The dough will be sticky. Knead it by hand on the counter for a couple minutes and then put in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a shower cap and chill in the refrigerator for about six hours, or overnight.

    Morning of Day Two:
    Remove the dough from the refrigerator and take off the shower cap. If the dough has not yet doubled, let it sit at room temperature until it does.

    Cut the dough into two pieces and shape into elongated boules, about ten inches in length. Lay them on the counter, smooth side up.

    Prepare your proofing tray: Lay a cloth on a cookie sheet, lightly dust it with flour and bunch up the cloth in the middle, creating a little wall to divide the two loaves.

    For the seed mixture:
    2 tablespoons amaranth
    ½ cup sesame seeds
    3 tablespoons poppy seeds
    3 ½ tablespoons anise seeds
    3 teaspoons fennel seeds

    Mix the seeds together in a small bowl and then pour into a large tray that has sides.

    Now’s the fun part. Spritz the tops of the loaves with water, roll them, wet-side down, in the seed mixture and lay them, seed-side down, on the proofing cloth.

    Cover them with another cloth and allow to proof for three to four hours.

    Heat the oven to 500 degrees. Flip each loaf over, dock them, and slip them, seed-side up, into the oven. Follow the same spritzing and baking procedure that you use when making the Country White.

  • Feminism: Part One

    According to Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 10th edition, “feminism” means: 1 : the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes 2 : organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests.

    Last Friday I attended a dinner for homeschooling mothers. The teenage daughters served us our chicken and rolls and salad. For dessert we got to choose from a wide array of thinly sliced (so you can try different kinds, we were told) cheesecakes and tarts, and there were pots of herbal teas. One of the girls played the harp during the dinner; I heard whispers that she will be attending a national competition. I sat beside a conservative Mennonite woman (eight children) and her sister (four children). Diagonally across from me sat the events organizer, a bubbly, smart woman (nine children). Conversation flew along at a rapid clip.

    From the woman of four children: she has two PKU children and has to measure and chart everything they eat. They can have no protein or soy, and if they do, the consequences are not just a simple stomachache, oh no, they can have brain damage. She has to cook two different meals, every meal. It made my little food squabbles with my children look like silly knock-knock jokes.

    From the woman of eight children: They buy raw milk (under the counter from their neighbor’s farm) for a four-dollar donation per gallon. They only get two gallons a week because it costs too much to buy more, but once when the farmer friend had to dump a tank of perfectly fine milk because of some technicality, they went speeding over and filled five gallon bucket after five gallon bucket. “Drink all the milk you want!” she gleefully told her children. She was genuinely interested when I told her that we grew our own red beans. They eat a lot of beans she said, and a lot of tortillas. I asked if she buys her tortillas from the tortilla factory in town, but she shook her head, no, she makes her own. With Maseca flour, I inquired? No, with her own grains that she grinds herself. I started laughing at how far off track I was, “Lemme back up the boat!” She happily explained how she grinds up corn, wheat, and sometimes millet, and adds oil, lecithin, and water. She presses the tortillas in a hot press thingamabob that then cooks them. (Has anyone heard of this dohickey? Would it be a worthwhile purchase?) She had just finished up her apples, turning them into 78 quarts of pie filling, 50 quarts of applesauce (won’t be near enough, but it’s a little something, she said), apple butter, and dried apples. Then we chattered away about our dehydrators.

    The woman of nine children and the woman of eight children began comparing their freezer space and how much canning they had done. For the first time this year oh-woman-of-nine-children had kept count of how much she had canned—900 quarts of produce. About 400 quarts were tomato products and several hundred of those tomato products were spaghetti sauce. (I’m a little fuzzy on those numbers because right around that time my eyes popped clear out of my head and I had to blindly slap about on the table to locate them so I could stuff them back in their eye sockets. So that’s why I was kind of a little distracted.) Well, yes, you probably use two quarts for a meal, woman-of-eight-children said. No, oh-woman-of-nine-children laughed, We use a gallon; well, we have leftovers but that is intentional since my teenagers eat five meals a day.

    I commented to the oh-woman-of-nine-children that she must be in the kitchen all day long, and she said that no, she’s actually hardly in the kitchen at all—the kids do most of the cooking. I pounced: So how did you get there? I explained my frustrating problem: the older kids are ready to cook but the younger ones are always in the way clambering to help and I go bonkers and lose my patience and it goes downhill really fast. She said, with great feeling and understanding, “Oh I know. It is really hard.” I scooted forward to the edge of me seat, which was a mistake since I was already on the edge of my seat, but by grabbing the table edge and tensing my leg muscles, I was able to keep one butt cheek demurely on the chair edge so I don’t think anybody noticed—when someone knows how hard it is, then I’m ready to listen to any morsel they toss my way because there is a very good chance it’s a gem. This is what she said, so listen up ya’ll.

    When her kids reached eight or nine years of age, they got to choose a lunch that they wanted to learn to make (ham and cheese sandwiches, mac and cheese, whatever). The child was assigned one lunch a week, say every Tuesday. For several weeks, or months, that child made that meal. For the first several times the mother was right there, directing, assisting, and teaching, but eventually she removed herself until she was totally out of the kitchen. The first few weeks were tough, she admitted, because there were all the other kids in the way, but eventually the cooking child was working alone. Once the child was proficient at that meal, he moved on to another meal. And so on. Eventually she could call on the child to make that meal for supper if she was sick or too busy. And now she’s not in the kitchen all that much.

    So now Yo-Yo is making buttermilk pancakes for lunch every Tuesday and Miss Becca Boo is making bologna and cheese sandwiches, carrot sticks, and apple slices every Thursday. There is a purpose to these intense kitchen lessons, and in short order I will reap the rewards. They do not need to know how to bake a cake and make a lasagna before they are able to make a full meal—this is revolutionary for me. We can start small and move forward steadily. And so we will.

    Ps. I later heard oh-woman-of-nine-children say that at one point she had five kids in diapers at night and three during the day. And she was using cloth diapers. Gulp.

    Pps. There is more coming, in case you wondered (thus the title “Feminism: Part One“)—this post is background/warm-up. Hold tight.

  • Testing

    A number of you have notified me that you are not able to comment on my blog. This is strange because I have set everything to be the most open as is possible—I think it is a blogspot problem. Anyway, I have taken away the word verification feature to see if that helps at all. So, if you have been having trouble commenting, please respond to this blog. If I don’t hear from you, I will assume there is still a problem.

    Waiting to hear from you…

  • Buying You Off

    I’m gearing up to write my thoughts on feminism and since I’m certain I’ll probably and most-likely upset (not intentionally, of course) at least a couple readers I decided that I should hold off just a little bit longer.

    Just long enough to give you a recipe for brownies.

    My hope is that you make these brownies right away and then stash them in the freezer and when you see that I’ve posted about my thoughts on feminism, you will quickly run to the freezer, snatch a brownie and start gnawing on it before you read the post. Then, while you read through my long-winded pontifications (that’s redundant, right?) your brain will be thinking lots of how-dare-she-think-that and I-can’t-believe-she-said-that thoughts, but your mouth will be saying oh my word, these are so incredibly delicious, and so in the end everything will turn out just fine between us and you’ll still read my blog and I’ll still dare to speak my mind, though I will always throw you a sweet morsel beforehand. Promise.

    You better make a double batch of these brownies. No, no, I’m not preparing to make multiple disconcerting speeches, just the one for now, but I’m saying you need to make two batches because the brownies freeze really well, and well, they taste really good.

    I’ve tried many different recipes for brownies, trust you me. I even made the brownies out of Cooks Illustrated, and those people always tie themselves up in knots, trying to create the best of everything. Their brownies, were good, really good, in fact, but I still prefer to make these when the urge for a brownie hits me smack upside the head. I’m not sure why that is. Maybe because I grew up making them and so the recipe is a part of my life experience, just like being homeschooled when I was little, being an oldest child, and being born with a chicken breast (don’t ask). These brownies are, like, a part of my identity.

    And they are really good. Did I say that yet?

    Why are they good? I’m not too skilled at food writing, but I’ll give it a shot. Um, well, if you don’t bake them too long and burn the edges and dry them totally out, they get moist, chewy, and dense. They are not cake-like, nor are they fudge-like; they are chocolate-y-like. You can add nuts and chips and frosting, but these additions are adulterations of the one, true brownie. This is a pure brownie. It is virtuous and undefiled, virginal and chaste. It’s wily and winsome, but yet modest. You see it and you want it.

    So how’s that for food prostitution?

    These brownies stand up very well on their own (in other words, served all by their lonesomes), but I also like them with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and some caramel sauce. Like, you know, every afternoon with my coffee, while they last.

    Now go on—make yourself a stash. My feminist thoughts are just about ready to serve up (you haven’t sensed any vibes, have you?). I’ll dish them out soon enough. You best get prepared.


    2 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate
    7 tablespoons butter
    1 cup sugar
    2 eggs, beaten
    ½ cup flour
    ½ teaspoon baking powder
    ½ teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon vanilla

    Melt the chocolate and butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan on low heat, stirring occasionally, and once the chocolate and butter have melted, remove the pan from the heat.

    In a separate bowl mix together the sugar and eggs. Add the egg mixture to the chocolate mixture and whisk well.

    Add the flour, baking powder, and salt and stir to incorporate. Add the vanilla and stir a little more.

    Pour the brownies into a greased, square (9 x 9) glass pan, and bake at 350 degrees for 22-27 minutes. The cake tester (or toothpick, in my case) should have little smears of chocolate on it when you check, but the brownies should be fairly firm to the touch.

    Cut the brownies while still warm, but cool completely before transferring them to a plastic container (put wax paper in between the layers) and then to the freezer.

  • SSR

    One of the things I have been doing to hoist myself out of this blah-rut that I’ve been slip-sliding around in is this: during the kids’ rest time I drag my laptop from its usual station on the dusty desk in the kitchen and carry it, life cord dangling, into the living room. I set it up on top of the little footstool, plug it in (the battery is dead and costs ninety dollars to replace but I opted to instead spend that money on a pair of luscious slippers from LL Bean and dressy black boots), and plunk myself down on the carpet in front of the blazing fire, my travel mug of coffee sitting levelly beside me on one of the children’s laid-flat library books.

    I feel pretty good right now: coffee, toasty fire, chocolate brown slippers, quiet house, and a keyboard. True, there is no internet connection in front of the fire, but that’s okay. This way I have nothing to distract me but my thoughts. This is my writing time.

    But back to the title of this post: SSR. No, it does not stand for feminism (which, by the way, I will write more about when I have finished chewing-slash-stewing). It means Sustained Silent Reading.

    I am in the process of reading several books, one of which is The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. I bought this book a couple years ago because I wanted access to the extensive list of recommended age-appropriate reads that made up the second part of the book, but I never read the first half of the book until now.

    I am finding the book inspiring and motivating on many fronts, but especially in the area of SSR. Trelease is a strong advocate for sustained silent reading, meaning 20-30 minutes of quiet reading each day (this happens quite naturally for homeschooled kids, but not so frequently for school kids during the school day), but it occurred to me that I don’t have sustained silent reading. Oh, I spend lots of time reading, but most of it is skim-reading. I read a short chapter of In Defense of Food, I skim the newspaper, rarely reading an article from beginning to end, I blitz through a bunch of different blogs, I read cookbooks and emails and magazine articles and stories to my children. It’s all reduced to sound bites—a little of this and a bit of that, ideas that are reduced to their bare bones, not delved into and thoroughly explored from all angles. And, sadly enough, most of it isn’t great literature.

    So last week when the kids had their rest time, I sat myself down in our new recliner (thanks, Mom and Dad) by the fireplace with a couple books. I told myself I had to read for fifteen minutes before I could go do my writing, but I ended up reading from the Handbook for twenty minutes and then I shifted to In Defense of Food for another fifteen minutes. (Yes, I chuckled at myself for not sticking with one book for the duration, but well…) When I got done reading I felt good. I had absorbed a bunch of solid ideas, delving into topics that were filled with scientific facts and well-though out theories. I comprehended what I read, and I came away smarter, more centered, and fulfilled. I had accomplished something. I had done myself a good deed.

    Since then, I have been trying to read more to myself, for extended periods of time, not just little snatches here and there. I also realized that I don’t often read novels, so I picked up several when I was at the library on Saturday. Yesterday I started Jodi Picoult’s The Tenth Circle. I’m loving learning about Dante and hell and all that jazz (really edifying, that hell stuff).

    All this to say, do you get your daily dose of SSR? What are you reading now? What would you like to be reading?