Monday, December 8, 2014

Monday Menus

Leftovers ≈≈ Niçoise salad, no-bake cookies
Blueberry muesli ≈≈ Quiche, sweet potatoes
Maple oatmeal, fresh pineapple ≈≈ Thai sesame noodles
Rice with cinnamon and sugar, hot cocoa ≈≈ Dhal makhani
Cornmeal mush, fried eggs ≈≈ Pizza party for reaching a family goal
Orange cardamom rolls for Santa Lucia day ≈≈ Asian chicken salad
Cereal ≈≈ Pancakes, applesauce, scrambled eggs

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Menus

I should call this post Menus and Moaning, because it's the time of year when I vacillate wildly between thrills and stress. (OK, so I lean towards stress, I'll admit it.)

But, though I ended up comatose on the couch while waiting for the dishwasher to finish so we could even attempt to eat dinner last night, I did pull off a very productive day yesterday, including menus for the week and my best pot of Greek minestrone yet.

Apple oatmeal ≈≈ Greek minestrone, baked custard
Cream of Wheat, scrambled eggs ≈≈ Beef-vegetable stir fry
Rice with cinnamon and sugar ≈≈ Burritos, sweet potatoes
Butterscotch oatmeal ≈≈ Salmon burgers, salad
Huevos rancheros ≈≈ Pizza, mixed veggies
Cereal, fruit ≈≈ Ramen
Fast Sunday ≈≈ Pancakes, applesauce, bacon

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Flourishing: Giving Thanks

In thinking of gratitude, do we go big or small? Small is the daily joys, the ‘attitude’ so often spoken of, the ‘what if you only woke up with what you had thanked for in your prayer the night before’ game. (It’s a great exercise, but only up to a point-- sort of like kids playing Opposite Day.) On the other hand, big reaches into the nothingness of each of us, and at the same time, the grand mosaic of how we help one another through the inevitable ups and downs, the feeling of abundance that makes us want to share and rejoice. I mean, I suppose we can try to consciously use the small stuff to get to the big rejoicing; but often that moment of wanting to shout for joy comes spontaneously as a culmination of crises conquered, difficulties overcome, talents developed, and divine confidence gained. 

So, what have I been most grateful for this past year? What has made me shout out and rejoice that heaven is gracious, God is good, and I will continue to trust in Him because I can see the blessings that have come to me? 


Well, top would be my kids. Their kindness and compassion, the way love from me so clearly helps bring them up to another level of character, their physical growth and health, their intelligence and creativity, the good choices they’re beginning to make on their own. 


My two teenagers, my husband, and I were practicing some Christmas songs as a woodwind quartet the other day, and I realized all of a sudden that these people play music. Once, these kids were so little that they needed my hand to walk; then at some point they learned a few notes on the piano; then they chose another instrument, and dedicated time and their own mental energy to practice; and now here we were, right here, sight-reading beautiful holiday melodies -- in tune! 


The whole unfolding of it struck me with awe and gratitude: gratitude for sound and notes that exist in the first place, for a husband who also loves good instrumental music, for the fact that I didn’t keel over from exhaustion when the kids were babies, and for all of us who at some point stuck with it, who clearly have come to enjoy expressing ourselves through hymns and carols. What an embodiment of all the things that gladden my heart -- playing there with my family, my healthy grown-up family, was a real golden moment of rejoicing for me. It encompassed all the other things that I’m grateful for that got us there together.


Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!

For once, a relaxing Thanksgiving

I'm not hosting this year, or traveling, or feeling sick...we're just going a half-mile or so away, and so I'm experiencing something I never have before:
a stress-free Thanksgiving!

We're bringing the turkey, and so I had to clear dishes out of the sink this morning before getting that into the oven, but now all I have to do is enjoy the wafting aroma. (That, and the enchanting task that is basting. Squeezing rivulets of golden liquid is pretty dang fun, S. and I tend to either squabble over who gets to do it, or do it way too often.) All our other offerings -- pies, cranberry sauce, the stuffing I put into the turkey -- were done over the course of the week before today. And of course, I no longer have demanding little kids, mine are at the age where they're happy to be left to pursue their own interests.

So, I have time to sit down and write. Who knows, maybe I'll manage another Flourishing post. Or at least add the soup section to the cookbook.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

October Pictures


My signature dish...

...with a Halloween twist


An October birthday cake

Monday, November 24, 2014

Pumpkin and more pumpkin. And some birthday cake.

We bought four large pumpkins to carve into jack-o-lanterns for Halloween, but only half made it that far, leaving me with two whopping orange gourds lying around my porch.


I finally got productive this weekend and scooped 'em, roasted 'em, and added some sugar and spices to make pumpkin butter. It's been simmering down almost literally all weekend in my crock pot -- these bigger specimens are less potent, so to speak, and so the 'butter' has to cook off a lot longer and be blended really well. But, not only did I get a good fifteen cups of sweet, spicy, vegetable goodness, but my house smelled better than any candle or scented spray could make it!

This will only be our second year using pumpkin butter, and last year it mostly ended up on pancakes; this season I plan on rolling it up in my homemade bread dough for a pumpkin swirl effect, and maybe topping some ice cream with it.



I also mustn't neglect to mention my best batch of roasted pumpkin seeds yet. I finally got the salt-soak right AND didn't burn them, they were just right. All in all, those two leftover Halloween pumpkins have made our house pretty happy these last few days.

There are also two pumpkin pies sitting on our stove cooling, my husband's pre-Thanksgiving contribution. I'm so grateful for a guy who's willing to make his own desserts...He also read me poetry while I washed dishes this week, he's that awesome.

And, to prove my dedication despite missing a few posts, here are pics of the two cakes I recently made for my daughter's birthday, one for the 'day of' and one for the party with friends.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

From the Archives: Pumpkin

As I get ready to 'slaughter' our two never-carved Halloween pumpkins and make them into pumpkin butter, I'll jump back two years to the post when we first discovered pumpkin-thyme mac n' cheese. And then I'll start thinking ahead to Thanksgiving...


I called S. at work yesterday, and said to him, "Just when you thought I couldn't get any more frugal..."  He said he never thought any such thing!

But my news was that I successfully cut my own hair.  It's been driving me crazy for a month or two, seriously long and scraggly, and I finally just looked up a really, really simple ehow and went for it.  It's not professional of course, but it's 100 percent better than it was, and my curls cover a multitude of sins anyway. (Note from 2014: I haven't actually been back to a professional since, I didn't realize it had been quite that long!)


It's the season for all things pumpkin, we had a "pumpkin pie" smoothie yesterday morning, pumpkin-thyme macaroni and cheese last night, and pumpkin-layered brownies for FHE earlier this week.  The best of all, though, has been the pumpkin seeds.  I have figured out the secret to amazing roasted pumpkin seeds!  It's simply soaking them overnight in really salty water (like 1/4-1/3 c. of salt, depending on how big your batch is).  My whole family asked what I had done differently, they were just fantastic.  Soak 'em, pat them dry a little, and roast them at 300º until they're barely starting to brown, stirring occasionally.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Trying to Flourish: Food Books, Thrift Stores, and Appraisals

By the way, I've finished two more books relating to American meals: The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved (don't you love that title?) and The American Way of Eating. Next up may be Gulp by Mary Roach, which my husband saw and brought home to me.

Also, in budgetary news, I recently splurged (with a coupon) on my first 'modern' pair of jeans. Yes, skinny; I've finally caught up with the trends, probably just in time to be outdated. But, a recent exact count of my closet and dresser revealed that fully one-third of my clothes were either from the thrift store, hand-me-downs, or home-sewn. And as I've enjoyed dressing myself more and more from those expanded sources, I feel less guilty when I do need to go retail shopping.

Lastly, we endured our first-ever home appraisal last week, and just got the results today. Let me explain that we are not very handy, and find it very frustrating trying to keep our house from falling apart; so we busted our butts as much as we could to clean, declutter everything, get a few painting projects done, weed, all that. The kids happened to have off school the day prior to the appointment, so we recruited them for as much bathroom-cleaning, vacuuming and window-washing as they could stand. (We figured it was only fair, since they're a major source of the wear and tear, and they were actually pretty dang good sports.) So it's disappointing that our value came in about $20K lower than we expected. I anticipate we'll still get the loan and still save money, but not as much. S. and I commiserate frequently over how being a grown-up is not all it's cracked up to be...I find myself muttering the phrases "It is what it is" and "Onward and upward" with great frequency. But all is well, truly we are lucky and blessed.

Monday Menus

Pretty boring plain oatmeal ≈≈ Fish fry, carrots, rice
Leftover muffins and banana pancakes ≈≈ Grilled cheese sandwiches, onion soup
Instant oatmeal, smoothie ≈≈ Corn chowder
Omelettes, rice with cinnamon and sugar ≈≈ Baked beans, beets, biscuits
Cracked wheat, hot cocoa ≈≈ Linguine carbonara, green beens
Pancake-in-the-oven, fruit ≈≈ Chef's salad, popcorn
Cereal ≈≈ Daughter's birthday dinner TBD

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Menus

Rice with cinnamon and sugar, scrambled eggs ≈≈ Tacos
Muesli ≈≈ Fish sticks, hash browns, green beans
Oatmeal with fruit and nuts ≈≈ Focaccia, salad, broccoli
Banana-nut muffins ≈≈ Baked sweet potatoes, corn
Cream of Wheat, orange slices ≈≈ Cuban black beans
Huevos rancheros ≈≈ Cincinnati chili, mixed vegetables
Cereal ≈≈ Pancakes, applesauce, bacon

Monday, October 27, 2014

Where the Money Goes

As long as I'm into graphs, here's a personal one, though not remotely as cool and interactive as the Gapminder site's...

Our family budget is on my mind as right now we're working on refinancing our mortgage, so that our current lower-paying job won't eat into our savings quite so quickly.

Since I was thinking of such things, out of curiosity I wanted to compare our household spending to the average. Here's how it (roughly) breaks down for us this past year:





Fine print: in my own budgeting, I keep track of categories that work for me, but then I find that they're sometimes hard to explain and parse out in a quick-to-grasp way for someone else. 
For my pie chart there, Home includes mortgage, insurance, property taxes, utilities, trash, repairs, phone and internet; Offerings is nominally at least 10% but the number looks skewed because we've switched to tithing our post-tax income for easier accounting of the retirement savings gains later on; that Miscellaneous category is a pretty large catch-all, including most household shopping like clothes and shoes, cleaning supplies, toys, crafts, laundry costs, furniture, birthday and Christmas gifts, kitchen gadgets, all that.

To compare, here's a slick infographic which is based on a fairly recent consumer spending index. Enjoy.





Monday Menus

Maple-brown sugar oatmeal ≈≈ Pasta marinara, cooked spinach
Grits, fruit ≈≈ Mulligatawny stew
Rice, smoothie ≈≈ Baked potatoes, salad
Butterscotch oatmeal ≈≈ Tuscan tuna salad, corn
French toast, applesauce ≈≈ Carrot soup
Cereal ≈≈ Pasta primavera
Fast Sunday ≈≈ Tacos

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Fascinating, Interactive Facts



There's an amazing tool on the web that I want to share, called Gapminder World. It was created by two Swedes, Hans Rossler and his son Ola, and I first encountered it in a TED talk.

It was absolutely mesmerizing, the way customizable data from countries all around the world could be put into this easily-accessible, very clear visual format.

I bookmarked the website after watching the talk, but hadn't dug into it until recently. Truthfully, it had looked so professional on the big projection screen in the TED talk, that I figured the site itself would be a disappointment and not really meant for laymen, so I put off trying it out.

It turns out it's very easy to use and full of more nuance than I expected. I've been playing around with it, and these are the two graphs that I personally found most fascinating. You can 'play' them through time and see how they change, with either all countries displaying or just tracking specific ones.

There are nearly infinite possible combinations, such as literacy rates, carbon emissions, infant mortality, unemployment, access to clean water, GDP, you name it. You don't have to download anything or pay anything. Check it out, and then start messing around yourself!

Global Fertility Graph
Calories, Life Expectancy, and Sugar Consumption Graph

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Menus

Maple-brown sugar oatmeal ≈≈ Grilled cheese sandwiches, vegetables in cheese custard, apple-blueberry pie (hubby made that!)
Muesli ≈≈ Linguine parma rosa, salad
Cracked wheat, apple cider, fried eggs ≈≈ Chicken veggie stir-fry
Rice with cinnamon and sugar ≈≈ Pumpkin-thyme mac n' cheese
Muffins galore*, scrambled eggs ≈≈ Pumpkin chili
Pancakes ≈≈ Tuscan bean and tuna salad
Cereal ≈≈ Baked potato bar

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Menus

Oatmeal ≈≈ Corn chowder
Pink cantaloupe smoothie, Cream of Wheat ≈≈ West African peanut soup
Cornbread, fried eggs, canned peaches ≈≈ Fish fry, rice pilaf, carrots
Either cottage cheese croissants, or storebought Pepperidge Farm pumpkin swirl bread ≈≈
Hawaiian haystacks and a double-digit birthday cake! (Happy Birthday to my Lucy...)
Leftover cake ≈≈ 16-bean soup, biscuits, salad
Pancakes, applesauce ≈≈ Spaghetti, frozen veggies
Cereal ≈≈ Minestrone soup

Monday, October 6, 2014

Honeyversary Post -- Ten Days and Eleven Pictures

We've returned from our epic, incredible, long-planned trip alone. We crammed in so so much, but I managed to distill it down into a short post on our family blog. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Cookbook Update

I just realized -- partly thanks to a comment from an astute reader -- that my blog sidebar wasn't automatically including my new cookbook pages. Maybe a number of you were wondering how to find all the recipes listed in the tantalizingly empty table of contents...

Well, now it's fixed, and nearly complete, only lacking my (extensive) repertoire of soups.

I originally had them all in one page, but it was getting too unwieldy to actually navigate to a specific recipe, so I made it a table of contents with separate pages for each category. That's the format you'll see now that it's updated, and in the future I'll add actual links to the table of contents.

But first, I have a long-overdue trip with my husband, so this blog will be silent until the first week of October.

Happy cooking!!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Tirasalata

Tzatziki (front) and tirasalata, with carrots, cucumber, and blanched yellow squash

OK, another new favorite -- what my 20-year-old cookbook is calling Cretan Tirasalata, but what I call An Incredibly Simple Spread the Internet Doesn't Know About Yet.

Seriously simple, and not online anywhere. If you search for it, you get one of those 'did you mean?' messages referring you to a dip with caviar. Um, nope.

This is equal parts feta and cottage cheese, blended with olive oil and herbs until it's smooth.

No longer will my Costco-sized feta container end up with the last third of it turning moldy. My teenage son even dipped his chocolate granola bar in this stuff and proclaimed it delicious -- all right, I admit that's not the best selling point. But it's really nice to have a new member of the dip party, to go along with the ubiquitous ranch dressing and hummus. I love hummus, yes I do, but this is a niiiice change and healthy as heck, right?

Monday, September 15, 2014

Monday Menus

Apricot-date-walnut oatmeal, orange-banana smoothie ≈≈ Carrot soup, bread
Blueberry muesli ≈≈ Ramen with veggies and egg

Cornmeal mush, deluxe scrambled eggs ≈≈ Split pea soup, biscuits
Rice pudding ≈≈ Chilaquiles, zucchini
Cranberry-banana muffins ≈≈ Pizza, spinach
Pancakes, applesauce ≈≈ Niçoise salad
Cereal ≈≈ Chicken-rice bake, garden salad

Monday, September 8, 2014

Monday Menus

Rice, smoothie ≈≈ Grub mountain (peas and gravy piled on mashed potatoes, S.'s childhood nickname for it)
Apple-cinnamon oatmeal ≈≈ Chicken-veggie stir-fry
Cream of Wheat, fried eggs ≈≈ Burritos, corn
Butterscotch oatmeal ≈≈ Salmon burgers, carrots, garden salad
Blackberry muffins ≈≈ Pasta parma rosa, green beans
Pancakes, applesauce ≈≈ Chef's salad
Cereal ≈≈ Split pea soup, biscuits