Saturday, April 2, 2022

Now on Saturdays: Book Talk

Wait, what? Book Talk? That sounds like it's some kind of new series here or something. 

Because it is! Whee!

I've been working up to this ever since I did this post asking for book recommendations for our tiny school library. You all responded with so many great suggestions, and several people mentioned that I should compile the suggestions in a list for other people. And that made me think that of course I should do that, but that I have so many other personal recommendations for books that I should just do a series of recommendation lists for different ages of children and book subjects.

Because if there is one thing we do a lot of in our family, it is read. I have now been reading children's books with my own children for about eleven years*, and I have shepherded my oldest two children through all the levels of reading that I am capable of. They read at a higher level than I do in many cases now, so I've turned them over to their father for more technical and philosophical things.

The point is, I have a lot of opinions about books, especially books for children. A. has a lot of opinions about books. All of my children have a lot of opinions about books.

And all of those opinions are going to be posted right here. Lucky you.

I think this would be an excellent time to note my own biases with books. We all have them, because of course book preferences--like food preferences--are highly personal. 

I am, as a general rule, strongly disposed to classic books. That's not to say that there aren't wonderful current authors producing high-quality stories with a high level of writing, beautiful illustrations, and important themes. There are! Some will be on these lists. It's just that I find those particular things have gotten more rare with time. And those things are important to me. 

Just like with food, I mostly want what my children are ingesting while reading to be something nutritionally positive. Meat and potatoes, you might say. I do not want them wasting their reading calories with the junk food of literature. I mean, they occasionally read some junk--like, say, the Lego books for beginning readers, or Dog Man--but I certainly don't want that to be the entirety of their literary diet.

If you'll pardon the drawn-out food metaphor.

You may not agree with my choices of what is worthwhile, and that is totally fine. Just as I don't expect that everyone will enjoy eating, say, Holy's cabbage even though I love it myself, I don't expect everyone will enjoy reading the same books that I do.

There's that food metaphor again.

So! Tune in next Saturday for the first in what might end up being an interminable number of book recommendations. I really love to talk about books, and once I get going, it might be hard to stop me.

Don't say I didn't warn you. But I hope you have as much fun with this as I will.

* Despite the expert advice to read to your children from birth--if not while they're still in utero--to encourage literacy, I did not read to Cubby (or my other children) when he couldn't even hold his head up. And yet, he could read at an adult level by the time he was ten years old. Just one example of why I believe expert advice should be taken with some grains of salt.

Friday, April 1, 2022

Friday Food: Canned Soup and Commodities Coleslaw


Short version: Pizza, raw radishes

Long version: Finally made pizza for one of our meatless Lenten Fridays. One with just cheese, one with peppers and onions. Both good.

Some sliced radishes from the commodities box, just to get a token vegetable in there.


Short version: Leftover barbecue beef, lobster chowder, clam chowder, bread and butter, dates

Long version: We had our once-a-month Saturday church this day, and didn't get home until about 5:15. So I needed something quick.

Before you go thinking that I've really surpassed myself with the chowders, you should know they were both from a can. But they were pretty good as far as canned soups go. It's a brand called Bar Harbor. Both kinds are condensed, which I find to be much better for this type of soup. You add milk, cream, and butter when you heat it up.

I bought the clam chowder some time ago for Cubby, who loves all things seafood. And then A. bought the lobster chowder for Cubby when he took Cubby and Calvin with him to pick up the fixed Honda tire in a small city. Everyone got to try the lobster chowder--although Cubby ate most of it--and all agreed it was better than the clam chowder. It's also more than twice the cost, so it will probably not be a regular menu item in our house.

The dates are a variety called Khalas dates. I had never heard of that particular kind before, but they were offered by Misfits Market, so I thought I'd try them. 

Oh man. They are SO GOOD. A. didn't like them as much as Medjool dates, which he considers the gold standard for dates. I loved them, though. They're drier than Medjool dates, but have a very caramel-y flavor. Almost like maple sugar.

Anyway. The kids love them, too, and thought they should have a dessert since we had been to church. I stuck to the "homemade dessert only on Sunday" rule and gave them two dates each instead, as a sort of pseudo-dessert. They were satisfied with this.


Short version: Baked ham, leftover rice, sauteed yellow squash/onion/tomato, coleslaw, chocolate chip cookies

Long version: I made the ham the same way I made it last time, when I was proclaimed a genius in the kitchen because of the ham. So, pineapple juice from a can of pineapple (just juice--no sugar), maple syrup, and Dijon mustard.

All the sauteed vegetables were from the commodities box. The cabbage and carrots for the coleslaw were also from the commodities box. 

Thanks, commodities box.


Short version: Ham/rice/pea skillet, leftover coleslaw, canned pineapple

Long version: LOTS of butter, frozen green peas, diced ham, and rice. A very satisfying after-work dinner.

The pineapple was from the can I drained for the juice when I made the ham. All the children love canned pineapple. I should probably buy it more often.


Short version: Meatloaf, scalloped potatoes, pureed calabaza, Holy's cabbage, raw broccoli

Long version: Apparently, I decided to embrace my inner 1960s housewife wtih this meal. 

I made the scalloped potatoes because A. brought home a bunch of half and half last time he went to the store when he couldn't find heavy cream. So I just dumped that over a skillet full of thinly sliced potatoes, salt, pepper, and garlic powder and baked it along with the meatloaf. Definitely a step up from baked potatoes.

Do you remember what Holy's cabbage is? No? Well, here you go. An excellent use for the other half of the commodities cabbage.

The calabaza was from the freezer, and the raw broccoli was for the two children who don't like either calabaza or Holy's cabbage.

Random photo break!

A Sidecar in the wild.


Short version: Leftovers

Long version: I planned on leftovers because I anticipated being at work. But I was very happy to have them when I was sick instead. Leftover meatloaf, sauteed squash, potatoes for some, bread and butter for others, still-frozen peas for the children.

And Cubby did the dishes. Yay.


Short version: Breakfast sausage patties, fried eggs, rice, black-eyed peas, cucumber spears, calabaza

Long version: There wasn't enough sausage for everyone to eat a lot of it, so I augmented that with the eggs and black-eyed peas. 

The black-eyed peas were from the freezer, where I put them after we got tired of eating them at New Year's. That's why you should always make a whole bag of black-eyed peas.

Okay, your turn! What'd you eat this week?

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

A Definite Silver Lining

All yesterday, I was sneezing and blowing my nose. All last night, I was awake on and off so I could blow my nose. And, as the crowning indiginity, I actually pulled a muscle in my upper back in the middle of the night when I was reaching for my handkerchief.

Yes, I pulled a muscle while I was (not really) sleeping. It hurts anytime I move my head or arms. So, all the time.

I am definitely not 23 years old anymore.


I don't know if I have a really bad case of allergies brought on by the very warm weather and very strong winds, or if I have a cold. But I do know no one wants me around food in the cafeteria today, blowing my nose while the children are eating lunch. So I called in sick to work.

However, none of my children have any symptoms of anything. And Wednesday is a day when all four of them have school (Poppy only goes to preschool Mondays and Wednesdays). What that means is that, for the first time since I had a child 12 years ago, I will be able to just be sick and take care of only myself. 

I will not be doing the Sick Mom thing of shuffling around feeding children and finding ways to keep them entertained so I can lie down for awhile.

For this small mercy, I am extremely grateful.

Over and out.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

T.T.: Forced Self-Reliance

One of Poppy's favorite books is Richard Scarry's Busy, Busy Town. There are two pages on which we always must pause.

The first is the "Busy Housekeepers" page. She points to each picture and says who in our house does each task. One or two of these things are done by the children or by A., but for the most part, I do all these things.

I do consider myself a bit more competent with a vacuum than that pig, however.

The second page is the "Fixer-Upers" page*, which shows various workmen (workanimals?) fixing all the things that have gone wrong on and in a house. Poppy goes through these and points to all the things A. has done. Which is almost all of them.

He's never fixed our television, but that's mostly because we don't have one.

One thing that both of these pages have in common is that they show things we do ourselves. We don't hire people to do these things for us. And that, I have come to realize over the years, is a key component of rural living.

In fact, the more rural a person is, the more that person should expect to have to know or learn. 

There are two reasons for this. One is that there just aren't very many--if any--professionals to hire. Where we live now, the nearest plumber, for example, is at least 60 miles away. That is not an easy house call.

Which leads to the second reason: If we did decide to hire someone to do something, they would charge A LOT. They have to, if they're taking half a day and many miles to unclog a sink. It's just not economically feasible to hire tasks out.

And so we do it ourselves. Whatever it is.

Some of the things we have learned over the years are small.

Making pizza, for example. Which is the only way to have pizza here where the nearest pizza place is 90 miles away.

And some things are bigger.

Shearing sheep is definitely a big task, but necessary.

If I were asked to give one piece of general advice to anyone who is considering making a move to a more-rural place, it would be to accept the fact that most things you want done are going to be done by you. 

It's DIY by default, and it's not a bad thing. But it is a thing that people should know about. So now you do.

* I only just now realized as I was writing this that this spelling is weird. I would spell it "Fixer Uppers," with two p's. "Upers" looks to me like it should be pronounced "Oopers." And now this is going to bug me forevermore whenever I read this book. Boo.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Snapshots: Life Skills

We had two tires that needed to be put on--one on the Honda, one on the utility trailer--and I asked A. if he would show me how to do it. My dad taught me how when I was sixteen and just starting to drive, but that was, um, a long time ago. I figured it was time for a refresher.

It became a Teaching Moment for the whole family.

Cubby actually ended up doing the most hands-on learning.

The "family" included Jasper, of course.

All the people! On the ground! ALL MY DREAMS HAVE COME TRUE.

Cubby mostly changed the second tire by himself. Watching him do this exhausted his siblings so much they had to have a rest.

Although this looks like the aftermath of the shootout at the O.K. Corral, I promise they were all alive and well.

Here is something I never had on my refrigerator when there were only boy children in the house.

Poppy absolutely revels in being a stereotypical Girl with a capital "G."

A. and the boys found this piece of petrified wood in one of the canyons a few years ago, and I am always delighted at what a perfect doorstop it makes to hold the storm door open.

It really is just as if it were made for this purpose.

And last, some walk photos.

The sun hadn't quite crested the horizon when I went out to start my walk, but on the way home . . .

It's always cool to catch the very moment the sun comes up.

There you have it! My life, snapshotted.