Monday, May 30, 2011

Mindful Monday: Glasses!

It's a challenge for me. I've never worn glasses and probably won't for many more years (Thanks MOM!). Glasses aren't really part of my reality. But Brother-Bug does, and has for two years. This kid has been in glasses since he was two and a half. You'd think I'd be used to it by now.

But no.

I often make it to lunchtime before I realize his face looks strangely naked. This is not good for his eyes. So this Mindful Monday is all about him. And getting those glasses on his face even more consistently.

  • WHO: Brother-Bug and me, possibly with Papa-Bug's help.
  • WHAT: Glasses on first thing - even before breakfast.
  • WHY: Because they are his glasses and he needs to wear them and DUH.
  • HOW: Before I serve him breakfast I will get his glasses, or have him get them while I prepare breakfast. We will talk about how it really should be the first thing HE does when he wakes up. 
That's it - short and sweet. I think I can do that.


In other news, everything except the washing hands continues in a lovely and productive fashion. The clean hands continue to thwart me, but I continue to try and improve this habit. I just painted the bathroom (which needed it desperately) and I hope that such a clean and lovely space will help inspire me to clean and lovely hands.

I hope.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Book Review: The Mother Dance

I'm going through a reading kick that involves lots of parenting books. My parenting style feels like it has been falling apart or re-inventing itself. I have several books I am going to write about here, but we will start with the first one that came on on reserve from the library.

The Mother Dance

By Harriet Lerner, Ph.D.

This book was interesting. A little toward the self-help side of things for my taste. But definitely thoughtful and well put-together. I would give this one three out of five stars.

I loved this quote from the book:

"To opt for kids is to opt for chaos, complexity, turbulence, and truth. Kids will make you love them in a way you never thought possible. The will also confront you with all the painful and unsavory emotions that humans put so much energy into trying to avoid. Children will teach you about yourself and about what it's like not to be up to the demands of the most important responsibility you'll ever have. They'll teach you that you are capable of deep compassion, and also that you are definitely no the nice, calm, competent, clear-thinking, highly evolved person you fancied yourself to be before you became a mother." 

That was right at the end. It sums up so much truth of parenting - be you mother of father.

To be honest, I finished this book about a month ago and so am missing some of the details. It is back at the library, so I can't look back for a refresher. But it was a good book, and worth my reading time. It was certainly (as the Library Reserve Faerys seemed to know) a good place to start on my current parenting reading quest.


I just love library reserve programs! I get the books I want without having to drag my tired and loud children into the adult floors of the library. What a blessing!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Math Beans

Here in homeschooling land we look for different ways to play and learn, so as to engage as many part of our brains as possible. For math, we really like the skill building over at IXL, as well as cooking, helping with shopping, general counting, and other similar tasks. This week I also made a Math Bean Game, with the help of a few beans and 2 egg cartons. It is basic, almost free, and nicely hands-on for a little person.

(You can click on the picture to get a clearer shot of our game.)

With a marker, write the numbers 1-12 in the first egg carton. Then 1-6 on each side of the second egg carton. In the second carton put the correct number of beans in each side, using two different kinds of beans (we used pintos and garbanzos, but you could also use 2 colors of beads, or marbles, or what ever). That's it. Now play! 
One way to play: take the beans from a #2 slot and put it in the #4 slot. How many of the other kind of bean do you need to make 4? 

Obviously you can do whatever numbers you want to do. You can add, subtract, work forward, work backward... all kinds of math play is possible with this practically free game!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Donut!!!!!

A big shout out to Master Donuts (located on Mohawk and Centennial) because the donuts are good and the lady who works there is awesome. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

Recipe: Carrot-Raisin Salad

This is about the easiest potluck or quick side-dish I know. It's something I grew up with and falls into the category of my comfort food. If this takes more than 10 minutes - even with hand grating the carrot - you are doing something else.

Grate up about 4-6 carrots into a bowl. Add about a  half cup or so of raisins. Start with a few and you can always increase. Spoon about a third cup of mayonnaise into the bowl and mix it all up. Add some more mayonnaise if necessary - you want it to lightly coat all the carrots and raisins. 

That's it. Seriously. And kids LOVE it. It's also a good side dish when you have a green-vegetable dense main course.

Mindful Monday Redux

Boy. Last week's Mindful Monday Intention really nailed me. The previous weeks I was able to work the new thing into routine easily - probably because it was one static thing each day to remember. This whole washing hands thing is more complicated because I have to remember multiple times each day, and remember to remind Brother-Bug to wash his hands.

So we're going to have a re-do on this one instead of adding a new intention this week. We are sill going for Clean Hands. We'll get it.

The positive from it: I did get everything in place to make this work - helpful poster in the bathroom, full and working soap dispensers, and soon-to-be-filled hand sanitizer dispensers. Now we just need to use them!

Here are the details from last week's post, lest we forget. I have made a few edits for the new and improved hand washing week!

  • WHO: Me and the kids (Papa-Bug can play too, if he wants to).
  • WHAT: Always washing hands before eating/cooking.
  • WHY: Because I know that we should but it's something I never have really enforced. Frankly, it's something I am lazy about (likely because it's not something my mom ever enforced). I know we will all be healthier for having clean hands. And I want to give my kids these good habits that I didn't get...
  • HOW: I will find a hand washing song to sing before each meal to remind us that it is time. I will continue to patiently strive to add this good habit to our days.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

This Phone is Smarter Than Me

In a fit of curiosity, I am blogging from our car using my husband's iPhone. I resist these smart phones and yet they seem to have many tools that could be useful. My least favorite part is the touch screen. It feels so... Un-real maybe. And I make so many errors, so frequently, that any iPhone use usually leaves me fuming and helping the kids learn exciting new vocabulary.

Anyway. I am thing of delving into this wacky world of smarter-than-me-phones. This post from the car is a way of dipping my toes into an iPhone, if you will. I hope my husband doesn't mind toe prints.

I contemplate either an iPhone or a Blackberry Torch. All my siblings have iPhones - do I join the pack or be an individual? How do I really feel about this touch screen? Do I really want a smart phone? These are definitely questions I need to answer before I delve - if I delve.

I would be most appreciative of comments and thoughts from iPhone and Blackberry Torch owners.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Sip of Gold

Last fall, in the excitement of high canning season I tried making some Pear Liqueur. I had grabbed Classic Liqueurs from our local home brew shop and finally had a chance to try it. I made the Golden Pear Liqueur (page 39). With one thing and another, it took me forever to get around to the final step - just straining it a couple of times. I did it, FINALLY, the other day. It took five minutes.

Immediately I was shocked that I had waited SO long to strain this amazing and delectable goodness. I could have been sipping this for the last 5 months! It's sweet. It's syrupy (maybe too syrupy...I need to experiment a little more). It tastes of sun-warmed Bartlet Pears. It's amazing.

I'm going to need to make some more liqueurs. Strawberry? My own amaretto? Milk liqueur? Who knows? It's going to be yet another food making adventure in our home.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Two Conversations with a Four-Year Old

We have an anatomy book in which the different systems are represented by different teams of tiny people working inside the body.

Brother-Bug: Mama, when those little guys are working inside the body, where do they go to the bathroom?
Mama-Bug: Sweetie, those little guys aren't really in your body. It's just imaginary in that book.
Brother-Bug: I KNOW it is imaginary. But where would they go to the bathroom...if we were imagining?
Mama-Bug: I suppose if there are imaginary people inside your body, they must have imaginary bathrooms.


And with their Grandmommie just back from holiday in Sicily, we were talking about volcanoes and Mount Etna today. A lot.

Brother-Bug: Mama! I think the inside of my nose is turning into a volcano!!
Mama-Bug: What might happen then!?
Brother-Bug: I will have hot lava snot! I might erupt!
Mama-Bug: Well, if that happens take it outside. I don't want volcanic ash all over my living room.
Brother-Bug: Maybe I can erupt by the mail box?

Wordless Wednesday: Spoon-Licking Goodness

Monday, May 16, 2011

Mindfully Walking

I was taking my evening walk around 6:30 this evening. Usually I walk around our neighborhood. This evening I had a meeting down by the Willamette River. I left a little early and got my walk in on the lovely river paths. It was so perfect - fresh, cool but not to cold, mellow...


While I walk I am listening to an audible version of Bloodsucking Fiends by Christopher Moore. Laugh-out-loud-while-walking-in-public-funny. Oh my stars.

Mindful Monday: Clean Hands

Before I go into another mindful intention for myself, let's look back. I am still doing the three-best-things check in with Brother-Bug. It continues to be a great thing, interesting to me and somewhat challenging to him. Mostly we love the cuddle. My long term hope that it helps him focus on the positive... it's a little soon to tell.

Last week I had two intentions. Making the bed went fine. I even made it on the day we were planning on washing the sheets that evening - because I knew that the smooth bed would perk me up every time I saw it. And I was right.

I walked three of my four intended walks, and we took a family hike up at Sahalie Falls. It wasn't a very exercise-y hike (with a one-year old and a four-year old) but it wonderful to be OUT in the woods like that. Both kids loved it.

I am going to continue with all three of these because they are all feeling great. And add another!

  • WHO: Me and the kids (Papa-Bug can play too, if he wants to).
  • WHAT: Always washing hands before eating/cooking.
  • WHY: Because I know that we should but it's something I never have really enforced. Frankly, it's something I am lazy about (likely because it's not something my mom ever enforced). I know we will all be healthier for having clean hands. And I want to give my kids these good habits that I didn't get...
  • HOW: I will first talk with Brother-Bug about why we have to develop this habit. I will contemplate how to make hand-washing fun (any ideas would be appreciated!) and make sure we have enough soap in the soap dispensers. And then I will have to just take a deep breath and make us all do it. Sister-Bug's hands will be easy - one of the only things she wants to do is put her hands in running water right now. She's going to love this one!
So there it is. I admit, I feel a little revealed, admiting that we aren't good hand washers. But we are going to be, I know it!


Looking around I found this article about washing hands and making it fun. Now we are looking for a good poster to print and hang in the bathroom.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Recipe: Slow Cooker French Onion Soup

It's one of my favorites - rich beef-broth, savory onions, browned cheese... Yum. Luckily it is also one of the easiest things I make in our kitchen. The secret is in the slow cooker.

I never used to make french onion soup because I don't particularly enjoy caramelizing onions. The amount of slow stirring over the pan of onion aromatics... not really a cooking task for me. And then came the realization of Slow Cooker Caramelized Onions. Let me lay this out for you.

I say this is "almost instant" but in reality it takes a day or so to complete. However, most of that time is in the slow cooker, so it doesn't really count. You just have to think ahead a bit.

1) Throw some beef bones and about a quart and a half of water in your slow cooker the night before you want your soup. Add a potato for extra potassium if you wish it. Make sure the bones are covered with water. Turn it to high and leave it over night.

2) The next morning, pour the broth into a container to store in the fridge for the day. Discard the bones. Save the potato and have it for lunch. YUM.

(You can skip these two steps and buy a quart of pre-made beef broth at the store. But it won't taste quite the same.)

3) Slice up enough onions to OVERFILL your slow cooker. I use my food processor for this. You can do it by hand. Either way, you want enough to fill the slow cooker above the brim.

4) Add the onions and a stick or two of butter (8-16 oz.) to the slow cooker. I usually put half the butter in the middle, and half on top. Figure out how to lid this pile - I had to cover mine over with tinfoil this last time. Too many onions for the lid to fit!

**NOTE: If you don't want extra caramelized onions for later, fill your slow cooker only about half way with onions and reduce the amount of butter.

5) Turn the slow cooker back on (high). Leave it for the day. Stir it once or twice if you get the opportunity. Or just let it go. Whatever.

6) 20-30 minutes before you want to eat, open up your slow cooker. You should have lovely onions - a whole pile of them! Way more than you need for your soup. Take about 2/3 of the onions and freeze by the measured 1/2 cup on a cookie sheet or in muffin tins. Keep these guys in the freezer for caramelized onions in an instant. They thaw fast to be added to burgers, quiche, omelets, pasta sauce, whatever! That's a win. You can put them to the side and get them in the freezer after dinner or anytime in the next couple of hours.

**I am compelled at this point to bring up my dad's complaint with this method. You end up with caramelized onions that are more steamed than fried and therefore do not have the crispy caramel bits. I agree with him. I also like how simple it is to caramelize these guys.

7) Add the following to the remaining 1/3 of onions in the slow cooker:
Approximately 4 cups beef broth
1/2 cup (or more) dry white wine
4-5 fresh thyme sprigs or 2 tbl. dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste

8) Lid the cooker and let it all warm up.

9) Serve the soup into oven-safe bowls. Top each one with some crusty baguette-type bread and slices of Gruyere cheese (Parmesan is okay in a pinch). Broil until the cheese is toasty and serve.

That's it. Lots of steps, but (with a food processor to cut the onions) no step takes more than 10 minutes. Most steps take more like 2 minutes.

Eat up!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Who Are the People in My Neighborhood?

This past Tuesday was gorgeous. We were outside, planting flowers when a fire-truck and ambulance pulled up across the street. This was big news for my little folk and we wandered around, checking out the flashing lights. In the course of our explorations, I found out that the senior member of the home had died. I expressed sympathy and moved on.

Later I folded laundry in the living room and watched two men in ties wheel the deceased woman out and into a van.

This family lives across the street from me. I see them come and go all the time. I have gotten the name of one middle-aged woman and that's it.

This family is going through a sad time and I don't know what to do. They are my neighbors and I feel like I should do something for them. A woman died. I didn't know her, but still.

I might never know these people. I might always watch them.

I know that we have lived in this house for only two months (today, in fact!) and for most of those two months it has been cold and rainy. I've been inside, cocooned in my unpacking. But I also know that I lived in my last house for almost 6 years and it took me 1 year to actually meet any neighbors and more like 3 years to meet many of them. We don't live in neighborhoods and community the way I want to.

Maybe it's a hold-over from watching Mr. Roger's Neighborhood as a child, but I do want to know my neighbors. I want to be friendly with them, even if we aren't friends. I want to be able to say congratulations on the good things, and share my sympathies on the bad things. I want to borrow a cup of sugar if necessary, and let them know that they could borrow a cup of sugar from me if needed.

But the American Dream seems hell-bent on preventing that, on keeping us in our own spheres, on keeping us placid in front of our computers and televisions. But that's not satisfactory to me... because no one on Twitter or Facebook can lend me a cup of sugar.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Mindful Monday: I Go for a Double

Last week's Monday Intention was to have a "Three-good-things" check-in with Brother-Bug at his bed time. It's been great for both of us. Winding down and chatting up the day a bit. I was often surprised at some of the things he chose as his three best things. Once he chose a consequence, which had been hard at the time, saying he felt it had been good in the long run. Is he really four?

I debated and debated what I want this week's Mindful Monday Intention to be. There were two and I want to do them both, and I just can't decide. However, one is a morning thing and one is an evening thing, so I'll try for them both, no expectations on myself!

Number One!
  • WHO: Me and our Bed
  • WHAT: Morning Make the Bed
  • WHY: Finally, after almost 2 months, the bedroom is unpacked! I need to fling up some curtains and put a few coats away, but it is essentially clean and comfortable. And even a messy room feels so much better for having a made bed. Since it's a down comforter, all I have to do is smooth it up. It's a one-minute task that makes the whole room feel better - as well as keeping the sheets cleaner.
  • HOW: When I get dressed I will simply smooth the blankets up over the bed and make sure the quilt the baby uses for naps is available.

Number Two!
  • WHO: Me - Just Me!!
  • WHAT: Taking a Walk
  • WHY: I need exercise. I need a few minutes of downtime for myself. I have been making the excuse that we haven't set up the rowing machine yet, so I can't possibly exercise. But I have two awesome legs and a pair of sneakers. So I can pop in my iPod and go for a stroll. Even a non-aerobic walk will be more exercise than sitting around in the evening. I will try to walk for 15-minutes 4 times a week.
  • HOW: First thing after dinner I will leave the kids with Papa-Bug and start to walk, exploring our new neighborhood. I can time walking 7-8 minutes one way and then walk back home. I can "power walk" or walk slowly. It's the time and intention that is important here, not the quality of the actual exercise.
Voila! Two intentions. What are you doing this week?


Over at ButtonedUp they have this beautiful post about making the bed and how it is a connection for a whole family. Lovely. Timely.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Raising a Reader of Books

Brother-Bug has always been a reader. From the time of infancy, before he could point, he would spot a favorite book and shriek at it, waving his fat arms until I capitulated and read it to him...over and over and over.

Sister-Bug has taken a little longer to come to the conclusion that books are more than a teething delicacy. But now she is full swing, bring me book after book and requesting that I drop everything and read. If I don't do so, she whacks me in the leg with her book and howls. So I frequently drop everything and read. The same very dull board books. Over and over and over.

If you are a parent you know the ones. Anything with baby faces. Anything with trucks (that was the boy) or kitties (that is the girls passion). Over and over and over.

Luckily there are some really great ones that I do read happily many, many times.

I Kissed the Baby
(Mary Murphy) & The Way I Feel (Janan Cain) come to mind. The wonderful many books by Sandra Boynton are also fun on repeat.

But mostly I remind myself over and over and over that reading these books is teaching my kids that books are wonderful. That it is so important to read - more important than doing the dishes sometimes! I want them to love books and have them around througout their lives. I want reading and literacy to be a staple in their lives. So I read these mind-numbing baby face books. Over and Over and Over.

Because here is the goal:

Friday, May 6, 2011

Recipe: Orange-Miso Salmon

I was going to make something similar to this... but found that I had mis-read the recipe and it was an appetizer dish. Then I realized it called for a couple of ingredients I didn't have. But there was the salmon, just begging to be eaten. So I made this up, using the original recipe as inspiration.

3-4 Salmon fillets (steaks would work too)

Zest & juice of one orange
1 tbl. yellow miso paste
3/4 cup hot water
3-4 tbl. sesame seeds
1-3 tbl. cornstarch

1) Mix the orange juice & zest, miso paste, and hot water until the miso is dissolved.

2) Arrange the salmon in a baking dish and pour the sauce over the fish. Let marinate for 20-30 minutes, turning over half-way though.

3) Pre-heat the oven to 350.

4) Bake the fish in the juice until the fish flakes. You may want to turn the fish over one more time.

5) While the fish is baking, toast the sesame seeds. I do this in my toaster oven. Spread the seeds in a single layer and set the toaster to a light setting. Keep your eye on them - once they start to toast they can go to burnt very quickly. If you don't have a toaster oven, pop them in the oven as soon as you take the fish out - remembering that they will toast very quickly.

6) Remove the dish from the oven. Arrange the fish on a plate and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.

7) Whisking quickly, add cornstarch 1 tbl. at a time to the sauce remaining in the baking dish. The sauce should thicken - add cornstarch until the sauce is a consistency that you like.

Serve at once, passing the sauce with the fish. Rice and steamed bok choi are perfect compliments to this dish. Fresh ginger could be added to the sauce, and hot chili flakes could be sprinkled on top.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Invitation to Help Japan - Tomorrow May 6th!

To Anyone Reading This -
The recent tragedies in Japan have shocked and saddened us all. While spared from personal tragedy, we nonetheless pray for those who are rebuilding their lives and country one day at a time. I was contacted by an artist friend who has spearheaded a “Helping Hands for Japan” art auction. The photo you see above are tracings of my hand and my 4-year old's hand, which we worked together to paint. These hands, along with more than 80 others from all kinds of artists, will be auctioned off this coming Friday, May 6th. All proceeds of this online auction are going to aid the efforts of the Red Cross as they work to help those in need in Japan.

My son made his hand with the knowledge that he would be helping the people of Japan. Most particularly, he is concerned that they get the sushi restaurants fixed so he has somewhere to eat when he goes to visit someday!

Please check out the Facebook Page where you can see the amazing art work that artists have been inspired to make for this event. It is truly amazing and heart warming. Please consider dropping by the online auction and bidding for a hand. Spread this invitation far and wide, to anyone you think might be interested. Every one can lend a hand.

Another Mom and Her Little Boy

Monday, May 2, 2011

Introducing Mindful Mondays

What can I say? I'm such a sucker for alteration - Wordless Wednesday, Mindful Monday... I love the way it rolls around in my brain. Anyway... I digress before I even begin.

Over at The Happiest Mom, Meagan Francis posted last week that she was setting intentions on Mondays and invited everyone to join in. This is inspirational to me - mindfulness, intentions, and resolutions work really well for me and I like the idea of checking back in at the end of the week and see how I did. The original post is here, and I think that instead of quoting it, I will suggest you check out that awesome blog and read it there.

I will leap forward in to my Mindful Monday Intention.

  • WHO: Me and Brother-Bug
  • WHAT: Bedtime Check-In
  • WHY: I get tired and cranky and am often deep in my book when the little guy crawls into bed. I don't really want to be bothered, but there he is needing cuddles. By this point I have already cuddled his sister to sleep and if I am still awake, like I said, I'm trying for a shadow of "Me Time". But I know I am losing something precious when I just get him to lay quietly and sleep without a lot of interaction from me. Also, Brother-Bug is really good at focusing on the negative, and I hope that a positive check in with me helps him focus on what was good about the day, so that he can drift off in a loved and happy space.
  • HOW: When he comes to bed I will put down my book, give him a cuddle (as much as the nursling allows), and ask him what his three best things of the day were. I will tell him my three best things - trying to make one always be about him and how much I love spending time with him. We may then read a chapter of our book, watch some T.V., or read quietly to ourselves... but not without the Three-Happy-Things Check In.
That's it. Consider that intention set.