Tuesday, November 29, 2011

New Books and Christmas Ideas- Scholastic Version

This week I am spending a lot of time sitting in the Scholastic Book Fair being hosted at our Library, and when we are not busy, there isn't much I can do except read. Such a terrible position to be in! Here are some of the titles we have for sale, most of which will hopefully also be on our shelves soon.


A very satisfying read by the author of The Clockwork Three. Over 300 pages, but I read it in a couple hours. Solveig, her brother the crown prince, and her beautiful older sister are trapped in a hidden fortress built on a glacier. With them are a few trusted servants, a small army of berserkers...and a traitor. A little romance, quite a bit of mystery, and mostly a discovering-who-you-are novel. I thought I knew who the traitor was, then I discovered I was wrong, then I discovered I really wasn't. The ending was perhaps to tidy, but satisfying.
Gift Idea: Pair with some good nonfiction about the Vikings or Norse gods, particularly Odin. If you are feeling especially brave, give your little berserker a spear or hammer...or maybe just a stuffed raven:)

How the Hangman Lost His Heart

This is an older book, and obviously a sleeper - it sits on the sale table here, and I almost didn't pick it up. Very cute story, disembowlings and beheadings aside. Sort of a humorous medieval adventure-slash-love triangle. I wasn't happy with the ending, but a younger teenage girl probably would be.
Gift Idea: Hmm. Well, you probably wouldn't want to gift your 13yo the tools of a hangman's trade. There is much talk of medieval clothing, though, and you can definitely have fun with that. Hats - and hatboxes - figure in rather prominently, and would make a fun present, either for wearing or for decorating.

Family Storybook Treasury with CD: Tales of Laughter, Curiosity, and Fun

This one comes with a CD, but that's kind of missing the point, isn't it? This collection of favorite stories and poems will give you plenty of read-alouds for bedtime or any time, and have enough variety to keep from getting stale too soon.
Gift Idea: This one needs to be paired with your TIME. A card promising a story every night without fail. A gift certificate for one rainy afternoon of cuddling and reading. A plan to act out a story or two, using the CD as your background.

You Will Be My Friend!

Do you know a young lady who is at times a bit overexhuberant, or perhaps, erm, a little overbearing (no pun intended)? Then she may identify with Lucy, who sets out one day determined to make a new friend - one way or another. I'm not sure that any sort of lesson is learned, but I think it's going to make a great read-aloud.
Gift Idea: Stuffed animals (particularly bears and flamingos) come to mind, or a gift certificate for a special day with your little reader and one of her friends.

The Twelve Days of Christmas

We have a whole table full of holiday books, some new and some traditional. This is definitely one of the prettiest. As you explore the beautiful, jewel-colored illustrations, you'll start finding hidden images of some of the previous gifts.
Gift Idea: One parent has already mentioned how this book might inspire some artwork - in her husband! Pair the book with some good oil paints and canvas, and see what kinds of masterpieces your young artist can come up with.

What to Do about Alice?: How Alice Roosevelt Broke the Rules, Charmed the World, and Drove Her Father Teddy Crazy!

I always let the kids pick out a book or two at each book fair, and then grab some more later as gifts. S. was in today with Grandma, and spent quite some time picking things up and putting them back down (somewhere other than where they went, of course.) I was quite proud of the fact that she skipped over all the princessy books and went first to one with a komodo dragon on the cover, but I'm especially happy that this is the one she settled on. She probably just liked the colors, but if you know anything about Alice Roosevelt - and about S. - you know why this is a perfect match.
Gift Idea: The book talks a lot about Alice wanting to "gobble up the world", and about the fact that she was laregly self-taught. Use this book as a springboard to find out what your young lady dreams of doing someday, and gift appropriately from there. Oh, and get her a green garden snake. Or a monkey. Probably a snake would be better. And more legal.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

McDonald's Fail

News Flash: If I am eating at McDonald's, it's not because I crave nutrition. I appreciate having options like salads, and occasionally that is what I will choose. In general, though: I am eating at McDonald's because I want something fast and cheap that will fill me up. I don't have a huge appetite, so a Happy Meal - burger and fries - USED TO be enough. Until today, when we stopped at the one at Walmart before doing some quick grocery shopping.

C., S. and I got Happy Meals, and discovered the french fries have been somewhat downsized:

There were all of, like, four french fries in there. That may be a slight exaggeration, but only a slight one. It is accompanied by a packet of four tasteless looks-like-apple slices. No dipping sauce, no cookies. It seems McDonald's is going to force healthy choices on our kids by giving them choking hazards that make them associate fruit with styrofoam. Needless to say, this did not fill me up. It didn't even fill C. up, and he is a notoriously light eater. He polished everything off and asked plaintively, "Is there more food?" Poor kid! (Don't worry, this isn't a Dickens novel, we got him more.)

I did check, and you can request a 'regular' Happy Meal - if you know to do so. I'm just glad we hadn't gone through a drive thru and been stuck with the diet special.  Apparently, this started in July, and it has just now trickled into NM. McD's did it to appease what they say was parental pressure (i.e. the parent currently in the White House) to make the meals healthier.

Guess what, people? If your kid is fat, it isn't McDonald's fault. My kids eat there occasionally, and are quite healthy and active. They are that way because of choices I help them make, or that I make for them. Get who is making the choices there? Me, not the government, not the company execs wanting a PR stunt. Eating at a fast food place sometimes does not make you a bad parent. Letting your kids have junk food sometimes does not make you a bad parent. Letting them watch TV, get dirty, play with bugs, etc., do not make you a bad parent. Expecting someone else to make those decisions for you? Yep, that would do it.

Yes, I know, I can choose to go elsewhere, choose to double the fries, buy them an adult meal, whatever. And I will probably do all of those things. The point is, we already had the choice of apples vs. fries, and apparently somebody somewhere decided we weren't making the right choice. Does that worry or at least annoy anybody besides me?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Week in Review

I know, I know, I didn't do one last week - it just flew by so fast, I didn't have time to 'review' anything - and now, if you asked me what happened, I would just have to stand here with a puzzled look on my face!

This week hasn't been any quieter, but I can remember a few blurbs:

SUNDAY: S. and L. were pretty demanding of my attention last night. I felt badly for C., who was very good, but didn't get much Mommy time. I had resolved to spend some time with just him this afternoon, but didn't have a definite plan. As we were crossing the parking lot after church, a gentleman I don't know pulled up and asked C's name. I told him and he said, "Merry Christmas, C.!" and handed him a brand new Mater (from Cars) Lego kit! How perfect, and completely unexpected! We had fun putting the first half together while the little ones napped, and will finish it up over the break.

While Daddy and M. were out in the evening, the littles and I watched the second "Alvin and the Chipmunks" movie. S. of course ignores every movie until there is music (which is fine by me). When the credits rolled, that was the signal for everyone to start getting ready for bed, but somehow we ended up dancing to all the songs instead. Usually C. will do a few spins, get embarrassed, and stop, but this time we were all spinning and jumping around the room like idiots. Even L. was bouncing along and grinning in his rainforest jumper. You just can't beat moments like that...although I am getting a little old to keep that up for very long!

MONDAY: So, how long have we been doing foster care with the BIA? Since before C. was born, right? Today we get a letter from them (wow, actual print communication?) saying that they are suspending our foster care payments, because they have NO RECORD OF US. Wha??? Called the supervisor, and while there is a file for C., there is no file on us. Anywhere. I have no words. How can...how...just...gah!!!

See, no words.

This is Norman:

I named him Norman when Daddy started drooling over him. You can't eat something you have named. Norman comes into the yard every morning to graze. Most of the dogs ignore him, but Kota has to bark, because Kota is a lab and has not yet grown a brain. Lab brains are like wisdom teeth; you don't get them until you are older, and some don't get them at all. Kota barks, Daddy chases Norman off, Norman trots a few yards away, Daddy goes inside, Norman comes right back. Repeat. As annoying as the barking dog can be, I absolutely love that I live where this can happen on a regular basis.

WEDNESDAY: Norman!!! Did I just say I loved this? Actually, I'm surprised it took this long for the larger critters to discover the mulch pit.

The chipmunks discovered it long ago, but no chipmunk did that...or left those footprints!

Spent all day at work setting up for the Scholastic Book Fair, which starts Monday. Pulled about $1600 in books we want for the library, so I sure hope sales go well! We closed at 5PM, and everyone pretty much ran home to start cooking and cleaning. The plan was, Daddy would get one turkey started in the smoker and occupy the kids, while M. and I made a bajillion side dishes.

And then the pager went off.

So, M. tried to keep little ones from helping, while I cooked and Daddy dealt with cars stuck on ice. S. managed to escape M. and sample just about everything multiple times, but it all got done by the time Daddy made it home. I LOVE to cook, so this is my kind of holiday! I tried a couple newish recipes - nothing bizarre, just not the way I've made things before. The Asparagus Casserole from Mennonite Girls Can Cook was good, but I'd skip the cheese next time - or maybe use Parmesan. Daddy liked it with the cheddar, though, so it's all good :)

I made The Pioneer Woman's Cornbread Dressing with Sausage and Apples, and her Soul Sweet 'Taters. I doubled the latter recipe, and they turned out pretty sweet - I think if I do that again, I won't double the sugar. S. sure liked them, though, much to Daddy's disappointment (he says squash is what you do to bugs.)

THURSDAY: Too. Much. Food. I wanted to try everything, but couldn't quite manage. Both turkeys (one in the roaster, one in the smoker) turned out great. I thought the one in the smoker might be dry, but both were scrumptiously juicy. In fact, despite having two whole turkeys, there was hardly any left over!

There were pies left, but only because everyone was so stuffed. I was especially looking forward to my neice's chocolate pecan pie, but I wanted to wait until I had enough room to really enjoy it...which wasn't until about 7PM! And boy, was it worth the wait! S., on the other hand, had at least three of what we are dubbing "M.'s Mistake Brownies". M. made these Wednesday while I was at work, and according to her, was too tired to pay attention to the recipe...so she ended up with something entirely different, but probably better. Here's her version:

4 oz. unsweetened chocolate
8 oz. sweet butter
5 eggs
1 T vanilla
1 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/2 T powdered Maxwell House Cafe Francais
3 3/4 cups sugar
1 2/3 cups flour

Prepare your pan (we lined with foil) and preheat the oven to 425. Melt butter and chocolate in saucepan over low heat. Set aside. Lick spoon thoroughly (then wash it, if someone is looking.)

Mix eggs, vanilla, almond extract, salt, coffee, and sugar. Add chocolate and beat only until mixed. Add flour and do same. Pour into pan and smooth top.

Bake for 35 minutes and then STOP. If you insert a knife, it WILL come out with stuff on it, but it's still done, trust us. Let stand at room temp until completely cool, then you can take it out and cut it. If the edges are dry, you can trim them off, or just save those pieces to top with ice cream.

Finished product (or what is left of it, anyway - this was a large pan...):

As you can see, nice and soft in the middle, but not undercooked.

Of course, as good as the food is, Thanksgiving is more about the people you get to spend the day with. In addition to family members we don't get to see often enough, we were joined by our friend Priscilla, a retired teacher. I watched her play a dice game with C., and was reminded once again of what an awesome teacher she is. The game was quite obviously teaching him addition, but if I tried to do it, it would have an air of "this is an educational game". Somehow she makes everything seem like just pure fun, and he had a blast! I wish everyone could have stayed longer, but there were long drives under turkey-induced comas ahead.

FRIDAY: No, we did NOT go shopping! After an overtired, early bedtime, the kids all woke up rested and wound and ready to go. Daddy and M. left, suggesting a barricade myself in the corner with C.'s light saber. Not a bad idea. Actually, C. and S. spent most of the morning playing with the folding chairs we had borrowed from Grandma. They made a fort:

a tunnel

and a superhero headquarters

Batman and Superturd!

And yes, that is the same shirt she was wearing yesterday. Nobody cares.

I made sweet potato rolls with some of the leftover sweet poatoes, and twice baked potatoes with the leftover mashed potatoes. Now I have leftover rolls and twice-baked potatoes.

SATURDAY: Quiet day at home. Worked on a present for Daddy while he was out (hah!) and tried to teach C. that he is not supposed to volunteer information about his person while playing "Guess Who?" Planning to finish out the evening with one of the most quotable movies of all time...so, until next week, be careful, or...YOU'LL SHOOT YOUR EYE OUT!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Who Is David???

'Cause Daddy has the shotgun ready.

Conversation on the way to church - Mommy, M. and C. trading back and forth, "I like Daddy!" "I like C.!" "I like S.!" S. says, "I like David!"

Silence. We don't know any Davids, do we?

"You like David?"
"Yes, I like David."
"Is David your boyfriend?" (that, of course, was from M.)
"But, what about Xander?" (her betrothed)
"He's broken."

Oh, dear. Love 'em, use 'em up, and throw 'em away. Not exactly the life lesson I want her to learn. In subsequent conversation we learned that she broke Xander herself, and that David is blue. She has kissed him, and he is a good kisser. None of us can think of a single person, young or old, who she has encountered that is named David. Which is a good thing, because M. has a brand-new muzzle loader, and this David person is in a heap of trouble!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

New Books and Christmas Ideas

'Tis (almost) the season to get serious about your gift shopping - unless you are one of those people who are already finished (yes, Miss Amanda, I am talking about you). I love giving books with related gifts - for example, C. is getting a book about ocean animals, along with an ocean craft kit. As I share books with you over the next few weeks, I will try to also suggest a gift you can give with the book. And don't forget, the library here will be hosting a Scholastic Book Fair from November 28-December 6, so you can finish up your shopping AND get free books for the library at the same time!

Press Here

E Tull

How clever! On the first page, the reader is asked to press on the yellow dot. Another yellow dot appears next to it. What happens if you press again? What if you rub on one of the dots? Tap on it? Tilt the page? Clap your hands? A fun little interactive book that you will have to read over, and over, and over! I'm taking this one home tonight, so you'll have to wait until tomorrow to check it out:)
Gift Idea: Bingo markers! (You know, those little bottles full of colored ink that make little round dots) A ready-made, age-appropriate art activity. Just make sure you put them up when not in use, or you may end up with polka-dotted walls...

JR Moss/JR Schu

This is a series, written by two different authors, that also includes a tepee, castle, igloo, log cabin, and pyramid. Beautiful pictures, simple text, good description of the construction of each, as well as what they might have contained in the "olden days". My only issue with them is that I wish they said, "Look Inside an ANCIENT Castle", or "Look Inside a Pueblo LONG AGO". Know what you'll see if you look inside a pueblo today? A TV. A microwave. Maybe a laptop. People still live in all of these types of houses, but they often have the same modern 'conveniences' you have in your own home. Books like this are a bit misleading, and I know at least one Native American blogger who is going to be all over them!
Gift Idea: See if there's a log cabin/pueblo/etc. near you open for tours, and make up a gift card for a trip together at some future date. Then talk about then vs. now!

Watch Me Grow!: A Down-to-Earth Look at Growing Food in the City
J 630.9173

Urban agriculture is big these days - a combination of the economy, the desire to eat healthy, a backlash against mage-stores, and a longing for simpler lives. This is a nice little book that touches on the ways people in a community and plants and animals can all work together. It is more inspirational than instructional, and I defy you to read it and not want to go out and plant something. Or buy a chicken. Or set up a beehive. But, wait - it's November! No matter, there is a lot to be done before any of those steps, so:
Gift Ideas: A pad of graph paper to plot out your future garden. A set of plans for a chicken run you will build together. Basic cookware to prepare your future produce.

Qutlugh Terkan Khatun of Kirman
J B Khatun

Love, love, love this series! In the Thinking Girl's Treasury of Real Princesses, Shirin Bridges relates the lives of some lesser-known, but powerful and fascinating women from different parts of the world. No dry reading here: Qutlugh Terkan Khatun, for example, was so beautiful she was kidnapped several times, before becoming a ruler credited with bringing "a golden age of peace and prosperity". In addition to looking at what made each of these women special, readers learn about the food, fashions and politics of that era.
Gift Idea: Pair this with some fancy dress-ups for your princesses, then read the books together to remind them that being a princess is more than pretty clothes (but the clothes are still awesome!)

I Didn't Do It
J 811.54

This pairing's "Once I Ate a Pie" is still a favorite of many dog lovers, and they won't be disappointed in the puppy version. If you have ever had a dog, you will recognize it in at least one of these perefct poem and picture combinations. "No Name" made me laugh out loud at the end, but "Big" has to be my favorite.
Gift Idea: Well, my mother does have a busy little puppy ready for a new home...but, the holidays are not the best time for new pets. Maybe a stuffed dog and a promise to think about it? Or, give this to an adult who already has a pup or two, along with some toys for their furbabies. It's the kind of book that can appeal to any age!

Hooray for Amanda & Her Alligator!
E Will

Yay for more Mo! This very easy reader comes in 'chapters', so your little reader can feel very grown-up. One of Willems' best, I think. Favorite line of the year: "Amanda was reading her new library book You Can Make it Yourself: Jet Packs! when she noticed her alligator chewing on her head." If you are not familiar with Mo Willems, get thee to a library NOW!
Gift Idea: A stuffed alligator would be obvious and appropriate, but you want to go high-tech*, this app sounds like a lot of fun!

*I won't even carry a cell phone, so to me, apps are high-tech.

Eat Your Math Homework
J 510

Hey, I'm a big fan of anything that means I can eat while I learn, and I'm guessing your kids are, too. There are several books out for the younger crowd that involve food and basic fractions or counting. This one is for the slightly older set, with Fibonacci numbers and tesselations.
Gift Idea: A basket with the ingredients for one of these recipes (as simple as a couple boxes of brownie mix.)

Stay tuned for more book reviews and gift ideas as we start going through the book fair cases! In the meantime, check out the 105 Ways to Give a Book at MotherReader (best blog subtitle ever).

Friday, November 18, 2011

Making Supper

Daddy has been teaching S. how to make enchiladas.

S. is in charge of the tortillas.

You have to make sure they are covered in sauce.

You can't be afraid to get your hands a little dirty.

Just a little.

Yep, just...a little.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

What is This???

It looks like a tadpole. I thought it was a tadpole. The sign at the pet store said "tadpole." I bought it for C. and told him it was a tadpole, and we would soon be able to watch it turn into a frog.

That was in March.

It's a defective tadpole. Or a fish.

The cats enjoy watching it. C. lost interest long ago. And Mom lost credibility. So, give me something to redeem my image. If you don't know what the story is, make up something good!

Monday, November 14, 2011

New Arrivals

Not books this time - babies! Today we (the library) exchanged our bigger red-eared sliders, who were outgrowing the tank anyway, for some of the babies that were being sold illegally here last month.

We kept our peninsular cooter, because he has never been terribly aggressive - and because I am rather attached to him. If necessary, he can move to another tank, but so far things are going well.

In fact, when he took off for some air, this baby followed and tried to bite HIM! If I could tell them apart, I'd probably name this one Napoleon. Or Chihuahua.

I exect to spend the rest of the day checking on them every ten minutes. If you live in the area, come by and say hello - and see how many you can spot! It's our own little built-in "Where's Waldo?"

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Week in Review

SUNDAY: We skipped church due to runny noses and cranky children. Of course, that meant the carpet layer had to deal with runny noses and cranky children - I tried to keep them in their rooms or in the kitchen, but you know how that goes! She managed to work around them, though, and here is the end result:

The whole room looks bigger to us, even with all the furniture moved back in. It feels very homey, and very, very CLEAN. I can lay the baby on the floor without feeling like I need to disinfect him afterward.
Just as importantly, it is not PINK. We have four kids and five dogs, and we live in the country. Pink is bad. Even if any of us liked pink, which we don't, pink would be bad. Pink that was put in many, many years ago, when the house was built, is especially bad. See the sofa? It has been in that spot since we moved in. When I ripped up the old, PINK carpet there, I found stain over top of stain on the bottom part. No wonder I could never get the top clean! This, as you can see, is a nice, chocolatey brown. And covering anything in chocolate can only make it better, don't you think?

We decided to do some rearranging, and will be looking to sell the Russian tortoise in the first picture, as well as the entertainment center underneath, so we can put in some book shelves. The left side of this is a book case, as you can see, but the other half is really just wasted space. Tune in to hollomanyardsales.com if you're interested.

MONDAY: Try explaining Daylight Savings Time to a five-year-old. C. chastised me for being 'late' picking him up. I don't think I was able to convince him that I was actually a little bit earlier than usual, it just happens to be dark now at that time. At 7:30 I had him start getting ready for bed - five minutes later, I turned around and found him fast asleep on the sofa.

Five-year-olds who are in the 97th percentile for height can be very heavy. Just so you know.

TUESDAY: The bottom drawers all over the house are generally things S. is allowed to play with. This morning, however, she got into the middle drawer in the bathroom. I told her to put everything back, but she had found a stick of deodorant in it. She knows that I keep a stockpile of things like that under the sink, and she insisted on putting this one carefully with the others, scolding me the whole while, "It GOES over HERE! Silly Mommy!"

I have been told. Note to self: Teach S. where everything in the house goes.


Cuteness: little blonde child very seriously handing Daddy screws one at a time, while he puts the carpet trim down.

WEDNESDAY: A couple weeks ago, some idiot was selling quarter-sized red-eared sliders on the side of the road (totally illegal). I called DPS, not having any contact info for the USDA on me, and the dispatcher acted like I was being ridiculous for thinking there was a problem - of course, I realize a dispatcher knows SO much more about federal law than anyone else in the world, so it was silly of me to insist they send someone out.

Since then we have had several people coming in for books about them, and they are rather dismayed when they find out all the things their little turtle needs. We have a nice setup at the library for our turtles - UVB light, heat lamp, filter, wet and dry side, sandy area to lay eggs if they so choose. Pretty, but a bit pricey - suddenly that $5 pet isn't such a good deal.

Today I dropped by the local pet store for gecko food, and mentioned the turtles. Good news! The sllers were arrested, fined and deported (take THAT, nasty dispatch lady!) Bad news! Guess where many of the turtles are ending up? She showed me a tank just swarming with little bitties that people have asked her to take off their hands. Now, what is she supposed to do with them? She can't sell them either!

Long story short, we are going to trade her the three big sliders at the library for an undetermined number of tinies. They can grow up safely here, and she can sell our three, making up for a fraction of what she is spending taking care of the refugees. We are looking forward to watching the little ones - expect my productivity to take a nose dive for a while - but first Doug and I have to make sure the tank is secure. Yes, people steal pets from libraries - it has happened in the past - nice, huh?

THURSDAY: This is my 'late' day to go in, so I try to both spend time with the little ones and get some projects done around the house. Grandma had turned over the old family photo albums to me, minus some pictures my brother wanted. The albums are about as old as I am, and we have both started falling apart, so today S. 'helped' me start putting them in newer albums. It was funny to open the first one and see myself at S.'s age, doing something she does all the time! If I was a good Mommy, I would make a whole new album of both of us, with side by side pictures. Maybe for her second birthday...

Today was also the day of the Thanksgiving lunch at C.'s school. In town, this would be attended by two or three parents from each class, but up here it is a VERY big deal. Tables are covered in tablecloths, everything is decorated, and EVERYBODY's parents come. Both of them. Plus some grandparents. C. has been asking all week if we are coming, and I have been telling him yes, of course. This morning he asked - "Will you sit with me?" I bit back a laugh just in time, and told him yes, we could probably do that, if he would save us seats, please. When he saw me, he body-slammed me in a hug. The kids were all super-wired throughout, but everyone had fun. If there was ever a day when teachers could be excused for showing movies all afternoon, this would be it! Some of the other mommies and I made tentative plans for a get-together between Christmas and New Year, at our house. The kids can run around outside while we gab and share leftovers inside. I have the feeling we will need it!

Two young (middle school) patrons at the library, 'studying'. The young man picked up our book fair flyer and was thrilled to discover the latest in the Lawn Weenies series listed. He tried to work the title into his conversation as much as possible over the next five minutes, annoying the tar out of the young lady. I finally explained to her that it's just one of those things adolescent boys do, and it's easier to just go with it. He mulled over whether he should be insulted or not for about two seconds, then was distracted by "Poop Happened."

SATURDAY: I was supposed to go to a baby shower, but this was my first day at home with the kids without something major going on, so I took advantage of it. I alternated between playing with them and cooking. I LOVE to cook, and usually have a chest freezer full of meals - perfect when I don't get home most days until 6:30PM. As of last week it was empty, though, and tghese darn kids still expect to eat each night. Today I started with the easy stuff, and have four meals of mac and cheese (finally found a recipe I like, on thepioneerwoman.com), four of mac and beef, four of a beef and bacon soup, and a few other odds and ends. Then Daddy and Sheridan made enchiladas, which we had for supper. Yum! The house sure smells good, and the kids won't starve for a few days at least. Just don't ask me what we are going to do when they all hit the teenage years...

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Movie Night - Crocodile Dundee

A while ago we instituted a rule that we will make time to do something as a family at least once a week. Not always easy when you have people in so many different age groups, doing so many different things! When all else fails, we do a movie night, taking turns picking movies we liked that the whole family hasn't seen. This weekend, Daddy picked "Crocodile Dundee".
Crocodile Dundee starring Paul Hogan: DVD Cover
I was happy, because I like to make a meal to go with the movies, and Australia was a little bit easier than, say, the night we watched Parenthood. That, in turn, gave me something to keep Christopher occupied with in the kitchen, while the carpet was going in in the living room. He helped me cook, and when there was something I had to do by myself, he looked at some of the many books we have from the Library about Australia. One even mentioned the movie!

We started with a pork chop and apple dish I found on the internet. That posed a small problem: we had to disconnect the internet when we took the furniture out, and of course I didn't print the recipe out. I remembered the first part, but not the sauce ingredients. A phone call to Grandma solved that problem - and prompted her to start thawing pork chops so she could try the recipe herself!

The other two parts of the meal I got from this book:

Pumpkin soup was a no-brainer, since I still have tons of canned pumpkin from last year. I liked it more than I thought I would, but I think it will be better with bread. I have some in the bread machine now, and that will be my lunch in a little bit.

For dessert, we had lamingtons, which you can see on the bottom right of the cover (and in several of the books we looked at.) They were pretty easy to make, and look fancy enough that they may appear at a pot luck soon. You start off with either yellow cake or lemon (we used lemon), which you bake as usual and then cut into squares:

I lined the pan with foil to make it easier, but there were still plenty of crumbled-off bits to sample.

Dip them in a sauce of 3 c. powdered sugar, 1/2 c cocoa, 4 T melted butter, and 1/2 c boiling water. I used two forks, but if you use your fingers, you get to lick them later. I won't tell!

Roll them in coconut. This step posed another problem, because I discovered I was out of coconut. I always have coconut! Grandma to the rescue again.

If you aren't eating them right away (and you know you have to test one), put them in the fridge to firm up. These would look really pretty on a nice plate, and would make people think you spent hours. I have also seen the recipe made with a layered cake, with sort of a jellied or cream filling in between layers - but I'm not that ambitious!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Week in Review

Halloween: So, after hearing C. asking me every single day if it was Halloween yet, and if this was the day of the party at the church yet, the day finally arrived. Grandma had the kids fed and dressed in their costumes when I ran up straight from work, picked them all up, and met Daddy and M. at the church.

Where C. promptly threw up.

When Grandma asked if he wanted to just go back to her house, he agreed immediately. Poor guy! But bless Grandma for taking him home, so the other kids could enjoy themselves. L., of course, slept through the entire thing. M. hung out with her friends. S. played several games, won a carrot cake in the cake walk with Daddy, and scarfed down approximately 12 pounds of BBQ.
Picking her teeth with her knife. That's my little redneck girl.

Library: Slightly not-all-there patron ranting about social services while I continued to scan books and say "Mmm-hmm" occasionally. My phone rings, and he jumps and looks around the room to see where the scary noise is coming from...

S. - This child is not old enough to understand the things she understands.

Example 1:
Daddy: "Guess what? I have a picture of a mountain lion!"
Mommy: "Guess what? I have candy!"
M.: "Guess what? I'm seventeen!"
C.: "Guess what? I'm five!"
S.: "Guess what? I'm six!"

So, she not only understood the thread of conversation, she contributed her own, AND one-upped her brother.

Example 2: I have a latch on the cabinet under the kitchen sink that requires you to push the tab in, tug on the strap, and slide it to the side atthe same time. Earlier this week, I watched her trot over, smoothly open the latch, and take the Febreeze out. Cleaning chemicals have now been moved to a wall cabinet.

Example 3: Earlier this week, she said "Mo-Mo-Mommy," which I thought was a funny way to say it. Then she started saying "ho-ho-horsey," and "d-d-duck." C. has been watching "The Talking Words Factory" and Grandma's house, and S. has picked up from there that words have beginning sounds. Not just the words in the video (cat, hat, bat, etc.), but all words! SHE ISN'T EVEN TWO YET!

We are in so much trouble.

She wasn't feeling good this weekend, but still tried to be cheery:

Just a little too rosy-cheeked.

S. ordered Daddy into a bib, and he will go to grea lengths to make his little girl feel better.
M. - The room reorganization continues - it's all the little things that take forever - but we do finally have a picture of the new bed:

Pretty nifty! And she hasn't fallen out of it yet! We will paint it later - probably black. Daddy is going to build a little shelf at the wall end, for her candy stash and whatever books she is reading at the moment. Another shelf will go above that for CDs and her Ipod. Silverstream, as you can see, enjoys being able to look down on everyone literally, as well as figuratively.

C. - While his week started off with a disappointment, he got to end it with a fun birthday party for one of his classmates. One of the neat things about our little country school is that you can just invite the entire school to your party, and not worry about having too many people. It was the first time I'd been to this particular home, and it's absolutely gorgeous. I'd double the size of this post if I tried to list all the fantastic food and fun games the parents had for the kids. I got a kick out of the kids who had just filled their coffers with candy on Monday, going crazy over a Spongebob pinata. I guess getting to whack the tar out of a cartoon character is always good. Later on, I overheard one little boy offer to trade another boy Spongebob's leg for a Tootsie Roll.

L. - He seems to want to skip sitting up and crawling, and go straight to walking. It's almost impossible to hold him any more, because he just wants to stand! He has the best smile and laugh - and, now that he is three months old, it actually means something (according to M's psychology class. Whatever!)

Add caption

So, what do you think of the living room? Okay, that's actually the dining room, but it is currently the home for much of our living room furniture. We are putting in new carpet - a nice dark brown, to replace the original PINK carpet. Yes, pink carpet, with four kids and five dogs, out in the middle of the forest. There will be no "before" pictures here, it was just too icky. Stay tuned for an "after" picture - ran into a snag this afternoon, but tomorrow we'll finish it up and probably rearrange the furniture six times before putting it back exactly the way it was.

Stay tuned also for a description of our family night, along with some recipes. How was your week?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Books You May Have Missed

We are deeply involved in a big project with our juvenile fiction (chapter books), which includes me holding every single book in my hot little hands and looking it over. It is taking a bit longer than necessary, because I keep coming across old favorites I want to read again. To speed things up, I am going to tell YOU about them, so YOU can read them instead and just agree with me about how marvelous they are. These are books that may not have received a lot of buzz when they came out, but which are definitely worth your time!

S.O.R. Losers
J Reality AVI

EVERYBODY at South Orange River High is required to play on at least one sports team each year. Ed and his friends have managed to escape under the radar their first year, but now the gig is up, and a special soccer team has been formed for them. What happens when the entire school gets rallied behind a team of normal kids who not only couldn't care less about winning the game, but who aren't entirely sure how to play it? If it's Avi telling the story, a whole lot of hilarity, that's what! As a non-athlete, this was one of my teenage-self's favorites.

The Xanadu Adventure (Vesper Holly Series)
J Reality ALEX

Vesper Holly is like a young, female Indiana Jones. Great series for the teen who likes strong-willed heroines, and who isn't scared off by words outside the everyday vocabulary.

Ask Me No Questions

J Reality BUDH
Here's the publisher's description:
"You forget. You forget you don't really exist here, that this isn't your home." Since emigrating from Bangladesh, fourteen-year-old Nadira and her family have been living in New York City on expired visas, hoping to realize their dream of becoming legal U.S. citizens. But after 9/11, everything changes. Suddenly being Muslim means you are dangerous -- a suspected terrorist. When Nadira's father is arrested and detained at the U.S.-Canadian border, Nadira and her older sister, Aisha, are told to carry on as if everything is the same. The teachers at Flushing High don't ask any questions, but Aisha falls apart. Nothing matters to her anymore -- not even college. It's up to Nadira to be the strong one and bring her family back together again.
Because of Mr. Terupt

J Reality BUYE

Almost inspiring enough to make me want to return to the classroom...but not quite.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

New Books This Week

Some additions to a few favorite series:

Llama Llama Home with Mama

E Dewd (2 copies)

I love the llama llama books, and this is one of her best yet, I think. Baby llama is home sick, and mama is taking care of him - until she starts to sneeze and cough, too!

If You Give a Dog a Donut

E Nume (2 copies)

Hmm...maybe if I bring this home, we can take a break from reading If You Give a Pig a Pancake every single day? I mean, really, I think we have established where everyone is hiding on the hide-and-seek page.


Slightly Invisible

E Chil

News flash to parents: THE BOOKS CAME FIRST. I'm glad there is a cartoon of Charlie and Lola, but it came AFTER the books. Thank-you.

Unfortunately, when there is a TV spin-off, book series run into the potential of becoming commercialized. Not saying this one is, but some of the things that make them unique - like the all-over-the-page text - are, imo, a bit overdone in this one. There were a couple pages I couldn't even read, I just skimmed them. Seriously, who skims a picture book?!

Here's one for a future read-aloud:

Noodle & Lou

E Scan

Sweet-without-saccharine rhyming text in which one friend cheers up another when he is feeling down on himself.

Surviving Captivity With the U.S. Air Force (Elite Forces Survival Guides)

J 355.5 Mcna

You know, in case the U.S. Air Force is ever holding you captive. Actually, this is part of a series that has been popular with (at the risk of stereotyping) our younger male patrons. We also have in new titles about navigation and signaling, using ropes and knots, survival first aid, and urban survival techniques.


YA Dixo

Best remake of The Twelve Dancing Princesses I have seen. It's hard to give twelve characters of similar age and background distinct personalities, but Dixon manages, particularly with the older girls. The men in the book get to be their own people as well. Overall the book was a bit long - losing 100 pages would not have hurt it at all - but I enjoyed the story so much, I didn't mind. It never dragged, but there were points where it felt like I might be coming to the end of the story, only to realize I was only halfway through.
All on the shelf now!