Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Bountiful Basket Fun

I had to work Saturday during the BB pickup, so Daddy got to go collect our food. Gee, some of his favorite things - standing in line...in the heat...down in the valley. Fortunately, the truck was EARLY, and the amazing volunteers had everything sorted so quickly he was out of there in record time - and got to visit with a few people, which is one of my favorite parts.
I, on the other hand, had to wait until I got home to sort through the bounty:
Three regular baskets

and five juicer add-ons. I also got 38 pounds of Bartlett pears and a bag of granola.

Such happy fruit! I couldn't resist drawing eyes on this one to go with the smile. L. immediately decided it was his new friend. What's funny is, I had just brought this book home from the library, and hadn't even read it to the kids yet:
Sophie's Squash
Absolutely adorable, and already scheduled for an upcoming story time!
Sunday I tried to get most of my cooking knocked out, focusing on things that would go bad. One basket got packed back up for Grandma, and the yellow pears and bananas were nibbled on throughout the day. I prepared the night before by googling recipes and getting the kitchen cleaned. I also tried to plan things the kids could help with, since this is my one day home with all of them. Then spent all night coughing! That cut out some of the handling I was willing to have them do, but they still got to have some fun.
We made:
Hatch Chile Salsa
Orange Glazed Carrots
Parsley Pesto (from the Food Network)
Pickled Beets
Candied Ginger Slices
*yes, I know, we didn't get onions this week - but we got a bajillion last time, and I still have most of them left!
I also shredded the zucchini and froze it for later - we already have summer squash bread on the counter!
One way the kids helped was by arranging the Hatch green chiles in pans to be roasted. This was my first time roasting chiles of any sort, so it was a big part of my googling last night. I was happy to see an over method, so I didn't have to run back and forth to the grill. I like to do steps of several recipes at once, so while these were under the broiler on low,

bacon (already cut up) was sizzling on one burner,
and ginger slices were simmering on another:
In between stirring those and turning the chilis, I peeled avocado, and diced onions and tomatoes

for guacamole.

Some of the bacon was crumbled into that, too. I have made some pretty spicy things lately, so I just went with flavor (i.e. no heat) for the guacamole. The kids took turns mashing and stirring:
We always cook naked, don't you?
while I got the peppers out. I put them in a bowl...

with plastic wrap on top...

and let them steam. They were pretty easy to peel and deseed after a short time, although I think I should have roasted them a little longer. I was afraid of burning them! I timidly tasted one and decided it was actually pretty mild - perfect for the wimpy Anglo from Ohio. If you aren't familiar with Hatch chiles, they are named for where they are mostly grown - Hatch, NM - and can run the full range of mild to hot. These went into the food processor with the tomatoes, last basket's onions, garlic, cilantro, lime juice, salt, pepper, and a little sugar.

Not a pretty picture, I promise it looks better in real life! Emboldened by my earlier taste, I tried half a spoonful.
HOLY MOTHER OF...................!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Okay, these aren't mild. Not by a long shot. When Daddy came home, he tasted a bit and concurred, which made me feel better. I pressure canned the majority in half-pint jars, most of which will probably go as Christmas gifts!
Next round: cut tops off beets and send those out to the sulcatas (they love BB weekends), put bottoms in water to boil.

Oops - got the camera too close to the steam. 

That's better!
Ginger slices partially drained, and sugar added.

When the liquid was almost gone, I spread them on a drying rack with parchment paper underneath. When they were completely dry, I put them in a baggie and froze them for future Asian recipes, and crumbled the sugar that dripped through into another baggie, to add to tea.
By this time the littles were napping, so C. helped pack 10 pounds of baby carrots into quart jars,

while I cooked up the sauce (brown sugar, water and OJ). There may have been a pound or so eaten in the process, judging from the continual crunching I heard.
Now, every time I make these (so simple, and so yummy), I forget that the sauce simmers along quietly and then suddenly erupts like a mushroom cloud all over your stove. DO NOT LET IT BOIL. It won't hurt the sauce, but man, what a smell! Of course, I had the pressure cooker with the salsa going on another burner, so brown sugar and OJ were bubbling away all over in a sticky nasty mess before I could blink. Fortunately, the pressure cooker's time was up anyway, but man...

This was after the clean-up. It just wasn't pretty, trust me.
Scrubbing done, I filled to an inch of head space,

Please disregard the beet juice in the back. I can't throw anything away.
and processed in the pressure cooker (once it had cooled down and been cleaned) for half an hour.
Beets were canned in a solution of cider vinegar, mustard, sugar, salt and pepper, and processed in a water bath.
While the canner was doing its thing, I put onion slices in milk to soak (for the onion strings), and made the pesto in the food processor. The pesto went into small containers,
which in turn went into a freezer bag, and into the freezer for future use.
Time to start supper - pineapple lime chicken from the freezer, a cucumber-tomato-onion salad with feta cheese, and PW's onion strings.

She is not kidding about needing to make more because you ate the first batch. These are so light and addicting, they are like potato chips - you keep eating just...one...more...

S. is pointing out that Daddy got a LOT more onion strings than she did, and she's not quite sure that's kosher.
In fact, Daddy skipped the chicken entirely and ate an all-vegetable meal. I don't think that has ever happened before! I even took a picture of it for proof, and have spent the past five minutes trying to get it to attach here. For some reason, it just will not transfer. Very suspicious.
I still have tons of fruit and veggies - I haven't even touched the case of pears - but I think that's enough for one day!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Nonfiction Monday: Coral Reefs by Seymour Simon

Coral Reefs
Seymour Simon's books have long had a presence in library nonfiction collections. Generally speaking, they feature bright, attractive photographs, simple glossary and index, and just enough information to get a child interested in a subject or start them on a research project.
This title is certainly no different, especially in the illustration department. Close-ups of funky-looking fish and rainbow-hued coral reefs demand more than a cursory glance. We learn about the different types of corals and reefs, a little bit about the biodiversity, as well as the dangers they face today. A child needing information for a research paper or project will need something more in-depth, but this is perfect for the curious kid or the teacher needing a read-aloud to start off a unit.
Thank-you to HarperCollinsChildrens for the review copy. For more great nonfiction choices, head over to Stacking Books.

Friday, August 23, 2013

You Might Be a Mom if...

..you not only can identify by sound alone what just fell/got thrown/was jumped off of in the other room, you can also yell at the appropriate child(ren) without going to see who it was.

...you tell someone, "I love you," and get in response something meaningful like, "I ate your ear."

...you can't remember the last time you ate something yummy all by yourself, in your own home, without hiding.

...you go to the bathroom with the door open, because you know the sound of the door closing will trigger three different emergencies that need your immediate attention.

...you have ever picked someone else's boogers.

... you know that buckling your own car seat or pouring your own juice are much bigger milestones than walking or talking.

...you buy furniture and clothing based on washability and durability, not on how they actually look.

...as you plan out the morning's errands, you make sure to alternate places with and without public restrooms.

...you have ever told someone to just pee on a tree.

...when a phone rings, you automatically yell, "Okay, everybody be quiet for a minute!"

...you can read more than one picture book without ever looking at the pages.

...going to the grocery store all by yourself seems like the height of luxury.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


I think by now everyone in the world has seen the nasty letter written by some piece of work to the grandmother of an autistic child, comparing him to a wild animal and suggesting he be euthanized. Like everyone else, I found it sickening, and my immediate thought was that the wrong person was being suggested for euthanization.
I couldn't help also feeling, however, that at least there was something concrete for people to point at and say, "This is so wrong!" Yes, the writer was anonymous, but I'd wager half the neighborhood knew exactly who it was the minute they read it. Those who love children who are a little bit different know that it isn't always that obvious. It's the little things that happen day in and day out that aren't so blatant, but that wear you down - you, who need every extra bit of energy and positive attitude just to get through a trip to the grocery store.
At the library where I work, our patrons include groups from different adult care programs. Some of those patrons come and go, but others have been regular fixtures since before I even started there. Many of them prefer to hang out in the Children's Room because, let's face it, we're just cooler over here! We have better books, art supplies, pets, and a somewhat higher tolerance for noise.
When I first took the job, I was warned that one parent expected to be able to enter the story time room through a different door, so her child would not have to pass by 'those people'. Um...no. I'll make a lot of accommodations, that is not one of them.
Let me tell you a little about some of 'those people' (names of course made up). Jacobi, for instance. She is blind, mentally challenged, and, when she is frustrated, can get a little loud. You know what? So can I. But when my voice is raised, I get a sideways glance at the most. When she shouts out her favorite swear word (peanut butter!), she gets grumbles and complaints. You know what else? When Jacobi sings...oh, my goodness. Angels have appeared. I have never heard a voice so pure and sweet. In another lifetime, Jacobi would be rendering Simon Cowell speechless. (If I were to sing, on the other hand? Let's just say the grumbles and complaints would be well-deserved.)
Or, Alice. Such a sweet soul, Alice! Always taking care of others, making sure they have their headphones for the computer before she takes her own seat. In another lifetime, she would be an awesome little Mommy, and some lucky woman's BFF. Always patient, always calm. No way could I say the same for myself.
And, Henry. He is not as mobile as I am, and will never go to college, but in the decade or so I have known Henry, I have never seen him without a grin on his face. (Explain to me, please, which one of us is handicapped?) When he sees someone he likes - which is, basically, everybody - that grin blossoms until it practically splits his face in two. Do I always greet my friends that way, like seeing them is the best thing that has happened to me all day? In another lifetime, Henry would have been the class clown. What am I saying, Henry is the class clown, and never fails to brighten my day.
Okay, so, not everybody knows these guys like I do. Not everyone appreciates their strong points. That's fine. What is not fine is the way they are treated by the so-called 'smarter' people.
No, Jacobi can't see the way you look at her - but, I can! Her mother, who loves her fiercely and always sees that she is dressed better than I am (seriously, I would kill for this girl's wardrobe) can!
Alice may not notice the way you look past her, like she isn't there - or, maybe she does. She's too polite to say anything if she does. Which one of you is more adult?
I have heard people say that we shouldn't waste public school funds on kids like Henry. He's not going to go to college, he won't get a job, why waste the money? I'd lay another wager here, that any of his former teachers or classmates would consider the brightness he brought to their days well worth the money. Who would you rather have around your workplace, someone smart and cranky, or someone who just made you happy to be there?
I feel very lucky to know these guys. I know the family of the boy that letter was written about feel blessed to have him in their lives. I feel sorry for people like the letter writer, the sneerers, the rude commenters. Their narrow vision of what makes a person worthwhile means they are missing out on a lot more of life than those they mock.

Movie Night: Enchanted

While big sister was visiting, we discovered she had never seen the movie Enchanted
Since that is one of S.'s favorites (and mine), and since we haven't had a movie night in a while, and since we had just discovered that we will be adding yet another boy to the family, naturally we had to plan one around Giselle!
Our meal even worked nicely to clean out some leftovers and make use of some Bountiful Baskets goodies. We had Princess and the Pea Pasta with Parsley Pesto (peas from a neighbor, parsley pesto and tomatoes from BB):
Would you believe, daddy is STILL accusing me of stuffing the peas into those little tiny shells, just to trick him into eating them? Believe it or not, honey, they just fall in as you stir. I do not have THAT much time on my hands!
We used up the last of the BB spinach wraps for Prince Edward's Pinwheels:
Super easy, and definitely a hit. I think I know what I'm doing with the tomato and basil wraps in the freezer.
To drink, there was a bubbly punch (lemon-lime soda, the leftover liquid from making maraschino cherries, and the sherbet that was getting freezer burned):
Looks odd, but the kids didn't care. L. practically OD'd on it; I finally dumped the rest out so I could tell him it was "all gone".
For dessert: poisoned apples!
It's okay to eat one, you just need lots of kisses afterward! My BB apples were too small, so we bought these, and filled them with walnuts, cranberries, and brown sugar, then topped with a pat of butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon, then baked until soft. Umm!
Our big splurge was some flowers S. picked out at the store:
And then we spent another $5 on 'crystal' (plastic) goblets, fancy cutlery, and tiaras at the dollar store.
Doesn't Daddy look great?

Always the princess.

L. would only wear his backwards.

C. wouldn't wear his at all.
Okay, fine.
As a side note, my children have recently discovered photobombing.
And then, on to the movie. Everyone agreed that it was a good one, except for Daddy, who mostly just shakes his head at anything that isn't set in the Old West.
And, now I have all those songs stuck in my head. Here, you can, too!
You're welcome.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

M is for...

M.! Not the M. you saw cuddling a skunk a couple weeks ago, but her older sister, M. Confused? How about if we call the younger M.A., and the older M.J.?
This is M.J.:
Isn't she beautiful? She doesn't always wear a tiara, btw - this was taken on our last movie might, which I will blog about later. C. refused to wear his for more than two seconds.
M.J. lives in another state, but came to visit us for a week. It was wonderful!!! I had not seen her in person in six years. That's a long time, you guys. Six months is a long time. Six weeks is a long time. This was forever. No need to dredge up the past, we'll just say that when we last stood face to face, neither of us was very happy with the other.
We have since been in touch over the internet, but of course that's a poor substitute. What would a whole week be like, back in the same house all the time?
As I said: wonderful. I am so incredibly proud of the young woman she has become, even if I can't really take any credit for it. She is about to earn her degree, working two jobs, active in her church, mature, responsible, funny...amazing!
The kids absolutely ADORED her. S. was thrilled to have a 'big girl' around who enjoyed pink and sparkly and all things Hello Kitty just as much as she does.
And who taught her how to play poker online.
The boys were equally smitten. L. went absolutely ballistic once when we dropped her off to spend time with an old friend, and drove away without her. C. was quieter in his adoration, but acted goofy around her, and tried to sit next to her whenever he could.
We went hiking (as much as you can call it hiking with toddlers in tow)

C. reminded me of M.J. many years ago - while everyone else is on the trail, they are climbing up and over whatever is at the sides!

Need more room for rocks - I'll just toss the iPod and wallet.

we shopped, we cooked, we watched movies, we talked. She got us hooked on Greek yogurt with granola for breakfast, I got her hooked on Bountiful Baskets. Even just companionably trimming green beans or peeling apples was fun. She would play music on her notebook, and I would keep doing double-takes to see if she was playing my MP3 Player - I swear 90% of our playlist is exactly the same!
In other words, it was nice just having my daughter around again, and we have no intention of letting another 6 years go by between visits. She is already looking at plane tickets that would put her here for both Christmas and the baby's birth. With 2013 ending like that, 2014 is going to have a lot to live up to!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Oh, Boy.

Yup. I tried accusing the ultrasound tech of getting her thumb in the picture, but no dice. Another boy.
With cute little tootsies!

And legs that I've just started feeling. In fact, the last time S. sat on my lap, he tried to kick her off. And so it begins.

He looks sweet and innocent, though, doesn't he?

Such a serious expression.

Maybe this will be my calm, malleable child.

Hey, I have five months to go - let me dream a bit!

Before reality sets in.
And so, the great name search begins. (We HAD a girl's name ready.) Suggestions??? I like simple, solid names for boys. Nothing that starts with C, F, L, M, or S, because that would make the blog too confusing. Priorities, you know.