Showing posts from September, 2011

Apple-onion tarts

There was some disappointment yesterday that I didn't post the recipe that I changed.  Since I'm spending the day making apple sauce, I'll share it with you since it's an easy post.  Here is the original Martha Stewart recipe I used.

And here is my version. (I don't feel as though I changed it all that much, but judging from the comments, if you follow it exactly it takes forever to make.  Mine didn't and it still tasted great.)

Apple-Onion Tart (the easier way)
As usual, I'm giving you the large family proportions.  You can reduce, or invite someone over to join you, or I imagine it would freeze quite well.

4 apples, sliced sort-of thinly depending on how tired I was of slicing apples... I didn't peel them.
8 onions, thinly sliced
a couple TBSP of olive oil
a couple TBSP of butter
a pinch of crushed rosemary (you could add more if you like rosemary)
3 TBSP apple cider vinegar
Grated Parmesan cheese

Pie crust for 3 single crust pies (I made enough for …

Not Martha

Last night we had a dinner which I based on a recipe on the Martha Stewart website, though I had to do some fiddling with it to make it into a reasonable recipe.  Which has made me do some thinking about good ol' Martha.  I will 'fess up and admit that off and on throughout my adult life I have subscribed to Martha Stewart Living magazine.  There are some things I like about the whole Martha-thing.  I have found some of her more reasonable ideas useful, the photographs are lovely to look at, and I have always been amused by the whole over-the-topness of it all.  But over all, I find her a bit hard to stomach and I am not sure but that she has done more to injure the pursuit of homemaking than to aid it.

The MS empire has made homemaking into a hobby... and an expensive one at that.  Homemaking is shown to be something that unemployed wives do to fill their endless hours on frivolousness.  There is no depth to it; they only point seems to be to impress others.  It is all about …

"No one seemed to believe me that I learn because I want to learn."

I was chatting with M. today and the title of this post is one of her sentences which really stood out.  She was relating a class discussion based on the professor's question of what each of their reactions would be if he didn't give grades to them.  She spoke up and said that it wouldn't matter.  It was how she was used to functioning and didn't need grades to motivate her.  Apparently what followed was a rather lively discussion with M. being the only student (who spoke up) to support the non-grade opinion.  At least one of the pro-grade supporters indicated that he needed grades because otherwise he would have no motivation to do any of the work.

This whole discussion leaves me with mixed feelings.  I am thrilled (but not surprised) that M. was willing to take a stand for a minority view.  It is not an easy thing to do.  I am also thrilled that she has thought about what it is she is doing at college.  It was a conscience decision made after looking at the different…


Not much time to blog today.  First there was school all morning, followed by a stock-up run to the big box store for paper goods and peanut butter (will all the apples in the house there has been a run on peanut butter as everyone really likes it on apples), and now I need to prepare for the group of girls who are heading to my house in about an hour.

For the past three years, I have led a girls' Bible study, starting out with M. and her friends.  Nearly all of them have moved on and I am on to the next generation, so to speak.  These are younger sisters of the original group plus a couple of other friends.  It has been a wonderful experience getting to watch these girls grow and mature in young ladies.

And this is a serious Bible study, so is good for me as well.  Last year we worked our way through I and II Kings and this year we are diving into Isaiah.  That's right, I will be spending my Tuesday afternoons leading a group of 13 to 17 year old girls through Isaiah.  (As I …

Flying monkeys

My son with the trauma history can be very, very anxious about things.  Anything.  Even things that most children think are fun.  It's as if he cannot differentiate between the internal feelings of excitement (as in looking forward to something) and anxiousness.  It's all one and the same to him.  And then when you throw in the build-up to a birthday, an event which carries with it its own cause for worry/anxiousness/excitement, you get a child pretty constantly hovering over the abyss and parents who wish the virtue of patience came in injectable form.

One thing I have discovered on this journey toward my son's healing, is that not only is patience a virtue, so is humor.  (Humor at the situation and not directed at the child, I might add.)  On my good days, I can remember to step outside myself and look to see what I can find funny in the situation.  (On my not-so-good days?  Let's just say it isn't pretty... or humorous.)  Being able to laugh at a situation is fa…

Apple picking in the rain

Today was our planned day to go and pick apples.  It was raining off and on, but when it comes to fruit, we don't let a little water get in our way so off we went.  We met our friends and enjoyed their company and picked a lot of apples (3 1/2 bushels).  We also ate quite a few.
 L. K.  (with an apple nearly as big as his head)
P8, TM and L.
Now, I don't know about you, but even picking 7 bags of apples does not take us very long.  It's a shame to drive so far only to turn around and go home, so we packed lunches, headed to a park, and enjoyed the now sunny weather.

TM and P8 A good day all around.  Of course now I have to do something with all these apples...

Time to take a deep breath and a well-deserved nap (A synopsis of our adoption timeline)

I just got back from sending our dossier to our agency.  For those who like to keep track of these things, that is almost exactly 9 months from when we received pre-approval to adopt H.  A really long and stressful 9 months. I am very glad to be on this side of them.  We now enter into another period of waiting, but there is a darling girl waiting for us to come and get her at the end of it.

I know I have readers from many different walks of life and that not all of you are familiar with the lingo or with how international adoption works.  Here is a very brief explanation (edited to say, well, maybe not so brief) so you know what I'm talking about when I bring these things up.

In Ch*na, prospective adoptive parents can go about adopting a child in two ways.  The first is to complete your homestudy, compile the dossier, send it to Ch*na where it is logged-in, and then wait for a referral of a child.  This method has you waiting a shorter amount of time with an actual picture in you…

Cooking challenge

I have a real challenge for all of you out there.  As well as posting about the Hunger Challenge, I also contacted the food bank which was sponsoring it and have been corresponding with a very nice woman.  In our discussions about the very real difficulties of surviving on very little money, she pointed out a difficulty that had honestly never even crossed my comfortable middle-class mind.  Many of the people whom the food bank helps have very little by way of kitchens.  More than a few people are trying to get by with just a microwave and a hot plate.  (Now I know high-rent studio dwellers do this all the time, but I'm sure even they will agree that it is a very different experience.)  She asked me if I had any simple, low cost recipes that she could share with her clients.

And frankly, I'm stumped.  I've never had to cook this way, and it would be a very steep learning curve to be able to do so.  While I'm going to continue to try to come up with some ideas, I have a…

Indian fry bread and Navajo tacos

Since my mother had sent me a new Indian fry bread recipe to try, I decided to take a deep breath and give it another shot.  I think people must have difficulties writing out fry bread recipes, because this one had a significant typo as well.  (Mom, I'm pretty sure the amount of shortening is off... I ended up adding significantly more.)  But with my past disaster in mind, I decided to go by looks instead of slavishly following the recipe.  And... we have success!  They turned out just like I was imagining.  It also turned out to be one of those wonderful dishes that fills everyone up.  I made about 24 pieces of fry bread, but ended up with 6 leftover, and that was with everyone eating their fill.

I have a feeling that I am not the only one who was having difficulty with fry bread recipes, based on the number of hits the blog received from people searching for it.  They must have been terribly disappointed to find yet one more recipe that wouldn't work.  So, here it is... an a…

Hunger challenges and food deserts

I came across The Hunger Challenge sponsored by the San Francisco Food Bank and the Marin Food Bank yesterday and it got me thinking.  The challenge was to spend a week eating on a food stamp budget, which in the San Francisco area is $4.72 per person per day.  The point being to raise awareness of hunger in the United States by asking people to live on less than they usually do and instead live on what others have to.  I was curious, so I did some math.  $4.72 times 10 (the number I regularly feed) is $42.72, times 7 gives me a week's grocery budget of $330.40.  I actually did the math twice because I wanted to check that total.  Let's just say it would take some effort on my part to spend that much each week, because it is more than twice what I usually spend.  Even if I divide up and add in what I spend on the semi-annual bulk orders and the side of beef, it is still a generous $100 over my usual budget.  In reality, I spend (on average) $2.87 per person per day.

Why is thi…

Notary disasters... or why labor is easier

"It isn't much fun for One, but Two
Can stick together," says Pooh, says he.
"That's how it is," says Pooh.
                   from "Us Two" in Now We Are Six by A. A. Milne

Going downtown to have adoption documents certified and notarized isn't much fun by yourself, but if a good friend volunteers to go down with you and help you navigate the Ch*nese consulate for the first time and then have lunch, it's a lot better.  It is especially nice to have that friend along when you find out that the notary you used for some of your paperwork wasn't really a notary at all and the Secretary of State won't certify the documents, because then you are not as tempted to go cry in a corner over the lost time and future expediting fees.

So, my fantasies of being nearly done with the dossier were dashed and I find myself looking at a third trip downtown, redoing 6 documents, and paying the more expensive expediting fees on top of it all.  I guess…

It seems fitting...

to include a rare picture of H. while I work on all the dossier stuff.  The end is in sight.  I'm now to the double and triple checking part as well as doing lots of photocopying.  I realize that adopting three times makes me responsible for single-handedly wiping out an entire forest of trees.  There is so much paper!  And it's all over my desk.  I need to get it sorted into piles so that I can see what I'm doing.  I will go to sleep a happy (and more relaxed) woman.
H. (in an outfit I'm a little partial to)

Enjoy some pictures while I work

We spent the morning at the Field Museum seeing the special exhibit on whales and then headed downstairs to the Crown Family PlayLab, which we had never visited.  Well, everyone enjoyed it, but G. and L. loved it!  There was a lot of hands-on things to do... such as a little forest area which they liked:
But what they loved was the pueblo exhibit where they could pick corn:

And take the corn inside the pueblo and cook the corn...

which they did over and over and over.  Plant, pick, cook, plant, pick, cook.  It was sad to leave until we told them we were going to have lunch.  It was a good morning.  I even got a close-ish metered spot on the street.  (Oh, and a complete aside:  Please visit the Field whenever you can.  They are one of the area museums who still have a large family friendly member policy.  You can mention how much you appreciate that when you visit.  It can't hurt.)

Now I'm back at my desk organizing adoption stuff and working on some articles which are due.  …

Could it really be possible?

Guess what came in the mail today?

I'll give you a hint... it's very good news.

Any guesses?

OK, I won't leave you in suspense.  It's our approval of our I800a visa application!  The last piece of paper we needed to be able to submit our dossier!!  I will be spending the next few days getting everything ready to take down to the secretary of state's office for certification and the consulate for authentication next week.  (It's one of those times I very happy to live an el ride away from downtown Chicago.)

So, if you don't hear much from me in the next few days, you know why.  I'll be up to my eyeballs in paperwork.  Maybe this adoption is going to happen after all.

Catching up on pictures

I have a few pictures to share from the weekend.  First, we celebrated P.'s birthday.  She didn't want cake, just vanilla ice cream, so B. had to hold the candles for her to blow out.

L. and K. waiting for the present opening to begin.
This book is from TM and D.  They spent their own money at the local books by the pound store and bought a book in a series she really likes.
Walkie-Talkies from Grammy and Grandpa
On Sunday we celebrated the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival (Tet Trung Thu) with friends.  (Yes, we were a day early, but it's what worked in our schedules.)  Everyone had lanterns with candles except for G. and L. who had cute little battery-operated ones.

Everyone waiting for it to have their lanterns lit.
Friends with L. and G. in front
And any photo essay of the weekend would be incomplete with a couple of pictures of baby gerbils, the three little creatures that have totally consumed A.'s every waking moment.  This weekend was the moment when, joy of joys, they c…

The lost sheep

"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?  And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.'  Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance."  Luke 15:4-7 (ESV)

Last Sunday had an inauspicious beginning.  A child fell back into an old habit that we had hoped was broken.  When I discovered it, I have to admit that I did not respond well.  I was angry, though if I was honest with myself, the anger was really a convenient emotion when what I was really feeling was fear and despair.  The child, in turn, did not respond well and was also angry, though that too was most likely more…

Block City

Poem by Robert Louis Stevenson (from A Child's Garden of Verses) City by D.
What are you able to build with your blocks? Castles and palaces, temples and docks. Rain may keep raining, and other go roam,

But I can be happy and building at home.

Let the sofa be mountains, the carpet the sea,

There I'll establish a city for me:

A kirk and a mill and a palace beside,

And a harbor as well where my vessels may ride.

Great is the palace with pillar and wall, A sort of a tower on the top of it all,

And steps coming down in an orderly way To where my toy vessels lie safe in the bay.

This one is sailing and that one is moored: Hark to the song of the sailors on board!

And see on the steps of my palace, the kings Coming and going with presents and things!

Now I have done with it, down let it go! All in a moment the town is laid low.

Block upon block lying scattered and free, What is there left of my town by the sea?

Yet as I saw it, I see it again, The kirk and the palace, the ships and the men,

And as long as …

Happy 11th birthday, P.!

Today is P.'s birthday and we will be celebrating with a family party tonight.  And I don't have to bake.  True to form, P. has chosen vanilla ice cream as her birthday dessert.  (She's just not a dessert kind of girl.)  She also picked steak salad for her birthday dinner, so a pretty easy celebration from my end of things.

I think this next year holds great things for my P.  As one of my children who often needs super-titles above her head to clue us into what she is thinking, it's not always easy to guess at what is going on in that pretty head of hers.  But we have started to see some real maturity happening and I think she is starting to grow into herself.  She has some activities she is excited about that she is involved in for the coming year and thanks to our block party, has discovered a girl friend around the corner.  They have hit is off quite well.  While she has two very good friends who are boys, having a friend who is a girl and whom she can have sleepove…

Eggplant Parmigiana

One of TM's favorite meals is eggplant parmigiana, so I finally agreed to make it the other night.  My memory of it is that it is a lot of work, but then when I make it, I am reminded that it is actually fairly simple... at least the way I have worked out this version.  It really is quite tasty, so I thought I'd share it.  This recipe makes two 9x13 pans.  You could halve it if you only wanted one, but I would go ahead and make two and freeze the other.  It's not really anymore work and you'll have an entree in the freezer.  (For freezing, line a 9x13 with heavy-duty foil, with quite a bit hanging over the edges.  Make the entree as directed inside the foil, but instead of baking when done, cover lightly with plastic wrap and put into the freezer.  When it is completely frozen, lift it out of the pan, wrap in several more layers of foil and LABEL!  I also include cooking instructions on the label.  When you're ready to eat it, unwrap the outside layers of foil, dro…

Grosse Point Lighthouse

Since we are studying lighthouses, it was the perfect reason to go and tour the Grosse Point Lighthouse right here in our own city.  But, even though I travel with many children, we were a touch short of the 10-12 people required for a tour.  So we invited some friends... and the friends' mother agreed to watch my under 8's in return.

Here the crew is on the steps of the keeper's house, waiting for the tour.

The history of the lighthouse was interesting, but what everyone really wanted to do was head up into the lighthouse itself.  After an introduction to the lighthouse and a short film, we climbed up the 141 steps to the top. 
A., B., and P. in the area just below the actual light.  The black box houses the some of the gear mechanisms which needed to be wound in order to make the light turn (and consequently flash it's correct pattern).

When we arrived at the top, I had one of those moments of asking myself, "What was I thinking bringing four eight year old boys t…

This is a what?

Here is a short video from Monday night at our Labor Day party.  This is what happens when nine 13-19 hear olds sit together.  (They were actually much louder than the fourteen 2-10 year olds in the kitchen.)  It was hilarious to watch them.  They are playing the game, "This is a what?"  Have you heard of it?  It's a lot of fun, but terribly difficult to explain in writing.  Here goes:

Have the players sit in a circle and collect a pile of small objects (the same number of objects as players) which can be passed around the circle.  The first player picks up an object, turns to the player on her right and says, "This is a fork (or whatever the object happens to be)".  The second player then asks, "A what?"
Player 1: "A fork"
Player 2:  "A what?"
Player 1:  "A fork"
Player 2:  "Oh, a fork!"

At this point Player 1 picks up a new object, turns to Player 2 and says, "This is a spoon." While at the same tim…

Back to school

We have successfully completed the first day of our school schedule.  I am happy to report that the schedule seems to be working as I hoped it would.  Everyone had enough time to do what they needed to and we were not having to race from activity to activity keeping one eye on the clock.  Relaxed and productive.  My plan for occupying the smaller set even worked pretty well.  All three of them enjoyed their activities and the special toy I brought out kept them all busy while I was able to work with the older ones.  L. got a little squawky toward the end while I was trying to read aloud, so I will have to fine-tune that, but on the whole I was pleased.  I'm hoping I have enough toys and activities rotating through that it will take a good long while before they get old and stop keeping the littles attention.  The best part for me was being able to open up my notes and see what I had already planned.  It was bliss to not have to think constructively at the spur of the moment.  I…

Block party 2011

Yesterday was our block party.  The fire engine came:
K. was thrilled to be able to climb all over it.  Fire trucks are a very close second to all things Cars for him.

And the fire fighters sprayed the hose.

D. is in the white t-shirt in the center
(l-r) P., TM, a friend and A.
G. and L. were content to watch from a distance.

The little girls preferred the bounce house for small people.  (There was a also a bounce house for bigger people.)

(l-r) G., K., L.
And there was bobbing for donuts... a neighbor hung donuts from their tree and the object was to be the first to eat the donut without using your hands.

K. didn't quite get the "without hands" part.

After it was over, G. wanted to try.

L. preferred hers in her hand in Mommy's arms.

K.'s donut aftermath.

Of course, one of the best parts of a block party is being able to play in the street.

The dessert table was also popular.

Because they're cute.

G. on left, L. on right
You will notice some children are mis…