26 June 2016

Slow Sunday

I've had a quiet Sunday.  Pace is in Philadelphia this week, so I spent a few days finishing up the kitchen/dining room redo.  After painting the cabinets and installing some shelves for my cookbooks in the kitchen above the built-in desk, I worked on the adjoining dining room, hanging sheers and matchstick blinds in the two windows and framing treasured family recipes along with pictures of my grandmothers.

I found a hanging wall shelf with three shelves and painted it white, to house our grandmothers' cookie and biscuit cutters, some truly ancient sundae dishes, and the signed rolling pin from my rehearsal dinner.  It has the signatures and words of wisdom from the really special women in my life, some who are no longer alive, and I love having a place to display it.  I picked hydrangeas and lavender from the yard as a finishing touch.

But now I am very tired, having spent the better part of the weekend running back and forth to the hardware store in between bouts of hanging, drilling, and painting.  We have cousins in town, too, so there have been some late nights together, and even last night's good sleep hasn't helped much.

So today I've spent an afternoon figuring out the camera software on my computer and uploading the 1100 photos that have been languishing in the camera since fall 2013. (!)  And I finished the first skein of yarn for Campside, which means that I'm feeling slightly hopefully I am going to finish this shawl without ripping it all out again.

Soon I'll pick up Caiden from youth group and then meet my sister and cousin for dinner, before taking a walk with a friend who's temporarily living nearby.

It's a slow Sunday, right about my speed.

25 June 2016

The Ideal Running Partner, and a Gentleman

Addie has become my very eager running sidekick.  I run, she rides, and we go the same route together, four times a week.  Yesterday we went out in rain, then sprinted home once it started lightning in earnest.  She chattered the whole way, and despite the fact that she arrived home with frozen hands (49 degrees in June!) and soaked clothes, she never complained.  It's easy to see why she's an ideal partner.

Highlights of this week's runs:  red-tailed hawks hunting over the prairie together, wildflower-strewn banks on the edges of the running trail, and a family of quail, the tiny babies wobbling across the path as fast as they could.  Also, a gentleman who spotted us on the trail getting drenched, and offered me his coat.

24 June 2016

The 15 Minute Miracle

I'm on a roll.  I don't know if it's being on summer break from school, or just that a fire has been lit under me, but I am getting things done!  I'm using my 15 minute rule:  the job can only take 15 minutes and can't be planned ahead (i.e. written on the to do list in the morning).  When inspiration strikes, I get after it!

Here's what I've done in the last week~

  • Steam cleaned the downstairs big room carpet
  • Steam cleaned our bedroom carpet
  • Wrote two grandmothers, two aunts, my mother-in-law, and my grandfather (6 days' worth of 15 minutes, not all at once!) notes on pretty stationery
  • Renewed all the library books online and rounded up the overdue ones to put in the car
  • Quick-cleaned the garage while the boat was out, disposed of a dead mouse, and reclaimed my set of bread bowls languishing on a shelf out there
  • Made a batch of buttermilk biscuits with the girls for dinner
  • Located the nice camera, battery charger, and instruction manual (I'm determined to learn how to use it!)
  • Decorated the mantle
There's probably more, but there's a good start.  Once you realize how easy it is to whittle down the procrastination list in 15 minute increments, it becomes rather compulsive.  At this rate, I'll be looking for things to do by August!

21 June 2016

Fish Tacos for the Person Who Doesn't Like Fish

Addie and I are not big fans of eating fish.  However, fish is good for you, and it's a nice change from beef and chicken, so I try to serve it every week or so.  Lately, it's been in the form of fish tacos, because I'll eat just about anything if it's served with sour cream and guacamole!

Here's how I make them:

Spray a big skillet with coconut oil spray or whatever spray you prefer.  Add a large pat of butter, and turn to medium heat.  Lay down 1 filet of your favorite fish per person--try tilapia if you currently don't like fish--and sprinkle liberally with this mixture:  chili powder--cumin--garlic powder--pepper--sea salt.  Cook 3 minutes, then flip and sprinkle the other side.  Cook that side 3 minutes.  After the total cooking time of about 6 minutes (fish should be white, firm, and flaky inside when done), place a half filet broken into pieces on a warm corn tortilla.  Top with your favorite toppings.

Our current favorite toppings are sour cream mixed with lime juice, plus cilantro, jalapeƱos, and chunky guacamole.  A sprinkle of cheese, too, of course.  Addie, who is very vocal about her feelings regarding eating seafood, scarfed down three last night.

20 June 2016

Monday, Funday

Today was the first day in a few weeks that has felt at all like summer, although while we were still driving to my favorite swimming spot, the car thermometer said it was only 68 degrees.  By the time we got to the lake it had warmed up, and the kids spent a happy couple hours swimming, hunting for tadpoles, and paddling around the lake in a kayak and a raft.  We adults sat on the beach in our chairs and kept an eye on Sarah Grace and didn't do much else.  It felt pretty great.

Another bright spot in the week so far:  I finally got past row 100 in my knitting project, after spending another three days knitting and unknitting the same 7 rows.  I am hesitantly excited that I'm past the hump I couldn't seem to conquer, hoping it's all downhill skiing from here.

After we got home the kids played outside with friends, I finished up the morning's laundry, and we had fish tacos for dinner.  Everybody was tired and mellow from all the swimming and sun, which is of course why parents like going to the lake as much as the kids do.

It's hard to dislike Mondays when they go like this, isn't it?

A Father's Day Menu

We had a low-key Father's Day, which is what you want if you're the pastor.  (You've already worked a 8 hour day; nothing involving any more effort sounds fun.)  We'll save a trip to the lake for a Monday, when he's off work.   Instead, he took a nap while my big kids went to the park with friends and played Capture the Flag all afternoon, leaving us with a very quiet Sunday afternoon.

I decided to go all-out and make a dinner worth remembering, as evidenced by all the capital letters:

Marinated Steaks
Twice-Baked & Fully Loaded Potatoes
Bacon-Wrapped Roasted Asparagus Spears
Parmesan Buttermilk Biscuits
Watermelon with Lime Juice and Fresh Mint
Cheesecake served with Whipped Cream and Caramel Sauce

He did have to grill the steaks, but I made the biscuits and cheesecake from scratch, so I think we are even.

18 June 2016

Best Eggs

Nearly every day I make eggs for breakfast.  In my humble opinion, these are the world's best eggs.  (This fact I declare to my family each and every time I make them, which amounts to approximately 313 times a year.)

The reason they are the Best Eggs is twofold:  ingredient quality + technique.  If you, too, would like to make the world's best eggs, this is how you do it.

Crack 6-8 eggs* into a small bowl.  Add a healthy dash of half & half or cream and whisk with a fork.  Spray a cold skillet with Pam or coconut oil, toss in a pat of real butter.  Only once the eggs are ready to pour do you turn on the heat, to a medium setting.  (If you have numbers on your stovetop, choose 4. )  This is key!  Do not start with a hot pan!  You want to cook these slowly, slowly.  Pour the eggs in, right over the unmelted butter.  As they begin to set, push them around the skillet with the flat edge of a spatula.  Do not chop them to bits or stir them.  As they cook, add your cheese--feta is delicious but Caiden won't eat it, so I generally stick to Laughing Cow swiss wedges.

Keep pushing the eggs around, literally, keeping them from turning into an omelette, and turn off the heat as soon as the golden liquid slightly solidifies.  They will not yet be fully cooked, and this is good.  (This is why they won't be rubbery.)  Let the eggs sit on the stovetop a few minutes to finish cooking, then add pepper, Tabasco, whatever you like.  I eat mine usually with chopped tomatoes and a dollop of sour cream.  Or avocados, salsa, and sprinkled cheddar.

A person who can make good eggs can successfully feed himself for every meal.  In my book, that makes this a Serious Life Skill and is worthy of passing on to my kids.  It also ensures that if ever I'm too old to feed myself, my offspring will not let me down.

*If you're lucky like me and can get fresh eggs for half price from your nephew, you will already be halfway there to having Best Eggs Ever.

17 June 2016

Not Crying Uncle

I have fought with this knitting project for a good six months, successfully knitting the lace pattern to row 100 three times, only to find my pattern slightly off around row 101.  Twice I've ripped it out and started over.  This time, when I realized the same thing had happened again, I decided to go all Elizabeth Zimmerman and just figure it out myself.  I did, successfully knitting seven rows in pattern without instructions.  Score!  

Until I took a minute to really look at the pictures of the completed shawl, wherein I realized I'd been looking at my own work upside down, and I hadn't been off at all.  I was simply at the point where the lacework gets closer, and the pattern changes slightly.

After spending two hours last night unknitting 1500 stitches, I'm back to row 100 and ready to knit on.  I will finish this thing, even if it kills me.

16 June 2016

Fifteen Every Day

I've discovered lately how setting aside just 15 minutes a day for something little, reaps great rewards.  It could be to fix something that's bugging me, like a pillow seam come undone or a squeaky bathroom door, or to quick-clean out the pantry or write a note to somebody.  Nothing big, and nothing exactly planned.  It's just a quick block of time for whatever I've been putting off.  When I use it every day, it makes me feel like I've got my act together.  (This then feels miraculous, not merely helpful.)

Today I used my 15 minutes to change out my purse.  A friend gave me a beautiful, expensive purse for my birthday, and I love it as much for the thought as for the actual gift--but I am so attached to my regular one that I can only use the fancy one for small periods of time.  It is beautiful, but there are not enough pockets and no obvious front from back.  After fumbling around inside it for the 98th time this week, I decided to take a time out and make the switch back to Old Faithful.

Now both purses are completely clean, with one on its hook waiting for me to go somewhere mundane, and the other safely stored on my closet shelf, for the next time I need to be fancy.

15 June 2016

On Raising Readers

I am often asked how to raise kids who are voracious readers.  Here's what I say:

Make books available--bookshelves in every kid's room, with books of their choice*, not just the ones you think they should read.

Take your kids to the library every single week.  Sometimes a kid who doesn't yet like reading just hasn't found the right book to light the fire.

Don't fill their non-school time with so many activities and people that they don't have time to get bored.

Screens are a detriment to reading, no buts about it.

And lastly, do you love reading?  It's very hard to pass on values we don't embody ourselves.  Often the friend who asks me this question follows it up with saying that she isn't a reader.  That's going to make it hard, then.  Put some books on your nightstand.  Turn off the TV or close the laptop.  Read a chapter a day to your kids.  Show them that books are treasures waiting to be opened, and then wait and see what happens!

And last, don't lose heart.  My brother wasn't much of a reader at all until high school, when he found a series he loved, and that's what tipped him directly into becoming a Voracious Reader.  Sometimes the love of reading is a late-blooming romance.

*Obviously, keep to a standard.  You're the adult; you get to decide which books are acceptable and which are not.