Sunday, January 31, 2010

food or curiosity?

Last Thanksgiving I blogged about canning adventures during my trip to Boston. My sister-in-law, Jennie, and her mother, helped me can vegetable soup, applesauce, and chicken. Yes, chicken. Sounds weird, looks weird. Funny thing is, we have used up nearly all of our applesauce and chicken. So much for food storage.
My kids love the canned chicken. We use it for fast and easy chicken noodle soup, in caseroles (so one-pot meals really only use one pot, rather than one-pot plus the mess of cooking chicken), and for chicken salad. To do chicken, you need a pressure canner, so I had to look around a little, and in the process, I found some friends who wanted to learn, too. Yesterday we had a little chicken canning party. We started with something like 50-ish lbs of chicken, and ended up with 38 pints of lovely canned chicken. I let my friends sample the soup and chicken salad so they knew what they were getting in to.The thing is, it looks kind of weird. We joked about it looking like a fetus-in-a-jar, which reminded me of the famous Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe in downtown Seattle, which is really more of a museum of oddity, including jars containing "three-headed pig" or "dog with eight legs."Ugly, perhaps, but it tastes good.

If you're interested, call me...but the basic plan is to buy fresh, boneless-skinless chicken, trim of anything you wouldn't want to eat, and put 1 lb chicken in a pint jar with 1/2 tsp salt. It runs in the pressure canner for 70 minutes at 11 lbs pressure. Easy--otherwise I wouldn't do it!

Speaking of oddities, I'm working on a fun craft project I can't wait to post about! Should be ready early next week.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Hairy Situation

Have I mentioned that Hannah has a crush on her teacher? She says he's a rock star. Over Christmas break she asked to cut her hair short so she could surprise him when she went back to school. I told her guys never noticed a new haircut. She said that he's noticed when another girl in class had a new haircut, so there went that argument! Anyway, we seem to struggle to keep her hair brushed and nice looking when its long, so I didn't really mind going short again. Because I'm a cheapskate, I cut it myself. looked awful. There was about a two inch difference between the front and back, but because it was so short I didn't trust myself to fix it. She wore it like that for a few days before I couldn't stand it anymore and had to take her to a professional to get it fixed! Now I think its pretty cute--she looks so grown up!

(Also, check out her clip--I found a new way to make felt flower clips and I like it much better. Check it out here.)

Speaking of cute girls, this morning on our way to church I had to take a quick photo of Rachel (I'm in love with her outfit--can you believe I got her sweater for $4?!!!)Hannah needed to get in the picture...Which led to this bit of cute-sister-ly-ness...And then to this...

Friday, January 22, 2010

Thank goodness for friends...and brownies

I just wanna say how thankful I am for good friends...and girl talk...and brownies. We need all kinds of relationships, and get different benefits from each, but there's truly something special about girlfriends, and I'm thankful for mine tonight.
Right after I got married, I struggled relating to my friends from my single years. I remember visiting my old apartment one night when Christian was at work and cleaning their kitchen floor--I think I wanted to feel like I belonged there again. That night I told my friends that I was pregnant, and they were excited, but also--it felt like we ran out of things to say to each other. After that I stopped coming by as often, and it took me a few years to learn how to relay on girlfriends again, and I really missed it. Women need to talk.
I'm also thankful for brownies...I made some yesterday, and they were pretty good and now I can get back to eating healthy foods. :)
The other thing I love is fun music. I go to the YMCA a few times every week, and there is a huge difference in the type of workout I get depending on whether or not I get to listen to music while I workout. I just found this song, and this song, and they make me happy!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Imperfectionista does...couponing?

With so many good deals out there, I feel like I have to be a couponer, but its a long, hard, work in progress trying to figure it all out. One blogger I read brags about how she spends less than $40 a week on groceries...let me just say that I doubt I'll ever be that good... Bu last week I went to Meijer and had some success--and wanted to record it. I'm sure many die-hard deal seekers could do better, but this was something of a triumph for me.

So--what do you think I spent for all of this? For all of this plus the tp, 3 bottles of salad dressing, and 2 gallons of milk I couldn't fit in the picture?That's a lot of food. I won't mention it all, but in case you can't see, there are 4 boxes of fruit snacks hiding in the corner, 8 things of yogurt, 4 boxes of the good pasta, 2 bags of baby carrots, 2 jars of spaghetti sauce, 4 cans of cream soup....

$65...I saved $60 in coupons, deals, and smart shopping. So I guess I'm getting there.

Also, check out the weight loss ticker on the side of my blog. Christian is back on his diet, and it appears to be working. Since the first of the year, he's lost 15 lbs!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Doesn't happen very often...

This poor guy wasn't feeling very well this week (he was actually incredibly crabby). I'm not sure what was wrong--I kept waiting for a cough or fever to develop, but nothing happened. Just a lot of tears and crabbiness. On the plus side: Wednesday afternoon I put him down for a nap, but after an hour of hanging out in his crib, crying/playing/shaking the bars, I picked him up. His feet were freezing, I was tired, so I took him to my bed to warm him up and rest up a bit before a long afternoon. Aaron, dear little boy, fell asleep with his head on my chest. He hasn't let me hold him like that since he was a little baby! Even as a bigger baby, he always needed to be alone to go to sleep. I held him for an hour (and even got a little nap, myself). It was seriously the highlight of my week.
Also--Nathan played happily by himself the entire time!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Part 4: Books I'd recommend to my friends

This is trickier--there are so many books out there with good stuff and bad stuff mixed together, and we have to make our own judgment regarding them. Here are a few I've read recently that I think are worth looking into:

In the Chick-lit category:

Belong to Me and Love Walked In, by Marissa De Los Santos
Probably my favorite of all the books I read this year! I read the sequel first, and got hooked after just a few minutes of reading. I went back and read the first, and liked it just as much. I thought this book was well-written, funny, interesting, and had one of the best birthing-stories I've ever read. Although I did not fully agree with the attitudes or choices of many of the characters, I recognized some people I know in these characters and understood their choices. Reading the book felt like talking with friends.

My Sister's Keeper, by Jodie Picoult
This is my favorite of Picoult's novel, which are usually intense, emotional, and intriguing. This is about a family dealing with their daughter/sister's cancer, but its more than a medical drama. I also, saw the movie, which is quite different from the book, and cried almost the entire way through, so be warned. Also, as with most of her books, there is some language and content that I wasn't entirely comfortable with.

Plain Truth, by Jodie Picoult
Another book dealing with a complex issue, but I felt like the resolution was worth some of the difficult parts. This story is about an Amish community, and one girl accused of murder. I thought it was a very interesting look at the Amish community, the justice system, and how people just don't see the world in the same way.

Once Upon a Marigold, by Jean Ferris
This is actually a young adult novel, but I loved it. It is a simple fairy-tale-ish story about a princess--a fun, funny, quick read.

Enchantment, by Orson Scott Card
I read this years ago and recently re-read it and loved it again. It is a retelling of Sleeping Beauty, set in Russia.

Rachel and Leah, by Orson Scott Card
I loved how Card tried to make sense of a very unusual story--his explanations of how the "accidental" marriage to Leah might have happened was believable, and the portrayal of Bibilical cultural was fascinating. It is not, of course, scripture, and is probably only barely historical fiction, but still, and interesting book.

Before Midnight, by Cameron Dokey
A retelling of Cinderella--again, this probably falls under teen literature, but I thought it was a fun book and an interesting look at the traditional story.

The Host, by Stephanie Meyer
For all you Twilight fans, I think this one is better. It is written for an adult audience (so she says--the characters are 19-20-ish), and in my opinion, is a better story and better-written book.

In the non-fiction category:
The Prizewinner of Defiance, Ohio, by Terry Ryan
I blogged about this book a year or so ago, but just wanted to mention it again--Terry Ryan tells the story of her mother, and how she provided for a large family with some creativity and ingenuity. I laughed as I read this book, and wanted to be like her mother.

Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, by Walter Isaacson
I read this a few years ago, and it took me a year of reading on and off to finish it, but each time I'd read it, I was fascinated by how much Benjamin Franklin contributed to our culture and government today. He was a flawed man, more than I had know before, but brilliant, charismatic, intelligent, and absolutely necessary to the founding of this nation.

The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands, by Dr. Laura Schlessinger
I need to go back and re-read this one again (and again and again)--its a quick read, and offers a lot of insight about the power of woman in a marriage relationship. Although sometimes I'd read and think, "It shouldn't all be up to me!", I also finished this book feeling empowered. Woman have such a potential to be an influence for good.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Part 3: Books I Can't Wait to Read to my Kids

...and a few books I'd like to read on my own:

The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Lee Stewart (This was a hot book at our house over Christmas break--all the adults wanted to read it, so I only got to read a few chapters, but I'm hooked and need to get my own copy so I can finally finish it.)
Caddie Woodlawn, by Carol Ryrie Brink (As a kid I read the Little House on the Praire books, and didn't like them. I read this around the same time and loved it)
Calico Captive, by Elizabeth George Speare (Based on a true story, and one of my favorites growing up--probably helped me fall in love with historical fiction, and made being captured by indians sound romantic)
Castle in the Attic, by Elizabeth Winthrop (About a boy who discovers a real world inside his toy castle--its hard to find, but I'll buy it for sure when I find a copy!)
Here There Be Dragons, by James Owen (Recommended by my sister-in-law, and probably something I'll share with the boys when they're older)
Princess Academy and Book of a Thousand Days, by Shannon Hale (Also, the Goose Girl series, which I've read and enjoyed)
Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry (An amazing, beautiful book about 2 friends in Copenhagen during WW2)
True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, by Avi (One of the "important" books I didn't read as a kid, but its now on my reading list)
Pippi Longstocking, by Astrid Lindgren (just for fun--this and Anne made being an orphan sound like fun!)
The Oddessy, Mary Pope Osborn (The author of the Magic Treehouse books wrote a kid-version of the Oddessy, and its the next thing I'll read to Hannah)
Peter and the Starcatchers, by Dave Barry (Peter Pan before Neverland...I read a few chapters and can't wait to get my hands on the book to read more!)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Part 2: Books I read to my kids

Now for the books I read with my kids:
When I choose children's books, I like ones that are fun to read, have beautiful illustrations, and for Rachel, are easy to translate. Here are some of our favorites:
Parts, by Tedd Arnold (This book made me excited to have a boy--its all about a boy who is literally falling to pieces after loosing a tooth)
Best Pet Ever, by David LaRochelle (This is a wonderful book about a boy who convinces his mother to get a pet dog by getting a pet dragon first)
The Egg, by MP Robertson (Gorgeous illustrations! This is about a boy who finds and cares for a dragon egg)
How do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?, by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague
Llama, Llama, Red Pajama, by Anna Dewdney (This one always reminds me of my kids at bedtime--and its fun to read!)

And, of course, the classics:
The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle
Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak (Christian's favorite--he even read it aloud performance-style when we had some friends over who hadn't read it)
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, by Laura Joffe Numeroff

For Hannah, I've read to her from the Junie B. Jones books, American Girl books and Magic Treehouse books until she took over and started reading them herself. They're classics for a reason.

Next up--the books I can't wait to read with them!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Part 1: Books I love

I love bookstores. I love libraries, too, but bookstores are better because they have better variety, and usually I don't go to bookstores with kids, while I usually have company at the library and usually spend more time at the train table than actually looking at books.
But I digress. One of my favorite dates with Christian is the bookstore date. This began back in our kid-free, super-poor days, when we needed creative, cheap things to do together. We'd head off to Barnes and Noble find a stack of fun things to read (Christian would usually read through one book--I'd have a stack of cookbooks, craft books, design books, novels, and magazines--this was before blogging, so I was desperate for good ideas and new things to make), and spend an hour or so curled up on their soft chairs. I first read Harry Potter this way--a few chapters each date night. We'd usually spend some time in the music section, too--this is how we were introduced to Norah Jones and Josh Groban. Before we left, I'd choose one recipe and copy it out (brownies, anyone?), pick up the ingredients on the way home, and make a treat together that night. Good times.
When our family was in town this holiday season, we spent part of our Girls' Day in Barnes and Noble, wandering around the children's section talking about all our favorite books--from our childhood, those we've read as adults, and those we can't wait to introduce to our kids. I ought to say here that for the books I love may not be "important"--they have to be entertaining, make me feel good, have characters I'd like to actually meet in real life, or something along those lines, and I like interesting books, but usually take longer to read them. In high school I actually avoided books I maybe should have read because I was told they were important books, and I don't think I liked really anything I was assigned to read in school (The Good Earth? The Jungle? horrible!), which I think impacted my current taste in reading.
My SIL all promised we'd blog about our favorites and our must-read suggestions, and since I have a lot, I'm breaking it up into different posts. I think it would be pretty cool if any of you reading this (especially DeAnn and Jennie, since they already promised to) would do this, too.

For starters, here are my all-time favorites:
Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte (This is a hard book to read-some parts go on longer than they should- but I find it very cathartic and fascinating.)
Anne of Green Gables (really, the whole series), by LM Montgomery(These are actually not very well written, but I love the stories and I especially love my memories of reading these books. I started in Kindergarten, read Anne all the way through in second grade, and many times since.)
Pride and Predjudice, Persuasion, or anything by Jane Austen (I re-read them every year)
Chronicles of Narnia, by CS Lewis (These become more meaningful every time I read them--Lewis was an inspired man!)

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Crazy Week

The day after Christmas, Christian's two older brothers came into town with their families--we hosted 18 people in our house! We had a blast! There were 12 kids, ranging in age from 10-3, and they mostly play very well together, so we had a great time. But yeah, it could get a little crazy!
On Saturday, we celebrated my niece, Megan's, 8th birthday.On Monday, we took the kids to the AirZoo, and I think the Daddy's had as good a time as any of the kids. That evening, we arranged for 4 babysitters to come watch the kids so we could go on a group date. ( I felt a little sorry for the babysitters--when we came home, they said that the bigger kids "wrestled" with the youngest babysitter and locked her in a room!) We had dinner at Red Robin, and then spent over an hour playing lazer tag--so fun! I've only played once before, but it was a blast!The next day was "Girl's Day"--we went to see Have You Heard About the Morgans, and hung out at Barnes and Noble, comparing our favorite books (book post to come). The next day was "Guy Day", and they played computer games and ultimate frisbey.
We enjoyed our kid-free evenings playing games, Wii, eating chocolate chip cookies with caramel ice cream, reading books (Mysterious Benedict Society, Peter and the Starcatchers, etc.). The women-folk also went to the YMCA together a few times...enough to make me painfully sore. I enjoy working out, and tend to think I'm in decent workout-shape until I do a new workout...but I enjoyed having friends to exercise with!
For New Years' Eve, we ate way too much food, let the kids stay up way too late, and I ended up going to bed 10 minutes before the New Year!The Dad's supervised a game of Sardines--here are a few of the kids, hiding in the bathtub.I love it that my kids are good friends with their cousins, and I love it that I married into a family with such fun people. We're already planning the next event--thankfully, it gets easier to have that many people together as the kids get older!

Christmas '09

This tree looks a little like I feel right now--a little tired, ready to move on to the next thing (a box for the tree, a new year for me), but with lots of good memories. We had a wonderful Christmas season this year!We spent Christmas Eve with our friends, the Johnsons, for our yearly tradition of caroling and giving treats to friends and neighbors. The icy weather kept us from getting to everyone we wanted to see, but I love sharing the holidays with friends. And I love baking and giving away what I bake. We enjoyed our traditional Christmas Eve dinner of burgers, fries, and rice pudding, before singing carols as a family and acting out the Christmas story (featuring Aaron as Mary, with a toy dog stuffed down his shirt, riding on Rachel the donkey).Christmas morning was nice and low-key. We actually woke up before the kids and enjoyed a day of play, calling family, and resting. A few highlights--Christian enlisted the help of some friends in our ward to help him make aprons for the whole family. He didn't use a pattern, as usual, and designed little felt shapes for each of us. Totally awesome! Also, we gave the boys a HotWheels race track/jump, but spent Christmas Eve trying to put it together and couldn't figure out how to get the car to stay on the track through both loops! I was so tempted to run to the store that night and get a different toy--but since all the stores were closed, we had to make due with a dysfunctional toy. Also, I forgot batteries for the boys' trains. I felt kind of bad for them. Otherwise, though, a great day. I think the kids had a great Christmas, and I loved seeing them play so well together!