Monday, March 28, 2011

Lentil Soup

I have yet to try this since it hasn't finished cooking, but it smells terrific. I can only hope it tastes just as good. I found the recipe here.


1 1/4 cups brown-green lentils, preferably the small variety  
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil  
1 onion, chopped 

2 garlic cloves, minced
2 carrots  

14 oz can chopped tomatoes  
1 Tbsp tomato paste  
1/2 tsp dried oregano  
4 cups hot water  
salt and ground black pepper


Rinse the lentils and put them in a large pan with water to cover. Bring to a boil and boil for 3-4 minutes. Strain and set aside.  

In a large pot, heat the olive oil, add the onion and saute until translucent. Add in the garlic and as soon as it becomes aromatic, add the lentils. Stir the lentils well to coat in the oil. Add carrots, tomatoes, tomato paste and oregano. Stir in the hot water.  

Bring to a boil, turn to low, cover the pan and simmer for 20-30 minutes until the lentils feel soft but have not begun to disintegrate. Salt and pepper to taste.  

    Wednesday, March 23, 2011

    As Destructive as a Tornado

    My sweet Oren is 19 months old. I am using the word "sweet" loosely here.

    The kid keeps me busy.

    We had an appointment this morning and by the time we returned home, the kids were starving. They had already eaten apples on the way home, so I opened a full sleeve of Ritz crackers, hoping that it would lessen the complaining while I made pizza. Oren threw every cracker on the floor, stepped on them and then slid and hit his head while stepping on the crackers. What was I doing? Talking to the fire place guys who had just arrived.

    Then, while I was bent over getting out a pizza pan, Oren fell face first off the stroller. He had climbed into it in about 30 seconds, leaned over the top and bam! On his face.

    Oren threw an enormous fit when I put him down for a nap. Like arching his back in convulsions type fit. And lots of screaming.

    He gave me a small sanity break by taking a decent nap and behaving the first part of the afternoon. Then it was time to make dinner.

    Dinner started with Maeve and Oren standing on her desk looking out the window. Oren was naked, of course, and standing in front of the window. Maeve decided it would be fun to jump off of her desk and land on her feet while holding onto Oren. Nice idea, but guess what? She didn't land on her feet. She landed on Oren.

    My husband came home from work and was watching the kids in the living room. I am using the word "watching" loosely here. Oren was messing around on the couch and fell off and hit his butt.

    Then I had to rescue Oren from falling down the steps because someone had taken off the baby gate.

    I was finally ready to start setting the table so I put on a clean tablecloth and a big pitcher of water. See where I'm going with this? A minute later Maeve came running into the kitchen to tell me that Oren had dumped the entire pitcher of water onto the table. Because, you know, he can climb chairs now and get on the table.

    Oren, still naked, then went into the office, the only room in our entire house with carpet, and peed. Twice.

    The table was set, the food was done and Finn fell off of his chair, hitting his neck on the tile floor.

    To say that I was ready for bedtime is the understatement of the year. Surprisingly though, even after all of the falls, Oren doesn't have a scratch anywhere on his body.

    Monday, March 14, 2011


    We have been eating pretzels as fast as I can make them. Even my husband likes them and he's not a bread person.

    6 1/2 C flour
    3 Tbsp yeast
    3 C lukewarm water
    2/3 C baking soda
    coarse sea salt
    egg white

    Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water and let it sit while you measure and scoop the flour. Add yeast, water and salt to the flour and mix with your dough hook until it's a cohesive ball. Cover and let rise in a warm spot for two hours.

    Two hours later..... (or the next day after you've refrigerated the dough or left it out and forgot about it)
    Preheat the oven to 375. Bring 10 C water to a boil. Grab a ball of dough and roll out into a long rope. Shape like a pretzel or you could make a twisty stick or pretzel turds (whatever, I have small kids and they like poop related things). One batch of dough makes about 14 medium sized pretzels. Grease a big cookie sheet with lard. I tried olive oil once and the pretzels stuck to the pan. Add 2/3 C baking soda to your boiling pot of water.

    Drop your pretzels, one at a time, into the boiling water. As soon as the pretzel floats, take it out with a slotted spoon or spatula and place on your baking sheet. Repeat 14 times.

    Using a pastry brush, or your fingers, brush egg white onto the tops of the pretzels. Sprinkle with coarse salt. I always skip the egg whites, but I don't care about presentation. The egg whites will make your pretzels darken on the top and look more like the real thing. Bake at 375 until golden. About 20 min, but I've honestly never paid attention to how long they take to cook.

    A Prinicpal's Speech

    I heard this on the radio this morning and think that all school principals should read this, and then implement it, at the start of a school year.

    A Speech Every American High School Principal
    Should Give
    By Dennis Prager · Tuesday, July 13, 2010
    If every school principal gave this speech at the beginning of the next school year,
    America would be a better place.

    To the students and faculty of our high school:
    I am your new principal, and honored to be so. There is no greater calling than to teach
    young people. I would like to apprise you of some important changes coming to our school. I am
    making these changes because I am convinced that most of the ideas that have dominated
    public education in America have worked against you, against your teachers and against
    our country.

    First, this school will no longer honor race or ethnicity. I could not care less if your racial
    makeup is black, brown, red, yellow or white. I could not care less if your origins are
    African, Latin American, Asian or European, or if your ancestors arrived here on the
    Mayflower or on slave ships.

    The only identity I care about, the only one this school will recognize, is your individual
    identity -- your character, your scholarship, your humanity. And the only national identity
    this school will care about is American. This is an American public school, and American
    public schools were created to make better Americans.

    If you wish to affirm an ethnic, racial or religious identity through school, you will have
    to go elsewhere. We will end all ethnicity-, race- and non-American nationality-based
    celebrations. They undermine the motto of America, one of its three central values -- e
    pluribus unum, "from many, one." 

    And this school will be guided by America's values. This includes all after-school clubs. I 
    will not authorize clubs that divide students based on any identities. This includes race, 
    language, religion, sexual orientation or whatever else may become in vogue in a society 
    divided by political correctness.

    Your clubs will be based on interests and passions, not blood, ethnic, racial or other
    physically defined ties. Those clubs just cultivate narcissism -- an unhealthy
    preoccupation with the self -- while the purpose of education is to get you to think
    beyond yourself. So we will have clubs that transport you to the wonders and glories of
    art, music, astronomy, languages you do not already speak, carpentry and more. If the
    only extracurricular activities you can imagine being interesting in are those based on
    ethnic, racial or sexual identity, that means that little outside of yourself really interests

    Second, I am uninterested in whether English is your native language. My only interest in
    terms of language is that you leave this school speaking and writing English as fluently as
    possible. The English language has united America's citizens for over 200 years, and it
    will unite us at this school. It is one of the indispensable reasons this country of
    immigrants has always come to be one country. And if you leave this school without
    excellent English language skills, I would be remiss in my duty to ensure that you will be
    prepared to successfully compete in the American job market. We will learn other
    languages here -- it is deplorable that most Americans only speak English -- but if you
    want classes taught in your native language rather than in English, this is not your school.

    Third, because I regard learning as a sacred endeavor, everything in this school will
    reflect learning's elevated status. This means, among other things, that you and your
    teachers will dress accordingly. Many people in our society dress more formally for
    Hollywood events than for church or school. These people have their priorities backward.
    Therefore, there will be a formal dress code at this school.

    Fourth, no obscene language will be tolerated anywhere on this school's property --
    whether in class, in the hallways or at athletic events. If you can't speak without using the
    f-word, you can't speak. By obscene language I mean the words banned by the Federal
    Communications Commission, plus epithets such as "Nigger," even when used by one
    black student to address another black, or "bitch," even when addressed by a girl to a
    girlfriend. It is my intent that by the time you leave this school, you will be among the
    few your age to instinctively distinguish between the elevated and the degraded, the holy
    and the obscene.

    Fifth, we will end all self-esteem programs. In this school, self-esteem will be attained in
    only one way -- the way people attained it until decided otherwise a generation ago -- by
    earning it. One immediate consequence is that there will be one valedictorian, not eight.

    Sixth, and last, I am reorienting the school toward academics and away from politics and
    propaganda. No more time will devoted to scaring you about smoking and caffeine, or
    terrifying you about sexual harassment or global warming. No more semesters will be
    devoted to condom wearing and teaching you to regard sexual relations as only or
    primarily a health issue. There will be no more attempts to convince you that you are a
    victim because you are not white, or not male, or not heterosexual or not Christian. We
    will have failed if any one of you graduates this school and does not consider him or
    herself inordinately lucky -- to be alive and to be an American.

    Now, please stand and join me in the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of our country. As

    Sunday, March 13, 2011

    Math and Phonics

    I have to say that the kids and I are loving Singapore math and Explode the Code phonics. The two workbooks make my life easier because they require no planning. I can sit down with the kids and we do as much or as little as they want.

    My dog's head is on my keyboard right now by the way.

    I told Maeve today that she needed to write in all lower case letters in her Explode the Code book. I explained when a capital letter is appropriate to use and said that she'd be able to write amazing things if she started using some lower case letters. Maeve has always claimed to HATE lower case letters and has refused to use them.....until today!

    My dog is now breathing on my hands. She's grossing me out.

    Maeve used all lower case letters like she was instructed and she made me a flower picture using "Maeve language". Maeve language is when Maeve writes her name correctly, as in a capital M and the rest lower case. She was very proud of herself. I promised to teach her cursive as soon as she is good at lower case letters so I think she is very motivated. Maeve loves making things look fancy.

    Wednesday, March 9, 2011


    I like books. I like reading books. I like collecting books. I like the smell of books and I like looking at pictures in books.

    I like ordering books online. I like going to book sales. I like finding books at thrift stores.

    Anyway, we've acquired some new books here lately and several of them are homeschooling related, although I could probably make the argument that all books are homeschooling related. I wanted a little direction and help teaching math so I ordered Singapore math 1A, 1B and 2A for the kids. I really like the textbooks and workbooks and think they will work out well for us. Maeve was subtracting after one lesson and Finn breezed through his stuff like nobody's business.

    I also ordered several Explode the Code books for phonics and reading. The kids really like the printable online books from Progressive Phonics so the Explode the Code workbooks will be in addition to what they're already doing. I also found five Explode the Code books for reading comprehension at a book sale today and couldn't pass them up.

    Another new goodie is Power Glide Latin. Yes, Latin. Latin intrigues me and seems like a good first language to learn since so much of the language we speak is rooted in Latin. We'll see if the kids like it. I bought a couple of Spanish books too just for good measure.

    We found books about the presidents and US history and I discovered that I already own an Abeka book that we'll use for history next year.

    I also bought The Beginner's Bible: Timeless Children's Stories. I love all of the illustrations and the simplicity of the stories. We've been reading from the book every night before bed and the kids love it. Finn has spent probably over an hour looking through the book. I remember my first children's Bible and how much I loved all of the stories and pictures. It pleases me that my kids like it too.

    We are all very excited about our new books and I haven't put them away yet because I like looking at them. Ok, maybe it's because I haven't found a place for them.

    Personal Sewing

    If you don't like reading about periods, and I'm not talking punctuation, this post is not for you.

    My cycle has finally started up again and I found myself itchy and uncomfortable at the end of my period. I don't remember disposable pads bothering me, but perhaps I'm getting sensitive in my old age. I also don't like tampons anymore, which lead me to making my own cloth pads.

    I started by tracing a disposable pad onto a piece of card stock. I took my pattern and traced it about a billion times onto a full sized flannel top sheet. I cut up an old towel and used that as the soaker in my pad. I also used some falling apart hemp and microfiber diapers inserts.

    I used three layers of flannel per pad and added a strip of terry cloth to one of the layers. I added snaps to the wings so they'll stay in place. The pads look pretty, but are somewhat bulky where they snap. I don't think I'd be comfortable wearing these out of the house, so my design needs a bit tweaking. I think I'm going to use a layer of PUL, a microfiber soaker layer and suede cloth for the outer. I figure that way I can have the absorbency without the bulk. I could probably go crazy and make them stuffable, but I'd still have the bulky snap issue. Maybe I could use Velcro or Aplix instead and make sure that the wings only have two layers instead of three.

    Monday, March 7, 2011


    Preheat your oven to 450 or 500. I usually bake it at 450, but sometimes I like to test the smoke detector.

    2 C flour
    1 tsp yeast
    3/4 C flour
    pinch of salt

    Combine yeast and lukewarm water. Stir. Pour over flour and knead until you have a dough that is not sticky. It sort of feels like a baby's butt if you need a comparison. I sometimes need to add an extra few teaspoons of water. I mix everything with the dough hook in my Kitchen Aid.

    Grease your pizza pan with lard. Yum. If you use olive oil, you will have a very crispy crust. Olive oil is not recommended for high temperatures and this is going to be hot. Poke holes in the crust.

    My sauce never tastes the same. I use canned tomato sauce and generally add lots of basil, parsley, a bay leaf, garlic and sometimes red wine. I cook this for maybe 30-45 min and usually make a huge batch and freeze it in pint sized canning jars. I use one pint per pizza.

    The sky's the limit with toppings and your cook time will vary based on what you put on your pizza. My kids like cheese and hamburger. I love broccoli. I never pre-bake the crust. I just pile on the sauce, toppings and cheese and put it in the oven until the crust is golden and the cheese is good and melted.

    Sunday, March 6, 2011

    Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

    I make a big batch of this bread dough at least once a week. I love this recipe and find myself using it for just about everything. I've made:

    Monkey bread
    Cinnamon rolls
    Pull apart rolls: I have no idea what these are called. I roll up little balls of dough, put them all in a pan, cover them in melted butter and herbs and bake.
    Pizza, although I have another recipe I prefer
    Apple turnovers
    Flat bread topped with caramelized onions, garlic and Parmesan cheese
    Hamburger or hot dog buns
    Tortillas: Only in a pinch because real homemade tortillas are much better

    And almost anything that calls for a yeast dough.

    Saturday, March 5, 2011

    Cinnamon Rolls

    Homemade bread dough (or store bought)
    Mixture of cinnamon and sugar 
    Sprinkling of brown sugar
    Butter, the more the merrier
    Powdered sugar glaze

    Roll dough out in a rectangle. I roll it out on a floured surface, but you could also use waxed paper. Spread butter on the dough. Cover butter with cinnamon and sugar. Sprinkle on some brown sugar. Roll up and pinch edge of dough to the rest of the roll. Cut. I like them about an inch and a half or so thick. Place evenly spaced on greased glass pan. Bake at 375 for 20 min or until done in the center. 

    Top with powdered sugar glaze. I just mix powdered sugar with milk until I get the thickness that I want. Pour over the rolls and eat!

    Tuesday, March 1, 2011

    Wood Burning Stove

    We recently had a wood burning stove installed in our living room. Our house was built in 1854, is 2,000 square feet and shaped like an "L". There is a second story over half of the "L" and no basement. All of this information will become relevant in a minute.

    We decided to go with a Jotul Castine. The Castine is a beautiful cast iron stove that is supposed to be able to heat up to 1500 square feet. Our plan was to get something to heat the part of the house that is without the second story, but our Castine is heating the upstairs too.

    Our furnace kicks on around 6 am and that's it! The wood burning stove keeps our house very warm. Our living room is usually around 79 and the rest of our house is comfortable. Our bedrooms upstairs were 66 today.

    I love the smell of the stove and love that it is relatively easy to use. I don't care much for the mess around the hearth, but I will re-work the area this summer when I don't have to risk being burned by a 450 degree stove.

    Overall, I am incredibly happy with our purchase. The stove is saving us all kinds of money on heating bills. I've also been hanging clothes on drying racks by the stove instead of using the dryer. I am excited to use the stove for cooking, although that is not a priority right now and my stove is still too pretty and new to dirty with food spillage.