Friday, September 17, 2010

The Nanny

This is Locutis. Of Cat.

(You can read his story here.) He's a pretty good boy most of the time, he's an old boy too. He just turned 14 this year. He usually looks like this:

But he thinks he looks like this:

I guess I can see a bit of a resemblance...

He's my buddy. He hangs out with me all the time. He tries to help me with my work (he's crashed out on my notebook as I type, he seems to think it's helpful to lay directly on top of my papers), he feels very dejected if I don't let him sleep on the bed at night (and he will go down and pester the kids if he can't get in the room) and he likes (to think he can share my) tea,

and he thinks he's a good baby sitter.

He's very tolerant and has only ever given a nip when it was really deserved. He's actually a bit of a 'fraidy cat and he got beat up by a hamster. But he asked me not to tell you about that. He's very lovey and often shows concern for those who are hurt or upset. Well, for me or very small people anyway, maybe not so much for the man. But whenever I or the baby is very upset he will come running to check on us and make sure we are ok. He's very compassionate like that.

Today Locutis felt that I was slacking off in my parental duties. I thought he was just butting in.

You see I had a headache this morning. I had gotten up with every intention of getting a bit of exercise and being fully productive today. I was going to go for a brisk walk in the morning sun and get some fresh air on this lovely fall day, I was going to clean up the kitchen a bit and maybe do some more preserving. (I am just learning how to can foods and I had veggies from one end of my kitchen floor to the other. The pile has slowly gotten smaller but there's still a bit to do and I really want my kitchen back.) I was even going to balance the checkbook (bleh) and take the kids to the library.

But then I got up. My morning consisted of me getting the children up to start on their chores (and their school work, but they managed to avoid that today) and going right back to bed. Locutis followed me to the room and took up his usual spot at the end of the bed. I never fell asleep, (how could I with 4 children arguing and "cleaning" and having run of the house?) so I could hear everything that was going on. Baby Boy has been 'a bit of a pill' recently some might say. (I say he was being a brat) He is the 1st child I've had that has had bonafide 'terrible twos'. And his fits usually have to do with food. That boy can eat.

Well, he was pitching a fit about something or other and the girls were trying to get him to chill out, and I was ignoring it because I knew it would blow over in a minute and he would find something else to occupy himself. But Locutis was certain that something was really wrong and not only came to get my attention, but stood on top of me and yowled in my face. As if to say, "hey, the baby is really upset, you'd better go check it out." I tried to assure him that Boy was just fussing but he continued to yell at me. I explained that I had no intention of getting up and dealing with it right now because I knew Boy was just having a fit and I had a headache and didn't feel like bothering with giving him any attention for said fit.

Locutis was rather annoyed with me, but as Boy has stopped screaming, he laid back down.

Then Boy started screaming again. (Apparently sister had something he wanted so he bit her. This is new to me as none of my girls were biters, but sister just scolded him and put him the corner for right now since I was currently unavailable for toddler training sessions.) He yelled a good one and a few seconds into it Locutis was in my face again frantically yowling and swatting at my face to get me up. Again I said 'No! He's just being a brat right now.' but Locutis would have none of it. He yowled and swatted at me and when I rolled over and refused to listen he left to check for himself. By this time Boy had stopped hollerin' and found something else to eat so there was really nothing to see. But when Loc came back he gave me a dirty look anyway. As if he just knows that I'm somehow being neglectful. Never mind that there are 3 other people and I was still awake and listening. Never mind that if there was a real problem they would have said and would be out there in a heartbeat (and my house is tiny so it really isn't far).

Never mind that you're just a cat.

I'm just the mom, so what do I know? Sheesh.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Back to School Book Week- Fiction

i used to read tons, devouring one book after another at times. sometimes taking a break in between. before i had kids. now i rarely find the time to read. when i hit the library i get a nice big stack of books that look so good and then i find that i don't have the time to finish them. usually when i do it's the middle of the night after the children and the man have gone to bed. i stay up horribly late, 2 or 3am some nights, partly because I'm enjoying the story and partly because i know i wont be able to pick it up again for a while.

and in the meantime my daughters, especially the oldest who is now 12, devour their books. reading one after another, (including most of the books that i picked up from the library that i haven't gotten to) thick books being finished in a day or two. some times i'm a little jealous.

i generally stay in the youth and young adults (although, unfortunately, sometimes even these are iffy. do 13yr olds really need to read about having sex?) book section only rarely venturing to the 'adult' section. i don't like smut books, i don't want to read horrible, graphic details about some tragic event or some crazed weirdo, and i don't want to expose myself to an excess of vile language because the characters (or author) couldn't come up with more intelligent words. (as mike wazowski says 'if you're going to insult me, do it properly' or something like that.) (if you're interested, you can find some really great insults on the Elizabethan insults page. classic stuff)

but as for all time favorites, we have a few. there's the old and modern classics like peter pan, ann of green gables, enders game, and ruby hollar.

for younger children i love the gossie book by olivier dunrea . the text is pretty simple but i just love the artwork. soft painted water colors and bright little sketches.

i also love the books by peter h. reynolds, especially 'the dot' and 'ish'.

again, the paintings are simple but beautiful (and i love how he uses tea for one of his mediums!) and the stories are essential for anyone who wants to teach art to children (or even adults). never say 'i cant make art' or 'i cant draw' because anyone can draw anything and it is all art.

(even if it's only art-ish) i also used these books to remind the children that art is in the eye of the beholder, so just because they wouldn't have done it that way, or they don't think it's a good job, doesn't give them the right to insult each other or their own work for that matter. 'ish' is good enough, just look at Picasso.

and lastly i have my small but expanding collection of 'alice in wonderland' books. there's the color book, the annotated book, the old book, the sticker book, and 2 awesome pop ups.

in fact i had to replace one of them because the kids played with too much and it didn't want to pop anymore.

my daughter would like me to also mention the book 'Mimus' by Lilli Thal, one of the few that i actually got to read before she took it from me. it is a tale of adventure and betrayal, of understanding peoples and understanding yourself, and of jesters.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Cook Book and the Zoo

Today we spent the day at the zoo. we got there at 10:30, the earliest i think i've ever been, and the parking lot was still packed. but at least i didn't have to park at the city park a block away.

today for 'Back to School Book Week' we are sharing our favorite cook books. of course i have the old standby, the red and white checked Better Homes and Gardens cook book. i have several healthy low fat cook books like Eat Up, Slim Down, with some great fast dinner recipes, and Sugar Solutions, that has a favorite scone recipe, both are from the Rodale publishers.

but by far my favorite cook book is this little number that i picked up at costco for 5 bucks.

HEALTHY INDIAN COOKING! by Shehzad Husain and Manisha Kanani and the dishes are delicious! they have reduced the amount of fat normally used in these recipes with water, broth, or most often fat free yogurt. which makes the dishes nice and creamy. mmmm. mmmm.

with all of the spices used in these dishes you definitely don't lose any of the flavor. i love how every recipe has full colored photos of not only the finished product but also the various steps.

each step is numbered boldly and shows the cook (her hands really) effortlessly preparing these amazing dishes. i prepare a meal from this book at least once a week, often more, and i've already gone through the book and marked different recipes for their prep time so i know what i can whip together when i'm short on time. and there are plenty. sooooo good!

i am still perfecting my low-fat gluten free naan recipe. it is quite tasty but being lower in fat, not as puffy as the naan in the restaurants. and it's pretty easy when you use the bread machine to make the dough. maybe i'll have to get around to sharing sometime.

in the meantime, here are some pictures of our latest trip to the zoo.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Back To School Book Week- Craft Books

i ran across this idea from the vintage chica while checking out some new blogs and decided i had to play along. my kids home school and this year we are making our own schedule, so while most of their friends have already gone back to school, mine have another week of lazy days. but it's close enough.

Monday is craft book(s) day and I'm not sure i can share just one. i suppose my collection is small compared to most out there, but still filled with some great stuff. i have jewelry books, stamping books, altered art books, sewing books and a sizable collection of various somerset magazines. but my new favorite is the book, Enchanted Adornments by Cynthia Thornton the creator of green girl studios.

i wasn't sure that i needed or wanted another jewelry book but when i sat down to look at it at borders one day i knew i needed it in my collection. in it she shares various techniques using metal clay, wire wrapping, resin, and all sorts of fancy bits. her explanation of each technique is thorough and easy to look at.

in the projects section she has a story for each piece, showing how they are unique to each character and offers alternative designs as well. and the entire book is saturated with sketches and paintings and wonderful tea-colored swirls to match the stories and the projects.

another favorite is Artist Trading Card Workshop by Bernie Berlin. i think i love it for some of the same reasons. she has very doable ideas with very easy to understand techniques and step by step pictures for each. and she has dozens and dozens of examples, which is always a plus with me.

the last new fav I'll share is Keeping A Nature Journal by Clare Walker Leslie and Charles E. Roth.

this is such a great book for beginners as it doesn't just say 'hey these journals are great and every great artist keeps one' and follow it by telling you how you have to set it up and what you have to draw. that would annoy me. no, the authors give a nice explanation of nature journaling and really keep everything on a low key level so that you feel as if anyone can do it.

they even share ideas of how to have a nature journal in any sort of weather or without even leaving your house. there are many many pages of simple sketches and paintings, exercises to try and some ideas on how to annotate. these ideas are presented in such an easy going manner that it really just makes you want to give it a try. i haven't even read half of the book through yet, i just love looking at all the sample pages and tips and ideas. there is also a section on teaching nature journaling, drawing techniques and journaling for children.

the kids and i will be making our own journals very soon and we are all excited about the possibilities. i just love the idea of taking some quiet time each week to really observe my environment and be a part of it. i think this will really help to improve drawing skills and the journals will make wonderful keepsakes as well.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

sorry i haven't written in so, i baked you a pie.

homemade punkin pie with a gluten-free crust

so i've been experimenting with flour blends. i've been baking wheat free/low gluten for a long time but not necessarily entirely gluten free. i'm trying to see if its practical or necessary for me to eliminate gluten all together. here is the flour mix i used for the crust. feel free to experiment yourself and tweak it as needed. : )

2 1/2 c oat flour (if you need completely gluten free be sure to get certified gluten free oats. oats are naturally gluten free but are often processed on the same machinery as wheat and can pick it up in the processing)
2 1/2 c brown rice flour
2 1/2 c sorghum flour
1 1/2 c buckwheat

1 c potato flour

1/2 c arrowroot starch

1 1/2 T xanthan gum

this makes about 10 1/2 c of flour mix so you'll have a bit for later.

pastry crust recipe:

1 1/4 c flour (high altitude add about 1/4c more)
1/4 t salt

2 t cinnamon
1/3 c butter or coconut oil

4-6 T cold water

stir together the flour and salt, cut in the fat (with a pastry blender, fork, or clean, dry hands) until the pieces are about the size of a pea. sprinkle 1 T of water over the mix and toss with a fork. repeat until moistened.

(I often find that with flours like oat or rice, they seem to like more moist as opposed to less so experiment with this to find what works for your flours and climate. you don't want to add so much water that the dough becomes sticky but you do want it to be able to form into a ball fairly easily. I think this time around i may have added too much butter as the dough was a bit crumbly-i tried to guess instead of measuring- while the crust was still fabulous it wouldn't hold together for me to transfer to the pie plate. i ended up piecing most of it together in the plate. was this from the butter or the flour blend? no matter. still tasty.)

this crust looks a little bit darker than you may be used to because of the buckwheat.

on a floured surface, roll the dough out from the center trying to make it circle-ish. place in pie plate either by wrapping it onto your pin or piecing it together : ) trim edges and flute.

punkin pie filling:

now i used homemade filling made from a pumpkin we had picked from our trip to the farm. making your own filling is slightly more time consuming but it sooo much more delicious than canned words can't describe it. it is totally worth it! to get your filling cut open your li'l punkins and scoop out the innards. (the seeds can be dried for planting next yr or baked with a spritz of olive oil and salt on a cookie sheet 'til golden for a healthy snack) bake your punkin halves or quarters at 350 until they are soft (probably close to an hour) cool a bit then scoop out all the smooshy goodness. this can be run through a processor to make it more pureed or used as is. i processed mine in an old fashioned hand processor then separated the batch into 1c baggies to freeze and use later.

2c (or 16oz) pumpkin
2/3 c turbinado or raw sugar

1 T cinnamon
1 t ginger

1 t nutmeg

1 t cardamom

1 whole egg
2 egg whites (save those yokes for your homemade lemon curd! I'll share that recipe soon :)
1 1/3 c coconut milk

combine pumpkin with sugar and spices, add eggs and milk and mix well. pour this mixture into your unbaked pie crust.

cover the edges of the crust with foil to prevent burning. bake at 375 for about 25 minutes.

remove the foil and add any little decorations (like the hearts or leaves made with extra crust) and cook for about 25 minutes more. the pie is done if a knife inserted in the middle comes out fairly clean.

makes 8-12 servings, store leftovers in the fridge.

we had this fabulous pie for dinner the other night. yes, dinner. punkin pie and a cuppa tea. i was very popular around here that night. : )

let me know how yours turns out. did your crust give you any problems? did you change the blend? i loved how the coconut milk made the punkin so extra creamy and delicious, what do you think?

even after using the extra crust to make little hearts for the top i still had a bit of dough left over. i just hate wasting good crust so i cut out a few more hearts, spritzed them with oil and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. cooked for about 10 minutes or so they made great little "cookies". (very low in sugar compared to normal cookies but the kids loved them just the same)