29 March 2014

happy birthday, mousie.

Also known as:
Little Love
Ellie Belly
Sweet Potato
You Little Stinker

Oh, Ellie. You've taught me a lot this year.

I have learned to be grateful for my body as it carried and nourished you.

Your unrelenting obsession with mamamamama has made me so happy.

With you bouncing on my hip, clinging to my hair and squealing at the squirrels in the yard, I've learned to turn my mind away from the anxieties of the future: I can see the joy He gives me each day. I have learned to trust God by simply doing what sits in front of me.

I have learned, in fact, that I can do much more than I thought; that I am weak and needy, and yet through God's grace, I am able.

I have worked harder and thought harder because of you. (I think I have also become a lot crunchier.) In all those things I have tried to take better care of us, because I see the future in your glowing eyes.

We love you, baby girl.

28 March 2014

Weekend linkage // 7QT #31

Linked up with Conversion Diary. 


"Are these even legal? I'm going to start PETP: People For the Ethical Treatment of People."
-Jared discovers play yards while browsing Amazon Baby


It was a week of Ellie milestones. Real clapping, drinking from a sippy cup by herself, riding a tricycle (early birthday present from the grands), first cupcake, and first steps!


Cities from a birds' eye view. Bern now tops our European Gallivanting itinerary. It looks like Rivendell, for crying out loud.


More beautiful photographs: Dancers Among Us. Professional dancers displaying their art in everyday situations, from a summer picnic to a city crosswalk.

Note: several of these are staged at the beach, in a fitting room, etc. and utilize the skimpy attire you'd expect for such situations. Exercise your discretion. Also, I would skip #9 and #39 altogether.

The rest of them are so extraordinary that I just decided to link to the site and include a disclaimer. So now you know. :)


"Seventeen Famous Literary Characters Almost Named Something Else." Sherringford Holmes? Can you imagine?


Communication and Negotiation Around the World. These charts are surprisingly funny. (Italians: "Verbose approach, miscomprehension, increase in verbosity." English: "Coded speech, stalling, deadlock, decision at next meeting.")


What We Et:
Barbecue chicken thighs + roasted carrots and potatoes + broccoli
Turkey and lentils over basmati rice + salad
Sausage rice casserole
Taco salad + corn
Turning Island fish + olive oil potato salad + asparagus and peppers

Recipes always available upon request.

24 March 2014

crispy almond crackers

Confession: I have a wickedly insatiable sweet tooth. Who has ever stopped with a single square of chocolate or one small scoop of ice cream? I sure haven't. When I want to eat dessert, it better be of mammoth proportions, and I'll probably go back for more.

If I don't want to stuff myself with sweets, I can't even start down that slope . . . and so I have been trying to come up with snacks without a load of added sugar. I am less likely to crave a cookie in the middle of the morning if I accustom myself to eating savory things instead.

These crackers, for example. They're nice topped with a slice of pear or some cream cheese, or maybe tuna and mustard. Make sure you roll them as thin as possible-- although thick crackers still taste good, they don't bake as well and can feel a bit "dusty."

Crispy Almond Crackers
(inspired by a recipe from Better With Butter)

2 cups almond meal (not almond flour)
1/2 cup stone-ground cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
big pinch of red pepper flakes
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons olive oil

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line large baking sheet with parchment paper.
2) Stir together dry ingredients in large mixing bowl. Add eggs and olive oil and stir to combine into a stiff, moist dough.
3) Place dough on parchment lined sheet. Using a small rolling pin or a straight-siding drinking glass, roll dough out as thinly as possible: aim for an eighth of an inch thick. Using a pizza cutter or long knife, cut dough into small squares, about 1 inch in diameter. Pull squares apart slightly.
4) Bake crackers for 15 minutes. Check to see how they're doing, and if they aren't crisp and ever so slightly browned at the edges, they need a little more time. Keep a close eye on them so that they don't burn! Let them cool on a rack once they're finished, and store in an airtight jar.

21 March 2014

Weekend linkage // 7QT #30

Linked up with Conversion Diary!


"You can stand there and see if you look fat. Or you can just ask me, and you are not."
-upon finding his wife critically inspecting her reflection

"It's really not that cold. No matter how much you squeak."
-as I burrowed under the covers making disapproving noises


Ellie is working on clapping, which comes close to topping the list of Cutest Stuff She Has Ever Done. At first she just vaguely put her hands together (missing half the time), then she started getting better aim, and then one day she could do it with enough force to make a tiny noise. She now does it every time I put my hands together, even if it's because I am rubbing cream into my palms or adjusting my rings.


A few funny things to start off the links: a man writes his own goofy obituary, a website devoted to unnecessary quotation marks, and Benedict photobombing U2.


"Quit Bubble Wrapping Our Kids," a great Cato talk from Lenore Skenazy. And to follow up, an NPR piece in the same vein. See, sometimes libertarians and liberals agree? On the problem anyway. Probably not on the solution.


This is a long, extremely intriguing article: "Reaching My Autistic Son Through Disney." I love how we're starting to understand what autism is, how it shapes the autistic person's mind, instead of just throwing up our hands and putting him in an institution.


I have been working a lot on closing the gap in my abdominal muscles (diastasis recti) that I got from pregnancy. If you too have been pregnant recently and now have an adorable sack of potatoes to lug around, here are some good suggestions for how to carry children without ruining your posture.


What We Et:
Shrimp alfredo (with shrimp) + caesar salad + Turkey Hill salted caramel ice cream
Shepherd's pie from the freezer + fruit salad
Baked chicken with Spicy Rub + spaghetti squash with ricotta and fontina + steamed green beans
Fish a la greque (using flounder) + quinoa
Fried rice with chicken and veggies

Recipes always available upon request. :)

19 March 2014

no frigate like a book #3

Linked up with Five Favorites.

In which I tell you about some of the books I've been glad to read in the past months.


A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy O'Toole. This book is consistently hilarious, sometimes crude, and delightfully original. A New Orleans mama's boy loses himself in medieval philosophy and decides to adhere as closely as possible to its ideals of "theology and geometry": he rails against modernity in the middle of the movie theatre, solemnly loans his copy of Boethius to a hapless policeman, and carries on a furious correspondence with a lascivious beatnik determined to bring him into the twentieth century. (She fails.)

I laughed a lot. Ignatius Reilly is ridiculous, but I still admired his refusal to approve of the banal and immoral modern life, even when it made him stick out like a sore and very tactless thumb, and his determination to see everything through a different worldview, even when it made no sense to the people around him.
"You must begin a reading program immediately so that you may understand the crises of our age," Ignatius said solemnly. "Begin with the late Romans, including Boethius, of course. Then you should dip rather extensively into early Medieval. You may skip the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. That is mostly dangerous propaganda. Now that I think of it, you had better skip the Romantics and the Victorians, too."

The Ditchdigger's Daughters by Yvonne S. Thornton. This was for book club, and I enjoyed it very much. (Alas, I missed the discussion due to an inconveniently timed cold.) Thornton's father was an uneducated laborer determined to see all five of his daughters earn medical degrees. Only one became a doctor-- Yvonne herself is a well-respected perinatologist and obstretrician-- but two others work in dental medicine, another has a doctorate in psychology, and another enjoys a comfortable life as a court stenographer. THeir father's work ethic and instinctive wisdom won me over almost immediately. They had quite a few adventures growing up, playing in a band together, earning the money and respectability their parents never had.

Thornton discusses the obstacles they faced as black women, but never in a self-pitying way. Those prejudices just never set the girls back; their daddy wouldn't let them. I was truly inspired by how they have doggedly overcome so many roadblocks. I think that their story shows the power of ability combined with confidence.


All Over But the Shoutin' by Rick Bragg. The recollections of this Pulitzer-prize winning journalist on a hard-fought "white trash" childhood and the people who made him who he is today. Bragg's an incredible writer, but what really made this one stand out, to me, was how unapologetically Bragg chronicled his own flaws. He didn't try to make himself the hero, as most memoir writers do.  This was just the story of his family, and when he stood in a good light, he wrote that. When he stood in a bad light, he wrote that. And when he didn't figure much in the story at all, he stepped back from the stage and let others-- his remarkable momma, his unbreakable brother Sam-- take first place.
The one I wanted to be just like for the longest time was the one who beat me up every other Thursday, who chased me around and around the house with a slingshot loaded with chinaberries, who lied and told me that a sunk-in septic tank outside the house was really an unmarked grave, who rigged up a trapeze in the barn and let me go first, to test the ropes, and who hid with me under that bed in that big, hateful house, and, as tears rolled down my face, put his arm around my shoulder.

No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy. I have already expressed my love for Cormac McCarthy, so I will spare you the paean and just say that while dark (as he usually is), this book's darkness feels true. It's not the woe-is-us absurdity of postmodernism. It comes from a place of conviction, of stubborn morality. This was the first time I realized how conservative McCarthy must be. I think he is extraordinarily sober in his analysis of mankind's potential for evil, uncompromising in how he values truth and courage, and determined in his desire for liberty.
People anymore you talk about right and wrong they're liable to smile at you. But I never had a lot of doubts about things like that . . . I hope I never do.

Memoir from Antproof Case by Mark Helprin. Did I already express my love for Helprin too? Oh yes, I did. After reading four or five of his books in relatively close succession, I would say that he has two main themes: the losing but noble fight to preserve Judeo-Christian values in the West, and the supremacy of love. Much more artistically expressed of course, but that's pretty much what it all boils down to.

Memoir is presented as a collection of one man's memories, written for someone precious to read after he dies. This man is never named, which is quite amazing when you think about it. Anyway, I think you would call his life "cinematic":  Helprin excels in creating unique characters and this guy doesn't disappoint. He has been a bank robber, a mental patient, a crusader against coffee. He grew up in poverty, witnessed murder, fought in World War II, and has lived on at least four continents. Just . . . read it.
Everything starts so far back that to explain it you must begin with the beginning of the world.
Now what? I've been tackling Gods and Generals, and I already have a forever-long list of books to read, but do you have suggestions for me? Books that you just couldn't put down, or that rang in your mind long after finishing?

14 March 2014

Weekend linkage // 7QT #29

Shared on Conversion Diary.


We had some sunshine this week; it was welcome, to say the least. I opened the front door to let more light into the living room, and Ellie of course had to explore this new phenomenon. A window at eye level? Delightful!


In case your ego has been getting too big and is in need of deflation, take a look at this four year old piano whiz. (Yes, he's Asian.) The best part is how delighted he is about the whole thing.


"The Case of the Accidental Superstar." Benedict Cumberbatch and his sudden step into the limelight.
In the street we had to move quickly, because crowds form if Cumberbatch stands still for too long. In the hotel, we positioned ourselves behind a pillar, but people spotted him anyway (when they asked for autographs, they invariably asked on behalf of their teenage children).

Middle class problems? This gave me a chuckle. I'm not much into the "ironic" First World Problems meme, as it's more of an attempt to alleviate our vague sense of Western guilt-- I have more stuff than you, and therefore I should probably make fun of myself, so you can see how self-aware and progressive I am-- than it is a serious tool for discussion. But the drama-queen images paired with these complaints are perfect.


A different kind of Barbie. I'm not much into the "Barbie gives girls anorexia" argument either. I simply like these dolls because they're prettier! When I was younger I would rather have played with Lammily dolls than Barbies, who are just freaky, not to mention absurdly sexualized.


If you missed it earlier this week, I wrote a guest post at The Mirror Magazine.


What We Et:
Pasta carbonara with sausage, spinach, mushrooms, and peas
Dutch babies (made with King Arthur gluten-free AP flour) +  blueberry yogurt + fresh blackberries
Coconut chicken curry + basmati rice + steamed broccoli + chocolate chip cookies (I despise cookie-making, but it was Jared's birthday and the delighted look on his face when he got home from work more than redeemed the trouble)
Salmon cakes + roasted potatoes + veggies and dip
Skillet stew with ground turkey, navy beans, onions, green beans, potatoes, and pesto

12 March 2014

and with them one made life itself [at The Mirror]

I wrote a guest post for The Mirror Magazine this week.
Homemaking involves far, far more than keeping the physical house. It is, at heart, creating a world. You the homemaker help to shape the kind of life lived there. Even in the way you call your children to dinner or the way you fold towels, you are determining the kind of life your family knows as good and right . . .
Through all this, in my small way, I participate in the task God has given to all humans, to "take dominion over Creation" and bring it into a useful pattern.
Go here for the rest.

11 March 2014

do you know what day it is?

Happy birthday to my man . . . to my generous, mischievous, dedicated, persnickety, long-suffering, infuriatingly rational, mind-bogglingly handsome beloved.

He is the best person I know and I'm so glad he's mine.

10 March 2014

spatchcocked roast chicken

Shared on Simple Lives Thursday.

Yeah, I've written about chicken roasting before, and that old technique still turns out a lovely bird. But listen, if you found an easier/faster/all-around-tastier way, wouldn't you switch? I did. With this method you don't need to flip the chicken, and because of the removal of the backbone, the finished bird is easier to carve into pieces for serving. Huzzah.

If you own a hefty pair of kitchen shears-- and if you don't, for the love, make haste to put these Wusthof beauties in your Amazon cart-- a beautiful spatchcocked chicken can be on your table tonight.


Spatchcocked Roast Chicken

4-5 lb whole chicken
1/4 cup olive oil or melted butter
plenty of sea salt and black pepper

1) Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil a large sturdy baking sheet and set aside.
2) Get your chicken out of the fridge, remove any wrapping, and drain any juices. If the chicken's cavity contains the neck and giblets, set them aside to make stock later. Pat chicken dry with paper towels.
3) On a large cutting board, place the chicken backbone up. Using your shears, cut down either side of the backbone; with a good pair of shears you should be able to cut right through the ribs without much trouble. Remove the backbone (see picture A) and set aside with the giblets.
4) Flip your chicken over so that it's breast side up. Wiggle the legs around so that the chicken is lying quite flat and place it on the prepared baking sheet (see picture B).
5) Using your fingers, loosen the skin a bit so that the olive oil and seasonings will get to the meat. Pour olive oil evenly over chicken and season liberally with salt and pepper. At this point you can add any additional seasonings you desire; in these photos I kept it plain because I wanted to use the meat for other dishes.
6) Place the entire chicken in the preheated oven and roast for 30 minutes, at which point it will be nicely browned on top. Cover with foil and roast for 30 more minutes.
7) Now the most important step: turn off the oven but leave the chicken in there, still covered with foil. Let rest for 30 minutes before removing from the oven and serving (see picture C).

I discovered by accident that this extended resting period really takes chicken to the next level by making it incredibly tender-- one night Jared came back late from work and I just left dinner in the oven until he arrived, but lo and behold, it was actually much better than it would have been otherwise! Now I would never skip the long resting step.

This is the basic way, and it's marvelously tasty. You can dress it up as much as you want by rubbing other goodies beneath the skin of the chicken prior to roasting. Try fresh or dried herbs such as dill, parsley, or tarragon; a light pinch of red pepper flakes; several splashes of white wine; more adventurous spices like cumin and cinnamon; a squirt of Dijon; several spoonfuls of pesto . . . so on and so forth, world without end. I have found several great seasoning recipes for roast chicken in Debra Worth's e-book Much Ado About Chicken.

07 March 2014

Weekend linkage // 7QT #28

Linked up with Conversion Diary.


Me: I was just reading something about how Russia's economy is not very forward-thinking. They have a lot of raw resources, but not really a free market for innovation.
Jared: Well, they have Edward Snowden now. Maybe he can start a tech company.


Two pretty cool stories to start out your weekend: a city garden program for teenagers in the Bronx, and "The Soul of the World's Most Expensive Violin."


Best actor? Merits of the host? Nah. The only thing I care about at the Oscars are the pretty dresses. If you too love silk and sequins, here's an infographic up your alley.


I know little to nothing about the Duggars, but I did enjoy this article: 19 Reasons Michelle Duggar Still Loves Her Body. It echoed a lot of the things I've learned over the past year, since having Ellie.
"A child is a gift, and we don’t reject the fact that my body changes. We embrace that gift and we embrace the fact that there will be some changes, there will be some stretch marks."

This would be a long read, but very interesting: a NYT series called "The Task" (I heard about in on Fresh Air). A daughter and her brother sort through their parents' things, essentially sorting through their own history.


Now for the funnies. First up, The List of Things We Do Not Say: journalistic cliches "banned" by reporters at the Washington Post. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.

Wait Wait Goes to IKEA. "I'm just telling you the name of the candleholders. They're Bjorkful."

Vanilla Ice Became An Amish Farmer When No One Was Paying Attention. No further comment.


What We Et:
Roast chicken + roasted potatoes + steamed broccoli
Creamy chicken soup + fruit salad
Smitten Kitchen's chicken marsala  + brown rice couscous + green salad
Italian sausage soup
Mexican rice and chicken skillet + avocadoes
Bacon spinach quiche with potato crust + sauteed peppers and onions
Unstuffed cabbage (based on this recipe) + Alexia rolls

03 March 2014

Johnny appleseed oatmeal

Linked up with Simple Lives Thursday.

There are three main problems with packaged instant oatmeal: even "natural" brands like Glutenfreeda contain waaaay too much sugar, even on sale they are waaaay too expensive, and the packets are waaaay too small.

Consider those problems solved.


Johnny Appleseed Instant Oatmeal
(based on a recipe from Sweet Kisses and Dirty Dishes)

5 cups quick or instant oats
3/4 cup dried apples, diced very small*
1/2 cup ground flaxseed
3 tablespoons whole chia seeds
1/3 cup raw sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger

Stir all ingredients together well, and store in airtight container. (Actually, I keep mine in a large apothecary jar, which is not technically airtight but is quite pretty.) To prepare, put as much as you want into a bowl and add vigorously boiling water a little at a time, stirring well until it's the consistency that you desire. We don't have a microwave, though; you could also add cold water to the bowl and nuke it.
 You might portion this out into Ziplocs if you want to be able to take it with you at the drop of a hat. Or on hurried weekday mornings Jared will often put some into a microwave-safe container and take it to work that way.

This is really not sweet at all, so you may want to add extra honey or sugar to your bowl. :)

*I cut them up with clean kitchen shears since they're so leathery. Or experiment with different dried fruit altogether, like bananas or blueberries or figs! Just try to use fruit without added sugar.