Summer, Diary 4, 2016

Tawny Scrawny Carrot Stew.

Doesn’t that sound divine?

My kids love the book The Tawny Scrawny Lion by Kathryn Jackson. Incidentally, I do too… the copy we have is mine from when I was a little girl. We read it at least twice a week at bedtime, and lately James has been talking about having bowls of carrot stew and heaping his bowl with berries, and soon enough Roman and Rose started relishing the idea too.

So last week I made Tawny Scrawny Carrot Stew.

I looked up several recipes for cream of carrot soup, and then modified slightly to match the stew the rabbits make Tawny Scrawny in the book. The description was a carrot stew, with fish and herbs and mushrooms.

Oh my gosh… it was so good! I wasn’t sure at first, as it’s not a combination one often sees, but it was delicious and easy and I would make it again in a heartbeat.

My kids ate it for supper, grinning from ear to ear, and then we heaped our bowls afterward with fresh raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries. A perfect finish to this dish.

I LOVE to cook from a good book. Redwall, Narnia, Lord of the Rings, Little House, Boxcar Children, The Tawny Scrawny Lion, Miss Suzy… gosh, there’s so many wonderful books out there that just make me want to eat! 🙂

(Not the best picture. Sorry. I took it with my phone, after my growing hoard had all but consumed the pot.)

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Tawny Scrawny Carrot Stew

Ingredients
• 6 cups Carrots, chopped
• 6 cups Liquid (all water, or a mix of water and vegetable broth)

• 15 oz White Fish (I used Cod)

• 2 T Butter
• 2 cans Mushrooms (4 oz each), drained

• 1/2 tsp Thyme, dry
• 2 tsp Garlic, chopped • 2 T Butter
• s/p to taste

Directions
Put the carrots and liquid in a pot and boil, uncovered, till carrots are soft (about 15-20 minutes). Scoop out into a bowl, leaving liquid in the pot. Add the white fish to the pot, another 2 cups of water, and simmer till cooked (about 10 minutes), till opaque and flaking. Pull fish out, and add the carrots back in. Add the thyme and garlic. Use an immersion blender, or a regular blender, and puree the carrots and liquid.

In a small pan, sauté the mushrooms in the 2 T of butter.

To the creamy carrot soup, add the fish, the mushrooms (and mushroom/butter drippings), and another 2 T of butter. Mix to break the fish up. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

Enjoy.

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Gestational Diabetes

Yep. I’ve got it. I went in for the obligatory glucose test, and darn it if I failed! Obviously my insulin did not study for this particular test.

I felt ill all day. It’s no joke to ask a pregnant woman to fast from midnight the night before until after the 4 hour test is done. I didn’t get to have anything at all to eat until 3 pm. That, my friends, is hard. I would have been able to stand it better if they hadn’t forced 8 ounces of orange-flavored sugar syrup into me three hours earlier, at noon. That much sugar would make me unwell on a good day, but on a stomach that had been empty for 14 hours? Then they drew my blood every hour for three hours to track how my body processed that much sugar. This is all done to see if you’ve got Gestational Diabetes or not. And when they’re done testing you, what do they offer this potentially diabetic lady? A third of a cup of juice. And 2 cinnamon sugar graham crackers. In other words, sugar and carbs.

Now I am being somewhat sarcastic. I knew it would be like this; I’ve been through it before, and knew what to expect. Which threw them, for some reason. But I just wanted to share some of my frustrations with being Gestationally Diabetic— not because I’ll have to eat carefully, sugar-free, low carb, and have to prick my finger before and after every single meal— but because I’ll have to deal with a couple ‘experts’ in the diabetics department who, honestly, I’d really rather not.

What is Gestational Diabetes? It’s pregnancy caused diabetes. There is nothing you can do to prevent it; if there were, I wouldn’t have it. The reason is because it’s the placenta that’s causing all of the trouble. Placentas become ‘plugged in’ to your body’s nutritional system, and are therefore perfectly poised to mess with your body’s insulin levels. A healthy placenta will leave well enough alone. A placenta that formed ‘wrong’ in some way, won’t. It will mess with your body’s insulin and therefore your ability to process sugar and carbs and voila! You are now diabetic.

The good news is that it ends literally the moment you give birth. The placenta is discarded with a ‘good riddance’ by the body and the baby, and that’s the end of that.

The other good news is that you can, ABSOLUTELY, control it with a sensible diet. I had Gestational Diabetes when I was pregnant with my daughter. I researched till I was blue about Gestational Diabetes, and got smart about my activity and eating. I used My Fitness Pal, an online food diary that you can completely customize to give you exactly the nutritional info you need, and I set it to show me: carbs, vit. C, iron, calcium, and protein (but there are many, many things you can track beyond that). I found that 20-30 carbs a meal (3 meals a day) and 10-15 carbs a snack (morning, afternoon, pre-bed) was perfect. My blood sugar numbers were glorious at those levels! My baby girl wasn’t affected at all, I never suffered low or ultra high sugar spikes, and everything was dandy.

The fly in the ointment, so to speak, was the gestational diabetes counselor and the g. d. nutritionist. After one meeting with the nutritionist I refused to see her anymore. The reason? Here’s one of many: she told me to eat a full cup of ice cream for my evening snack because the ‘protein content was worth it’. And what about the sugar content? You know, the sugar that could make me spike, said spike could mess with my growing baby, and I might need insulin shots to control it? She just shrugged and said ‘Then you’ll need insulin. No big deal.’

The g. d. counselor was very upset with me for several sessions because I wasn’t eating enough carbs. She wanted me to eat 40-60 carbs per meal, and if that caused problems for my blood sugar I could just take insulin. Needless to say I didn’t do that. I continued eating the amount I’d found worked, and I and the baby continued to be healthy. She scolded me. I was nutritionally depriving my baby and being irresponsible. I finally went onto www.myfitnesspal.com and printed off the last 3 weeks of my food diary and took it in to her. She was quite suspicious (insultingly so) and dubiously took the papers from me. Her expression changed as she glanced through, and soon she was mumbling something about ‘one of the best diets she’s seen’ and ‘tons of good nutrition here’ and ‘maybe I was all right.’

For example: for breakfast that morning I had made myself a 2 egg omelette with a slice of cheese, a ton of sautéd greens and cabbage, and a cup of decaf coffee with a splash of whole milk. Low carb, delicious, and so so satisfying! It’s still one of my favorite breakfasts.

Now, two years later, I have a perfectly healthy and rambunctious 18 month old daughter, and I am pregnant with a healthy baby boy. And darn it all, if I don’t have to start dealing with those two medical diabetes ‘experts’ again!

So please, mothers, if you find yourself gestationally diabetic: educate yourself. You may luck out and end up working with a fantastic g.d. counselor and nutritionist (my sister-in-law did). But if you end up with people like I did… take what they say with a huge grain of salt and educate yourself and do what’s best. Please.

No one knows you and your baby like you do anyway.

 


 

Check out my pinterest board for low carb meal ideas: http://www.pinterest.com/phoenixvoice/the-low-carb-plan/

 

Holiday Delights

We celebrated Christmas with Sackett Man’s family. In total we had thirteen people in our home over the weekend before Christmas (fourteen if one counts my soon-to-come baby boy), and I couldn’t have had a nicer time.

I LOVE playing the hostess. I love getting the house ready. I love putting the air fresheners in various rooms (apple cinnamon is the best scent). I love making up the beds with fresh, crisp sheets and warm blankets, setting out clean soft towels in the bathrooms, putting up the finishing touches of Christmas decoration so that the atmosphere is warm and full of the holidays. Most of all, I love to cook. Molasses cookies. Fudge. Artisan bread. Bowls of dried fruit and almonds and cashews for snacking. Scrumptious beef roast with gravy, mushrooms, and onions, roasted in garlic and rosemary and red wine. Mashed potatoes made creamy with milk, sour cream, and butter. Green beans cooked to bright green al dente and tossed with chopped, crispy bacon.

My mother-in-law brought her own delicacies. She made a ton of Christmas cookies, and brought her delicious caramel rolls. My sister-in-laws brought cranberry fluff, homemade punch, english toffee pudding, vegetable trays, ham-and-pickle roll-ups, pecan pie, pickled herring, cheese and crackers, lefse… I’m sure I’m forgetting something… Needless to say, we did not go hungry!

A huge thanks to my wonderful In-Law Family, for coming to visit us and celebrating Christmas in such a special way. 🙂

One thing I tried making this year that I’ve never, ever attempted before, was good old fashioned candy (yes, that you need a thermometer for as you carefully cook the sugar). I made Turkish Delight.

I wasn’t sure about it. I and my family love the Narnia series; our young boys really enjoy the original BBC Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe movie. There’s been curious interest regarding the sweet that was Edmund’s favorite for a while now, so I finally researched and found a recipe and tried my hand at it. Turkish Delight can be made in many, many flavors (lemon, orange, pistachio, chocolate, etc) but the most common is Rose. Yes, Rose flavored candy. I assume this is the flavor Edmund enjoyed, because in every single movie the candy is a soft pink color. To that end I ordered my rose water (Rose Flower Water by Cortas), and— because some reviews said it was a very strong brand— I sampled a teaspoon of it in a glass of water (the recommended amount is 1-2 Tablespoons in a glass of water), and I couldn’t drink it. It was so strong! The scent was like putting my nose smack dab into the middle of the strongest bouquet of roses ever. And then drinking that bouquet. So that made me concerned that the flavor of the Turkish Delight was going to be too much.

I forged ahead anyway.

I used the recipe from this lady’s blog: http://titlisbusykitchen.com/recipe/turkish-delight. Not only does she have the recipe written out, but she has a step-by-step video to go with it. It made the whole experience so much better; there’s nothing that takes the fear out of an new recipe than watching someone with a sense of humor show you how it’s done!

The ingredients are:

  • 4 cups sugar
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp rosewater
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • Few drops of food coloring
For the dusting
  • 1 cup powdered sugar (confectioner’s sugar)
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • Extra powdered sugar (on hand if needed)

The only modification I made to the recipe, at all, was I halved the amount of rose water. I put in 1½ tsp instead of 1 tbsp. For our American tastebuds, unused to the taste of roses, it made all the difference! It flavored the Turkish Delight delicately, without overpowering it.

My husband and I, used to the scent of roses as being connected to bouquets, soaps, or face wash, like the flavor but are still getting used to attaching it to a food. Our kids, on the other hand, have no such preconceived ideas, and love it!

January Note: One thing to keep in mind: this is an old fashioned candy, made the old fashioned way. There are no preservatives or additives to keep it in perfect form for weeks (*cough cough* months YEARS *cough cough*) on end, so it will sweat and the powdered sugar it rests in will turn into a glaze around it. For the best results, eat the candy within the first five days. If the sweating really bothers you, switch out the powdered sugar/cornstarch every 2-3 days.

Another side note: the recipe says it will keep for a week. That doesn’t mean you have to throw it out on the eve of day seven. It just means that the texture will become softer and less candy-chewy, and it will sweat more and more. I’m nearing the end of week two, beginning week three, and I’ve taken to using a fork to separate the pieces (the best I can) and eating it that way.

My prep for candy making.

My prep for candy making.

Mixing, mixing, mixing as the sugar SLOWLY rises in temperature.

Mixing, mixing, mixing as the sugar SLOWLY rises in temperature.

You can't see it here (sorry), but it has reached temp: 240˚F.  * note: turn off the heat immediately when it reaches temp!!!

You can’t see it here (sorry), but it has reached temp: 240˚F.
* note: turn off the heat immediately when it reaches temp!!!

This is the water/cornstarch mixture. Once this has cooked you add the sugar syrup and cook low and slow to a glowing gold color. KEEP THE HEAT ON LOW! AND MIX CONSTANTLY!

This is the water/cornstarch mixture. Once this has cooked you add the sugar syrup and cook low and slow to a glowing gold color. KEEP THE HEAT ON LOW! AND MIX CONSTANTLY!

After adding the three drops of red food coloring and the Rose Water, I poured (scooped) the mixture into the wax lined/oiled pan. I used this handy icing spatula to spread it out even.

After adding the three drops of red food coloring and the Rose Water, I poured (scooped) the mixture into the wax lined/oiled pan. I used this handy icing spatula to spread it out even.

This is what you will need to finish the Turkish Delight: a cutting board sprinkled generously with powdered sugar. you turn the Delight out onto the board and cut it. 1"x1" is the perfect size.

This is what you will need to finish the Turkish Delight: a cutting board sprinkled generously with powdered sugar. you turn the Delight out onto the board and cut it. 1″x1″ is the perfect size.

So sorry I don’t have a picture of the finished product, all cut and dusted. Just imagine your favorite picture of Turkish Delight from the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe… it really is just that pretty!

Autumn Green

It snowed last night. The snow melted immediately once the morning light touched it, but its brief presence made one things very clear—

The garden must be picked.

Unfortunately I am in no state to do it. I am confined to my husband’s recliner with my laptop, taking vicodin every four hours, because yesterday I was in the hospital having a cerclage. So my husband geared up with grocery bags, scissors, laundry baskets, and gloves. Our oldest bundled up in his winter coat, hat, gloves and boots. The two of them are outside picking EVERYTHING. Bless them!

Most of what’s coming in I can take care of later. One thing, however, cannot wait, unless I want a limp, green, slimy mess.

Ew.

What is this potential mess? My cilantro. I love cilantro! Its fresh lemony scent wafts through my nose and washes my thoughts clear of any stress and trouble. Its bright flavor bursts in my mouth and proves to every taste bud that God loves each and every one of them and wants them to be happy!

But cilantro attacked by the unforgiving, freezing forces of nature? A malicious cruelty done to a completely innocent herb, if you ask me. So Sackett Man is outside with scissors and cutting and bagging it all for me. I figure that I can take five minutes today to stand in my kitchen and preserve it. Despite my achy back and other, general achiness, it will be SO worth it!

Mom and I have tried different ways of preserving cilantro over the years. We’ve tried drying it, which preserves it nicely, but you loose the fresh, bright burst of flavor that I love so much. We tried freezing it whole last year, in ziploc bags, but it was difficult to pull out just what you needed and when it thawed it was just not the same. And then one day a couple of weeks ago I was on the phone with Mom, and she was telling me about all the things she was doing with her garden produce. That day she happened to be making pesto, and I thought… “Pesto. Pesto! PESTO!” And why not? Why NOT make a pesto out of cilantro? As far as I know there’s no law that says pesto can only be made out of basil, but even if there is I’m willing to risk jail for this wonderful and amazing concoction. Because it’s delicious.

The next day I picked a bunch of cilantro to try it out. My heart pounded as I put it in the blender; my hands shook as I added the oil. My whole body quivered as I pushed the button and watched as it spun and blended into a brilliant emerald green elixir. I carefully, meticulously measured in the salt and the lemon juice, and blended it once more, gently and lovingly.

And then… I tasted it.

Oh heaven! I had found it… the perfect way to preserve cilantro so that its fresh wonderfulness could be enjoyed even in the depths of winter. I made Indian chicken and rice that night, and tried a spoonful of the Cilantro Pesto on top. It was fantastic, and Sackett Man gladly put it on top of his second and third helpings.

The process is really and truly very simple.

You’ll need 10 cups of cilantro total, but be aware that you’ll have to add it in a bit at a time.

Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 8.48.53 PM
Firstly, I put 5 cups of cilantro into my blender.

Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 8.50.30 PM
I added 1 cup of olive oil, to give the blender enough moisture to blend.

Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 8.49.13 PM
I pulsed the blender, using the handle of a wooden spoon to push the cilantro down in between pulses.

Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 8.50.41 PM
I added the last 5 cups of fresh cilantro and pulsed all over again. Then I added approximately 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, and some salt. A quarter to half a teaspoon, depending on how salty you like it.

Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 8.50.55 PM            Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 8.51.09 PM

Look at that! Isn’t it the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?

Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 8.51.43 PM
I put it into two quart-size ziploc bags, and spread them flat to put in the freezer. Flattening them works well for usage, too, because you can just open the bag and break a piece of the frozen ‘slab’ off whenever you want to use some.

This is what I shall do with the cilantro my husband is bringing in today.

I can’t wait!

 


 

~ Cilantro Pesto ~ Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 8.51.35 PM

• 10 C. Fresh Cilantro
• 1 C. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
• 1 ½ – 2 T Lemon Juice
• ¼ – ½ tsp Salt

Put 5 cups of cilantro and the olive oil into the blender. Blend in pulses, scraping down the sides in between. When it’s blended, add the rest of the cilantro and blend again in pulses. Add the lemon juice and salt to taste and blend just enough to mix.

Pour into two quart ziploc bags, flatten, and freeze.

Enjoy!


Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!

How does time get away from us? Imagine my surprise (and guilt) when I connected here to discover that the last time I had posted was February 12th, and here it is March 26th.

Shame on me.

A lot has been keeping me busy. We had the Memorial for Sackett Man’s grandmother. Another grandparent had to go to the hospital, as did another, and two of them moved into a nursing home. I’m doing preschool at home with Roman, James outgrew his clothes and I had to go burrowing into boxes in the basement to find any that did fit, and Rose is crawling, walking along furniture, and getting into everything. I’ve written 13 chapters in a ff story, and have been arranging babysitting services for our kids during a business trip Sackett Man and I are taking in April.

But I’m still ashamed. So forgive me.

On the other hand, I’ve had lots of wonderful recipes I’ve been making, and let’s just say that life with children 5 and under is a huge adventure. And we’ve gotten more snow. Again. And again.

I’ve consoled myself by baking desserts for the family and pretending that Christmas is coming twice this year.

Spring is here at last! Can't you tell?

Spring is here at last! Can’t you tell?

Mom and I are also going through the seeds we’ve got waiting in a bag in the fridge, and planning our two big gardens. We’re going to create some mounds in the snow for the squash, watermelon, and potatoes, and we’re going to plow some nice long rows and plant the seeds in the snow. Then the summer thaw come and we’ll sigh as we watch our frozen seeds get washed away in the snow melt. By midsummer we won’t dare mow because there will be little tiny plants sprouting up everywhere in our yard EXCEPT in the nicely plowed garden, and Mom and I will be wandering around with our heads to the ground trying to identify what’s growing and if it’s edible, and hoping that the whats-its and whatchamacallits ‘bear fruit’ before the Autumn snows.

Okay, not really. By May (I hope) there will be bare ground to plant in, and God willing we’ll have a fantastic harvest of squash, melon, potatoes, kale, swiss chard, tomatoes, onions, peppers, green beans, beets, and herbs. Among other things. But right now I feel like Mrs. Beaver stuck forever in a never-ending winter.

On the Plus Side, the cliffs and mountains of snow lining our driveway are glorious in size, and during the few days it’s warm enough our two boys and Sackett Man enjoy going out and digging tunnels through the packed giants. By the time Spring is actually here, we’ll have the BEST ‘underground’ tunnel system.

I, in the meantime, have been indulging in cooking and baking. I made a cake, for no reason at all, and took Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 11.00.31 AMan entire afternoon on it. Yep. I baked, I cooled, I stacked, I frosted, I decorated. It was pretty, and it was delicious. Raspberry Silver cake with a lemon butter frosting. Mmmm… I love making cakes. I never have the time I would like to do all of the ones I want to do, but then again I guess that’s a good thing… Sackett Man and I have no desire to match our sons’ growth spurts; two inches every two weeks would put us in dire straits!

The ‘flowers’ are supposed to be purple. I’m not sure what happened in the photographic translation… I also decided I need more practice at making flowers. Professional I am not. But the family sure enjoyed it. It was gone in two days.

I also made molasses cookies. These are some of my favorite cookies, but then I’m a big fan of molasses. Rich, dark, deep tones tantalizing the tastebuds… Try a tablespoon in a cup of milk. Yum!

Anyway, I creamed the butter and the sugar and the egg. Then I added the molasses and creamed some more. (Thank you Mom and Great Grandma for teaching me how to cream with a wooden spoon!)

Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 11.04.48 AMAnd this is how I do dry ingredients. I like to sift it all through my mesh sieve. It takes the lumps out of everything (like the baking soda) so that it is all fine and fluffy and partially mixes everything for you. Then you can finish mixing by hand.

Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 11.05.00 AMAfter combining the dry and wet, I ended up with a VERY thick batter. Time to taste test. Yes? No? Not sure? Taste it again. And again. I think three times is the required number.

Mmm!

Roll by the Tablespoons in sugar and line them on your Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 11.05.09 AMpan. Little brown, sparkly balls of goodness just waiting to be eaten! Just make sure you bake them first. That’s a very important step.

Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 11.05.29 AMEight minutes later you will have beautiful brown, sparkly balls of slightly crispy, beautifully soft goodness just waiting to be eaten! And it’s okay, because now they’ve been baked. There’s nothing to stop you now. There was certainly nothing to stop me.

Many of them did make it into my apple cookie jar, I am proud to announce. My self control kicked in soon enough!

This is a family recipe. It’s been made many, many, many times.

~ Molasses Cookies ~ Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 11.05.38 AM

  • ³/8 C. Shortening
  • ³/8 C. Butter
  • 1 C. packed Brown Sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • ¼ C. Molasses
  • 2 ¾ C. Flour
  • 2 tsp Baking Soda
  • ¼ tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • ½ tsp Ground Ginger

Cream the Shortening, Butter, Sugar, and Egg. Add the Molasses.
Stir in the dry ingredients.
Scoop by the Tablespoon and form into balls and roll in white sugar. Place on a cookie sheet 2 inches apart.
Bake at 350º F for 8=10 minutes.

Enjoy!

Mushrooms ala Cocoa

Is it wrong to think that the mixed scent of warm chocolate and cooking mushrooms is fantastic?

This is the conundrum I found myself in one night last week. It had been a very long day of housework and taking down, packing, and storing all of the Christmas decorations. I had the remains of the Beef Roast and its gravy (which I had frozen to be used later, on a day like this day), sour cream, and some fantastic portobello mushrooms, so I decided to make a Throw-Together Beef Stroganoff for supper. I got some noodles boiling, and started sautéing the mushrooms in my cast iron pot, and immediately the kitchen began to smell delicious. As I stood there, my aching feet decided to make their presence known, as well as other various body parts that had been used and abused carting large and heavy bins around, and I felt in a desperate need for a pick-me-up. Thankfully I have a small bag of Chocolate Mint Cappucino mix in my cupboard, which made for the perfect cup of decadence.

I stood there at my stove, stirring the sautéing mushrooms and sipping on my cup of chocolaty goodness, taking deep breaths and thinking to myself how wonderful mushrooms and chocolate smell.

(The stroganoff was fantastic. I poured the left-over roast and gravy into the pot with the mushrooms and let it all heat through, then I put in about a cup of sour cream, and mixed in the noodles. There wasn’t much left for leftovers once my family got to it.)

Chocolate Therapy

It’s eight in the morning, and I’m here at my table, having watched the sky grow from dark to blushing pink to blue (thank you, baby daughter, who got me up so early). I am finishing up the comic for my nephews today, and wrapping the last gifts for the last extended family gathering, which will be had at my house. I am also going to indulge in some fantastic cups of indulgent, velvety, rich homemade hot chocolate. Why? Because I’m nervous, and nervous = chocolate therapy.

“Why are you nervous?” One might ask. “So far it sounds like you’re just doing art, which you do all the time anyway, and having some family over. What’s the big deal?”

Well, tomorrow, early in the morning, my husband is having knee surgery. I know that isn’t the biggest thing in the world; not the most dangerous, or most fearful. But he’s never had surgery before. He’ll be out for it, and intubated (“Just in case”, the doctor’s say. That’s not very reassuring.), and then out of commission for two weeks. I’ll need to make sure our two boys (5 and 2) don’t leap on him or bump his legs during that time.

And I’m his wife. It’s my job to worry about him.

He’ll be fine; probably the hardest part, for him, will be the two weeks of inaction. Sackett Man is a man of movement. He’s always doing. So not doing is probably going to give him a worse case of Cabin Fever than our -45˚ weather ever could.

It’s only -10˚ today, by the way. We’re having a hot streak.

My mom is graciously watching our boys tomorrow (I’m keeping the baby girl), so that I can be with Sackett Man. Thank you, Mom!

And today: today I am mixing up my homemade hot chocolate mix. And having some of it. It’s really the EASIEST thing in the world to make, and it’s so, so good!

Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix

A Cup of My Homemade Hot Chocolate

A Cup of My Homemade Hot Chocolate

3 1/2 cups Powdered Sugar

2 1/4 cups Cocoa Powder (I use Dutch Cocoa)

1 1/2 tsp Salt

Combine all ingredients in an airtight container, and mix.

Add 2 Tablespoons to a cup of hot water, and then added a splash of milk at the end (like one does for coffee). YUM!!! Garnish as you wish: with nothing, or marshmallows, or whipped cream… you get the idea.

NOTE:

If you want to have just a little bit to try (who wants a tub of something they don’t like?) then do these amounts:

1/4 cup Powdered Sugar

2 1/2 T Cocoa Powder

1/8 tsp Salt

This will give you a good amount for sampling purposes.

Then if you like it, you can make the tub!

The Plus Side

Some days require deliberate searching. You know the days I mean… the ones where one thing after the next happens till all you want to do is hide under your blanket and hope that the next day is better. Usually on days like that I end up posting about it on facebook in my ladies’ group (the members of which consist of my mom, my sister, and my sister-in-laws). When I get all of my “Why me?!!!” exclamations out, I try to then end the post with the positives of the day, which I head up with ‘The Plus Side: …”.

I started this Plus Side business after a particularly fractious day. Week. Maybe even a month… I don’t remember. Anyway, I was sitting there in my doom and gloom, feeling like a terrible mother because I’d ended up yelling at the children quite a few times that day, and wishing my kids would stop their naughty behavior so that we could get back to being a happy, normal family.

I’m sure some of you mother’s out there have had days like that.

I was sitting there, moping, and I recalled a thing Sackett Man and I learned during a marriage counseling session. Way back when, when we were young and somewhat newly married, we found that the same trouble and problems kept popping up. Okay, they were wreaking havoc. Sackett Man and I are complete opposites… he’s a man of action, and I’m a word person. I would tell him how much I loved him, how wonderful he was, handsome, etc., etc., but I HATED doing dishes and vacuuming. So I would leave them, not till last minute, but I would push doing them out a little. He, on the other hand, would whip through the house vacuuming, mopping, folding laundry, doing dishes, taking out the garbage… but when it came to TELLING me, he would instead tell me everything I hadn’t done. Needless to say, it was turning ugly. We got counseling, which helped us see so many things and how to work at them… it was unbelievable… and honestly, now, YEARS later, I couldn’t imagine being married to anyone but him!

I digress. The point of that was, one of the things we learned was the 5-1 ratio. In that it takes five good things to make up for one bad. So, if at all possible, have at least five things to say throughout the day that are positive and uplifting and encouraging to the one negative thing.

So I took a deep breath, there in the middle of my brooding, paused in typing to my four confidants, and I closed my eyes. I looked back through the day, deliberately looking for the good things. I typed them out, and by the end of it I was feeling a million times better and I could see, much more clearly, what kind of a day I’d really had. Was it a good day? NO. But it wasn’t the precursor to my kids blowing up the house and running wild, either. It was just a normal bad day with a teething infant and two crabby boys.

I’ve been doing that ever since.

Which brings me to today.

This morning started with my eldest telling me “I’m going to throw up!”

Oh no! I thought, my eyes flying open in a panic as I threw myself out of bed. Not again!

See, just a month ago, the stomach flu had run through our house with much abandon and glee. Twice in two weeks.

For the next hour and a half there was tense anticipation as he waited in the bathroom for the inevitable.

In the meantime my second child and I were relegated to the downstairs bathroom as we got ready for the day.

And… the toilet plugged. I fought with it. I argued with it. I got it free.

It plugged again.

I argued more. I attacked it viciously and with great courage, plunging away as I warned it “You don’t want my husband to come home! He’s a plumber… you know what will happen if he has to deal with you!”

The toilet stuck the proverbial tongue out at me, and the bowl filled to the rim… and stopped. The threat was clear: One more move and I spill over!

Point taken. I backed away and shut the door.

Roman, now realizing that he was not sick but had mistaken his stomach ache for SERIOUS hunger pains, happily ate his breakfast and the day commenced. Which of course meant that Rosemary cried when I didn’t hold her, and then when she was content to play on the floor she spat up all over it and proceeded to play in it with every toy she could get her hands on. My boys tried to play with the cars, but ended up arguing over who got to put what car down the ramp. They switched to a puzzle, which soon had James throwing the pieces around and Roman having a temper tantrum. Time for a bathroom break: one boy forgot to aim, and the younger one, still in training, took off his own diaper and went on the floor.

(I’m taking a deep breath now.)

The Plus Side:

The boys set up a blanket between our two couches to create a ‘tent’. I made them a snack-lunch in their two lunch boxes, turned on a nature thunderstorm album on my computer, and for the next two hours they adventured and imagined till I could almost see the the world they were in myself. It was amazing and wonderful.

Rose sat in her swing and played peek-a-boo with me while I folded laundry. This week she’s into tossing her head back and forth as she giggles, which is a hilarious sight.

Rose took a thirty minute nap.

I got a basket of laundry folded, and another one in the washing machine.

The dishwasher is half-emptied. (I hope to get to the other half soon.)

I have a cold, which means I get to indulge in my favorite thing: Tea with lemon juice and elderberry syrup. The perfect tonic for a sore throat.

Sackett Man texted me that he loved me. 🙂

Outside, while in the negative digits, is beautiful and white with softly falling snow.

And I’m finally having lunch, which consists of two fried eggs (runny, of course), wilted greens in butter, a leftover homemade biscuit, and topped with the leftover cheese-sauce my husband had made over the weekend.

Seriously, it’s so good! He made breakfast on Saturday, of eggs and toast and this amazing cheesy sauce that is fantastic. He layers it all, tops it with the sauce, and sprinkles it all with dill.

Heaven!

That’s my Plus Side for a day that didn’t start great, but is getting better.

What’s yours?

Sackett Man's Saturday Breakfast

Sackett Man’s Saturday Breakfast

My Lunch, with Sackett Man's Cheese Sauce

My Lunch, with Sackett Man’s Cheese Sauce

Christmas Fennel

Pasta with Fennel Cream Sauce

Pasta with Fennel Cream Sauce

Two nights ago I made roasted chicken legs and colcannon. One of my favorite meals. Last night I made something new: pasta and chicken with a fennel cream sauce. It was good; the fennel sauce wasn’t quite what I wanted… so I figure I’ll have to play around with the recipe a little bit. Otherwise it was quite enjoyable. James certainly thought the wheel pasta was awesome!

After supper my Sackett Man went out to his truck, and when he returned through the front door he was bearing a big, beautiful seven-foot Christmas Tree. We set it up in our living room (Sackett Man held the tree while I became flattened beneath it trying to wrestle it into submission within the stand; my son took a photo) and Roman, our eldest, helped me water it for the first time. James fell asleep on the couch, and Rosemary followed soon after. Roman, our night owl, ventured into the basement with us two adults and looked through a selection of boxes with us, trying to find the lights and garland. We found our Christmas wreath, but alas, no tree trimmings. Hopefully we’ll have better luck tomorrow, so we can decorate in the evening. 2013 Christmas Tree

In the meantime we’ll be putting up the last of the Christmas paper chains, the wreath, and unpacking the Christmas dishes.

And the house smells amazing.

You have to love pine trees.

~ Mary