7.28.2016

Great Plains Roadtrip 2016 - Part 1

And thus we begin our big roadtrip of the summer. 10 days of driving and exploring, visiting family and making memories. We started by heading up to Herbert Hoover's Presidential Library. This is the 4th library Craig and I have visited together (Bush, Clinton and Truman being the others) but the first for the kids. 

On the way, we actually made a quick stop in to visit some Mark Twain stuff. That was more because we needed a bathroom break right then but it ended up being a bit of a bust. I had a pretty bad cold at the beginning of the trip and when we got here I felt really awful and was having a hard time even thinking so we walked around a bit aimlessly before Craig went back for the car. The kids and I stopped by the Missouri River cruise and watched the trains/boats. Sometimes you take a chance and it ends up being neat, sometimes it doesn't. Oh well. I do think it would be a fun day trip for us if we planned it out a bit more.



By time we got to the Presidential stuff, I had been able to nap in the car a bit and felt a little more alive.



We saw the tiny house Hoover grew up in and the blacksmith shop his dad owned, visited and learned about the quaker church he attended and then  headed into the library. We also watched a video about his life (and nursed a baby - traveling mom tip, the little videos at stops like this make great nursing spots. It's a dark and not very distracting place to nurse and they are often just entertaining enough that I don't have to worry about the other kids wandering off on me)



I never realized what a world traveler Hoover was before he was a president. Overall, a very kid friendly stop. The temporary exhibit which was about prohibition was a little iffy. The speakeasy was fun to walk through and the kids liked the jail and fingerprint part but Jonah has a fit when he didn't think my explanation of gambling and prostitution was sufficient. If you plan to visit, it really wasn't a big thing part of the exhibit at all so Lucy was perfectly happy with my explanation of the pictures of the horse races and when I saw the "back room" part I just said, "Oh, more people were breaking the law" but Jonah overheard me warn Craig and happened to cling to the idea that he missed something fascinating. Just imagine a screaming three year old "I DON"T UNDERSTAND! SAY IT AGAIN! I DON"T UNDERSTAND! while the other adults smiled at me. Fun times.






The second day we continued on to Minnesota. We toured the sod house near Maple Grove. There were several buildings here. A freestanding soddie and dugout so we were able to compare the two plus a litte barn and a outhouse which Jonah found fascinating. 









We were supposed to continue on to the original site of Laura Ingall's dugout on plum creek but unfortunately it had rained a lot the weekend before and it was flooded so all we got to see was the sign.

We did drive over plum creek though. And the kids (especially Lucy) took it well when we explained that we'll have to try again another year. I had already sorta planned to come back because there was another museum in the town but it focused mostly on the television show which Lucy doesn't even know about yet. Perhaps once we have watched it, we'll try this stop again (it's on the way to Craig's parents home). I'm sure it helped that we were able to tell the kids the next big stop was Grandma and Grandpa's house. Of course, that was still several hours more driving ahead of us but we knew by cutting out the dugout site stop that we would make it by dinner and the idea of getting there sounded good to everyone by then. 

And that's how we added four more state's for Norah (Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota) to give her a grand total of 12 states before the age of 10 months. Lucy and Jonah added Iowa and Minnesota. They are all pretty well traveled by now! And we've only just gotten to G&G's! Stay tuned for more. 

7.27.2016

9 months!

Whoops. This post is way overdue. I wrote it on the right day (July 13th) but forgot to take my camera cord on our big roadtrip. A monthly update without pictures just will not due. But we are back now so here it is! 

Dear Norah,

 

9 months old!How big is Norah? So big! And strong. You're pretty awesome at standing and can stand for quite a while and even get up and down from a squat without holding onto anything. You don't want to try walking unless you've got some furniture. Lucy is determined to help you by holding you up and moving you back and forth but you just look at her and smile. Both Lucy and Jonah have learned to carry you this month. You are a pretty good sport about it. You just love them too much to give up all the attention although Jonah is testing the limits on that as much as he can.




You are not put off by the fact that Lucy and Jonah are much faster than you. They were building a wooden path thing in the yard and going back and forth from the scrap pile to the path and you just kept following them. You'd get halfway there by the time they were done but would happily turn around and head the other way when they did. It seemed a bit mean but you were no worse for ware afterwards. Now, your clothes were a different store. They were completely filthy and caked with mud. But a dirty baby is a happy baby. And yesterday, we spotted a cotton tail rabbit and daddy told the bigs to crawl towards it slowly. You were happily playing with some grass but when you saw them crawl, you seemed to know this was something you could too so you followed right along. It was pretty adorable. I don't think you even noticed the bunny but finally, it was a game you could play!



You don't even attempt to play with "baby toys". Nope, give me what every one else is playing with. 

The fun thing about this month was looking up what they were doing and seeing how you were the same - or different. I didn't even remember Jonah taking off the vent covers when he was this age but I wrote it down and daddy and I had to laugh because you've been doing that all this week too!



This was about the time they both enjoyed Pat the Bunny. Now, you have not been as big of a fan of books as they have so far but when we bought you your own copy of Pat the Bunny, you couldn't resist it's charms. You can do all the activities yourself but you nicely sit and let Jonah take a turn first and when he is done, you go "feel daddy's scratchy face" and "put your finger in mummy's ring." And the bunny isn't the only thing you like to pat. You love to pat your family. If we walk up to someone in our family, you start to pat them (their shoulder, their head, whatever you can reach). Your hugs are a little intense sometimes and often lead to hair pulling so I think everyone is happy with the pats.

 If there is too much dawdling in the morning and I'm still helping Jonah finish his morning chores when your naptime approaches, we can normally hold you off a few minutes by having Lucy read it a few times or by playing pat-a-cake. That's Lucy's go-to game for you. Jonah prefers Itsy-Bitsy Spider and I think you do too. In fact, while its not 100% certain at this point, it does appear that you are trying to sign spider. Will that be your first real sign? You recognize the sign for milk and respond and seem to recognize eat too but don't try to make either yourself. You also enjoy a good round of peek-a-boo and will play it with anything, blankies, found pajama bottoms, stuffed animals. You like to put clothes on so are often found crawling around with random pants or shirts wrapped around you.



And you love the sandbox just like Jonah did at this age. You'll play in there by yourself but you really love it with a sibling accompaniment. You also love water. It's pretty much your favorite thing. Pools, baths, splashing in puddles in the driveway, anything wet will do. This is nice as all the sand and dirt you play in means you get bathed a lot.


You take my melon and I will cut you. 

Another consistent love - food. Right now you are loving peas. You've got a mean pincher grasp and aren't afraid to use it. You also love melon and oatmeal. And you've figured out baby food packets and can down one in no time. But if you don't want it, you make sure you drop it carefully. You hold it by the top and lean way down sideways and drop it so nothing spills....maybe you'll want it next time!



I think I mentioned sleep last month. Well, your sleep got better - and then it got worse. You've had a rough week. You got your third tooth and are working on your fourth. Plus you have a horrible yeast rash. Even with medicine, you would only sleep while daddy sat up (or walked around) and held you. But you and him hung out on the couch those nights And I do enjoy seeing daddy finally have a "daddy's baby" after two mama clingers. (Especially when it means I get to sleep at night. Am I allowed to say that :-) But despite feeling so yucky, you still were mostly content. I could tell you didn't want to sit (in a car seat, in a cart at a store, etc) but you weren't fussy otherwise. And when you aren't in pain, you've settled down to a nice 2 nap schedule and an earlier bedtime most nights so crossing our fingers tonight will be okay again. 

You are about 27 inches tall but I don't know you weight other than "chunky." Just moving into 12 month clothes although what I put you in depends on whether you will be playing in the dirt or not. 

7.20.2016

Broth and Stock - A Review

I've been making broth for years. It's healthy and simple, both to make and to fit into our diet. It's nutrient dense, delicious and luckily for me, a favorite of my kids. They love soup, especially the brothy kind. (Last time I made a creamy chicken soup they actually said it was "too creamy" and "too cheesy" and asked if I could add more broth, whose children are these?). Lucy even picked one of my soup recipes as her favorite "birthday request" meal. Yes, my child asked for soup for her birthday! That's deep soup love. I mean, she could have asked for macaroni and cheese from a box. Because that's rare around here and beloved; much more than the homemade kind they normally get. But the point is my kids are weird and like soup. So when I saw Broth and Stock up for review, I jumped at the chance to fix that last 5% of my chicken stock problems, help me branch out to beef (and other?) broths and expand my soup skills.



As I said, I'm not new to broth making. I've had a lot of luck with chicken broth, having success outcomes probably 95% of the time. Its pretty hard to mess up. I make what this book refers to as Kitchen Scrap broth, the throw everything from leftover chicken bones to carrot tops and onion peels in there. It's not fancy but it works as a good all-purpose broth. Now, my beef broth - not so much. My beef broth just doesn't taste very good which makes me sad because we normally have a freezer full of grass fed beef just waiting to be made into lovely stock.

This is a pretty cookbook. And I don't normally buy pretty cookbooks because I don't use them. Maybe the pictures intimidate me? I don't know. My favorite cookbooks are very homemade/cottage industry in style and have no or very few pictures. But I've read the author's blog and knew she would have some good information, even if I'm weird and have trouble with the pretty pictures.

And she did. The first part of the book is a introduction to stocks and broths, their differences and uses and a few staple recipes. As I said, I've been making broth for a while but I found some good tips here so I was quite happy with that. I used those tips to make a Chicken Bone Broth and then used that broth to make her Chicken Soup with parmesan, rice, peas and lemon. Both the broth and the soup were delicious. I've heard of others making a cup of broth to drink in the morning and have pondered it for health reasons but never been able to stomach the idea of it but this bone broth tasted so mild that I could see doing that - and she's got a recipe for it. I didn't with this batch because I wanted to try her reduction method so I reduced and froze it instead. That worked well and I think it will be much easier to have homemade broth on hand whereas before it had been a bit of a feast and famine situation around here. But maybe I'll try reconstituting it and making a breakfast drink soon.

I still haven't been able to make beef broth because we are out of beef and aren't getting any until August but I'm excited to try and see if I can get a good batch now. And I didn't even know pork broth was a thing but she's got a recipe and I've got some pork in the freezer.

The second part of the book is more recipes, mostly for soup but also others that use broth. I really want to try the schmaltz mashed potatoes but my last batch of broth was low on schmaltz (fat) and gelatin. That always happens when I make broth from Costco rotisserie chickens.The broth tastes good but doesn't set the way I like. Despite her advice and the good results I'm sure it would produce, I cringe at the idea of adding chicken feet because I'd have to actually touch chicken feet at least chicken feet that aren't currently attached to our pet chickens. So I'll be making another batch soon with a home roasted chicken to try the Schmaltz. It looks delicious but not delicious enough to run my oven for hours when the heat index is 100+. (Update: I actually delayed posting this review because I wanted to try this recipe for y'all. So we had a bit of a cooler week, I got a chicken and roasted it and made broth just to try this recipe. Then we had the big power outage and the fridge got warm and I had to throw both the broth and the schmaltz away! I guess I am just not meant to be making it right now.)

As I said, it's a very pretty cookbook which for most people would probably be a good thing. But, despite being a decent cook, I see pretty pictures and get intimidated. Silly me. And a lot of these recipes are on the exotic side. That part that doesn't really intimidate me. I make (and the kids eat!) a lot of ethnic food and while Craig, who does most of the grocery shopping, likes to grumble about how I'm always putting weird, hard to locate food on the list, I think secretly he likes the grocery store challenge. Nourished Kitchen, the author's blog, focuses on healthy and wholesome cooking but this isn't a book of tofu and lentils, it's just real food. Think Salisbury steak made with broth and wine not condensed soup (that recipe is going to be the first I make when my beef arrives I think - it looks really yummy!).  She also has quiet a large seafood section, several chowders, a thai-style prawn soup and more. For my part, I know some of the recipes will be too much for me and I won't even try them but I'm hoping I'll give most of them a try and I think I'll be able to find more than a few "keepers."

And they certainly weren't all complicated or fancy. In this section, I tried the Carrot Leek Soup with Thyme. I've never heard of carrot soup but my kid's love carrots and soup so I thought I'd give it a try - big hit! The pot was licked clean. The baby got a few yummy carrot chunks dished out and cut up and seemed to appreciate them and Lucy even had seconds which is rare for her at dinner.  I did have to substitute chicken broth for her recommendation of sea vegetable broth because my Hashimoto's requires me to avoid high iodine foods but obviously it still turned out okay (and I used the frozen reduced stock and it was great. I'll be stocking up my freezer with that from now on instead of relying on cans so much!) It was super simple and quick to put together. I started it but actually went downstairs to exercise and left Craig with the recipe, three kids and instructions to finish the soup and make grilled cheese which he managed to do quite well. I've always got carrots on hand because I buy them in 10lb bags from Costco so this will be going in my dinner rotation for sure. I'm thinking I'll try the tomato and fennel recipe next as I'm still looking for a really great tomato soup recipe. I've tried several and they've been okay but I know I can do better.

To summarize, if you are just a beginner when it comes to broth but aren't scared of trying new things in the kitchen , I honestly think this would be overkill and all you really need is 20 minutes with google. And if your family isn't big into seafood/shellfish and lots of flavors from around the world or you want quick simple american style cooking (aka Rachel Ray or Ree Drummond), you might find yourself limited in the recipes you'll want to try. But if you want to try making broth but need some hand-holding or you're comfortable making a basic broth and want to take it to the next level; you enjoy cooking with more exotic ingredients or if you just like looking at beautiful food then check it out.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. All opinions are my own. 

7.15.2016

A Mother's Daybook - July 15th

Starting - to exercise. Which is kinda a big deal. I really like having a generally active lifestyle. I really hate "exercising." But this is the first time I've hit 9 months postpartum with some baby weight on me - and I'm really tired of wearing the same 2 bottoms (one pair of shorts, one skirt). I started Lindsay Brin's postpartum slimdown challenge which is free on youtube (you can get here calendar free through email to go with it) and its starts you out gentle and it fairly light on cardio which works for me. I have to be really careful about overdoing cardio because of my Hashimotos but I've only had one day where I felt bad after working out (not sore, but BAD). I'm halfway through week three and feeling a lot stronger and I can tell my endurance is up. What else is still up? My weight. I've lost exactly 0 lbs and really that's fine albeit a bit annoying. But for the first time in well over a year, this fits.

And even in the summertime when its always been a little tight! So I know its working. I'm actually enjoying it. Probably because Craig takes the kids when he gets home and I retreat to the cool, quiet basement and let him deal with the witching hour of 4-5pm. This seems kinda cruel but its the only time that works so he's being a super trooper about it.

Preparing  - For our last summer roadtrip. This one is a doozy and I'm trying to be overly prepared. So even though I've got a bit of time, I've started my lists of travel foods/snacks, picking out our audiobooks for the trip, researching fun stops on the way. And I normally pick out a really light reading book for the car for myself although I'm still searching so if you've got a suggestion for something I can pick up and put down approximately 20 times an hour which reaching behind me to hand out snacks and books without losing my mind, feel free to share!

Fasting - From Social Media.  I just needed a break from the onslaught of opinions about everything.And wow do I think I picked a good time. I really wish social media would stay more social. For me, Facebook is the biggest change. I actually had Craig change my facebook password for me which is great. And as soon as I did that, I lost all desire to be on their right now. (Except now I can't log into Spotify without his help which isn't cool since we use that for school). I do miss certain groups so I'm sure it won't be forever but so far, its been really good. I think I will add back instagram and pinterest fairly soon as those are more social for me and I never really stopped Goodreads which I guess is technically sm but I don't really use it as that. But even stopping those has been interesting as I feel myself reaching out to specific people more to share things, instead of just wanting to share with "the world"

Finishing - A couple projects that should have been done months years ago. The first is Lucy's stick unicorn. The horn was overstuffed and popped open about a month after I gave it to her. But it worked and none of the stuffing was coming out so I kept meaning to get to it and never actually getting to it. But I did it! It really only took 45 seconds of hand sewing. And now Lucy is upset because it looks different. I'm sure she'll get used to it  and now it doesn't mock me every time I see her play with it.

I also whipped up some bibs for Norah. I've never been a big bib user but I think my bibs were just bad bibs. The food still got in through the neck hole so I normally either 1) don't bother and get stains or 2)strip my babies down to their diapers to eat. But my mil often sticks new kitchen towels for me when she sends boxes for the kids which is great. Because I know kitchen towels would never make it on my needs list and having them always there makes it easy to toss grungy looking ones without a thought. But when I noticed I had some ribbing too, an idea was born. Not an original idea, but a "I think I've seen something on pinterest like this" and I kinda made it up as I went but they work. Really well. And Norah now matches my kitchen :-)



Appreciating - Electricity. Right after I wrote the above sections, our power went out. For almost 36 hours. No lights, no air conditioning and because we are on well and need electricity to refill our reserve, by the second day, no water. It was a long day and a half. We did okay, going to a park, going to wal-mart, going to the pool, going to a friend's house (I had no shame, I was begging for playdates!), going out to eat. A lot of going. And I'm a homebody and so are my kids so we were all kinda done by the second evening and, for reasons I'll get into below, everyone was a big emotional but the alternative of hanging out in a dark house creeping up through the 80s was not appealing. And we rallied. We even got two compliments on how well behaved our kids were! Either standards at Bob Evans aren't high or they were just too pooped out to be crazy :-) And last night we all slept in the not-too-terrible hot basement. We were told to expect power by tonight so I was bracing myself for the full day (and thank you friends that offered us their home for some respite!) but sometime early in the morning, we heard the a/c click on! Thank goodness.

Kid's got another off school as I go around and put things back. It's really amazing how entropy takes over and how quick its effects are when I'm not working 24/7 to keep things under control. On the bright side, I feel pretty good that my daily efforts do make a difference! And my fridge is now emptied and clean for our trip. I'm not sure what we'll eat until then because the only things we managed to save were condiments and things like carrots and strawberries that didn't really need full coldness.  But it could have been worse. We didn't really have a lot in there so it wasn't like I had to throw away a bunch of expensive meat and our freezer stuff seems to be fine.

Missing - Chicken Jane. But let me start at the beginning. Just forewarned, it doesn't end well. Craig had noticed she looked a bit off earlier and I caught her yesterday to give her a good checking over. The kids were playing outside because it was hotter in than out so it seemed a good time. My diagnosis - egg blocked/prolapse. She had a minor issue like that a few months ago but we got here through so I went carried her inside to get a bin to fill with warm water. This is the time I discoverd we had no more water. We don't normally lose electricity for long enough to affect the water. So I let her go again and realized I smelled - really bad. Really really bad. Like decaying chicken covered in poop. And all I had was baby wipes. Then I smelled like decaying chicken covered in poop and baby wipes. Eventually I discovered something that was left on my shirt and a wardrobe change helped - a little bit. (This was about the time I added a stop at the pool to my agenda.)

 But it wasn't looking good for Jane. This time her issue was much worse than before and generally speaking this isn't an issue that resolves easily even when one follow the recommended course - which required things I didn't have, mostly warm water.  So we had to put her down last night. And put her down means I had to help Craig snap her neck. It was rough on me. I wish I had a homesteaders attitude. I don't. Our chickens are pets, they have names, they are beloved. I cried. I feel silly but I did. And then Lucy cried. Actually she cried beforehand saying goodbye, afterwards when Craig was burying her, and later on when I told her we had to go out to eat and she realized that she normally likes to eat chicken when we go out. She just couldn't bring herself to eat chicken yesterday. Me neither. Sorry cows, I had a big hamburger. She had pancakes.

I know we did the right thing. But part of me keeps wanting to think - we could have tried X or Y. But no, we really couldn't have. And even if we did, she's one of our oldest which means she's not only on the downward trend in egg production, but also that she's going to be more likely to have this issue again. And what if we did manage to get her on the road to recovery which itself would be a miracle then we'd have to leave her and hope it didn't happen while we were gone or she could suffer because our chicken watching teen wouldn't notice or know what to do. Or Jane would die on her and we would never get her to watching our chickens again! This probably seems like a lot of justification for a chicken and it's mostly for my sake, not yours. It's not that I think y'all are judging my chicken raising decisions, I just need to talk it out.

But like I told Lucy, she really had three of the best years a chicken in this world could ask for. And beyond that, I'm glad we have these experiences for me and my kids. How many years of my life did I go eating chicken and never even seeing a chicken in person. Or a cow. I might have had similar thoughts to Lucy when she cried yesterday "I never want to get any chickens again!" but really, even though its painful, I want us to be in touch with our food. (Although not literally in this case, I wouldn't have had an issue turning Jane into stew but, with no hot water, we really didn't have the ability to process her. She got a burial instead). I'm learning its one thing to watch a documentary and say "It's horrible how far removed we are from our food, how little our kids know of how things work. Someone should do something!" and it's another to choose to do something about it and actually make the decision to get chickens. And then - it still gets harder. Talking to your children with their quivering chins and teary eyes, getting covered in chicken insides, making decisions, killing something with your own hands. That's hard. Harder than I thought. But maybe it won't be for my kids - or maybe it will. Either way, I'm choosing to be thankful for these opportunities and for Chicken Jane.

7.11.2016

Classics Challenge: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

This is my adventure classic selection. I had originally started the first Waverly novel but I got to over a third of the way through it and was still waiting to for it to pick up. I do want to go back eventually because so many people, including my beloved Charlotte Mason, loved it so there's got to be something there. I did actually record a few quotes from it in my commonplace book but the plot...moves...so....slowly. So this review isn't about that book but another.

I decided to help myself out by picking a kids book. I'd never read Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and since I'll be expecting my kids to read it in third grade, I figured I should know what I was getting into. I know that it can be read as an allegory and while some might enjoy spending time looking for hidden meanings everywhere, I knew that would sap my enjoyment of it completely so I chose to read it the way I think my kids will in a few years - as children's nonsense story.  And as that, I enjoyed it. It was silly and random but fun. I can see my kids laughing out loud at some sections. The words he uses are funny, the situations are funny and there is just enough tension that a young child will wonder how Alice will escape her adventures. I don't have a ton to say about it but I'm happy to see it on the Ambleside Online year 3 booklist.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is my Adventure Classic for the Back to the Classics Challenge over at Books and Chocolate.