Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Well-Loved Rocking Chair

In the process of cleaning out Someone Special's basement, I found an old, very dusty rocking chair. It was love at first sight.

"What's the story on that rocking chair?"

"It was my grandmother's."


"Yeah, my parents were going to get rid of it, and I said that I wanted it, but I have nowhere to put it. Why, do you want to rid of it?"

"No, I love it. I want to find a place for it in our house."

Flash forward about a week, and I finally got around to hauling it upstairs and giving it a little love. All it needed was a good rub down to give it new life. I want to sew a cushion for it, but it's comfortable even without one. It's very wide and low--perfect for little children to crawl up into with a book, and luckily I have three of those! (Three children. We have way more than three books.)

We have since found out from Someone Special's mom that this was not actually his grandmother's rocking chair, it was his great-grandmother's rocking chair. How cool is that?

The 100-year-old rocker looks very comfortable in Someone Special's 100-year-old home. It looks wonderful in the kids' bedroom. I love all of the simple details, but my absolute favorite part is the worn finish on the arm rests--A sign that it was been well-worn and well-loved.

I wonder how many babies have been rocked to sleep in this sweet chair? God willing, it will rock a few more.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Impulse Buy

Greenhouse tomatoes: local, organic, and grown in the ground. In February. How was I supposed to resist?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Just Enough

Today I wanted to share one of our favorite books with you: Just Enough, by Terri Daniels, illustrated by Harley Jessup. You may not have heard of it. I had never heard of it, either. My ex-husband's family knows the illustrator, and that is how I first came to know about this precious picture book. Just Enough follows a young boy through his day as he discovers all the things that he is old enough to do by himself. This book reminds me so much of my life with my children at home: simple, quiet, unseen, and oh, so rich with everyday experiences.

First of all, I love the illustrations. I love the bright colors, and the wonderful, warm feel of the setting: The handmade quilt, the braided rug, the boy's artwork on the walls....The details in this book are extraordinary. Every time we read it, we find something new. I love the flow of the pictures, and how the scale of the artwork emphasizes the words. I love the sense of movement, and wonder, and whimsy. One of my favorite pictures is of the little boy pounding away at the pizza dough. Just like a little boy-- full of exuberance!

And then, there is the simplest, sweetest story, told through a series of poetic vignettes. I love the sound of the words together as I read them aloud. I love the activities of the day: feeding the fish, eating breakfast, swinging high to the sky, chasing fireflies, splashing in the tub...All the usual adventures of a young boy home for the day with Mommy and Daddy.

It's a shame that this delightful book is out of print. It's work seeking out, though, and you can still find copies easily on Amazon. I can't recommend it enough. It's one of our favorites.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Things I Love This Week: The Merry Goes 'Round

Ok, I have a confession: I love Jewel. The girls and I are thoroughly enjoying her latest children's album, The Merry Goes 'Round. We're obsessed. I mean, obsessed. And you know what? I would be obsessed with it even if I didn't have kids. My favorite song on the album is Give Me the Rainbow. 

Darling and I cannot stop singing this song as we go about our day! It's infections without being annoying. Our other favorites are Bucky the Bull, And the Green Grass Grew All Around, and Sammy the Spider. There is something about the combination of words with the melody that makes these songs so charming. I'm obsessed, I tell you! Obsessed!

Well, maybe not obsessed. Not like this, anyway:

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Nature Fix

The kids and I recently needed a day of running wild. After finishing up a week of early mornings, late nights, missed naps, and long trips in the car, we just needed to move.

We took a picnic to our local botanical gardens. We played chase and explored and threw rocks in the pond. Homeschooling gives us the freedom to go when most other people can't: weekday winter mornings. Except for the occasional retired couple, we had the place entirely to ourselves.

What I love about the Gardens is that it is different every time we go. We see new and exciting things with each visit, and learn more and more about animals and plants that are local to us. We discover all kinds of things that we want to Google when we get home. Every time we leave, we have an exciting story that we want to share. And after an hour or two or non-stop running, my kids are calm and ready for a nap.

Oh, the wonders of God's creation!

Here are some of the pictures I took that day. I always take too many.
Whenever we visit the Gardens, the kids run,

and run,

and run!

The kids love to throw rocks in the fish pond.

There were signs of spring everywhere!

While we were busy playing by the pond,

our picnic was attacked by wild dogs!

We had an impromptu lesson on camouflage.

Can you spot the frog?


I see you!

Hey, what's that in the bushes?


One of the peacocks decided to pose for the camera!

Darling decided to pose for the camera, too.

We feel so refreshed after our picnic. It's like we got our nature fix, and it's carrying us through the week.  I'm hoping to squeeze in another visit to the Gardens soon, if the weather is good. We go so often that many of the volunteers know us by name. We're blessed to live close enough that it feels like it's our own special place.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Quality Time

How does the after dinner routine go at your house? At my house, it usually went something like this:

The kids take their plates to the sink for me, then run off to make mayhem. I try desperately to get the food put away and clear the table. Children run wild, play chase in the house, crash into each other, scream and generally make life very noisy. If there is no immediate crisis, I might get the the dishes in the dish washer before it's time to start their bath water, but more often than not I have to abandon the kitchen as soon as the leftovers are in the fridge to coral my three hyenas up to get ready for bed. Once the kids are asleep, I trudge back downstairs and somehow manage to overcome the exhaustion to finish up. It is controlled chaos, but just barely controlled. Mostly it's just chaos.

And it wasn't any fun

Enter Someone Special who, after we finish up dinner, says, "Darling, can you take these things to your mother? Doodlebug, you can dry the place mats. Wait, you can't leave the kitchen until your mother says you are done!"

I jumped right on this bandwagon.

"Pumpkin, can you take these dirty dish towels to the laundry room for Mommy?"

We found all kinds of jobs that a kindergartener, a preschooler, and a toddler could confidently handle. They rinsed, dried, and put away placemats. They cleared the table, helped me sweep the floor, and put clean cutlery away. The kids were engaged. There were no crises. Darling literally danced as she helped, saying, "What else can I help you with, Mama?" We talked, and I explained how we are a family, and so we all have to pitch in together to get things done. There's no, "It's not my responsibility because it's your turn to do that". We can all take pride in how we care for our home. When we went upstairs to start our nighttime routine, the kitchen was spotless. I dare say it was even enjoyable!

I am still in awe of how one person can take one of the most difficult and dreaded hours of the day, and turn it into quality time together. Will every night together go as smoothly as this one? Of course not. That wouldn't be real life. But what I'm learning is that quality time together can happen any time, even during the drudgery of cleaning the kitchen or folding laundry. It does not have to planned, or organized, or "special". It's not an event. It's anytime Dad makes a silly joke and Mom laughs appreciably, or kids say something precious and Mommy's heart melts a little bit. Quality time evolves  naturally during every day, and the most unexpected moments can bring you together.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Karate: Train Your Body

This 1980's video of "Karate Rap" is awesome* on so many levels. It blows my mind!

*and by "awesome" I mean, "pee your pants funny"

Friday, February 3, 2012


Did you know the Barenaked Ladies made a children's album, called Snacktime? I found it at my local library. I love it as much as the kids do. The lyrics are hysterical. Check out their song, 7 8 9.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Good for What Ails You Chicken Soup

I have a recipe to share today that's perfect for winter weather, and is a good follow up to my chicken post from earlier.  One morning, Someone Special and I had a conversation that went more or less like this:

Someone Special: "I feel terrible, baby. Do you know a place where I could get some chicken soup for lunch today?"
Me: "Why don't I just make you some chicken soup?"
Someone Special (hopefully): "Would that be easier for you than packing up all the kids and going somewhere?"

Isn't it amazing how men can ask you to do something for them under the guise of making your life easier?
(Don't freak out, baby. I'm just teasing)

Anyway, I set out to make a homemade chicken soup, and it turned out good. I mean, really good. The kids all gave it their approval by gobbling it up. Someone Special ate several helpings and claimed that he really did feel better. (Grandma was a medical genius: there's actual science behind why we always eat chicken soup when we're sick. You can read about the wonders of broth here.) He called me the next day, "Do you still have any chicken soup leftover? Could I come over and have some?"

Apparently, the way to a man's heart is still through his stomach.

I think the secret to making good homemade chicken soup is to use homemade chicken stock. The broth is the absolute star: rich, creamy, not-thick-not-thin and just right. Also, I used carrots two ways in this soup: I added regular diced carrots with the vegetables the way you normally would, but I also sauteed some carrots with the onions and celery until they were good and caramelized to really bring out their sweetness. I think this added another layer of flavor. I also used butter, rather than olive oil, to saute the vegetables in to add an extra layer of richness to the broth. The result is a soup that warms you to your bones and tastes like home.  Campbell's who?

The following Sunday, after church, we went out to eat at a favorite local restaurant, and the soup of the day was chicken and rice. After our waitress bounced away, pony tail swinging, Someone Special snickered.

"You've ruined me for all other chicken soups, baby. Why do they even bother?"

Good for What Ails You Chicken Soup

10 cups homemade chicken stock
4 tablespoons butter
2 cups cooked, cubed chicken breast
2 cups plus 1/2 cup carrots, peeled and diced
1 onion, peeled and diced
3 celery ribs, diced
2 tbsp flour
1 bag frozen lima beans
1 tsp dried thyme
1 handful chopped, fresh Italian parsley
salt to taste*
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

To add rice:
1/2 cup uncooked, medium-grain white rice
1 tbsp butter
1 1/3 cups water
**or simply cook to package instructions

Get your  chicken stock ready by warming it in a pot, or as I did, in the microwave in the tupperware container it had been frozen in. In another large soup pot, melt 4 tbsp of butter over medium heat. Add onion, celery, and the 1/2 cup of carrots. Stirring occasionally, saute until carrots are good and caramelized. They should be soft and browned but not burned, about 10-12 minutes. This next part takes some coordination, so read carefully. Add the flour to the butter-vegetable pot, stirring constantly with one hand, and begin slowly adding chicken stock, one ladle-full at a time, with the other hand. When all the stock is added, I like to take my handy dandy immersion blender and puree all the vegetables, because someone doesn't like the texture of cooked onions and celery. This step is not necessary, though, if you don't have picky eaters in your household. Add the chicken, lima beans, and the rest of the carrots, salt, pepper, and thyme and bring to a gentle boil. Lower the heat to low, and let it simmer away.

Now cook your rice.

In a separate medium-size pot over medium heat, melt butter. Add the rice and stir constantly, gently toasting the grains until they are golden brown. Turn the heat to low. Carefully add the water and cover, stirring occasionally, and let cook until rice is soft and fluffy, about 20 minutes.

When vegetables are soft in your soup, add the cooked rice and parsley.
Serve with crusty bread.

Enjoy ;)

*I do not salt my stock at all when I make it, as I prefer to salt each individual dish. So my soup needed a lot of salt, almost 1 tbsp. If you use store bought stock, you will not need nearly so much, even if you use the low sodium variety. I would start with 1 tsp and go from there.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Doctor Hoo or Doctor Hoot?

Who knew that there was a gap in my wardrobe that only a Doctor Who shirt could fill?

And speaking of owls (were we speaking of owls?), check out Brian Regan's insightful comedy about animal noises in children's literature. I mean, have you ever heard an owl say "hoot"?