Family of N

Books Read March-April

Posted in Just for Fun by Laura on May 1, 2010

By the Shores of Silver Lake
The Long Winter
Little Town on the Prairie
These Happy Golden Years
The First Four Years
The Magician’s Nephew
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Twig by Elizabeth Orton Jones.

Twig was such a lucky find — I picked it up for $3 on half price day at a used book sale, after everything had already been picked over. I don’t know how all the dealers who came the days before could have overlooked it. Anyway, it was one of the most charming children’s novels I’ve ever read. If you can get your hands on a copy, I can’t recommend it highly enough. My only reservation is that one of the characters, appearing in something like 4 illustrations, wears a fairly immodest spaghetti-strap dress. It’s not bad enough for me to throw out the book, but I imagine I will want to have particular conversations with my children when we read it.)

And yes, I am a series junkie. As a child I collected Babysitter’s Club Little Sister books, and later Saddle Club and Thoroughbred books. I’m afraid I read far more of these than I did of classic children’s literature — hence the catching up I’m doing. But I am hoping to get away from that a little, maybe alternating the C.S. Lewis ones with stand-alones for a time.


Mama Bird

Posted in Uncategorized by Laura on March 21, 2010

On Friday I shared a picture of a Mama bird we saw guarding her nest as we walked around a park by our home. Did any of you guess who she was? She’s a killdeer!

Hope you had fun playing along — our family sure had fun learning a new bird!


Posted in Uncategorized by Laura on March 19, 2010

Today I went with the Professor and Savannah to a local park to celebrate the good weather, and after spending a requisite ten minutes letting Savannah explore the playground, we set off away from the crowds to try out the trails. This park has some very nice wooded trails, but even before we quite got to the wooded area, we encountered our most exciting find:

Can you tell why we were so excited to see her? She was reluctant to leave her “spot” and was jerking around nervously — because among those grey rocks she has found a lovely hiding place for her eggs. When we got home we looked her up in a field guide, we learned that her species often lead predators away from their nests, pretending to have a broken wing. I think she was preparing to do just that while we were watching her.

I’ll give you a couple days to figure out what species she was before I post her name. Can you guess? We live in the Midatalantic region.

Music Appreciation Monday: Sweet By and By

Posted in Uncategorized by Laura on March 15, 2010

I just finished By the Shores of Silver Lake last week, and I’m starting The Long Winter this week, so I have the Ingalls family on my mind. Here is an exciting YouTube find — “The Sweet By and By” played on the very same fiddle Pa held all those years ago:

Lyrics here.

Hilarious Outtakes

Posted in Uncategorized by Laura on March 1, 2010

Sorry Savannah. I can’t help that this is one of my favorite pictures of you.

Or that the I Heart Faces challenge this week is Hilarious Outtakes.

Oh, dear. Or that we’re allowed 5 pictures this week.

How about I stop at three and send everyone over to I Heart Faces for more funny faces?

Books Read January – February

Posted in Education, Just for Fun by Laura on March 1, 2010

On the Banks of Plum Creek
Honey for a Child’s Heart (just the first half, which reads like a book — the rest is for reference)
A Bear Called Paddington
Farmer Boy
The Bears on Hemlock Mountain
The Courage of Sarah Noble

I was surprised to find that I much preferred “Hemlock Mountain” to Dalgliesh’s more popular, award-winning “Sarah Noble.” The latter did have a lovely story, but it seemed to flit from scene to scene too quickly and without much description, so that by the end of it I felt like I had missed most of the story, as if I had read only one sentence from every paragraph. In “Hemlock Mountain,” Dalgliesh only sets out to describe one or two days’ happenings, and as a result this story is a much more satisfying read.

Farmer Boy was a fun one for me… at first I didn’t think I liked it as much as the other Little House books I’d read, but now I would almost say it’s my favorite. I still chuckle about how hungry that book made me, though. I think there is one chapter in the entire book that lacks some description of Almonzo eating — and most of them rather dwell on his gnawing hunger and describe every succulent dish set before him.

The Bean Project

Posted in Food, Frugality by Laura on February 18, 2010

When the Professor and I were first married, we thought we were doing the frugal thing by bringing leftovers when we ate lunches at school and work. After all, buying food at the cafeteria would cost some $5.00 when our meals typically came out to $1.00-$1.50 per serving. We were saving up to $4.00!

I imagine we could slim down our dinner costs by using less meat or by making our cheaper meals more often, but we are going to pick the low-hanging fruit first: we can do much better for lunches — as in, a quarter per serving or less. The Professor is happy to eat sandwiches, so he can easily switch to grilled cheese when he is home at lunchtime and peanut butter when he is out. But I get tired of meatless sandwiches quickly, and I do tend to snack more in the afternoon when that is my lunch.

At this point, my mom and dad have license to point out how spoiled I am. My mom’s lunch is usually little more than a hard-boiled egg, and my dad’s is typically based around yogurt. My dad survived almost exclusively on peanut butter sandwiches in college. (I think my mom survived on ice cream for lunch in high school…)

So yes, I am spoiled, but I do rather prefer a hot lunch, even in the summertime. So to curb my expensive tastes, I am learning to cook beans for my lunches. The Professor, poor soul, doesn’t really like beans, so I have never bothered to learn how to cook them. But now I have a reason to, and in the coming weeks I am purposing to build a repertoire of bean (and lentil!) recipes, with Alton Brown, Debora Madison, and America’s Test Kitchen as my advisors. I expect that this will bring the cost of my lunches down closer to $0.15 per serving, saving us around $30 a month.

As I find recipes I like, I will be sharing them here for you to enjoy as well. So far, I have made chilli lentils and curried lentils. (Must. remember. to. soak. beans. next. time.) Served over rice, these have been every bit as filling as my dinner leftovers were, and I still get to enjoy my meaty, cheesy meals with the Professor and Savannah when I get home. In the coming weeks, I plan to make vegetarian gumbo, basic black beans, and baked beans.

What are your favorite bean dishes?

We Heart Kisses

Posted in Uncategorized by Laura on February 10, 2010

Any of you who get my regular photo album updates know I have a few gems for this week’s kissing theme over at I Heart Faces, because Savannah loves to pucker up at me and the Professor. Here’s my favorite.

Photo by Laura

And since I missed the contest this week, I’ll cheat and post a second one:

Photo by Laura

Visit the I ♥ Faces contest page for more photos of lovable faces!

Secret Ingredients

Posted in Food by Laura on February 6, 2010

Sometimes I have a recipe that is good enough on its own, but the addition of one special ingredient really completes it. I’ve recently made some improvements to two of the recipes posted here, and wow, those “secret” ingredients really make such a difference! While I’m updating those recipes, I thought now would be a great time to do a run-down of ingredients that I have found to take a dish from everyday to holiday special. These tweaks apply to most any version of the dish — so if you have a favorite rendition of one of the dishes listed here, see if the “secret” ingredient improves it!

1) We have always used buttermilk to make the dumplings for our Chicken ‘n Dumplings, but the last couple of times, we also added a splash of it to the filling. It is amazing the difference this makes! I would venture to say that a splash of buttermilk would improve any chicken stew based dish. (Soup, chicken pot pie, chicken casserole, etc.)

2) Bay leaves are a great addition to chilli. We have started putting them in with the beans while they are cooking, and adding some of the bean broth to the chilli pot. The fact that these stiff, green laurels add something special shouldn’t be a surprise to any seasoned cook — it’s always a good idea to add a bay leaf or two to any soup or stew.

3) Take your favorite rice pudding recipe, and strip it down to the bare essentials — usually this means leaving out the cinnamon and raisins. (But keep the sugar and vanilla.) Now add in some orange zest — say, a half teaspoon or so. Comforting and satisfying; clean and elegant.

4) We don’t put our green beans in a casserole at Thanksgiving anymore — we just toss them with sauteed garlic and olive oil, and top them with our secret ingredient: fried shallots. Slice them thin, bread them in salted flour, then fry them in a shallow pan of oil. These would probably work well in almost any casserole, but be sure not to get them too dark if they still have to go in the oven. If you can afford them (or grow them!), shallots have a magnificently rich flavor that can replace onions anytime.

Speak Up By Doing

Posted in Faith by Laura on January 24, 2010

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.

Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy.
Prov 31:8-9

I was unquestionably pro-life before I ever looked at abortion as a religious issue. Logic alone seems like enough to bring me to the conclusion that killing in the womb is as bad as killing outside of the womb. I mean, seriously. If I go into a convenience store and open up a candy bar and eat it, I’m stealing, right? Even if I never took the candy bar out of the store. I honestly don’t see how the location of a baby has any more influence over whether or not killing it is wrong.

But as I’ve seen more and more Scriptures in light of the issue of abortion, I’ve become increasingly convinced that my response to that understanding is in fact a spiritual issue. God doesn’t just call me to defend justice with words; he also calls me to act justly. He doesn’t just call me to decry abortion and then tell a single, pregnant woman, “good luck.” (“Keep warm and well-fed.”) No, he calls me to do something!

I say all of this with conviction, but without ever having done anything either. I’m not sure I ever really knew what to do. But I’ve recently seen some great ideas for things that ordinary people — you and I — can do to reach out and help these tiny babies who cannot speak for themselves. Won’t you join me in prayerfully considering the many ways in which you can put your pro-life views in action?

50 Ways to Help Unborn Babies and Their Mothers
More Ways to Support Life
The Horror of Abortion — and What We Can Do About It