By now everyone knows I heavily rely on Amazon for a lot of my purchases. During the lockdowns of 2020 I’ve depended on it even more, so in advance I apologize for basically every single link coming from one single marketplace. At this time I do NOT qualify for “affiliate links”, collect no commission for my recommendations, etc. Even if I did, I would only share things I have personally used and genuinely enjoy, or sincerely think would benefit some of my readers. For now, my recommendations are backed by the fact that I purchased them with our own money, which may reassure you of the unfeigned nature of my reviews.
Here ends my list of actual Christmas gifts. As I mentioned earlier, I am planning on going to Tractor Supply for more Schleich figurines to even things out, and I need to get some fun seasonal candies for their stockings. We are relatively low-key with gifts, but it really adds up with three kids (and the fourth on the way!!)
What follows is a list of things that, while not purchased as gifts, are items that I recently got and have found helpful and think some of you may be interested in as well!
Making cinnamon rolls and icing from scratch is undoubtedly more work than using the canned variety, or buying them ready made from a store. However, if you take the time to make these just once, you will struggle to accept any alternative ever again… sorry! Even if these aren’t practical for rushed mornings, they are perfect for any occasion that deserves extra “oomph”… whether it’s an unscheduled weekend, or a gathering with friends or loved ones, you will not regret the work you put into this and whoever tastes them will beg you for more. Even though cinnamon rolls are often associated with breakfast, the made-from-scratch version can be tricky to get on the table in time without waking up very early. In order to eat them at breakfast, I usually start the dough at night. I let it rise the first time at room-temperature. For the second rise, I put it in the refrigerator (before I go to bed). First thing in the morning, I remove the dough from the refrigerator (where it has slowly risen overnight) and shape into rolls. Then the final rise is once again at room temperature while I complete my usual morning routine.
1½ cups lukewarm (not hot!) water
3 envelopes dry yeast (if you buy bulk, it’s 2 tablespoons plus ¾ teaspoons)
½ cup sugar
½ cup vegetable oil (I use canola)
½ cup mashed potatoes, totally plain (no milk, salt, or anything else)
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons nonfat dry milk powder
5-6 cups all purpose flour (plus more for dusting work surfaces) Cinnamon-Butter Filling
1½ cups powdered sugar, sifted to remove all lumps
2 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup milk (plus more if necessary) Other
3 standard 9-inch cake pans
Take a teaspoon of sugar out of your measured sugar and mix the teaspoon of sugar with the warm water and yeast and wait for it to activate and become bubbly (roughly 5-10 minutes depending on ambient temperature).
In a large bowl (preferably using a stand-mixer), add the remaining sugar, oil, potatoes, egg, and salt, and mix until incorporated. When the yeast is foamy, and the yeast mixture and briefly mix again.
Add the powered milk and 4 cups of flour and and mix for a few minutes. Slowly add remaining flour, a half-cup at a time, until the dough is pliable and but not too sticky. Be careful not to add too much flour. It is easy to knead more flour in if necessary, and it is better for the dough to be a little soft and sticky rather than stiff. Knead with a dough hook attachment on your mixer, or by hand, until this texture is achieved (roughly 5 minutes). Shape the dough into a ball and place in a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until it has doubled. This can take between 1½ to 2 hours depending on ambient temperature.
Punch down dough, reshape into a ball, and return to bowl. Re-cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled again (the second rise usually takes less time than the first, closer to an hour).
Punch dough down again and place on a floured work surface. Divide the dough into three equal parts. The best way to do this is to use a kitchen scale to ensure all three pieces are the same weight. Reshape into balls. One at a time, press the dough flat into a rectangle shape (as best you can), then fold into thirds like a letter. This shape is easier to roll into a proper rectangle shape with the rolling pin.
Butter the cake pans and lightly dust with flour. Mix the cinnamon and brown sugar together. Roll a dough “letter” into a 12×8 inch rectangle. Spread 1-2 tablespoons of the softened butter all over the top (feel free to briefly microwave if your house is cold and the butter doesn’t spread easily), and sprinkle with a third of the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Roll the dough up tightly from the short side and pinch the seam shut. Slice into 9 even pieces, and evenly space them in one of the prepared cake pans. Repeat the process with the other two dough “letters”. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to for about 1 hour.
During the final rise, preheat the oven to 325F.
Once the third rise is finished, remove plastic wrap and bake the rolls for 10 minutes. Raise the temperature to 350F and bake for 5 more minutes.
Remove, and allow to cool slightly before pouring on frosting.
While cooling, place all frosting ingredients in a bowl (preferably a stand mixer) and whisk thoroughly. And more milk, if needed, to make the frosting thick, but still easily pourable.
You may remove cinnamon rolls to a serving platter before drizzling desired amount of frosting over them, but I typically serve them from the cake pans.
Tvorog (pronounced closer to TVOR-ok), is a type of farmer’s cheese that is easily made at home, and does not require rennet. There are many types of farmer’s or cottage cheese that are made around the world… Indian paneer is very similar. Tvorog is not the same texture as the cottage cheese you will find in typical American grocery stores, though. Tvorog is very finely grained, and drier. It is not typically eaten plain, as American cottage cheese is, but is incorporated into other dishes. The following recipe is an easy version based on a recipe I found on That’s What She Had , and compares very favorably with the tvorog I enjoyed when living in Russia. For more information and methods (especially if you do not have an Instant Pot or yogurt maker), I highly recommend visiting That’s What She Had: How to Make Authentic Russian Tvorog . She also provides troubleshooting if your tvorog doesn’t turn out quite right.
1 gal milk
1/2 gal buttermilk
Straining tool (I recommend using a nylon nut-milk bag that can by hung by its own cord as the cheese drains, is easy to clean and reuse, and is very durable)
(I have a very large Instant Pot, but you are welcome to halve this recipe if your equipment has a smaller capacity)
Allow both ingredients to come to room temperature by leaving them on the counter for a few hours. Pour milk and buttermilk into your Instant Pot or yogurt maker. Set it to the yogurt incubation function for 48 hours (do NOT scald them first as you would typically do for yogurt).
Leave it alone.
Really, just pour, turn on your device, and leave it alone.
Once the 48 hours is up, the mixture should have naturally separated into tiny curds and whey. Carefully strain using your cheesecloth, or preferably nylon straining bag. Hang the bag over a pot to catch the whey as the tvorog drains for a few hours.
Carefully pour or scrape it out of the strainer into your storage container, and store in the refrigerator as you would for regular cottage cheese. The amount of milk and buttermilk listed for this recipe yields at least 4 cups of tvorog.
Coming from the Greek tradition, Lazarakia are a festive bread that are made to resemble Lazarus in his burial cloths, and baked by many Orthodox Christians on Lazarus Saturday. As a convert, I did not grow up with this tradition, or recipe… so while I can’t claim this to be “authentic”, I can claim it to be much beloved by my whole family!
1 3/4 cups warm water
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (one standard envelope
2 tablespoons sugar
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
2/3 cup olive oil, plus more for pans
Combine warm water, sugar, and yeast in a bowl, stir, and leave until bubbly.
Once the yeast is ready, in the bowl of a standing mixer with the dough hook attachment, pour the flour and salt. With machine running, add water mixture, and oil. Run the mixer for a few minutes until dough is just combined, stopping to scrape down side and bottom with a rubber spatula as needed. Briefly knead by hand for a minute or two if necessary.
Cover the bowl with plastic and allow dough to rise until doubled (about 1 hour, depending on ambient emperature).
After first rise, punch down dough amd knead one or twice. Re-cover, and allow to rise until at least double once again (roughly another hour).
Punch dough down again after second rise is complete. Separate into 16 even balls. An easy way to do this is to split the dough in half, then split each section in half, and keep repeating until you have 16 portions. Roll each portiom into a roughly hotdog size and shape, then flatten slightly. With kitchen shears, cut three long strips through the bottom 3/4 of each roll, and cut the sides at the top of the first cuts, as shown in the photo below (the side cuts provide more definition for the head).
Braid the three strips at the bottom, and place on a cookie sheet that has been liberally greased with olive oil. Once all the buns are arranged on the cookie sheets, firmly insert whole cloves to resemble eyes. Allow to rise for about an hour.
During the third rise, preheat your oven to 350F.
Before baking, brush more olive oil over the tops of the buns, and push the cloves back in if some have worked themselves loose during rising. Bake untol golden brown, rotating baking pans halfway through baking time (about 20 minutes, or until desired golden color has been achieved).
It’s hard for me to start a post about our homeschooling… I’m overwhelmed and don’t know where to start… it almost sounds like how I feel about homeschooling in general! HA, I jest (sort of)! I don’t pretend to be an expert on any of this, and I don’t presume to advise anyone on this process. This post is only to share what I feel is working for us this year, as some readers may find a tidbit or two inspiring. Hopefully I will cover the most important things here, but I question if it’s really possible to cover everything… I will try my best. Feel free to comment or message me if you have any questions or have suggestions for more topics to cover in a future blog post!
I suppose the first step in any venture is planning. I do not currently use a teacher planner. I have tried a few versions in the past, and the whole process felt bulky and redundant to me. We are currently using individual student planners. I plan their lessons about two weeks out (at most) in their personal planners, and they work from there. Sophia reads her planner on her own and completes many of her tasks on her own, ahead of schedule. Adriana is in the process of learning to read, so I am more hands-on in reading her planner, and going through the lessons with her. I do use a regular planner for my personal use… to organize my life, family events and commitments, and any to-dos I may have for homeschool or otherwise. My personal planner catches any tasks that may need to be done that don’t necessarily fit into the student planners. This year I am using a Hobonichi Techo Cousin, and I love it. It has some quirks that may deserve their own blog post some day. I have used the Erin Condren (Hourly/Neutral Format) in the past, and also really enjoyed it. Yea… sounds like I may need to do a specific planner post! I don’t like officially planning much more than a week in advance, because I have found that when LIFE happens, all the plans get thrown in the air, it it is annoying to white-out and re-write months of plans… however, I do review all the materials we plan on covering at the beginning of each school year, and get a feel for when we should be aiming to hit certain curriculum milestones.
Speaking of materials to cover, let’s talk about curriculum. In short, I don’t use one! No, I’m not un-schooling… I just don’t use any of the big, formally planned curriculums you’d typically see for sale. The backbone of my lessons has always been the Brain Quest workbooks (Sophia’s, Adriana’s). These are not designed to be used alone. I suspect they are meant to supplement or review, especially over summer break. However, I feel that they cover a well-rounded list of concepts for each grade level, so we work through them and whenever one of the kids gets a little stuck on a topic, I dig up supplemental information to help reinforce that area. Being that my children are only in first and second grade (Sophia is registered for second grade, but is using third grade material), I am currently able to supplement their weak areas on my own by explaining slowly, using manipulatives, and making up more examples. I also use Teachers Pay Teachers as a wonderful source of supplemental worksheets, activities, and lessons. I know very well that I won’t be able to “wing it” as much as they advance further and further academically, but it is working fine for us for the time being. Over the past summer, I slowly accumulated a whole collection of old school math textbooks AND the corresponding teacher manuals to go with them! I have these sets for first through fifth grade math!!
Unfortunately, I can’t provide links as these were all eBay listings… once I nabbed them, the offer was gone. But I am providing that information here to show you that with a little creative thinking, and some hunting around, you can find all sorts of valuable education materials, and for a fabulous price. This is especially true when your students are young. Sophia does her math work in a separate notebook, but I think Adriana’s first grade math text was designed to be written in… needless to say, I want to preserve it for future use, so I photocopy all work pages and keep them in her school binder. I think next year we will purchase a proper English/Language Arts curriculum for Sophia, as I am feeling that my explanations of grammar and language are not as helpful as they should be, and I just don’t feel confident with that subject anymore. She is doing fine for now, but it may be time to start using a professional curriculum for that subject. I feel I am a strong math teacher, and with the excellent resources I’ve already acquired, I doubt I will need to purchase anything more for math until middle school. Adriana is using a unique supplemental text to help her learn to read. It is a reprint of a McGuffy reader from 1863! Yes, 1863! Practicing a bit of this every day works well for her, and she is making beautiful progress. Luckily for all of us, this seller keeps listing reprints, and they can be purchased for (as of this writing) $5.99 and free shipping! It is legal to reprint these texts because they are so old that they are now part of the public domain. If you purchase one, please let the seller know I sent you!
But how do I juggle all this responsibility with a burgeoning “threenager” in the house??? Badly, let me tell you. It is hard to get anything done with someone that age running around. Every toddler parent already knows that! In fact, we struggled a great deal during the first half of this school year, as it was almost impossible at times to accomplish anything other than deal with issues related to her. She’s slowly growing and developing, and starting to fit into our routine better (instead of the other way around). Still, I often save lessons that need more focus for nap time, or I sit with one student, while the other plays with the toddler and keeps her as distracted as possible. I have tried using the TV as a babysitter – there, I freely admit it – but she is two, and not interesting for long, which I think it perfectly healthy. I also set up coloring and “homework” for her to do, but that doesn’t keep her occupied for very long either. Mostly, we are all just doing our best to stay patient and roll with the punches as we wait for her to grow out of this phase!
Other than that, I try to make sure that sitting down to do book work does not take up a large amount of our day. I feel strongly that children, and adults for that matter, learn best by living. I do my best to include the children in every aspect of my day, answer their questions to the best of my ability, and take time to research answers when I feel unsure. We are not part of a co-op, but frequently visit the library and participate in many extra-curricular activities in our community.
This recipe is designed to be cooked in a mini crockpot (mine is about 2 quarts), but it can be doubled or tripled and put in a larger crockpot. This dish can also be cooked in a pot on the stove over low to medium heat, and stirred frequently. Based on a dish that hails from Goa, India, I rely on this recipe whenever I’m eating vegan and want something warm, and very satisfying! It is also a meal I rely on when I know I will have a busy day, and want to come home to a hot, yummy meal, with minimal effort. I like the hearty thickness of this dish and enjoy eating it on its own as a stew, but it also goes great with rice, naan, etc. I don’t use any chilies in my version, but feel free to add to your taste!
1½ cups dried black eyed peas
2 small tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 small yellow onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 Tablespoon sea salt
2 teaspoons brown sugar (jaggery is even better if you can find it!)
1 Tablespoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon powdered turmeric
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ can (roughly 6oz) unsweetened coconut milk
cilantro to taste
Wash the beans and soak them for at least 8 hours. I typically soak mine before going to bed at night, then start the crock pot in the morning to have the meal ready by evening.
Once soaked, drain the beans and add to crock pot.
Put the tomatoes, onion, ginger, garlic, salt and brown sugar in a blender, and blend smooth. Add to crock pot. Add enough water to just cover the beans. Stir, and put on the lid. Set the crock pot to high for 7 hours, and stir occasionally as the beans become thick at the bottom. Add more water if necessary, but the goal is for a thick consistency.
Once the beans have cooked until they are very soft and mushy (about 7 hours), add the coriander, turmeric, cumin, and coconut milk. Continue to cook for about 15 more minutes.
Serve warm with a drizzle of coconut milk, cilantro, rice, and/or bread.
This post is meant to be a companion to the video I put up a on YouTube a couple days ago… a more detailed display of all the goodies and knickknacks I scored this past weekend at one of my local thrift stores! I will also link the video below, for those interested.
I made it to the gym this morning for a cycling class and absolutely crushed it!! It’s amazing what a shift in hormones and little sleep can do! Gabriella has been doing better about sleeping at night, but I still need to work on going to sleep earlier.
To be frank, I really didn’t get much done around the house today. I washed a few loads of laundry, hung them on the line to dry, folded them as I took them off the line, and put everything away. Other than that I was rather lazy (other than the 20 million little things that must be done for the children every day) and loafed around on YouTube for a substantial portion of the day.
We had sockeye salmon, mashed potatoes, and mixed-greens salad for dinner. We also tried some frozen sushi from Aldi! When I saw it at the store, I was convinced it must be awful, but I was so impressed by the sheer audacity of carrying such an item that I decided to give both options a try. They turned out really nice!!
Tuesday, July 23
It’s been a really long time since I did a “Tea Party Tuesday” post on Instagram… it’s been a while since I did a tea party at all…. today is the day that’s getting fixed! I made a chocolate cake using my oldest, and most favorite recipe that just so happens to be vegan! It is from The Joy of Vegan Baking, and I have mentioned it many, many times on my Instagram. The icing was a regular non-vegan buttercream that I tinted pink, and sprinkled with nonpariels. I used the baking strips that I mentioned in my “perfect layers”post.
Wednesday, July 24
This morning started well enough when I did get myself out of bed to go to the gym!! Things took a turn when no instructor showed up. I considered working out on my own, but I really don’t feel confident with the equipment or working out in general without someone there telling me what to do and keeping an eye on my form, and my bed was still so warm and soft and cozy… with my husband still sleeping all cuddly-like… so I decided to go home and snuggle back up and fall back asleep.
We made homemade chicken tenders for dinner! It’s a recipe I’ve been toying with for a couple weeks, and I find it rather plain and uninteresting, but it is a total smash-hit with the kids and husband so…. I guess I will keep making it..?
Thursday, July 25
Gabriella has an annoying habit of triumphantly stripping off every stitch of clothing, including her diaper, and hurling all articles as far away as she can.
We received this playpen as a gift from relatives before she was born, and we have used and abused this thing and it’s still going strong!!
We went to the pool around noon, and brought a small picnic lunch that the girls thoroughly enjoyed: leftover homemade chicken fingers (with ketchup for dipping), chocolate pudding cups, and some Annie’s gummies.
Friday, July 26
I’m writing this on Saturday evening, and for the life of me I can’t remember what we did on Friday…….. I vacuumed the house..?
Saturday, July 27
Today we took the girls to a local American Girl Doll club activity, and went grocery/miscellaneous shopping at Aldi and Walmart. Hubby suggested we visit the beach tomorrow, so we started preparations for that!
We enjoyed a leisurely morning (as leisurely as can be had with three young children, one of them a toddler) at home, and at noon went to Albert G. Horton Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery. I always have mixed feelings when honoring veterans… I am grateful that many have volunteered to risk their lives in the hope that they are protecting loved ones, and serving their communities. I am grateful to those who did not volunteer, those who were drafted. I am very grateful to those who willingly ran towards danger in foreign lands, only to face abuse and discrimination upon returning home. I am also angered that their service is needed at all. I feel angry because I do not believe all wars are just, and many people suffer greatly…. only to have the same problems and tragedies repeated again and again.
Remembering veterans always pushes me in my developing understanding of Christian pacifism. Is war ever ok? Is it ever justified? If one is truly pacifist, and knowingly endanger others by refusing to take up arms… is it really pacifism? I don’t have answers, and almost certainly never will in this lifetime. But Memorial Day always makes me pause, and question. I even grieve, even though nobody in my family has fallen on a battlefield. I really hope the warriors…. all warriors, both friend and foe, lived and died for truly worthy causes.
I also remember the nameless civilians that are inevitably harmed and traumatized by war. The children that have grown in horrific wartime conditions… and struggled to survive when the war was over, but life was still far from normal. I am grateful that my children live in a peaceful place, and that my country is generally at peace… but I am forced to remember the many people that are suffering even as I type. How our lives are so different, and yet we are fundamentally such similar beings. The unfairness of it all angers me. Will it ever stop? Will another war make it stop? Is pacifism just a form of burying one’s head in the sand…. a form of willful ignorance, maybe even cowardice?
My own impotence angers me.
But I can’t be angry too long, because:
Tuesday, May 28
Just finished my fixed hair post (the follow up to my messed up hair post), and now I need to spend the rest of the day prepping for some friends who are coming over for dinner tomorrow!! It’s a family of seven, I believe… my husband used to work with the patriarch of the crew.
I’m tentatively planning on making fresh hummus with fresh cut veggies to dip (I should really get my recipe posted on here), baked mac-and-cheese (also need to type that up), and Paula Deen’s peach cobbler, dinner rolls, and lemon meringue pie (but using my own tender pie crust recipe). I also might make a salad, but I’m not sure. My mouth is watering just thinking about it all! Hubby will be grilling steaks and doing boring manly stuff. Who knows. I will track the interesting things here. Things that do not include his boring-manly-grilling-stuff.
For a long time, I’ve wanted to dabble with YouTube but so far haven’t come up with a style that really feels authentic to me. I am really inspired by the filming styles of congcongh, sueddu, Liziqi, and might toy with something in their genre… so I’ve dusted off the camera and am gathering some footage relating to this dinner… we will see how it turns out. I have so much to learn, it is dizzying. And EVERYTHING is made harder with a toddler in tow, especially one as forceful as Gabriella is turning out to be! Whew!!
Add to that a literal mountain of ironing I need to deal with, and vacuuming the house (at least I got the upstairs and steps done this morning), general cleaning, and….. ::cough:: learning how to make bound buttonholes so I can make some progress on my current sewing project (you can track it on @the.seamy.side.of.life).
Wednesday, May 29
Yesterday, I made dinner rolls, most of the lemon meringue pie (the crust, and lemon filling), and hummus. I got tons of footage for the possible YouTube video!! It’s stressful learning a new skill, especially when I’m already under pressure getting things ready for an event. I know most people hardly consider friends coming over for dinner as an event, but Hubby and I are very excited and we love going all-out as much as we are able.
Speaking of Hubby and “Boring Manly-Stuff”, he grilled all sorts of things… pork, a couple different cuts of steak, chicken wrapped in bacon, and some sort of sausage or kielbasa. I don’t know. If it doesn’t have sugar and/or cheese (or bread) I honestly couldn’t care less.
Today I made baked macaroni and cheese, peach cobbler, and whipped the egg whites to top the pie. I think I need to add more cornstarch to the recipe… I’ve made this pie twice, and both times it didn’t set very firmly. It tastes amazing, though!!
I did a marvelous job of filming… until the guests arrived! Maybe this means I’m not meant for social media stardom, but I couldn’t help but turn the camera off. I want to live my life and interact with my guests! I had every intention of stealthily filming a clip or two of the finished dishes and some of the fun the kids were having, but as soon as everyone got to chatting, I put filming out of my mind. I’m a little frustrated that, since I didn’t film any sort of ending, all of my party-prep footage is now useless. Maybe I shouldn’t say “useless”…. it’s true I probably won’t be uploading a completed video this time, but I have to admit I did learn a lot about the best places to put the camera, which angles I prefer, etc.
I did snap a quick pic of the completed peach cobbler and lemon meringue pie right before I started serving them…
I made the meringue while the guests were present, and I think all the kids were amused when I solemnly ordered them into the kitchen….. only to had them a spoonful of “cloud” to eat. I think I caught them by surprise, and it was a nice ice-breaker. We then torched the pie, and that was also a crowd-pleaser. Sugar and fire have a way of bonding people.
There ended up not being a lot of leftovers… at least not the dishes I made. My husband basically grilled an entire farm so we do have a lot of meat leftover. I’m honestly considering storing some of it in the freezer, because there isn’t any way we can eat it all in the next few days.
Thursday, May 30
Doing NOTHING feels so good right now. This won’t last long, as I really do need to finish cleaning up from yesterday, and just housework in general. But I don’t have a hard deadline looming over me at the moment, and it feels good to work at a leisurely pace. I don’t even have a deadline for lunch or dinner, since we will be having leftovers! I will need to get back to my brisk routine tomorrow, since life with kids in the house is always busy, and we have a few exciting things coming up….. Adriana’s party, for one thing, and a possible trip to Busch Gardens.
And also a surprise guest that only Hubby and I know is coming……. 😉
The rest of my day will be spent cleaning, ironing, and I would like to wash my bedsheets. Having fresh sheets is a luxury I’m obsessed with, and I like having them freshly cleaned every three or four days. Ideally, I would have fresh sheets every day, but the water bill would be insane. The weather is bright and sunny today, which means I will also get to dry them on the line! The scent of sun-dried sheets is unbeatable. I always sleep better after putting freshly sun-dried sheets on my bed.
Sunday, June 2
I’ve taken another *surprise* social media break. I burn out way too easily… I think my frustration about the YouTube attempt mentioned earlier really got to me more than I expected it would. I just feel like all my attempts at building anything are futile. My daily life is so stuffed with laundry, SO MANY MEALS, diapers, baths, dusting, vacuuming, homeschooling… tantrums from the toddler and bajillions of questions from the older ones. I already have so much to do, why do I add other projects to it? Dreams and “goals” seem pretty pointless when I have no time to put into achieving them. To be honest, I’ve been also feeling like my dreams and goals are pretty stupid to begin with. But I won’t bore you with my moaning any more.
We just got back from grocery shopping. Our cart was full of mostly baking ingredients. I’ve probably bit off more than I can chew…. AGAIN.
Adriana has actually not picked a birthday cake! But she selected from my cookbooks many recipes of foods that look like something fairies might eat. Lemon pound cake, blueberry pie, rugelach (she said they look like woodland logs!), cookies in the shape of leaves, a cream tart with slices of poached apples arranged to look like roses, a plum galette… I can’t remember it all! But I am excited to try, as it all sounds delicious.
We will also have a visit from Teeny Tiny Farm!!! They came to her party a couple years ago and were a big hit. This year we are getting the simple Pony and Friends Package, and I have been informed that they do have a unicorn horn that the pony can wear so that it resembles the unicorn from the movie we are drawing inspiration from.
We will have a special, surprise house guest at the party….. but unfortunately we might not have many (or any) kids… we’ve had friends move away, and we live rather far away from most of our old friends anyway, and I didn’t want anyone to feel pressured to trek out to our house at 6pm. We do have a neighborhood family that we enjoy playing with, and I will invite them, but with the understanding that the timing might not be great for them either.
Maybe it’s not such a bad thing… maybe the best thing a middle child can have for her birthday is attention from family, and a party and pony that she doesn’t have to share….. Queen [Titania] for a day, indeed….
To be honest, I don’t really know what this post is about. I thought I experienced an epiphany, but now that I’ve started typing, I feel a little foolish. My idea was to start… journaling, I guess? Journaling publicly online? I guess that’s what blogging really is, right? So far, I have only ever posted about specific topics on this website (recipes mostly), but maybe I’m missing something. I don’t read any blogs, so I haven’t a clue how they are supposed to work…???
“WIR” is my abbreviation for “Week in Review”. Not a creative title, but that’s what I’m giving you. I have about 700 subscribers on Instagram… it isn’t a lot by most people’s standards, and the number has grown very slowly over the years. This is all perfectly fine with me, as I don’t consider myself a “real blogger”.. just a constantly frazzled wife and mother who likes all things fancy and decadent, but can’t afford it. I’m just fiddling around and having a bit of creative me-time and bonding time with like-minded people online.
Despite my humble online presence, I seem to receive a lot of positive feedback and camaraderie, so… this series (if that’s what it becomes) is for you! For those of you that enjoy my little Instagram posts, and may enjoy a bit more “meat” to it.
Sunday, May 19
Thought of many profound insights to share. My memory was immediately wiped clean as I sat down at the keyboard. C’est la vie.
Monday, May 20
Mostly spent the day trying to catch up on housework after a busy weekend… the usual Monday routine. I also researched some local traveling petting zoos. We are hoping to schedule one to come to Second-Born’s… actually, believe it or not she DOES have a real name…. let’s start that again: Adriana’s birthday. There probably won’t be a lot of people there, unfortunately, but hopefully she can at least have a pony to ride! We’ve had friends move away, and we live in a rather out-of-the-way area ourselves, any many of our friends and relations simply struggle to make the trip for this sort of thing. We do have some neighborhood friends that I hope will make it, but since I am admittedly pulling this together pretty last minute, I’m not holding my breath on their attendance. Adriana has fallen in love with the 1935 film version of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Yes, you read that entire sentence correctly. So far I have a wig and silver dress for her to vaguely resemble Queen Titania and her fairy attendants (see below).
It would probably be best if I reserve the bulk of my party-specific info for a separate post, just to keep things organized.
While I did manage to get the blog post up about Sophia’s Easter dress, I still need to type up one for Adriana’s.
Tuesday, May 21
Adriana and I made her favorite blueberry waffles this morning, and tried to do a cute little photoshoot. My photography skills are still abysmal, so the whole experience really only produced a tasty breakfast that First-Born (aka Sophia) inexplicably snubbed, and fodder for my middle child’s already robust ego. We used the recipe from “American Girl: Breakfast and Brunch” and it really is tasty.
I hand-whipped some cream to dollop on top, but didn’t account for the heat emanating from the fresh waffles. As we tried to rush through some fancy “Instagrammy” food shots, the whipped cream melted and our plate was left looking more sloppy than elegant. It tasted marvelous nonetheless. Thanks to Sophia’s snobbery, the rest of us enjoyed extra portions.
While the recipe states frozen berries may be used, I personally recommend using fresh. We used frozen blueberries in the past, and the melted juices tinted the whole batter a rather sickly purplish-grey. I think that’s why Sophia was repulsed when she discovered what was on the menu. Fresh berries hold up better in the batter (yes I did that on purpose), and I think they come out looking nicer.
Third-Born (known by the family as Gabriella) has barely slept for the past week. I think she had several large back teeth coming in all the same time!! It seems all our suffering has come to an end today, thank GOD!!!!! Her nap started a little before 12:30 and it is now 3:55 and she is still asleep! Poor thing. Hopefully the worst of that drama is finally behind us.
Wednesday, May 22
I cut my hair!!
I used the “unicorn method”. This was my first time EVER cutting my own hair. At least not since some surreptitious snipping back in grade school…
The rest of my experience is posted here, under the “Beauty” tab, because this was such an ordeal that it does require its own post.
Thursday, May 23
Other than typing this entry, I chilled-out with social media today. I feel like I burn out very easily when it comes to social interaction, and it seems to include social media. Why am I like this? It’s a significant handicap considering I rely on other humans for my own survival, and I even want to socialize sometimes… it just kind of kills me a little inside if I do it for too long. I’ve always been like this. I was the kid that went alone to her bedroom during her own birthday parties. Ugh. Since I can’t think of a solution, I guess all I can do is keep trucking along as best as I can.
The girls did well with homeschooling today, although our lessons have been pared-down to the bare necessities since Gabriella has entered the Terrible Twos (which really started when she turned 1). Adriana is still to young to be required to undergo standardized testing to comply with our state regulations, but Sophia is gearing up to take the CAT6 through Seton Testing Services and if any of my readers have any insight they would like to share on this subject, I would appreciate the input!
I’m going to give the two oldest fresh pedicures, and I want to do my own mani/pedi tonight, but we will see how that goes. It all really depends on Gabriella… I can hardly give my nails time to dry if I am obliged to attend a screaming toddler throughout the evening. But as I mentioned on Tuesday, she seems to be over the miserable sleeping rut she was in for a few weeks.
How could I forget my most exciting news? I have a professional salon appointment set for tomorrow morning at Blonde Salon, to fix the embarrassing cut I gave myself yesterday!!! I’m really thinking about adding long, swept-away bangs….. hmm… this may also be better as a separate post.
Friday, May 24
The haircut turned out fantastic! Jennifer did a great job, and if you are in the area, I recommend her! I will save the rest of the haircut info for a separate post… you’re probably picking up on my love of compartmentalization and organization…
The most exciting event of the day, nay… MONTH… was when I looked out the window and discovered our neighbor had cut down a large tree! My first thought was for the lovely fragments of trunk that were already cut into the perfect height for chairs or tables for Adriana’s fairy party! What could be more whimsical and appropriate for our Midsummer Night’s Dream fête that real logs and stumps strewn about the garden for seating etc… with English ivy still clinging to the bark? Nevermind the fact that the sap is still flowing from the freshly cut wood, and guests may find themselves stuck to their seat at the end of the evening…
I was thrilled about the logs, and then he approached me with a nest he had found in the tree, still with two teeny blue robin’s eggs. He asked if we had any interest in them, otherwise he’d leave them out for the animals. I said the girls would love to give interspecies maternal instincts some exercise (let’s be honest, so would I), so we took them. The girls were full of high hopes, and of course I was too, but after rotating around the sun more that 30 times, I had a realistic expectation that this probably would not result in healthy adult birds. It would be a miracle if they even hatched. But I was determined to do what we could. My children are very fortunate, and have never experienced grief…. and we haven’t had pets, so their personal understanding of the “circle of life” is limited to cold theory. It is a punch in the gut when actually experiencing it first-hand.
We have zero incubation equipment, so our Hail Mary was human body heat. Sophia cut two compartments out of an egg carton, which we further padded with tissues. We placed the eggs inside, taped the carton shut, and took turns holding it our warm laps, with sheepskins and blankets piled on top to retain heat.
I carefully slept with it in this position at night. It was like when my babies were newborns and we slept with them in bed with us: I barely moved all night…. instinctively aware that there was delicate life right next to me.
Saturday, May 25
I felt absolutely ridiculous after waking up next to a carton of robin’s eggs. I determined to try to figure out if there is any way to see if the buggers were even alive before I invested more of my time sleeping next to rotten eggs. I seemed to remember people holding eggs up to a light source to determine….. something.. what was it? Thankfully I live in the age of Google, and quickly learned this technique is called “candling”. I saw a few videos online, and this 4-minute video was one of my favorites. We used the method on both eggs, and determined that one was clearly a “late death”. This 5-minute video is utterly fantastic and also shows examples of how dead eggs will appear during candling. We took the dead egg outside, and cracked it open to study before leaving it to fate nature had intended all along….. nourishment for another living being.
The other egg actually had movement!!! I recorded it in a YouTube video of my own, but it was really hard to get the lighting right. I could even occasionally see something thin and opaque that appeared to be maybe legs moving against the shell.
A subscriber from Instagram suggested placing the egg in another nest to be adopted. A genius idea!! Only problem is, I was unable to locate another nest. I made a note to myself to keep better track of the nests in our area for this very purpose should the need ever arise again.
Back into the carton and laps it went.
When I candled it at night before I went to bed, I noticed reduced movement. I bundled up with it again at night.
Sunday, May 26
Upon coming downstairs, I candled the remaining egg, and determined it was dead.
I broke the news as gently as I could when the girls came down, but they reacted as I expected. It was a heavy blow, but important to experience and work through. They will work through it, but grief takes time… even for something as “foolish” as a common bird egg. I’m glad they have the compassion and empathy to understand and care. When they are ready, we will take it outside to reunite it with the Circle of Life, and allow it to keep life going for another hungry garden resident.