Butternut Squash Soup

This soup is comforting when served hot in winter, and soothing when served cool in summer. It is vegan and suitable for fasting periods, and is a fabulous way to get a whole lot of vitamins and minerals into one bowl! Feel free to substitute other flavorful pumpkins, gourds, or squashes (I recommend kabocha!) and to adjust quantities based on what you have available.

2 medium butternut squash (peeled, seeds removed, chopped)

5 stalks celery (chopped)

2-3 Granny Smith apples (peeled, seeds removed, chopped)

4 carrots (peeled, chopped)

1 sweet yellow onion (peeled, chopped)

garlic to taste (I use a full head, peeled, chopped)

1 tablespoon sea salt, or to taste

water to cover/to preferred thickness (may use stock if preferred, but tastes great with just water)

coconut milk or heavy cream for serving

pumpkin seeds or other nuts or seeds for garnishing

Put all the chopped ingredients (everything except the cream and garnishes) in a large stockpot and pour in enough water to cover. Set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer vegetables until soft. Remove from heat and allow to cool until you can safely transfer to a blender or food processor (you will likely need to do this in batches), and puree until smooth. The soup will get quite thick once it is blended so feel free to add as much extra water or stock as you want to achieve your preferred consistency. You may also use an immersion blender if you’d like. Return to pot and heat, adjust consistency as you wish.

Garnish with cream, nuts, or seeds as you prefer. In the photo I used heavy cream, hemp hearts, and pumpkin seeds.

Christmas 2020 Gift Guide

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.

First of all, I did NOT actually purchase this through Amazon, but since the Molton Brown (https://www.moltonbrown.com/store/index) website doesn’t embed nicely here on my blog, I’m using Amazon’s link to the product. I like getting the gift sets on sale during holidays, and I made my husband’s purchase on Black Friday during a big sale… I don’t pay full price for these items. The “Recharge Black Pepper” is probably his favorite so I got him a 10oz bottle.. not the set with the bar soap as pictured here. I also got him one of the “festive bauble” bodywash sets but the scents I got weren’t listed on Amazon for me to conveniently embed here for you however, keep scrolling:
This is a set that I got him for Father’s Day. Again, I’d purchased it earlier during some sort of sale. I encourage you to sign up to the Molton Brown email list or check frequently for sales. Like many high-end bath items, I’ve found that these are very potent soaps and a 10oz bottle actually lasts a shockingly long time. To the point that, on sale, the price becomes comparable to a lower-quality (and more garishly scented) drugstore wash that empties out like water.
Second-Born has been begging for these books of detailed search-and-find photos, and this is the year she gets one! My favorite planner company, Hobonichi (https://www.1101.com/store/techo/en/) did a cover with work from this artist last year… tragically it seems to have sold out before I could get my hands on it.
We have the entire collection of these My First
Little House books…. except this one that has inexplicably eluded us for YEARS. Finally Third-Born will be the one to receive it!
Schleich is the epitome of toy-horse design, in my opinion, while still being affordable and durable enough for play. I encourage you to explore their whole range of figurine toys (https://www.amazon.com/stores/Schleich+USA/page/A1CB0246-C09B-44F8-BECD-91D60A99E21D?ref_=ast_bln) that includes dinosaurs, medieval and mystical creatures, all the way to regular animals! If you don’t want to purchase these through Amazon, I know our local Tractor Supply carries them (and at a better price!!), so see if you have one in your area. Second-Born will find this item in her stocking, but I have no doubt it will be a hot commodity with all three of them. I am planning on going to Tractor Supply to pick up more from the series and stocking stuffers because this toy on it’s own will start a war.
Papo is another brand we enjoy and is comparable in selection and price to Schleich! This one is for Third-Born.
This is for First-Born. Please don’t judge me. This child’s favorite section in the newspaper (after the comics of course!) is the obituaries, so why would you expect her gift requests to make sense? When we had cable, our favorite channel was TCM, and she was OBSESSED with this movie that I thankfully recorded. When we cut cable, all of our recordings were, of course, gone. So this will be a long-awaited reunion!
Another gift for First-Born! She doesn’t necessarily want to be a vet, but she loves animals (like most children) and loves learning about how things work, so this seems like a good blend of the two. The fact that it’s inevitably educational is a plus for her homeschooling mother. *wink wink*
Following the educational theme, one of my resolutions for the coming year is to buckle down on our language studies. Second-Born loved using the English-only version of this series when she was learning to read, so I suspect she will also enjoy a bilingual version.
More Spanish delights. This one is for Third-Born.
Second-Born acts (and with the shape of her eyes, even looks!) like a character out of a Studio Ghibli movie. She loves my photos of my early years in Japan, Japanese YouTubers and bento-box tutorials. So now she will have a bento box of her own. Even though we homeschool, this may motivate me to take the kids out on more picnics (I probably need to buy one for each of the others, too!), and I’ve also toyed with the idea of making our weekday lunches ahead of time in the hope that it disrupts our homeschool time less than our typical lunch breaks.
This is the big-ticket item for First-Born! I always wanted one of these myself when I was younger, so I really can’t wait to hear how she does with this!!

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!

For our bilingual classroom (actually.. polyglot classroom… more on that later) these posters are an impressive addition. They are heavy-duty and very professional looking.
Pretty self-explanatory! Well made, and simple enough to read with the youngest one, while complex enough to help me with my own vocabulary!
I described our classroom as “polyglot” (knowing/using several languages) and now you know why…. but it gets even better so strap yourself in before you keep scrolling. English and Spanish use alphabets that are nearly identical. Russian has the additional challenge of learning a new alphabet from scratch. Just as the girls all did coloring pages when learning their native English alphabet, I am DELIGHTED to have found the equivalent in bilingual Russian-English. I’m sure they will pick up the Cyrillic alphabet easily this way, just as they did the English.
A more advanced picture-dictionary (I already have the Spanish version from this publisher). I will likely be the primary user for now. It really helps my retention having pictures with the vocabulary!
I’ve had the hardest time finding Cyrillic posters, but this one turned out great and is actually a sort of…. fabric? Not paper. I haven’t hung it up yet as I’d like to mount it in a poster frame first.
I told you I wasn’t done!! In all honesty, the girls are going to have little more than a fun, casual exposure to Japanese for now. Even though I was born and raised a few years there (and did pick up a few phrases when I was young), I’ve never truly spoken the language myself and I can’t take teaching it seriously. This is more for me to slowly explore, and share the occasional fun trivia with the girls. It’s easy to dismiss this type of “lesson” as completely frivolous, but speaking from MY OWN experience with language it is SHOCKING how much a person can pick up even with occasional tidbits of exposure. At the very least they will get basic exposure, and exercise their brains. I don’t expect to guide them to Japanese fluency, but maybe we can at least walk through the door together and have some fun!
I’ve been hunting around for clogs for a while but they were all more expensive than I was willing to pay. At $60 these were a surprising discovery and I’m glad to have them. They run a little big and I think are most designed to be worn with socks.
This tiny piece of minimalist jewelry was given to First-Born on her birthday. Its small design fits perfectly on a smaller body, and it has held up nicely.
This was another item from First-Born’s November birthday. It is a very delicate and minimalist design that looks wonderful on small fingers, not overpowering.
Second-Born got these for her birthday over the summer and they are a big hit especially when friends come over. I don’t know what it is about kids and enjoying the most complicated way to move from Point A to Point B…
Another present Second-Born recieved over the summer… nothing says “fun” like the real possibility of accidentally launching your face into the pavement. Be sure to get a pogo stick if teeth are optional in your lifestyle.
Another present useful for maiming, also received by Second-Born.
The best leggings you will ever own, at any price point. These happen to be about $10 a pair. Never have I encountered such a buttery soft, stretchy, AND opaque legging in my life. The selection boggles the mind, and they do have a limited selection in kids sizes. I’ve been happily growing my collection for a few years now. You can check out the Leggings Depot storefront to see all their options (https://www.amazon.com/stores/Leggings+Depot/page/68B33F7C-13F9-42C6-A40F-7F42F29E123A?ref_=ast_bln)
My go-to tea strainers for individual portions. Comes in a pack of 2.
An excellent leash for small pets. We currently have it in two different sizes. Very easy to operate (for the human), and impossible to wriggle out of (for the cat… yes, we walk our cat)
I’m by no means an expert gardener, but I’ve found this book immensely helpful in giving me an idea of what should happen when.
Another useful book for the practical backyard gardener.
Fannypacks actually look cool when Herschel makes them. I have one in a rusty orange color. Hopefully I will get my hands on more!
I never thought there could possibly be anything to say about something as mundane as a “cell phone stand”… but this one is seriously heavy-duty and awesome! It’s hard to keep my husband from stealing mine away to the office!

Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting

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.


Dough

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)

1 egg

2 teaspoons salt

3 tablespoons nonfat dry milk powder

5-6 cups all purpose flour (plus more for dusting work surfaces)
Cinnamon-Butter Filling

½ cup room-temp/softened butter

¾ cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons cinnamon powder
Cream-Cheese Frosting

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: Instant Pot or Yogurt Maker

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.

Lazarakia

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

Whole cloves

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).

2019-2020 Homeschool: What’s Working For Us This Year

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!20200125_151218

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!!

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The teacher book has the corresponding student pages in the center, and lots of extra information and activities and suggestions in the margins!

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.

Goan Black-Eyed Peas

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.

I hope you enjoy!

$60 at Goodwill Thrift Store

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.

 

Without further ado, THE GOODS:

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These were the girls’ picks.

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Gorgeous details (and yummy baby toes if you peek the background).

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The Children’s Place jeans for First-Born, and a J. Crew skirt and brass pot for me!

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PEEKABOO!! 😀

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The trivets and items from the brass lot.

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WIR: July 22-July28, 2019

Monday, July 22

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.

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These are the padded cycling pants I use!

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!!

Aldi frozen yummies
Gabriella is exploring the frozen packages.

SO COLD
“Why do they feel like this????”

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.

“The sandwiches look nice, but when can we have the CAKE??”

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Good times with good friends.

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Eating my sandwich, but eyeing that cake reeeeally hard.

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..?

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My sweet little “helper”… really not helpful.

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.

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…….. why?

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.

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Not at all a flattering photo of me, but I refuse to catfish you. (You can see Gabi is enjoying the chicken!)

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!

Sunday, July 28

We went to the beach at First Landing State Park and had an incredible time. It’s always exhausting doing this sort of things with little kids, but it was really good bonding and fun time for all of us. I’m wearing the bathing suit I mentioned in a previous blog post which is unfortunately sold out in this color but does come is several other colors, and my “Mama Bear” hat is from Amazon.

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I managed to get her to take a 30 minute nap in my arms!

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Surveying the scene with Daddy

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Gabriella wants to hog the binoculars, and she can’t even use them right!

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Endless D-R-A-M-A with this family, lol!

WIR: May 27-June 2, 2019

Monday, May 27 (Memorial Day)

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:

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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…

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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….

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She wants a swig of homemade Indian chai leftover from a big sister. It’s never to early too learn how to use good china!