Saturday, March 30, 2013

Weekend Cooking: Easter baskets and pie!


I can remember to Easters of my past, waking up at my Grandma Bruch's house with a huge basket next to my bed from the Easter bunny.  My basket overflowed with green, shiny grass with chocolate bunnies, oval malted eggs and jelly beans of every color poking through the grass.  On top looped on the sides was always something to wear for Easter servies at my grandmother's Lutheran church.  I remember a beautiful Easter bonnet, a pair of white gloves, and black patent leather Mary Janes nesting in my basket in different years.

I loved those baskets filled with simple joy and thought it certainly equaled Mary Magdalene's thrill at seeing Jesus out of the tomb.  I've kept this tradition going with my own children although I don't fill their baskets with as much candy as I remember from my baskets.  They do usually have an item in their basket to wear for church although as they get older it is difficult to thrill them.  College boy is partial to picking his own clothes which leaves me to stock his basket with a packet of white T's and AE boxer shorts for the last few years.

Groovy Girl, on the other hand, adores the clothes I pick for her.  This year I've heard that the Easter bunny is bringing her a pair of {audible gasp} high heel patent leather Mary Janes.  She's 10 and I've never really allowed her to wear something with a heal even though she's begged and pleaded.  I think she's going to love them!  I predict she's going to dance with them on all the way across the hardwood floors at 6:10 a.m. as we prepare to head across town for our sunrise service. She'll probably have chocolate in her mouth as she twirls

Our Easter celebration will end with this pie because what says Springtime more than bright yellow lemons:

Aunt Betty Jean's Lemon Pie
Sweety Pies; an uncommon collection of Womanish observations with pie by Patty Pinner

One 9-inch single Flaky Pie Crust, rolled out, fitted into a pie plate, and edge trimmed and crimped

1 cup sugar
1 T unbleached all-purpose flour
4 large eggs, beaten
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup (1/2 stick), unsalted butter, melted
1 T. grated lemon rind
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Whipped cream and thinly sliced rinds for garnish

Makes one 9-inch pie

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare the pie crust and set aside.  (I made the pie crust already but am not including the recipe from the book as it is a pretty standard pie crust recipe-if you really want this one request it in the comments section and I'll see that you get it)

In a medium-size bowl, combine the sugar and the flour, then add the beaten eggs and corn syrup, mixing well.  Stir in the melted butter, lemon rind, and juice.  Pour the filling into the crust, place in the oven, and bake until the crust is golden, 45 to 50 minutes.  Let cool completely on a wire rack.

Garnish each serving with a dollop of freshly whipped cream and a thin twist of lemon rind.

Oh, my!  Pie.

This post is linked to Beth Fish Reads weekend cooking meme.  Click her link to find many other food-related posts to brighten your Easter Weekend.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Newlyweds by Nell Freudenberger

Nell Freudenberger

I read this for our March book club selection and the general consensus last Monday at our meeting was that it was solid but not great and yet our conversation was very animated.  We had definite opinions coming into the discussion about what we liked and disliked and it made for a rousing night of sharing.

We agreed that we all loved that Ms. Freudenberger based this novel on a chance encounter in an airplane with a woman named Farah.  This made the story stand out to us for it's validity.  While it is fiction it is not just the author's imaginary ideas of what it would be like for a woman to travel so far for love; she has a first hand account of what that was truly like.  


In The Newlyweds, we follow the story of Amina Mazid, who at age twenty-four moves from Bangladesh to Rochester, New York, for love. A hundred years ago, Amina would have been called a mail-order bride. But this is an arranged marriage for the twenty-first century: Amina is wooed by—and woos—George Stillman online.
For Amina, George offers a chance for a new life and a different kind of happiness than she might find back home. For George, Amina is a woman who doesn’t play games. But each of them is hiding something: someone from the past they thought they could leave behind. It is only when they put an ocean between them—and Amina returns to Bangladesh—that she and George find out if their secrets will tear them apart, or if they can build a future together.
The Newlyweds is a surprising, suspenseful story about the exhilarations—and real-life complications—of getting, and staying, married. It stretches across continents, generations, and plains of emotion. What has always set Nell Freudenberger apart is the sly, gimlet eye she turns on collisions of all kinds—sexual, cultural, familial. With The Newlyweds, she has found her perfect subject for that vision, and characters to match. She reveals Amina’s heart and mind, capturing both her new American reality and the home she cannot forget, with seamless authenticity, empathy, and grace. At once revelatory and affecting, The Newlyweds is a stunning achievement. (Goodreads)
It is a "stunning achievement" because I learned so much about Bangladesh and how difficult it would be to arrive here in the U.S. with very little background knowledge of our daily life.  Just getting a job would be a huge hurdle.  
Our book club conversation focused a lot on characters and the decisions they made.  We were amazed at Amina's bravery to arrive here with very little skills.  Many immigrants choose to arrive here through a school visa and thus have school as their focus where Amina comes solely for George.  George, many of us thought, was a little boring and not all that helpful to Amina.  One older member of our group and the woman who recommended this book loved George and thought he was a perfect match for Amina.  The rest of us thought he was lazy (not job wise but relationship wise) as he wanted everything to come easy and his way. He didn't push to become a Muslim as he had promised which would have helped Amina keep her promise to her mother.  This, to us, was a major mistake but I guess a typical marital issue.  Would a man every really go out of his way to do something he promised to do if it wasn't something he would choose to do in the first place?  Of course the answer is some men would but George wasn't written to be a unique individual.  Even his reasons for choosing an online Asia dating service is because he wants a woman who won't play games.  The question is did he get his wish with Amina?
Many of us enjoyed Amina's return trip back to Bangladesh.  While she is there she feels out of place and nervous about events that normally would not have bothered her.  She does meet up with Nasir, the son of her father's best friend, and their friendship is rekindled.  Perhaps Nasir and Amina had at one time been matched together but Nasir left for London and soon after Amina started her initial online conversations with George. Her and Nasir still have an emotional connection though and she is happy with how much he has helped her parents.

Random Quote:

"Amina knew she was a different person in Bangla than she was in English; she noticed the change every time she switched languages on the phone.  She was older in English, and also less fastidious; she was the parent to her parents.  In Bangla, of course, they were still the parents, and she let them fuss over her, asking whether she was maintaining her weight, and if she'd been able to find her Horlicks in America." (105)

This story has many different layers and it does shine a critical look at the complexity of marriage and relationships.  I'm happy to have read it~I just wish I felt more comfortable with Amina's choices especially as she travels back to America with her parents.  
Read this great interview of Nell @HuffingtonPost.  
And Polly's review at SF Gate.

I'd like to read more by this author~

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Women's History Month

We still have a few days left in March to celebrate the powerful women that came before us, clearing the way for equal rights (someday we'll truly get there) because we have come so far.  Groovy Girl and I have been reading Lives of Extraordinary Women; Rulers and Rebels (and what the neighbors thought) by Kathleen Krull and Kathryn Hewitt.

Krull's introduction begins "Not all governments have been run by men.  Here, in chronological order, are twenty women who wielded political power, as queens, warriors, prime ministers, revolutionary leaders, Indian chiefs, first ladies, or other government officials."

The first person in the book is Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile, and I have to say I thought I knew about Cleopatra but there was much to be revealed in her three page spread.  Her family loved ruling Egypt so much that they intermarried each other to keep it in the family.  She was forced to marry her 10-year-old brother and she dealt with it by ignoring him, like a normal older sibling, really!  She traveled extensively and often looted foreign libraries for their papyrus rolls so she could add to her own library.  She loved to spend time in her library (of stolen materials...) and may have even written a volume on cosmetics.  In the end she killed herself by letting a snake bite her.  I don't think she is someone to look up to exactly but she did lead an interesting life and she tried to be nice to ordinary Egyptians.

Eleanor of Aquitaine is the second ruler in this volume and she was queen of both France and England.  Her father died when she was 15 but he had taught her much during her short life.  She understood what it took to be powerful, she could read and write, and she was worth a lot of money at that time because of her land holdings.  She married Louis VII, the King of France, later divorced him because he was boring.  Later she married Henry who later became Henry the II, King of England.  They had 8 children together and when she was fed up with Henry's affairs she moved out and established her own court across town where they made fun of men! Henry eventually had her committed to a convent and after his death she was released.

This book is easy to read, has about three pages per extraordinary woman, and has lots of fun comments in the text. Check out Kathleen Krull's website.

As a March activity in the library we hung a picture quiz for students to identify famous American women.  See how you do...

This is just a select few but not many of our elementary students know these choices.  The two they do know is Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton, a victory for modern women.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Weekend Cooking; Warm soup for cold weather

Mighty blasts of cold air-that's what I've felt all Spring Break.  No tropical sun or sand sifting through my toes. We spent Spring Break right here in Iowa with a little weekend getaway to Minneapolis which was just as cold.  A freezing Spring Break gave me plenty of inspiration for soup, reading, and writing but zero inspiration for spring cleaning.  I cleaned one room over break.

College Boy (formerly Teenage Boy) -he does turn 18 this April and is almost finished with his freshman year so I think a name change is in order-anyway he spent most of the week enjoying Colorado so it was just Groovy Girl, Big Daddy, and me, all freezing together.  I whipped up two fantastic soup recipes to combat the cold.


Chicken and Green Chili Stew
adapted from Super Suppers Cookbook 2
Judie Byrd

 2 whole chicken (organic or farm-raised) breasts or a small whole chicken
1 cup coarsely chopped onion
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
2 tsp minced fresh garlic
1 T cooking oil
1 4-oz can chopped green chilies, undrained
1 14 1/2-oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
4 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 cup chopped carrot
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
1 tsp black pepper (to taste)

1. Place chicken in a Dutch oven; add enough water to cover chicken. Simmer, covered, 30 to 45 minutes or until meat is falling off the bone.  Remove chicken from the pan.  When cool, shred the chicken meat, set aside.  Reserve the cooking liquid.   I had two leftover breasts from another recipe that I'd tossed in the freezer so I just used those and skipped this step altogether.

2. In a large saucepan cook and stir onion, bell pepper, and garlic in hot oil over medium-high heat for 5 minutes.  Add the chicken, undrained chills, undrained tomatoes, potatoes, and carrots, simmer covered, 20 minutes.  Stir in enough reserved cooking liquid to reach desired consistency.  Add salt and black pepper.

My other alteration was to skip the green chilies because I had a half a can of green enchilada sauce from a Mexican dish I made last week so I added that instead.  It was perfect.  Groovy Girl will eat the mild enchilada sauce so I thought this was a safe yet flavorful trade-off.

Suggested sides: Tortillas, shredded lettuce, cheese, chips, or salsa.
We had a salad and some fresh bread from my mom.  All three of us loved this soup and the leftovers made an easy lunch the next day.

(Potato soup )
Because it stayed cold all week and I had time on my hands I made a potato soup two days later that was out-of-this-world delicious.  With a velvety texture this soup, served with more fresh toasted bread, kept us warm while the temperatures dropped outside.  Yes, the temps actually dropped during our break!  The potato soup recipe can be found here at Cooking from the seat of our pants website.

I could eat soup several times a week and I'll definitely make both of these again.

In other news it's my husband's birthday and I cooked up a storm for him today.  We started our morning off with homemade biscuits and gravy from Bev Cooks blog.  Biscuits and gravy are my husband's total weak spot and if we happen upon a diner this is exactly what he orders.  I've done the biscuits before for him and this time I made the gravy myself which was far superior (of course!) than the jarred stuff.  I need a bigger biscuit cutter but other than that the recipe was a huge hit.

My mom and step-dad made him a Guinness chocolate cake on St. Patrick's Day so I made him chocolate chip cookies for an afternoon treat today.  I tried a new recipe and  I loved how soft and chewy they were.  I found it on Pinterest and was happy to see it originally came from KA Flour.

Spring Break comes to an end this weekend (Groovy Girl is already sobbing about this) but I'm cool with it.  There are still so many activities to do with my students and hopefully Spring is around the corner...although the word on the street is that snow is predicted for tonight and tomorrow.  Seriously.

Have a mighty peaceful day!

This post is linked to Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking meme.  Click over and find many other food related posts like this one.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Read Trinkets by Kirsten Smith

March, 2013

Trinkets was a fast easy read perfect for middle school through high school students.  I loved the alternating characters between the three girls all from different backgrounds but quite similar in their attitudes.  All three want something different, something bigger than what is happening in their life right now as high school students.  They try to create their own thrill by shoplifting at the mall.  Serious shoplifting-not just a tube of lipstick from the drugstore-but designer dresses, jewelry, gadgets, and books.

There's Elodie who writes like a poet and feels like she doesn't belong.  Maureen who's just Moe who lost both her parents in a car crash leaving her and her brother to live with their aunt.  She teeters on the fringe with the burnouts but she is far from burned out.  Tabitha has everything that comes with money; friends, buying power, and a handsome boyfriend but she feels alone almost always.  All three, busted 
separately for shoplifting, end up in a Shoplifters Anonymous program to heal themselves and end up finding each other.  While this is a wonderful book about friendship and high school and could be just another book about how hard it is to be in school with all the set cliques this book sets itself apart through its unique characters and ability to sound real and right on.   We don't want anyone to go out a steal just to make a friend but this book speaks volumes on how important it is to be yourself, to step away from the bullies, the bitches, the drama queens to stand alone until you rise to the top.

It's a hard task to do but Elodie, Tabitha, and Moe learn that it is better to have one (or two) good friends than to have a roomful of people who know your name.  Told in alternating chapters between all three young women you get an excellent feel for each one's motivation.  This would make a great movie if they did it well which doesn't come as a surprise since the author has written a few screenplays, including one of my favorite Heath Ledger movies, 10 Things I hate about you.

A quote from Moe:

April 8

Aunt B says to not judge a book by the cover, but I guess everybody does.  Elodie was surprised when I told her I'd already read Broken Soup.  Tabitha said she hadn't read it,  so Elodie gave her the copy.  Hanging out at the Roxy with them was more fun than listening to Alex lay out a plan to TP some nerd's house, but it wasn't like super buddy-buddy or anything.  Obviously, I didn't tell them about Noah or even that I like to read while taking a bath.  It's none of their business.  I guess if I were a book, my cover would be different from what's on the inside too. (104)

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and plan to keep it on my shelf for Groovy Girl to read in a few years. She knows all about standing outside the circle trying to feel confident.

My review copy from Little, Brown & Co in no way altered my high opinion of this title.  Thank you to Zoe for my review copy.  s

Monday, March 11, 2013

Angry Housewives eating Bon Bons by Lorna Landvik

A friend from church gave me this book.  She loves to read like me and we have similar tastes in book but I have to admit when she gave me this one I thought it was going to be a shallow girly book but it has far more depth than that.  Actually I can't say enough wonderful things about this book as I loved the setting (Minnehaha Creek area of Minneapolis), the characters as they were all very distinct, and of course the book club focal point has me excited about a whole list of older (classic) titles.


The women of Freesia Court are convinced that there is nothing good coffee, delicious desserts, and a strong shoulder can't fix.  Laughter is the glue that holds them together-the foundation of a book group they call AHEB (Angry Housewives eating Bon Bons), and unofficial "club" that becomes much more.  It becomes a lifeline.  Holding on through forty eventful years, there's Faith, a lonely mother of twins who harbors a terrible secret that has condemned her to living a lie; big beautiful Audrey, the resident sex queen who knows that with good posture and an attitude you can get away with anything;  Merit, the shy doctor's wife with the face of an angel and the private hell of an abusive husband; Kari, a wise woman with a wonderful laugh who knows the greatest gifts appear after life's fiercest storms; and finally, Slip, a tiny spitfire of a woman who isn't afraid to look trouble straight in the eye.  (back of the book)

To me that just sounded like a lot to take on but it is a credit to Ms. Landvik's writing that it never goes over a melodramatic top.  Through the group's book selections as well as how they react to the changing world around them history was shared through the changing point-of-view of each character.

I've started a list of books the Angry Housewives read and I'm interested in reading a bit down the list.  Not that I need more books on my to-read list but often the book club conversations intrigued me.

Selected quotes:

As a peace activist myself I could easily identify with Slip; Freesia Court's resident bleeding heart in 1968.

"I'm sorry," I said when I was drained of all bodily fluids, "but I just keep asking myself, whatever happened to the Summer of Love?"
"I beg your pardon?" Faith looked like she'd just been asked to explain the theory of relativity.
"You must think I'm some kind of nut, but it's just...I don't know, it's just that I can't take what's happening in the world. I can't take all these people getting shot.  I can't take this war.  I just thought we were supposed to be better than that.  I really did believe we were on the dawn of a new age." (63)

Slip's brother enlists in the Vietnam War but her feelings never waiver as to the unjust war and its aftermath.

And another great quote during a book discussion:

"But I mean this book in particular," said Slip impatiently.  "This is a hit-you-over-the-head-look-how-different-our-world-is-from-yours kinda book."
"I agree," whispered Kari, so as not to wake the slumbering baby in her arms.  "With both of you.  I always love reading about people with lives unlike mine because I get to live in their world for a while.  But the funny thing about reading On the Road is that I didn't feel their world was so alien...probably because I'm an outlaw too."
"If you're an outlaw," said Faith, "then I'm Granny Clampett."
We all laughed, but then Slip said, "I'm with Kari.  I feel like an outlaw too."
"Well, you are," said Merit earnestly.  "You get arrested on picket lines."
"Actually, I've never been arrested," said Slip, and I thought I heard regret in her voice.  "But what I mean is that there are outlaws inside all of us-ready to break rules that need to be broken."
"Right," I said.  "But society doesn't want its wives and mothers and PTA presidents to be outlaws, so most of the time we repress that voice that tells us to break the rules, to-" (87)

I find that to be a perfect quote especially for March-in celebration of women's history!  Thank heavens to many of the outlaw women like Sojourner Truth, and Julia Ward Howe, Barbara Jordan, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton just to name a few.  Cheers to the outlaws and the rule breakers, the makers of change!

As I've talked about this book to other reading friends they've asked if I've read other books by Lorna Landvik and I haven't but I'm interested.  Anyone else have favorites of this author?  I would love recommendations.  After reading Lorna's bio I'm wowed by her own life story.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Weekend Cooking; A little of this, A little of that...

(chickpea mixture)

It's been a crazy week here what with the book fair which meant two late conference nights at school.  I've survived though and did have the gift of Friday off to recover.  For two weeks I've worked on one recipe though which is pretty much too long of a turn around time for me.  When I ordered magazines this year for school I ordered two family friendly magazines; Family Fun and Kiwi.  Family Fun is more geared toward crafting and is quite popular with students.  Myself, I LOVE Kiwi magazine though but probably won't order it again for the library. It is really more of a serious organic parenting magazine; great for me, not so great for students as they don't need to read articles about best methods for breast feeding!  I had to cut that article out censoring myself.

(moist but no tails)
While browsing through the February/March Kiwi, before I defaced it, I found this article, a better burger by Caroline Shannon-Karasik with detailed directions on sprouting chickpeas to make a delicious veggie burger.  We've sprouted other seeds and nuts so I thought chickpeas would be no big deal.  That was two weeks ago.  I started them the night of Groovy Girl's sleepover when we made the snow ice cream and watched the Oscars.  I laid them out and kept them moist and those little garbanzos still took their sweet time.  At the beginning of this week we noticed tails sprouting out.  Hallelujah!

Here's the recipe:

Sprouted Chickpea vegetable burgers
adapted from Kiwi Feb/March issue

1 cup sprouted chickpeas
6-10 fresh basil leaves
1 large farm fresh egg
1 medium carrot, peeled and diced finely
1 stalk celery, diced finely
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T flat leaf parsely, chopped
1/4 whole wheat breadcrumbs
1/2 tsp sea salt
Dash of ground black pepper
1 T olive oil
4 whole grain fresh buns
mayo, ketchup, lettuce, or any other burger toppings.
We had lettuce, tomato, and TJ's wasabi mayo.

Many of their recipes give hands-on directions for parents and children to do together.  Great idea but I'm going to simplify that for space and time. Just know this is a great recipe to have little hands to help.

Fill a steamer pot with an inch of water and steam sprouted peas for 10 minutes or until tender.  While the chickpeas steam carefully pull basil leaves off the stems and roughly chop the leaves.  Place cooled chickpeas into food processor with egg.  (after processing chickpea mixture I added another medium sized egg-it just seemed like it needed it for moisture).  Use a spatula to scrape the mixture into a medium bowl.  Add the basil, onion, garlic, carrot, celery, and parsley to the chickpea mixture.  Then add breadcrumbs, salt, and pepper.  Stir all ingredients until well-combined.

Take a palm-sized handful in your clean hands and work it into a flat, circular patty.  Place it on a plate and repeat to make 3 more burgers.  Pour olive oil (I used coconut oil) into skillet and place over medium heat.  Add the patties, cooking about 5-6 minutes on each side.  Carefully remove the patties and place on whole grain bun.

Sounds easy, right?  Hmm maybe, except my burgers didn't not stay together very well in my skillet.  It helped once they started cooking.  While I know there are added health benefits from eating sprouted beans that step made the recipe too difficult. Next time I would cook the chickpeas making them softer to work with and more paste-like.  And I would add sprouts to the table array of toppings.

What did my family think, you ask? Everyone liked them except Groovy Girl.  She thought they tasted sour.  She still wanted to eat the bun (carb girl) though but dad wouldn't let her; he ate her burger bun and all.  She ended up making herself a grilled cheese with sprouts on it in the toaster oven.  So she still ate something, win!  We don't usually let them eat something else but this seemed like a reasonable trade-off and she was willing to make it herself.

(Our chili)
I also made a meat-less version of Katie Workman's chili recipe; I did everything she did but I added soaked kidney beans and a large can of rinsed black beans to the pot.  We had it for dinner on Sunday night with homemade Angel Biscuits and again we had it on Wednesday with homemade cornbread-I just used the recipe on the side of the corn meal container as I was rushed for time.

I am headed down to my fancy basement yoga studio to get my Namaste on but then after that I am making these Smitten Kitchen brownies.  I also made these brownies with this frosting last Sunday to serve at our teacher look-see for the book fair.  I left a few at home for my treat-deprived kids and Teenage Boy had this to say after eating one; "While I was eating that brownie mom; I realized you found it, you really found it, the perfect brownie recipe!"  Why thank you, son!  What a great week.  How about you?

This post is linked to Beth Fish Reads weekend cooking meme.  Click her link to find many other food-related posts with wonderful recipes.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

And then it's spring by Julie Fogliano and Erin E. Stead

I'm in the  middle of a snowy land right now with more snow predicted over the weekend plus it is bitter cold today.  On my drive to work I wanted to stop and take a photo of the trees on the banks of the river as the trees looked frostbitten with ice.  They looked beautiful, all white, braced against the bright blue sky but I'm ready to see my trees with little green buds. 

So perfect then was And then it's spring sitting right on my desk with it's gorgeous detailed cover illustration! It made me feel springy and hopeful!   Right now I'm in the land of white but I can trace the book's journey to springtime and imagine that it is right around the corner, humming.

"and the brown,
still brown,
has a greenish hum
that you can only hear
if you put your ear to the ground
and close your eyes" 

I love this illustration and traced each little hole imagining the animals humming about spring.  Kids will love tracing each burrow through the dirt.  Julie Fogliano has written an imaginative story about the seasons easily giving us hope that spring will come and those little seedling will pop their heads out.  Stead's illustrations match and even make the visual in my head even better.  Her little boy is adorable in his striped shirts and his little red wagon.  I for one am ready with spade in hand to begin digging in my own garden and this book will make a wonderful read-aloud for springtime activities.  Enjoy this matching video for the book.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Weekend Cooking; The true meaning of brunch...

We love breakfast at this house and because we are like passing ships on weekday mornings it is great when we can gather for brunch on the weekends. Brunch has such wonderful memories for me; I remember as I child huge meals that my dad would make either on Saturday or Sunday after church, My dad loved making huge skillets of scrambled eggs.  He sauteed the onions in butter first while he whisked the eggs together using a fork and then he'd pour the cool egg mix into the hot cast iron creating a sizable sizzle.  I remember that sound like it was yesterday but I don't think it has anything to do with why I love brunch today.

In my 20's brunch meant meeting friends for food and beverages at classic little joints from Minneapolis and St Paul to Denver and Boulder, Colorado.  These gatherings could take the better part of your day but what an excellent way to relax and enjoy your friends before husbands and children came along.  Bloody Mary bars, crispy hash browns fresh off someone else's griddle, patio dining, and laughing all come to mind when I think of those shared brunches around big round tables.  We were free with our time and you only had to pay for what you ate and drank.

Now as a family it is not only much harder to take the family out for brunch price-wise but also what we can create at home often tastes much better.  Our local nature center hosts a maple syrup festival this weekend and I had my heart set on going though but with the snowy week we had I didn't make it over there until Friday to pick up tickets and once I parked my car and trekked the long winding path to the lodge I was not happy to find the door locked.  Searching the assortment of signs I saw they had closed 10 minutes ago.  "Aaargh" is how I felt.  I told myself it was okay I didn't really want to go anyway and now I really didn't plan to go!  I got in my car to drive away and 5 beautiful mama deer (does) ran right in front of me through the snowy park path and my mental balance was completely restored.  When I got home and explained how I'd screwed up getting the tickets, and the deer running in front of me, my husband and I decided what was most important was the maple syrup after all.  For the price of the tickets I would be better off with a big bottle of their syrup anyway..  I broke the news to the kids by telling them I would be hosting my own maple syrup festival in the morning around 10 am.  We ate pancakes, fried eggs, pineapple and cups of steaming homemade hot chocolate. There was laughter and good food, which is really all it takes. Bliss.

A new tradition is born; The Holt Family Maple Syrup Festival: to be held any Saturday morning we can all get together.

I followed Katie Workman's pancake recipe but it is quite similar to this one from the recipe girl. I use whole wheat flour and I don't add sugar.  I couldn't find Katie's recipe online and if I keep copying her recipes to my blog they'll be some kind of copyright issue I'm just sure...You'll have to buy the book as I've done.

This post is linked to Beth Fish Reads Weekly Cooking meme.  Click her link to find many other marvelous food-related posts and lots of lovely conversations.

 Have a peaceful Saturday.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Happy March! One month closer to Springtime...

March is finally here and we have at least a foot of snow on the ground.  The snow this time is beautiful.  It is  perfect building snow; you can easily roll it together to make a fort, a snow person, or simply throw some snowballs at your unsuspecting children as I did on Wednesday.  It was a snow day for us and Groovy Girl and I played in the snow for like 2 hours.  When teenage boy came back from snow blowing the neighbor's driveway we pegged him with a few hand packed, triple stacked snow balls.  It was the most fun I've had in weeks!  Laughing and playing in the snow is what winter is all about, that and the delicious hot chocolate we drank after.

I've been listening to a fantastic audio book, The Secrets of Happy Families by Bruce Feiler, on my phone as I go back and forth to school.  We already have a pretty happy family but I'm always of the mind that things could be better. If I could find some good parenting tricks to get my sweet Groovy Girl to remember her chores without CONSTANT reminders or for her to clean her room BEFORE it became a hazard zone - my life would be more "chill".  This book has many great tips and one that has already left a lasting impact on us has been dinner time conversation.  We already make a huge effort to eat dinner together, and we do talk and ask "what was the best/worst part of your day?" but Bruce encourages you to discuss family history at the table.  Last night we had the best conversation about where all the grandparents went to college.  Research says that kids who know their background are less likely to get in trouble, this seems like an easy first step for us.  Over the next couple of weeks we plan to implement more of Bruce's suggestions.

I found this title on while I browsed for a birthday gift for Teenage Boy's Grandpa Dean.  I picked out two excellent fishing titles that I knew he could listen to on his phone or iPad.  If I joined Audible I could get a huge discount on both books and it seemed like the thing to do.  I'm not as thrilled about this monthly fee now as every time I scroll through their sight I don't find books that stand out and they are rather expensive.  If I'm already paying a monthly fee why would I want to pay $22.00 average for a book?  I'm probably going to cancel but it still saved me money on my original purchases.  Anybody else have experience with this website?

I'm computer-less also (sort of) as my Dell laptop died a few weeks ago and I'm now left with (just) my Kindle Fire and my iPhone.  I'm feel blessed to have those two to keep me connected but I have yet to be able to truly blog successfully using either one.  Does anyone else blog from phone/tablet without a backup computer.  I can't get pictures to my Kindle and neither are very easy for extensive typing or adding links.  Thoughts or suggestions on this process?  For now I am using my work laptop on the weekends.  I don't want to rush into buying a new laptop and I don't want to order from Dell again.

ready for Spring...

That's all the news here...
Happy March...