Thursday, April 28, 2011

Thought for Food

Four-year-olds are like teenagers. Ask them what they did at school today, and they'll say, "I don't know."

"Well, who did you play with?"


"Nobody played with you the whole day?"

"I don't know, Mom. Stop asking me these questions!"

Lucky for us, this four-year-old likes games. So we've made a game of going around the table, taking turns asking questions. Everyone who can talk gets to ask, and it can be any kind of question. It certainly makes for entertaining conversation. Here are a few from dinner last night:

What is one fun thing you'd like to do this summer?

Tell me some things that you like about turkeys, roosters, and peacocks.

What is one thing that you'd like to do but you're afraid to try?

If you could have either wings or a tail, which would you have, what kind, and why?

What would you like to do when you grow up (not be, but do)?

If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would you live and why?

If you were camping, what would you like to do?

What kind of book would you like to read that you've never read before?

What is the silliest thing you could wear on a hat?

What is the saddest thing of all?

What is the happiest thing of all?

What is the silliest thing you could put on an live chicken?

If you could live in any other time period, when would you live and why?

If you were a superhero, what would your powers be?

If you could have any kind of animal in the world as a pet, what would you have and what would you call it?

What kind of cereal would you want in the whole entire world?

Tell me two things. If you were walking out to a pizza restaurant, would you wear socks and shoes that are fancy, or socks and shoes that are decorated with real pizza? What about if you were going to a party and you needed to dance?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Also known as fudge. But Betsy calls it smudge, which is really a more fitting name, isn't it? Quick, simple, and oh-so-sweet. The recipe can easily be adapted to a dairy-free version; just choose shortening and soy milk from the alternatives listed below.

Pepper Family Smudge

6 Tbsp shortening, butter, or margarine
3 1/4 cups confectioner's 10x powdered sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup soy milk or cow's milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt

Grease a 9" x 5" loaf pan (I use canola oil spray).

Place medium sized saucepan over medium-low heat. Add shortening (or butter or margarine) and allow to soften and partially melt. Add all other ingredients, stirring constantly until smooth. It will look clumpy and messy and on the verge of failure, and then it will quickly congeal into a smooth glossy mass. Remove from heat and immediately spread mixure in prepared loaf pan.

Cool and cut into squares.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


On particularly long and difficult days, I try to pick one small fun thing to accomplish. Today's sweet-smelling task:
plant the basil.

This is a Thai basil called Siam Queen. I planted Sweet Basil as well, for pesto and tomato sauce. While our veggies haven't done well on the patio, we've had pretty good results from the herbs. And as much as we love to cook, we really appreciate having fresh herbs a few steps from the kitchen.

I suppose I should wait a few days before starting to snip away, though, right?
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Monday, April 25, 2011

An Easter Mystery

In which we learned why the Easter bunny shouldn't hide eggs outside at Grandma and Grandpa's house while we are at church.

Look carefully at the plastic egg that Matthew is holding. Someone--or something--had chewed right through it (and several other eggs) and absconded with the chocolate inside.

Astute observers will also look at Betsy and realize that this happened last Easter. It's still a cute story, I think.

We came up with some theories about who could have eaten all those plastic eggs, but we didn't have much hope of actually spotting the thief. It was the eagle-eyed three year old who spotted him 30 feet up in a tree, way across the yard, hours later.

She went tearing across the yard yelling at him, and the squirrel skittered off in one direction as he threw the egg in the other direction, chocolates sailing through the air. Had he found an egg we'd missed, or was this one he had tucked away somewhere? We'll never know.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Lenten Lessons

I gave up anger for Lent. Or at least I tried to.

In the past I've given up things like sweets or alcohol or the internet; things that were pretty clear cut. Going into Lent this year, I didn't have a specific plan for how I was going to deal with my anger, just a rule that I was not allowed to get angry. I had to find some other way to handle what I was feeling.

I quickly learned that there are many shades of anger, and some were harder to resist than others. For me, anger that was really fear (like road rage) was easier to resist than anger that was really fatigue, or lack of control. And what about good anger, the kind that leads us to campaign for social justice and to protect others? Should that be ignored, too?

On really difficult days, I noticed that I collected things to be angry about. First I forgot my bag, and then it was pouring rain, and then traffic was bad, and the kids were making too much noise, and on and on. And the more I looked, the easier it was to find things to be angry about.

But I also found that if I tried collecting reasons to be thankful, it was pretty easy to compile those lists, too. If I hadn't forgotten my bag, I wouldn't have realized that I'd forgotten my hat too. Yes it's pouring rain, but doesn't it smell wonderful, and don't I love watching it on the windshield? The kids are noisy because they are making each other giggle, and isn't that a good thing to hear?

Now I wasn't always great at this. I failed at this Lenten challenge like I've failed at no other, and there were days where I was overwhelmed and snapped at everybody and got in a terrible funk. I'm not proud of how I handled those times.

But I learned that I could control my reactions, much more than I'd previously thought. On those long hard days when nobody was coming to help and I just had to deal, I could "hit the reset button" and stop collecting reasons to be angry. Sometimes the reset button was a walk around the neighborhood, sometimes it was trying on ridiculous wigs with the kids, sometimes it was taking time to clean the kitchen so one part of my life was orderly again. But I learned that a bad day could be stopped, and that anger didn't have to beget anger.

The Reverend Rob Merola recently preached a great sermon titled "Going Through No to Get to Yes". And I think that by saying no to anger, I was able to say yes to so many more moments of wonder and happiness. And if that helped to make just one other person's day a bit better, then it was a worthwhile effort indeed.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Easter Shoes

A little something for baby's first Easter. I've had a hard time completing projects lately, so I'm especially thankful that I was able to finish these in time.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Little Gardening

We often play a game called When We Get a House, in which we name all kinds of things we'd have in our fantasy home. Things like a screened-in porch, and a basement where we can store our camping equipment, and an indoor pool with water slides. (What? We didn't say these were necessarily practical things.) But the one non-negotiable is that When We Get a House, we'll have a yard with space for a vegetable garden. We'd love to be able to grow enough to feed our family, share with others, and freeze and can for the winter.

For now, however, we'll continue to get creative with the container gardening on our patio. I've been doing some research about how to maximize space and encourage my little plants. My goal for the summer is to beat last year's crop of 3 tomatoes. This might seem like a small goal, but last year's was my best tomato crop ever. If nothing else, this will be an entertaining family project and learning experience.

As per recommendations in Square Foot Gardening, I'm starting with a new soil mix.

A teeny tiny carrot. I've never grown carrots before. We started them from seedlings at my mom's house.

The most important and most fun job of all.

Tired after a long evening of "helping" (gleefully crawling away to eat mulch).

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Easter Baskets

My dad doesn't toot his own horn much, but he quietly does a lot of great things for other people. One of those things is the Easter basket drive that he started at our church. Dad drives all over the place, buying every laundry basket he can find. Members who want to participate choose a basket, fill it with household staples, grocery store gift cards, and a few Easter treats, and return it to church. Dad then collects the baskets, generously and heavily laden, and delivers them to a local school, where they're distributed to needy families who might not be able to afford to put food on their tables, let alone fill Easter baskets for their kids.

Of course, certain granddaughters would like to create a little more work for their Grandpa.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Ode to My Local Library

Oh lovely local library branch,
When the real doctor
And Dr. Google
And the insurance company all let me down,
You came to the rescue.

You, provider of carefully-researched, well-written information
In convenient portable form (and 100% recyclable, should the time arise),
I salute you.

Less than a mile from my home,
You may not be the largest library around,
But you had what I needed when I needed it.
(And really, how many volumes can I digest tonight anyway?)

I can now happily ignore the panic-inducing message boards
And gain knowledge and sanity in the comfort of my own home.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Lovely Little Day

Today was a nice day. There was nothing extraordinary about it. We didn't go anyplace new and exciting. We watered seedlings, mailed cards, and visited neighbors. Elizabeth and I played ballet class, complete with full ballet regalia (for her, not me). Abigail discovered the drawers of the play kitchen--which can be removed with a great crash--and the many chewable contents therein. I became reacquainted with a few countertops that had been desperately in need of decluttering. We were all in good moods, and there was a lot of sharing toys and reading books and giggling.

I think that someday, when the girls are grown and off living their own lives, it will be these lovely little days that I will miss the most.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Superhero Bunnies

Betsy has been making Easter cards, with a little help from me. Although the basic template is the same, I enjoy that each has evolved into its own little scene, complete with sequin eggs, artful belly button placement (look for one in the middle of a forehead), and occasional backstory.

The artist discusses her work below.

"This bunny has a basket in his paw, and his key for opening up the front doors to get in. Also, there's a spider. No no, not a spider. It's a sun. The writing at the top says Betsy."

For the one on the left: "One is happy and one's sad. Because they don't like their home. Well, one does and the other doesn't. This one [the smiling one] says 'You are the bestest.' The sad one is saying 'I want Mama.'"

For the one on the right: "It has seven eyes because it's a giant alien bunny and it can fly up in space and hide Easter eggs up there. For the aliens."

For the one on the left: "She's a girl. She has one colored ear because she's an alien. She's my favorite."

For the one on the right: "They're both happy and I like their homes. I love them. They were the bestest bunnies of all because they were superhero bunnies. They can hide the eggs really fast and then they zoom away."

Monday, April 11, 2011

Crunchy Granola

Easy and tasty. My only regret is that we didn't double the recipe. Oh well, now we have an excuse to make more.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

40 Days Left

We've been counting down the days until Matthew graduates. We started with 115, and as of today there are 40 days left. He's been chipping away at this degree for six years, so this is a much-anticipated milestone for our family. In a lot of ways, it can't come fast enough.

As I've crossed off the days, however, I can't help but feel it's a waste to want time to pass more quickly. We're each allotted a finite amount of time to live. What would I do differently if I knew this were my last 40 days on Earth? Surely I'd want time to slow down, and I'd want to savor each moment. Since I don't know what the future holds, why not savor each day as if it were my last?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Random Photo of the Week

We've had a little Easter bunny sighting at our house.

Can you believe this child is only 7 months old? Hippity hop, baby!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Springtime is the Best

We took a walk to the flowers. Meet our plant neighbors!


There was a scary dog on the other side of the fence. We could take a picture anyways.

The beautiful white flowers are the best, and I love them so much.

Yellow is my favorite color.

We took a picture with a camera.

Most of this tree fell down in the snow. But this part is doing good.

Springtime is the best.


This was a fun mother-daughter project, walking around the neighborhood, cameras in hand, seeking things blooming. The best kind of treasure hunt. Then we worked together, editing images and deciding which to post. Betsy enjoys going to "our blog" and looking at the pictures we took.


Monday, April 4, 2011

Warm Days, and Water to Play In

Sometimes, the simplest toys are the best. A few bottles and pots from the play kitchen... a plastic drawer full of water make for a happy afternoon.