Monday, December 15, 2014

Books to Make Your Mouth Water


{The following post contains Amazon affiliate links.  If you choose to make a purchase, I'll receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.}

Sometimes I look back on the year and notice a trend in my reading choices.  Last year, memoirs filled my list of completed books. This year I found myself gravitating toward books about food.  I plan to share a detailed post later in the month, devoted to what I read in 2014, complete with thoughts on my favorites and disappointments, plus a visual peek of every book I read this year.

Until then, here's a look at a few food highlights from the year:

Lizzy & Janeby Katherine Reay

I loved this fictional story which wove food into every chapter.  Two sisters who chose different life paths find themselves pulled back together when one of them is diagnosed with breast cancer.  The younger of the sisters is head chef at a New York City restaurant so food permeates the plot, analogies, and lessons. Like Katherine Reay's first book, there are scads of references to great works of literature and quotes from well-known classics.  Book nerds rejoice! 






Stones for Bread by Christa Parrish

I read this way back in January and it started my obsession with sour dough bread this year. The plot was excellent storytelling, but the recipes interspersed throughout the pages competed for my attention.  I obtained a sour dough starter from a friend last winter, but I make the chocolate cherry sour dough from this book at least once a month.  (I make a plain sour dough at least twice a month, too, but the recipe came from elsewhere.)







Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchenby Laurie Colwin

The essays in this book are short and contain an enjoyable mix of anecdotes, kitchen hints, and recipes. This one is written in a memoir style which may be what attracted me most of all.







Cooking Light Dinnertime Survival Guide: Feed Your Family. Save Your Sanity. by Sally Kuzenchak

I love cookbooks with bright colorful photos and I love recipes that are simple and use everyday ingredients.  We liked the garlic fries and the lasagna rolls, and  the sauteed apples have become a go-to side dish because they can be prepared in less than 10 minutes.





Preserving by the Pint: Quick Seasonal Canning for Small Spaces by Marisa McClellan

I tried my hand at canning for the first time this summer.  This book made the process very doable and un-scary because each recipe made onlyenough to fill 2-4 small jars.  We enjoyed sampling pear caramel, salted peach jam, and Anaheim pepper sub spread and we're giving a few jars away as gifts this Christmas.




This book is on my personal Christmas list so I can't testify to its goodness, but it looks like a winner!





Do you gravitate toward a certain genre of book? 
Do you have any food-type books to recommend?






Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Catching Up Mid-Week


I intended the post title to imply that I wanted to have a conversation with you, my blog readers, catching you up on what's been going on in my life and at our house.  Unfortunately, it could also describe how I've felt for the past week, spending many moments catching up on what didn't get done when our entire household was down with the flu after Thanksgiving.


I guess my time had come.  It's been 19 years since I had a true case of the flu.  That winter when I was 15, I had 3 separate cases of the flu-- one in December, one in January, and another in February.  I'm hoping I won't have a repeat of that fiasco.  One round of fever, chills, aches, coughs, headache, and fatigue is enough, especially when you multiply that by a 7-member family!

All told, we were down for a week, but it sure felt like a lot longer.  We ate what we could scrape together from the refrigerator or freezer and we took turns stumbling into the kitchen to prepare it.  It was not pretty.  We were thankful for the angels who delivered a jug of milk to our back door one afternoon and to the other angel who brought us Chick-fil-A for dinner. We were also thankful when we were well enough to cook a proper meal, fold the growing laundry pile, wash the stale sheets, and vacuum the needles from around the Christmas tree.



Now it's back to normal for us-- as "normal" as December can ever be.  I took the girls to a production of The Nutcracker on Friday.  On the drive there, Alaine gave us instructions: "When we get there, no one pick your nose."  It's not the first time she's dished out that reminder this holiday season.  Hmmm...  After we found our seats, Alaine decided she preferred to sit in my lap to watch the show.  She barely moved for the first half of the show, but at intermission she said, "I'm ready to go home now." 




The next day Brian took the boys to a  Lego event at the mall and they each received a free mini-set!  It was the highlight of their week.



On the homefront, we are working to finish our schoolwork before our long winter break.  Owen finished his history on Friday.  Before narrating the last passage of the book, he said, "Christopher Columbus died.  It was sad."  I had to stifle a smile because he meant it and I was happy to see him involved personally in his history book!  Gavin is counting down the math lessons.  I gave him a stopping point and he is pushing through to finish early.  We've  finished music a few weeks ago and we've shelved health until February. 



We are doing our Christmas baking in spurts.  We made chocolate chip cookies last week.  We ate some, froze some, and put some aside in an airtight container.  We made a successful batch of peanut butter fudge over the weekend.  My fudge never turns out so this was epic!  Yesterday we made more cookies, some to eat, some to freeze, and some to serve to guests that are coming this afternoon to make Christmas crafts with us. We plan to make our family "cookies" sometime before Christmas, too.  (If nothing else, click on that post and see how little my kids were when I first blogged that recipe!)



We're trying to make time for quiet this Christmas.  It's easy to stay busy during the month of December, but I also want my children to remember the still moments.  We've fallen into an informal habit of reading 1-2 short Christmas books before bed every evening.  The kids take turns picking one, either from our own personal collection or from the library basket.  In addition, we  chose The Best Christmas by Jane Mason as our family read aloud this year.

Gavin's birthday was this week. He invited his grandparents and aunts over for ice cream floats on the evening of his birthday.  He and his Papa spent most of the night assembling a remote control car.  Brian brought home a battery for it last night and Gavin said, "I can't until I can show Papa because we had a great time playing with my car together." 

 

Brian has a few weeks remaining at work until his 10-week winter break.  He, Gavin, and Maddie plan to celebrate one his first free days by going to the theater together to watch The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies and as a family, we have plans to attend a free Christmas concert.

We're praying everyone in our hosue stays well and calm and joyful (and a bunch of other adjectives) in the remaining fifteen days until Christmas!





Monday, December 8, 2014

Almost a Teenager


Gavin, our firstborn, turns twelve today!  Twelve years ago we became parents to a 9 pound, 4 ounce little boy who loved to eat and move, but didn't seem to need nearly as much sleep his inexperienced parents did.

And now he's almost a teenager. That idea excites him. 

He still doesn't need much sleep and gets frustrated if he's in bed past 7 in the morning.  He loves to talk, figure things out, build with Lego, draw, read mysteries, and tell jokes. He loves our cat, Dott, and he has a special bond with his little sister, Alaine.

He is suddenly growing taller and his face is more mature and losing the little boy look.  See how much he changed from April to October of this year!



Happy Birthday, Gavin!


Friday, December 5, 2014

Weekend Links



And So It Begins
@Fabric Paper Thread
This was especially timely as our family spent the first week of December stuck on the couch, passing around the tissues and thermometer, with boxes of Christmas decorations piled in the corner of the living room.

Running After the Flu
And this was timely in an entirely different way.  I'm not training for a marathon, but I'm using the 12-Day Comeback Plan to ease my body back into physical activity. 

Second Cousins
I'm still confused, but this is interesting!

25 Things People With 5+ Siblings Know To Be True
I read the list aloud twice, once to Brian and another time to the kids.  I laughed out loud both times! We especially loved #1, #9, #13, and #19. 

Paint Chip Trees and Snowmen on a Stick

Easy crafts and memory-makers are my modus operandi around the holidays.  I also want to make cookie cutter pizzas.

Free National LEGO Event at Boscov's
My boys will be there!




Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Books to Make You Cry at Christmas






Claude the Dog: A Christmas Storyby Dick Gackenbach


This has been my favorite Christmas book since I was a little girl.  My brother never understood my fascination because he thought it was too depressing to be a proper Christmas book.  (He never understood my love for a weepy Christmas movie either.)  The message of this short tale gets me every time!  When Claude's homeless doggy friend visits him on Christmas morning, what Claude does for him makes me want to cry.  This book is out of print and the used prices are ~crazy~ but if you can find a copy at the library, you should check it out.

(recommended for ages 2 and up)

*****

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomeyby Susan Wojciechowski

We read this book together tonight before dinner. It's the story of a grieving woodcarver who is mourning the loss of his young wife and baby.  He is grumpy and unpleasant and no one in the village wants to be around him.  When a widow and her son move into town and ask him for a favor, his life is changed.  The story unfolds slowly until the touching climax.

(recommended for ages 5 and up)

*****


The Best Christmas Pageant Everby Barbara Robinson

This book is a bit different in that it's primarily a funny, zany adventure of a bunch of out-of-control kids who wreak havoc on a church Christmas production. My kids are scandalously amused at the Herdman family and all they find to say and do.  The tears don't come until the last chapter and the feelings they bring might take you by surprise. We read this aloud every year, even though we can practically quote entire passages.

(recommended for listeners ages 5 and up)





Sunday, November 30, 2014

Gathering the {November} Moments


The beginning of November was calm-- so peaceful and uneventful that I wondered if we were forgetting something.  Aside from the kids' weekly gym class and regular runs to the library and grocery store, our days never ventured beyond school, laundry, and keeping the bathroom clean.

We celebrated my sister's 21st birthday at a family dinner with soup and sliders.  Nothing boring about that but we had no responsibility beyond showing up.  I didn't even have to stress about a gift because we had purchased something we knew she'd love on sale back in the summer.




The extra hours at home afforded Owen some time in the kitchen.  He made his first batch of boiled cookies, a family recipe, ensuring that the recipe will be carried into the next generation.  He also made a batch of "acorn" cookies, an idea he found in  a cookbook he picked up at the library.




We set aside a chilly weekend to do a bit of trimming, yard clean up, and burning. 



Regardless of its primary purpose, you can't have a fire without marshmallows.  I love my marshmallows charred black.  Consequently, I ate more marshmallows than anyone else because in the kids' effort to get their marshmallows the  perfect light brown shade, they caught many on fire and passed them along to me.



In mid-November, a  virus hit a few of the kids with sniffly noses, sore throats and a cough, but it was nothing a little rest couldn't cure. 



It was a blessing to have a series of unhurried days before the fullness of the holidays arrived at the end of the month.

Then...the busy part of November started.  The weekend before Thanksgiving, we took a whirlwind road trip
(The mama-to-be gave birth three days later.)

That same weekend, we hosted Brian's family's annual Thanksgiving party.

Twenty of us gathered for dessert and lots of conversation. There was not a moment of quiet!

cranberry upside down cake

The thirteen (!) kids divided themselves into separate bedrooms. There was a peaceful room of all girls who talked and danced to the Frozen soundtrack.  And then there was a co-ed room that thumped and jumped and lived it up all evening long! 

an awesome pumpkin spice cake, but sadly I didn't make it so I have recipe to share

Brian was off from work the day before Thanksgiving so we took the day off from school, too.  There was a nasty nor'easter raging outside but we hunkered down inside to play a few games of Monopoly (Brian and the boys), watch The Sound of Music (Maddie and Alaine) and prepare Thanksgiving food (Owen and me).

homemade cranberry sauce


Brian and I surprised the kids with a Peanuts Thanksgiving lunch of popcorn, pretzel sticks, jelly beans, and buttered toast.




Our Thanksgiving weekend was complicated as another round of sickness made its way through our whole family.  We managed to celebrate on Thursday between  the fevers and coughs. We ate dinner with my side of the family on Thursday.



A few of us had the strength to decorate our tree on Friday.


But by Saturday, the weekend went down the tube. This holiday weekend will be one we will remember for years to come...and not in a good way.








I'm linking to my mom's monthly series, Gathering the Moments, where we reflect on the month that has passed.

Thinking About Home

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