Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Duped by Pinterest

     I was duped by Pinterest. Again.
     Pinterest is a great place to go for ideas and inspiration. I like having a place to 'pin' photos and links to things I'd like to do or research later. Once in a while, I feel ambitious. I believe in my heart of hearts that I can make a project just like the one in the one in the photo.
     Yesterday, I realized that I have been wanting to make bread for our family for quite a while. I have made bread in the past, but it was white bread. Delicious, but not in keeping with the 'food life style' that we are leaning toward these days. I knew I had pinned some amazing bread recipes, so I searched. I found it. The amazing '5 Minute No Knead Bread'. This bread incorporates both whole wheat and white wheat for a  version of a rustic bread that still has a nice texture and pleasant flavor.
     To be fair to both Pinterest and the publisher of the recipe, I didn't read it all the way through before beginning. I scrolled through the content, admired the photos, and made sure that I had fresh yeast to work with. I began the process thinking that there must be some rising time involved, but wasn't too worried about it. Then I saw that while I wouldn't be punching down and technically kneading the dough, I would be forming it into a ball shape and tucking bits underneath after an initial rising time of about 40 minutes, then letting it sit and rise again for an additional 40 minutes. 20 minutes to bake. About 8 minutes to actually make the dough. Also, I'm a messy cook, so factor in the time to clean up the flour that I managed to duster over the entire kitchen. Somehow it took me about three hours to make this bread.
     I don't remember my little white loaves taking this long. Then again, I wasn't trying to make them at midnight. Why midnight? Because I was out of flour. Mr.TheZoo picked some up for me on the way home from celebrating his brother's birthday in a city about 2 hours away. I'm not complaining about the celebration or the 2 hours. I just want you to know why I waited until 11 pm to begin this process. Also, I refused to purchase bread at the grocery store. We haven't had it much for the past two months and are getting used to preparing meals without it.  I decided I wanted a dense crusty bread to put in the lunch bag for today, so naturally a bread billing it's self as a 5 minute wonder caught my eye.
     The house smelled spectacular! Not that anyone else appreciated it. Maybe the dreamed about sleeping in a bakery. This morning, while slicing the bread to pack, I tasted a bit of it. It is fantastic bread.


     Do you want to try this recipe? Find it here.  Next time, though, I plan to make a similar version of this bread, but with a much longer, sleep through it rise time. Even if I begin it at 11 p.m., I don't have to see it all the way through until morning! This one is called Amazing No Knead Bread.  It looks just the same. While both recipes are undoubtedly fabulous, my judgement is clouded by sleep deprivation. 
     




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Monday, October 27, 2014

The Sleepers

     Over the last two weeks, TheZoo has been sharing a yucky cold. The kind that builds up over a few days, then flattens you out for two days, then tapers off, leaving that three week long hacking cough. Ew, yuck, blick, no good, very bad, awful, terrible, horrible.
     I thought we dodged the annual beginning of the school year illness. Generally, it's the second week of school when everyone begins to show signs of The Ick. It begins with the youngest, and works it's way up. Last year, the younger two were old enough to sort-of quarantine. They each had a spot on the couch, a pillow and a blanket. They had folding tables set up for their water and juice and crackers. Their books and a few toys were set out, and movies of their choosing were stacked up next to the television. Biggers were instructed NOT to give hug and kisses. No snuggling, and do not share cups. Amazingly, we didn't all share in that round of colds. Hooray!
     This school year, we didn't get the cold right away, and I let down my guard. Ugh. Bad move. We got the cold. Many kids at school already had it and were over it. Four week in, we came down with it. It wasn't even one of the youngest kids that first showed symptoms. It was a bigger. *sigh* I wasn't sure when this bigger began showing signs, so I didn't know for how long they had been spreading their germs all over the house. I frantically disinfected doorknobs and light switches to no avail. Every three days, another Zooligan succumbed.
     Sleepless nights, sitting up with coughing littles ensued. We blow through a bottle of cough syrup so fast, your head would spin! We mostly used home made honey mixes to soothe irritated throats, but none of them are the 8 hr relief variety. We begin to believe that perhaps this cough will persist indefinitely. We've had it forever already, and it's going to last the rest of forever. It's hard to remember when there wasn't any coughing. Being well is a distant memory.
     Then, one night, the only coughing keeping me awake was my own. One of the biggers found that sitting upright allowed him some relief, so he spent the night on the couch. I finally fell into a deep sleep at around 3 A.M. When I awoke, I found this:

     It seems that my sleep was deep enough that I missed the littlest one waking up. Usually, she will come into the parents bedroom for assistance, or climb over us with some magical kind of stealth and join us in our slumber. Today, she went out to the living room and joined her 'bwuva' on the couch. I watched them for a bit before deciding to snap a photo. By then they were beginning to wake. I guess the flash on the phone camera is brighter than I thought!
     Here's to the tail end of this rotten cold. Here's to (hopefully) just a week left of this awful cough. Here's to sweet moments where siblings take care of one another.




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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Hustlin'


     Hustling. It's something that I tell the kids to do, like, all the time. Hustle up! "We're right on time! Let's do this!" to "Hustle up! We're running behind! Gah!"
     It seems the hustle here at TheZoo is about whether we are out the door, in the car, or on the road on time. It isn't often about what we are doing to meet a goal that isn't necessarily time related. Of course, now that some of the Zooligans are older, there is much hustle happening for school work, team and club activities, and dance and instrument practices. What about those goals?
     I have spurts of hustle toward my goals. I write for this blog three to five days a week. I might journal sometimes. Once in a while I spend a few weeks sketching out the bones of some new book idea. I spend time in the garden. I do a bit of research and learn a thing or two about some plant or another. But hustle? For my dreams? Nah. I hustle all of the time already, for all of the other things.
     I often feel all hustled out.
     Recently, I've been following Jon Acuff on Twitter and Facebook. This guy. He says funny things. This tends to capture my attention. I like humor for the sake of humor. I like humor to celebrate good things, and I like humor to diffuse bad things. Humor is a great way to get me to think about something. Solemn, somber, or judgmental lecture are not.
     Jon talks a lot about Hustle. He wrote a book about it. Get out there and work toward your goals, whatever they are. Don't let someone else tell you what your life goals should be, they're your goals. Go for it.
     Today, I'm hustling by using my time sitting at the school where my kids take classes with our Parent Partnership Program. I'm reading a book that would be dry and uninteresting to anyone that doesn't want to write for children.

                           

This is a pretty good book. It's one hustle closer to presenting my stories to you.
Do you have a goal? Are your working toward it? Get to it! Hustle!



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Monday, October 20, 2014

Snickers

     The candy bar kind, not the laughing kind.
Our oldest Zooligan made them. She was in the mood for Snickers bars, but we don't keep junk food in the house anymore. Much. So I told her, half jokingly, that maybe she could make some. She checked the internet and found a recipe!

Before I share the link, Here is our terrible food photo:

           


We didn't have enough chocolate to dip the bars in, so we spread some on the bottom and the top and cut them. When you follow the recipe, you will have nice looking candy bars. Also, we were ready to DEVOUR these candy bars. Also, we found out that this home made version is rich and delicious! Even our little sugar fiends were unable to eat an entire bar. They all saved the other half for the next day. We ended up cutting the rest into 'fun size'.

The link to the recipe is here at Sweet and Crunchy Blog.


     While these don't fit into our 'no refined sugar' rule, they do fit into the "you can eat junkfood as long as you make it yourself' rule. I'm hoping that TheZooligans learn that making things requires, sometimes, many ingredients, much planning, time and energy. That seeing goodies being devoured in two minutes and still having children ask for snacks withing ten minutes of said devouring is frustrating. I want them to realize that we can savor something, enjoying the flavors and appreciating the work that went into it. 
     We'll probably have to move and buy a milking cow, because I can see that they currently don't appreciate the cost of milk.





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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Friends



     Have I told you before that my dear, wonderful friends moved across the country? It's been months and months since she's been gone. We text and facebook chat and call on the phone too keep in touch. It's not enough, though. I miss her so much my heart aches. Her kids and TheZooligans were like siblings. They fought with each other and loved one another fiercely.
     So, I've been lonely. We were the kind of friends that could stop by the house and just start doing whatever needed done. Show up for a visit, and start washing a sink full of dishes. Coming to pick up or drop off a kid, run a load of laundry. Have a cup of coffee, and clean up a spill. It was community living. Maybe it was sisterhood.
     Now I'm in a community of busy people. I'm a busy person. Kids are getting older and involved in things with teams and friends and competitions. They are discovering what they are good at and things they'd like to try. They are learning that following a passion can be challenging and gratifying, or frustrating and unfulfilling. We don't have a lot of time to stop and have a cup of coffee. Who goes to someone's house and does their dishes? Not many people, I guess.
     Last night, when the family had done all the things they intended to do with the day, leaving some things for the next morning, we put on our comfy pajamas, brushed our teeth, and settled in for relaxing evening activities. I was browsing the internet for a specific cowl necked, side tied, hoodie sweatshirt that a zooligan would like for Christmas, when I received a text. It was a picture of a donut.
     What? I replied "Are you teasing me because my donut pans haven't arrived yet?" I am a Pinterest junkie, and have been seeing baked donut recipes that look so yummy, and do-able with our real food choices. I've been going on about them for days.
    Next text reads "open your door". I open the door and see nothing. Then I see three ladies standing in the street waving at me. I shut the door. I rummge for a sweater, because I am not decent. I find a lined winter coat. I wear it. The ladies came in with happy smiles and hugs. Mischievously happy smiles.
     Then they hand me these:

So exciting! They stayed and visited for a bit, not too long, because one of them had a crazy day of driving all over the Puget Sound area dropping people off and picking people up starting at 3 a.m. She was done! 
     I am blessed to tears. These ladies are my friends. Friendships don't all look the same. I already know that a preconceived idea of friendship is no good, but somewhere along the way, I forgot. When folks can be friends despite busy schedules and stresses, sharing kindness, joy, and patience (to name a few) you have friends. 
     This morning's bounty from last nights beautiful, thoughtful gift:

These are spiced cake donuts coated with spiced sugar. They smell amazing, and taste even better.


Have a friend, be a friend.




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Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Goal of Mine



     Remember that post a while back about dreams changing? I'm going to share with you one of my 'new' dreams. It's new because I didn't realize how interested I am until fairly recently.
     Herbal and natural medicine and remedies area passion of mine. It's amazing that there are uses for nearly every plant that grows. There is a purpose beyond a pretty flower or a nicely shaped leaf. There is usefulness to plants beyond landscaping. Most plants offer some part of themselves to our well being!
     Recently I discovered the Herbal Academy of New England . This school offers primary and secondary courses, with certification upon completion. It's a respected educator in the world of natural medicine. While I don't aspire to becoming a doctor or nurse, I do want to be more involved with our family's wellness. I'm terribly excited to have found the HANE, and I'm even more excited to begin my education with them. I'm hoping to start in February, when my kids begin their second semester of school, and we will all be so organized that my concentrating on classes won't be a problem at all! Right? Right!

                                         
                                           

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Pregnancy and Infant Loss

     October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Week.

     Living with the death of an infant, either during pregnancy or after, is a grief that the world seems, for the most part, to ignore. Some say that they are so sorry for our loss when they are told, then forget. It's easy to forget. The child is never born. There are no photos to like on facebook. There is no happy birth announcement. People must carry on, continuing to report to work and care for families. There is no outward reminder that there was a baby. The world quickly resumes as though nothing is has changed, but our hearts don't. We remember the babies we never held. We grieve for the ones that lived for a short time. Though we may have been blessed to meet and hold babies in the years since, the others aren't forgotten.
     Please say a prayer for those that you know have suffered the loss of an infant.




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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

What's That?


     Our 11 yo is taking 6th grade courses this year. She's also taking a slew of electives. Not even just a slew. The electives she is taking are many and amazing. The kid opted for piano, violin, Irish dance and Introduction to Japanese. No, really!
     We came upon violin that someone was selling for a low, low, ultra-affordable price. Then we needed to restring it, purchase a music stand, a chin rest, some other kind of strappy thing, rosin and this little tid-bit.



Wait, can you read that? It's hard to see. Maybe you will recognize this view:



Still stumped? When your child is taking violin, for the first time ever, you will want one of these. It's at least as important as the music stand. It's possibly even more useful than a chin rest. With eight other people living in our house, it's a sanity keeper. 
The thing is called a Violin Mute. A new violin student may practice drawing a bow without the sound filling the house. Ahhh, sweet relief! The keyboard has volume control, the violin doesn't. 11 yo is learning, and quickly at that. Still, this little piece of wonderful is one of the best purchases we've made yet.




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Monday, October 13, 2014

Surprise Pumpkin!



     One day, when I was out looking at this year's neglected garden, I found a vine. I hadn't planted anything that would grow a vine. I watched the vine and tried to guess what it was. A neighbor thought it might be an Acorn Squash, since it looked like the one she was growing. The vine wasn't producing any fruit. It just kept flowering. Many of the flowers would fall off, looking as though they had been cut neatly at the stem. I started looking for cutworms, but never found any.
     I then learned that some of the flowers were male, and some were female. The female flowers have a 'hip' at the base of the flower that could become a fruit if the flowers were fertilized. The male flowers would simply fall off the vine. I looked for weeks and didn't find any fruit growing.
     One day, I remembered that I had planted watermelon seeds. I was almost certain they wouldn't grow, but since our growing season here is long and has been consistently warm the past few years, I thought I'd give it a go. I was so excited that we might be getting watermelon from our own garden! Several more days passed, and no fruit.
     An hot afternoon found me outside in the shade of our trees, inspecting this vine. It was rather thorny, and had sprawled out everywhere! There was one fruit, growing under the leaves of the wisteria that climbs the fence. It was a tiny green ball with a striped pattern. I was convinced still that it was a watermelon. About a week later, the tiny green ball had grown quite a bit.
             
I might have still thought it was a watermelon if it weren't for the stem. Definitely a pumpkin stem. This is when I found out, via Google, that pumpkins turn orange on the vine. I've never seen pumpkins grow before! This was exciting!  As the pumpkin became larger, I could see it from the kitchen window. I started looking out every time I was at the kitchen sink. I am there quite a bit.

Soon, it looked more like this:  

The vines are beginning to die back, and we'll harvest our one pumpkin. There is a lot of speculation in the house about who will get to use the pumpkin and to what purpose. I know now that if we grow pumpkins again, I will turn them or put straw under them to keep them from getting flat on one side. I will also pinch off female flowers to give fewer buds a better chance at becoming pumpkins.
     Not bad for a volunteer plant!
















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Thursday, October 9, 2014

It's All New!



     Take a look at the new digs! There's a new design on the blog today. I will have info on the tabs at the top in the next couple of weeks. Right now, every tab shows the blog posts.
     Isn't it fabulous? I'm excited about it, and now, I'm getting to work on the information for those tabs!
Have a great Thursday!










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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Catalog Season



     'Tis The Season to mix up all of the end of year holidays and celebrations in catalogs of every kind in the mailbox. The truth is, I LOVE the catalogs. And, I hate them, too. I love to see the new, sparkly, shiny, clever, and ridiculous. I hate that if I had unlimited funds, I would actually purchase many of anything considered ridiculous. I like fun, and I adore funny. That surge of serotonin when I crack a smile, and that muscle relaxing relief when I get to belly laugh.
     I have already received holiday book gift suggestions, holiday shower curtain sales, and cordless, pre-lit sheer curtain panels. I am certain that we need those pre-lit curtain panels. Many of them. In all the rooms.
     My favorite catalog arrival so far is this one:


     Do you see that title? PajamaJeans. Pajama Jeans! This must me the 20-teens 'Thing'. I knew they existed, I just wasn't aware there could possibly be an entire catalog devoted to them. How many pages could such cataloge contain, anyway? That would be 27, by the way. 27 pages of pajama jeans. I busted up laughing when I saw this catalog. I was laughing so hard that many of the zooligans came to see what could possibly be so hysterical. 
     Then, I started looking through the catalog, because, hey, catalog full of ridiculousness. That's when I found this: 
   
   

     Multi-colored Pajama Jeans! I could have red, ocean blue, jade, even  a line of fall colors. I could choose indigo, black or vintage wash. I could choose brocade print! But wait! It isn't just the Pajama Jeans pants! There's more!



     The Pajama Jeans Jacket! Now, a denim look jacket that is cozy and warm and totally goes with those blue brocade print pants, that I can wear with heels and completely fool all of the public! I must have these!  Oh, and there's something fantastic tucked away in the middle of this lovely catalog of amazingness.


    That's right! MEN'S Pajama Jeans! Something for everyone. You can't tell in the pic, but those socks are cheese burgers and beers. For real. Pajama jeans and Cheeseburger Socks. The men on your gift list never had such an amazing Christmas! It's the stuff of dreams!
     It isn't just me here at TheZoo that is suddenly excited about these Pajama Jeans. At least three of the zooligans wrestled this catalog out of my hands and began to exclaim how amazed they are that there are now boot cut AND skinny fit to choose from, and that perhaps this fashion no-no has suddenly become  'Say Yes to the PajamaJeans!' 
     This might well be the 'Something to Wear' portion of our holiday and birthday gifting guideline here at TheZoo. If you've not heard it before, it goes like this 'Something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read." I wasn't clever enough to come up with this sweet little piece of poetic wisdom. I saw it on Pintrest. While I was looking up pictures of sparkly, ridiculous things. 
   Happy Holiday Catalog Season!

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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A Different Person


     Picture day at the Parent Partnership Program was yesterday. We don't usually go in to school on Mondays, so even though I knew it was coming up, had marked it in my day planner, and had entered into the calendar on my phone, I forgot.
     I was posting yesterday's blog when I noticed a friend had mentioned on facebook about forgetting picture day today. We began the frantic scurry. While it was still fairly early in the day, I didn't want to spend the time to pack a lunch and be out over the lunch hour. I also didn't want to wait until after lunch, because I knew that I would get busy and forget the time.
     The 4 yo was badly in need of a trim on her bangs, but that hadn't happened yet. We had been using headbands. Yesterday, I tried to pull her bangs back with one of those microscopic hair bands made for babies. It looked terribly cute. She felt her hair and decided she didn't like it. I asked her to look in the mirror, and maybe she would change her mind.
     She climbed on the step stool and looked in the mirror. She stared in the mirror. For a long time. Finally, she spoke. "I don't like it. It looks like a different person." Sigh. I told her that I could cut her bangs in a hurry, but she'd have to sit very still so it looks nice in the pictures. She did. She sat still! I was able to give her a quick bangs trim and brush the hair off of her sweater. "Look in the mirror now." I instructed. She looked, and immediately smiled. "I like this! I look like me!"
     How many times does something change in my life, forcing a new schedule or responsibility on me that I don't feel prepared for, or that I am not qualified for. Those times when I believe that whatever new thing it is that I am doing just doesn't look like me. I don't recognize myself in that role. I can't see myself in it.
     Usually, some small tweak, one that won't change the outcome of the project or responsibility but will change how I see it, or how I see myself in it seems to make it work. Sometimes the tweak is learning more about what it is that I need to accomplish. Sometimes it is in meeting someone new that is already good at whatever it is I need to accomplish. I don't have to change who I am and become unrecognizable in order to accomplish something, I just need to make some improvement to what is already there. I have to admit that I do like what I see, and that freshening up my skills and attitude a bit will allow me to continue to recognize myself, and see myself in a better light. Then I can say "I like this! It looks like me!"

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Monday, October 6, 2014

My Highlights Reel?


     You know how I've mentioned that sometimes, a mom sees TheZoo out and about and raves about how amazed she is with how 'together' our family seems to be? Do remember how I laugh and point out that 'seems to be' is really the key phrase in that sentence? That cheesy facebook meme about the highlights reel of life is rather fitting in these times. I almost wish I had a laminated version that I could pull from my purse and hold up at times like these.

                                                           

     When people are amazed because all seven children made it out of the house with shoes on and backpacks ready to go, and they stop by the table we are eating lunch at and see healthy fare on the children's plates, that they are eating, and I am instruction and couple of kiddos on some bit of academic pursuit, I feel the need to stop them and explain.
     Here's the truth. I actually lost sleep over this lunch menu. I needed something healthy, because we are trying to omit refined flour and sugar from our diet. They are happily eating it because they are hungry from refusing the dinner the night before and the breakfast this morning that was so full of healthiness that they deemed it disgusting. Now their stomachs are demanding that something, anything, fill that void.
     All of the kids are out of the house with shoes on and backpacks ready to go. Their was a 20 minute aerobic workout just as we were going to leave the house to move furniture and dig through laundry baskets to find matching shoes for at least two of the children. Also, I guess you didn't see us last year when the then current 4 year old could be seen wearing two shoes, but unmatched ones on various occasions.
     The two children that are currently receiving academic instruction are politely and quietly doing so because for whatever reason, I did not help them manage their time to get this finished before today's due date, and they need this done for the class that meets right after lunch.
     What you see isn't always what you get. Please know that I am not hiding the reality. Go ahead and ask! I will be real with you! For whatever part of our family that looks smooth running and easy, there is a part that is challenging and crazy.
     Recently, I received maybe one of the best compliments ever in my motherhood life of 18 years. A friend told me that her group bible study is using a study that asks them to identify a fellow mom that they admire for some reason or another. She put down my name as the admired mom. That isn't the amazing compliment part. The amazing part is that this lady is a friend. A good one. She knows me. She knows about how my family's life really happens. She has seen my family grow over the years, she knows the struggles we face, and the victories that we celebrate. She's heard me nay say the 'have it together' phrase. 
     I'm not big on receiving compliments, they make me uneasy. I have a hard time reconciling whatever the compliment is with the whole view I have of my life. I'm not talking about "I love your shoes!". I'm talking about any compliment that has to do with perceived personal success. My life is a series of successes and semi-successes interspersed with an even more impressive series of failures. 
     When you see our family out, whether what you're seeing is a success moment or a fail moment, please extend the grace that comes with understanding that it is just a moment. In fact, please extend that grace to any person that you come across! 


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