Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Homemade Snacks...Crackers

I did it! I actually made crackers. Bonus: they look and taste like crackers! And the best part is that they are very easy to make.

Everyone around here loved them. In fact, they disappeared entirely too fast. Next time I'm going to double the recipe. Chris said they taste like Cheez-its. I'll take that as a compliment. This is definitely going on my weekly baking list. Didn't I say this was going to be a fun little challenge? It's also turning out to be a very tasty little challenge!

I had to play around with the recipe a bit to get a good consistency. This recipe calls for Parmesan but you could add or substitute with herbs like thyme or rosemary. Here's what I ended up with. Enjoy!

Cheese Crackers

1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan (I bough
t it whole, chopped it a bit, and threw it in the food processor to shred)
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup whole milk
1 large egg, beaten

cookie cutters

Whisk together cheese, flour, baking po
wder, and salt. Then blend in butter with your fingers, or with the flat beater attachment on your stand mixer, until it resembles course meal. Form a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the milk and egg, then stir with a wooden spoon until a dough forms. Gently knead dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth. Chill the dough in a plastic bag for 1 hour (can be chilled up to one day).

Put the oven rack at the top setting and preheat to 350 degrees. Divide dough into thirds and roll each section out to less than 1/16 inch
thick on a lightly floured surface with a rolling pin. Cut out as many crackers as possible from the dough and transfer to a baking sheet about a 1/4 inch apart. (Don't reroll the scraps. It will make the dough tough.) Bake the crackers for about 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned*. Rotate the pan 180 degrees halfway through baking. The crackers on the outer edges may finish first. Just remove them and let the rest finish baking. Let them cool completely on a wire rack. Enjoy!

*I made a small cracker and a large cracker
. They took the exact same time to bake to the right consistency.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

He's Good In His Space

My day was open, so I decided to go to the courthouse today to watch my husband work. He walked me through the hallways showing off his space. It's a home of sorts for him and he smiled as he showed it off.

When we got to his courtroom, I slid into a bench and watched him ease into the fray. Like so many flies, the defense attorneys hovered around him vying for attention. I felt myself tense for him and wanted to swat them all away. I would have snapped and told them all to sit down, wait for their turn. But he dealt with them all in turn without a pause between. As he spoke he tossed papers into what seemed to be a very purposeful pile of disarray. If someone asked for one of those papers he could pick it out from among the other hundred without a glance down. I saw him as a master of multitasking, a skill he feigns not to possess at home.

He carried an air of cool certainty as he sorted through the lot of people. His walk was determined and no-nonsense. I watched him diffuse some issues and stand firm on others. I noted he still fidgets with pens.

He began to call out names and I found myself intimidated by the confidence in his voice. He commanded his audience. I felt my old timidness come to the surface. If I had been in there for another purpose I would have found it hard to speak to him. Though, Mr. DA was pretty attractive from my vantage, which left me restraining a flirty giggle. The lady behind me got asked to leave for that.

The whole scene is a mess of humanity. It's a lot to take in. My eyes wandered around the room at the emotions in play. I watched the defended, the guilty, the remorseful, those who felt wronged, the witnesses, the prosecutors, the deputies, and the judge. It was a hive of bees all buzzing out of sync and yet in rhythm. It's a muddle. Through the mix I listened to my husband question and object. I listened to the authority in his voice when he gave statements and the exasperation in his voice as he discredited the irrelevant or the downright stupid.

It was a morning that left me smiling in pride. He's good in his space. He's unfrazzled and comfortable there. He is action and calm. He is both intimidating and likable. We have been married for over ten years and I'm happy to say that he still impresses me.

Thanks for showing me your space my love. Oh, and in case you missed it, I still think you're a seriously attractive man. We'll be using that "Mr. DA" thing later.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Apple Picking Day

Saturday was spent in an orchard. A day before the weather decided to drop to a reasonable temperature. But also a day before the rain came.

The sun was high in the sky by the time we got there but the trees provided shade as we plucked ripe apples from burdened branches. Free roaming chickens scratched for bugs in the ground around our feet. Roosters called their disapproval at our disruptive presence. The fattest pigs we've ever seen were eating the rotten apples that people had left behind. Jokes were made about delicious apple bacon being the farmer's winter feast. The pigs were too busy eating to overhear their predicted perilous fate.

Even with the animal distraction we managed to pick two bushels of Stayman Winsaps from those trees. Tart yet sweet, and not at all grainy, just as we like them. Perfect for the pie and the butter and the sauce. Or for taking a big, juicy bite of, especially while it's still sun-hot and crisp.

We bought a gallon of fresh pressed cider on the way out and dispersed cups to hot kids waiting in a van that quickly got a pungent aromatic mix of sweat and earthy apples. We rode home in the noisy excitement that comes from spending a day on a farm. Energized by sun and dirt, animals and a little hard work. Stories told of orchard adventures and plans made for the apple goodness that's coming our way. It's one my absolute favorite ways to spend a day.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Sicily Funnies

Oh, my Sicily girl. She's a walking comics page. Here are some funny things she said this week:

Me: (pointing to her homework page) "What shape is this?"
Sicily: "An octogon."
Me: "no, try again."
Sicily: "A hexagon."
Me: "no."
Sicily: really excited, "I know, it's a pentagon."
Me: "no, it's a rectangle."

Said in complete exasperation and frustration at being the smallest, "The only reason I was born last is because the other two were blocking my way out. I should have been the first out, but they're always blocking my way."

Last night at dinner when asked what the best part of her day was, she said, "Having dinner with my family." Awwww. She followed this up with a hug for each person. Then she sat down and whispered to me, "Can I not eat my squash now?"

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Homemade Snacks

I spend a large chunk of our grocery budget on snack food. I hate it. Every time I throw a box of goldfish or granola bars into the grocery cart I cringe a little. I've thought about going without them and forcing the kids to eat fruit and veges only, but that's not realistic. Our afternoons are a whirlwind of backpacks and binders as we try to get homework done. I don't have time to chop fruits and veges. The kids also have to take a snack to school and the teachers prefer a "dry" snack. I get it. I wouldn't want to clean up twenty applesauce and ranch dressing spills either. So I buy snack foods because I feel like I don't have another option.

But I do. I was complaining about this a while back and my husband suggested that I could probably make all of these snacks from scratch. I let that idea float around my brain for awhile until I knew that he was right. I really could make most of these snacks. And I could do it with real ingredients, no yucky chemical extras.

I decided to start with the easy one. Granola bars. And I did it. I made a product very close in texture to the Nature's Own Crunchy Granola bars that we love. I'm thrilled with them and so is my family.

Next week: Goldfish. Only, I don't have a fish cookie cutter, so we'll call them cheese circles. Oh, and I found a recipe for "twinkies", not that they're one of the snacks I buy, but I think it would be pretty cool to make some.

I can already tell that this is going to be a fun little challenge. My success may stop at granola bars, but that's alright. The fun is in the trying.

Crunchy Chocolate-Banana Nut Bars

2 cups oats
1 1/2 cups finely chopped walnuts (can substitute other nuts)
1/2 cup flax seed
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/3 cup unsalted butter
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup dried banana chips, finely chopped (can substitute other dried fruit)
1/4 cup chocolate chips (opt.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread oats, walnuts, and flax out on a cookie sheet. Toast in the oven for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, combine honey, sugar, butter, vanilla, and salt in a saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves.

Reduce heat to 300 degrees. Add oat mix
ture to the liquid mixture. Stir in dried bananas and chocolate chips. Turn out mixture into a prepared baking dish and press down evenly. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

Allow to cool completely. Then cut into squares. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Autumn Has Arrived

Pumpkin muffins are in the oven. That must mean it's the first day of autumn, my favorite of all seasons. Yes, I believe it is. It's the first day of the season that pleases my senses in every way. And I'd like to usher it in with this lovely little piece from "the Hoosier poet".

When the Frost is on the Punkin

by James Whitcomb Riley

When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock,
And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin’ turkey-cock,
And the clackin’ of the guineys, and the cluckin’ of the hens,
And the rooster’s hallylooyer as he tiptoes on the fence;
O, it’s then’s the times a feller is a-feelin’ at his best,
With the risin’ sun to greet him from a night of peaceful rest,
As he leaves the house, bareheaded, and goes out to feed the stock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.

They’s something kindo’ harty-like about the atmusfere
When the heat of summer’s over and the coolin’ fall is here—
Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossums on the trees,
And the mumble of the hummin’-birds and buzzin’ of the bees;
But the air’s so appetizin’; and the landscape through the haze
Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days
Is a pictur’ that no painter has the colorin’ to mock—
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.

The husky, rusty russel of the tossels of the corn,
And the raspin’ of the tangled leaves, as golden as the morn;
The stubble in the furries—kindo’ lonesome-like, but still
A-preachin’ sermuns to us of the barns they growed to fill;
The strawstack in the medder, and the reaper in the shed;
The hosses in theyr stalls below—the clover over-head!—
O, it sets my hart a-clickin’ like the tickin’ of a clock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock!

Then your apples all is gethered, and the ones a feller keeps
Is poured around the celler-floor in red and yeller heaps;
And your cider-makin’ ’s over, and your wimmern-folks is through
With their mince and apple-butter, and theyr souse and saussage, too! ...
I don’t know how to tell it—but ef sich a thing could be
As the Angels wantin’ boardin’, and they’d call around on me
I’d want to ’commodate ’em—all the whole-indurin’ flock—
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Soul Straightening

"When people care for you and cry for you,
they can straighten out your soul."
-Langston Hughes

We've found we need
a little still,
a little quiet.
A little Peace,
time to think.

We've found we need
a little straightening,
a little direction.
A little silence,
time for Voice.

We've found we need
a little time,
a little touch.
A little care,
time for Comfort.

We've found we need
this to be our Sabbath way
for a little while,
for a time

We've found we need
some soul straightening.

Friday, September 17, 2010


We've always said that one of the problems with having more than two kids is that you're outnumbered. There are two of us and three of them. If you do one on one time then one kid gets left out. Or you have two kids to one adult and one adult to one kid. Or three kids to one adult which equals my everyday and equals my husband needing a time out. And now this is starting to sound like a bad math problem.

Last night we definitely felt outnumbered. We had Open House/Curriculum Night at the school. Three kids in school means three classrooms to visit. Four classrooms actually, as Chris has two. So that's two classrooms per adult in one hour, go! We made it to all four classrooms and then met back up at the front of the school to share information. I felt like I had run laps around the school by the end of the night. But it was worth it.

I love Open House. I get to sit at their seats and hear about their day. It's fun to get an inside view of what they do during the day without me. I love to see what they're writing about, what kind of pictures they're drawing. I like to see how they've organized themselves or not organized themselves. I like to look through their chair bags and desks to see the little notes they write to themselves. I like to know they have little quirks that come out when they're on their own.

For example, Analiese has a hidden piece of paper at the back of her desk with a happy face, a sad face, and an excited face drawn at the top of three columns. There are tally marks under each so I'm guessing she's keeping track of her daily moods. Chris made faces on all of his erasers and wrote a really nice story about how cool our family is. And I found all of Sicily's missing headbands in her cubby box, ten to be exact.

The experience helps me to see them as individual little people, which sometimes gets lost in the family group. I love that they have time out on their own to work out their individuality. And I love that we get to mesh all of those individuals together into this thing we call a family. We may be outnumbered but we wouldn't be complete without each of those quirky little personalities sitting around the dinner table.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Silence is Golden

My son is a silent all-star. I love walking the halls of his school with him. The girls adore him. They giggle and give shy little waves as he walks by. The boys think he's cool. He gets a lot of shout outs in the hallways. The teachers love him. I get endless comments about how polite he is, how well behaved he is, how smart he is. And what response does all of this attention get from the boy? A silent head nod or silent half grin. That's it. He has silently charmed the entire school.

I'm truly not mom-exaggerating here. I wish you could all see it. I wish I could video our walk through the hallways. But that would be a little more than embarrassing I'm sure. He is adored and it comes so naturally to him that I don't think he realizes that everyone doesn't get that kind of attention. And I truly cannot express how silent this boy is. A wave here, a nod there, and an occasional smile, but rarely a word. It's incredible.

This weekend we got a call from the school. They wanted our permission to move him into another classroom. They were compiling all of the "Talent Developement" kids into one classroom. (All schools have this program. My childhood school called it "Gifted and Talented". You know, it's the smart kids that get to leave class early to go build robots or something.) We want him to be challenged and want the best for him, but it was still a hard decision to make because he really loved his other teacher. This morning I went to school with him to help him move his gear from one classroom to the next. So I got to walk the hallways with him. As always he was silent as he was waved at, giggled at, and spoken to. He opened doors for me as we walked which got him more gushing from those who observed it. I was very proud to be his mom today, though I don't believe I can take any credit here. This is who he is. He is naturally silent and sweet.

We got to his old classroom and I thought his teacher was going to cry. She pulled me aside and let me know how wonderful my son is. She told that me he is very sensitive and mature for his age, an old soul. That is a great way for any mom to start the day. Then we went down to the other classroom where he got a standing ovation as we walked in. I'm not making that up. Every kid in the classroom stood up and cheered and clapped. It was ridiculous. And what did this boy who is so loved do. He smiled, very politely said hello to his new teacher, and silently walked to his new desk. Then he silently sat down and got right to work.

And I silently left my silent boy to silently charm the world around him as he proves that silence is truly golden.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


We skipped church this morning and went to the Greek Festival instead. I feel good about that decision because I'm pretty sure it's an event that Jesus would have loved to attend. Nobody in their right mind would pass up a chance for Baklava and a Frappe. People sitting around enjoying good food and jovial conversation while children in traditional Greek dress perform for proud mamas and papas. All centered around a beautiful Greek Orthodox Church filled with fantastic stained glass. It's a lovely mess of true community. I love everything about it. Yiasou!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Weekends Are For...

...learning new things.

For overcoming the scrapes and falls that come with learning new things.

And for the smile that comes from being proud of yourself as your friends and family cheer you on.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

New Mornings

My mornings are different these days, but good.

I wake at six, pour a strong cup of coffee, and start making lunches. Then I quietly make my way upstairs to gently wake the little sleepers, feeling horrible as I pull them from their dreams when it is still dark outside. I help them dress as they are half blind from sleep. The boy has given up on sharing a bathroom with two girls, so he heads downstairs as soon as he stumbles out of bed, sounding much like I assume an elephant would, pounding heavily on each stair. I leave the girls to primp and clean, meet Chris in the kitchen, and feed the cat. I finish packing up the backpacks while they eat. Three kids and a cat munching loudly or staring sleepily absent minded so that I have to poke them a little and point to food. As they finish, they grab backpacks and shoes. I grab keys and the coffee that I have yet to finish and make the short drive to school. I give kisses and goodbyes and they are gone. As I get home, Steven is leaving. After a good-bye kiss, I begin my morning of silence.

I get my cereal bowl and head to the cool patio. It's still and breezy. The cat curls up at my feet. The kids gone. The husband gone. The neighbors gone. It's silent except for the chatter of the birds. Before I go to start errands and chores, I close my eyes and soak it in. It's lovely.

This morning a butterfly landed by my toes. A blue butterfly.

This is my how my morning goes now. Different but good.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


I went to dinner with my love in a nice hippie place with colorful walls and cake stands at the bar filled with irresistible goodness. I ate mushroom stuffed ravioli and a mile high slice of caramel-apple cake. The ravioli melted in my mouth and the caramel was perfectly salty. We watched people come and go as we finished a bottle of wine over our casual conversation and light laughs. Then we went out to hear some jazz under the street lights and laughed with other people about the joys and mundane of being old married folks. We walked on and mellowed into each other as the breeze cooled. We came home contented and melted into sheets.

We woke to perfect weather and a day to do nothing. I got in the hammock and let the leaves fall around my head. A princess came by, hung her crown on a hook, and curled up beside me. We named cloud animals for a bit until she quieted into my arms. We rested that way for over an hour. Not sleeping, just staring at the sky. I don't know when she's ever been so still. The breeze called for it and she felt it. We got our lunch plates and some books, and we went right back to the hammock. We stayed there until time didn't exist and the world felt as if it were only this place with her. She finally jumped up to run off with her friends, leaving her crown fluttering ever so slightly in the wind. The spell was broken but the feeling of it remained.

Fall is coming. I sense the quieting of my soul.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Weekends Are For...

...closing down the main street through a small downtown to enjoy a parade and a festival. For snow cones and corn dogs and face painted cheeks. For happy children screams and booths of handmade treats. For walking back home contentedly exhausted with treasures and treats and fresh squeezed lemonade.

And weekends are for being able to go back and do it all again the next day.

Wishing you all a "Peace" filled Labor Day weekend!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Kindergarten Exhaustion

This is what kindergarten can do to you:

We've been in school for a week now and I think we're all finally getting used to the new schedule. Well, most of us anyways. The little one has been exhausted! The last two days have brought a few meltdowns before and after school. It's tough being a kindergartner. There's so much to learn. You're not just learning your ABCs and 123s. You're also learning how to do school. Even kids who came to the elementary school setting from the preschool setting are learning how school works. They've never been to P.E. They've never been so responsible for their own things. They've never gotten their own lunch in a cafeteria.

And speaking of that last one, I decided to volunteer to help the kindergartners learn their way around the cafeteria this week. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. When I arrived the lead mom told the rest of us, "They're like ping-pong balls. They hit a surface and bounce the other way." She was right.

First we sent the ones who brought lunches through the line. They would walk in with curious eyes taking in their surroundings and end up walking right into the person in front of them or a table or a wall which would lead to a fight or a little cry or perhaps a few stubbed toes. Then the ones buying lunch would get a tray and turn around to get another one because of some completely illogical reason that the first one wasn't good enough. Or halfway through the line they would decide they didn't want a fork and turn around to get a spoon bumping into everyone behind them along the way. Then all of the kids who got bumped would think they were supposed to turn around as well. So they would and the whole lot would try to exit where they entered inevitably dropping trays full of food. Or they would stand in front of the food just staring at the options, decide not to get anything at all, and try to grump out of the door. So we'd redirect them and try to convince them to get something to eat which they would begrudgingly do. Then they have to learn to pay for their food which most of them forgot to do and became mini-thieves. Somewhere in between going back to pay for their stolen food and trying to find their table, they would get separated from their class, and the stress of the whole lunchtime event would cause a few of them to forget their own name. Remembering their teacher's name wasn't even an option. They would burst into tears and have to be walked around until one of the teachers claimed them. While we're getting them food and seating them, the teachers are opening containers, bananas, and juice boxes one handed while quickly eating with the other hand. As soon as the last table of kindergartners is seated you have about five minutes to catch your breath before the first table is ready to leave. Then begins the trash and tray dumping which missed the trashcan completely 9 out of 10 times. By the time all of them had left the cafeteria all of us were sweating and about to collapse.

Kindergarten teachers I applaud you. Wow! You must be exhausted for weeks after school starts. Although, I have to say, you get to work with some of the cutest incompetent people in the world.

As for my own little sprite, she's learning the ropes fast and loving it. She comes home very excited to tell me about her day. She's making new friends and learning new things and eating cookies. A lot of cookies. Apparently that's how her teacher is getting two minutes of quiet during these first few days. Whatever works is fine with me. I now know that her teacher has earned a few minutes of quiet time. Sanity is worth a few extra cookies.