Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Menu Sharing

A few months ago my smart friend Colleen suggested I start keeping my menus on Google Calendar, a resource I already use to pieces anyway.  It was a brillant idea and beat the heck out of my former paper and pencil system.

The Google calendar allows me to repeat menu items, so something that is a big hit might get repeated in 2 weeks, whereas something else yummy, but very odd -- like smoked salmon -- might only get repeated every 5 weeks.

What I truly love about this is that each week when I sit down to work on next week's menu, it is already loaded with lots of meals!  Sometimes there will even be 2 or 3 choices for each meal and I just see what "feels" right this week, then set the other meals forward a week or two.

I can now do my menus in 10 minutes where it used to take an hour or more.

This week I was wishing I could have a peek at someone else's menu;  all the kids were sick and craving comfort food; I was looking for fast inspiration!  Today I thought, "Well, why not share my menus?  Maybe they can help someone out when they feel uninspired."

I have done so.  Here is the link to my menu calendar.  It's public so you should have no trouble seeing it.  If you click on "details" you can see a link to any online version of the recipe(s); if I have a photo, it's attached which you can also see under details.  For an example of both, look at the details under my lunch entry for Feb 2, Bo Luc Lac.

Disclaimer:  I only work one week ahead, so menus for two weeks from today will be incomplete and lacking detail!

I would love to see some other folks' menus too!  If you'd consider sharing, please be sure to let me know!  Happy cooking!

(Cross posted to Bright Weight Loss)

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Land of the Living (Barely)

Almost everyone is sick.  Really sick.  The Blitz is the worst, with a temp fluctuating between 103 and 105; Pepper is a couple degrees behind (but upchucking) followed by The Captain who started the day fever-free and ended it at 101.  Sunshine is sick but not feverish last I checked;  all (even Tink) are coughing that kind of yucky cough that sets off the "cower and cover" reflex if they are too close.  Oh my.

Nonetheless, they are all being really sweet kids and as long as I aspire to accomplish nothing, all is well. 

I am feeling strong and fit - no worries. The baby spent the whole day flopping between my arms and the cool floor; everyone else is lounging here and there.  I think all 5 are finally asleep for the night now -- I'm hoping they all feel better tomorrow.  I can't stand it when even one is sick, much less 4 of 5. 

Two funny events of the day:
Tinker marches into the kitchen, arms crossed across her chest."Mama, The Blitz is trying to make me sick!  He cough all over me." 

And The Captain, arriving home from school says, "Mom.  Take my picture."
"Sure, son, but why?"
"Cuz dis how I look sick!"

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Crisco Cosmetic

Two years ago, I read the book The Help by Kathryn Stockett.  I'm sure you've heard of it!  Fast forward to this November and the start of my holiday baking.  From about mid-November until after New Year's I live in my kitchen and tons of dishes pass through my dry, cracked hands. So when I started my first round of baking I made my only recipe this year including Crisco.  I know, it's terrible for you; but if you only eat it twice a year, you'll probably survive.

In the process of preparing this recipe, my hands got a little greasy so I just rubbed it in.  I thought of that passage in the book when Minnie teaches her boss about the wonders of Crisco.  A couple of hours later I was at the pharmacy looking for my favorite winter lotion which is ridiculously expensive and apparently no longer available in my area.  I thought about the odd similarities between Crisco and this lotion and thought, "what the heck, I'm going to give it a try."  Then I went home and immediately forgot the whole idea; such is life with 5 children.

Fast forward another week and I finally saw the movie, The Help and remembered my Crisco plan.  Since December 1, Crisco has been my only hand, face and body lotion.  I know, crazy, right?

My skin has never been softer.  Seriously.  The Crisco is a little thick, so you do have to warm it in your hands a bit, but if your skin is nice and warm like after the shower, it goes on great.  You can buff it off a bit with a towel if it makes you feel better but I don't find it necessary.

I have friends who buy pressed coconut oil for their skin at $7 to $15 per pound.  Crisco costs me at $1.75/pound at my local grocery.  This really appeals to my frugal nature.

I am sure the coconut has a lovely smell but there is a lot to be said for cosmetics that are truly unscented.  I'm pretty sure those transfats aren't being absorbed through my skin, so no worries there.  I think I have actually found the perfect use for shortening.

If you know me "in person," you probably know I have a lotion issue.  I cannot stand having dry hands so I am constantly applying lotion.  The great thing about Crisco is that I don't have to wash it off before cooking.  In fact, I actually apply it right before I wash dishes and it gives my skin a nice protective coating and I swear those wrinkles on my neck are getting less pronounced.

I am going to try to talk Sunshine into letting me rub it into her perpetually dry hair.  Just seems like it couldn't hurt.  I didn't get my usual winter cracked heels this year and my cuticles never looked better.  I swear, it's a magic elixir.

All that said, come summer,  I wouldn't coat my skin in it and lay by the pool -- seems like a good way to get some fried chicken skin. I don't lay by the pool anyway but will use sunscreen for swimming and save the Crisco for afterward.   I also can't recommend using it anywhere you may be acne prone; it just seems like a bad idea.

So that's what I'm up to these days; I'm just all agog over my Crisco Cosmetic.  I guess you could say it's a Crisco crush.

Let me know if you're brave enough to try it yourself!

POST SCRIPT:  (1/30/2012) - Writing this, I started thinking about coconut oil.  I bought a jar of organic, food grade oil on sale ($6) and stirred a tablespoon into my 1 cup jar of crisco. Now I use 1/3 coconut oil to 2/3 shortening.  I sometimes scent it with lemon essential oil or rosemary.  It's perfect.  Really.

Monday, January 16, 2012

I Have to Sit Down, Bladder Brain and Other Mommy Maladies

I am tired.  There, I said it.  This week has taken it out of me.  It seems that half a day at Sunshine's audition on Saturday, a full day and evening of cooking/serving for the youth group on Sunday and then today's "regular" day of cleaning the house for hours -- and it is messier than when I started -- and I am whipped!  I have decided it's a "Mommy Malady" called "I Need to Sit Down" and, after a week like this, I've earned a few hours on my bum!

I also have a serious case of "bladder brain."  I am already potty trained but The Blitz isn't, and every 30 to 45 minutes an alarm goes off in my brain and I cannot rest until that boy takes a brief sit on the potty seat.  He is making good progress; but still doesn't take the initiative.  He holds on until I tell him it's time. I dozed off this afternoon while sitting in the rocker and woke up with a jolt when the bladder brain alarm rang.  It's kinda funny, hunny. 

My last malady is a strange foot disorder I am calling "Freaky Feet."  I am getting rolling muscle spasms in my feet.  It is driving me crazy.  It starts late afternoon (or earlier) and does not stop until I sleep.  I suspect it has to do with being on my feet all day, but I'm not sure.  I went to the internet doctor and have determined that I can't possibly be short on calcium or magnesium; I get so much of both.  It may be a B vitamin deficiency (B1, B5 and B6 to be exact) though that would also be surprising, given how much poultry, eggs and leafy greens I consume.  It could be a case of dehydration, although that seems unlikely too.  For now, I'm "treating" it with vitamins and a lot of water.  Oddly,I don't have "Freaky Feet" tonight for the first time in weeks.  And I did get 10 hours of sleep last night.  Well, maybe 8-1/2.  So maybe the actual cause is that other Mommy Malady, "Sleep Deprivation."

Okay, enough whining.  I've got laundry to fold!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Art of Conversation

Most kids learn to converse along with learning to speak;  it's just a part of the natural progression.  I didn't realize how much I took that ability for granted.

It hasn't worked that way for The Captain.  Whatever the reason for speech delay -- and it does appear to be a delay now rather than an impairment -- his ability to converse was somehow put on hold.  He has not been inventive in speech, relying on rote phrases, many of which he repeated in the same voice in which it was used. 

At school and at home, we speak slowly and over enunciate to make sure he hears each word.  It lends a robotic quality to the speech.  He quite often said things in that voice, making me realize it was yet another memorized snippet of speech.  In fact, when we first met, he had 3 words/word-sets:  "backpack, backpack," "boots," and "oh, man."  I saw this as really hopeful -- until several weeks later in a weak moment I turned on Dora the Explorer and discovered his entire vocabulary was from that show!

So . . . recently I mentioned that The Captain had a huge burst in his facility with language over the holidays.  The most amazing improvement came in his ability to innovate and his ability to converse.  Today he said, "Mom, how was your day?"  I told him about taking his sister to the dentist and then he proceeded to tell me about his day.  He used several sentences and kept making eye contact throughout. I was spellbound.  Later, I heard him talking to Maggie about the dentist and asking several questions. 

The best story, though, was his first day back at school.  They share "news" in school and the teachers try to ask them "who, what, why, where" questions to get them talking.   Of course he said Santa came.  Then he said that Bennie went to the hospital while he and Maggie stayed home.  True.  So Ms. Rose said, "Why did Bennie go to the hospital?"  He said "He broke his arm and got a thing on it." (Amazing use of past tense here.) She said, "How did he break his arm?"  (She knew he hadn't.)  He said, "He fell off the climbing toy." 

This inventiveness is a wonderful sign.  I asked him later why he said Bennie broke his arm and he said, "Bennie go to hospital.  I not know why so I say, 'He break his arm."'  So clever.

I am so grateful for this little soul who keeps reminding me how truly miraculous we humans are.  They learn so very much and they do it so very fast.  It is humbling, indeed.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A Little about the Bigs and the Littles

I realized I haven't really given much fun stuff about the kids since the Christmas break began, so here is a little update, oldest to youngest for a change!

Pepper is back in the full swing of school and has first semester finals this week   She is a mostly "A" student and is very well liked by the whole faculty.  She has a lot of work but is taking a little time to enjoy her Christmas gifts.  She has drawn some very beautiful vegetables with her Prismacolor colored pencils.  She also cooked us lots of wonderful food over the break and I very much enjoyed some respite from the kitchen.

Sunshine was very, very sick Christmas Eve and recovered quite a bit Christmas day.  She spent most of her school break practicing for her America's Got Talent audition coming up this weekend and playing with her new recording mic (of which I do not really "get" the coolness!). On the academic front, she is very worried about the mandated state tests which begin in March;  there is little I can do to alleviate her worrying (and frankly mine).  I am not sure what we will do if she does not pass; it is possible I will have to withdraw her before the end of the year and start schooling her myself again (as opposed to a formal program) to avoid her being held back.  She is getting A's and B's with very little help from me, but the tests are very hard for her with her memory issues.  It seems very unfair to me.

The Captain took charge of his speaking over the break.  I got a big shock on the last day of school when I realized that he is now actually capable of using all the words ("I want a drink of water, please") instead of the caveman speak ("Water please.")  On the way home from school I told him how proud I was that he is now able to use all the words and from now on, he would be using all the words at home, too.  He looked a little bummed, yet he has totally risen to the challenge and is talking up a storm.  It is still very babyish in some ways; he is not innovative in his speaking very often but he is making huge progress.  We saw the developmental pediatrician over the break.  We will have more information on that after the next tests and visits.

Tinker has been a total card lately.  She has realized how funny she is and is playing her little tricks a lot to get a laugh.  She loved Christmas and adores Christmas music.  She and I sing several songs every day.  She is into a quick learning phase; she is counting to 14 now, knows most letters on sight and is starting to think phonemically.  She truly loved the New Year's Eve party we went to and now that she has tasted the limelight, is grabbing it every chance she gets.  Less mischief is being caused by her these days for which I am very, very grateful.

Finally, the Blitz.  What can I say?  Sunshine pointed out that he is still the major cause of most of the messes in the house, and as he is growing, can now reach more to get into.  He has finally gotten tall enough to open the back door so all the grandmothers can relax; he's not going out the doggy door any more!  He has accelerated his talking to an amazing degree; much of what he says sounds very grown up.  He reminds me of Pepper at the same age.

He has a funny new affectation.  Apparently, he has royal lineage because he now very consistently refers to himself in the third person.  "Bennie need to go potty now."  "Bennie will stay up late because Bennie is not tired to bed." "Bennie is very thirsty!  Bennie needs peanut milk." 

'Peanut milk,' in case you are wondering, is Almond milk.  His wheat free, milk free diet has totally changed his constitution and he is doing great now. He is potty training and making good progress, I'll spare you the grizzly details.

Whew!  That's the run-down;  we are looking forward to a lazy January and then a very busy spring.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Quick Update on the Blitz

Today my friend Hazel came to see me;  she lives in England so it was a true treat!  I could have used about 4 days of her but I am very grateful for the hours we had!

Since I was so busy soaking up the Hazel Love, it took me a while to get to my laptop but the biopsy results are in:

The Blitz, bless him, does not have Celiac disease.  I am so very grateful.  So he has a wheat allergy but all other glutens are fine.  His colon is fine.  In a surprise turn, he does have reflux.  Who knew?

This makes life easier as it is much less limiting, and he could outgrow the allergy.  It also won't be SO critical if he gets a bit of wheat now and then.  That said, he feels oh so much better since we have eliminated wheat completely and I fully intend to keep him away from it. 

Anyway, Yay!!