misadventures in homemaking


A few weeks ago our church moved into a new building and when we picked Asher up the teacher was telling us about the cool new stuff they would start the next week, including a video curriculum for the Bible story. I asked them for the name of the curriculum and if there was a way for me to watch it first. She told us and I was going to leave it at that but Jake then informed her that we don’t let Asher watch videos. I realized that we have become one of “those” parents – the weird ones. As we were talking about it on the way home I pointed out that, as Asher is potty-trained and we don’t leave Caroline in the nursery yet, they aren’t even aware that we cloth diaper. They are going to think we are REALLY weird when they find that out. I told Jake that I don’t feel weird, these things feel normal to me. But taken as a whole we are very weird people and I can see why it is a bit difficult for us to make friends.

  • We don’t own a TV. And I am very vigilant about limiting screen time for my kids when they are around smartphones etc.
  • Cloth diapers (which, for the record, I prefer over disposables – even if the cost was the same. Disposables stink and feel so…papery.)
  • No soda, except root beer or cream soda as a special treat. We pretty much drink only water, sometimes juice.
  • We put our kids to bed super early and make sure they have time to take solid naps.
  • We try to avoid licensed characters. When Asher needs a toothbrush or something I go to great lengths to find one that doesn’t have a “character” on it. Aside: I shouldn’t have to go to great lengths but unfortunately most toddler toothbrushes have Mickey or Thomas or Dora on them.
  • We’re debt free and actually have money in the bank. Even during times of unemployment.
  • I try to cook from scratch and avoid prepackaged things.
  • We buy used. Any time we need something, we check craigslist first. We have a stroller, a couch & loveseat set, a glider, and a sewing machine that were all purchased used. We only buy used cars. Our mattress, washer, and dryer are hand-me-downs, and everything else has been built by Jake from re-purposed wood.
  • We both try to stay physically active.
  • I will keep my kids rear-facing in the car until I can no longer find a carseat they will fit in.
  • Per WHO recommendations I hope/plan to nurse my babies around 2 years each.

So, lady, it’s not just that I expect you to actually teach and interact with my child instead of popping in a DVD (seriously. What is so difficult about teaching 2-year-olds? Tell them a short story, they will love it and it is so much better for them than watching a video!). Altogether these things make me, and us, pretty different from most of the people I know. I’m ok with that and I’m ok with the fact that you probably talk about us after we leave for rocking the boat. Looking over that list I totally sound like a hippie-granola but I like all of these things about me and my family. These things are comfortable and normal for me. And I think you’re the weird one for thinking a video curriculum for Bible stories is a good thing.

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I’m not very girly. I don’t wear a lot of makeup, and you usually can’t tell when I do. I don’t get the point of fingernail polish and I’m not really sure what Pintrest is. Because of this, and a few other reasons, I never expected to have a girl. I mean, if God gave you children based on your personality, I would be that mom with half a soccer team’s worth of sons in the back of a minivan or maybe a suburban (but probably a minivan. I don’t find myself too cool for a minivan.).

But, God does not give us children according to our personality; He gives us children according to our need. I don’t think I mentioned it on here but for a while – 9 months, give or take – I was pregnant. About 2 months ago I gave birth to a little girl and was sort of in shock to find that there would be another female in our little family. Of course the moment you hold your baby for the first time you find that this was the baby you really wanted all along, the baby you needed, and slowly the changes in my future have been sinking in: joy that there will finally be someone to watch Pride & Prejudice with me; horror and dread that I will have to fix someone’s hair. (I don’t even fix my own hair. A ponytail is a legitimate and respectable hairdo as far as I am concerned.)

For some reason, even though I’m not into crafts (what IS the point of scrapbooking, anyway?) it was really important that I make something for my little girl, and I knew exactly what that something would be:

For the last few weeks I’ve been working on this little quilt in whatever spare time I have. Which isn’t much, what with a new baby and a toddler (not to mention a husband) on my hands. I used this tutorial, except instead of a real charm pack I used fairy tale prints.

Sleeping Beauty

Peter Pan. One of my favorites. I cut all the squares of this one wrong but I’m not showing a closeup of that.

Little Red Riding Hood

Snow White. My other favorite. Unfortunately there’s only one square of it because that’s all the fabric I could find.

Cinderella

Frog Prince

Emperor’s New Clothes

Wizard of Oz

Three Little Pigs

And the back:

is

The Princess and the Pea

So, baby girl, may your life be an amazing adventure and unbelievable story. May you do grand things but, more importantly, be a grand person. May your heart be filled with courage, compassion, and generosity; may you experience real friendship, genuine kindness, and true love. May you see the prince within the frog (and pray your parents see him, too!). Fight against wrong, search for truth, set things right, and push back the darkness. On your quest for justice and beauty may you only experience the smallest amount of hardship and sorrow necessary to keep your heart tender. Build your home with wisdom and let your life be marked by extravagant love and childlike wonder. May you never discover any kind of vegetable in your bed, but especially not peas, and may you always know your mama loves you enough to rip out an entire quilt binding and start over just to make it prettier.

And most importantly, may your life be a part of The Great Story.

Sometimes fairy stories may say best what’s to be said. – C.S. Lewis

I have the challenge misfortune blessing of sharing a bed with a man who, while sleeping, has no sense of personal space. Mind you, when he’s conscious he is quick to notice that my pinky toe has strayed to the edge of his couch cushion, but once asleep he has this notion that if he can roll there, it’s his space. He also rolls the covers around himself like a burrito, so that I never have enough covers, and if I pull them and thus un-burrito him he accuses me of stealing all the covers. I actually once started a photo essay which was to be entitled, “My Husband Is Literally the Reason I Get Out of Bed in the Morning” as proof that I am the victim in the situation.

Notice that the covers are on the ground on Jake’s side, and don’t even reach the edge on mine. I was forced to rise for the day because he grouched at me for trying to re-distribute them in a more even fashion, and it was freezing.

Now, it’s not all bad. Sometimes I get in bed and Jake is laying diagonally across the bed, with his feet where mine should go. This is nice because after he kicks me for invading his foot space, he rolls over (re-burritoing himself in the process) and leaves me with a nice pre-warmed spot for my feet. Of course I have scant covering for the rest of me, but at least my feet are cozy.

Enter the beauty – and brilliance – of German engineering. In Germany, individual sleeping space is a priority. When we stayed in a hotel in Germany, they had two twin-size mattresses in a king platform. Each mattress had its own flat sheet and duvet. You had the togetherness of sharing a bed with the comfort of your own covers, and a clear boundary line for your bedmate. I don’t think I have ever slept so well in my married life. I determined that as soon as it was financially feasible, we would procure similar sleeping arrangements. You could even use a king mattress and fitted sheet for this, and just get separate duvets. I haven’t executed the plan yet because it’s not financially feasible – king mattresses are expensive! – but I think I may go ahead and do the separate duvets with our queen bed. I mean, we may never be able to afford a king and that way I’ll at least have some covers. (As a side note, I have become convinced that the size of bed directly influences the health of a marriage. Full bed, unhealthy marriage. King bed, you probably really like each other because your sleep is the undisturbed slumber of one whose partner is several feet away.)

I think Germans are brilliant.

Also – this is totally unrelated – they eat ice cream for dinner. Like I said, they’re brilliant. In the summer they go to ice cream shops and order these huge masterpieces and that’s their dinner. This is another tradition we have decided to incorporate into our family.

I found this in a Google image search; my pictures don't turn out this well.

After recently admitting that I abhor raw potatoes in my kitchen, a situation presented itself for me to confront this fear. As mentioned once, a long time ago, I crave chicken pot pie in the autumn the way birds crave to fly south. And after having the perfect frozen vegetable blend in France, I was unhappy with the selections here. (Not to mention – the quality of frozen vegetables from Picard shames all others. I will never be satisfied with frozen American vegetables again.) Which meant I had to use fresh, which meant I had to purchase – and use – potatoes. REAL potatoes.

I selected Yukon Gold for this pot pie, although I think red ones would work nicely too. I used the same vegetables as the frozen blend I found in France, except this time I kept the onions out and sautéed them like the original recipe. (I actually almost carmelized them, as I was distracted by a crust problem, so the flavor was really nice.) I still didn’t get enough pepper in – it’s really hard to measure from a grinder! – but the overall result was pretty delicious.

But the point is, I have now used real live potatoes and lived to tell about it. I have a few left, though, so I am quite anxious to use them ASAP.

I am scared of potatoes.

Once, when I was still living with my parents, I noticed a funny smell in the kitchen. Sort of fishy, and it seemed to come and go. It was very faint – no one else could detect it. (I am not sure how or why that is; I actually have a rather terrible sense of smell, thanks (I suppose) to countless sinus infections). After several days, the smell had become stronger. Other family members started to notice it. My mom, my sister, and I went around the kitchen, sniffing everything but could not identify the culprit. Several more days passed and the smell became quite bad. We went on a purge, taking everything out of cabinets and off shelves. Finally, we found a bag of rotten potatoes, forgotten in the back of a distant corner cabinet. Worst. smell. ever.

And so it is that I neither keep nor use real potatoes in my kitchen. We use the instant kind around here and thus avoid the risk of putrescence.

I love driving with the windows down. Today the weather was perfect for such a venture so I packed up the little guy and we headed out, The Legend of Chin* turned up loud enough to hear over street noise but not so loud as to damage little ears. We were on a quest to procure rations for our bare larder, so we went to Ft. Worth to check out what my friend Paige affectionately calls “the poor people’s grocery store.” It’s a surplus/dented can place called Town Talk, and it’s sort of a gamble on what they have when you go. I particularly needed staple items such as flour and spices and Paige assured me that they always have that stuff, although maybe not exactly what you’re looking for.

Both of the guest houses we stayed in had spices so we didn’t purchase many. (Actually, the first house had a HUGE pantry that was crammed full – in a neatly organized fashion – with nonperishables. So, so awesome. The second house had a few spices; I took the liberty of throwing away ones that were purchased from a now-defunct pharmacy and expired in ’94. I bought a few to fill in the gaps.) Spices can be quite pricey, especially if you need to buy a bunch all at once. They ranged between .88 and $2.99 for a normal-sized bottle (although you can also buy in bulk), so it’s not too painful to stock up; my spice rack is now full, along with my pantry and freezer. The kitchen is back in business!

And, I just want to say that Asher did so well at the store, even though it was a marathon grocery run and I normally try to do grocery runs of any distance solo. He ate his snacks and charmed anyone around us with his smile and “HI!” and only got loud once. He’s such a great kid, even if people do keep calling him a “she.”

*In my opinion this is one of the best driving-with-the-windows-down albums of all time.

For several months now I have been pining for chicken pot pie – the last 3 years in the fall I have had a freezer full of the little individual ones, and I would go home for my hour lunch break, eat a pot pie, and watch a movie or something. Very cozy during the chilly autumn and winter months. The problem is that chicken pot pie is quite American so there are no frozen ones to be had in France, and the even bigger problem is that making chicken pot pie is extremely labor intensive, and I am extremely labor adverse. But Friday my need for soul-nourishing overcame my laziness and I embarked on a culinary adventure. My husband praised the result highly and insisted I post recipes here for all to share. So, here they are.

I used this recipe at allrecipes.com for the crust and doubled it to have enough for the bottom and the top. I will go ahead and type it here – already doubled – so if you are interested and have a lot of time on your hands you can just print out this post for a delicious dinner.

2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup butter, chilled and diced
1/4 cup ice water

  1. In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in water, a tablespoon at a time, until mixture forms a ball (you would actually want 2 balls, one slightly larger than the other). Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.
  2. Roll larger dough ball out to fit a 9 inch pie plate – bottom and sides. Place crust in pie plate. Press the dough evenly into the bottom and sides of the pie plate.
  3. Roll smaller dough ball out to be just slightly larger than the pie plate. Set aside.

I didn’t chill it as long as the recipe says and it worked fine. I am actually not sure what chilling does for you so it might be ok without chilling but don’t blame me if it doesn’t work. Also, in case you have not made pie crust before, the ice water part 1) literally means ice water – put ice and water in a cup or bowl and use that and 2) is approximate – go by when everything sticks together rather than the actual amount.
This recipe is great if you live in an area without shortening because it is dependent on butter instead. Also, it is DELICIOUS when filled with a pot pie.

OK, now for the filling. This is my adaptation of another allrecipes.com recipe.

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
3 cups (or so) frozen mixed vegetables (I found a bag of potatoes, carrots, celery, onions, poireaux (leeks), and green beans which was GREAT because there were no peas in it, and also potatoes are delicious)
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup flour
2 cups chicken broth
2/3 cup milk
1/3 cup cream
salt to taste
pepper to taste
herbes de provence (a tasty blend of rosemary, savory, oregano, thyme, and basil) to taste
chicken bouillon cube

  1. Preheat oven to 425 (around 220 Celsius)
  2. Put chicken and vegetables in big pot and cover with water. Throw in a chicken bouillon cube for extra flavor. Add water to cover and boil for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, drain (SAVE 2 CUPS FOR THE NEXT STEP), and set aside. (Actually you can save all of it for a tasty and nutritious broth if you want but at least don’t dump all of it down the drain.)
  3. In separate pot, melt butter (the original recipe said to saute onions here but mine were mixed in with the frozen stuff so I skipped that part but if you are into that sort of thing this is where you would do it) and gradually stir in flour. Slowly stir in milk, cream, and chicken broth and add seasonings. Cook until thick and lovely, then remove from heat.
  4. Put your chicken/veggie blend in the crust and then pour the filling part over. Cover with the top crust and seal the edges. Make a few slits in the top crust for steam to escape.
  5. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the top is a perfect golden brown and irresistible-looking. Let it cool for a bit and then dish it up.

So, I forgot the second cup of broth so my filling wasn’t as copious as I normally like but it was pleasingly thick. Next time I would make every effort to put the full amount of broth in. Also I picked out a lot of the celery from the frozen mix because the chunks were ENORMOUS – like bigger than a normal bite – and I was not interested in celery pot pie. I would put in more pepper – I used 1/2 teaspoon, I think – and the only other thing I would do differently would be to use a bit more butter when starting the sauce part because that amount of flour seemed like too much if mixing with just the melted butter. And as we all know, you can never use too much butter for home cooking.

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