Category Archives: Remedial Domesticity

葱油餅 (with leek)

The leek pancakes (more commonly, scallion pancakes, 葱油餅, or cong you bing) are underway. They are at once simple and, in the way of so many kitchen projects with kids, insanely time consuming.

You start with 3 cups of flour then add 1/2 cup of water at a time, until you get a sticky bread-dough consistency, around 1.5-2 cups. Then you add a little more flour. Then a little more water. Then some more flour, then some more, then some more, and hopefully by this point you have allowed your child to own this process completely and you just do what she says whether it makes sense or not.

Then you knead the dough. Then you sing, “I need you to knead me” as if you are the dough. Then you figure out how to sing “I need you to knead me” in Chinese, but it doesn’t sound as good. The dough needs lots of kneading.

The next part is controversial. You break off a small ball. You may think the ball is small enough, but no. It is not. Smaller, mom, smaller. Roll it to standard pancake size, then rub each side with oil. You might start with as much as a teaspoon of oil, but this will quickly get messy, and you’ll see that you’re very nearly out of oil and it’s after 6pm on Memorial Day so you can’t exactly run out for more. That’s just as well, because 1/4 teaspoon really covers the whole thing nicely — see? It’s fine. Then sprinkle on salt. Apparently the Sen Lin Hu way is to use enough salt to drive up stocks for the Morton Salt Company. Try to reason with the pancake maker — that’s way too salty. It’s going to be inedible. Find a happy medium. Rub the salt onto the oil.

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Look at those long fingers!

Set the pancake down and add thinly sliced leeks. Assuming you have hours to devote to this project and nothing else to do on the holiday weekend, it is best to place the leek bits very very carefully, one at a time, in a visually pleasing arrangement, pressing them in slightly. Take pleasure in your arrangement, as soon no one will know it existed. Roll up your pancake like a cigar, then squash into a ball, the roll out with a rolling pin again to a flat pancake.

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Is she really class of 2017? That shirt is 5 years old at least.

Set on a tray, and repeat. As long as this process takes, it’s still likely that the grillmaster will have gotten involved in a conversation with his band mate about some new song they are working on, and now the grill still isn’t ready after all this time. Cover the pancakes in a damp lint-free dishcloth until it seems plausible that you might eat. Use the time to consider what mixed drinks you could make now that you’re out of beer. Finally, fry them in whatever little bit of oil remains.

Serve with anything you like and a salad of local greens with Annie’s goddess dressing.

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Totally gratuitous photo of cute sister and birthday cheesecake, since we don’t have photos of her feast from last night.

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Weekend Snapshots, and A Poem for Sunday

We’re having a hot and lovely weekend, mostly — there is some eggshell-treading, after a volatile week. While Victoria spent the afternoon with an old friend, Violet, Eggmaster, and I went for a bike ride. We aren’t far from an on-ramp to the bicycles-only Midtown Greenway, which rolls along next to the railroad tracks, and between two of the lakes, and then onto a little shopping area, where we could stop at Whole Foods and pick up some goodies to bring to old friends’ house for dinner. Violet was ecstatic at the idea of cycling not just to tool around, but to run errands, putting our shopping bag in a milkcrate attached to my bike with bungee cords. My legs are feeling it today, but maybe by the next snowfall I’ll be stronger.

Many pangs of not quite sadness, but nostalgia and something more, as we pulled up in front of our old house to have dinner with our old neighbors. As we parked I felt I could just walk in the front door and be home. When our friends didn’t have enough of something, for a second I thought, “I’ll just run across the street and grab it.” I have not quite fully moved into the new house yet, almost 8 months later—my stuff is there, but not all of me. I like it, but it’s still my vacation home.

Today we went to the big city farmers’ market, instead of the tiny neighborhood one we went to last week. It was hot, and the kids were tired, but we managed some little pleasures. The girls had maple candy “just like Laura Ingalls” (those 4 words are enough to recommend anything to Victoria), and then we saw lovely leeks at reasonable (not supermarket) cost. I nearly passed them by, until Violet promised to make us leek pancakes, as she learned at a short Concordia Chinese overnight a few weeks ago. Tonight, however, Victoria and I have a special menu from her new gardening cook books. We’ve made mint syrup and started the “Strawberry Dream Cream” already — new potatoes, peas, and spinach-egg casserole to follow later tonight.

I allowed myself a treat too, a wonderful variegated leafy plant. I have no idea what it is, and Eggmaster had to ask the seller how much sun it needs. I’ve also made arrangements that he’ll water it. I am a black thumb — I cannot touch this plant, but I can still enjoy it.

I am reading lots and lots — Terry Pratchett’s Lords and Ladies, Jack Kornfield’s A Path With Heart, Kathleen Norris’s Acedia and Me. I just love her — who knows what she is like in real life, but when I read her I think, “Ah, we’re just alike. She understands me perfectly. We’re walking a common path, and she is just enough ahead of me to shed a little light.”

She’s also a great finder of quotations. Here’s a nice one for the seekers among us:

Most people come to the Church by means the Church does not allow, else there would be no need their getting to her at all . . . The operation of the Church is entirely set up for the sinner, which creates much misunderstanding among the smug. — Flannery O’Connor

This is a poem from Lynn Park quoted in A Path with Heart. I can find no links to it, or the poet, anywhere, so here is the whole lovely thing:

Take the time to pray—
it is the sweet oil that eases the hinge into the garden
so the doorway can swing open easily.
You can always go there.

Consider yourself blessed.
These stones that break your bones
will build the altar of your love.

Your home is the garden.
Carry its odor, hidden in you, into the city.
Suddenly your enemies will buy seed packets
and fall to their knees to plant flowers
in the dirt by the road.
They’ll call you Friend
and honor your passing among them.
When asked, “Who was that?” they will say,
“Oh, that one has been beloved by us
since before time began.”
This from people who would have trampled over you
to maintain their advantage.

Give everything away except your garden,
Your worry, your fear, your small-mindedness.
Your garden can never be taken from you.

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Filed under Cooking and Eating, Family Fun, I'm Catholic Why?, Our Domestic Church, Remedial Domesticity

Counting Down

The girls have a friend over, so I am taking a little time to get organized and think about what I need to do in the next 36 hours. In particular, this means planning Food.

I did not post about our awesome Thanksgiving feast, in which I take an unreasonable amount of pride. I make a point of going a little over the top, because it is pretty much my one big dinner of the year.

For Christmas Eve I take a little page from my husband’s family. We are going to have a bunch of little bites — shrimp cocktail, spinach and white bean salad, cranberry salad, probably some kind of Polish sausage (connects Eggmaster to his Polish roots), and Ris ala Mande (Danish rice pudding, which a friend of his family used to make).

We are greeters for the early Christmas Eve Mass (not the midnight), so we will come home and everything will be ready for nibbling by the tree, and maybe opening one or two presents.

Christmas morning I have a frozen “egg bake” I got from one of those make-ahead prep kitchens (you go in and make several dishes and freeze them for later in their professional kitchen — and they clean up!). I think this is a very midwestern casserole dish. I feel a little lame not making something a little more special, but I am trying to go low key, and I’m sure it will feel like wonderful comfort food without me wearing myself out before noon on Christmas.

Christmas evening we’re keeping the comfort food theme alive. I’m going to make some chicken and dumplings. Also, I am picking up an awesome Candy Cane cheesecake from the Polish sausage place — we ordered it last year and it was fantastic, so this year we placed a custom order to get another (it wasn’t on the regular menu). Hopefully we will have some friends over the next day to help us finish it!

I can’t think of what to have as a side with the chicken and dumplings. You don’t want anything else too rich, or too bread-y. Steamed broccoli is about as un-festive as it gets. I may just make a salad. Sadly, Eggmaster cannot eat grapefruit, or I would do a salad with grapefruit, which I love.

If the food is planned out, the rest will take care of itself. Although the girls don’t regularly read the blog, I’ll just be vague and say that I feel pretty sure that our entertainment on Christmas day is all taken care of.

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A Random Number of Friday Quick Takes

1. Radical Knitting

Recently seen on the Colbert Report

2. Shoe, other foot

Recently at while playing with friends my daughters were listening to kids complain about how “school sucks” and they responded, naturally, that “you should convince your mom to homeschool you.” Yeah, that goes over big in crowds! We later had a little chat about how we wouldn’t want people telling us how we really ought to stop homeschooling. As I said, you wouldn’t go to a friend’s house and tell her how much better your own house is — even if you think your house is better.

3. Radical Jesus

Recently seen everywhere liberals are found.

Don’t click if disturbed by references to sodomy and Jack Black as Jesus.

4. Shoe, other foot, part deux

We ran into an old acquaintance while running errands today. She was here for the month, as she works independently and can travel around and work where she likes. We mentioned that since Eggmaster and I both work from home, we have been doing the same thing. She asked, “Oh, are the kids out of school?”

Oh right, that. After 3 years homeschooling, it doesn’t even occur to me that people can’t just grab their kids and go when the mood strikes. You’d think I’m totally insensitive to the reality that not everyone lives as we do! 😉

5. Have you found the newish-to-me Camp Creek blog yet?

6. From The Amazing Maurice: Malicia, Maurice, and Keith:

Malicia and co.

Malicia and co.

7. I have been curriculum browsing. It all seems so tempting and perfect in the catalogs, doesn’t it?

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Filed under Curriculum, Does This Look Funny?, Family Fun, I'm Catholic Why?, In the News, Knitting and crafting, Why Homeschool?

Learning Curve

It has been a crazy fall.

First, the illness. The ongoing illness. Mine, mostly, but Victoria has had several bouts of weird short viruses, including, very sadly, on Thanksgiving day. She was napping upstairs when dinner started, then woke up and loudly began to cry. When I went upstairs she said, “I’m so lonely!”

B, the guests. We did enjoy our guests, some of whom read this blog (!), but it got a little crazy, dropping one at the airport only to return a few days later for another. Given how behind we are in laundry, schooling, and working, it was hard to enjoy our guests as much as we thought we would when we first planned their visits. I really had to let go of a lot of things that I would normally worry about and just let our guests wade into our messy lives. And they did, very nicely.

And another thing, the play. Enough said. But V. did get a lot of nice comments. I enrolled her in a weekly class that will run Jan-Mar, which I think will help her exercise her theatre interests while still giving us a little break.

I won’t even get into the misery that is my changing work schedule. Except that all my deadlines have been totally moved up and I was having a hard enough time meeting them as it was. But oh well.

Also, the travel. We went to SD in late August, then the kids went to Michigan in October with DH, and now we are all going away again soon — all wonderful, all to visit grandparents. All good. I love having the girls spend a long week with grandparents, getting to know them better by just hanging out as well as doing special stuff. Except that with the work, and the play, and the guests, and the sick — wow.

So I am still learning about the difference between something being possible and something being wise. Homeschooling continues to offer a huge spectrum of great opportunities, especially now that both mom and dad work from home. I am trying to relax and make the most of the ride we’re on right now, but I’ve learned that I need to keep doing less, doing less, doing less.

Speaking of learning, I have been so bad about updating my blog that I have missed a couple of important thank-yous.

First, to Sarah/Patience, who nominated me for a “gold blogging friends forever” award. This was so sweet. Sometimes people ask me why I blog, and in truth there is a little group of three women whom I think of immediately: Patience (I am so used to Patience, I’m not sure I can change!), Mariposa, and Cher Mere. They found me early on and were such an important support network for me as we began this homeschooling adventure. Knowing that at least 3 people in the world get it got me through many many moments of frustration! Oh, and I am supposed to mention a new friend too. Easy: Sheila. (Where have you been?)

And speaking of Cher Mere, I was a little embarrassed to receive a “Your Blog Teaches Me Something All the Time” award, given that I have been so lax with my posting since getting ill in September. I promise to do better.

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To pass it on, I want to acknowledge Angela, formerly of Mother Crone’s Homeschool, because she is such a great inspiration. Reading about her homeschooling adventures a little further down the road has been so encouraging to me. And she is so calm and sane!

I also get lots of great book ideas from Nina. But everyone knows that!

Everyone also knows that Jove is brilliant and always has great book recommendations for older kids and adults. Plus she is crafty and quick with an encouraging word. She has been telling me to do less for a long time, but I am a slow learner!

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Filed under Family Fun, Remedial Domesticity, Schoolday Doings, Why Homeschool?

Thanksgiving Greetings

I’m watching the girls watch Santa arrive at the Macy’s parade. All my side dishes are in the fridge, my turkey is in the oven, my friends are coming in a few hours, and my husband is downstairs laughing with his old college friend.

I am thankful for everything today. My most grateful moment of every day is getting in bed, huddling under the covers, and realizing that I am so lucky to live in a time and place with a house, a comfy mattress, nice sheets, and tons of pillows. Seriously — I think this every night as a drift off to sleep.

Some assorted things to be thankful for: Our friends in India are OK, the Obama girls and puppy moving to the White House, a table that can seat 11, a brand new All-Clad giant roasting pan, modern medicine, living parents, beautiful and fun children making music and writing plays, a fun and always interesting husband, discovering homeschooling, coffee . . . Once the list starts, there’s no end.

Life is so generous a giver, but we, judging its gifts by their covering, cast them away as ugly or heavy, or hard. Remove the covering, and you will find beneath it a living splendor, woven of love, by wisdom, with power.

Welcome it, grasp it, and you touch the angel’s hand that brings it to you. Everything we call a trial, a sorrow or a duty, believe me, that angel’s hand is there; the gift is there, and the wonder of an overshadowing presence. Our joys too: be not content with them as joys. They too conceal diviner gifts.

And so, at this time, I greet you.
Not quite as the world sends greetings, but with profound esteem and with the prayer that for you now and forever, the day breaks, and the shadows flee.

–Fra Giovanni, A.D. 1513

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Filed under Family Fun, Our Domestic Church, Remedial Domesticity

Seen and Heard

— Saturday coming home from the conference I listened to the first part of the Prairie Home Companion anniversary show. Listen to the first few performances, especially “The Family Car” and Peter Ostrushko on “When You and I Were Young, Maggie.”

— Saveur Magazine, “The Breakfast Issue”

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I hate the “________ p0rn” phrase (info p0rn, kitchen p0rn, mommy p0rn) which seemed to be played by 2nd time I heard it, and yet, the food, the photography . . . I do love a good breakfast. I love eating breakfast with friends, because it makes them feel like family — like all the times EggM. and I had lunch with R.P. and H. at the Flim Flam in Ann Arbor. I still have my Flim Flam apron, God bless it. You can eat dinner with anyone, but you best breakfast with the ones you love.

— Homeschooling our Children, Unschooling Ourselves, by Alison McKee. I have nearly finished this, after picking it up at the MHA conference Saturday. It reminds me of what I like about reading homeschool blogs. There’s a chance to see the questioning, the doubts, the frustrations that I recognize as my own, but also the happy ending. I will have more to say about this later.

— “I was having all these brainstorms, and now I’m having a brain fire, so can I use the computer to write a script?!” We had not yet started any lessons this morning, and I was musing on how I could better allow my children to “show me the way” while lounging at the computer, when Violet burst into my office with this request. We hardly got to any formal lessons til the afternoon as a result, but all my reminders were met with responses like, “Oh yes, I will!” and “Oh of course, that’s my favorite” (practicing Chinese characters) and even “Can I do my BYU English, please?!” (I’ve tried to keep it on Tuesday/Thursday.) So, all going well there. Meanwhile Victoria and I looked at paintings of Queen Elizabeth so she could choose her favorite dress.

— By the way, the day after the conference, my children were at the Renaissance Festival with their dad.

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A pixie named Twig is, for many children, a highlight of the day.

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In fact as my family was searching for her, they tracked down a man with a walkie talkie who was also looking for her, because apparently there was a 4-year-old in meltdown mode, wanting to see Twig.

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Twig is not really an advertised part of the fair, just a person in character who walks around being beloved by children, handing out trinkets and sprinkling glittery pixie dust. She made my children very happy.

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Filed under Cooking and Eating, Family Fun, In the News, Love This, Music and Art, Oh Mother, Remedial Domesticity, Schoolday Doings, Uncategorized, Why Homeschool?

Yes photos, no cranky

I am really grumpy! And I can’t write about why. Well, in part I am grumpy because I can’t believe yet one more department of the federal government is making a shameless power grab, and it is literally keeping me awake at night, so that I am sleep-deprived. And then there’s . . . other stuff. Stuff you homeschoolers probably would understand all too well, so why write it out. I’ll get over it. And until then, happy photos!

Especially for Sheila and Cher Mere, but also for any other Totoro lovers, I give you these cute little lunch boxes, airmailed from Japan this week!

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What is cuter than Totoro?

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Here’s Victoria and a recent white board drawing.

Actually, she asked me to remove this picture, so you don’t get to see it. Sorry!

And here (in admittedly weird lighting) is Violet’s new haircut — she wanted as short as I would let her get it (her words). It’s funny, it’s like I’m seeing her in a whole new light now — she strikes me as more her own person somehow, with this funky new ‘do.

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side view:

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After the Farmers Market

Where do you go after the farmers’ market? To Deborah Madison and Alice Waters, most like.

panisse pickles

Our neighbor gave us a jar of homemade pickles she’d made with her grandparents, so who was I to say no to trying it at our house?

We made refrigerator pickles, which were so easy. I looked at several online recipes before I finally located my copy of Chez Panisse Vegetables, which of course had that basic master recipe that gives you a place to start and lets you add your own stamp.

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Which is key when kids are cooking. It’s good to learn to measure precisely, but it’s also good to have a friendly competition over who will put the most garlic in her pickle jar.

garlic pickles

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FO!

Relax, that just means “Finished Object.”

Oh, and thanks to all who expressed concern regarding my recent health issues (not so recent, but recently acute). The last few months have not been the best, to say the least. The mental fog and fatigue are really hard when you are with busy, curious kids all day! I can expect to wait awhile for the meds to have a real effect, but as many of you said, it’s a load off just to stop battling to get someone to listen to you.

Some of you who have known me a while may know that I lose pieces of knitting with alarming frequency. Here is one thing that I lost, and found much later, and then even later sewed together. I think we had it in time for Mexico but I never took photos . . . until now.

Admire The Cuteness!

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And again

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And once more

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This is an old pattern from Knitty called Monica, and it looks reasonably like mine, except that I did a contrasting band around the bottom.

The pants, by the way, are from a cute clothing company called Matilda Jane — you have to buy them at art fairs and “trunk shows,” held by someone who is the designated “trunkkeeper” in your region.

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