Just Call Me "Chef"

We all have those days when nothing--and I mean nothing--goes well in the kitchen. Things are burned. Over-salted. Under-cooked. Bland. Just plain bad.

You know what I'm talking about.

I've had more of those than I care to remember, including (but sadly not limited to) some particularly bad ones while I was pregnant and shortly after Carolyn was born.

Today was not one of those days. In fact, in spite of me, today was a very good food day. Let me tell you about it. . .

This morning I decided to try a new bran muffin recipe. I really like bran muffins, and they're generally healthy, so it's a win-win. Between Carolyn needing attention and me forgetting to adjust the time for a dark metal muffin pan and a super-efficient gas oven, I let them get a little too brown. But they didn't taste it. They were, if I may say so, quite good, as I was thinking when I realized that--in addition to mistakenly adding a couple tablespoons of extra liquid, a mistake I recognized at the time but thought insignificant--I had only put half of the flour and bran they should have had! And they were still good. I can't wait to try them with my head on straight.

For lunch, I made another fried rice venture. I've tried to make fried rice several times with varying degrees of success. None of them have been inedible, but I haven't quite found the way to make it the way I like it best. Today I tried a recipe online and, while it still wasn't quite my definition of perfect, it was by far the best attempt yet. I was thoroughly satisfied. (Preparing a fresh, hot meal just for myself has a tendency to thoroughly satisfy me anyway, as if I've gone out on a limb and done something really special.)

This afternoon, I made bread. I'm still searching for that elusive perfect whole wheat bread recipe. . .and now I need one that doesn't have to be kneaded, because my wrist (and my daughter) will not always cooperate. So I tried one today I have tried before with little success, and it turned out perfect. I mean airy and soft and golden and melt-in-your-mouth-but-fill-your-stomach perfect. It even passed the Kevin examination.

Then we had dinner. I had this Italian sausage left over from another night, and it occurred to me that maybe I could make soup with it. I haven't found an Italian sausage soup recipe that we like, and I didn't feel like looking, so I made one up. And it PASSED! Hooray!

Now I think we'll have popcorn, Grandad-style (except now I use coconut oil), for a nighttime snack. A perfect ending to a perfect food day.


We're well. And you?

Why the sudden glut of posting? Just making up for the long dry spell. . .

Carolyn is now almost 6 months old. She's getting better and better at sitting by herself for ever-lengthening periods of time. Tummy time involves spectacular push ups and that special swim style known as the Airstroke. She likes to lay on her stomach for quite a while, chewing on a toy or tossing the rattle around. Often we lay her with her chest on the boppy pillow for a while to give her a little more leverage, but she usually ends up kicking herself over it into an anger-inducing carpet face-plant. The exer-saucer continues to be the place of choice, but Carolyn is enjoying the swing again after a few week hiatus and is starting to play happily in the Johnny Jump-Up for a few minutes at a time. We get good giggles out of her when she's bounced--on the bed, in our arms, on the floor. And apparently it's hilarious when Daddy coughs.

We recently started giving her a pacifier at naptime, because Little Miss decided she couldn't go to sleep ever again without me laying next to her so she could nurse at will. With the paci, however, she's content to sleep on her own and usually takes 3 naps in the course of a day--2 short ones and 1 longer stretch. Then she's ready for bed by 7 and sleeps 12-14 hours, eating once or twice.

Rice cereal is still on the least-favorite list, as is tonight's trial carrot puree. The third night of rice feeding, she touched the spoon with her tongue 2 or 3 times, then shuddered and refused any further contact. She's intensely interested in our food, but apparently she's not as ready for it as she thinks she is. My water glass, however, sends her into spasms of ecstatic anticipation (and I do mean spasms--hold on tight if she's in your arms!), and she's pretty good at taking a sip in-between working the outside of the glass with her tongue and lower jaw.

The rest of us? We're well. Kevin's been working hard on the house, and I've been scouring the planet for new recipes to distract me from all the recipes in my box that use cheese (or some other dairy, but principally cheese). We've found quite a few really good ones, and I'm enjoying fixing some new foods.

This has been an irregularly scheduled installment of "Life With Us." More next time.

Sharing Grace

The world of Reformed theology is still relatively new to me, and I am still awed by the idea (not new, but newly emphasized) of the enormity of God's grace toward me. In the September/October 2003 issue of Modern Reformation magazine (I rescued a number of old issues our pastor was cleaning out, for my edification), John Piper writes about the significance of the doctrine of justification by faith. Though in this quote he specifically references the marriage relationship, the idea applies anywhere:
But what if one or both partners becomes overwhlemed iwth the truth of justification by faith alone--and especially with the truth that in Christ Jesus God credits me, for Christ's sake, as fulfilling all of his expectations? What happens if this doctrine so masters our souls that we begin to bend it from the vertical to the horizontal and apply it to our marriages? . . .It is possible, for Christ's sake, simply to say, "I will no longer think merely in terms of whether my expectations are met in practice. I will, for Christ's sake, regard you the way God regards me--complete and accepted in Christ--and thus to be helped and blessed and nurtured and cherished, even if, in practice, you fail."

On Mature Children

I've been slowly reading Hold On to Your Kids, by Drs. Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate (PhD and MD, respectively). Basically, the premise is that peer attachment has largely replaced parental attachment in our culture, and this is bad (go figure). The authors are making a case for encouraging the natural attachment young children have to their parents, so that it continues into adolescence and results in teenagers who are secure and desirous of doing what is right for the sake of pleasing those most important to them (ie, their parents--not their peers). It's an interesting read and has numerous points of intersection with good Christian parenting, though the authors arguments are purely secular.

It is not a book urging homeschooling, but I thought the following quote applied in that arena:
Immature people tend to trample on any individuality that dares show itself. In a child's world it is not immaturity but rather the maturing processes that are suspect and a source of shame. The emergent child--the child who is self-motivated and not driven by needs for peer contact--seems like an anomaly, irregular, a little off the beaten track. The words that peer-oriented kids use for such a child are highly critical, words like weird, stupid, retarded, freak, and geek. Immature children do not understand why these emergent, maturing others are trying so hard to get along, why they seek solitude sometimes instead of company, why they can be curious and interested about things that don't involve others, why they ask questions in class. There must be something wrong with these kids and for that they deserve to be shamed. The stronger a child's peer orientation, the more intensely she well resent and assault another kid's individuality.


Return to Fiction

Some time ago, I mentioned that The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield, looked interesting.

It is.

Glimpsing a reflection of yourself in the mirror of a book is always a bit eerie, like someone has access to the recesses of your soul without your knowledge or consent. (There, see? Less than halfway into a Romantic novel, and I'm already mimicking its tone. Be glad I don't read Gothic fiction more often.) At any rate, here are the quotes that captivated me.
"There is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner. Wind themselves around your limbs like spider silk, and when you are so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts."

"I read old novels. The reason is simple: I prefer proper endings. Marriages and deaths, noble sacrifices and miraculous restorations, tragic separations and unhoped-for reunions, great falls and dreams fulfilled; these, in my view, constitute an ending worth the wait. They should come after adventures, perils, dangers and dilemmas, and wind everything up nice and neatly. Endings like this are to be found more commonly in old novels than new ones, so I read old novels."

"I have always been a reader; I have read at every stage of my life, and there has never been a time when reading was not my greatest joy. And yet I cannot pretend that the reading I have done in my adult years matches in its impact on my soul the reading I did as a child. I still believe in stories. I still forget myself when I am in the middle of a good book. Yet it is not the same. Books are, for me, it must be said, the most important thing; what I cannot forget is that there was a time when they were at once more banal and more essential than that. When I was a child, books were everything. And so there is in me, always, a nostalgic yearning for the lost pleasure of books. It is not a yearning that one ever expects to be fulfilled."

In case you're worried, Carolyn has been changed, fed, and otherwise cared for in spite of my having a new novel to read. If you weren't worried, you might not know me as well as you think. Read that first quote again.


Site of the Day

I'm going to have to agree with the blogger here: this grading of flags is one of the funniest things I've seen.

Check it out. Be amused.