Sunday, December 23, 2012

Cardamom Bread: memories, thoughts and a recipe

One of my favorite treats at Christmas or Pascha is cardamom bread. It's been a favorite since I was little.

Before we were Orthodox we belonged to the EOC (Evangelical Orthodox Church). My mom had been part of the Campus Crusade for Christ movement (if I have my facts straight) and moved to Alaska to join her brothers. It was a group of churches in Alaska, Washington, California, Chicago, etc. Based in the home church idea trying to get back to basics and more liturgical. My dad was the pastor for our small home church and we would partake of communion in our home or in a neighbor's house. The bread that we ate every Sunday was cardamom bread. I won't ever forget it. It was sweet and had a flavor from heaven. When I was ten we joined the Orthodox Church of Antioch, we established a real Orthodox parish with a very tight knit community and though my dad was offered the priesthood, he declined after careful consideration.

The cardamom bread was traded in for actual Prosphora baked weekly by women in the parish. It did not have the sweet heavenly taste that our memorable braided bread did, but this was the bread of the Church.

The cardamom bread was still highly regarded in our community. It had special meaning to us. We had not discarded our past but brought it with us into our new Orthodox life. The cardamom bread loaves was baked by the dozen for special occasions and served as special treats. It was traded as a commodity at bake sales and given as gifts for Christmas.

Reading about the origins of cardamom bread it seems to come from Sweden and Finland. This makes sense, since many of us were only a few generations removed from settlers from those lands. My maiden name was Johnson and my grandparents are Fin-Swedes. I'm sure my family wasn't the only one in the church who was of Nordic decent. After all, this group of young people had chosen Alaska to put down roots and start families. Climate very similar to Sweden. It's funny to think about how the Antiochiocian Orthodox Church is the one who decided to allow hundreds of Swede Evangelicals into their very Arab dominated and very NON Evangelical church.

Our bishop is from the old land in Syria, he loves us, he takes good care of us white converts and asked us yesterday to raise up our children to become priests and bishops because we can't always get bishops from Syria. They are currently in a very turbulent war and the Christians have been scattered. He visits us here in Alaska every year, in the coldest time of year, during Christmas. The priest in our small parish is of Assyrian decent. His grandparents and father fled from Iran when his father was young. He loves us, he takes very good care of us white necks (there's not much sun up here). He is extremely well read and gifted with language, he teaches his children, and sometimes mine, the Aramaic language; that was the language that our Christ spoke when he walked this earth.

In the Greek tradition they have their Tsoureki and the Russians have their Kulich. Baked for Pascha (the Resurrection of Christ) full of milk, eggs, sugar and goodness. But those of us who had any childhood in an X - EOC parish still love a big hunk of cardamom bread on any day of the year. For me...especially on Christmas.

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas.

And as we Orthodox say: Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

Cardamom Bread from the St. John's Cookbook
-2 loaf recipe

1/2 c butter
2/3 c sugar -cream these together
2 eggs        -beat in eggs
add to the top of the creamed goodness but don't mix yet:
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cardamom
1/2 c dry milk
2 pkg yeast
2 cups flour
1 1/2 c warm water -mix a bit, let yeast proof
-mix together
3 1/3- 4 cups flour, gradually add in, make a smooth/soft dough. Kneed 'till smooth.
Place in greased bowl, rise 1.25 hours.
Punch and divide.
Make 2 braids, put on greased cookie sheet.
Rise 40 minutes.
Brush with milk, sprinkle with sugar.
Bake at 375 for 20-25 min or 'till brown.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

"What now mama" game

I started a game a long time ago with my kids when I want them to do a lot of work, happily, in a short time.

Here are the rules:

Mom brings a bag of candy like M n Ms, Skittles, Reese's Pieces, etc. (I have also used pennies.)

She declares a start to the game and calls all the children to her.

She declares that they shall do as you say. If they do as you say, they come back to mom and say, "what now mama? (mom?)" and you thank them with words and hand them a piece of candy. Then you give them another task.

I have 6 kids so this can get chaotic. I added another rule last time.

If they interrupt anyone (you or another sibling) they shall play the game with zero rewards.

I will typically do some fast and furious tiding up this way. Our kitchen island is 6'x6'. VERY large and get's VERY full of junk. Also good for tiding up living rooms and dining rooms, etc. Especially places where you know what goes where but you don't want to do all the running around to put it all away.

It usually only lasts for 45 minutes or so. I start to run out of things to tell them to do and it hurts my brain to think of so many things so fast.

Some of them stash the candy for when they are finished and some eat it right away.

They like this much better than the non-candy version which I do use sometimes. I will pick one or two and nominate them for the "what now mama game with no candy". They are basically my slave 'till I tell them, "thank you, you can go." They really don't seem to mind that too much. They really need to know when the end will be, then they can cope with it much better.

The main purpose is to get things cleaned up right away, but also to get the kids in the habit of being polite, saying thank you and making them ask if you need help.

It's easier than beating them with a broom...

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Silly Saturday

...just a few things from today.

-7am oldest thinks she has to puke, she doesn't, we go back to bed
-took kids to choir practice
-had girlfriend over for a short chat
-got stood up by a customer
-customer called back, he wants to meet me in 7 minutes at the gas station
-bailed on friend to run to said customer to meet him on time
-said customer decided he couldn't pay me all the money he owed and paid only half
-I let him get away with it
-picked up my nephews
-dropped them off at home and went to get my book I forgot at choir practice
-got home and heard something next to me, I saw something move and freaked out, it was one of our cats, she had stowed away in the van
-ate a gingerbread cookie, first "meal of the day"
-got a call about our baby crib
-asked husband to get baby crib ready
-got upset
-husband hugged me
-husband solved the problem
-got out split pea soup of the freezer for dinner, thawed it
-ate 2nd meal of the day, yes another cookie
-called a bunch of customers who owed me money to make up for earlier
-lady came to pick up crib for a 15 year old mother
-split pea soup is actually refried beans, kids ate beans and chips for dinner
-close by customer came over to pay his bill
-took kids and nephews to church
-home again, home again, jiggity jig
(maybe I should feed myself proper food now)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Salted Chocolate Caramels (with goat milk)

Yesterday it finally REALLY SNOWED at our house. I wasn't sure if we still lived in Alaska this winter. But now we're actually in real winter and not in this limbo state of fake winter/fake fall brown ugliness. I was having a hard time getting my head into the Christmas spirit where I go crazy in the kitchen and all I want to do is bake and sew.

I am not going to re-invent the wheel for this blog. I'm going to re-post the one I used and turned out a perfect chocolaty gooey gourmet tootsie roll with salt on top.

Please let me know if the link quits or won't work, I copied down the recipe so I can re-post it.

Goats for Gods Glory: Salted Chocolate Caramel

Caramels aren't as hard as I thought they would be. I wrapped mine differently than they did.

Bing Crosby was there too, he helped.

Wishing you and yours a white Christmas too.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Rib Sticking Pancakes

As I posted in the Hummus Pizza post, we have begun the Advent Fast. Advent isn't as difficult as Lent. Partly because it's not been since August since we had our last fasting time and that was only a short 2 week fast. Also because there is a lot of fish allowed during this fast and that makes it much easier.

I love making soup when we're fasting because I can sneak in a lot of grains and legumes in with vegetables. As long as I add enough spices and salt, it always tastes fine. But we miss certain comfort foods and pancakes is definitely a comfort food. But what to do when you can't fry up some sausage patties to go with them and can't add eggs to the cakes? A not too impressive dinner. It might stick in our bellies for an hour or so but then hunger strikes again. I am not typically a fan of making 2 suppers.

Today I was determined to make a pancake recipe that was:
a) tastes good!
b) protein rich, and will last 'till bed time
c) vegan

When we're not fasting I have a killer sourdough recipe, and the sourdough is bonafide old crusty sourdough from 100+ years ago. Or so my mom always said. But it calls for quite a few eggs and I have substituted with apple sauce (my go-to substitute for eggs in baked goods while fasting) but it didn't have the same chemical properties with out the eggs and didn't have the texture I like in pancakes.

Today I studied about 5 recipes then made up my own. I took my sisters favorite pumpkin pancake recipe (that happens to be vegan), another vegan recipe, a high protein recipe and a very basic pancake recipe. When looking at multiple recipes you can see similarities in them and what the chemical make up usually is. Here's what I saw with pancakes today per cup of flour needs: one cup of liquid, 1tsp salt, 2 tsp bkg powder. So if you need to adjust your recipe, keep that in mind.

So here's what I made. Next time I'll make a larger batch and start with more whole grain soaked flour the day before, but what I did make today fed our family of 8 a decent meal.

I haven't made these enough to be an expert and haven't tried all the varieties that I will list, but next time I'm using pumpkin.

Rib Sticking Pancakes (Banana, Pumpkin or Apple)

2 cups whole grain flour (millet, spelt, soft wheat, hard wheat, brown rice, etc)
2 cups water
-soak the night before-
2T flax seeds ground
4 t salt
2 scoops protein powder (I have GenSoy, it's expensive and this is a GREAT way to use that stuff as you can't taste it in these and that's a good thing!)
1 1/2 cups mashed bananas (next time I'm going to use a 15 oz can of pumpkin or you could try a cup or two of applesauce)
1 1/2 c water
1 1/2 c sweetened vanilla almond milk (if you don't have this use what ever milk and add a touch more sugar if it's not sweetened and 2 tsp of vanilla)
1/2 c olive oil
1/3 oats, ground
1/3 millet, ground
1/4 c sugar
2 1/2 c white flour (this is where I had to really stretch it and will use more wheat flour rather than white next time)

Before frying mix together then add to the batter:
1/2 c water
2 T baking powder
2 t baking soda

Fry up.

Add berries if you wish or if you're a nice mom like my sister is you can add chocolate chips. Those would be really good with the banana or pumpkin.

Note: I am really hoping that I took good notes while making this. The whole time I was focusing on trying to keep my balance of everything, write it down and add more stuff to the batter or we wouldn't have enough for dinner! Your batter should look like pancake batter! If it's too thick or too soupy, adjust by adding more flour or liquid. Apple sauce will usually have more water content than bananas or pumpkin.

Vegan, Whole Grain, High Protein, Banana, Fasting Pancakes

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Hummus Pizza

Vegan meals are on my mind, so is loosing weight. One has absolutely nothing to do with the other. Except that hopefully I can loose some weight eating vegan for a month or so...

First: We began our Advent today, so that's why I'm thinking vegan. We'll go 40 days (sans Thanksgiving at the in-laws) eating no dairy or meat. Most of our kids observe this fast as well, except the littles.

Second: One of my very good friends is getting married! And wants me to be her matron of honor! I am, obviously, honored. But I also have been off the "pregnancy" diet, as I call it, for 4 years now, and can no longer rely on my sweet baby's gestation period helping me shed many, many pounds of unwanted fat. Alas, if I want to shed my fat, I'm on my own, no baby in the womb to help me these days. (Why do you think I have had so many kids? Very good pregnancies!)

So, here I am already somewhat entrenched in my second winter of gym membership. I go 1x per week lately, if I'm lucky. If I hope to loose just a couple inches before the wedding, still no date but maybe February, I'd better be getting my weight lifting on and re-vamping better food habits. Last winter I did great! That's because I was a new gym member and I had a great personal trainer I met with 2x per week. I also had a cool program to enter food data into so it made me aware of my eating habits. I know my very worst habit is eating after kids go to bed, and pizza is my very favorite midnight snack. That's TERRIBLE for someone watching the waist line, but never-the-less, when that time of night rolls around my will power is gone and munchies power takes over.
The other night the idea of hummus pizza struck me, it sounded delicious in my brain and sure enough there are many people who have made and blogged about the delicious treat. Mostly vegans. I did some scouring around and then made up my own.

I had soaked 4 cups of whole grain flour (including prairie gold wheat, spelt, millet, rye, hard wheat, etc) with 4 cups of water last night. The grain had been ground already and I have recently discovered how much better grains are for you if you can soak them overnight. Ground and soaked (to me) seems just as good, so I'm trying to do that before bread baking now. I knew that today I wanted to make either pancakes or pizza...I made both. We are really secret hobbits. We had first supper and second supper. Anyway, I soaked the flour then divided it evenly this morning when I couldn't decide on one and chose to make both. I won't go into the details of the pizza crust as there are hundreds out there and it's just a basic formula of oil, water, salt, sugar and flour. Don't forget the oil. I made our basic bread recipe but added more oil then normal and let it rise coated in oil rather than flour. Then divided into 5 pans.

Oh, the other thing about this recipe. My hubby doesn't love hummus. If I eat it he usually avoids it unless he has to eat it for some reason (like it's on his pizza) but I didn't really want him knowing what it was. So I only did a thin layer. If you love it, add more! Also that's the reason I pre-spread the crust with garlic oil and also why I added the nutritional yeast flakes, though it did taste very good.

Vegan Hummus Pizza

-Pizza crust, what ever kind you like. I used dough I had made today.
-Smart Balance or Earth Balance, a tablespoon or so per pizza, melt add garlic powder, parsley and oregano.
-Spread the "butter" (if you eat butter, for Pete sake, use butter!) onto crusts, go onto the edges with it.
-Take hummus (I had some homemade, cheapest!) and be sure it's smooth and spreadable. Mine needed a bit of olive oil added to it and mine wasn't garlic-y enough so I added more garlic powder.
-Roast your peppers: This was my first time roasting peppers...I have seriously been missing out! Slice up, throw on a pan, douse in olive oil, sprinkle salt, roast at 400-450 for 15-30 min. Yum! I only used about 1 pepper per 1/2 of each pizza.
-Mushrooms: hubby loves mushrooms and I the peppers, each pizza is 1/2 and 1/2. Slice and place mushrooms.
-Onion (RED!): it doesn't matter what color, red is pretty. I used one onion for 5 pizzas but I only barley "decorated" husband's side with them, he's not a big onion fan.
-Kalamata olives: Be sure you have these! I didn't . I will be buying some and adding them to the pizzas in the future. You really don't need them, I just had a piece with out and it was sooooo good.

Since I wanted to freeze these pizzas and didn't really know how with raw dough, I pre-baked them. Then I'll freeze them on the pan, then I'll pop them off and wrap them in saran wrap. Thanks Laura for the tip on that.

3 pizzas ready to bake, could have used more mushrooms.

4 in the oven. These smelled soooo good.
I had made 5 pizzas and the kids had helped me assemble them. I couldn't very well tell them they couldn't have any, they are our midnight snacks, so I cut up one and the big kids and I and hubby enjoyed a piece or two. I asked hubby what he thought (hoping the hummus wasn't too obvious.) He claimed that his friend had used this recipe once. "What recipe?" I asked. "Making the fake cheese stuff as the base of the pizza." He said. Well, that was good enough for me, it was his way of saying he approved and it wasn't terrible and possibly even good. He is NOT a fan of my experimenting, in fact tonight he was quite skeptical of my pancakes I had made when I told them they had protein in them. (I'll post that recipe later.) He doesn't like it when I do silly things like add cabbage to a giant pot of chili and burn the giant said pot of chili then call it, "smoked chili". What's funny is that a friend thought I was serious and loved the chili. It wasn't over burned and I did NOT scrape the burned parts into the rest of the pot, I learned that lesson a long time ago.

The pizza we "tested". Not too bad for no cheese or peperoni!

So, we're set with 4 midnight snacks with a few less grams of fat than our standard frozen pizza from the grocery store. Now to drag myself to the gym more than once per week...

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Greens Gratin with eggs and bacon

Today I discovered a new French dish called Gratin.

New you say? Well, to me, yes. I am somewhat hanging my head in shame not knowing about this sooner. I do remember having Potatoes Au Gratin as a kid, but I remember not being impressed. I was a kid, potatoes should be mashed.

Why I should like gratin? Well, basically it's the French version of a casserole. And I love the ease and simplicity of casseroles!

So today I was actually looking for a good frittata recipe when I came across this Spinach Gratin with Hard Boiled Eggs recipe and it struck my fancy. Then below that recipe I saw the Zucchini and Spinach Gratin recipe and saw that it had BACON in it and I had to try it.

I ended up with: Turnip & Beet Greens with Spinach, Zucchini, Bacon Gratin with Hard Boiled Eggs recipe.

It went something like this:

Begin hard boiling 6 eggs, let them cool.
Thaw a large amount of greens from your freezer, any combo will do. I think I ended up using about 3 lbs of frozen greens total (this was a lot even for us). Let them drain. Use fresh if you got it.

1 lb bacon chopped into about 1" sections then fried. Keep bacon grease. Add to that:
2 diced onions
 -cook to caramel perfection-
3 cloves of garlic
Generous sprinkling of dry parsley
 -cook a bit longer-
 -Move bacon out of the way around edges and to the grease add:
2T flour, fry it up then gradually add:
2c milk
 -cook slowly and let it thicken-
 -let cool a bit then add to the pan or mix in a separate bowl:
Thawed greens, mix well with the bacon sauce and add:
3 raw eggs and
1 tsp or so of pepper or to taste. I didn't add extra salt as the bacon is salty.

Spread mixture into your gratin or casserole or as I used your cast iron skillet I used to cook the bacon in.

Peel and split your eggs in half and mush them into the top of your greens. I would have used hard goat cheese beneath the eggs if I had it, but I didn't.

Over the top I sprinkled a generous layer of Parmesan cheese. You could use bread crumbs or something else that will turn golden brown while baking.

Bake @ 350 for 45 minutes or so. Then if more brown is needed put under the broiler for 2 more minutes with an extra coating of Parmesan cheese if needed.

I'll only post this recipe until after I have tasted it to be sure it's not horrid...............

When it went into the oven.

After 2 min under the broiler, it's a mess of bubbly goodness.
 So the only criticism I would give myself is that a tsp of kosher or sea salt would have made a nice addition. I added a bit to my serving and more Parmesan cheese.

But, wow, turnip and beet greens never tasted so good!

Thursday, September 27, 2012


I know I'm not the only person out there who is constantly amazed by their children. I don't know why every time I'm amazed I'm also surprised. But I suppose that's part of the meaning of the word amazed.

My 12-year-old son is a boy through and through. But he has a tender spirit, he always has. He's not witty like his brother, he's quiet and contemplative. It takes a lot of explaining for him to get jokes but when he does he has the best laugh. He is a rule follower and does what he's asked. He has a talent for teaching himself how to do things and especially has a fondness for the arts: music, poetry, drawing, science fiction stories, computer programming, video making and more.

Last week I asked the kids to do a "free write" day where they can write what they want. I found this in my inbox all typed up:


Skies are blue sometimes,
Other times they're grey.
But when the sun shines through,
We all run outside and play.

We pretend that we are soldiers,
Conquering the world.
We sail on ships and fly in planes
And we're always tossed and hurled.

We pretend that we are spies,
On super-secret missions.
And when we come across a villain,
We'll put him right in prison.

We pretend that we traveled,
In to the future.
And when we come back home,
We will have had an adventure.

I love their poetry. I love it for the imperfections and the thoughtful descriptions they include. I have never taught them how to properly write a poem or the different kinds of poems that are out there, they have simply read poems and run with it. I have always loved poetry if I ever take the time to read it. I also like to write it, again, if I take the time. I don't know if it's because he's my child or because I know he won't play this way forever or because he seems to appreciate the fun he has being a child and exploring the skills he has as a writer. Perhaps it's all of it. I feel a sense of peace and perfection at this moment. I want to savor this feeling. I don't want to hold onto it forever, just take the time to be thankful for my life, my children and the amazement they continually give me.

Canning bean & bacon soup with Tattler lids

My son helped me film my first ever howto video on Tuesday.

My girlfriend wants to come over so I can teach her how to can, but between our 11 kids and our crazy homeschool schedules I realized it would not happen any time soon.

This video is for her or anyone else looking for a canning tutorial. I used Tattler lids to demonstrate how to use them and I used a yummy soup recipe and included that as well. It ended up being 27 minutes long, we still have to figure out all the editing tools, but when you consider canning is an all day (or at least 1/2 day) process, I don't think 27 minutes is too bad.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Tasty Rooster Pot Pie

My friend gave me a recipe for Casserole Queen Pot Pie (look out for pop ups on that site) last year and it really is a great recipe. But in my usual fashion I have to fiddle with things and make them more accommodating for our silly family to make and eat. Yesterday, my silly sister was here and gave me some of her pointers on how she has changed this dish. The recipe format that I printed a year ago drives me crazy so instead of rewriting on a note card I'll type it here so I can come back and easily find it when I want to make it again in the new "mama-lost-her-brain-so-has-a-hard-time-following-the-recipe" format.

As usual I'll triple the recipe from the original and when I make it. Should make 3-4 pie plates full. Great to make extra to stick into the freezer and a great way to use up that canned chicken or stewing hens you didn't know what to do with.

Tasty Rooster Pot Pie

Thaw 3-4 sheets of rolled up pie crust (I keep this on hand from the store, can find in the fridge section near the quick biscuits, etc. I also keep them in the fridge but if they are frozen, thaw now.

Be sure you have roasted or boiled 2-3 chickens/stewing hens/roosters to have the meat from them. If you don't have enough chicken, be sure to use potatoes or more veggies.

Cut up:
2-3 lg onions
3-4 cups carrots
1c red or green peppers or broccoli (or both, I've used cabbage in this before too)
Chickens, cut 2-3 chickens into bite sized pieces.

Melt 1/2 cup butter in a heavy bottom pot or dutch oven. Add cut veggies, let them cook 5-10 min, stir frequently. Add chicken.

Get a jar of milk out and if you have chicken stock handy, that too.

2 tsp salt
2 tsp thyme (or tarragon but we prefer thyme)
1 tsp black pepper
1/4 c. white flour
stir these in and be careful the flour doesn't burn

Start adding slowly:
2 cups of cream (optional, I always just use goats milk)
4 cups of milk (or more, really you have to do this by look, just add a little at a time, stir, let thicken, add more)
2-4 cups of chicken broth (optional, adds great flavor just use more milk if you don't have this)

Cook & stir until you have it thick and bubbly.

3-4 cups fresh or frozen peas
1/2-1 cup of dry white wine (also optional, good with or without)
4 potatoes, diced and steamed (I have taken to not making potatoes separately for this, it's more time consuming and they aren't needed. However, potatoes are always a good cheap filler so if you have leftover baked potatoes, mashed or roasted potatoes, use them in here. Also potatoes freeze well after they have been cooked, I have a couple bags of chopped up taters in the freezer just for this occasion.)

Make an egg wash:
1 egg mixed with
1T milk

Divide your hot, bubbly goodness into how ever many pie plates, casserole dishes, dutch ovens, etc you like. The more you divide it out the more crust each portion gets. Add the puff pastry or phyllo or pie crust to the top, brush with egg wash, then cut slits in the top.

Bake in a 425 degree (F) oven for 30-45 min, or until you can't stand the wait any longer.

Beautiful roosters aka future pot pie fillers.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Sweetest Nuns, my story

I have a friend, her name is Ella. I used to call her Liz, when we were young.

She is beautiful, always has been. I met her when I was 15 and she had come to Alaska to "fix" her life. She had lived in California before that and needed a do-over, Alaska is good for that.

I have a husband, his name is John. I used to call him Ron, when we were young.

He was in love with Liz.

He did prayers with Liz every morning. They were young, zealous Orthodox Christians. He was tortured by his love for this girl.

He discovered a saint, named St. Xenia. She is renowned for helping drunkards and also for finding a spouse. He began to pray to her, to ask her to help him figure out if this was the girl for him to be his wife. St. Xenia answered his prayers and took away his love and replaced it with a different love, the friendship kind and he knew he should not marry her.

Liz traveled to Jerusalem. Ron worked 2 jobs. I flirted with Ron.

Liz found a monastery full of wonderful nuns and wanted to stay. Her priest said, "no! You have to come home with us and at least say goodbye to family, you can't just stay." She obeyed him and came home.

She said goodbye to her family and found a closer monastery with 3 sweet Greek nuns in the States. They allowed her to stay. She was so happy.

A month after she left, it was the feast of St. Xenia. We sang an akathist to her. Ron fell in love with me. He wanted to marry me.

I married him.

We are *usually* happy.

I got to see my friend this weekend here in Alaska. I don't miss her until I see her, but that's just how I am. The States are so far away. I adore her. My daughter, Xenia, adores her too. I'm sad that she leaves tomorrow.

Liz and her troubled past is no more. Ella is a wonderful, beautiful woman. Full of kindness, wisdom, struggles, and laughter. She even has goats. She loves my children and they love her.

What a lucky girl I am to have the sweetest nun for a friend.

Some of the names were changed for privacy reasons.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


For a few years now I have had a strange aversion to Wal-Mart.

Perhaps it was when they moved into their now “SUPER WALMART” gigantor store, I really dis-like having to re-find all of my favorite things.

Perhaps it is the realization that every shirt I bought there would shrink from top to bottom but widen from side to side.

Perhaps it was the fact I finally learned that when I go there to save $5 on diapers I still come out spending at least $100 on “great deals” AKA a bunch of crap to unload from the car and then find a place for at my house.

Perhaps I simply don’t like walking 5 miles to overfill my cart and then when my little ones start screaming I get in line for check out, THEN wait in line for another 30 minutes before I get to actually leave the store.

Perhaps it was the time my husband went to buy cigars for a hunting trip and the checker (behind the cigarette counter) almost wouldn't sell him any, claiming they were bad for him and he really shouldn't smoke them. Good thing she was there to educate him, I don't think he'd ever heard that before. 

Suffice to say, It’s not the, “Let’s-boycott-the-big-box-stores-to-make-ourselves-feel-better.” reason that regular people like to toss around. I have my own special list of reasons.

My husband likes Wal-Mart. Well, let’s say, my husband has a pretty good grip on our spending and doesn’t mind walking 5 miles for chicken feed when he will save $5 per bag, that is $20 when you buy 4 at a time. He's also smart enough to not take the little kids with him. My husband is a man, after all, and has a practical mind. A gift I would love to have.

For our “date night” on Sunday we left our younger kids in our older kids most capable hands and ventured out for a night on the town. We stopped by Silly Sister’s house to drop off some whey left over from Husband’s cheese making that day. Our pigs (that dear Sister is caring for) love that stuff and it’s nice to see it put to good use. We then ventured over to Town where we decided to grab a bite at Red Robin. They have delicious onion rings and “mama” drinks there.

We then did what we had gone to town to do, and that was a Wal-Mart run. I only go there with Husband as he is strong enough to push the cart loaded with 200 (sometimes more) pounds of grain from the WAY back of the VERY big store up to the registers. While he got the chicken feed I got our typical bananas, apples and Cheerios, then stopped off at the kids clothes section to get my son 2 new t-shirts and my DD a tank top that she had specifically requested for these few hot days we have had.

Up at the check out line, we only waited about 7 minutes that evening as it was about 10pm and was greeted by a young man checker, maybe 19 or so. When he rang up the first bag of chicken feed he exclaimed, “Wow, that’s so expensive!” It was funny in my mind because when I was trained at Safeway we were taught not to tell customers that we thought our store prices on things were expensive as we don’t want to discourage them from spending their money with us. While the young man was ringing up our groceries he noticed my husband’s work jacket and asked him if he worked for "that company", to witch he replied, “yes.” The young man says, “I hate "that company" they ripped me off!” and proceed to tell us the story of how my husband’s employer he has worked for for 20 years, has provided very good health benefits, has paid him faithfully so that we can pay our mortgage and buy expensive chicken food; completely ripped him off. I feel bad for the fellow that he felt this way, I also know that if you talk to someone there about these sorts of problems they typically can reconcile it with you. And, wait, aren’t we his customer tonight??

I paid for the groceries with cash and he gave me back the one dollar bill and then proceeded to count out the change into my hand. I’m very un-familiar with this method of giving change, and then he dropped a bunch of it on the ground and hopefully found it all.

After Husband went to the car to load the chicken food; I bought the kids clothes. The fellow was placing the clothes into the grocery bag and asks, “So are these for your grandkids…………….(long silence where I had no idea what to say)………..or your kids?” Wow, this is a totally shocker for me. I am only 35. My oldest is 14. I felt so sorry for the guy and so indigent all at the same time… I said, “Soon enough, soon enough. It goes by so fast you don’t even know.”

What a dumbass.

As we drove home that night we enjoyed the chuckle we got out that memorable experience. An even better horror story to add to the other Wal-Mart stories under our belt.

Thanks, Wal-Mart, you make memories that last a lifetime.

Friday, February 17, 2012

A Barley's Journey

A grain of barley is eaten by a bird. The barley goes through the esophagus into the crop, which softens and stores the food until it can be digested. The food then goes into the stomach, where it mixes with juices. The barley then passes into the gizzard where it is ground up with small stones the bird ate to help digest. Out of the gizzard and into the one intestine the bits of barley travel, and inside of the intestine the nutrients are taken from the food and is given to the blood vessels running along the sides. It's job now done, the food is passed out through the vent as solid waste.

This paper was written today for my 13-yr-olds Science/English lesson. I was impressed by how I expected the barley to grow and be produced for humans but instead I was brought into a story about birds digestion. I was pleased. It was funny because early today we discussed her love of birds and my lack of caring for the creatures. This captured my interest in a very fun way. Also there was no spelling errors...she gets that from her grandmother and her father. :)

What did you think?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The circle of life in mice

Now, you might be guessing, why in God's name would I write such an essay. I would never do such a thing, but my 13-yr-old, lover of all things animal, would. This year has been an interesting one with our homeschooling. I have not stressed as much about what I want them to do or study, but instead have encouraged them (in their English) to write every day and usually write what they want to write. This way they can work on their cursive, punctuation, spelling, grammar and over all how to write a paper. They love it and writing now seems to be easy and not a chore for them. It has been fun for me in the process. I'm amazed (still) at how different my 6 kidletts are and how their interests are so vastly different.

The other day my daughter asked if she could study mice and write a short paper on it, I obliged. Here it is:

A baby mouse is called a pup. Newborn pups, or "pinkies" are almost transparent. Pups are weaned at about 4-5 weeks. Mice can mate at 5 weeks old. Female mice (does) come into heat every 3-5 days. After the buck (male) breeds the doe, extra semen forms a waxy plug in the vagina. The gestation period in the doe lasts 18-22 days.

The doe needs fattier foods such as sunflower seeds during pregnancy. The doe normally gives birth between midnight and four in the morning. A doe's average litter size is 8-12 pups. Does can have anywhere between 1-32 pups.

And there you have it. Isn't that interesting? I never knew...

Monday, February 6, 2012

New love of canning

I discovered a few years ago how much I loved to can, but this year I discovered something new.

Tattler lids.

They are plastic, made in America, BPA free (I don't know what BPA is but others don't seem to like it) and best of all they are REUSABLE!!!

I decided to purchase about 6 dozen of wide and regular mouth lids when a lady in our town was doing a large bulk order from Tattler. Earlier in the year another friend had given me 4 boxes full of Classico spaghetti sauce jars (3 cups each) and other miscellaneous jars she had collected over the years. So here I sit with FREE jars and REUSABLE lids.

I quickly used up all the free jars and decided to just spend money on more jars. We "invested" in more jars and it was like I had a playground in my kitchen. I even borrowed my neighbor's caner so I could do 2 batches at a time.

My husband made me promise that I would actually USE the food that I canned and not just let it sit there for years looking pretty. I have done a pretty good job, I think, the stock has been wonderful, the spaghetti sauce delicious, the carrots are so handy when I don't have any in the fridge, and the canned moose and chicken are so handy.

In this picture there is:
moose meat, cubed for stews
ground moose meat
hummus (not recommended for canning just like re fried beans, learned after I canned it, they are both too thick and should not be canned, now I just freeze all hummus and re fried beans)
stewed tomatoes
spaghetti sauce
carrots, plain
carrots, pickled
beets, plain
beets, pickled
pinto and black beans, plain
rhubarb jam
rhubarb/raspberry jam
fireweed jelly
blueberry/rhubarb jam
cucumber pickles
Red salmon, smoked
Pink salmon, smoked (pink smokes up really nicely! I was shocked, here in Alaska it's a "reject" fish but because if it's extra soft texture the smoked pink is not so jerky like like reds are, they are soft and great on crackers with cheese)
Chum salmon, smoked (edible, but we won't bother with chums again, too slimy and don't taste nearly as good)
Red salmon, plain
Pink salmon, plain with skin on (yuck, take the skin off or smoke those bad boys)
zucchini relish
Chow Dixie relish
chicken stock
lamb stock
salmon stock
rhubarb/apple pie filling
lentil soup (turned out very mushy so I will add small amounts other recipes a little at a time to use it up)
spicy caribou and moose stew (not to impressed with the lack of flavor, not having the best luck with canned soup)

Update on use of our canned goods: I discovered that having them nearby made a huge difference. We used most of the spaghetti sauce, about 1/2 the moose meat, all but one jar of carrots, almost all of the jelly/jam, and generally ate a lot of it all before the next fall. I didn't can as much in 2012 but canned up a bunch of the things that were needed and bacon bean soup, this links to the video I made that had a better flavor.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I have a cold

Fascinating I know. I normally don't mind colds but this one started a week ago and is kicking my butt.

I started humming this song earlier and could remember some of the words, so I typed them into Google and the lyrics for Bonnie Raitt's song poped up, then I found it on YouTube so I could listen. I love the Internet.

I Can't Make You Love Me

What a fabulous song when feeling melancholy. Is that an oxymoron?

Tonight was my daughter's feast day so hubby told her we'd go eat out tonight. Venturing out to a restaurant with 6 young people is always such fun and full of adventure and wonderment. Like wondering what embarrassing things the 5-year-old will shout, because she either won't speak or she shouts, she doesn't just talk. She mentioned going pee loudly a few times but that really was the most of it, not so bad. Trying to figure out what everyone wants (at IHOP) is interesting because they had the brilliant idea to list an ice cream sundae on the page with the meals. So the 3 and 5-year-old of course had that for their first choice and were convinced we would get it for them.  So when it was time to choose it was something like this but piled on top of each other.

"I want a cheeseburger. I want that. I have to pee. I want that (sundae). I don't know. I want mac n cheese, wait no I want grilled cheese! I want fruit! Do you want to split this with me? No. I will split it with you. I still don't know what I want. I want french toast and waffles, but there are no pancakes with those. You can pick one meal not two meals. No, dear, I still don't know what I want, what are you having?"

I'm trying a hot toddy before bed as I'm not a tea lover but tonight I wish I were.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Poem by Second Son


There are many kinds of birds in our neighborhood.
Like the Yellow Bellied Dote
and the Blue Crested Balote.
The Black Headed Squinch
and the Evil Brain Finch.
The Ugly Faced Belch
and the Moldy Head Squlch.
All these birds in our neighborhood.