Laundry Every Day

February 25, 2010
photo courtesy of Just B Cuz

photo courtesy of Just B Cuz

Ok, so this is very boring and domestic and housewifey of me, but I feel I should tell you all because it changed so much for me. I’ve started doing laundry every day. Previously (as in, like, three weeks ago), I’d do laundry when I could, and was always faced with three overflowing hampers on Saturday morning, when I should have been enjoying family time or planning a getaway (yeah, right) or something. I’d do laundry all day, and come Saturday night, Foldfest 2010 would start, usually because we couldn’t go to bed until we’d folded the mountain of laundry on our bed. Or, we’d shovel it all back into the laundry baskets, and I’d get around to folding it all the following Wednesday, right about the time the hampers were full again.

But now! Every day, I put a load of laundry into the washer, move a load into the dryer, and fold and put away one load. The whole thing takes about fifteen minutes. This means that the hampers are always almost-empty instead of almost-full, the dishtowels and washcloths that get chucked onto the basement stairs get washed on a regular basis, and no one runs out of underwear. In fact, it works so well, that on the weekends I’ve been able to not do any laundry at all, because by Saturday morning the amount of dirty stuff is usually so piddly that it’s ok to let it go for another day or two.

Sometimes I might have time to do more than one load, but I don’t. I have plenty of other things I can do, and, because the laundry gets done every day, it’s never a clothing crisis. I know that this method does mean that one load of laundry sits wet in the washer overnight, which my Laundry book tells me not to do, but considering how long it sometimes sat with the previous “method,” one day is nothing.

If you are at all overwhelmed by the laundry chores in your house, I seriously recommend doing this. Fifteen minutes a day, tops. And you’ll never face the Wall of Laundry again.


CATEGORIES: housekeeping

Our Go-To Cookies: Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip

February 24, 2010

While we do certainly make a lot of cookies here, and we try to go for variety, if we’re wanting some cookies now, we make these chocolate chip peanut butter cookies. They were originally from an “Everyday Food” magazine, I think. My mom gave me the recipe. I can’t find it online.

Here’s what I do know: they’re flourless, and butterless. They mix up so quickly that I’m often waiting for the oven to preheat fully when the cookies are ready to go in. And they make one batch of cookies — that is, two cookie-sheets-full, which is a nice small size, so you’re not overwhelmed with cookies, or with spending an hour at the stove swapping out cookie sheets (of course, sometimes I want to be overwhelmed with cookies, but that’s a different story). But these are, without a doubt, the cookies we make most often.

Here is my slightly-adapted recipe:

Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

1. Preheat the oven to 350, with racks in the upper and lower thirds. In a large bowl, stir together 1 cup chunky peanut butter, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 large egg (lightly beaten), 1/2 tsp. baking soda, and 1/4 tsp. salt until well combined. Stir in 3/4 cup chocolate chips.

2. With moistened hands, roll dough, about 1 heaping tablespoon at a time, into balls. Place the balls 2 inches apart on two baking sheets.

3. Bake until cookies are golden and puffed, 12 to 14 minutes (rotating cookie sheets halfway through baking). Cool 5 minutes on sheets, and then transfer to racks to cool completely. Makes 24 cookies.


Children’s Book of the Week: By the Great Horn Spoon!

February 22, 2010

By the Great Horn Spoon! by Sid Fleischman

I just realized I haven’t recommended this book here yet. I forgot that I hadn’t officially written it up, since I’ve recommended it to everyone I see walking down the street. This book is great. I am, frankly, shocked that I’d never heard of it before we read it (I read about it in Great Books for Boys), that it’s not more of a classic, and that it hasn’t been made into a movie.* Sure, it’s old-timey, but “Mary Poppins” is old timey too, and people like that movie. Plus, By the Great Horn Spoon! has it all: seafaring adventure, human interest, action, plot twists, and a butler punching a gold digger fifteen feet uphill (not as violent as it sounds, and maybe the funniest scene in the book).

The story is about Jack, an orphan who lives with his sisters and his aunt in Boston. He finds out that his aunt has lost all her money and will soon lose her house. Jack hatches a secret plan to escape to California and make the money in the gold rush, but his plan is discovered by Praiseworthy, the butler, who doesn’t miss anything. Praiseworthy and Jack sneak off to California together, stowing away on a ship that’s sailing around South America.

Almost every chapter presents some almost-impossible oh-how-will-they-escape-this-one situation, and Praiseworthy always comes to the rescue with clever poise (I love that he wears his butler garb the whole time). They make their way to California, and to the gold camps, and all ends quite happily. Of course a happy ending is great, but you will have had such a good time reading this book that you will be more bummed that the book is over than glad that it ends happily.

*Oh, look at that, apparently it is a movie, a Disney movie with Roddy MacDowell and Suzanne Pleshette of all things, called “The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin.”


Zoo Maps

February 18, 2010

And yet again the Let’s Explore blog provided us with a fantabulous activity: creating zoo maps. You print out some zoo maps, and have your children use them as inspiration to create their very own zoo. I printed out the zoo maps she recommended, explained the basic concept to the boys, and let them go. Eli spent the whole time with the Oregon Zoo map, drawing lines all along the pathways to show where he “and his friends” were going. Henry, though, got really into the whole thing, and spent days drawing his map (he has been kind of dashing off a lot of quickity-quick sketch art lately, so it was awfully nice to see him focusing so much on one piece). He decided his zoo sections would be shaped like the world map, and animals would live in the appropriate sections. I highly recommend this activity! We loved it!


CATEGORIES: activities

Cranberry Buckle

February 16, 2010

As soon as I saw Elizabeth’s post about making Cranberry Buckle with Vanilla Crumb, I had to make it. I innocently put cranberries on the grocery list, only to be told at the store that cranberry season was over and would not be back until next year. But by then I was obsessed with this buckle, as well as a cranberry nut bread recipe I saw in Cook’s Illustrated. I finally found some cranberries at another grocery store, and bought seven bags to stick in the freezer.

If you have done the same, I highly recommend making this buckle. It was amazing, and you end up with excess vanilla crumb (oh happy circumstance!) which I put in the freezer and have been throwing on top of muffins. If you don’t have any cranberries, I think this would also be amazing with frozen raspberries.

(P.S. The recipe is for a 9-inch square baking pan, which I don’t have. I made it in a deep-dish pie tin.)



Children’s Book of the Week: Whitefoot

February 15, 2010

Whitefoot: A Story from the Center of the World by Wendell Berry, illustrated by Davis TeSelle

Oh boy is this ever a Henry book. I grabbed it from the library because it’s by Wendell Berry, and about a mouse, and didn’t really pay any attention to what it was until we sat down to read it as a before-bed chapter book. Eli lasted about two pages before declaring he was ready to sleep, so Henry and Zuzu and I read on. It’s not really a chapter book, so, well, we just kept reading, and 40 minutes later we were done, and we all felt special and transformed from having spent those 40 minutes thinking about the world from a mouse’s perspective.

Wendell Berry is a poet, and the prose does have a poetic feel, but not in the overly-flowery way, rather in the economy-of-words way. Which works perfectly for telling a story about a mouse. The illustrations work brilliantly with the prose, too, and certainly helped in drawing us into the story (they’re realistic and detailed pencil drawings). Whitefoot is a mouse who gets caught in a flood, and floats down river on a log. That’s about all that happens. Still, it’s amazing and wonderful to think about how a mouse would actually feel in such a situation. Plus I appreciated an animal book, from an animal’s perspective, but that didn’t anthropomorphize the animal. Whitefoot doesn’t talk, and doesn’t think in human terms. Some kids might get bored by the lack of talking animals, or the lack of relative action, but if your child is interested in animals, it’s a winner.


Le Moustache

February 11, 2010

Thank you, Sutswana, for the Best Birthday Gift Ever.

See, Eli’s already well on his way to having that full beard by kindergarten. This also makes me think that anything from I Made You a Beard would be an excellent birthday present (especially if my children continue with the gnome obsession).

Though I will say that I found Henry in a moustache less hilarious and more frightening, since he just looks like a perfectly reasonable adult. It was a little creepy.



Eli is 4! Annotated birthday CD list

February 9, 2010

Today Eli is finally 4. Three seemed to last forever, I tell you. I can’t believe there’s still another year-and-a-half until he goes to kindergarten. I feel like he’s going to have a full beard by then.

He’s been on a bit of a tear lately, pulling the same outrageous behavior he pulled before Christmas. Basically being awful and knowing it. I think it’s the build-up, and the knowledge that he has to wait just a little more to get presents (he was most excited about getting the Mighty World Fire Brigade from my mom).

He was fairly dictatorial about the songs that went onto his birthday CD this year. He demanded that they all be “loud” and that his “band could dance to them” (no, I don’t know exactly what/who is band is). Yesterday, after I had the CD pretty much done, he listened to it and axed half the songs, so I had to scramble to come up with some new ones that met his requirements (or end up giving everyone a 20-minute CD).

Here’s what made the cut:

1. Railroad Man – Eli. This is Eli singing a song that Laura sings in By the Shores of Silver Lake. Turns out that our completely-made-up tune is a lot more exciting than the actual tune.

2. Let Them All Talk – Elvis Costello. Eli says about this song: “I love it so much I can’t stop dancing!”

3. Iko Iko – The Belle Stars. This was on a mix tape that an old college friend (Krista Weaver, where are you?) made for me a million years ago. Eli heard it and was instantly smitten.

4. Song of the Troll – Eli and Henry. From the Gnomes book, as you all heard yesterday.

5. Ford Econoline – Nanci Griffith. A rockin’ song about a big van. Can’t go wrong in Eli’s book.

6. Paddy on the Railway – Daisy Nell and Cap’n Stan. This is one of two songs that Eli wanted but I initially resisted because they’re on other birthday CDs. But after he nixed a bunch of songs yesterday, I went ahead and put them on.

7. Old Man Tucker – Eli and Henry. Another song from Little House. I think this one may have been in Little House on the Prairie. Henry dutifully memorized all the words, taught it to Eli, and now they will randomly break into it, like when we were waiting for an appointment at the ultrasound place. I have no idea what the other people in the waiting room thought, but they all ignored it, believe it or not. And Henry and Eli were singing loud. My favorite part in this version is when Henry keeps singing at the end, and Eli tells him to stop, because “We just don’t sing it over and over again,” and Henry says, “Oh yeah.”

8. Old Man Tucker – C&B Media Chorus. A “real” version of the song, so people who heard track 7 know from whence it came.

9. I’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad – Eli and Henry. Not surprisingly, one of Eli’s favorite songs. I like Eli’s indecision about what to sing at the beginning of this one.

10. I’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad – Pete Seeger. Eli’s preferred version.

11. Whistling in the Dark – They Might Be Giants. I maintain that TMBG’s non-kid albums are just as kid-friendly as their children’s albums. In fact, my kids prefer the older, “adult” albums.

12. Mice Gingerbread – Eli. Why is this called Mice Gingerbread? I have no idea. He made up the whole thing on the spot.

13. Twist and Crawl – The English Beat. I’m not sure how he stumbled across this one, but it’s such an Eli song.

14. Town Called Malice – The Jam. Greatest Dance Song Ever.

15. Railroads Are Famous – Eli. Another improvised song, featuring some creative rhyming.

16. Happy-Go-Lucky Me – Paul Evans. A few months ago we happened to catch a funny song on “Down Memory Lane” which is probably my least-favorite local public radio show (the DJ plays songs that were hits 50 years ago this week, 40 years ago this week, etc., but he also reads headlines, and I always tune in as he’s reading something like, “Bay of Pigs a Major Concern” and it confuses me). Anyway, the song we heard sounded like the Chipmunks doing some sort of jazz scat, but a search when we got home yielded nothing. Finally I called the radio station, and the song wasn’t by the Chipmunks, but was by a rival Chipmunks group called The Nutty Squirrels. The kids loved the song, and the only place I could find it was on the “Pecker” soundtrack, and I had to buy the whole soundtrack to get the one song. Turns out the “Pecker” soundtrack is half a children’s album (like “In the Mood” sung by clucking chickens) and half completely child-inappropriate (“Don’t Drop the Soap (for Anyone but Me)”). The Nutty Squirrels song was one of the ones Eli decided yesterday he didn’t want, but “Happy-Go-Lucky Me” is one of the ones from that album that survived.

17. Anxious – The Housemartins. Basically this one was me enforcing my high school/college music tastes on my brood.

18. Stay Out of the South – Light Crust Doughboys. A surprise dark horse candidate, added yesterday morning. Every single time we listen to WMPG, Eli says, “I want this on my birthday CD” and then of course I totally forget, or the DJ never says what it is. Yesterday we were listening to South by Southwest (DJed by Portland’s very own Lincoln Peirce!), and I was starting to get nervous about Eli wanting to delete half the songs on the CD, so I payed more attention when he said he liked a song. And luckily this one was on iTunes.

19. I’m a Nut – Leroy Pullins. Another track from “Pecker.”

20. Old MacDonald – Eli and Henry. To all of you who are to receive a copy of this CD, let me now wholeheartedly apologize for this track, which goes on about six verses too many (in the great tradition of “Old MacDonald” whenever it’s sung).

21. Whammer Jammer – J. Geils Band. Another great dance song.

22. A Cowboy Needs a Horse – Fess Parker. When Dave is forced to play horsie with the children, he sings this song. For years I thought he made it up. Not only did he not make it up, but it’s even been done by Disney.

23. Vwa-pah (Zuzu Kiss) – Zuzu. You all know about Zuzu and her vwa-pahs. She really wanted to do something with the microphone, but then, when given the opportunity, would only nod at it. We finally got her to do this.

24. Foolish Frog – Pete Seeger. Eli’s most favorite song in the whole world. It’s been on birthday CDs before, but he really, really wanted it again. So here it is.


Free Valentines!

February 8, 2010

I get so sick of the Valentine thing every year. I mean, I really don’t care about it. I know Dave loves me and he knows I love him. I don’t want to spend our money on some bouquet of flowers just because Hallmark tells us to. (Though I’m always happy for an excuse for baked goods and chocolate.)

Mostly I can’t stand the enforced Valentines in school. I refuse to buy those stupid licensed character Valentines, so I force Henry to make them himself, and it’s a struggle. I mean, why wouldn’t it be? He’s hand-making 20 Valentines on a deadline. But this year Ohdeedoh came to our rescue, with a list of Free Printable Valentines. HURRAH! Just printed some out, and Henry has whipped out four in the last five minutes.


CATEGORIES: holidays

Children’s Book of the Week: Gnomes

February 8, 2010

Gnomes by Wil Huygen, illustrated by Rien Poortvliet

When I was 7 years old or so, family friends of ours somehow acquired a copy of Gnomes. I honestly think I spent a good year looking at that book, ignoring everything around me, whenever we visited them. Recently it suddenly occurred to that Henry would love this too, but I was sure it would be long out of print. Not only is it still in print, but it’s been reissued. Hurrah!

I can’t even describe how completely magical this book is. It’s a coffee table book, and has a lot of pages, so not one to read in one sitting, or even to read all the way through at all. The way it’s written is like it’s a lushly illustrated research manual, ostensibly by some gnome hounds who studied the gnomes of the world and are presenting here all the information they have gathered. The full-color paintings are divine, and the level of detail is incredible. It really does make you believe that gnomes must be out there, and of course they don’t wear red caps until they get married, and live to be 500, and keep mice as pets. There are also gnome stories, and a Song of the Troll*. There’s also a topless female gnome, so be warned if that sort of thing might bug you (my own kids have seen me without clothes so many times I don’t think they even noticed the topless gnome).

*Eli has a cold, which is why he sounds like a craggy troll.


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