25 February 2016

A midweek motley

Blogging. I haven't been keeping up well lately, at all. But words are going on a page today one way or another, and if they don't all quite go together? Well, I did just use "motley" as a noun.

What we're doing

Soaking up sunshine—it's been warm enough all week that opening the window shades doesn't suck all of the warm air out of the house! I am loving having the living room lit up with sunlight instead of electric lights all day long again.

Little Bear has been working on his reading, and as long as I check for consonant blends ("th," "ng," etc) he's doing well with me picking out random short-vowel words as we're reading stories and asking him to tell me what they say.

Kit is happily rolling from back to stomach to back to stomach to back... all the way over to whatever her brother is playing with, where she grabs his toy away and then smiles at him, waiting to be praised for her rolling.

What we're eating

Still dairy-free and soy-free, plus meatless on Wednesdays as well as Fridays right now. I try not to take away all of Matt and Little Bear's dairy just because Kit and I can't have it, which leads to suppers like this taco pizza that only have cheese on one side, or two separate batches of oatmeal (with/out milk), scrambled eggs (with/out cheese), etc. 

Do you know that there's soy in canned tuna? Soy. In canned tuna. It's in everything!


And then there's "fake cake," 90-second cake in a mug. That's been a thing for how long now? But I'd never done it, because putting dry ingredients + oil + (almond)milk in the microwave and having them spontaneously manifest a mug full of chocolate cake? Ridiculousness. How could that possibly work? It would surely be like one of those silly "two-ingredient homemade apple pie in the microwave" recipes that have little to nothing in common with the deliciousness they're named for. 

But... it's not like that. It works. Who enchanted my microwave? Not that I'm complaining about having an enchanted cake-producing microwave, mind. But seriously, how did this happen because I do not understand and it is boggling my mind. The crumb was perfect, the upper crust firm, the whole thing moist and rich and delicious and decidedly unLenten. I may be making myself a microwave-mug-cake for Matt's birthday, so that I can make his requested brownies for him without any funny nondairy substitutions.

What we're reading

Little Bear keeps requesting this month's issue of Ladybug magazine and Leo Landry's Space Boy, a bedtime story of a young astronaut who travels to the moon for some quiet but realizes that even with the noise, it's better back home with his family.

Kit eats any book she can get her hands on.

I keep trying to read Theresa Tomeo's Extreme Makeover, which I'm very sure is excellent, but reading a paper book is so unreasonably difficult these days. I knead bread with a baby in one arm; having two hands free to hold a book and turn the pages would be a rare moment of leisure indeed. Reading one-handed on my phone while Kit nurses, though, works fine. A few of my favorite finds this week:

King Arthur in the Lives of the Saints

Buttons, lard, and Old Norse: The Invention and Abandonment of Home Economics

How to Soak, De-Gas, and Cook Beans from Scratch

Plus the archives of the Fountains of Carrots podcast, which I had somehow never heard of. In fact, I'm pretty sure I'd never listened to a podcast ever, at all, probably because Little Bear usually doesn't cooperate at all when I want to listen to things. He's been enjoying? listening to? keeping quiet while I listen to them this week, though, so that's been fun.

And I just finished an ebook on closet decluttering, Simply Dressed by Victoria Osborn. Hopefully I'll have more thoughts on that book, and decluttering in general, to share in a couple of days.

And that's all, I think. One more day left before the weekend starts! I either sprained or broke my toe this evening, taking a corner too quickly in socks on the tile floor, soooo... Saturday cannot get here too quickly. I can't wait to have Matt home for two whole days!

12 February 2016

SQT: There and back again

Hesitantly, possibly against my better judgement, I'll go ahead and say that we're all finally caught up and back on schedule after our trip. Throwing the beginning of Lent into the middle of this first week home certainly made it take a little longer, but we knocked out a whole long list of errands this morning (in town from 8 am to 12:30 pm!), and everyone seems to be back into our regular rhythm at this point. I'm so ready for quiet predictability!

The plan was to fly out the night of January 22, land in Baltimore the next evening, and drive up to visit Matt's parents. We knew there was a storm coming through, but figured that we're Alaskans, we could handle it. Wednesday afternoon, though, with Matt home from work sick, we learned that all of the airports in the area were preemptively closing before the storm, and would probably stay closed through the weekend. But if we could be at the gate in four hours... Kit had an appointment to see the pediatric gastroenterologist first thing Monday morning, which we'd be guaranteed to miss if we waited out the storm, so we frantically threw things in suitcases and ran out the door.

It was a great trip. About two weeks with Matt's family, a day with my sister, a too-short time with several friends. Being snowed in was an experience: from Friday night to Sunday morning, we got about 30" of snow! That's a lot more than we get here, at least in one go. There was still quite a bit on the ground when we left, which was nice—it made the coming home to two and a half more months of winter much less jarring. 

Coming home was... a different sort of "experience." So, it's 2:30 am. We left the hotel 22 hours ago, everyone desperately needs to go to bed, and the jeep (which my brother had dropped off in the airport parking lot for us) is throwing a fit: the check engine light is blinking, the heat won't come on, and when we stop/start or go uphill it starts lurching. We wind up waking my brother up and having him follow us home in his truck, just in case. At home, we notice that the bedrooms are a little chilly, but we'd turned the heat down before we left, so we just turn on the electric heater in Little Bear's room and bump up the thermostat in ours... But the baseboard heat never comes on. Matt and I spend a very cold night, and text our landlord first thing in the morning. At least Little Bear stays nice and warm with his heater!

It turns out that
— the check engine light was telling us that another coil had gone bad (our ridiculous engine has one coil for each cylinder, and we've had to start carrying extras everywhere because they burn out so frequently.) So Matt replaced that on Sunday afternoon.
— the lurching was being caused by ice in our fuel line; we've known that we probably have some water in the gas tank since this summer, but it hasn't caused any trouble as long as we remembered to fill up when the gauge says we have a quarter of a tank left. Matt picked up a bottle of HEET to treat that.
— the zone valve for the bedrooms was stuck closed, but our landlord met us at the house right after church and got it fixed.
— we think we've finally fixed the heat in the jeep as of today; the coolant was low, and after topping that off, within five minutes of starting the jeep we had warm air coming out of the vents again.

Oh, and about Kit: Her appointment with the pediatric gastroenterologist went well. Matt's cold was still too bad for him to come along, so his mother offered to come to help with Kit and to be a second person listening to the doctor and asking questions, which I really appreciated! The doctor was confident that Kit is indeed allergic to cow's milk protein and to soy, and offered to give us a referral to a nutritionist if I wanted it, but said that it sounds like we're already doing everything right. So that's good; we didn't get an "oh, it's X and we can do one quick thing and make it all better!", but it's good to know that we're on the right track for taking care of her, and to hear that most kids grow out of this and get instructions for how to go about trying to introduce dairy once she's older.


Our excitement of the evening. The chocolate chip banana bread had been in the oven for more than an hour, so when Matt pulled it out and showed it to me, I said yeah, it's done, just lay it on its side and I'll take it out if the pan after supper. After supper, we came back into the kitchen to see... this. Oops. It took another 40 minutes to finish baking! Is there some strange property of coconut oil that makes quick breads take f-o-r-e-v-e-r? I've never had any trouble like this with cooking time in other non-dairy breads, but before today I think I'd exclusively been using canola oil in quick breads, not coconut oil. Or, maybe, I just realized that I put a whole cup of barely-above-freezing chocolate chips into the batter right before putting it into the oven... That could possibly have had something to do with it too. Regardless, I'm very glad that he'd laid it down on that sheet pan instead of on the wire rack on the counter; I just stuck the entire pan back into the oven and kept checking it until the goopy mess was solid. There's quite the cavern in the middle of my loaf, now, but at least it tastes good!

Linking up with Kelly at This Ain't The Lyceum. Have a good weekend!

10 February 2016

Looking at Lent

Another Ash Wednesday has just about wrapped up here, despite my feeling completely unprepared for Lent to begin already. Why is there still a Christmas tablecloth out? Where is the bean jar for sacrifices? How has Little Bear apparently forgotten all about Lent? I don't know. We're off to a slow start, but we'll get our feet under us soon.

Matt and I each have some personal sacrifices we're making, and the whole family is going back to meatless meals on Wednesdays in addition to Fridays, which sounds a little daunting with Kit's current allergies—no meat, no dairy, and no soy? Oh, and no breakfast-for-supper, at Matt's request. I guess my available proteins are beans, fish, and maybe hard-boiled eggs... This could be difficult. 

But hey, just a half hour ago I read a quote that totally applies here: "For if the work be laborious, reflect that it is for God's sake you undergo all this, and you shall receive sufficient consolation." (St John Chrysostom) I'm hearing two pertinent lessons in there: Not only that A) remembering that we're doing this in order to draw closer to God will help when observing Lent is difficult, but also that B) I do actually have to be carrying out these Lenten practices with the purpose of growing closer to God. Not for the sake of looking good to others, not simply for the sake of "doing something for Lent"; for God's sake. Whatever sacrifices I'm making during Lent, they're supposed to be about God, not about me.

Because having a list schedule thing helped me so much with staying on top of things during Advent, and I was somehow organized enough last Easter to write down what we'd done for Lent 2015, let's have a quick sketch of what our current Lenten plans look like.

Feb 9: Shrove Tuesday; doughnuts for breakfast, pancakes for supper

Feb 10: Ash Wednesday; fast/abstinence

General Lent: meatless Wed & Fri; sacrifice jar with black beans on the table; daily reflections; sing Stabat Mater; shoot for once-a-week stations of the cross 

Feb 17, 19, 20: Ember days; meatless

Mar 6: Laetare Sunday; ??

Mar 13: Passion Sunday; veil statues around the house

Mar 17: St Patrick; Irish stew? Soda bread?

Mar 19: Solemnity of St Joseph; ??

Mar 20: Palm Sunday; psari plaki for supper

There's a few question marks up there, but I have almost a month before I have to figure out how to celebrate Laetare Sunday, so we should be good. Holy Week and Triduum don't need to be taking up real estate in my cluttered mental calendar just yet either; I'm probably going to need all of my mental energy to come up with this year's list of supper ideas. If you have any favorite meatless recipes starring beans, please share them!

One thing more; I think I've shared this before, but here again is the Lenten prayer of St Ephraim the Syrian. I've had it posted on the bathroom mirror the last couple of Lents, and I think it's going up in the kitchen as well this year.

O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, faint-heartedness, lust of power, and idle chatter. 

Give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to Your servant.

O Lord and King, grant me to see my own faults and not to judge my brother, for You are holy always, now and ever and forever. Amen.

08 February 2016

Chocolate chip doughnuts {dairy-free}

Whoops, I disappeared for a while there! We're still recovering from two and a half weeks of traveling, followed by too much everything-is-breaking excitement when we got home, but more about that soon. Today, I'm writing about doughnuts.

It is practically Lent. How is that possible? I feel ridiculously unprepared; I still don't even know what time zone I'm in half the time, let alone what liturgical season it is! But because Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, we're celebrating Tuesday with rich, traditionally non-Lenten fare. We often try to pick up traditional foods from one of our ethnic backgrounds on holidays or other notable days, and for Shrove Tuesday we're going with both English—pancakes—for supper, and German—doughnuts—for breakfast. Matt and I each have both German and English in our family trees, but I only grew up hearing about eating pancakes for Shrove Tuesday, while he grew up hearing about Fasnaucht Day. But really, why not do both? We'll have one great symbolic "using up" of the rich foods before our Lenten fasting begins.

I feel rather silly, making dairy-free versions of these supposed dairy-full treats, but oh well. Maybe next Shrove Tuesday Kit and I will be able to have milk.

Chocolate Chip Doughnuts

3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
4 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup almond milk
3/4 cup chocolate chips

Cream oils and sugars together, then beat in eggs. In a mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients, then thoroughly stir in oil/sugar/egg mixture and almond milk. Fold in chocolate chips. Spoon batter into greased doughnut pan, not quite all the way up to the tops of the wells, and bake at 425 F for 10-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing doughnuts to a wire rack to cool completely.

Notes: when making these dairy-free/soy-free, remember to check ingredients on the chocolate chips and cooking spray! If allergies aren't an issue, you can feel free to use cow's milk instead of almond milk and 4 tablespoons of butter instead of the 3 tablespoons of coconut oil. 

Also, per our highly scientific experiment wherein I forgot to grease the pan the first time and the doughnuts stuck and tore when I tried to take them out, even silicone pans should really be greased if you want the best odds of getting your doughnuts out in one piece.