Thursday, September 30, 2010

To-tofu, T-To-To F-Fu-Fu

Just thought I would send September out with a Veggie Tales silly song title and a recipe for the yummy salad we had tonight.

Baked Tofu Salad

2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 inch fresh ginger root, minced or pressed in garlic press
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp honey or agave syrup

2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp honey or agave syrup
2 inches fresh ginger root, minced or pressed in garlic press
4 tbsp vegetable oil
Sriracha hot sauce to taste

1 lb extra firm light tofu, drained and pressed between two plates with a heavy can on top
4 c salad greens, washed and dried
1 c snow peas, trimmed
1 cucumber, sliced
2 cans mandarin oranges, drained
1/2 c chopped almonds

Whisk together ingredients for marinade in a small bowl. Dice tofu in 1/2 inch dice. Pour marinade over tofu. Spread in single layer on cookie sheet and place in 400 degree oven.

Whisk together dressing ingredients. Use the same small bowl. Set aside.

Toast almonds in a skillet over medium heat until lightly brown.

Take the cookie sheet  out. Turn the tofu over. Put it back in.

Mix vegetables and oranges in a large salad bowl.

When tofu is golden and slightly crusty and all marinade is absorbed, take it out of the oven. Add to salad. Sprinkle with almonds and add dressing. Toss lightly.

Steamed rice on the side for this. So nice for our beautiful Indian summer.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Little blue

This week has been one long uphill.

Sunday night as I was falling asleep I suddenly realized I was not breathing right; no air was getting in through my nose. I slept only fitfully, Monday morning Dr. G. left for work and I realized I had that special hit-by-a-Mac-truck feeling. Headache, weakness, congestion.

I distinctly remember being told as a kid, "Most of the work of this world is done by people who aren't feeling well." Even five years ago I probably would have forced myself to get up and shower, dosed up on DayQuil, and gone about my day.

I don't do that anymore. Maybe it's just that I'm older, or maybe it's because DayQuil doesn't work like it used to (thanks a million, meth epidemic) but these days the old muscle-through approach does not produce good results for me anymore. These days when a bug gets me I do my best to get in bed and stay there for a day or two, armed solely with tissue and fluids. And maybe still DayQuil, because it is nice to breathe.

Rest doesn't come easy when you're responsible for the care, feeding and education of four other people who are distinctly not sick or tired in any way and not particularly sympathetic.

Even better, Dr. G had to leave midafternoon Monday for a week-long training trip (you have to learn GIS before you teach it to the undergrads, I suppose).  Nobody to baby me, not even in the evening hours. Nobody to whine to. Nobody to pick up the slack. I know I could live this way all the time, if I had to. I know people do it. I really never, never want to.

So I did get up and shower. I put on some roomy lounge pants and a big t-shirt. I didn't want to be wearing my actual purple-striped pajamas when I schlepped around picking up kids with my sickie self. I figured a moderate trailer trash look would work, and I could collapse easily back into bed as soon as I had the kids safely deposited back in front of the TV.

 After picking up my first grader I also got my sorry self to Safeway for medicine and chicken soup. I thought I'd try one of these Vicks Inhalers and whoa, good stuff. I also got my favorite cough drops and some Airborne, even though I know it doesn't work all miracle-style like I used to think. It still makes another type of liquid to drink and I need all I can get.

I think I rested pretty successfully. I felt about halfway better by Tuesday and have improved a little every day since then. We've managed some of our responsibilities and let some others slide (A missed his guitar lesson Monday when I was flattened, and nobody felt like making the trek to scouts on Wednesday.) Pardon me while I congratulate myself on choosing my battles.

However, the house still looks like I've been in bed all week and I am so tired of being sick  I just want another rest day. Dr. G should be home tomorrow around midday. I think I can almost see over the top of the hill. Not soon enough. But I think I can, I think I can.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Loving lately

It has been a good long time since I made a list of stuff I love.
  • Garden lettuce. Next year maybe I will just plant all lettuce and peas. They are the only things that have really thrived. The zucchini, beans and tomatoes got some frost damage earlier this week. Next year I will get some frames built to protect them better. But the lettuce is still so, so good. 
  • Bite-size Heath bars. Large potential for overindulgence. They're so little and easy to eat. So, so yummy.
  • Pound cake. I use the Betty Crocker recipe and put vanilla glaze on it. Double the vanilla. It soaks in some, crusts over some. 
  • Dr. G made a Pandora station based on the Smiths. It just played for me, in a row, "Reel Around the Fountain" (amazing lyrics), "Here Comes Your Man" by the Pixies, and "Pretty in Pink" by the Psychedelic Furs. Pandora is the bomb. I also have an Indigo Girls station, well loved and used.
  • New music from Ari Hest and Rosi Golan performing together as The Open Sea, coming soon. Free preview on myspace. So perfect for a chilly autumn.
  • New music from Mindy Gledhill. I just got it today - it's very clever, light and fun. I want to go back to hearing more of her depth and strength, though, too. Vocally, I mean. I think the content on Anchor has plenty to think about. I just want that powerful voice that wowed me when I first heard her sing in Fresno. Next album, Mindy?
  • My flower/herb beds out front. Red petunias, sedum, phlox, marigolds, mums, salvia, pansies, nasturtiums, mint, sage, and parsley have all played so nicely together all summer. Tonight I bought some bulbs - crocuses, grape hyacinths and white daffodils. I think they'll be so pretty! And I think tomorrow will be a great day for planting.
  • Speaking of the garden, look at Sustainable Seed Company for heritage organic seeds. I know I'm not the only person already thinking about next year!
  • Forest Born by Shannon Hale. I'm right in the middle of it, so I can't do a real true review just yet. But oh, I think this might be my favorite one of all the Bayern books. I love the themes about guilt and healing. I love how adeptly the author uses little linguistic cues to accentuate the cultural differences among her characters - the different regions and nations they come from. And of course I am inhaling the story like the rainy, piney Montana air. Anybody who needs a good world to get lost in after finishing Mockingjay - this is a good one. Start with The Goose Girl. Four good books in a row - have fun!
Now, some homeschool stuff:
  • This is the new incarnation of what used to be eSpindle. We use it for homeschool spelling. Love it. Slightly tempted to start using it for myself and learn all kinds of esoteric vocab.
  • Books by Joy Hakim. We are using the A History of Us series for American History and the first volume of The Story of Science to guide our science studies and squeeze in some world history at the same time. Her voice is so enjoyable. I am getting a pretty good education/re-education working with Sam on these.
  • Teaching Textbooks for math. I love the friendly voice and the fact that S can do it completely on his own. I also like the mixed review right now, at the beginning of the school year. S is acing everything!
  • The Trumpet of the Swan. Our first literature unit this year, and it had me on the brink of tears almost daily. So beautiful.
  • Drawing with Ed Emberley. Thanks to Grandma Judy for introducing S to this. It makes art very accessible to a guy who still struggles with hand-eye coordination, and as a bonus, it also motivates him to write stories! He has three Ed Emberley books now and wants the rest for Christmas. Santa, take notice!

Monday, September 06, 2010


I remember my first experiments with making bread, sometime in the first couple of years after getting married. My main response: All this work, just to eat it? I thought of all the women in the world who spent, who still spend, so much time making bread, and of those who eat it without much thought. It's just bread, right? And although now most people agree that good homemade bread is a very big deal, there was a time in our culture when it was pretty well taken for granted. And in some parts of the world the daily work of making bread still is very routine.

Fast forward. I obtained a bread machine for $20 on eBay and experimented with it. I was less than impressed. I gave it away. I tried different recipes, some good and some iffy. I still mostly bought bread at the grocery store.

Then, early this summer, weirdness. My lip suddenly swelled up like a botched collagen job after eating a ham sandwich with watermelon for lunch. What was I allergic to? The ham, the watermelon? After more experiments (with varying results that have me looking like a Simpsons character from time to time), I have determined that the answer is this: I am allergic to some kind of preservative or something found in prepared bread products, including cereal and tortillas.

You can imagine I don't so much take bread for granted anymore. I eat less of it. I enjoy it more when I do. I think about the bread broken by Jesus at the feeding of the five thousand or the Last Supper. I think about the bread kneaded and baked by pioneer women. I savor the sandwich buns made by my grandma when I encounter them on a picnic.

We do have a Great Harvest bakery in town, and I'm a fan. However, not every week can I plunk down $5 per loaf. I've found a recipe that works very well, doesn't feel like an overwhelming amount of work, keeps well in the fridge, makes good toast, and is eagerly eaten by my kids. It's Farm Journal. If you've read this blog, you know about the Farm Journal advice I got from my grandma - same one who makes the fabulous sandwich buns - if you see a Farm Journal cookbook, buy it. Good advice. Here's the recipe, with my notes.

Easy Mixer Bread

2 1/2 c. warm water (hot out of the tap works fine for me, but the book says 110-115 degrees F)
4 1/2 tsp. (2 packages) active dry yeast
1/2 c. instant nonfat dry milk
2 tbsp. sugar or honey
1 tbsp. salt (I like to use kosher salt for this)
1/3 c. vegetable oil
7 to 7 1/2 c. flour - use AT LEAST half BREAD FLOUR for best results! You can do half bread flour and half all purpose, or half bread flour and half whole wheat flour

Pour warm water into large mixer bowl. Sprinkle yeast over top. Add dry milk, sugar, salt, oil, and 3 c. flour. Blend well on low speed using whisk attachment, scraping sides and bottom of bowl. Blend on medium speed for 3 minutes.

Gradually add remaining flour to make a stiff dough. In my experience stick closer to 7 c. of flour if you're using whole wheat, closer to 7 1/2 if it's all white. Cover and let rest for 15 minutes.

Toss dough on a floured surface until no longer sticky. Knead until smooth - about 1 minute. Divide in half. Use rolling pin to flatten each half to a rectangle about 12x6". Roll up like a jelly roll, tucking edges to make a smooth loaf shape. Place, seam side down, in well greased loaf pans.

Cover (I use plastic wrap sprayed with PAM) and let rise in a warm place, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. My wheat bread usually needs to rise longer than my white bread.

Bake at 400 for 30-35 minutes. Remove from pans immediately. Brush crust with butter to soften (and make it YUMMY). Set on side of loaf to cool on wire racks. Don't slice it until it's cool. It will still be fabulous.

Saturday, September 04, 2010


You've probably noticed, I haven't felt much like blogging. I blame facebook, and also laziness. They complement each other. But I think I should discipline myself to do more writing, real writing, and this is a little start.

Lucy is inspiring me this week with her snippets. They're so fun to read, really what a personal blog should be like if you ask me. I don't know if I'll do the same thing exactly, but I do want to write more about my life. Exercise the writing muscles.

I need to do more sorting out of my thoughts. I feel like I have racing brain syndrome a lot of the time lately, and I'm pretty sure it would be more productive to think through all these thoughts through rather than playing Lexulous all the time and ignoring them. Because they don't go away. They just come back even crazier.

Dr. G. is so happy in his new job. The stress I saw in him as a grad student and even in his last job as a research scientist seems to have melted away. He thrives on teaching and still gets to do some research - well, theoretically. Maybe not so much this year while he is developing his courses and writing papers based on his previous research. I'm super happy for him. He really has found the perfect fit.

This makes me think - as I so often do - I should be doing what makes me super happy for myself. A lot of times I am. I'm reading children's lit. I am cooking and baking, hurray for that. No escaping those pursuits when you are a mother of four, so it's good that I like them, huh?

But as always, I yearn to do more creative work.

I had an interesting experience last month in Utah at a family reunion, singing some Gershwin with my uncle Tom who is a jazz pianist in New York. He was so complimentary that I really started feeling like I need and want to do more. What I imagine is finding a good local pianist who loves standards and can really swing, and just starting to make music and maybe working up to performances after several months of working together. Performances where, though? Bars? I think no. And what pianist? And with what time? Obstacles are many.

Another option is the local symphony chorale. It's not exactly what I would choose to do with my voice in an ideal world. But it would be easier. My friend Christine sings there and has kindly encouraged me to join up. But I am torn about the rehearsal time - Monday nights. Boo. Possibly we could have it a different night now - but what about in a couple of years when sports and other activities are competing for our family time?

I sacrificed music on purpose, a long time ago. I knew soon after I got married in 1993 that the kind of musical life I would want would be pretty tough to combine with the kind of family life I would want. Sometimes I've thought I might have been wrong about that. But really, I probably was right. Especially considering how challenging and consuming it's been for us just to get our kids, let alone raise them. And I do still think the family life is more important. The key now is not to resent the choice I made.

The creative thing I can do without depending on others' schedules or cutting way into family time is writing. So that sort of brings me back where I started.

I thought it was going to get easier this year - my plan was to get S back in public school and Z in preschool. But I was increasingly uncomfortable with the public school idea over the summer, and after a lot of prayer decided to homeschool S again. He just learns better when he's not facing the constant distractions and poor-behavior temptations of a regular classroom. And it's been good for our relationship, there's no denying. Then it made more sense, if I was going to have S at home again, to wait one more year before paying for preschool for Z. So she will do the co-op preschool two days a week with a group of moms and kids from church, and save formal preschool for next year. She can't go to kindergarten until Fall 2012 anyway, thanks to her November birthday.

All this just means I have to be disciplined and organized if I am going to get any good writing time. And probably get a good laptop so I can work while S is occupied with computer learning.

That's doable, right?