Saturday, May 30, 2009


Mr. Smackdown has come a long way. His first football game was filled with tears, hesitation, and sore feet. Today he earned his medal, which is proudly being displayed around his neck for good sportsmanship and most improved.
His team celebrated their great game. When asked who won . . .does it matter? They had fun.

And his biggest fans were here to witness the entire event.
Mr. Me-Too, formerly Mr. Easy, enjoyed jumping and creating an obstacle course.
Mr. Smiley did what he normally does--smile.
And we celebrated with hugs, kisses and Subway!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Free Amazon Gift Card

I am a big fan of Amazon. Most of the presents I buy are from Amazon. I have an Amazon store on my blog (it's that little button that says, "You want me to buy what?" ) And even better are other blogger's Amazon giveaways. Check out: to win an Amazon gift card. Simple. Easy. Free.

Mussoorie, the Big Brown Dog

I have failed to give adequate time and attention (on this blog and in real life) to our first child, and probably the only "girl" I will ever have, if you can call her a girl anymore. She is a bit demanding but full of personality. Like right now, she is whining at me. She wants water. At 3 AM, last night, she needed to go outside to relieve herself. Yesterday, she puked Mr. Smiley's poop (who wouldn't) on the carpet (I haven't figured out what she is missing nutritionally). In the winter, she insists on sleeping under the covers, OUR covers. She rides in the front seat, and fits comfortably on the driver's seat should I run inside a store. She is more efficient and quicker than a vacuum; and works well as a substitute washcloth on children's food filled hands. She can be more annoying than a fly at a picnic. She doesn't shed. She loves to snuggle on the couch. She will play dress up. She rolls her eyes, barks in her sleep, and allows the boys to sit on her like a horse. She thinks that she is a 75 pound lap-dog.

By this point, I hope that you have figured out that I am talking about our faithful companion, the Granola Family's best friend, Mussoorie, the Rhodesian Ridgeback.

Her full name is Mussoorie यहोवा की स्तुति करो or Mussoorie Jai Masih Ki. (No your eyes aren't doing funny things. I just wrote in Hindi.) Mussoorie is where we lived in India and Jai Masih Ki means "Praise the Lord" in Hindi.

We discovered this particular breed of lion hunting dogs while I was helping a family homeschool in Colorado. It was at their home that I got hooked on Starbucks Breve's and Rhodesian Ridgebacks. This particular family had an amazing dog that snored loudly, Zuri. Zuri was a Rhodesian Ridgeback. Zuri had a lot of personality. (But I suppose you need some personality if your ancestors stood up to lions. You see, it was discovered that the dogs with more prominent ridges on their backs were faster and more adept at hunting lions.)

When the Lord revealed to us that we would be moving back to the Midwest, our dog was our concession prize, our entertainment. We wanted an unusual dog. And we figured that since we couldn't ski and backpack in the mountains, we needed a new hobby to occupy our time and teach us responsibility. We figured that if we could keep her alive, then it was probably safe for us to have children.
Mussie mostly likes to sleep. However, she loves to go camping, backpack, and chase rubber balls. (I should say, destroy rubber balls.) She can hear a tuna can being opened from a long distance away, yet ignore attempts to get her to go potty one last time before nighty-night. Did I mention that she will ring a bell to go outside, play dead when shot with a pretend finger trigger, get dizzy when you spin your hand, and shake-a-paw when offered a palm?

I love our dog. She can be pretty annoying. But she really cleans the kitchen floor well. I don't know how young families live without a dog to pick up crumbs!

Oh and lastly, she also loves to go to Farmer's Markets! It is a great place to smell other dog's butts and get some free dog bones. Speaking of which (free, I mean, not dog's butts) don't forget to go get your tub of free Romesco from Country Mouse City Mouse!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Tot School 4 1/2

For starters, I really want to know when our ants are going to arrive. I'm ready to learn about the letter "B." Our life is stuck. We talk about "A" ants all the time. Enough is enough! Please bring our ants, Mrs. Mailman!

Time to focus. Crazy. School is done for the summer for most children and teachers and I am convicted for the need to be more regular in our Tot School, which explains the absence of my weekly Tot School post--we had our summer break before summer break.

School has been a random splicing of activities. I am going to have to find a new groove with the addition of regular exercise and gardening now added to my list of granola activities. My focus for Tot Time has been and will be learning from our life experiences, scripture memory, recognizing letters and sounds, creating a corresponding lapbook with the letter of the week, basic counting, and fine motor skills such as coloring and cutting. (And moving tadpoles to the frog pond.)

The boys learned to set the table. Their future wives will thank me. I taught them how to set the table. Next, we took turns making a mess of our mock table and then correctly placing the dinnerware in its designated spot.

Here are a few highlights:

Mr. Smackdown has delighted in showing off his newly acquired skill of setting the table. I wonder how long it will be "fun" and not a chore? It is amazing how little helpful hands by growing children can become tremendous time-savers. When can he start cleaning the bathrooms and vacuuming?

As if we didn't already know the letter "A," we made "A's" with rubber bands on our geoboards, along with other designs to improve fine motor skills, which is necessary if your hand gets slapped by a taught rubber band!

Childhood just wouldn't be complete without using Ed Emberley's Thumbprint Art guidebook.

And to wrap it up, today we confiscated Mr. Smiley's bath time alphabet toys and put the letters in alphabetical order.

(Can you tell which letter is missing?)

We had some leftover numbers, and used our Connectagons and corresponded the correct number of pieces below each foam number.

After all that fun . . . I stopped at the library so that we could begin learning about the letter "B." The ants will have to move into our home under a different letter whether they like it or not.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Country Mouse City Mouse

Over 2,000 years ago there lived a man named Aesop. He created fables that to this day provide a moral lesson. Aesop's fable, The Town Mouse and The Country Mouse, is a tale of two mice. They live opposite lives, one in the country and one in the city, under different living circumstances and experiencing distinct food palates.

Their tale really isn't that different than today's living arrangements and food cultures.

The city mouse visits his cousin only to turn his nose up at the paltry bland meal provided. He insists that his pauper cousin come visit the city and experience a broad spectrum of tasty delights. The country cousin takes this journey into the busy city and dines with his cousin, only to discover that eating in the city is dangerous. Eating a variety of tasty food could cost him his life. For when the mice venture out onto the kitchen table, they become vulnerable to the resident predator, be it a cat or dog.

Thus, the country mouse declares with wisdom,
"Better beans and bacon in peace, than cakes and ale in fear."
This tale is all too relevant in light of society's processed, prepackaged, and prepared foods; ease of quickly medicating pain instead of dealing with the root problem; and the toxic chemical concoctions we bring into our home with the goal of "being clean."

Often, I hear comments, "I don't have time to bake like you do," or "That is just too much work to cook from scratch." Sometimes people comment on my cloth diapering, "I couldn't stand to do all of that laundry!" or "Do you really have to dump the poop out in the potty? Disgusting!" There is a bit of curiosity as to how clean my home is since I make my cleaning products from common elements and essential oils. Many think I am nuts for choosing to deliver my children naturally without mysterious drugs. Or I am simply a bit freakish because I nurse past the one year mark of my child's life.
But like the country mouse, I say, "Better {sprouted} beans and {turkey} bacon in peace, than Fruit Loops and Diet Coke in fear {of cancer}."

I have modernized this fable only to let you know that we went to the farmer's market this weekend, in search of beans {Roma tomato plants} and bacon {local, seasonal fruit}. As you will recall, I have anxiously been looking forward to bumping shoulders with other local granola people.

Our taste buds were delighted with delicious strawberries and Mag's Pimiento Cheese Spread that my high school friend, Erin sold to us. She and her sister, Katy, are the proud owners of Country Mouse City Mouse. We happened upon Erin's booth and were greeted with the opportunity to sample many of Country Mouse City Mouse's culinary delights, of which you can do too! (More on that later.)

Now I probably wouldn't have read Aesop's Fable yesterday, had it not been for bumping into Erin. I like to read, but typically only have time for bedtime stories, parenting issues, and some other granola related topics.

I am glad that I have had a multi-sensory experience with Country Mouse City Mouse, through reading with my eyes (Aesop's Fable) and tasting with my tongue (Chimichurri Pesto). I am convinced in both body part locations that only the best ingredients must have entered Erin and Katy's culinary creations. I was able to eat their food knowing that the majority of the ingredients were grown locally and created without added unnatural substances. However, I must admit only now as I write have I begun to think about the contents of their recipes. At the time, I was swept away by the explosive tastes of their Chimichurri Pesto, Mama J's Romesco, and Nyona Lake Jezebel . (Yes, I am being dramatic. But I am excited by what good chef's Erin and Katy are and for their fun local business.)

Well, for being faithful to read my entire blog post, you have the opportunity to take home a 4 oz tub of Mama J's Romesco that will rock your taste buds off and make them beg for more. Simply, visit either the Broad Ripple or Carmel Farmer's Market and mention my blog post. Easy. Free. Multiple winners. I do have to add that Erin will hand out her tasty treat only while supplies last. Hurry to the Farmer's Market Saturday, May 30th, 2009!

On a personal note, I have known Erin since I first learned to cut paper with scissors. Crazy how time flies. Throughout the years, our paths keep crossing and it is always fun to catch up. Erin always welcomes me with arms wide open and a deliciously warm greeting. I am encouraged by her creativity to be at home with her son, yet use her talent of cooking to help provide for her family. Please support her and her sister's amazing, local talent and visit them at the Market this weekend!

On a more personal note, here is some of the fun that we had that Willow was able to capture. . .

Friday, May 22, 2009

Homemade Ketchup

Most everyone has grown up on Heinz Ketchup. A hamburger isn't a hamburger without this red tomato condiment. Hot dogs would blend in with their (hopefully) whole wheat bun. Ketchup is good on skillet potatoes, french fries, and omelets. In college, I had a friend who would eat ketchup by the spoonful. (I wonder what nutritional deficiency she was experiencing to make her crave this carefully concocted grocery store food.) When we lived in India, I used ketchup all of the time, except it was spicy.
Did you know that ketchup can actually be made in your kitchen? In fact, it has nutritional proprieties and aides in digestion, if prepared properly. Though easier to flip open, your store bought Heinz ketchup does not benefit your gut. Not to mention, homemade ketchup produces rich and strong flavors on your tongue as it navigates your taste buds, that can't be beat.

Your Ingredients:

3 cups canned tomato paste (this translates to four 6 oz cans)
1/4 cup whey (the yellowish liquid on top of yogurt--see below for extraction directions)
1 tbls sea salt
1/2 cup maple syrup (the real stuff from the tree)
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
3 cloves garlic, peeled and mashed
1/2 cup fish sauce (can be found in the Asian section of your grocery store)

Mix all of the above ingredients together until thoroughly blended. Pour or plop mixture into a quart-sized mason jar. You will want to use a wide-mouth mason jar. There should be at least 1 inch of room from the ketchup to the top of the jar lid. I would recommend using the traditional metal lid versus the new plastic one-piece lids. Leave on your counter for two days before moving it to its chilly home, your refrigerator.
Want to know how to procure whey? Obtain a cloth napkin or cheese cloth. Place it in a strainer and put the strainer over a bowl. Allow it to drip for several hours at room temperature and then continue to let it drip in the refrigerator. The liquid will be your whey and the solid is cream cheese!
I will show you how to make mayonnaise and mustard another day!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I'm Not Ready for Tadpoles

My dear friend, doula, and photography mama, gave us tadpoles this weekend. They became our school today. So this is a bizarre Tot School, but it was a lesson in being humane and learning about a frog's habitat.

I thought that I could handle it. But I simply am not ready. I thought I was ready to be a tadpole, bug keeping, worm defending, caterpillar catching mom of three boys. But I just can't do it.

The tadpoles didn't come with an instruction booklet. They were growing legs that dangled. I was afraid of spilling them. After four days of cooking besides these young frogs, I decided that something had to change. I decided to free them.

And this is their journey to the Frog Pond.

They are ready to enter the wild. To wiggle in search of food. To dart from predators lurking nearby. To spread their newly forming legs.

A lesson in pouring.

See the little brown speck in the middle? That is our tadpole. Two of the tadpoles immediately explored their new habitat. However, the leggy one decided to nibble on the floating algae. They were excited about their new home. The realities of pond life floated close by.

Mission accomplished. Time to climb rocks.