Tuesday, September 28, 2010


I don't like cooking that much. I mean, I might like cooking if I could walk around a little french market buying my groceries all day and then had a quiet evening to make Matt and myself something fabulous to eat while we sipped wine and talked about our days.

But that is not how it goes around here. I hate grocery shopping. I hate figuring out something that both adults and children will appreciate eatting (or fighting the fights that happen if the kids don't like dinner). I hate having to make it quickly with one hand while trying to NOT burn the baby who is in the other arm. And I really hate the clean-up part, (oh....wait....I also hate the planning what the meals will be part. I have enough to plan in life!).

So, for those, like me, who don't like planning, I thought I'd post what WE ate each week (with recipe links) in case you want to copy any of them. I know I'm always looking for ideas and recommendations. I don't necessarily intend for this to be a weekly post because if you knew what we ate LAST week, (when  Matt was out of town) you'd gag and/or call the child authorities on me for the lack of nutritious food I gave to my children.

But here is this weeks plan:

These salted, crispy oatmeal cookies. I found them on America's Test Kitchen's website. They are super good and are sprinkled with sea salt. However, they are a pain to make. I guess they aren't that hard, but it just seemed like a lot of steps the first time through.
This roasted chicken recipe from America's Test Kitchen was also very yum. I made it on Sunday. However, in this recipe, you make a glaze to put on it and I didn't make the glaze. I just wanted the crispy skin. And I wanted to buy a giant can of beer at my grocery store just because that seemed so funny to me. And Claire really laughed looking at the chicken perched on top of the beer can. We ate this chicken with sauteed spinach and a can of Pillsbury's rustic french bread.

Last night I made this seared sesame tuna. Matt and I gave it a thumbs up. The peanut gallery gave it a pretty hearty thumbs down. With enough of the soy saucey dip though, they choked it down.

(photo courtesy of Pioneer Woman)
However, it eased their pain that I made a giant mashed potato recipe courtesy of Pioneer Woman to go with it. Very good, but don't make the mistake I did and beat the potatoes with a mixer. They ended up pretty gluey that way. The kids didn't mind though. I made steamed green beans on the side, (the kind that comes already trimmed in a bag in the produce dept). Worth every penny.

Tonight, the intention is to grill these steaks I've had in the freezer for a while. We'll finish PW's mashed potatoes and either do more green beans or salad.
This "hearty tuscan bean stew" is from AMT as well, and I haven't made it yet so I can't say if  it's good or not-so-good. I CAN tell you that I bought canned beans rather than soaking dried beans (really? Why would you soak beans these days?) so hopefully it won't make a big difference. I bought another of the Pillsbury bread loafs to make with it. Hey, I could run out for fresh bread, but why? It's all white bread fluff anyway.

And finally, (after throwing in a leftovers night) we'll make pizza on the grill as taught to me by my dear cousin Hilary and her husband, Mark. The crust recipe I use was given to me from Matt's mom and it is as follows:

2 packages (or 2 T) yeast
2 and 1/4 c very warm water
sprinkle of sugar
3 T oil
1 T sugar
1 T salt
6 cups flour (sometimes replace part of the flower with corn meal...like 1/2 c at the most)

1. Dissolve the yeast in the water
2. Sprinkle and mix in the sugar
3. let mixture sit for 5-10 minutes
4. Add oil, sugar, and salt
5. Mix in flour and knead the dough
6. Let dough rise for 20 min or more.
*This is enough dough for at least 3 pizzas

Now, you can bake it in the oven at 415 degrees for 7 minutes, put toppings on it, and bake for 7 more. OR, you can grill it. I preheat the grill with the pizza stone inside and then take a pre-rolled-out circle of dough to the grill and plop it onto the stone for just a few minutes. Then, after it puffs up, flip it over and start putting the toppings on the side that baked already. It won't take long to melt the cheese so if you have toppings like green peppers or onions or something that need to cook for a while, you might have to pre-cook them. We use sauce, a tiny bit of hot giardiniera relish, spinach, cheese, pepperoni, and mushrooms (in that order).

Happy cooking.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Curb appeal and Luella Faye

So this was our house's front last week. It still basically is. But we did a few teeny tiny updates to the yard and the porch.

I tried to get a good picture of the whole thing but that tree pretty much covers our house.

I got some ceramic pots to put flowers in on the porch, which is an improvement from the plastic pots that our summer flowers came in. I also realized that I'm bad at keeping summer flowers alive because they need so much water! So I'm glad it's fall and we can have mums for a little bit. I know they die quickly, but I just plopped them into the pots and if they die, who cares...they were $5!

I am no landscaper. But Matt and I thought up this little scheme for the front "yard" that we have. We bought 4 boxwoods and 3 tall red boxwood-looking things that are supposed to shoot up quickly and be pretty tall and colorful. Then, we (okay Matt) took the scrubbier bushes out of the front and moved them to the back behind our tiny Japanese Maple tree to fill out that area a bit.

This is what we had going on before, so you have to admit it's a bit better.

I want to either get the bricks that are struggling replaced on the front of our house, or paint the whole thing, but for now I'm settling with painting the underneath of the little portico a light tan/cream.

It was a peeling dark brown before so it's a little lighter and brighter at least!

It's not a giant transformation, but for one weekend it made me feel a little better.

And now to Luella Faye.

She's such a big girl.

Here she was today getting ready to go pick Sammy up from school.

It's getting cold outside so she was all bundled. I love these little hats. I bought a million of them on sale for $3 at a Hannah Anderson outlet the week I found out I was pregnant with Wella. They are all tan, red, and blue since I didn't know if it was going to be a girl or boy. So no pink.

Our friend from church, Janeil, gave us this little Bumbo seat. I never had one for my other kids. It's really funny!

They really like sitting up in it, but I think she gets tired of it after a while (I'd think it would be a little hard on their spines don't you think?) so we just put her in it for a little bit. It's soft and foamy so it's comfortable at least!

And speaking of curb appeal....

...check out the new addition to our school, City Garden!

Mr. Frank built this little log house/gnome home for the kids this ear. Can you see that the roof has green mossy stuff growing off of it? I wanted to move into it myself when I first saw it. Too bad it wasn't there when Claire attended that school. She would have just put on a bonnet and called herself a pioneer girl for 3 years.

Ack! I just saw our mouse. Did I mention we have mice? We thought it was just one and we caught him, but now his family is coming upstairs to find him. Grose.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

If you give a Harris kid a camera...

(warning, very blurry pictures below)

....they will probably start taking pictures of Wella.

And then if they start taking pictures of Wella, they are going to want to be in some of the pictures themselvees, so they will ask their little brother to take some pictures of them.

But then once the little brother has the camera, he'll want to take some pictures of Wella himself.

Especially super-up-close pictures.

And then the brother will want to be in some of the pictures as well, so he'll ask his sister to take some.

But once the little brother is in the picture, he'll start thinking of ways to improve the picture...like by putting pajamas on Wella's head.

Or, perhaps, a pair of pants.

Big bully brothers.

They make us so angry sometimes.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The school year begins

So these pictures of the kids are very cute, I thought,  because for once in their lives they are wearing semi-matching clothes and the clothes are not too small for them. I have a bit of a philosophy about clothing for my kids that I've developed out of sheer laziness and/or lack of caring.

I barely buy them clothes. I hate shopping myself, so I run out each season and buy them what is absolutely neccessary. I buy stuff that is really practical (like I just spent a hefty sum on REI rain gear for Sammy since he's outside all the time at City Garden). But when things happen to his clothes, like holes in the knees or even getting too small, I rarely replace them within the same season. I WOULD if either of them cared one tiny bit, but Claire has never been a clothing girl either. And Sammy actually prefers to wear his clothes too small.

But here are my three all wearing clothes that are new-ish. My big sister would be so proud of me.

So, I've done about 2 weeks worth of school with Claire now, and we are figuring out what is working for us and what is not. One thing I implemented was a VERY casual "fine arts" curriculum. I bought this set of 3 cork boards at Staples and put them on the wall in the kitchen.

Each month, I'm just going to teach her one famous artist and one composer. This month I picked Michaelangelo, simply because I found a giant picture book of his art on sale for $5 at Borders. I printed out a short bio of his life, put a picture of him on the board, and we're checking out some books about him at the library.

The composer I chose was Vivaldi. I realize that the best thing to do would be to have our composer and artist be from the same period, but I know so little about art periods that I just decided to jump in and make sure to expose her to someone at this point. I figure if I wait until I get figure out about all the different periods and styles that I'll never start. So this month we're listening to Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons" quite often. And then next month we'll switch. I figure if she is familiar with 9 composers' and 9 artists' work by the end of the school year, it's good enough for me.  

I use another cork board for our ongoing memory verse. This month we're doing Ephesians 6: 10-18 (The Armour of God verse). We just say it together every morning. No real pressure to memorize it, but by the end of a month, she usually knows the passage).
The last cork board is for Claire's Bible illustrations. Right now we are reading through Jesus' parables, so this is her illustration of the "Sower and the seeds". It's also our time for practicing drawing. In this picture we practiced perspective. She had to start over a few times to get the road right. Anyway, this is our little system so far and it's working for us. 

I also made myself start a real science curriculum with her so far. I have a theory on how science should be taught to elementary aged kids, and mainly I like the idea of nature studies, but since Claire likes the idea of experiments so much, I thought I'd add a real science for her sake.

Lesson one from Christian Kids Explore Biology was about the cell. We had to make a model of a cell out of Jello and put random food items inside that resembled parts of a cell (a hard boiled egg was the nucleus).

She loved it! Then we just had to look up what a few of the cell parts do. We only looked up a few (she's seven years old! We're taking this lightly) but she sure thought it was fun. And she'll never forget Golgi Apparatus after making it out of marshmallows. 

Friday, September 17, 2010

2nd Fridays

On the second Friday of each month I get to go out on the town by myself. Matt usually gets to watch my kids and Annabel because I am going to the open house at Bridget and Scott's art gallery, the South Halsted Gallery.

Scott and Bridget are incredible artists. I'm not claiming to understand the meanings of each of the pieces, but I know it's beyond me. Bridget drew this originally as a smaller pen drawing. It's part of a series of 40 drawings that she did starring her little character, "Pinoakio". Then Scott, who used to do comic book art among other things, painted her drawing onto this huge canvas. He did a few more of them as well. And look at this funny blog that he started about our mean neighbor.

My job is usually to stand behind the bar and pass out little Dixie cups of wine. All the galleries on Halsted are open from 6-10 on these second Fridays, so people walk in and out of all of them. Bridget and Scott's is the best though. :)

Here are some of her drawings. If you blow up the picture you can see them better. Of you can check out their website.
And here is a close-up of her Pinoakio. She carved this! I'm soooo not an artist. Artistic people amaze me.

Here's a view of the galleries from the other side of Halsted.

And peeking into a neighbor's gallery.

The streets are full of people. A lot of students from the area, but also other hipster-types. Scott and I have learned to figure out who the true art connoisseurs are and who are the students just coming back in for more wine. We pour them VERY tiny glasses.

This particular night was crazy because the Italian consulate was doing this huge push for Italian tourism and they used every one's galleries to set up these displays about Italy. But they also supplied wine and cheese and sausages for all the gallery owners to hand out. This guy could not be more Italian. And there were hot Italian ladies in tight pants driving around on Vespas all night.

This guy was on the street with a bicycle-powered sewing machine.

He knits sews patches of art for really cheap. It was fun to watch him.

It's a fun night. Scott and Bridget get a little burned out hosting it every month, but I secretly look forward to my grown-up night out. Even if I'm just pouring wine and talking to hipsters.