Thursday, December 8, 2011

Holiday FOODS: Buckeyes and Foolproof Fudge

What are your favorite Christmas foods?

Two must-have desserts for our family are:


1 lb. butter (2 cups)
2 lbs. peanut butter (4 cups)
1 tsp. vanilla
12 cups powdered sugar

2 large bags (12 oz. ea.) melt and mold chocolates

Cream butter and peanut butter. Add vanilla and 4 cups powdered sugar. Divide into 2 parts. Add 4 cups powdered sugar to each part. Shape into balls. Put a toothpick in the center and freeze for 15 minutes to all night.

Melt the melt and mold chocolates in the microwave on low heat, stirring often. Dip frozen balls in this and place on wax paper to set.

Bonnie’s Foolproof Chocolate Fudge
(makes about 1-3/4 pounds)

3 (6-ounce) packages semi-sweet chocolate morsels
1 (14-ounce can Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk (NOT evaporated)
Dash salt
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. chopped nuts (optional)

In heavy saucepan, over low heat, melt morsels with sweetened condensed milk.
Remove from heat; stir in remaining ingredients. Spread evenly into wax
paper-lined 8-inch square pan. Chill 2 hours or until set. Turn fudge onto cu
tting board; peel off paper and cut into squares. Cover and store at room

Peanut Butter (I've never made this variation; since we always have buckeyes, this would probably be peanut butter overkill in addition to those.):
Omit chocolate morsels, vanilla and nuts. In heavy saucepan, melt 1
(12-ounce) package peanut butter flavored chips. Remove from heat; stir in
sweetened condensed milk and dash of salt. Proceed as directed.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thanksgiving ATMOSPHERE

Do you decorate? Do you play special music?

The older girls and I made a cornucopia a couple years ago. It graces our table every year during the month of November. I enjoy it.

As far as music, if you're at our house on or around Thanksgiving, you can expect to hear this song at some point:

I've been a George Winston fan for a long time, but I didn't know about his December album until I was in college, I think. I love it. The first track is the above song. Unfortunately, that is the only Thanksgiving-specific song I know of. Do you know of any?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Thanksgiving FOOD

Movin' right along...

Anyone seeing the Muppet movie when it comes out? I'm hoping it goes to Redbox relatively quickly so I can see it. :)

Movin' right along from THAT...

The holidays.... specifically Thanksgiving.

I have to get a head count, but we anticipate at least 5-10 more people here with our family for Thanksgiving this year. Dare I hope that we can eat in the yard? I won't be able to plan on it, but it would be a nice surprise. I love eating in the yard; it doubles the amount of space we have for people.

If not, we will plan to be cozy and just have to set up a couple extra tables and move some living room furniture around a little bit. No big deal.

So the food....

My plan at this point is pretty traditional: turkey, stuffing (I make mine outside the turkey), green bean casserole, etc. I hope to have our friends who are coming bring a dish they think of as traditional. My must-have is stuffing, and a couple years ago I started making it in muffin tins so everyone gets some of the crispy parts. YUM. One traditional food that we always have but that Ethan and I could live without is turkey. I know, I know... We're just not huge turkey fans, partly because most turkeys we've ever had have been flavorless and way too dried out. The last couple years when I've made turkey I've done as Martha Stewart suggests and taken it out when it is about 5 degrees cooler than it's supposed to be. The meat keeps cooking for 5-10 minutes after you take it out and will be FINE, but it seems wrong. But then when we ate it, it was perfect. So that's what I do now. One odd thing about our family Thanksgiving is that we always have way too many desserts. One year even though the only guests were my parents and one of my brothers, we somehow ended up with four pies. FOUR PIES for five adults and three children (at the time). I still don't know why. My mom's extended family gatherings always have a lot of desserts too, so I think it's a tradition at this point.

What are you having for Thanksgiving dinner? What is a must-have? What's a traditional food that it seems as if EVERYONE else has, but you pass on? And is there anything you think is odd about your family Thanksgivings but that you love regardless? :)

Thanks in advance for sharing!

Monday, October 10, 2011

What being sick taught me (or, I realized when I'm well I have no boundaries)

Every type of "work" I do is the "can do it anytime," 24-7 kind of work. I'm a wife, mother, church member, homeschooler, and doula. None of these require me to do this or that at a certain time of the day or week. The tasks involved--cooking, cleaning, loving, managing, writing curriculum, teaching, attending births, etc.--are in general not time-sensitive as far as when I prepare for them. Granted, there are usually deadlines for when they should be completed, but that is usually the only paramater.

So when I got sick the other day I realized that not everything has to be done yesterday, today, or even this week. Friday I had to turn down a prospective doula client who could not wait longer than last weekend to interview and would not budge on dates. I was going to have to drive pretty far for the interview and could tell I was starting to crash from the illness going around the house. I realized after I got off the phone with her that if my personal boundaries were not important during this part of the process, they would not be considered later either... and while the birth is about the mama, if the doula is not able to *be there* mentally, physically, etc., that is a big deal (or at least should be) to the mama. So I chalk that one up to finally standing up for myself and my boundaries and putting my own health and my family first before my professional life. It felt good.

Then today I had to ask a prospective doula client who has a far-out due date whether we could schedule our meeting/interview for after I return from vacation, fearing that if I tried to cram it in this week, just after being ill and before a trip, that I would be sick on vacation. Boundaries again and all of that. She said that would be great, and I breathed a sigh of relief. I realized that so much of the craziness I experience has more to do with my own feeling that things should already be done rather than anyone else's expectations on me. This sounds so simple, but I'm slow on the uptake.

Boundaries are good things.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Socioeconomic Status in THE HELP

Perhaps it should go without saying, but for those of you who don't know, I am not a black woman. That having been said, I have been unsurprised by and a little disappointed in the depth of the reactions to the theatrical release of The Help.

I have not seen any reactions to the film that have pinpointed the basis of some of the issues depicted in the film as being socioeconomic. That is not to say that there were not racial causes, because there were, but you can bet that the white people who were taking on the same jobs as the black women in the film were treated nearly as badly as the black women. Perhaps they were able to use the toilets in the homes where they worked, but I wouldn't necessarily count on it. (Maybe they could use the guest bath, which would then be sprayed down with Lysol really well so as to erase the traces of "white trash" after the household help went home for the day.) Regardless, I came away from the movie thankful that people who worked in jobs where they were not regarded as worth much of anything were at least depicted as more than caricatures and at most depicted as real live human beings with feelings. While the book does delve a bit more deeply and doesn't seem to have gained the mass criticism that the film has, I'm not going to address the book right now.

Perhaps there is some residual shame for us about the work our grandparents and great-grandparents once did, between not being paid well for it and being mistreated by wealthier people because of it. Regardless, I can only share what it was like in my own family. My four grandparents were all hard-working people who lived and raised families during the 1950s. None of them were college graduates (and only three of the four were high school graduates), and all of them worked at jobs that by today's standards, especially by today's middle-class, college-educated standards, would be considered demeaning. What was considered honest work at that time, even if it was underpaid, is now considered embarrassing. How many of us would be hospital housekeepers? Maintenance men? Assembly line factory workers? Dry cleaning workers? These were jobs that my grandparents held, all while caring for many more children than most people today care to raise. They were rarely paid enough by our standards to justify what we would consider humiliating, menial work, and they had to support large families on those meager incomes.

I know a little about the type of work my grandparents did. The summer after I graduated from college, I was desperate for a job to tide me over until maybe, hopefully, I got a teaching position for the fall. I ended up working as a nanny for a nice, relatively wealthy family and worked more hours than full-time and made less than minimum wage. The job description did not match what I ended up being expected to do, including household tasks and baby-sitting extra children. I had no choice; nothing better had come along. Thankfully, I was treated very nicely; however, I was incredibly embarrassed that THIS was what I was doing with my newly-minted college degree. I ended up using that degree to teach the following fall and again worked more than full-time hours and made less than minimum wage. That is somewhat expected among academics; we are just thankful we don't have to get our hands dirty (much).

I no longer feel ashamed of the work I had to do to get by that summer, and I am thankful for the experiences I had teaching even though they exposed me to attitudes I thought had died out years ago. I cannot tell you that I understand what it would have been like to have had the socioeconomic differences compounded by racist attitudes and social mores, but to ignore the socioeconomic piece in the film is to ignore a whole portion of social jockeying that still goes on today.

Perhaps talking about class makes people uncomfortable, but when, as one parent did at the private school where I would go on to teach, recommended that the school drop our benefits packages in favor of sending us all to a decent but infamous clinic in town since, after all, it was "good enough for [his] immigrant employees," I realized that attaining even a college degree did not guarantee any sort of social standing in our society. It remains to be about money, class, prestige...and yes, race, though your skin color matters little if you're still viewed by the wealthy as just another member of the working class. I don't mean to assert that all wealthy people are mean or uncaring; I have known of many who are kind and benevolent to the people they employ.

My concern about the many negative reactions to the film is that they are borne from a place of shame over socioeconomic issues that at the time affected more than just black women who worked for wealthy white families. They were issues that affected and still affect many people in the working class, who do the "dirty jobs" for everyone else.

Of course, none of this touches on the fact that there is a larger stigma we place on household help than any other work, which probably comes from feminism and the belief that a woman (mother) taking care of a house (including her own children) must be wanting to do something "bigger" with her life than to care for children and a home. That does not mean that some days it does not get monotonous, but there is not a job out there for which that cannot be said at some time or another. Monotony seems to be our lot in life on this earth. These days we have so much fun that sometimes we even find our entertainment boring; perhaps that is a good sign of how spoiled we have become as a society.

I am a member of a local e-mail list for moms where there will frequently be postings about needing a nanny, what to pay a nanny, how to decide on nanny benefits, etc. I am not going to be ridiculous and liken this talk to slavery, but the idea that these mothers think nothing of asking women they do not know and would never associate with outside of this situation to watch their children, imbue values to them, feed them decent meals, coordinate their activities, transport them across town in a large city, and then think they can pay them ridiculously low amounts of money is SAD. I feel for the women who take these jobs and are told that "tax-free money is its own benefit."

These days, at least in this part of the country, it's not poor black women who care for the children of wealthy white women; it's poor Latinas. And in 50 years when a bright young woman--who may not be white--writes about her Latina nanny in a fictional way and ascribes kind motives to her but doesn't play down the racism enough for some people or doesn't play up the racism enough for others, I will not be surprised.

The racial issues in this film are not dealt with deeply, but when was the last time you saw a Hollywood movie that dealt with anything deeply? Perhaps Schindler's List? These days, many of us realize that if we want to see a movie that is deep and provocative and shows us a realistic and/or in-depth way of looking at something, we see the indie films. For someone to see The Help and be disappointed because it did not offer a fully realistic portrayal of racial issues in the 1950s is like someone seeing The Titanic and being disappointed because it did not offer a fully realistic portrayal of nautical engineering. At a certain point we have to realize that one cannot cram into two hours what many of us should be spending multiple days and weeks studying as part of independent research just to be more informed citizens. Especially when a topic is as deep and still as relevant as 1950s racism, this movie is not going to cut it; however, for the person who somehow has had his head in the sand or did not, like I did, realize that the segregated toilets issue affected even household toilets, it can be a way to tell about the issue enough that the viewer's interest is piqued. Further study is his own responsibility. I do not think, however, despite what some reviewers have said, that anyone is going to come away from this movie thinking we should go back to that time period. White people are not portrayed 100% positively and are painted with as broad of a brush as the black women, again despite what reviewers have said. The only white women who are sympathetic to the black women's cause are the goofy Celia and the naïve college graduate (of course, people only learn racism is wrong when they go to COLLEGE, didn't you know that?) Skeeter. Clearly poor women like my grandmothers who did not marry wealthy men must have all been racists. Yet they were not. So even in the depiction of who can be tolerant, the movie falls apart. Yet not a word on this from any of the reviewers--and if you can think of one who touched on this, please let me know.

I have not attempted to tell the story depicted in the film; the merits of it are an entirely different subject. Whether this film was a good film or not, it brought some fascinating issues to the forefront. I agree with the reviewers who have indicated that it is not for a lack of trying that black screenwriters have not had their works put on the big screen. I hope they will keep writing, and I do not believe the success of this film detracts from that at all. Again, Hollywood will produce what Hollywood will produce. Much of it will be vapid, most of it will be superficial, and all of it is made to make money. If you want more than that, stick with the independent films.

Or better yet, read a (non-fiction) book or two about that time.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Large Family Logistics: Diagnosing my Problems

I'm currently working through Large Family Logistics (someone asked me if we have a large family; I said among large homeschooling families, not really; in Ohio, kind of; here, YES! haha). The book would have been great when I just had a toddler or two, though, honestly! There are so many things about being a homemaker that I didn't know and that perhaps most of us from my generation didn't know. Most of us, even if we had chores and such to do when we were home, were at school all day and didn't see the inner workings of a running household. When the author made that point it suddenly made everything make sense. Sure, I knew how to cook and clean. There is so much more to it than that, though, and especially when the kids were really little and couldn't really help with anything I remember feeling like a failure because I could never stay on top of laundry/cleaning/etc. while taking care of them. Things are getting some better because the older ones are able to help, but of course the younger ones are still here able to destroy in a single bound what took all day to complete. We're working on that. :P I have also learned that when everyone (including Dad) uses the house on an hourly, daily basis, the house is not going to look like it's out of a magazine. It's something that drives me crazy, but it's the reality of the situation. Our house is our school, my base for my business, my husband's office for his work, etc., etc., etc. It is not going to look like no one lives here except maybe when we're on vacation and I get it all cleaned ahead of time so we can come home to a picture-perfect house (hahahahahahahaha ha. ha. ha.).

The other main thing I want to try more of is getting the kids more involved in a way where they actually learn how to complete a task, and that I don't just expect them to figure it out (which I now realize is what I've been doing for who knows how long). Thanks to the author for that help! Getting the abstract random portion of me (which is a big one) to be more sequential like my husband's wonderful brain has been an ongoing battle, and this is yet another way. What do you mean the kids don't know exactly what I'm saying the first time I tell them to clean something? Can't they read my mind? Okay, so it's not quite that bad.... ;)

Great book... love the textbook size now that I'm used to it, although when it first came in the mail I thought I had accidentally ordered the large-print edition. :P

Thursday, July 21, 2011


I have my first doula client as of this past week--due in a month or so. Very exciting, a little daunting... I'm feeling great about it, though! I've had a couple other interviews with ladies who haven't made their decisions yet, so I might have one to three more clients sign with me in the next week or two. Considering last week I had one of those moments where I thought surely I was messing all of this up, I think things are going to work out fine. Just keep swimming. :)

The weather here finally feels like summer. After the weird coldness of the spring, we entered summer and have now had a week where I muttered to myself way too much that we should never have bought a house without air conditioning (we might have seen 90 degrees one day, so I'm clearly wimping out), and there was even some humidity that week, which was kind of odd. Now we're back to normal summer weather, highs in the upper 70s and lower 80s max with no humidity. Today is kind of cloudy, but I appreciate cloudy days here where they are not the norm. They make me feel as if I'm in London or something.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


Since the temperature here doesn't vary wildly from week to week and we homeschool (and do school year-round), I guess it's summertime? Weird. I have been wearing fuzzy socks around the house in the mornings and at night. It gets down in the 50s when the sun is not out at night, and since it's not California summertime yet it hasn't been hot consistently yet. It's been very interesting. Summer here is really more like July/August to October, but then some 80-degree days pop up all winter long. Very strange. I know people who live here a long time probably think of this weather as wildly varying, but it's nothing like the midwest. As an example, when we first moved here and Hubs would talk to his dad about the weather, it would go something like this:

Hubs' dad: It's -2 degrees with a 20 below windchill.

Hubs: It's 75 and partly cloudy* here today.

Now when they talk about the weather, it goes something like this:

Hubs' dad: It's 90 degrees here and really humid.

Hubs: It's 75 and sunny here today.

*partly cloudy to people in California means mostly sunny to people (like us) who are more used to Midwestern and specifically Great Lakes, especially northern Ohio, weather

Anywho, we are enjoying it despite the variance. I will probably cry when winter brings no snow, but people tell me all we have to do is go up to the mountains to see some. ;)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

In need of renewal

The kids and I are roughing it this week. The hubs is out of town. No Dad means no stable adult influence (because I am clearly a MESS), no stern voice besides mine which clearly everyone tunes out, and no... well, no Dad.

We are surviving, which is to say that I haven't strung them up by their toenails (yet) and the house is still standing, but beyond that I am spent.

And it's only Tuesday!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Memories of what used to be

We have been so busy that I haven't gotten around to all of those fabulous park reviews I was going to write. What a departure from normal! :)

Since I honestly have nothing exciting that I NEED to share with the greater interwebs--we're doing great here, by the way--I just want to share a sweet thing that happened to me.

My grandma passed away 18 months ago. We were very close. I feel as if I lost a great source of wisdom since her death. I honestly believed at times during my childhood and teen years that she was the only person in the world who loved me unconditionally. Now looking back and as a parent myself, I can see how my parents loved me unconditionally too, but they had to discipline me. Grandma rarely had to do that. She just loved me and we had an awesome relationship. I remember only a couple of times when I felt as if I had really and truly disappointed her, and it was incredibly jarring, nearly as bad as feeling as if I had disappointed God.

Just this morning I was feeling as if I really needed her here so I could ask her some questions about marriage, child-rearing, all of the stuff I feel as if I need way more help on now that I'm married and the children are all here. Back when I first married and first had children, she was there and an incredible resource.

Since I don't have the ability to conjure spirits I sent a dear older lady a note asking her some of the things I would have asked Grandma this morning if I had the chance. Imagine my surprise this evening when I received a sweet note from this friend with a great bit of helpful advice that included her calling me "dear heart." I don't think this is an incredibly common thing to say to/call someone, but Grandma used to call me that. Among other pet names, she used to call me (and probably others in my family, but I'm the one who matters in this story today right here and now ;)) "dear heart" all of the time. Since she was the only one I ever remember calling me that, imagine my surprise at hearing that (well, reading it in this case) again tonight. All I could do when I read the note was sob.

Tonight I will have sweet dreams not only of my dear late grandma but also of the other sweet older ladies who are still here and still founts of wisdom and care, here in my life as gifts from God to help teach me how to be a better wife and mother.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Park Reviews

For those in LA, specifically the westside, I plan to begin reviewing parks for your visiting pleasure. The area has many beautiful parks, but I already have my favorite parts of those we have visited. Thanks in advance for checking out these posts.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

California Science Center--a must-visit!

Last Saturday we went to the California Science Center. Located at Exposition Park, we were able to have a picnic lunch before visiting the museum. Parking was $8. The kids had a blast, and we were grateful for a fun place to spend a Saturday that was relatively cheap (donations for admission).

The museum has exhibits on ecosystems, technology, weather, all sorts of things. I especially enjoyed the "show" on chemical reactions where I learned a few things I should have caught back in high school chemistry class and apparently did not (ahem). ;) We spent a couple of hours at the CSC and didn't see nearly everything, and of course there are many other museums, such as the California African-American Museum and the Natural History Museum, that we hope to visit in the future. The California Science Center and Exposition Park are fun for the whole family!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Funny things about LA #1 and #2

#1. You can walk into a mall, just running a random errand (in our case, buying our youngest daughter's first pair of real shoes ::sniff:: because she took her first steps on Monday!!! ::sniff::), and see a sign that says something along the lines of "Commercial filming here... if you walk beyond this sign it means you have consented to being filmed." Fascinating. My biggest fear as we walked past that sign was that there would be an expose on obesity and I would be filmed. You know how on the news there are always really unflattering shots of headless bodies, camera aimed right at flabby mid-sections? I was really worried I'd be female body #2342987432. Thankfully it didn't seem like that kind of filming, but instead a real movie/sitcom type of scene right in the middle of the mall. Between a couple real kiosks, there was a fake pretzel stand (I know because I ran into the mall for something else last week and didn't see the pretzel stand there) with cameramen and make-up people and screens and all sorts of things around. It was interesting. I wish the kids had been older; we would have stayed to see what was going on a little more closely. Maybe another time...

#2. We have a gardener. Well, more accurately, there is a gardener provided with our rent. This is so odd to me. My husband loves not having to deal with the yard, especially since this type of grass/vegetation is different from anything we've ever had in the Midwest, but it is still odd. Our gardener seems very nice, and I guess it's kind of like in other countries where the economy depends on families even of modest means having nannies, gardeners, maids, cooks, etc. It will just take some getting used to.

Monday, January 17, 2011

We're here!!!

After all of the chaos of packing up our old house, spending the holidays with family, and taking four children under the age of 8 on an airplane, we made it here safe and sound. Since then, the adventures have been no less stressful--a walk-in clinic trip for me for strep, a huge gash on our son's head after he tripped over his feet and ran into a desk at the credit union in the middle of Sony Pictures, of all places.... yeah, exciting stuff, I tell you. We are just thankful to all be here, to be in one piece, and to start our life here in LA.

We love the house we have here! It is smaller than our old house, but we never really needed all of that space anyway. I can see this one actually all being clean at once...someday. ;)

We have already been to the beach once (on Saturday we hit 80 degrees), and between the orange tree in our backyard and the fact that there are restaurants featuring every type of ethnic food imaginable within two miles of our house, we feel incredibly blessed to be here and are excited about the opportunities here.

Back to work... still unpacking. :)