Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Kitchen Reader: A Homemade Life

This month's Kitchen Reader selection, A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table by Molly Wizenberg was selected by Stone Soup's creator, Jules.  (Many, many thanks to Jules for such a wonderful read!)

Before I get to the book, though, I want you to think about the best box of chocolates you've ever eaten in your life.  Do you have it fixed in your mind?  Mine would be, hands down, a selection of Continental chocolates from Thorntons in England. 

After a year of living outside London, I was spoiled by the ability to pick up some Thorntons along with my rail ticket at the train station.  They are not available in the United States.  After I returned home, my mother began an annual tradition of having the largest box available shipped to me for Christmas (her theory in it being the largest box is this: if one was going to pay so much in transatlantic shipping, the value of chocolates purchased ought to exceed the cost of the shipping; I am a lucky girl). 

The conundrum I faced, upon receipt of these precious chocolate gems, was whether to immediately devour as many as my happy stomach could hold, or to ration and savor each one so that they would last as long as possible (once I stretched them all the way to March!).

How, you may well be asking by now, does a box of chocolates have anything to do with A Homemade Life?

Like this: Molly's book is like a box of Thorntons.  Her relatable style hooked me within the first few pages ("When I cook, there's often a lot of cursing . . .But I believe in paying attention to those meals . . . I believe in what they can show me about the place where I live, about the people around me, and about who I want to be.").  And I faced a conundrum: should I devour this book as quickly as possible, or should I limit myself to a chapter per day?  (In the end, as with the Thorntons, there was a little of both.)

Each of the chapters is based around a recipe (several of which I am dying to try) of the variety that is not too daunting to attempt in my very humble kitchen.  Ingredients and technique tips are interwoven with family stories, told with beautiful honesty and irresistible innocence.   A Homemade Life is quite simply witty, easy to read, philosophical, inspirational, and delicious. I cannot recommend it enough!

And the best part is, based on Molly's blog post earlier this month about finishing a manuscript, it sounds like we're in for another installment soon! I'm licking my lips already!

Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links.

Yarn Along: Leap Day

It has been a rough couple of weeks in the Moose house.  I haven't wanted to be a whiner, hence, no posts.  Between some behavior problems (Moose), some mommy confidence problems (Me), another round of the stomach flu (all three of us), and now potty training (all hands on deck!), I consider it a Lenten miracle not only that I have knitting and reading to share, but that I have the time and energy to share it with Ginny's Yarn Along today!

~ Two of my favorite things are knitting and reading, and the evidence of this often shows up in my photographs.  I love seeing what other people are knitting and reading as well. So, what are you knitting or crocheting right now? What are you reading? Take a photo and share it either on your blog or on Flickr. Leave a link below to share your photo with the rest of us! ~

I started a picot-edge baby blanket for a dear friend who is expecting.  The pattern is a variation on the baby washcloth I worked on awhile back, and is knitting up quickly and easily.  I am using Knit Picks's organic Simply Cotton in Haze Heather.  I am absolutely delighted with the color!

One of the things I gave up for Lent is secular reading.  I'm defining the sacrifice rather broadly, however, and allowing myself to read books (and blogs) that are both directly religious or likely to be faith-inspiring or faith-supporting.  I've chosen Lent and Easter Wisdom from G.K. Chesterton as my daily devotional.  I'll admit to being a newcomer to Chesterton, and I enjoy that his writing is accessible while maintaining enough tradition and formality to seem appropriately reverent.  I am also reading Breakfast with the Pope , although more as a preview before sending it to my sister than for myself.

Please come join us at Ginny's and share what is on your needles and off your bookshelf at the moment!

Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Yarn Along: Knitting and Reading in Tandem

Joining Ginny for her wonderful Wednesday Yarn Along:

~ Two of my favorite things are knitting and reading, and the evidence of this often shows up in my photographs.  I love seeing what other people are knitting and reading as well. So, what are you knitting or crocheting right now? What are you reading? Take a photo and share it either on your blog or on Flickr. Leave a link below to share your photo with the rest of us! ~

Thank you for all your kind comments last week on my Mystery Birthday Project.  I am alternating between that project and my Consolation Cowl, which is coming along very nicely! I just love it when you can finally start to see the pattern of an openwork/lacy project taking shape!

I am also alternating between this month's Kitchen Reader selection, A Homemade Life (utterly delightful), and The Temperament God Gave Your Spouse (utterly insightful).

The latter I happened upon at a new-to-me Catholic Bookstore last week.  I'm a bit of a personality junkie to begin with (I've read several books on the MBTI - I am an ENFJ, if anyone is curious), so even though it uses the classical personality types (sanguine, choleric, phlegmatic, and melancholic), it is interesting both intellectually and spiritually.

If you're feeling inspired to share what's on your needles and off your bookshelf, pop on over to Ginny's to join in! 

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Yarn Along: Mystery Birthday Project 2.0

After yarning alone last week, I am delighted to be back where I belong on a Wednesday, Yarning Along with Ginny and friends!

~ Two of my favorite things are knitting and reading, and the evidence of this often shows up in my photographs.  I love seeing what other people are knitting and reading as well. So, what are you knitting or crocheting right now? What are you reading? Take a photo and share it either on your blog or on Flickr. Leave a link below to share your photo with the rest of us! ~

I promise I'm not being sketchy for the sake of being sketchy.  I restarted the Mystery Birthday Project that I mentioned a few weeks ago.  I am half-way done and wanted to share it, but also didn't want to give away the surprise.  Actually, the photo is doubly a tease, since the yarn doesn't look exactly like that - it is more of a heathered teal in real life.

So, why the restart?  I was being realistic with myself.  The original Mystery Birthday Project used fingering weight yarn and US Size 3 needles.  What work I finished looked lovely, but there is no denying that they were going to take forever!  In addition to that project, I have a baby bolero, baby blanket, and mommy-to-be shawl in the queue, so I found a pattern for a similar object that uses worsted weight yarn and US Size 9 needles.  The work so far is lovely and I'm half-done after only four days, so I'm viewing the decision as a win-win rather than a cop out.

After a few weeks of floundering with a Saint with whom I was not connecting, I gave myself permission to go out of order (gasp!) with A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms .  I am enjoying a very fulfilling week with Saint Monica.

Be sure to check out Small Things for more knitting and reading inspiration and tell me what's on your needles at the moment! Ginny is sharing a delightful children's book about knitting today!

Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Moose's Speech

The King's Speech ranks among my favorite movies of all times.  Colin Firth's portrayal of King George VI's struggle with to overcome a lifelong speech impediment is singularly sympathetic, humorous, touching, and regal.

The final scenes see the King preparing for, and then making, a live radio address following the declaration of World War II in 1939. 

We see him practicing with his elocution coach, Lionel Logue (played wonderfully by Geoffrey Rush) 

" 'I send to every household of my . . .' You see, P is always difficult, even when I am singing."

"Bounce onto it.  A-peoples," Logue advises him.

The technique works, and the King's speech is a success.

It seems that the Moose has been taking Logue's advice, despite never having seen the film - to my knowledge.

Moose was whining Saturday night (not unexpected after spending Friday and Saturday convalescing).  He had gotten up from the dinner table and then come back to hover at my feet. 

"Blap," said Moose.

"What is he asking for?" Daddy Moose asked.

I couldn't help but laugh as I explained, "He wants my 'lap' but still has trouble with some words starting with a soft 'L'." 

"He's bouncing on to it."

Monday, February 6, 2012

Some Monday Light Reading


It's Monday.  The Moose spent half the weekend sick, before joyfully bouncing back - and passing it on to me.  So no Tot School post today, and no recipe, either.

However, if you're looking for some good reads about subjects that are not related to last night's Big Game, the Halftime Show, or the commercials, may I recommend the following:

My Moose is as spirited as they come.  I found great comfort (and some good ideas) in this wonderful post on Loving a Wild One over at (in)Courage.

I shamelessly indulge in any bit of trivia about Queen Elizabeth.  Thankfully, there seems like there will be plenty to be had in this, her Diamond Jubilee Year.  These glimpses into her  upbringing, personality and "real" life are a delight if you are similarly inclined.

Speaking of delightful English things, if you've been looking for a way to explain Downton Abbey to your male friends, this should help (thank you, SNL, for this great public service).

And if you're in the mood to spend a few minutes in the kitchen, these recent recipes were a hit (before I was struck down by the Moose's latest daycare ick)!
(And if you do want a little something from last night's festivities - I shan't name the event, lest I be struck down by the NFL - here's my favorite ad; I might be from a GM and Ford family, but these days, my Motor City pride swells to the tune of Chrysler's ads.)

Photo Credit

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Bully for You


This week the blogosphere lit up with condemnation of Susan G. Komen for the Cure's decision to withdraw funding from Planned Parenthood.  A day later, Komen reversed its decision.  (If you somehow missed it, here's a bit of catch-up.)

I am not here to discuss pro-life vs. pro-choice.  And I'm really not here to discuss whether Komen should or should not give funds to Planned Parenthood.

Rather, I am taking to this space (small though its scope may be), on an otherwise quiet Saturday, because there are several aspects of how this all "went down" that trouble me deeply. 

First, how many of the presumably thousands that chimed in (with such furor as to make Komen feel forced to make a u-turn) read the fine print?  One of the main criticisms slung at Komen was that it was abandoning at risk women in need of mammograms.  However, as a blogger I greatly admire explained quite succinctly:  
If your organization provides low-cost mammograms to women who need them, [Komen] will still be available for grants. Planned Parenthood offers manual breast exams in their clinics. It does not offer mammograms onsite. Instead, some Planned Parenthood locations provide grants to women to receive low-cost mammograms at other organizations. Why does Komen need a middle man? Why should Planned Parenthood receive money to give grants for mammograms to other organizations? Komen is wise to give the money directly to the clinics that actually give the breast cancer screenings rather than funneling it through Planned Parenthood (or any other establishment for that matter).

So if Komen's funds to Planned Parenthood were only going to be used for third-party mammogram grants in the first place, the cessation of direct funding to Planned Parenthood should have no negative impact on women in need of low-cost mammograms. 

If we, those who have chosen to take part in social media, are going to comment on the actions of others, don't we have a duty to know all the facts?

Second, if we take out the particular issues involved in this instance, who isn't for more direct stewardship of charitable funds?

One of the proffered reasons in favor of Komen's initial decision to withdraw funding from Planned Parenthood was that some of Komen's pro-life donors were uncomfortable with the fact that their dollars went to support an organization (however indirectly) that performs abortions.  I don't know about you, but I can imagine the conversation between a Komen fundraiser and potential donor:
Komen operator: "We noticed that you made a donation in your mother's memory last year.  Can we count on you for another $100 donation this year?"
Donor: "Well, I'm pro-life, and I want to honor my mother's memory and help find a cure for everyone else affected by breast cancer, but can you guarantee that my money isn't going to support Planned Parenthood?"
Somehow, this type of reluctance from some donors seems to have been spun into a mean-ol'-pro-lifers argument, but if we put the shoe on the other foot, how does it fit?
Health-Condition-Related Charity operator: "We noticed that you made a donation in your father's memory last year.  Can we count on you again this year?"
Donor: "Well, I am an atheist, and want to honor my father's memory and help put an end to this kind of disease, but I've heard that you grant money to support a faith-based addiction support program.  I don't want my money going to churches, can you guarantee that won't happen?"
Should we, as charitable donors, be forced to contribute (even indirectly) to organizations with whom we respectfully disagree in order to support a cause for which we care greatly?

Finally, and this is what has been gnawing at me the most, to what extent do we have the right to tell other private individuals (and private organizations) what to do with their money?

Don't misunderstand me - I am all for free speech.  But, as Thomas Jefferson said, "your freedom ends where my nose begins."

If you're a Komen donor and pro-Planned Parenthood, then, sure, my feeling is that you had standing to express an opinion about Komen's grant practices.  A respectful, reasoned opinion.

There is a line - however gray it may be - between speaking one's mind and bullying.  And nasty, personal attacks (many, I suspect, by people who have no personal stake in Komen's grant practices) and calls to others to do the same cross that gray line.

It is not acceptable for me to walk next door, scream and shake my fist, and bully my neighbor into donating to Save the [Fill in the Wild Animal] Foundation.  I can tell her why I'm passionate about that animal, and I can try to persuade her.

But in the end she should feel like she has a choice whether or not to support that cause.  Regardless of how you feel about Komen, I'll bet they don't feel like they had a choice.  They were blackmailed.  Ransomed. 

And that is bullying.

If this is how a private organization is treated by adults, and the collective example that grown-ups are making for their children, is it any wonder that bullying is becoming more and more of a problem in our schools?

Words are powerful, folks.  If the last twelve months (think Arab Summer and Occupy Wall Street) have taught us anything, it is that.

Let's use them wisely.  Let's think before we speak.  Let's get our facts straight first.  Let's remember to be respectful.

And, ultimately, just like we all want to make our own decisions, let's let others do the same.

Photo Credit

Friday, February 3, 2012

Yarn Alon[e]

Any given Wednesday, you'll find me joining in at Ginny's wonderful Yarn Along.   However, life really interfered with my plans this week.  

As I mentioned last week, Moose is having some (read: lots of) separation anxiety when he is dropped off at school.  This week, he has added to it with sleep disruption and his first cry-out-for-Mommy nightmare.

Needless to say, I am exhausted - emotionally and physically - and this week has just been about meeting his needs and getting by.

When Wednesday dawned, there was not a single new stitch knitted to report.  

Today, the Moose and I are home together (our usual Friday) and while he naps, I am yarning alone instead of yarning along.

No heavy lifting here.  I've started an eyelet cotton washcloth for a friend's newish baby who outgrew the hat I made for him before I could make it to the post office (oops!).  I was also on the hunt for some easy recipes for the coming days in case our sleep quotient doesn't improve: my cooking creativity is directly proportional to my energy level, and right now both are flagging.

Wishing my readers a restful, peaceful weekend!