Wednesday, November 26, 2014


See? I didn't disappear completely.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and I'm hosting again. Well, last year I didn't host, and that was nice. I've got a list of things to do today and tomorrow so that I don't get too worn out. I still have to buy the turkeys since I'm getting fresh and don't have a lot of fridge room. I've made pie crust from scratch after discovering that most store bought has lard (we don't eat pork) and Trader Joe's, who doesn't, was all out. I'm going to make the pies this evening and I've got the cranberry sauce simmering. The table will be extended and the buffet area cleared out, I hope, and the house is looking not too disastrous.
But the most important thing is done- and here's where we leave the cooking and go to Sami. The squeamish should leave us now.
Sami is pretty much potty trained, but he isn't always very good at going certain kind of potty. He's been a little fussy for the last day or two, so it was pretty urgent that we take care of that before tomorrow. I didn't want last minute cooking and guests arriving to be waylaid by a potty using 3-year-old.
The problem was, he got peanut butter stuck to the roof of his mouth, so it was hard to tell what exactly he was fussing about! I managed to get it unstuck, but he wouldn't spit it out of his mouth or swallow it. He did agree to go on the potty and took care of things, but he still has that peanut butter in his mouth, and he won't even be bribed with his favorite cookies to get rid of it. I think it's been about an hour now.
I'm exhausted.

Monday, February 24, 2014


"Hey, Sami. Are you hungry?"
"No, thank you." (He's my politest child.)
Earlier today we were driving around in the car. "Is that a squirrel?" He asks. (Surely he knows it's a squirrel. He used to call them monkeys, but not for a long time, though he now calls the monkey on the mola in the bathroom a squirrel. Hmmm.)
In any case, we watched the monkey squirrel for a while as it ran around the yard, clearly looking for something. Sami thought it was a tree. I said maybe the squirrel was hungry and looking for food. Sami thought he might like a sandwich. A peanut butter one. A little bit later, after we've driven on, he asks me, "Why the squirrel is hungry?" And then he brought up the sandwich again. I think he felt sorry for the squirrel! I told him the squirrel wanted nuts. Or an apple.

Thursday, February 13, 2014



I made the mistake of reminding Sami about the Raccoons on his footie pajamas yesterday. He had been wearing the pjs for a couple of days, having put them on willingly after his Monday night bath. Shortly after, he began pulling at his pajamas. "I don't wear re...." he said. I couldn't understand what he was talking about. I told him his pajamas weren't red. He continued to fuss about it. Then he stopped, but right before dinner, he came back to it. This time I understood what he said, "I don't wear raccoons!" It might have been a ploy just to get naked, because he didn't like it when I put another shirt on him, but I made him wear his clothes because it's just too cold to be running around as God intended. That will have to wait till summer.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

In his head

"I'm Coco," Sami declares. "You're Sami," his brother tells him. "I'm not Sami. I'm Coco," he replies, a little belligerently.
Sami is turning out to have such an imagination. He drives his cars around the house, talking as he goes, apparently creating scenes. Last night in the bath he held the rubber duck up, and said in not quite his voice- "Where's the fish? Oh, there it is." I think the rubber ducky was talking.
Another night, when he hadn't had a bath, I was trying to get his clothes off to put cleans ones on. The pants were easy to get off, but then he said, "No Pants!" and refused to put another pair on.I told him he didn't have to wear pants, and he yelled and carried on about "NO PANTS!!!" It took an age to get his shirt off, and then, again, he wouldn't let me put another one on. "You're naked!" I told him, so he preceded to unhitch his diaper and then he was starkers, except for his little socks. That was lots of fun, apparently, and he ran around enjoying it. I told him he couldn't nurse without a diaper, and finally got one on him. I wrestled him into the shirt, and he was so upset at me. This was after about half an hour of fooling around. I didn't put the pants on him, though, until after he'd gone to sleep.
I told someone that he's hilarious- but for about 5 minutes. Then it gets annoying!
Meanwhile, Leila is rehearsing for the school talent show. She auditioned today and is hoping to get in. Her piano teacher is helping her with the piece, a song from a tv show she likes, which she is singing and playing on the piano. The teacher had her practicing her walk to the piano and her bow ("reverence") as well as the musical part.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Snow Evening

We all went off to school and work this morning, then slowly trickled home as the roads got bad. It was snowing small, dry flakes when I dropped the kids off, and then I drove south of Dallas for a conference. By the time I got to the destination campus and signed in, large, wetter flakes were falling.
I thought the roads would be okay, and Habib decided to work from home rather than sit in traffic for 1.5 hours, so I knew he could pick up Sami at 2- but I didn't want to risk getting caught so far from home, so shortly after 1:00 I headed north. Well, not really north. I decided to go the loop rather than drive straight through the city, where things were snarling up. It wasn't too bad, though a couple of bridges/overpasses were icy. Once I couldn't brake, but hit un-iced road before I hit the car in front of me, and the brakes took. A couple of times I felt myself slide a little.
Habib got home with Sami, and I went off to pick up the bigger kids. They were hoping for enough snow for sledding, but it is unevenly piled in our neighborhood. Apparently we got about an inch.
Evening activities are cancelled, hot chocolate has been drunk, and I'm about to make potato and leek soup and then light the fire.
Funny Sami story- the other night I was opening the doors of one of his cars. He wanted the trunk to open, but it wouldn't. Then he decided it needed a key. I asked him where the key was, and he said "in the kitchen," and headed down to get it. I could just see him losing my car key for him, so I told him the key was inside the car. He looked for it and couldn't see it, of course. Then he sat there, put his head down, and pretended to think, "mmmm." He popped up brightly- "a key!"

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Homemade Nutella

Ali and I are doing some Nutella making. Leila is out of the house for school camp, so it's just the chocolate-loving-boys and me. (Though she loves Chocolate, too. However, you've never seen anyone use Nutella as sparingly as she does on her whole grain toast.)
Why homemade when the store bought is so delicious? At the end of last year I read something about cocoa production that made me lose my taste for certain sources. Apparently, there is a lot of forced labor, child labor, and slavery. The idea of 8-year-old kids (Ali's age!) being sold and sent to another country to harvest cocoa was too much. Here's a link that talks about this. While some large companies are working toward using slave free chocolate, most of them aim for a date pretty far away- like 2020! Meanwhile, I want my chocolate! Since this is literally putting my money where my mouth is, (or my chocolate where my mouth is) I'm doing my best to find fair trade* sources.  Costco says that it's chocolate is from sustainable, slave free farms, so I buy their brand of chocolate chips. At Trader Joe's I found single source cocoa from Colombia, which, while perhaps not free trade, is not where the abusive slavery practices have been documented. (Also, I love to buy products from Colombia and support growers there. Most of my coffee is from there, partly because of that, but also because I just like the taste. Sometimes my dad brings me coffee from Guatemala, too, which I drink with gusto.) I then ordered hazelnuts online from Amazon- that was probably unethical, but right now I'm not focusing on boycotting businesses that are putting other businesses out of business, so maybe that's okay.(?)
If you are trying to go fair trade, too, there are lots of companies that make an effort to buy from sustainable farms where the labor force is well paid. One that I like is Divine Chocolates, which sell through Serrv, and also at Whole Foods. UnReal candy also says that they use fair trade chocolate. Another option is organic chocolate, because apparently farms with an organic label have more oversight. Nestle says that it's KitKat bars are fair trade chocolate (maybe just available in Europe?) but when I googled this, their track record on other things kind of makes that a suspect marketing ploy.
*I'm using the term "fair trade" to cover a multitude of non-sins- slave free being the primary one.
The Nutella is good- not too sweet, but Ali says he likes it. The hazelnut flavor comes through well. It's a bit grainy, especially because I used regular sugar instead of powdered- Ali okayed it. There's a hint of cocoa, but a whole lot of chocolate chips in this. Not as healthy as the Nutella commercial wants us to think. It's quite thin so I'm keeping it in the fridge instead of outside. I think it will work well on toast, but I hope it doesn't get too firm in the fridge.

Ali kept calling it NUT-ella yesterday. So that's what I wrote here.

Homemade enchilada sauce

In my attempt to make lower sodium meals, I've discovered homemade enchilada sauce. It's easy and I usually have all the ingredients on hand. I've just filled a pan full to simmer for a while before I throw it together with some corn tortillas in my fridge, some chicken breasts baked up early in the week, and shredded zucchini because I don't have any broccoli, which is what I usually use.
I've riffed on the recipe from kitchenmeetsgirl, substituting a can of diced tomatoes which I ran through the blender and a spoonful of "Better than Bouillon" and a cup of water for the broth. I left out the salt since the "BTB" has enough, and I didn't put quite as much chili powder since I don't like mine too hot. Also, I doubled the recipe because I usually end up making a couple pans and running out of sauce halfway through.
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  1. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add diced onion and cook until just browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, chili powder, cumin, salt and oregano and cook for about 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Sauteing your spices for a few seconds will give your sauce a fuller flavor.
  2. Add in the tomato sauce and chicken stock. Bring mixture to a simmer and cook for approximately 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Remove from heat, and strain mixture through a fine mesh strainer, pressing on the onion to extract the sauce. If I am making enchiladas or something similar, I'll add the reserved onions to my filling. You may discard the onion if you wish.
  4. Keep refrigerated for up to one week. Makes approximately 2 cups.
adapted from Cook's Illustrated Cookbook

Since I haven't eaten the enchiladas yet, I don't know for sure how it's going to taste, but so far it looks good. Now on to the next homemade thing.