Thursday, December 22, 2016

Homemade Laundry Soap

I've been using homemade laundry soap for many years now, a gel variety that's worked well even with messy children's clothing. I found this recipe for powdered homemade laundry soap that I'm trying now, from Wellness Mama. It's a little simpler to make, which is nice. It only took me about 20 minutes or so to make. The hardest part is grating the soap, but next time I'll try using the food processor for that, which would make the soap very quick.

 You only need three ingredients for this recipe, and they are all very cheap: borax, washing soda, and a bar of soap. The finished product is so pretty, and looks great in a nice glass jar. I'm thinking I'll make this as Christmas gifts next year!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Guilty Pleasures

As a voracious reader, I tend to take pride in the fact that I don't read much "fluff." I generally read a lot of contemporary novels that would be considered "literary," and I also enjoy nonfiction books on important topics like how the Internet effects us as a culture and biographies about important historical figures. However, I also have my guilty pleasures! These pleasures include, just from my reading this year:

Star Trek books written using the characters from the original series: Spock, Kirk, McCoy, etc.

Fluff biographies on pop culture celebrities I find interesting, like this:

 Chick lit (often in audiobook format):

And also, magazines. Lots and lots of women's magazines, passed down to me from my mother after she reads them. I especially enjoy magazines with recipes that I can tear out, and I've also been getting obsessed with Pinterest, which seems like an infinite magazine to me. When I'm feeling weary and/or overwhelmed by the world, the mindlessness of a magazine is just the thing!

Fellow readers, what are you guilty pleasures?

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Swedish Meatballs

In my quest to try a new recipe each week, I made these Swedish Meatballs. I'd been wanting to try making Swedish meatballs for years, but for some reason thought the process would be intimidating. Actually it was very easy!

After mixing in a bunch of yummy herbs and spices, and Panko breadcrumbs into the meat, you cook the meatballs in a skillet, which makes the cooking process pretty fast. I used grass fed beef. If you make smaller meatballs than I did, they'd be even faster to cook.

The meatballs were delicious! The sauce made a large amount, so next time I would use two pounds of ground beef instead of one. I served them with ligonberry jam I had bought at Ikea.

Click here for the recipe, from The Recipe Critic.

Monday, December 12, 2016

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

As the semester has slowed down for me and is almost over, I've been reading a lot. In fact, I have surpassed my goal for the year of 82 books, and have now read 87 books. Since each year I challenge myself to read more than the year before, it's going to be difficult to beat that next year!

Last week I finished five books!
  • America the Anxious: How Our Pursuit of Happiness is Creating a Nation of Nervous Wrecks, by Ruth Whippman
  • The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce
  • The Cyber Effect, by Mary Aiken
  • The Magnolia Story, by Chip and Joanna Gaines
  • Paris for One and Other Stories, by JoJo Moyes (audiobook)
My favorite book of last week was America the Anxious. I love cultural criticism (probably due to my undergraduate major in sociology), and this is a good one. The writing and the research are both solid, but this book is different from most of this type because it's also funny. The writer has a great sense of humor, and I love the way she combines her personal experience with the research she does. So the book isn't dry at all, which makes it more accessible and interesting for the average reader. I highly recommend it.

This week I've started several books: a novel called The Other Side of the World, by Stephanie Bishop, and two books of nonfiction, The Making of Home: The 500-Year Story of How Our Houses Became Homes, by Judith Flanders and Libertarians on the Prairie: Laura Ingalls Wilder, Rose Wilder Lane, and the Making of the Little House Books, by Christine Woodside. This Little House book is so gripping so far, I can hardly put it down!

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Thursday, December 8, 2016

Too Many Recipes

I love collecting recipes, but I'm starting to realize I have way too many and will never be able to try them all. Before the Internet, I collected cookbooks, many of which I've given away at this point. I can't bear to part with all of them, though, as you can see. Anyone else have this problem?

I love cooking, and I love books, so it's hard to give up my cookbook collection completely. I've also got an addiction to magazines, and every time I come across a recipe in a magazine that looks good, I tear it out. A couple years ago I started pasting these recipes into a journal so that I could browse them like I would a cookbook. It's so much fun, but wow, I've got a lot of recipes. Two large journals full.

Plus the cookbooks, plus the recipes on Pinterest that I've saved. Plus, really, the entire Internet. So even though I know I can't make all the recipes, I'm setting a goal of trying at least one new recipe a week. This week I paged through my breadmaker cookbook and found a recipe for Sally Lunn bread that I had never made before. (You can find it all over the Internet if you google it.) 

As a sort-of homesteader, I keep wondering, are breadmakers cheating? I don't think so. The bread is still homemade, right? I guess I call myself a sort-of homesteader because I'm trying to do as many homemade and earth-friendly type things as I can manage, but I will most likely never be off grid or own my own cows. I make my own dishwasher soap, and I have done things in the past such as make my own butter and ketchup. Next spring/summer I plan to get started growing fruits and vegetables at the house I moved into a few months ago.

In any case, the bread was delicious, slathered with (not homemade) butter!

Monday, December 5, 2016

It's Monday, What Are Your Reading?

Last week I gave up on two books: A Broken Hallelujah, by Liel Leibovitz and Patient H.M.: The Story of Memory, Madness, and Family Secrets, by Luke Dittrich. They are both good books, but I think I'd like A Broken Hallelujah better if I was more familiar with Leonard Cohen and his music. And Patient H.M. turn out to be too technical for me. I found myself skipping through the technical parts, but then I would lose the thread of the narrative.

Still reading The Cyber Effect this week, which is not too technical -- it's rather scary, because I worry about the effect of the Internet on my children -- but also very interesting. My kids and I started the final Harry Potter book on audio, and I'm also reading The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce (novel), The Magnolia Story: Chip and Joanna Gaines (the stars of my favorite HGTV show), and 1-2-3 Magic Teen, by Thomas Phelan. I loved the 1-2-3 Magic book when I had young children: it's a very practical, useful book about disciplining children and the methods in it worked great for me, so I thought I'd try Phelan's book about teenagers as well. My 16 year old daughter has decided to read it also, so that should be interesting. I also started a book called America the Anxious, by Ruth Whippman. Once again, I've started too many nonfiction books all at once, so we'll see which ones I stick with!

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Thursday, December 1, 2016

What's In Your Bookstore?

Every summer I take my children to Petoskey, Michigan for vacation, a place overflowing with fun activities for kids: mini-golf, beaches, specialty toy shops, and the best pancake restaurant we’ve ever found. There’s even a large, indoor water park nearby. However, the one thing my children say we MUST DO, and we MUST DO IMMEDIATELY is visit McLean and Eakin Booksellers. I don’t complain, since the place is my favorite bookstore too. It has everything my ideal bookstore would have if I were to ever design one myself, (which is every book lover’s dream, right?). Here are my six must-haves:
1.     It’s not a huge place, but it’s curated. The books on display look so good, I want to read all of them! And I have read many of them. One of my favorite activities is to point out the recent books I’ve already read and those that are on my TBR list. I also like to discover authors I know personally (do Facebook friends count, even those I haven’t met in real life?): I know that author, and that author, and hey, why isn’t my new book here? The day that happens, I’ll know I’ve made it as a writer.
2.     I can’t get my children to leave the store. The children and teen sections are just as carefully curated, and my kids often find books they haven’t seen at other bookstores. Somehow, the store even understands my ten-year-old son’s obsession with Garfield and Calvin and Hobbes. The kid’s section is cute, too. The adorable displays and shelves of new picture books almost make me want to have another baby. Almost, but not quite.
3.     Speaking of cute decorations, I am not a purist. I love bookstores that are full of cuteness and distractions from the books themselves. Expansion decks for Cards Against Humanity, bookmarks, puzzles, gold-trimmed journals, tiny humorous books about mother in laws, trashy magazines, even records! The displays and quirky items selected by the bookstore only heighten my enjoyment of the experience.
4.     And how about places to sit? There’s a long bench right in front of the fiction new releases so that I can sit down and read the first several pages of some of those books on my TBR list. I’ve seen online that the books have gorgeous covers, but now I can see whether the insides lives up to the outsides. Unless, of course, there are already five people sitting on the bench, which there often are at McLean and Eakin. Which brings me to my next point.
5.     The place is always packed! Now you would think book lovers wouldn’t necessarily want to be squished up together with a bunch of people, but book people are a unique sort of crowd, which you know if you’ve ever attended a large book fair. Things are relatively quiet and peaceful, with an “excuse me please,” now and then as you reach for a book that someone is blocking. Also, with all the gloom and doom about the end of reading and the looming bookpocalypse, I’m always thrilled to see a bookstore doing a booming business.
6.     Okay, that was too much rhyming in that last sentence, so I’ll leave you with this final characteristic of what my favorite bookstore must contain: salespeople who read. When my daughter buys the recent trendy futuristic teen book, the girl behind the counter inevitably asks her whether she’s read so-and-so’s other book or whether she’s familiar with this other author who writes similar books.
When you visit McLean and Eakin (or your own favorite bookstore), good luck getting your children and yourself out of there in under two hours. The only downside to your visit will be, you’ll leave with a lot less money for visits to the Original House of Pancakes. Looks like you’ll be making your own pancakes this week!