Saturday Cooking

What To Do With Watermelon: Saturday Cooking, It Is Hot Edition

It’s June. It’s 100 degrees. You walk in from the sweltering parking lot to the coolness of your local grocery store. You were only in the car for three minutes, but your back is sweaty, your flip flops are like hot tin shingles on your feet, and you wish to plunge your entire self into a mountain river. You grab a cart, pull out your list, and suddenly stop. Because there, right in front of you, practically blocking the whole produce aisle, is a giant cardboard box brimming over with ripe, juicy watermelons. You think, “Mmmm, what could be better than watermelon today?” Nothing. Absolutely nothing. It’s $6.99 per watermelon, so you pick the biggest one you can find and heave-ho it into your cart. You take it home, get out your biggest knife, slice into it, and eat it. For three days. And then you still have half of it left. Your family will have nothing more to do with it. You even take it to a cookout; you and three other women bring watermelon to the cookout.

Let’s face it: watermelons are just too big. They are tempting and delicious and bring summer to our mouths, but they are huge. So what do you do with all that leftover watermelon? Here are my discoveries from the last two weeks.

First, put on some music. Then, chop up all that watermelon into chunks and get rid of the seeds. Next, find a good watermelon popsicle recipe. I used this recipe and it was delicious. I didn’t have the light corn syrup it called for, so I used honey instead. Also, I only used 2 Tablespoons of sugar instead of the six it called for, because good grief, people, it’s already sweet. My husband said he didn’t enjoy the slight honey flavor, but my son and I loved the taste. My daughter isn’t a big watermelon fan, so I just discounted her vote entirely. I think next time I’ll substitute lime juice for lemon juice just because I like the lime flavor better. Also, the recipe could do with more strawberries. But that’s my philosophy on life in general.

Next, you’ll probably still have some watermelon left over after you make your popsicles. Making sure it’s all de-seeded, throw it in the food processor or blender pulse it a few times. Then, pour your pureed watermelon into an ice cube tray or two. Cover them with plastic wrap, stick them in the freezer, and pull out as many as you need at a time to make fruit smoothies on those hot summer days when the thought of actual food is unbearable. (Note: make sure you add some yogurt to your smoothie, or you’ll be hungry within minutes of consuming it).

Finally, if you still have watermelon, dice it up even smaller than you did before and sprinkle it with a tiny bit of sugar. Put it in an airtight container and the next time you hear that guilty voice in your mind saying “You should really be buying plain Greek yogurt instead of that sweetened stuff,” you can say, “Yes, you’re right!” Then you can go home and mix your sweet watermelon and watermelon juice (thank you, tiny bit of sugar) into your yogurt and you actually enjoy that yogurt. Can you tell I’m not a big fan of Greek yogurt? But I know it’s extra good for me, so I put in smoothies and other stuff whenever I can bring myself to buy it at the store. Seriously, the watermelon helps.

There are also lots of recipes for Watermelon Gazpacho/Cold Soup out there. I am not very fond of foods that have no crunch or chew to them (exception: ice cream), so that watermelon food idea doesn’t appeal to me. But if you find a good recipe for it, let me know; I might be brave enough to try it!

So, now you can go to the grocery store and wrangle that watermelon into your shopping cart with the peace of mind that you will actually use the entire thing. Pick one up for me while you’re at it.


The Daring Ladies of Lowell Review

I am a fan of Kate Alcott. I’m afraid I was predisposed to be a fan because of her last name…but I’m pretty sure there’s more to it than that. Her first book, The Dressmaker, is one of the most enjoyable historical fiction novels I’ve read as an adult. As soon as I noticed Alcott had a new book out, I snatched it up.

The Daring Ladies of Lowell The Daring Ladies of Lowelltells the story of several factory girls in the 1830s. Alice Barrow, the main character, comes to Lowell, Massachusetts to make a new life for herself. She joins many girls who are part of this shiny, new industry. Reading about their boarding house camaraderie reminded me of Little Women. As Alice lives and works longer in Lowell, however, she becomes aware of the troubles rising between the mill owners, The Fiskes, and the workers. Not only that, but she becomes entangled with the Fiske family in a way she never would have expected.

I have to admit that Alcott’s strength is in her story telling and her characters. The writing in this book and some of the plot developments seems a little trite at times. This is especially true when it comes to the romantic parts…”he couldn’t help but notice her hair…” yes, that’s going to get an eye roll. But I enjoyed the story, and the fact that much of the plot is based on actual events in Lowell. I appreciate a writer who does her research.  And there were some glimpses of brilliance in Alcott’s wording at times -playing on words related to the textile industry, such as weaving and threads.  Once again, I appreciate how Alcott has put out another book without feeling the need to include any sex scenes. Can you call it a scene if it’s in a book? Well, you know what I mean.

Also, this book is a modern American counterpart to one of my favorite classics, North and South. Written by Elizabeth Gaskell, it centers on the industrial revolution in England and the strikes between workers and owners. There is romance, a strong heroine, tragedies…besides the writing styles being from different eras, North and South and The Daring Ladies of Lowell are like international twins.  I prefer Gaskell’s  genre (Victorian British Lit) to almost any other, but The Daring Ladies of Lowell is a great literature companion in the topic of industrial revolution. I’d give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.Put The Daring Ladies of Lowell on your TBR list if you like historical fiction and are in the mood for a light read.

Children's Books

Mice and Rats We Actually Like- Rodent Children’s Books

You know what grown ups don’t like? Mice and rats. You know what children love to read about? Mice and rats. There’s a definite disconnect there, but we just ignore it as much as possible. The hugely popular If You Give A Mouse A Cookie is proof of that.

One of these rodent books is actually treasured in my family. In fact, it has recently been read aloud at a family gathering, to a 883055group of adults, just to make sure the whole family and all its additions appreciate its greatness. Yes, that’s the kind of awesome family I married into. =) And when we borrowed the treasured book and it met with an accident and some Scotch tape, we called and apologized because it is that beloved. Hooway for Wodney Wat is a book about a pitiful little rodent who can’t say his ‘r’s. As a result, he is shy and hides in his jacket as often as possible. He deals with some mild teasing and it looks like he’s doomed to be at the bottom of the rodent chain forever. But when a new bully comes to class who makes everyone miserable, Rodney’s stutter takes a turn from curse to blessing. Read it to your kids and cheer for the underdog…err, rat, and make sure to talk about how it feels to both be bullied and be the bully.

The kids and I stumbled upon the sequel to Hooway for Wodney Wat last week at the library. We had no Wodney Wat's Wobotidea it existed and I can’t tell you how excited my children were to show their daddy. The story line in Wodney Wat’s Wobot is pretty similar to the first book, but it goes a step further in the bullying theme to address how changing whatever it is about yourself that people like to make fun doesn’t really fix any problems. Wodney’s Wobot is supposed to allow him to say his ‘rs without any trouble, but it’s when it stops working that Wodney becomes a hero again.

1997712We’ve also been reading lots of Angelina Ballerina, specifically Angelina’s BirthdayThe original books illustrated by Helen Craig are beautiful. I have to say, Angelina ends up in tears a little more often than I enjoy, but thanks to my own five-year-old daughter, I’m beginning to understand that tears are more of a daily thing than I anticipated when I started mothering a girl. But that’s a whole new post for another day. What I love most about Angelina is that she always figures things out in the end and the illustrations are so detailed. In Angelina’s Birthday, there is a two-page illustration of Mrs. Thimble’s General Store that has so many details, it’s mesmerizing to me. Interestingly enough, my 3-year-old son appreciates Angelina Ballerina as well. Life with sisters, I guess. =)

Those are our favorite mice and rat books these days. Do you or your children have any rodent reads they love?

Everyday Life

The Final “May I Tell The Truth” Post…in June

I think it’s safe to say that I started the month of May in a bad place when it came to my housekeeping mindset. I was unmotivated and tired. I wanted to write about my struggles in the hopes that some others of you would be encouraged to be honest about what our everyday houses look like. I hope I’ll always laugh at the day when three- THREE – people on blogs I follow (and I only follow a few) complained about the dust bunnies in their house, and it set me off on a whole blog series about how we’re all liars if dust bunnies are our biggest housekeeping problem. It was kind of a low for me in wife and mother self esteem. But seriously, the Pinterest generation I live in is hard on us all.

The result of all of this thinking about how I keep my house has surprised me, though. I thought I would come to a place where I could laugh at my shortcomings and commiserate with others. While that’s sort of been the case, the  truth is I’ve wanted to improve more than I ever have before. I’ve realized that my problem wasn’t inability, but just plain being unmotivated. I realized this when I was telling someone “Congratulations on graduating from college!” Maybe a weird time to think about housecleaning? Well here’s my final “May I Tell The Truth?” moment on the blog: I am straight up jealous of students.

Students get grades. I love getting grades.

Students have assignments. Please, give me a concrete assignment.

Students get GPAs. ::insert sigh of longing::

Housework ecardYou know what full time moms get? No measurable feedback. Not that I am bemoaning the fact that no one tells me “you’re doing great work!” Because people certainly do. I have encouraging people in my life, as I hope all moms do.

But what I want to tell graduates is “Congratulations, you’ve graduated! Get used to never having any definite gauge of personal success again.”

In our society, we get a lot of mileage out of tests, exams, what have you, when it comes to motivating kids ages 5-22, and then it’s time for everyone to just innately know when we’re doing a good job. Of course, there are the reviews if you’re in that kind of work position, or the raises and promotions and things like that. But even then, how many of us raised in this society are able to step back and independently evaluate what we’re doing with our efforts? We’re not trained to do that. We have tests for that. And I like academic tests! Love them. What I don’t appreciate is areas where it’s more of a pass/fail endeavor, and your work is only noticed when you’re failing. That’s the nature of housekeeping.

Is any of this a good excuse to do a poor job in endeavors without measures? No, of course not. Just because no one is going to give me an A+ or C- on the state of my floors doesn’t mean I should become apathetic about how I take care of what I’m entrusted with. As I’ve recovered from that apathy a little over the past month, I’ve wondered, “where has my work ethic and pride in what I put my hands to been?” The discovery I made through my honest month of May was that my house actually does reflect my state of mind. That is not true for everyone! But it is true for me. So when my house gets chaotic and cluttery, dusty and grimy…well, watch out family, my brain is on the crazy side. Or I’m just exhausted, and my work ethic is gone for the time being.

The past month or so has been one of many improvements. I’ve realized that I do actually care about the state of my house. The fact that three mentions of dust bunny problems made me laugh psychotically was not a reflection on the dishonesty of the writers. It was a reflection of how far I had sunk in my housework mentality. Please note: I still don’t really care about dust bunnies. But I do care enough to wipe off the table after every meal. I do care enough to keep the bathrooms clean, not just tidy. And that’s a movement in the right direction. There’s a new baby coming in four-ish weeks and my house will get very messy for a few weeks after that (or months). It just will. But it will get better and I will refuse to dwell in “a house that appears to be at the bottom of a toaster.”  There are times when housekeeping takes a back seat. A back seat in a school bus. In fact, it should always kind of be in a back seat, right? But it should still be on the bus. So there’s what I’ve learned in May/June.

So while my tendency is still this:

Ecards | Library book deadline takes priority over housework

…I’m working on it, and enjoying my cleaner home. I really do have to finish that library book, though…


Saturday Cooking

Saturday Cooking, Edition 5

I like cookbooks. I know that the convenience of online recipes is staggeringly in favor of never opening a real cook book again, but photo (14)I still have a shelf full of them. The fact that I am not a foodie is something my husband discovered PWD (post wedding day) and he is still getting over his disappointment. No, not really. But it is a distinct difference between us. I have come a long way in the cooking realm, but I don’t view dinner time as this wonderful opportunity to make something new and breathtakingly delicious. On his part, he’s come a long way in appreciating the fine qualities of granola. Because I don’t have ideas for dinner just fly into my head at random, I like to have a physical book to flip through and follow. I have to admit, though, I use as much as anyone. So here are two cookbooks and two online recipes to whet your appetite and maybe give you a few menu ideas for the summer months:

The Cookbooks:

Grilling, Williams-Sonoma Collection: the recipes for grilled potatoes, grilled pizza, and hamburgers are stellar. Especially the grilled pizza one–that herb crust is delicious!

Monday to Friday Cookbook: My MOPS group had the privilege of having a guest speaker who both loves food and understands the crazy busyness of life. She shared some recipes and also told us about this cookbook. It has so many great ideas for quick meals! I have this on my “to buy” list, but for now, the library copy is great.

Williams-Sonoma Collection: Grilling Monday-To-Friday Cookbook


The online recipes:

Baked Pesto ChickenBaked Pesto Chicken: The other day I planned on leftovers for dinner but found out my husband was coming home instead of working late at the last minute. He had already had leftovers for lunch, so it was time to think of a plan B fast. I opened the fridge and for once in my life, saw a potential meal instead of a bunch of food items. If you have chicken, a jar of pesto, parmesan or mozarella cheese, you can make this main dish in minutes. It’s supposed to be low carb recipe, but I served it over pasta. I really love carbs. My kids still ate leftovers because “that chicken is green!” but my husband and I have added it to our top 20 recipe list.

Strawberry BreadStrawberry Bread Recipe: This is what you do when you go strawberry picking and your eyes are bigger than a strawberry’s expiration date. I made it with frozen sliced berries as well as fresh berries, and it was great both times. (Thanks, Janice, for introducing me to this now staple of spring baking in our house!)

Cooked anything good recently? Share it with me in the comments!

More bookish cooking here!

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