Monday, February 28, 2005
Done and Done

It's been a really busy week and today I am done. It feels good.

I have a web-based business and I had five clients sign up this last week. I usually sign up about one a month, so I was feeling the pressure.

If being done with that weren't good enough, my bathrooms are clean, the floors are swept, the beds are all made, the dishes done and all of the rooms picked up. Sure, dust is slowly settling, crumbs are being dropped and everything will have to be done all over again. But right now I have nothing to do but blog about being done.
posted by lochan | link
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Saturday, February 26, 2005
Readings on the Holocaust

The stories of the Holocaust survivors are haunting. There is something about a firsthand account of someone who has gone through something so horrific and survived. The random luck that saves them and not the others and the guilt that comes from being one of the lucky ones.

Still Alive
Still Alive: A Holocaust Childhood Remembered by Ruth Kluger
"Instead of God I believe in ghosts"

This was a very different memoir than the others I've read. I think because the author is a writer and her story doesn't have the direct simplicity of someone just telling their story of survival. She is more abstract and more analytical. Her story has a sharper edge. That doesn't make it better or worse, but it gave me a different perspective.

Ruth Kluger grew up in Vienna and did not have an idyllic childhood. Her parents and relatives vacillated between petty and brutal behavior. The fact of their horrific deaths doesn't soften her memories of them.

Ruth's father escapes to Italy and the women are left alone. Ruth's mother has a chance to send her on a kindertransport and does not take it. They are sent to Terezin, Auschwitz, and Gross-Rosen. Her unflinching accounts of the hunger, brutality and banality of these camps allows you to sense the reality of that existence.

Stories of the Kindertransport
Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport
"I knew I could not save the world. I knew I could not stop the war from starting. But I knew I could save one human life."

Between 1938 and 1939 thousands of children from Germany, Poland, Austria and Czechoslovakia were sent to Great Britain. This is the story of different survivors' experience on the kindertransport. The perspective of parents and rescuers are also included.

One of the most haunting accounts is of a girl whose father put her on the train and then as it was leaving, pulled her out of the window. In the end, he couldn't bear to let her go. This decision, which any parent could identify with, almost cost the girl her life. She did survive, but she was sent to a concentration camp and at the end of the war was near death and weighed only 60 pounds.

These are moving and troubling stories. To give up a child, to be given up, is traumatic. The homes the children went to were not always safe havens. But, the choices made helped these children survive.

Justice At Dachau
Justice at Dachau: The Trials of an American Prosecutor by Joshua Greene

William Denson was an attorney who prosecuted the Nazis who committed crimes at Dachau, Mauthausen, Flossenburg, and Buchenwald concentration camps. He spent two years (1946-1948) at Dachau. This is the story of his struggle, highlights of the cases, and the aftermath in which several sentences were lightened.

I almost quit reading this one several times. This book was such a mental assault, I simply didn't know if I could digest it all, or if I wanted to. Up to this point, I had been reading single accounts and to suddenly have multiple stories thrown at me was difficult. These accounts were the worst of the worst, the ones that truly stood out among all the atrocities committed. Reading something that gave the larger picture, and looked at the individual Nazis' culpability was worthwhile in the end.

The Pianist
The Pianist by Wladyslaw Szpilman
"I will never forgive myself that I was unable to do anything to save them..."

This is an incredibly moving account of a Polish man's survival in the Warsaw ghetto from 1939-1945. We see the random acts, the brief glimpses of humanity, that save him from the gas chamber and from starvation.

The most touching moment in the book is when he realizes that his sister is dead, and he never really knew her. Now, he will never have a chance.

The book and the movie are excellent. The movie is especially poignant when you realize the reality behind the story.

Edith's Story
Edith's Story: The True Story of a Young Girl's Courage and Survival During World War II by Edith Velmans
"I never realized that there could be such suffering in the world, and that anyone could live through it."
- Excerpt from Edith's diary, July 1, 1945

This is the story of a carefree childhood interrupted by war. Edith grew up in Holland in a warm and loving family. She kept a diary during these years and the book alternates between diary entries, family letters and her own recollections as an adult. Having both her teenage perspective and her adult perspective gives us a truer picture of this time.

She is 14 when the Germans invade Holland and we see the slow disintegration of her life. At 16, Edith leaves her family, changes her identity and hides with a Christian family.

This is a moving story. Like all Holocaust memoirs, it is a story of loss and death. It is also a story of courage and humanity.

All But My Life
All But My Life by Gerda Weissmann Klein
"Ilse, a childhood friend of mine, once found a raspberry in the concentration camp and carried it in her pocket all day to present to me that night on a leaf. Imagine a world in which your entire possession is one raspberry and you give it to your friend."

Gerda Weissman grew up in Poland and her childhood recollections mirror Edith Velmans' in many ways. She has a loving, close family. Again we see the disintegration of normal life as her family is torn apart.

Gerda is deported and sent to various work camps and concentration camps. In the midst of Nazi cruelty and brutal working conditions she forms close friendships. The fact that she is one of the lucky ones is staggering. These chance moments where she is picked to work instead of die seem incredible, but you realize that without incredible luck, a Polish Jew would die.

This book was devastating and absolutely riveting.

In My Hands
In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer by Irene Gut Opdyke
"There was a bird flushed up from the wheat fields, disappearing in a blur of wings against the sun, and then a gunshot and it fell to the earth. But it was not a bird. It was not a bird, and it was not in a wheat field, but you can't understand what it was yet."

When I understood what the bird was, it was one of the most chilling things that I have read.

This is the story of a Catholic girl in Poland. In 1939 when Poland is invaded, she is 16 years old and training to be a nurse. Like Poland itself, she is brutalized by Russians and Germans.

Despite her own hardships, she is not blind to what is happening to the Jews. She manages to escape the slow death of a work camp because of her pretty face and her ability to speak German. She is placed as a servant in a Nazi officers' club.

She sees the murder of Jews in the ghetto and decides to help. The most touching chapter in the book is when she fills a box with food (including potato peelings from the trash) and shoves it under a fence that leads to the ghetto. The next day the box is empty and she replaces it with a new box. It's just a drop in the ocean, but she feels she has to start somewhere. This is the beginning of a path that leads to hiding Jews and an incredible story of luck and courage.

Why did she risk her own life to help? When so many others refused, why she did she choose to see?

Reading these books reminds me that real people survived and real people died. These aren't good vs. evil narratives concocted by storytellers to give us convenient heros and devils. Real heros are imperfect people who are able to look beyond their own survival to help someone else. Real devils are imperfect people who allow themselves to be numb to the pain they inflict. This numbness led to the murder of six million people and it is beyond comprehension. But, we need to try.
posted by lochan | link
1 comments and fresh takes

Friday, February 25, 2005
a-ha moments

We've had some great moments in homeschooling this week. In Latin, we found out all the adjective endings are the same 1st and 2nd Declension endings that we have already learned (something in Latin that's not hard). Grace proceeded to match up Latin nouns and adjectives and was loving it. Grace and Lillie really like Latin and we were talking about why yesterday. Latin is hard, it's complicated, but it's totally logical and when you get it, you have the satisfaction of putting together a difficult puzzle (that was my take - Grace's take was that it was like a secret code).

Earlier in the week, Grace had several times when she heard Latin derivatives on TV (fatal, associate) and she got excited, "That's a Latin derivative!". Lillie has been going around chanting, "Scribere est Augere - To Write is to Act!" and one day she stopped and said, "Does scribble come from scribere?" I said it sure seems like it. Grace jumped in and said, "How about scribe?"

On Wednesday, I was reading about Caesar in Greenleaf's Famous Men of Rome. Grace and Lillie were working on an art project while I read. I was reading about crossing the Rubicon and paraphrasing a little. They starting laughing quietly and I wondered what happened... they were laughing about Caesar. They weren't distracted, they were really getting what I was talking about. When I was done, they asked me to get out the maps of the Roman Empire they had colored on Monday and point out where the Gauls and the Celts were on the map.

It was a pretty long chapter, and I thought I would quit while I was ahead. When I said we were done, Lillie said, "Aren't we going to listen to Story of the World and do narrations?" Well, sure we are.

After listening to the chapter about Octavian, Grace wrote a fabulous narration - she almost took up a whole page. This is a girl that I used to drag three sentences out of her. Lillie wanted to do a dictation instead of a picture, and she did a great job as well.

When we were done, we started talking about Octavian and if he was really like Cincinnatus and then compared Cincinnatus to George Washington. Grace is a U.S. Presidents buff and she had a lot of fun with the topic. I had never even heard of Cincinnatus until this month and here's my 10 year old comparing him to Washington.

I'm excited about all of this. I love to see them getting it, to see that spark. I also wonder if I'm turning them into oddballs. I don't want to stop doing this, but how well do you fit in with your peers when you have fun translating Latin and you like making jokes about Shamshi-adad?

Well, that's a different post I suppose. So far, they fit in just fine with their friends and are normal, happy kids. We'll keep on keepin' on.
posted by lochan | link
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Thursday, February 24, 2005
Reading Journals

Yesterday I had Grace and Lillie start reading journals. I was inspired by A Thomas Jefferson Education.

We used the notebooks that are reserved for book reports. We listed all the books we could remember that they've read so far this year. We didn't list school books, just books read privately.

Lillie's list was very long and included a lot of Arthur books, Junie B. Jones books, Jan Brett and Rosemary Wells books. Grace's was shorter, but had some really wonderful books on it, like Heidi, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlotte's Web and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

Then, they both wrote book reports. This isn't new, but we are going to try to do it more often.

I'm very excited about keeping track of their reading. They were, too. I'd love to have a notebook like that to leaf through.
posted by lochan | link
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Wednesday, February 23, 2005
Hyperemesis and DVT (or Pukefest '98)

I was sick with my first pregnancy, but it was bearable. My doctor actually used the term "mild hyperemesis" (there's a joke here somewhere: hyperemesis means extreme vomiting). I threw up a lot, like 5-10 times a day, but I could function. I went to work (and came home and felt sorry for myself), but I could tell you how many times I threw up, I didn't lose weight, and like 70% of all pregnant women, I got through it.

With my second, I started feeling nauseated around 5 weeks. Then, I started throwing up regularly and spitting all the time (I didn't know it at the time, but it's called pytalism), and stopped drinking. Any liquid made me vomit. One night, around 6 weeks, I started vomiting and I felt like I could not stop. I couldn't keep track of how often I puked, I was throwing up so much.

Then, I started getting dizzy (spitting + not drinking = dehydration). I spent a week or more flat on my back in bed. If I turned my head, the room spun and I threw up. I lost about 15 pounds in two weeks or so. If you've had hyperemesis, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't... well, it's like labor or war, you can try, but you can't really explain it (just so I don't sound like an absolute whiner, I am not equating throwing up with going to war, it's just one of those you have to see it to believe it sort of things - if I had to choose between labor and hyperemesis, I'd choose labor - if I had to choose war or hyperemesis, I'd obviously choose hyperemesis).

With the help of a prescription, I got through the worst of it. Then at 12 weeks, I was walking up some stairs and I felt a sharp pain in my thigh, like a pulled muscle. I thought that was really weird because I had been doing nothing except laying around (and sitting with my legs curled up). For the next few days my leg got increasingly more painful, to the point where I was limping.

Two nights before I found out what was wrong, my leg was in excruciating pain. I felt like the pain was deep in my thigh (and groin) and I could not figure out what was wrong.

I threw up. I got up to clean out my bucket and threw up again in the kitchen. I kneeled down in the middle of the floor, threw up again and just started bawling. My leg hurt so badly, I was still throwing up so much, and I was just so tired of being sick. I didn't want to bother my husband (what could he do?) and I just felt so awful and alone.

In the morning my entire left leg was red and swollen, so I knew something was really wrong. It was Sunday. We talked to Ask-a-Nurse, looked some things up online and it seemed like maybe I had a DVT (a blood clot). The nurse said that blood clots always got progressively worse, and my leg was not as painful as it was the night before, so I thought, it can't be this. Plus, blood clots can be fatal, so it just can't be that.

I went to the doctor Monday morning and had an ultrasound. They found a huge blood clot that went from the middle of my thigh to my groin - perhaps higher, they couldn't see where it stopped. The DVT was most likely the result of being dehydrated, immobile, and pregnant (a pregnant woman is hypercoagulable - in other words, her blood clots about 5x faster).

I was admitted to the hospital for a week and put on heparin (a blood thinner). I gave myself injections of heparin twice a day for the rest of my pregnancy.

The happy ending is a beautiful girl who is worth all of it.

If you have hyperemesis, you should check out also has some helpful articles.
posted by lochan | link
4 comments and fresh takes

Monday, February 21, 2005
But My Lips Hurt Real Bad!

The best movie I saw last year by far was Napoleon Dynamite. This movie was funny, funny, funny. It proves you can still be funny without swearing your head off, shock value, or sexy results.

A liger
Deb: What are you drawing?
Napoleon Dynamite: A liger.
Deb: What's a liger?
Napoleon Dynamite: It's pretty much my favorite animal. It's like a lion and a tiger mixed... bred for its skills in magic.

A tigon
From an MTV spot

Zoo official: Hello?
Napoleon Dynamite: Hey, I was calling to see if you have an ligers?
Zoo official: What's a liger?
Napoleon Dynamite: It's a mix between a lion and a tiger.
Zoo official: But what about a tigon?
Napoleon Dynamite: NO! They eat too much and they totally smell like poo!
posted by lochan | link
3 comments and fresh takes

Saturday, February 19, 2005
Real Men Don't Pluck Their Eyebrows
Actual Metrosexual
Remember back in the 80s when everybody was always saying "Real Men Don't Eat Quiche"? Well, I don't know what anyone has against quiche, but I think it's time for a similar campaign against plucked eyebrows.

There are a lot of men out there plucking their eyebrows. They don't seem to be the type who think they are actually women trapped inside of a man's body, but a rising crop of metrosexuals who think they look cool and sexy with their thin 'brows. I'm not trying to disparage women who feel trapped in a man's body - just men who pluck.

I know it's like a requirement to get on Fear Factor or something, but it doesn't look good.

To prove my point, I've shown the superhunks as they should be and plucked (only the eyebrows have been "plucked"):

Superhunks don't pluckGeorge Clooney Plucked

Superhunks don't pluckRussell Crowe Plucked

Superhunks don't pluckTom Cruise Plucked

Superhunks don't pluckBrad Pitt Plucked

It's creepy. I know I'm old and I don't "get the kids today" but these pictures don't lie.
posted by lochan | link
4 comments and fresh takes

Friday, February 18, 2005
Mormons don't drink milk

Growing up in Minnesota, there weren't a lot of Mormons around. We had to drive 30 minutes to go to church (not a big deal - but it is sweet to walk just 5 minutes now). Besides my siblings, I was the only Mormon at my school (not a bad thing).

Kids at school didn't really know much about Mormonism. Here are actual conversations I had in junior high and high school:

Q: You're a Mormon? I thought you couldn't drive cars or wear jeans and stuff?
A: Uh, I think you're thinking about the Amish.

Q: You're a Mormon? You guys can't drink milk, right?
A: Uh, I don't know what you're talking about.

Q: You're a Mormon? Don't you have horns on your head? (said with a straight face)
A: Err..what?

Q: You're a Mormon? You don't celebrate Halloween or Christmas, right?
A: Uh, I love Halloween and Christmas. I think you're thinking of the Jehovah's Witnesses.

Q: You're a Mormon? You're joking, right?
A: Nope, not joking. I'm a Mormon.
Q: You're joking? You're not serious?
A: Seriously, I'm a Mormon.
Q: Like, seriously?
A: Seriously.
Q: You're just putting me on, right?
A: No. I'm actually a Mormon. Would you like to know more?

Q: You're a Mormon? That's a cult, right?
A: Uh, no.

Q: You're a Mormon? You don't believe in Jesus, right?
A: I believe in Jesus and the Bible. The full name of our church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Q: You're a Mormon? You're not Christian, right?
A: I'm a Christian. Our church is not The Church of Mormon or The Church of Latter Day Saints, it's The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Q: No, you're not. My pastor said you're really not Christians even though you think you are.
A: I'm a Christian. I believe in Christ. How is it possible to think I'm a Christian and not be one?

I became great friends with the girl who just could not believe I was seriously a Mormon. When I was 13, she and another friend and I were talking about religion. They both thought I was going to hell because of my religion. This was said in a completely matter-of-fact way and it just blew me away. I didn't think they were going to hell - how could they think this puny 13 year old girl with braces was actually going to hell?

I haven't been confused with the Amish or the Jehovah's Witnesses in a long time, but the question of being a Christian still comes up. It just came up last week on the homeschool boards I read (with a lot more bizarre stuff than not drinking milk or having horns on our heads). Being told I'm not really a Christian, even though I think I am is insulting. You can tell me you disagree with my beliefs, that you don't like my brand of Christianity, that's fine. To me tell I don't believe in Christ when I clearly do (and it's obviously the details of my religion that you don't agree with) is very frustrating.

To be fair to the folks on the homeschool board: The original poster was asking an innocent question (what is the difference between Christianity and Mormons?) and the strange answers were quotes posted by folks who thought they had them from a reliable source. No one was trying to be insulting.

By the way, if you ever read anything on this blog that is possibly offensive, please know that I'm never referring to you and never mean to offend you. Unless you happen to be Michael Moore, Ward Churchill or the guy who coined the phrase "in da house."
posted by lochan | link
1 comments and fresh takes

Thursday, February 17, 2005
Favorite Recipes: Dessert
We probably don't need more reasons to eat dessert, but these are my favorites.

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

These are the best cookies. I got the recipe from Susan Wise Bauer (I am such a groupie, I tell you). She got it from Cook's Illustrated.

Makes about 18 3-inch cookies

2-1/8 cups (2 cups plus 2 tablespoons) bleached
all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
12 tablespoons (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter,
melted and cooled until warm
1 cup light or dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 to 2 cups semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips

1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions. Mix flour, salt, and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.

2. Either by hand or with electric mixer, mix butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Mix in egg, yolk, and vanilla. Add dry ingredients; mix until just combined. Stir in desired amount of chips.

3. Form scant 1/4 cup dough into ball. Holding dough ball using fingertips of both hands, pull into two equal halves. Each half will have a jagged surface where it was ripped from the other; rotate each half up so the jagged surface faced the ceiling and press the halves back into one ball so that the top surface remains jagged. (The nooks and crannies you have created will give the baked cookies an attractive and somewhat rough, uneven appearance.) Place formed dough onto one of two parchment paper-lined cookie sheets (I don't do this, I just place them on the cookie sheet), about 9 balls per sheet.

4. Bake, reversing cookies sheets' positions halfway through baking, until cookies are light golden brown and outer edges start to harden yet centers are still soft and puffy, 15 to 18 minutes (start checking at 13 minutes). Cool cookies on cookie sheets. Serve or store in airtight container.

Strawberry Pie
This is fresh, simple and really delicious.

1 quart strawberries
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 pie crust*
Whipped cream

1. Sprinkle powdered sugar in the bottom of the pie crust.
2. Clean and slice berries in half, place in pie crust.
3. Spread whipped cream over berries.
4. Chill in refrigerator for 3-4 hours.

The powdered sugar mixes with the strawberries' juices and makes a light sauce.

*Pie Crust Recipe
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup oil
2 tablespoons milk, cold

1. Sift flour, sugar and salt into a 9" pie plate.
2. In a 1 cup measuring cup, whisk together oil and milk and pour over the flour mixture.
3. Using a fork, mix until completely dampened.
4. Press the dough evenly over the bottom of the pan, then up the sides and over the rim.

To use as a baked shell, prick the surface of the dough with a fork several times and bake in a preheated 425* oven for 12-15 minutes; cool and fill as desired.

To use as an unbaked shell, just fill with the desired pie filling and bake according to the filling directions.

NOTE: If you want to use the crust for beef pot pies or with any other savory filling, just eliminate the 2 tablespoons sugar.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookies
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 pkg chocolate Kisses

1. Mix together flour, soda, salt.
2. In a separate bowl, mix together peanut butter, butter, sugars, egg and vanilla. 3. Add flour mix to peanut mix until well combined.
4. Shape in balls and tuck a chocolate kiss inside the ball.
5. Place on ungreased cookie sheet at 375 degrees for 9-10 minutes.

These are also good as a traditional peanut butter cookie, just shape them into a ball and then flatten with a fork.

Cocoa Brownies
I usually make brownies from a mix. One day we were in the mood for brownies and all I had on hand was cocoa. I found this recipe. The brownies are chewy and slightly bittersweet.

10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cold large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces (optional)

1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8" baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.

2. Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot. If you simply melt the butter and stir in the remaining ingredients, the brownies are still excellent, but they have a rougher texture.

3. Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Stir in the nuts, if using. Spread evenly in the lined pan.

4. Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack.

5. Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares.

Makes 16 large or 25 smaller brownies.
posted by lochan | link
1 comments and fresh takes

Favorite Recipes: Dinner
I always enjoy reading other folks' favorite recipes. Donna (aka Miz Booshay) has a blog with lots of great recipes. Amira has recently posted a number of delicious recipes on her blog. Linda's blog has lots of fabulous recipes, too.

Here are mine:

Chinese Chicken Salad
Romaine Lettuce, cut up
Napa Cabbage, cut up
Shredded Carrots
Cilantro and Green Onions, chopped up (optional)
Oriental Salad Dressing
Won Ton Wrappers

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes

1. Boil the chicken in chicken broth for about 30 minutes.
2. Shred and let cool.
3. Heat oil in large skillet or wok.
4. Cut the Won Tons up into little strips and fry in hot oil for a minute or two. Remove and place on paper towels to blot the oil.
5. Mix the first five ingredients.
6. Toss the chicken with the salad dressing and add to salad.
7. Top with Won Tons.

Broiled Salmon
4 salmon steaks or fillets
8 tbsp butter, softened
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp dry dill weed or 2 tbsp snipped fresh dill

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10-15 minutes

1. Mix the butter, lemon juice and dill weed together. Chill until dinnertime.
2. About 15 minutes before dinner, rub the steaks with olive oil. Broil 8 inches from high heat for 5-6 minutes each side.
3. Serve with lemon-dill butter.

If you are using fillets, I remove the skin before broiling. The lemon sauce can be served chilled or warm - it's good either way. This is almost completely no-carb, but I usually serve it with vegetables (asparagus or broccoli and carrots) and fettucine alfredo (carbo-riffic!).

Orange Chicken
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 2" squares
1 egg
1 tbsp vegetable oil plus oil for frying
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp minced garlic (dried garlic works as well)
1 tbsp rice wine
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp sesame oil

Orange Sauce
2 tsp zest and juice (about 1/4 cup) from large orange
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp chicken broth
1 tbsp soy sauce

Prep Time: 5-10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes

1. Combine all the Orange Sauce ingredients and set aside.
2. Mix egg, salt, and 1 tbsp oil together. In a separate bowl, mix cornstarch and flour.
3. Heat oil in large skillet, wok, or deep fryer (enough to at least partially submerge the chicken in oil).
4. Dip chicken in egg mix and then in cornstarch-flour mix. Add to pan. Stirfry until golden and crisp (about 5 minutes).
5. Remove chicken from oil and drain on paper towels.
6. Wipe excess oil off pan. Add 1 tbsp oil and heat over high heat for a few seconds.
7. Add garlic and stirfry for a few seconds.
8. Add rice wine and stir for a few seconds.
9. Add Orange Sauce and bring to a boil.
10. Add cooked chicken, stirring until sauce coats it evenly. Combine 1/4 cup water with 1 tbsp cornstarch and add to chicken. Heat until sauce is thick. Stir in 1 tsp. sesame oil.

Serve promptly with rice and steamed broccoli and carrots.

Mustard Pork Chops
I like this because it's a one pot meal, and it's so easy. Plus, anytime I throw something in the crockpot, by the time dinner rolls around, I feel like someone else has cooked the meal for me.

6 pork loin chops, trimmed
1 can (10 3/4 oz) cream of potato soup
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1 clove minced garlic or 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
6 medium potatoes, thinly sliced
1 sliced onion, optional

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 4-10 hours

1. Heat oil in skillet.
2. Brown pork chops; drain fat. (You can skip steps 1 and 2 if you don't have time).
3. In crock pot, add soup, water, garlic, pepper, onions and potatoes. Stir to mix.
4. Place browned pork chops on top of potato mixture.
5. Cook on Low for 8 to 10 hours or on High for 4 to 5 hours.

Pot Roast
1 box, (2 envelopes)
Onion Soup Mix
Baby carrots
Potatoes, cut into large peices
2 cups water

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 4-10 hours

1. Place beef pot roast in crockpot and sprinkle with onion soup mix.
2. Add carrots and potatoes.
3. Pour water over pot roast.
4. Cook on low 8-10 hrs or until tender.

Serve with salad and bread.

Chicken Fajitas
4 chicken breasts, skin & fat removed
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup vinegar
1 onion, sliced thinly (optional)
1 green or red bell pepper, sliced thinly (optional)
sour cream

Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes

1. Combine soy sauce & vinegar. Marinate chicken for 20 minutes (if in a hurry, you can just put it all right in the skillet, but use half the liquid).
2. Spray skillet with cooking spray. Over medium-high heat, add chicken.
3. Cook until golden brown on both sides. Add onions & bell peppers, saute until soft.

Serve with tortillas, salsa & sour cream. A side of spanish rice is nice, too.
posted by lochan | link
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Wednesday, February 16, 2005
On the Bookshelf

I discovered a fun little spot on Oprah's website. Famous people, like J.K. Rowling, Nora Ephron, Kenneth Branagh, and Cate Blanchett share their favorite books. They each write a paragraph or two about what each book meant to them. It's a nice format.

I like reading books and I like reading book reviews. These are short, personal, and to the point. I enjoyed them. Here's a link to Colin Firth's favorite books at
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Win cAn I Git an ThE KaQt

Yesterday, I was talking on the phone and sitting in front of the computer. My 6 yo came up to me with a note that said:

Win cAn I Git an ThE KaQt

I knew just what she meant! I wasn't actually using the computer, so I let her on straight away. Even though she only wrote three out seven words correctly, almost everything else was phonetically right on.

We had a great reading lesson today, too. She is really getting this. And, I think most importantly, she is really wanting to read.
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Monday, February 14, 2005
Favorite Books and Authors: High School

In high school, I discovered Charles Dickens. His style was difficult for me at first, but once I got used to his voice, I loved his books. A Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, and Nicholas Nickleby were all wonderfully charming and thought provoking.

Jack London's Call of the Wild and White Fang showed the harshness of nature, Edgar Allan Poe's short stories were dark and exciting. Catcher in the Rye made me look at life, or at least books, differently. Holden Caulfield's voice was so wry, so real. Nine Stories and Franny and Zooey were books I'd read again in college. I hope J.D. Salinger has continued to write.

I read 1984 in 1984. I would have been 14 or 15, but I remember it vividly. The smell of cabbages in Winston's apartment building. Hiding from his TV to write in his journal. I remember Julia's sash. Winston and Julia watching a woman wash her clothes. I would like to re-read it to see if it has a different effect on me, and if my memories of it are accurate.

I read Gone with the Wind and was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. I remember crying at the end, even though I knew from the start how it would end.

Heart of Darkness and Of Human Bondage were books I read because they seemed deep and important. My reasons for picking them up were pretentious, but the books themselves were worthwhile. In Of Human Bondage, the little boy (Philip) has a club foot. He reads in the bible that if you have faith, you can move mountains. So, he decides to ask God to make his club foot whole. He has absolute faith that God will do this for him. Maugham builds this moment up - Philip is so convinced that his foot will be whole in the morning he shivers with delight. In the morning, when Philip limps down the stairs, it is devastating and perfectly written.

Thanks to The Cure, I read Camus' The Stranger. The main character was so detached, isolated and numb - and so modern. I started L0l1ta because of Sting ('just like the old man in that book by Nabakov'), not a book I'll be recommending to my daughters. When they went on their roadtrip, it just got very, very boring and I quit. I decided there were too many good books out there to waste on this garbage (I should've made that decision on the first page). To Kill a Mockingbird, Lord of the Flies, Fahrenheit 451, The Good Earth and The Metamorphosis all stand out. I wrote a paper on The Metamorphosis. It was one of the first that I wrote on a computer. It would be neat to read it today.

I read Pride and Prejudice and really enjoyed it - in much the same way I did Dickens. Understanding the subtle and carefully chosen language was rewarding. I did not read more Austen until well after college, though. I discovered John Steinbeck and read The Pearl, The Red Pony and The Winter of our Discontent. In college I would go on to read all his books. His voice is plain and honest and his characters are incredibly real.

I went through a phase (similar to the one I'm in now) where I read about WWII and the Holocaust. I read The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Anne Frank's Diary, The Hiding Place, and I Never Saw Another Butterfly. Anne Frank's diary was powerful, but the reality of the war didn't hit me. Years later I read about her death in a concentration camp, and realized that she really died. I'd left her in the Annex, still safe. I went through a phase where I read about Vietnam, too, and I remember things about those books (men returning home that were spit on and called baby killers, a book from a nurse's perspective), but the only book I remember is Born on the 4th of July.

We went to the library a lot, but my parents also had bookcases filled with books at home. It was in those shelves I found The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, The Hiding Place, The Thorn Birds (not recommended), a book about the busload of children that were kidnapped in Chowchilla (we lived in Fresno for a number of years and everytime we went through Chowchilla I would think of that), and The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (I tried to read them, but I did not get them).

I read a little poetry. Sylvia Plath, e. e. cummings, Emily Dickinson's shorter poems, T. S. Eliot and William Carlos Williams. I didn't have the attention span (and still don't, really) for longer poetry. One of the few poems I memorized in high school was The Hollow Men (by T. S. Eliot). I was in speech and for a time did extemporaneous speaking. We all had the same anthology of poetry and prose and would randomly be given a piece to perform. We would have 15 or 20 minutes to practice and I remember walking down the hallways of some unknown high school with 20 kids practicing to the lockers. The Hollow Men was one of the possibilities - I think I only chose it once, but I remember the way I read the end (light emphasis):

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

It's a good poem, but it was probably pretty pathetic. A poem is better read silently than performed. Words on a page are more powerful than the huff and puff of someone trying to get you to notice them. Not to say I was huffy or puffy.

William Carlos Williams' name itself was a sort of poem. The simplicity and the beauty of his poetry made the littlest things, from plums to wheelbarrows, precious.

This Is Just To Say
William Carlos Williams

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold
posted by lochan | link
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Saturday, February 12, 2005
The Screwtape Letters

I just started this book last night and I'm sure it will be on my Recently Read list by tomorrow morning. So far it's a fascinating read. I'll likely post a review when I've digested the book.

I wanted to quick share a paragraph from the introduction. He first talks about the depiction of devils and angels in art. Angels are often shown with birds' wings and devils with bats' wings, "not because anyone holds that moral deterioration would be likely to turn feathers into membrane, but because most men like birds better than bats." He goes on to explain his choice of symbols in the book:

I like bats much better than bureaucrats. I live in the Managerial Age, in a world of "Admin." The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid "dens of crime" that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps or labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed, and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voice. Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the offices of a thoroughly nasty business concern.
This is one of the most well written paragraphs I've read in a long time. It is carefully worded and perfectly conceived.

I've been reading a library's worth of books on World War II and the Holocaust (mainly survivor stories) lately. I actually started a post about how it's affecting me and why I keep finding more books on the subject, and couldn't express it. This isn't that, but it relates to it in terms of how evil plays itself out and how individually we can steer clear of the traps that stunt spirituality. I think this is going to be an excellent read.
posted by lochan | link
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Thursday, February 10, 2005
Favorite Books and Authors

I've been thinking about the books I've read. Which titles stand out and which authors made an impact on me.

The first series of books I remember were the Little House books. I loved them all. I loved Pa and his fiddle and the songs he would sing. I loved the Frances books and Dr. Suess. All of Beatrix Potter books were wonderful. I especially remember The Tale of Two Bad Mice- everything was so precious. I loved The Lonely Doll books (I looked at them recently and wasn't that impressed, but there was something so tragic and fragile about them when I was little). Individual books that stand out are Where the Wild Things Are, How Spider Saved Halloween, and A Letter to Amy by Ezra Jack Keats.

In the upper elementary grades, I was always reading. I remember Heidi, The Little Princess (when she wakes to find her room transformed, it is magical), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlotte's Web. Where the Red Fern Grows, Old Yeller, Peter Pan, The Adventures of Huck Finn, and Tom Sawyer. I also read the Encyclopedia Brown, Nancy Drew, and Trixie Belden series.

In junior high, I read Island of the Blue Dolphins, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, My Side of the Mountain, A Day No Pigs Would Die. I loved Louisa May Alcott. I read Little Women, Little Men, Jo's Boys and The Eight Cousins - Little Women is the one that sticks with me. I went on a S.E. Hinton kick and read The Outsiders (stay gold, Ponyboy), That Was Then, This is Now, Tex, and Rumble Fish. I also discovered Judy Blue and V.C. Andrews. Flowers in the Attic (or any of Andrews' books) is not one I'd recommend to anyone (especially a teenage girl) but I loved it - it was scary and suspenseful and had such a cool cover. I must have opened and closed that cover 1,000 times. I read lots of Stephen King. I was hooked at 13 by The Dead Zone. I loved Pet Semetary, Cujo, Carrie, The Shining, Salem's Lot, The Shawshank Redemption and The Stand. I gave up Steven King when I got to It and suddenly felt I was re-reading the same stories. That, and normal clowns are creepy enough. I still get freaked out by my garbage disposal because of Stephen King.

My high school and college reading will have to wait - dinner's not going to make itself (I knew I should've thrown something in the crock pot).
posted by lochan | link
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Wednesday, February 09, 2005
Learning to Read: Comparing Phonics Programs
We have used Saxon Phonics 1, The Reading Lesson, Explode the Code, and The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading. I think all are good programs and if your child is ready to read, any of them would likely work.

For my first child, I didn't use any curriculum at all. I really didn't have to teach her to read. When she was almost 4, she decided she wanted to read. I thought it would be an exercise in frustration, but she learned very quickly. We read early readers similar to Dick and Jane, but the characters were Peter and Jane (these were library books that were falling apart, I've never been able to find them since). At first she learned enough that she could say, "I know how to read." She did this by memorizing a lot of sight words, with some sounding out (I think). But, before I knew it she was officially reading. By 7, she was reading silently to herself.

I remember reading Little House books in second grade, to myself. I kind of thought if you read a lot, this is what kids do. Uh, no. Come to find out, there are all sorts of learners out there (well, I knew it, I just didn't know it).

Beside being a different type of learner, I also introduced letters and letter sounds much earlier to Grace. Grace was a chatter box at 18 months and Lillie didn't really start talking much until she was two and a half. Because she wasn't talking, I did not go over letters with her. Now, I think that actually would have been more important to do with her. But, really, I don't know if that would have made a difference or not. In the end, I'm sure it will even out.

My little one, Lillie, is 6. She is not yet reading. I keep thinking there is a switch that just needs to be flipped. But, with Lillie, I think it's a dial. Things are slowly coming together for her (she can read three letter words with short vowel sounds). Now, I realize she is only six. I'm not worried, I'm just ready for her to read. She is getting there.

We have been doing phonics with her regularly for a year and a half. When we officially started, she already knew most of her consonant sounds. I thought, we just need to get the vowel sounds and we'll be on our way. It has not worked that way.

Saxon Phonics
We started out with Saxon Phonics 1. It seemed to go well, at first. But, at a certain point, it seemed like the text made a leap that she wasn't ready to make. We switched to The Reading Lesson.

If we decide to try it again, and she makes it through the book, she would be reading this at the end of the program: School will soon be out. Students will begin to make plans for the many things they hoped to be involved in during these months off. Right now she could read be, to, for, the, in, off.

What I like about Saxon Phonics
The Teacher's Edition is well written and has fun activities. The program is incredibly thorough. The worksheets have nice large type and plenty of space for the child to write. The child reads and writes, so you don't need a separate writing curriculum. It comes with lots of extra books to make and an alphabet strip that's fun.

What I don't like about Saxon Phonics
The Saxon Phonics Teacher's Edition is gi-normous. It is a whopping 890 pages (I don't know if this is fair to categorize as a dislike, because if we'd had success with the program, I wouldn't care). It gets into complicated coding, like accent marks, macrons, breves, and cedillas. This seemed confusing and unnecessary. I didn't do it.

The Reading Lesson
We heard about The Reading Lesson and tried that. It worked beautifully. Sweet pictures, simple explanations. She was reading the simple phrases in the book right away. She was taking her time sounding things out, but reading. But, again, we got to a point in the book where it was beyond her. I kept feeling like we were going two steps forward, one step back. She gets it this lesson, the next she's forgotten half of what I thought she knew. She'd do great, struggle, do well. Slowly she is getting it.

When she is ready to move onto new material and she has made her way through the book, she would be reading at this level: Welcome to our space ship! We will fly to the stars. Get set, it is time to take off. Right now she could read to, we, the, get, set, it, is, off and she'd probably say something close to the other words.

What I like about The Reading Lesson
The illustrations are charming. It is large a workbook that the child can color (after a completed lesson, Lillie would color the picture). The explanations are clear. The print is large. It was inexpensive ($28.00).

What I don't like about The Reading Lesson
I don't dislike anything about it. The only thing I could think to say is there is no writing (However, the price allows you to purchase a second writing curriculum. They offer The Writing Lesson, but we are using Handwriting Without Tears).

Explode the Code
We then got Explode the Code 1 and this is working well in a different way. It has more writing involved. It has different approach. First, they give you a letter and then three choices of pictures to choose from to match the beginning sound. Then, you copy the word they give you and circle one of three words that matches the picture. Then, you have a picture of a three-letter word and you write the word. Then you "spell" three letter words. You have a choice for intial sound, middle sound and end sound. Then you choose between two sentences which matches the picture. It moves incrementally through the vowel sounds.

We like it, but it's not a stand alone program. Well, not for my child. We bought it to supplement The Reading Lesson. We just started back at the beginning of The Reading Lesson and supplemented with Explode the Code.

At the end of Explode the Code, she should be able to read: I can sit and run and beg. I can dig up a rib and tug on a mat. I am a pal and a pet. I am a pup. This is about where her reading is now, just not quickly.

What I like about Explode the Code 1
It is a good, supplemental review of vowel sounds. The explanations are clear. The print is large. It was really inexpensive ($7.00). It has writing practice.

What I don't like about Explode the Code
The illustrations are mediocre (not a real issue, but it's true). Other than that, I don't dislike anything about it. It is what it is - a nice workbook for vowel sounds.

Ordinary Parents
Then, Peace Hill Press came out with The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading. I love their company, want to support them, and was sure this would be a good program. It is. We recently ordered the whole set. Lillie loves the magnets, loves to listen to the audio CD, and does well with the small, incremental lessons.

When we finish OPGTR, Lillie would be able to read: The extraterrestrial creature wanted to do some interplanetary space travel. Right now she could read the, to, do, and, on a good day (or a good guess), some.

What I like about OPGTR
It has fun activities. It has good instructions and manageable incremental lessons. The cards, CD, and magnet set gives us lots of different ways to practice.

What I don't like about OPGTR
Typing out it's title. The only improvement I could even think of is to have student pages with larger print and perhaps pictures. I'm not sure if the pictures are helpful or not, though. Often with The Reading Lesson, Lillie would be able to guess words based on the picture. This is alright at first, but over time, you want to be reading without clues.

If I had to pick just one of these programs, I would definitely choose The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading. If I had a tight budget, I would still choose OPGTR. I would simply make my own cards and skip the magnet set and audio CD. These are nice to have, but not essential to what matters: learning to read.
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Living in the '80s

Last night I couldn't get to sleep and I started thinking about the waterbed I had when I was a teenager (does anyone still buy waterbeds?). I somehow convinced my mom that I had to have one.

I loved that thing. I grew up in Minnesota and it's biting cold there in the winter (which lasts for about 5 or 6 months). I would just crank the heat up on my bed.

I can absolutely picture myself in that bed with the soft sides, the headboard that was a bookcase, the green glow of my digital clock, listening to the Cure, Peter Gabriel, the Eurythmics or the Violent Femmes. I haven't thought of that room in years. Thinking of it is so painfully nostalgic, I actually feel queasy.

If I heard Gone, Daddy, Gone right now, I think I might hurl. At this point, Huey Lewis and the News could send me over the edge.
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Name: Laura

I have five kids including triplets. I'm too busy to blog, but I do anyway (uh, sometimes).

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