Autumn Basil Bounty? Pesto!

Freezer Pesto -- step-by-step @

Make this freezer gem now!


It’s been a banner year for basil around here — regular rain and moderate temperatures have left us with a big, beautiful plant loaded with those fragrant green leaves that speak summer to me. Now is the moment for pesto — pesto for tonight’s pasta supper and pesto for the freezer to enjoy during frigid days when fresh basil is a fond-but-distant memory. There are four things I love about pesto:

1. Freezer pesto is one of those satisfying kitchen jobs that just makes me feel happy.

2. It’s one of the main reasons I love my food processor.

3. It is a feast for the senses: It’s just the coolest thing ever to shove handfuls of leaves through the processor’s feed-tube and watch them transform magically before my eyes. The aroma — so fulsome, so utterly unique — it fills the house for the rest of the day, so everyone knows what I’ve been doing and what’s for supper from the moment they walk through the door. And the flavor — the intensity is almost too much, but it leaves me wanting to taste it again and again.

4. I love to say the very word: PESTO! Put the emphasis on the first syllable and it’s like saying POW! PESto packs a POWerful wallop!

And here is how I make pesto to eat fresh and for the freezer:

Basil Pesto for the Freezer

Harvest the basil before frost turns it brown and sad.

Basil Pesto for the Freezer @

A useful old cookbook

Basil Pesto for the Freezer

The basic recipe I use for the freezer, in batches x6 (the amount that will fit in my processor in one go), minus the Parmesan and with somewhat less oil

Basil Pesto for the Freezer

Toasting the pine nuts — use LOW heat and be patient — these babies will burn when you turn your attention away from them

Basil Pesto for the Freezer

Removing basil leaves from the stems — I do not wash the basil before use. There are no pesticides to worry about, and I try to harvest AFTER we’ve had a nice rain and the leaves have dried in the sun. Inspect each leaf as you work, because you’ll sometimes find…

Basil Pesto for the Freezer

…one of these — anybody know what sort of critter makes this little web of cotton?

Basil Pesto for the Freezer

About to give the garlic cloves a smack with the bottom of the skillet to loosen their skins — such a satisfying thing to do!

Basil Pesto for the Freezer

Pesto ready to divide and freeze; this is the yield from 8 c. of leaves instead of my usual 6 c.

Basil Pesto for the Freezer

I scoop pesto into mini-muffin tin wells, freeze for a day or two, and then bag them in a heavy ziploc. Pesto without cheese freezes best, so I add cheese when I use them if desired.

Lori’s Basil Pesto for the Freezer

makes about 1 quart

6 garlic cloves, peeled

3/4 c. pine nuts, toasted and cooled

6 c. firmly-packed fresh basil leaves

1 T. coarse Kosher salt (or less of finer salts)

1 t. ground black pepper

1 1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil

Start the food processor and drop the garlic cloves through the feed tube. When the garlic stops whirling around and has transformed into bits stuck to the sides of the work-bowl, turn off the processor and scrape the work-bowl. Add the pine nuts and process until finely ground. Scrape the sides of the work-bowl again. Add the basil leaves and process until finely ground. Scrape the sides of the work-bowl again.  Add the salt and pepper. With the processor running, add the olive oil in a thin steady stream until it is incorporated and a sauce has formed. If you are using the pesto immediately, you may want to add 1 rounded cup of grated best-quality Parmesan to the pesto. For the freezer, leave out the cheese.

Scoop the pesto into mini or standard muffin tins. Freeze for a day or two until solid. Run a thin-bladed knife around the edge of each pesto “muffin” to pop it out of the tin. Bag the  pesto and return to the freezer quickly. It will stay fresh for at least a year if you keep it well-wrapped.

To use, I simply thaw the desired amount at room temperature for use on pizza dough, with pasta, or in dips and spreads. To use it in minestrone, I add frozen pesto to the almost-finished soup and let it simmer a few more minutes to thaw the pesto.

Posted in Homemaking, Recipes, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 4 Responses

Parenting for Lazy People: The Napping House, Part II


How to turn your house into a napping house

“The more they sleep, the more they sleep.” –a wise great-grandma I know; Photo credit: Lauren Bingham

Naps: bane or blessing? The thought of a regular time each day when our children sleep (and we can think our own thoughts and do things hard to accomplish with little children underfoot) can seem like an enticing but elusive dream. I wrote (a long, long time ago) about the why of napping here, but let’s have a brief recap:

Nappers are more content and better-behaved because they are rested.

That is the main point of my last post, but here is more: Even if you turn out to have a non-sleeper (and these are rarer than many moms think), there is value in the day-dreaming and, yes, boredom that comes to a resting child:

He learns to stop.

He learns to think his thoughts.

He has a built-in daily opportunity to practice obedience and self-control.

The Nitty Gritty of Napping — how-to:

Constancy and Consistency: If you want to have a Napping House, this phrase is a valuable mantra. (And it applies to most aspects of parenting — how convenient!) Nap time must become as much a normal part of the day as eating, dressing, and washing, and with rare exceptions it should come at a predictable time in the day. That does not necessarily mean the same time on the clock, but at the same point in the flow of the day, which leads us to the next point…

Rhythm + Rituals Rule! When I was in the trenches of parenting littles, I tried a little bit of everything when it comes to schedules. (I don’t really recommend doing that — it jerks the children around so much — but I suppose we are all guinea pigs to one degree or another while our parents figure things out.) What I found that worked vastly better than either a rigid schedule (“It’s 9:15, Darling. Time to change your diaper!”) or an anything-goes, children’s-whims-run-the-mom way (“It’s 6:15, I haven’t started dinner, but you want to play a game? Certainly, Darling!”) was to spend our days within a framework of certain routines which mostly centered around four points in the day: getting up/breakfast, lunch, dinner, and bedtime. Your routines will look different than mine, but what I mean here is deciding when certain daily activities will happen and then forming a habit so you don’t have to make those decisions all over again every single day. For us, that meant we all got dressed shortly after getting up and before breakfast. We made our beds and tidied our rooms before breakfast, too. Nap time, once the kids were past the multiple-sleeps-per-day stage, fit into the rhythm of our days this way:

Pick up toys —> Lunch —> Story —> Nap

See how we had a routine centered around a meal? Lunch might have come at 11:30 or noon or 1:00, but whenever it was, each activity segued into the next pretty effortlessly once we formed the habit and everyone knew what to expect. Further, we had a nap time ritual that I think helped, too. Each child old enough to care chose a book for me to read while I cleaned the kitchen after lunch. Everybody had a turn on the toilet or got his diaper changed. We snuggled on one person’s bed to read stories.  After stories, everyone went to a separate sleeping spot. (See more below about that.) I closed the blinds as I talked softly with each child. I prayed briefly with each. I turned on the tape-of-choice from a small selection of sleep-time-approved story or song tapes. (Now I suppose this would be an ipod playlist or similar?) I said, “Sleep well,” as I went out of the room and closed the door. If I was teaching this routine, I might quietly go over the rules about staying on the bed until time to get up or whatever that child was still learning.

Doesn’t that sound perfectly wonderful? Now I had a couple of hours of no interruptions from little people! Break out the bon-bons! Turn on the grown-up movie! Take a nap! Make phone calls!

Wait, you say, you don’t understand my kid. There is no way he will stay on that bed. I’m gonna spend the whole nap time taking him back to bed, listening to him whine, and arguing with him. It’s just not worth the hassle.

I get it. Remember, I used to be a day care teacher, I’ve been a nanny in other people’s homes and in my own, and I raised three offspring unique in their own ways. Getting a child to nap is no different than getting them to do what’s best for them in any other way — you’ve got to train them.

Enforce Only What You Can Control: “But I have a kid who just won’t sleep!” Fine — don’t worry about that at all. You are not requiring your child to sleep. You are only training him to rest. You set up the framework — a time and a place he can count on each day when he will stop his usual activities, stay in one spot, and be quiet. Whether he sleeps or not is beyond your control and largely beyond his, but you have made it possible for him to sleep if his body needs sleep, and as the family’s new daily napping habit becomes entrenched you will probably find him sleeping more often than not.

So what is it you will train him to do at nap time?

Stay on his bed and stay quiet.

Just those two things, but they will keep you busy enough if naps are a new concept for your family! Our children napped in a crib when they were babies/toddlers, but when they graduated to a big bed we had several days of teaching them to stay on their beds at nap time and at bedtime. That’s perfectly normal and should not stop you from continuing to insist that they remain there when you’ve put them there — it’s just a part of what a growing child needs to learn. You need to figure out ahead of time what the consequence will be for disobedience. We chose to spank our children for getting out of bed for a non-emergency reason or for speaking above a whisper. When I was a daycare teacher, the consequence for not resting quietly at nap time was to have to stay right by me with nothing to play with during the outside play that came after nap time.

When you are training, remember to be calm, be quick, and be consistent. If your child comes wandering into the kitchen or if he whines or if you hear him out of bed and playing in his bedroom, go to him quickly and calmly state what he is doing that is disobedient. Tell him the consequence and carry it out. Return him to bed. Make it utterly counter-productive to disobey every single time, and I guarantee he will begin to cooperate. (We don’t have to mention that under ab-so-dee-lute-ly no circumstances should your child ever get what he wants when he has disobeyed, do we? I didn’t think so. ) Children aren’t stupid.

Ages and Stages: I am sharing what we did in our family. You may feel differently. That’s fine — we can still be friends.

Infants: I suppose I practiced a combo of scheduling and baby-led eating and sleeping in the first several months. I nursed when they were hungry and helped them sleep when they were sleepy, but I also kept an eye on the clock and tried to notice their patterns and nudge them toward some consistency. Some infants sleep a lot and some very little. Our three spanned the range. You can’t train them to simply rest at this stage, so you are only concerned about giving them the space and time to sleep when they want it.

Rock the baby to sleep or put him to bed sleepy-but-awake? I fear to tread here — I know some parents are passionate about this topic — but with our first we rocked her to sleep and became her rocking-chair-slaves. A three-week stay in a furnished apartment without a rocker gave us two nights of three hours each of jiggling a strung-out, squalling one-year-old until she finally exhausted herself to sleep in our arms. We decided to put her to bed and let her cry it out the third night. She cried (and I cried outside the door) for an hour. The next time she cried for five minutes. The next time she cried for less than 10 seconds. I do not believe we taught her to despair of her parents coming to her when she needed them; I believe we taught her to fall asleep without a long, drawn-out production that left all of us glassy-eyed. We went from an hour-plus going-to-sleep process even with a rocker to a story-prayer-sleep routine which resulted in a happier, better-rested child who was still just as cuddly and secure. With our next two, I nursed them before sleep — sitting up or lying in our bed — but we tried to put them down sleepy but still awake.  #2 was super colicky and didn’t sleep well, but falling asleep was not a big problem for him. #3 was average — he sometimes fussed for a few minutes before falling asleep, but most of the time he was out quickly.

Older Babies/Toddlers: See above for going-to-sleep advice. At some point you notice that your baby who was napping pretty consistently about three times per day is now changing his pattern. The ages are different for each child, but most drop first their earlier morning nap and then their late afternoon nap until they are taking just one nap in the early afternoon. If I remember right, ours completed this process by the time they were about 18-24 months old. A friend gave me some good advice for helping them transition when they have stopped the morning nap and you want to work toward an early afternoon nap. When they start to get cranky because they are getting tired, take them outside for a stimulating walk or playtime. It will keep them awake and happily occupied for maybe a good half-hour or more. (Bundle up if necessary, but it’s good for everyone to get some fresh air unless the weather is really inclement.) When they start to get past the point of no return — obviously tired — whisk them back indoors, change that diaper, nurse if needed, and put them down. Keep doing that until you’ve eased them to a new nap time that works for everyone.

Pre-schoolers: These kiddos are in their prime napping years — they really thrive with a predictable nap time each day. In many ways, they need an official nap time much  more than when they were younger — a baby or toddler will get the sleep they need one way or another. We’ve all seen littles of those ages just fall asleep right in the middle of whatever is going on. The preschooler, though, is more likely to stay awake if Mom and Dad don’t enforce a nap time, and he just gets tireder and tireder and crankier and crankier. By dinner time, nobody can stand him and he can’t stand himself, either.

Elementary Schoolers: One might think elementary children are beyond the need for naps, but I think there is a case to be made for continuing them if possible. My siblings and I went to public school, so my mother had us stop taking weekday naps during the summer before we started First Grade. (Kindergarten was only in the morning for us.) For years afterward, however, we still took a nap on most Sunday afternoons. Our family went to church for two hours in the morning and one hour in the evening, and our parents felt we were more alert during the evening service if we had rested in the afternoon. Do I suspect they also treasured some alone time without the children around? I do, and there isn’t anything wrong with that either.

In my own family, homeschooling gave us the opportunity to extend nap time as long as each child needed it. When the kids reached about six years old we no longer talked about nap time; we called that sacred period of the day Read and Rest. They were just beginning to read silently, so it was a perfect time to have them gather a stack of books and spend a quiet hour on their beds. If they were tired, they often fell asleep, and if not, they looked at their books. Read and Rest was a feature of at-home days in our house for years, and it did all of us good to have some time alone.

Other Tips:

Offer an End-of-Nap Signal for the Non-sleeper: I set a timer for whatever amount of time I thought was reasonable — one or two hours is usually right — and the children knew that if they hadn’t fallen asleep they could get up when they heard the timer. I usually checked on them during nap time and if they were asleep — they usually were — I turned off the timer so it wouldn’t wake them.

Bedrooms for Sleeping, Playrooms for Playing: One reason I think we were so successful with nap time is because we kept the children’s bedrooms for sleeping only. We kept their toys in a playroom, and their bedrooms contained only a few books and some stuffed animals and dolls. You may feel you don’t have space for a playroom, but it would be worth it to me to double or triple-up small children in one bedroom and use another as a playroom. It eliminates the issue of children getting up at nap time or bedtime and getting into things they shouldn’t without Mom and Dad realizing it.

If Possible, One Child Per Room at Nap Time: Another thing I learned by experience was the wisdom of having only one child per room at nap time. I know that is not possible for some large families, but if you can arrange a pallet on the floor (even in a hall) or to have one child lie down on the parents’ bed, you will eliminate a lot of stage-whispering that escalates into giggles and moves on to the need for discipline. In our case, doing things this way meant if I wanted to rest I did it on the living room sofa, but that didn’t bother me a bit. At bedtime, we never felt the need to do this — I’m not sure why it did not seem to be a problem then. I suppose there was whispering and giggling, but we allowed that because we had trained them to stay in their beds and knew they’d fall asleep eventually. I think at nap time that seemed unacceptable because there were often things we needed to do after nap time and I didn’t want to draw out the process of the falling asleep. Anyway, at nap time everybody definitely fell asleep faster if they were alone.

Still not convinced? Consider a trial period — I would suggest giving naps a real go for three or four weeks straight. Don’t tell your child it is a trial period — just act as though this is the new normal and carry on in your dignified, purposeful way to train him to stay on his bed and stay quiet for a period of time each day. Even if he never sleeps — and this would surprise me very, very much — you are giving him the gift of rest, the gift of practicing self-discipline, and the gift of boredom.

What do you think of all this? Do you have a Napping House? Do you wish for a Napping House? What works in your family?

Posted in Family, Parenting for Lazy People, Parenting Practice | Tagged , , , | 4 Responses

How Project 333 and The Vivienne Files Unleashed My Inner Shopper

 How Project 333 and The Vivienne Files Unleashed My Inner Shopper
Last winter, three things conspired together to form a perfect storm in my mind — a significant portion of my wardrobe no longer fit (this was a good thing),  I stumbled across a blog called Project 333, and I came across another blog called The Vivienne Files. I’ll wait while you go exploring at these sites. I warn you — you could be gone awhile.

Drums fingers…

Anyway, I became captivated by the idea of a small, curated wardrobe of quality garments in colors, silhouettes, and fabrics I love the most. Actually my interest in things wardrobe-related goes back further than that. Since I read Overdressed: the shockingly high cost of cheap fashion over a year ago, I have become a much pickier fashion consumer. I am tired of cheap fabrics and  shoddy workmanship. I want properly-fitting garments that are a pleasure to wear and last longer than a year or two. Project 333 provided a framework and The Vivienne Files showed me how to select items that work well together.

I began my first Project 333 in the middle of the winter season, using clothes I already owned. Like many people, I worried I would not have enough clothes, or I would have the wrong clothes, or I would get bored with my clothes, but instead I found it a freeing and delightful experience to step into my closet and select what I wanted to wear each day. I was eager to set up my Spring, 2014 Project 333 collection for April-June. I identified a few holes in my wardrobe and filled those easily enough. When I put together my Summer, 2014 collection, I found I had many more holes. Almost everything was worn out or didn’t fit.

During these months I found myself adding other fashion advice blogs to my breakfast feedly-reading session. I got brand recommendations and style tips, and when Boden had a good sale with free shipping and free returns in early summer, I was ready to order a bunch of items to try. I was nervous to be ordering so much, knowing most or all of it would be going back. I even phoned the company to make sure they did not mind. They reassured me that they understood I would have to try a variety of styles and sizes. (They have no stores in the US.) I called it research, and it was. It occurred to me that while I was at it I should get some things from some other companies so I could compare. LL Bean always has free shipping and offers free returns to its LL Bean credit card customers. I got their credit card just for that perk and ordered from them, too. I also tried several things from Lands’ End (you can simply return unwanted merchandise to any Sears for no cost), but their quality has diminished considerably over the last few years, and I was disappointed with most of what I received from them.

After trying on all of the possibilities, making lots of notes about what worked and what did not, and analyzing my actual needs, my new-found choosiness and our budget made it relatively easy to ship nearly everything back to the companies. I believe I kept only five out of about 50 items. I felt amazed at myself for ordering so much, for spending the time to figure everything out, and for successfully getting it all sent back to the right places!

It was fun to shop, really fun, but it was over.

Except it wasn’t over. I stayed in the groove of reading fashion blogs, perusing online stores, and adding items to “my” wish lists and shopping bags. I did not spend any money, but I spent plenty of time thinking about my wardrobe. By late August, I was thinking of what I would be wearing in Autumn, 2014 and Winter, 2015. Over the last several months I had decided I wanted to stop using black as my go-to neutral and switch to navy and grey. It is the perfect time to make the change because I still need new pants and some other basics, and this is the year for both of those colors so there are lots of possibilities in the market.

How Project 333 and The Vivienne Files Unleashed My Inner Shopper

Planners gonna plan — Project 333 done the hard way!

I waited for the Autumn Boden and LL Bean sales and restarted my research, plus I branched out into J. Jill, Nordstrom, Ebay, and thrift stores. This time I have been shopping with xmas money “in hand.” My family is very practical about presents and I know I can spend a certain amount and get my gifts early and according to my desires. If I want to I can ask Mom to wrap some of it and then in late December “I’ll be so surprised!” when I open them — a thing we say about gifts we choose ourselves or already know about — but I think I’m old enough by now to just enjoy them all through Autumn and be pleased for all the good they’ve already done for me when others are opening gifts. As you read, I am just waiting for a couple of straggler shipments — alternate sizes, mostly — to arrive, and then I’ll make my final selections. I have already been wearing a few items I know are absolute keepers; right now I am sitting here in my living room wearing an ebay-find pair of terrific shoes.

How Project 333 and The Vivienne Files Unleashed My Inner Shopper

My Autumn, 2014 Project 333 Wardrobe

I have gone about this process in the way I go about any new project — with lots of musing, tables in Word (They’d be in Excel if I knew how to design them — must learn that soon!), and certainly too much of my time. Where most women find Project 333 to be a simplification tool, I have managed to take it from simple to complex. If you are looking for guilt and repentance from me, though, I am not sure I have any to offer. I do feel some chagrin, but I also know I have enjoyed delving into an area of my life that usually doesn’t get too much attention. I have learned a lot, and while I’m not certain anybody besides my daughter and my mom will notice any real difference in my appearance, I am walking with a new bounce in my step that I think comes from more than my new-old shoes.

What about you? Do you like to shop? Do you research before you buy? Do you wish to simplify your wardrobe? Does Project 333 appeal to you?


Posted in Balance, Beauty Inside and Out | Tagged , , | 8 Responses

Is September Your Real New Year?

September is my unofficial New Year

Until September, 1972, I lived a contented, slow-paced life on the farm with my stay-at-home mommy and pilot daddy and little sister and baby brother. Then I went to kindergarten, and my world expanded suddenly and gloriously. The classroom was a wonder — it was decorated with large, colorful cut-outs of happy children skipping toward a red brick school building amidst the swirling, crunchy leaves under their feet. Immediately, I understood that I was one of those children who had a place to go every day and, more importantly, work to do. I intuited that there were things expected of me in this room, and every task and the materials for those tasks were organized by time and place. Here were the cubbies for our jackets. Here was the rug where we sat while the teacher read stories to us. Here was the table and my chair where I colored and cut and glued and watched with horror while the boy who sat next to me ate the paste when the teacher wasn’t looking. And best, best of all, here was the teacher’s supply closet, a wondrous construction filled with cunning compartments to hold all manner of papers and felts and streamers and stickers and delights I had never imagined could exist. When the teacher opened the door to her magical closet, I used to catch my breath. There was no telling what she might bring out, and what were we going to do next? My days in kindergarten were some of the most organized and productive of my life.

Forty-two years later, September still gives me that gift. Languid August is over, and no matter the forecast, I half-expect to wake up on the day after Labor Day to sweater weather and crunchy red and gold leaves under my feet. I am ready to re-organize whatever has become sloppy, make a fresh start, find a better routine, and be productive. Vacation is over; time to get to work.

What about you? Is September your real New Year? Do you long for a fresh start? Do you have something new to engage with this month? What’s going on in your life?

Posted in About Me, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 4 Responses

In Which I Reveal My Blogging Angst, Ask for Help, and Make a Promise


Blogging -- dilemmas and delights

So, writing. Yeah, been taking a break from most of that. And don’t ask me why, because I really don’t have a definitive answer. Blogging can become kind of relentless, and for me it started to feel like I had to document my life more than live it, which is not cool. Probably the bigger reason, though, and one I haven’t resolved in spite of the fact that you are reading something I wrote, is that as I get older I feel more and more that I need to get quieter. I fear becoming one of those bossy, know-it-all, middle-aged women who could solve all the world’s problems if only everyone would be still and listen to her. I can’t do anything about being middle-aged, and I will spend the rest of my life fighting my bossy nature, but at least I don’t have to be a know-it-all! So, quieter seemed better.

The trouble with that route is that I do have some observations to share that a few people have kindly told me they find valuable, and they wish I would start writing again. Older women are commanded by the apostle Paul to teach the younger women about some fundamental topics that affect the future of society and have eternal implications, too. I feel the weight of that directive, so I am trying to figure out how to balance teaching with non-know-it-all-itude.

What I want is to be a friend who walks alongside you. That is a two-way relationship, so you’ll be my friend if you gently point out any bossiness or unreasonableness you see creeping into my writing.

Ok, that’s done. So, what’s been happening? What’s on your mind? What’s going well? What has you flummoxed? I’d like to help, if I can. Tell me what you would find helpful to read about here. You can leave a comment, or you can always email me at with your requests and ideas.

Do a thing for me in return? One thing that made me stop writing was how much time publicizing the blog took. I am determined not to get on that treadmill again. I promise to try to write pretty regularly. If you find what I’m writing to be worth reading, I’m going to depend on you to share it. I’ll write, you publicize. Deal?

I understand you, Lucy. You would have been a non-conflicted blogger, I am sure.


Posted in About Me, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 4 Responses

For Lo, the Winter is Past…

It has been a long winter, friends, in more ways than one. The cold endured. Illness and injury endured, for me and several whom I love. Doctor visits endured. Time spent in the hospital with dear ones endured.

But, Spring! It comes:



Washington Spring 2013





I am so thankful on so many levels and for so many things — for prayers answered, for health restored, for danger averted, and, yes, for warmth and green and blossom and growth.

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Parenting for Lazy People: The Napping House, Part I

Picture your household at 5:30 pm. What’s happening? How does everybody feel? What is each person doing? Is there chaos or contentment? If your family includes children under six or so, I bet the answer to that last question depends mostly on one thing – what they were doing three hours earlier.

Naps? Why Bother? Why should a lazy parent make the effort, and I know it is an effort, to see that her child takes regular naps? The answer is simple: good parents want their children to be truly content* as much of the time as possible, and child who naps is much, much more likely to be a content child for more hours in the day. Yes, I know that children can adapt to a wide variety of circumstances, including not having daily naps, but children who nap are consistently happier and more content.

I always feel sad when I see young children misbehaving because they are exhausted. In a way, being tired is no excuse for bad behavior (Beware if you find yourself often excusing your child’s temper or defiance with a lame, “He’s tired.”), but it is a fact that parents can make things unnecessarily tougher on their kids by not providing the sleep routines they need. That fretful, clingy, whiney late-afternoon/early evening misery does not have to be part of your days.

And don’t tell me your child will not nap, because I won’t believe you. I won’t believe you because I used to work in a large daycare facility where a couple of hundred six week to six year-old children napped every single weekday, like clockwork and without fuss. And I won’t believe you because I was a nanny at various times to several children who napped every single day, like clockwork and without fuss. And I won’t believe you because I brought up three children of my own who napped every day, like clockwork and without fuss.

You can teach your child to nap. The time you put in to train good napping and sleeping habits will pay dividends immediately and for years to come for your child and for everyone else in the family!

*True contentment is opposite to the kind of false contentment many parents settle for by providing instantly gratifying things and experiences to keep their children from complaining. That false contentment is precisely what “spoils” children. True contentment always comes from doing the right thing, the best thing, in the circumstances.

Parenting for Lazy People: The Napping House, Part I

Quote from a great-grandma friend: “The more they sleep, the more they sleep.” Photo credit: Lauren Bingham

Post-script: The next part of this article is the how-to, but I confess I am struggling to write it. Entire books are written about how to help children sleep. Most of them, while well-meaning, are not that helpful. Some of them are silly. I have my opinion, backed up by a good deal of experience, but I know some readers will disagree, perhaps strongly. So I am wondering how much to say and how firmly to express it. I want us to still be friends at the end, and most of all I want everyone who reads to approach it with as open a mind as possible. So, I’m going to stop and call this Part I and ask all of you to prepare your minds for Part II. Try to read it, when it comes, with fresh, seeking eyes. Can you do that? And I’ll try hard to write it true. Thanks in advance. If you have young children, between now and then it would be great if you spent some time observing them and their level of tiredness throughout the day. It might be enlightening.

Posted in Life for Lazy People, Parenting for Lazy People, Parenting Practice | Tagged , , , , | Comments closed

Five Minute Friday Link-up: What Mama Did

I’m linking up with Lisa-Jo Baker at Tales from a Gypsy Mama today to spend five minutes writing about What Mama Did. Unfortunately, I can’t get her clicky button to work, but you can still get there from here. I enjoyed doing this! You can join in if you like.

What Mama Did

She worked.

In my very earliest memory, I am two years old and it is Christmastime. I am standing in our dark living room gazing up at the lighted cedar, which our family had trooped across the farm’s fields to find and cut a few days before. We are going to open a present soon, one of those wrapped boxes arranged beneath the branches. I don’t know quite what this means, but I think I will like it. We will open a present as soon as my mother finishes cleaning the kitchen. She is in there now, putting away the food we didn’t eat and washing the dishes at the white, hard sink. She is singing.

My mother was always working during my growing up years. Out in the barn, at the sewing machine, cleaning the house, weeding the garden beds, snapping beans, folding clothes, baking a cake, taking a meal to someone. It was only as I got older that I understood what all that working really was: service. She is a helper, a servant. She served my dad’s agricultural and horticultural interests by feeding and weeding and planting and harvesting. She served her family’s interests by cooking and preserving and sewing. She served others’ interests by taking and teaching.

What mama did was serve. Always. Completely. And she was often singing.

Tell me something your mama did.

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Taking Food

Serving others by taking food to them when they cannot easily provide it for themselves is one of the most basic ways to show care and love. Some may think it unnecessary in our modern time of take-out and delivery and meals-on-wheels, but if you have ever been stranded at home for a week with two or three vomiting preschoolers while you are sick yourself, you know that a Dominoes pepperoni and sausage just is not what is called for.

Taking Food

Single servings are handy to have in the freezer. I often make several at once.

A couple of months after I married and moved away from my hometown, a family in our congregation had a new baby. The day after Mommy and Baby came home from the hospital, I showed up at their house with dinner for that evening. The mom was shocked – she said several times, “I can’t believe you did this. Thank you so much! This is so helpful! Nobody has ever brought us a meal before.” I was taken aback – this was her third baby, as I remember. It was not that the people in the congregation were unkind or uncaring, but apparently nobody ever took food to anybody. The next time there was a need, I spoke to a few of the ladies and suggested we make a little calendar of meals for a week, one night for each of us. They were delighted with the idea. One older lady said, “Oh, I remember some of us used to do this for people years ago!” I wasn’t brave enough to ask why the practice stopped, but I imagine, like many good works, the spear-headers aged and got unable to do it anymore and everybody thought somebody else would take care of it and so nobody did, and probably those old ladies who had cooked countless meals for countless families ended up making do with cheese and crackers.

Taking Food

Making three items fit into two-compartment dishes; Barbecued Meatballs recipe is here.

If you are a human being, it is part of your job description to care for those who cannot care for themselves and that nearly always involves food, so it makes sense to get comfortable preparing and taking food to those who need it.

Taking Food

Putting the green beans, the least dense food, in the center will help microwave heating to be more successful.

To whom should I be taking food?

Basically, any time a family has an incapacitated homemaker, it will be a big help to the household to have food brought in:

  • Pregnancy: Sickness/Bed-rest/Birth
  • Illness/Injury
  • Stress Overload: Bereavement, caring for ill family members, super-busy season
Taking Food

Oatmeal cookies — always a hit!

Two types of food to take:

  1. Stand-alone meal for a family, couple, or individual: For this type of meal, usually they are having what we are having. I simply make more of whatever I am cooking for our own dinner and take their part to them in the afternoon.
  2. “Buffet-type” food to be served along with other food – most often following a death when the family may have a lot of extra people and food may be eaten at odd times
Taking Food

Disposable container stash — I also use large foil “roasters” I get at Sam’s Club

Tips to make sure your food is really helpful and not something to be endured:

  • Take into consideration dietary needs/preferences and re-heat-ability.
  • Rule-of-thumb: sick and grieving people need food that is comforting rather than challenging, while others may enjoy food that is more fun or palate-expanding.
  • Be scrupulously clean! People who are down and out in some way don’t need your family’s germs or pet hair to contend with. ‘Nuff said!
  • Save their sanity! This is one time to be a little non-green. Keep a reasonable stash of obviously-do-not-need-to-be-returned containers on hand. (But you probably don’t need to keep every yogurt tub that comes into your life.) I buy some of those disposable foil pans when they are on sale for casseroles and cakes. If you do need to use regular serve-ware, make sure your name is clearly labeled so it can be returned.
  • Make it easy to serve! Label each food item with the following: what it is, when it was made, how many it serves, if it can be frozen, cooking/reheating instructions, and, optionally, if it meets special dietary needs like gluten-free or low-sodium. I often write with a Sharpie right on the foil I will use to cover the dish. For example: Shepherd’s Pie; 2/13; serves 4; can be frozen; to bake from cold, thawed state: 350 degrees, uncovered, for 30-45 minutes or til heated through; GF
  • Keep it simple! A casserole, a vegetable, and some bread. A meat, a starch, and a salad. Chili and cornbread. Just about everybody loves a pan of brownies or a batch of chocolate chip cookies if you (or the store) have time. If you have a nice fringe dish on hand like a jar of homemade applesauce or preserves, that might be just the appetite brightener someone needs.
  • Keep it yummy! Remember: We eat with our eyes first, our noses second, and our mouths last. Try to make food that appeals to all three senses. When you take food to someone, there are two things that can work against their enjoyment of it: the “fear factor” of the unknown and the way it looks before it is warmed. You know it is good because it is one of your tried and true recipes, but to them it is unfamiliar. They may feel kind of the way many children are nervous about tasting new foods. Plus, if you have ever opened a container of cold chicken soup with bits of onion and carrot and noodles trapped in jiggly, jellied broth, you know what it means to be a little weirded out by something that will actually smell divine and look and taste delicious once it is hot. Those two things are true of most things you might take, but don’t add Strike Three by choosing something with even greater visual or olfactory challenges. Soup made with wild rice looks like congealed vomit when it is chilled. Ingredients like cooked cabbage or sauerkraut are real turn-offs to many people. What makes food more appealing? Top a casserole with cheese or breadcrumbs. Sprinkle things with a little minced fresh parsley. Dishes made with tomato products are usually good. For that ugly cold chicken soup, attach a card: “I’m not too appealing when I’m cold, but just wait until I’m heated up!”
  • Sometimes people get nearly killed with kindness if there is no coordination, so consider a roster of food-bringers.  Perhaps you can volunteer to put one together amongst your neighbors or co-workers or congregation.
Taking Food

Write directly on the cover if you can!

I am a little afraid my list of tips might scare off a food-bringing novice, so know this: the most important thing is to just do it. Just show love. Just serve. You’ll get better with practice, but even your virgin attempt, done with care and concern, is so valuable to someone who needs it.

Taking Food

As absolutely heaven-on-a-plate as southern dumplings are, I would only take them to people who already know and love them. Admit it – they ain’t pretty! Recipe here

And sometimes we choose to ignore our own tips. My mom had an accident several weeks ago and I have been cooking most of their dinners since. Today is the second time I am taking a cabbage dish. It is not beautiful, and it will be especially ugly just out of the fridge, so I would avoid fixing this for someone else, but I know my folks’ tastes and we have a huge cabbage to use up and so cabbage it is.

Taking Food

Sorry, Mom and Dad. Cabbage — it’s what’s for dinner!

Taking Food

I guess it could be worse!

Do you take food to other people? What is your favorite thing to fix?


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Parenting for Lazy People: Use Your Resources

As we said in the last Lazy Parenting essay, children must be ruled – they simply do not arrive equipped to fend for or make wise choices for themselves. If you are the parent, that is your job – to use your resources, wisdom, and experience to provide an environment in which they can flourish.

Whoa, you say, I don’t have much of any of those! Since I don’t know all the answers, maybe it’s best to just let my child kind of do what he likes.

Pardon me for saying so, but that’s one of the dumbest ideas around. You may not have much wisdom or experience, but you have more than your baby or toddler, at least, and happily you do have excellent resources available to you if you will look for them. (Hint: they aren’t found in most parenting magazines or talk shows.)

Resource #1: You probably already own a copy of the ultimate owner’s manual. It is the one written about how every human being’s life should be lived from start to finish, and the author is not some technical writer prodded by liability experts to include such gems as, “Microwaved foods are hot” and “Do not sleep while operating the hair dryer.” Instead, it is God, the creator of the people he writes about. He knows us inside and out. He understands the time and society in which we live, and best of all He loves us even more than we can love each other or ourselves. He even tells us He is our father, which makes Him the ultimate parent, the ultimate resource.

Parenting for Lazy People: Use Your Resources

Go here first!

Resource #2: Successful parents — You have to do a little investigative work here. Look at their “product” – their kids. If they are young, are they brats? Are they generally happy and content, and not just because they always get their way? If they are older, are they productive, polite, servers, and self-controlled? If they are grown, what is the fruit in their own lives?

When you find some good parents, use them! Ask questions, and listen carefully to the answers. Ask them what they wish they’d done differently. Observe them – what they do and say and what they do not do and say. What is the tone in the home? What do they emphasize? And, yes, where do you see things that could be done better?

Parenting for Lazy People: Use Your Resources

See a great kid? Follow her home and observe her parents!

Whether you know nothing about child-rearing or think you already have everything all figured out, a wise parent utilizes good resources.

In the comments, please share some great advice or a good example you learned from a parenting resource.

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  • In My Kitchen, In My Life is a place where women (and the odd male) can be encouraged, nudged, and occasionally kicked in the pants toward living their lives on a higher plane. Oh, and readers get plenty of chances to laugh at the author's foibles, which is always worth a click.

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