Thursday, February 27, 2014

Sweet Potato and Roasted Corn Chowder

This delicious recipe is adapted from Gluten-Free Goddess.  It's one of my new favorites.

Sweet Potato and Roasted Corn Chowder


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
4-5 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
1 medium sweet onion, diced
2 generous cups of Trader Joe's roasted corn (or you can roast your own, TJ's just makes it so easy!)
1 large sweet potato, peeled, diced
1 14-oz can Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes with Green Chiles (This makes it a bit spicy.  I always double the recipe, so I do one w/green chilies and one regular.)
1 cup seeded, chopped tomatoes
1 quart light vegetable broth, or to taste
1 14-oz can coconut milk
1/2 avocado diced, or to taste
Sea salt and ground pepper, to taste

To serve:
3 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
Fresh lime juice from 2 juicy limes


Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat and stir in the cumin and chili powder; cook for one minute to infuse the oil with spice.

Add the chopped garlic and onion. Stir and cook for five minutes. Add the roasted corn and sweet potato until al dente, then add the diced tomatoes, fresh tomatoes and the broth.

Cover and bring to a high simmer. Lower the heat and simmer gently, until the sweet potatoes are tender, about fifteen minutes or so.

Add the coconut milk and avocado. Stir and season with sea salt and ground pepper. Heat through gently- please don't boil it.

Just before serving, add the chopped cilantro and fresh lime juice. Stir. Taste test. Adjust seasoning. The lime juice brightens the taste and accents the spice. 

Garnish with a lime wedge and pass out the spoons. Slurp. Smile.

Serves 6-8.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

8 Outstanding Books to Help Us Appreciate Our Civil Rights

My cousin Ben married a lovely girl, Celeste.  (I actually take full credit for their successful marriage, because after his mission, Ben moved to the apartment complex I recommended, which is where he met her.)  They now have two darling sons (the older of the two looks just like Ben).  

Celeste is an avid reader, and a wonderful writer.  She has a new blog, that is really fun.  She is up on good reads her young boys, as well as for herself.  With her permission, I'm re-posting here her post:

8 Outstanding Books to Help Us Appreciate Our Civil Rights

Maybe it's just me (but pretty sure it's not), but I sometimes blow off Martin Luther King Jr. Day itself. It's easy to just be relieved for any old holiday off during dreary January. So the past few years, I've started a bit of a tradition to remember the important cause we're celebrating. **A shocker coming** I read a book.

In turn, I've found some of the most affecting books I've ever read. I recommend choosing one to read this month to help truly appreciate our freedoms!
Iran Awakening by Shirin Ebadi
An Iranian judge made to step down with the start of the Iranian Revolution, Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi tells her story of trying to create change in her beloved country. 
Gandhi: His Life and Message for the World by Louis Fischer
After seeing the movie that got Best Picture, I had to know more about the Mahatma's life. This was my favorite of the ones I read.
Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick
The engaging and retching stories of six North Korean defectors. Full review here.
Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang
An incredible book of three generations of women in 20th century China. From foot-binding to idealistic communists, then the Cultural Revolution. It's all covered here within the perspective of this grandmother, mother and the author herself.
Tree Shaker: The Story of Nelson Mandela by Bill Keller
Written for a juvenile audience, this is an easy read to appreciate the leadership and sacrifice of recently departed Nelson Mandela.
Persopolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi
A graphic novel telling the story of a young girl in revolutionary Iran.
Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West by Blaine Harden
The only person ever known to survive an escape from a North Korean labor camp, the chilling story of his life.
Mayada: Daughter of Iraq by Jean Sasson
One girl's up-close and personal associations with Saddam Hussein and her life in his Iraq. Many gruesome scenes and some graphic descriptions, but as it is real life, I thought it was worth reading through the gore.

Or if time is short, there's always King's powerful "Letter from Birmingham Jail".

You might notice the notable absence of books on American civil rights. I need to right that. Any recommendations?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Why it's Hard to Lose Weight

I just watched this TED talk, and was interested in your response to it.

I really like what she says about "mindful eating," but do you think she's right about our bodies having a set weight we're inclined to remain at?

What does it mean for you?

Has this been your experience?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

CO & Potato Printing

You may remember that for this year we are going through the values of "charity." Do you remember the first one for January?  "Long Suffering."  Yeah, we should have given a second thought before praying as a family to be more long suffering.
We passed around the stomach flu, had the coldest month we could remember, and had a gas leak that resulted in co2 poisoning, and having our gas turned off because of a leak, taking with it our heat and hot water.
Our home was swarming with these guys late last Friday night as they tried to detect the source of the gas leak.
Our CO poisoning came from corrosion of an old gas pipe.  We don't know how long it's been leaking, but we definitely experienced most of the symptoms: headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion.  Especially the confusion ;)  Having the gas turned off in January was a good crash course in preparedness.  I'm happy to say we did pretty well, and we're very grateful for a very effective wood burning stove that did the job beautifully.

But seriously--get a CO Detector!  People can go years not knowing they're being poisoned, if the leak is small.  Who knew?

Needless to say, we're very happy to be moving into February, with slightly warmer weather, slightly more light, and instead of focusing on "long suffering," we get to be "kind."  How bad can it be?
To celebrate, the littles and I made this super easy poster.  We used potatoes and a red and black ink pad, and viola!  A reminder poster.

Happy February!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Seize the Moment

I can't get it all done. There is always more to do than I can do. There are always things left undone at the end of the day.

Familiar story?

Even when I manage to stay on top of the bare basics, there are plenty of undone extras: things I want or need to do, but can't find enough time.

Enough time. That's my hang-up. I actually have bunches of tiny windows of time (10 minutes here, 20 minutes there), but sometimes I don't even try to start something because I know I won't have time to finish it before I leave the house, before naptime, before my student comes, before I have to start dinner, before.....

Usually, these are non-essentials (i.e. not necessary for survival). Things like:
  • Plant winter crops (including the seed garlic that's been in my fridge for two months)
  • Tackle the piles on the desks and in the corners
  • Plan a lesson on Mexico for the our little homeschooling co-op
  • Writing time (journal, thank you notes, letters)
  • Practice my violin
  • Pick a bagful of avocados
  • Cut the boys' hair
  • Take inventory of our 72-hour kits and food storage
  • Make sauerkraut and kimchi before I lose those cabbages
  • Record songs and poems for a bedtime playlist for my boys
  • Learn a song on my guitar
  • Write regular blog posts! 

You know what happens when I wait for a big enough window of time? They usually remain undone. I miss my chance to plant the garlic, piles become household fixtures, I lose the cabbages, etc. etc.

I have decided to forget about enough time. Instead, I break it down and seize the moment! I do something instead of putting it off "until I have time." Seizing the moment often has a lovely domino effect. For example:

The Garden
I went outside to call the boys inside, then decided to give them a few extra playtime minutes and readied two garden boxes for new seeds. Feeling motivated a few hours later, I took a loose 15 minutes and planted that garlic! When I had a student cancel in the afternoon, still feeling extra happy about having that garlic underground, I also planted parsley, cilantro, carrots, beets, and sugar snaps! I happily admired the dirt under my nails all day. :)

The Messy Studio Corner
When I had only a handful of minutes before a student arrived, I plunged in and filed the music that had been piling on and around my filing cabinet. When I finished teaching that day, I stayed in the studio an extra ten minutes, sorted a few more papers, and left the top of the file cabinet looking respectable. My mind is so much clearer in there now!

Writing Time
I can do this while the boys do their schoolwork. Or maybe nab ten minutes after I brush my teeth at night. Or just write it when I think of it! That only takes a couple minutes, and then (in the case of a journal) I don't forget what I wanted to document. A few journal lines is better than nothing, right?? Keeping journals out in the open inspires regularity.

This is the hardest one to face without a real block of time. Just when I feel warmed up, I have to stop. But I learned this week that a well-used 20 minutes here and there still builds on itself. It is very satisfying.

Well, look at me go. :) Started this one last night, finished this morning during the boys' free time. On my iPad, I keep a running list of possible topics with notes under each one so I have a ready outline when a window of time and computer access happily coincide.

Sometimes I use a few minutes to do things half-way, such as pulling the emergency gear from the garage, ready to look over. The danger here is creating more mess with no concrete plan to finish. To avoid this trouble, I jot down the main things I would like to accomplish in any leftover time during the day (I have my weekly calendar scrawled on a whiteboard in the dining area). This prioritizing helps me feel okay about not having time to finish once I start.

SIDE NOTE: Seizing the moment is twice as hard if I don't sleep enough at night. As I feel accomplished seeing my extras get done, I am highly motivated to go to bed at a decent hour.  It's a nice cycle to get stuck in.

How do you seize the moment? Share your secrets!