Thursday, April 7, 2016

Cheesy Chowder and Butter Bread

Cheesy Chowder
I used the WingfeatherSaga.com recipe, which I understand is actually Andrew's mom's recipe.
This one is one my son has been asking for since we read about it in the first book.  Ironically, he isn't much of a soup eater.  On top of that, while Nepal has tons of delicious food here, cheese is not a strength!  So, when I imagine a bowl of thick cream chowder with melted cheddar, it was hard for me to let go of that and just embrace the general "cow cheese," which is not great.  Because of that, I did also add a few processed cheese slices to the mix.  Not classy, but it helped it be a bit smoother and make for a more familiar cheese taste.
I also used chicken broth instead of water.






Butter Bread
I used this recipe, but I doubled the butter (both for in and on the bread) because, well, in this Midwestern American girl's mind, if you have something called BUTTER bread, I want to TASTE the butter!  :)
I did then only do 1/4 c water at the end and probably could have skipped it altogether.  It makes a very wet dough, so I kneaded it in the bowl and let it rise there.  It is a different texture than a sandwich bread this way (almost more like a biscuit), and it was falling apart (I might try to play around with that a bit), but we loved it!
One note:  This makes one very large loaf!  I couldn't see anywhere in the recipe where it said what SIZE of pan to use.  I used my larger loaf pan (9x5, I think), and it still filled it to nearly overflowing.


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Legos and Drawings from Wingfeather

(I should note that these drawings and Lego scenes might kind of be spoilers, so wait if you haven't yet read the books!)
When my son is enthusiastic about something, he often kicks into long stretches of drawing or building Legos related to it.  He asked me if there are any Wingfeather Lego sets, and when I told him there were not, he opted to make his own.  He was sure that Andrew Peterson needed to see these, and that these sets should definitely be manufactured!  :)

First, when we were doing book reports for our homeschool co-op, he made a promotional poster for the first book.  He doesn't always take a lot of risks and usually asks for a coloring page of a subject before he'll start drawing it.  We ended up printing out a couple of the illustrations from the Wingfeather Saga site (Pete on Nugget, the toothy cow, and the Fang).  Once he had those, he actually sat for a long stretch of time looking at the drawing in book 2 of Pete's tree house and drew it on his own.


One of the first things he wanted to make was giant Nugget.  Since he wanted it to be much bigger than the usual minifigures, he built it and tried to make a head.

Here is his drawing of Artham and the sea dragons fighting off Fangs on the Enremere.

These are the minifigures he put together.  From left to right:  Leeli, Durgan guildling, Janner, Bat Fang, Bat Fang, and Green Fang.

He spent quite a lot of time on this scene.  It is the Glipwood jail (with Janner) and the Black Carriage with a Green Fang driving.


Just a few things he's been creating as he gets engrossed in the stories.  He also is building Chimney Hill but doesn't want me to take a photo with it not finished. :)

Oh, and I'm adding his Gnag-Dragon that he just finished.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Appreciators of the Neat, Strange, and/or Yummy

If you know the reference from that title, then you are our people!  And, if not, JOIN US!  :)
We have been reading the Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson and have been absolutely and completely captured by it!  My son and I have bonded so much over it, and we are just wrapping up the last book (don't write any spoilers!).
My son and I are "go big or go home" kind of people, so when we love something, we tend to submerge ourselves (and those around us) in it!  So, we'll post a few things here on the blog in case there are other crazy fans who just can't help themselves from pretending to live in Aerwiar for a time.
And, why not start with food?!
So, a few recipes for you to kick this off:

Henmeat Biscuit Pie (adapted from Alton Brown)
Janner says in The Monster in the Hollows that it is his favorite when he has come home from a very rough day.  His mother simply says, "I know."  Comfort food at its best.

8 T (1/2 c) butter
2 pounds henmeat, cut into pieces
1/2 c flour
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cup cream
2 cups chicken broth
1 t salt
1/2 t ground sage
1/2 t freshly ground black pepper

4 1/4 c flour, plus more for rolling out
3 t baking powder
3/4 t baking soda
1 t salt
1/2 t dried thyme
1/2 t ground sage
pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
1 1/2 c grated cheese (We don't really have options here; it's just "cow cheese." But, I would go with cheddar, if given the option. I did find some "aged" cheese here that I used.)
170 g (3/4 cup) cold butter, cut into small pieces
(Alton has a trick that I have heard is really good, which is to freeze the butter and then grate it...but, really, I never remember to freeze it ahead of time, so I've never tried it.)
1 1/4 c buttermilk (I didn't have any, so I soured plain milk with about 1 T of vinegar.)

In a deep skillet over medium high heat, melt the butter and brown the chicken pieces in it.
Add the flour and mix it in, cooking for about a minute.
Slowly add the liquids (milk, cream, and broth).  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat, cooking for another 2-3 minutes until sauce thickens.  Season with the sage, salt, and pepper, and then set aside.

For the biscuits, combine all the dry ingredients and grated cheese.  Then cut in the butter (I just use a fork) until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Pour in the buttermilk and stir to combine.  Dump the dough onto a floured work surface and start folding the dough over on itself, gently kneading for 30 seconds, or until the dough is soft and smooth. Press the dough into a 1/2-inch thick round. Use a 3-inch round cutter to cut out the biscuits, being sure to push the cutter straight down through the dough to the work surface. Make your cuts as close together as possible to limit waste. Gather together any remaining dough, pat out again, and cut out as many biscuits as you can. 


Pour the henmeat filling into a large (mine was 9x13) casserole dish and then lay the biscuits on top.  (I ended up with more biscuits than fit on top, using these quantities, so you could adjust the quantities for the biscuits, or we just baked the extra biscuits on a tray and enjoyed them.)  
Bake at 400 degrees F until the biscuits have risen and are starting to get golden brown, about 15-20 minutes.



Jellymuffins (adapted from Simply Delicious)
Mentioned in the first book, at least, when they go to the Dragon Day Festival
3/4 c granulated sugar
1 1/2 c plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup soured milk (mix about a teaspoon of vinegar into the milk and let set for a few minutes before using)
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
150g butter, melted (2/3 cup)
12 tsp sweetberry preserves
for the coating3/4 cup granulated sugar

  1. Heat the oven to 180°C (350°F) and lightly grease a 12-hole muffin tin.
  2. Put the sugar, flour and baking powder in a bowl and mix to combine.
  3. In a separate bowl, stir together the sour milk, eggs, and vanilla extract. Pour the wet ingredients and melted butter into the dry ingredients and fold until mixed well.
  4. Place 2 tbsp of the mixture into each muffin hole. Add 1 tsp of the jam into the center of each and then cover with the rest of the batter.
  5. Place the muffins into the oven and allow to bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown and cooked through.
  6. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes in the tin before removing and rolling in the granulated sugar.
  7. Serve warm.
My eager helper

And, just a little glimpse of what the "idea man" was actually doing while little brother and I did the cooking...

I guess we all have our roles!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Vehicles in Nepal

We moved here to Nepal when my youngest son was only 18 months old.  This is his home, his normal.  In typical little boy fashion, I suppose, he loves vehicles.  Anything with wheels holds his attention and affection.  While my older son struggled with the transition to not having the predictability of just walking out to our parking space and getting in our own car, my younger one took great delight in the experience of getting to ride many different forms of transportation.  Just a few weeks ago, when he and I went to a farmer's market in another part of the city, he requested that we not take the one direct option of getting in a taxi and going straight to our destination.  He wanted, as he often does, to ride in a bus to one spot, take a tuk tuk to another, and then finally get in a taxi.  Certainly not a time-saving route, but he tends to get that things are not in a hurry here better than I often do! :)
So, to continue to share a bit about our home here, I wanted to share some glimpses of Zeke's favorite things here--the vehicles.

Vehicles here are not, in many ways, that unique from other countries in the region but are quite different from those we are used to in the West.

There are many large vans like this one that are part of the public transportation here.  They call one a "microbus" or just "micro" for short.  They travel along specific routes, and you get on one and find a space (or just cram in where a Westerner would never imagine there to be an actual space) and then exit and pay when you have reached the point on the route where you wanted to go.


This is a tuk tuk.  It is a three-wheeled little vehicle with a seat in the front for the driver and a passenger (or a few) and then two benches line the walls of the back compartment.  You enter through a small door in the back.  Again, they travel regular routes, and you pay when you get off at your stop.  Usually, and this is Zeke's favorite part, you tap the roof twice to let the driver know you want to stop and get out.

While this it itself just a regular car, it is decorated for a wedding procession.  It is commonly part of a marriage celebration to have a car decorated elaborately with flowers.  It is usually accompanied by a procession of family and friends and the wedding band.  It is a delightful procession!

This is an ambulance.  Not a lot to say about that, but ambulance service to private homes is not as common.  Often people take it to transfer from hospital to hospital.  Traffic does not yield to them as it does in the States, but they do have a light on top (or sometimes in front) and a siren.

Bicycles are certainly not unique to Nepal, but the number of people that ride them as a primary means of transportation is quite high.  

Similarly, motorcycles are perhaps the most common mode of motor vehicles here.  They are much more common for individuals or families to own than a car.  I wish I had a photo of someone carrying a load they need to transport on a bicycle or motorcycle.  It is truly impressive to see what they can manage to transport (grills, beds, major appliances, goats...seriously, it's amazing)!

One of Ezekiel's favorites is the bus.  He really likes to ride the bus.  He used to climb up the bars of our window and then hang off to pretend he was what he affectionately calls the "bus banger."  Every bus has a guy (usually pretty young) standing in the doorway--often hanging out of it--who is calling out the destinations and trying to attract passengers to get on.  He bangs on the side of the bus one time to tell the driver to stop and two times to go--thus, the name "bus banger."  :)
This is also the person who collects the money (between 10 and 20 rupees, depending on the distance, which is roughly 10-20 cents in the US).  Ezekiel was very disappointed, when preparing for our visit to the States this past summer, to find out that there are no "bus bangers" in America--only a machine to collect your money!  What fun is that?!  ;)

There are times, including now with the fuel shortage, that the buses get quite crowded.  People (men only really) pile on top to ride or hang from the back ladder or the side door while the bus goes.


We often take taxis, especially if we have things to carry from errands or need to go to a specific location that isn't along a main bus route.  We live in an area up a hill, and the tuk tuks and microbuses don't come up to our part.  Taxis are much more expensive than taking a bus, but they are still quite inexpensive in comparison to what a taxi ride in the States costs!  Usually, the price is negotiated before the ride.  
This is perhaps our record number of passengers we have achieved in one taxi!  There are three of us adults and eight kids!  Seatbelts and car seats are not required!  Technically, I believe the drivers are required to wear seatbelts, but they usually just drape it over themselves if they are approaching a checkpoint. 


Not a mode of transportation for people, but water trucks are vehicles that are a common part of life here.  Water is not just available at all times from municipal plumbing.  At our home, we have a tank in the ground.  For one hour per day, a line from the city supplies water to that tank.  We then have a pump that pumps it to a tank on our roof.  That tank is connected to the plumbing in our home.  The supply from the city is often not sufficient, so we call a water tanker like this one, and they come and fill the tank with a big thick hose that looks like a fire hose.  Ezekiel still likes to watch when they come and enjoys being the one to pay them, but it used to be an even bigger highlight for him.  He would get SO excited to hear one coming into the neighborhood and would sit and watch the entire 20 minutes or so that it took to fill the tank.
He was a little overwhelmed here because the guys actually let him sit up in the water truck.  It doesn't appear he's enjoying it, but it was a BIG deal for him!

When we still had a double stroller in our driveway, the boys would take a snack and sit in it and just watch the water truck.  Big event for the day! :)

These tractors are also a common sight here, as they are often used to haul things.

Often several guys will ride along with the load, perhaps to help load and unload but sometimes just along for the ride.

These days with the fuel shortage, we see a lot less vehicles around than normal!  We're hoping that things will soon return to normal functioning.  In the meantime, good old-fashioned walking has been getting loads of us where we need to go.




Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Sharing a Bit of Our Home--Nepal

We have lived in Nepal for three years now, and it has become our home.  There has been much going on here in the last six months or so.  As most probably are aware, we had a major earthquake on April 25 (you can read my post about our personal experience with that here), the country adopted and signed a constitution in September after a long process of many years and many challenges, and now, we are facing a blockade from India in which critical supplies are not being allowed to cross the border.

I find that few people actually know very much about this small nation, though, and in spite of all that has gone on and is going on, it very often barely makes a blip on the news cycle.  Even after the earthquake (a 7.8 in which nearly 10,000 were killed, homes were destroyed, and many villages were literally wiped out) the earthquake, international news had moved on within a couple of days.
In the midst of the fuel shortage crisis we are now facing from the blockade, the first news story to pop up on international news was actually about possibly climbing restrictions for Mt. Everest, the only point of reference many people tend to have for this small nation.

But, this is an incredible place, and while it is not a major player in the world political scene, it is filled with such rich culture and history and absolutely beautiful people.
It isn't my desire to try to educate or unravel current events here; instead, I would like to just start a series of posts that give a glimpse of what we see here in this place we now call home.  Some may focus on the joys and challenges of living overseas and outside of our home culture, but primarily, I would like to just show a bit of our Nepal!

To start off, I'd like to share something that we finished soon after the earthquake actually and is long overdue for me to share.  There is a simple and lovely children's book called I See the Sun in Nepal

The story is written in both English and Nepali, but given that Nepali uses a different script (called Devanagari), you can't really attempt to read it unless you have learned the script.

I had some of our friends from our office here read the book and made a recording of it.  Originally, it started as a present for some in our U.S. office to have for the arrival of new babies, but I really wanted to share it with any who would enjoy it to give one little glimpse and experience into life in rural Nepal.  It is not a professional quality recording, but we had a fun time making it!  I recommend the book itself to experience it through the illustrations as well, but you can also just enjoy the story through the recording itself.  I have shared it here as an audio file on google drive.  I hope you enjoy the story and a little glimpse into our lovely Nepal!

Finding My Voice and Doing "Us"

I haven't updated anything here for quite awhile.  We were traveling for the summer, but also, the truth is that I've been pondering some shifts for quite awhile for this blog.  There are many, many people who blog about school and who do it much better than I do.  Parents and friends have often enjoyed seeing glimpses of what we do, but I can just do some pictures in other contexts for them to see.  Most of the things we do for school are ideas I have collected and maybe slightly adapted from other wonderful sources and not made myself.
Also, I find myself still on very much of a journey as to what school looks like for us and how we homeschool in a way that fits our circumstances, my personality, and the personalities and learning styles of my boys.  Most people, I think, find themselves in some sort of mix of styles and approaches and often changing and growing as they continue the homeschool journey.  That is true for us as well, and as we get a few years "under our belts," I feel more freedom to explore and am enjoying the process of connecting more and more all the time to what fits for us.  
Having taught in public schools as my profession before having kids, there have been certain aspects of homeschooling that have come quite easily for me and some that have been a great challenge.  I love the lesson planning and research and preparing and instructing.  I can confidently say that I was good at that, and I still am.  However, being a mom who is just loving on my boys well in the midst of it is, honestly, not as easy or natural for me.  As much as I am thankful for the freedom to just take joy in exploring and learning and not feel bound to a traditional school model, I also sometimes find myself very uncomfortable and insecure in that less defined space.  How will I be able to show how productive we've been?!  What about all these things on my checklist (most of which are solid things, by the way)?!
Particularly in this most recent season, I find myself being stretched and growing in grace for myself and my boys.  I am learning to be more at ease and release some of the pressure from my ideals of perfectly educating my kids.  Like Jen Hatmaker phrased it in her recent book, I am (slowly) learning to "quit trying to be awesome and instead be wise."
I recently read Teaching from Rest by Sarah Mackenzie.  It is possibly just the season I find myself in and what God is already stirring in me, but it was SUCH a great read!  I can look back even on my times of teaching as a (paid) profession and see my desperate attempts to pour out everything I had to be an amazing teacher and still feel like it was never enough.  I was good.  I can say that because I believe it is a gift God has given me.  But, I am coming to terms with not being "enough."  I bring my best, and on some days, I find myself bringing a basket fairly void of patience, grace, or affection for my boys, but trusting that God is at work and has got this thing of raising and educating my boys is something in which I am finding increasing freedom.
Where does that leave this little blog?  Well, I'm not entirely sure yet.  I no longer feel the need to chronicle everything we do (or even the highlights).  I am not the one to write the deepest insights into this new-to-me aspect of freedom and grace and rest in our schooling.  There are others far more gifted at writing and sharing both of those and really pursuing excellence in blogging about it.
For now, I feel released from any pressure to be a homeschool blogger and only focus on sharing what may be unique for us.  I don't feel the pressure to share super regularly or frequently in hopes to keep people reading.  If what I do share is valuable to some, I trust it will find its way to them.
I may share more about cooking adventures, as I did really enjoy the series of trying to cook "around the world" with my younger son last winter/spring.  The main things, though, that I think are unique to us from the other multitudes of blogs are living here in Asia and doing school and life here, natural math and engaging kids in loving math, and perhaps my passion for having kids experience the broader story of the Bible.  We may share some other bits and pieces along the way, but we'll mainly keep on our journey to find our way in what school looks like for us, and I'll share when it seems we have something that might be unique or connected well to our passions, or I just had a bit of extra time and something fun for me to share.    We'll keep pursuing "doing us" and invite you into some pieces of that journey along the way.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Middle Eastern Cooking

It's been a strange season for us, post-earthquake, but we've tried to get back to some routines and things that feel "normal" for us.  So, a lower maintenance stop on our food tour for the Middle East, and without a lot of flowery writing, here are our food adventures from the Middle East.
I didn't get a ton of kid action shots this time, and honestly for some of it, they weren't interested in the cooking, so they just did the eating. :)

Egypt
The one food I have always remembered from a trip to Egypt many years ago and that I used to cook with some frequency is koshary.
 There are a bunch of recipes out there with slight varieties, and given that it is a basic and simple street food, any of them would probably work.
This recipe from Food.com is easy to follow.  I actually modified one from Extending the Table, which is a great cookbook.  It actually wasn't in my updated version of the book.
Basically, for the sauce, I combined a couple tablespoons of tomato paste and about a cup of fresh cooked tomatoes I had pureed, about a teaspoon of sugar, cumin, and salt each.

For dessert, we made basbousa.  I had never had it before, but it turned out quite nicely.  I just used all-purpose flour instead of semolina since that is what we had, and it worked fine.  Also, I clearly let my simple syrup simmer too long, and once it cooled, it turned completely solid.  But, I just added a bit more water and remelted it, and it was fine.

Qatar
Qatar is kind of a big deal in this part of the world, as it is a center for a lot of heartbreaking issues that affect Nepalis very dearly.  It is hard for me to celebrate it, but I know there are good people and good things there as well.  We did pray a lot, though, for justice to break through in this place.
We ended up not getting things together to pull off the food tour stop here, but here are a few links I had that we were going to try.
This link has a list of some key foods that you "must try" in Qatari cuisine, and here is a recipe for balaleet, an intriguing sounding breakfast in Qatar.

Israel
You have to get around to some good pita bread for this region.
While this isn't the most traditional version, we really like this recipe for flat bread.  It is a bit more Greek in style, I suppose, but we've made it a few times and know it comes out well.  I have always doubled the recipes, which makes for some time rolling and cooking, but then we have one batch to set aside for later or even freeze.
We also made Palestinian kufta (or kofta, I've seen it spelled either way).  We didn't have fresh mint, so we made it without, and it was still really flavorful.  For getting ground meat, it is not always easy to find mutton, so I made these with half beef and half pork, which is a bit laughable since it is probably the one meat you would see LEAST--if at all--in most of the Middle East, given that it is neither Kosher nor Halal!  But, the beef here isn't the best quality, and the pork mix makes it more palatable.  I would definitely recommend going another route for the sake of authenticity, if you have access to other meat options!  :)

And, topping it off, we made sufganyot!  This was definitely the favorite, and the boys got really into helping make these!  

It would seem that they are mainly a Hanukkah treat, but people, they are DONUTS!  How can you pass up the excuse to make donuts?!  All in the name of culture. :)
They didn't actually seal very well on many of them, so if we try these again, I'd look for tips for getting them to seal around the edge better to keep them more like a ball and keep the jam inside.