Excellent Educational Toy!

One evening last week, my five-year-old was in one of those moods where he makes unreasonable demands.  “I have to have my own computer!” he said in an unpleasant tone.

“You already have your own computer,” I reminded him.  He has one of those toy laptops designed for preschoolers; my uncle gave it to him for his third birthday.

“No!” he said, “I need a real computer on my desk so I can type on it!  I have to type right now or I am never going to bed again!!!”

I made some kind of annoyingly parental comment about how a person who starts resisting bedtime before it’s even been mentioned probably needs to go to bed early.  Both Daniel (his dad) and I acknowledged his demands for a computer with some sort of unsatisfying, “Hmmm.  We’ll see.”  We were trying to finish our dinner and did not appreciate the complaining.

After a while Nicholas said, “Well, at least I need a typewriter!  On my desk!”

Daniel, who was just getting up from the table, said calmly, “We do have a typewriter that nobody is using.”

Nicholas was astonished.  “Really?  We have a typewriter?!  Where is it?  We have to set it up on my desk right away!  And I will type!”  After a quick reminder that typing time would be limited by the need to get ready for bed soon, Daniel went down to the basement to get the typewriter.  (I was kind of surprised myself.  I had totally forgotten about the typewriter since moving into the house; I guess it had been stored in a place where I never had to move it.  Daniel apparently knew its exact location.)

Turns out a typewriter is in many ways more satisfying to a five-year-old than a computer: Read more…

Jeremy’s Stuffed Shells

Jeremy Halpern is a friend Daniel has known since grade school, who has some good ideas about food.  He gave Daniel this recipe years ago, written on a tiny sheet of paper, which we have carefully kept ever since.  These cheese-stuffed pasta shells have been our Christmas dinner every year since 1997.  Once we’d tried them, we never again considered roasting any sort of beast for our holiday feast–these shells are just that good!  And this recipe is quicker to bake and a little easier to assemble than lasagna. Read more…

It’s Only Monday.

I was invited by my pastor to present a “reflection” on the scripture readings for tonight’s church service, like a short sermon.  Our Episcopal parish has a service every day in this week before Easter, and we have a tradition of laypeople giving the reflections on the Monday and Tuesday–probably partly so that our pastor doesn’t have to write that many sermons!  I really appreciated this opportunity to write and speak about some of my ideas and to learn more about the process of writing something like this.  One of the things that originally attracted me to The Episcopal Church was the quality of the sermons and the fascinating way they often tie together readings that at first hearing don’t seem related.  The only guidance my pastor gave me about what to say was that it should be about Holy Week and that it should relate to at least one of the readings.  I was awed at being given so much leeway!  I printed out the readings and put them on top of my dresser and stared at them several times a day, and after a few days it all started to come together.  Everyone seemed to think it turned out pretty well, so I’m posting it here. Read more…

Chickicheesinara Sauce

A decade ago, my friend Alison posted some recipes online, and several times since then she’d mentioned her Chickicheesinara Sauce for spaghetti . . . but for some reason, I never got around to trying it until just a few weeks ago!  Not only did my whole family like it, but also I noticed something important about it: The consistency is very similar to meat sauce.  If you are accustomed to putting ground meat in spaghetti sauce, but now you’re fasting from meat for Lent or overall trying to eat less meat or just looking for a change of pace, this recipe is for you! Read more…

We Eat This. 8 Unusual Nutritious Foods

My mother has taken several trips around Japan, visiting many ordinary people and not just the tourist destinations.  She says she’s often been served an interesting food and asked what it is, only to get the reply, “We Eat This.”  Translation: “We don’t know enough English and you don’t know enough Japanese for us to explain exactly what this is, but it’s good to eat.  Try it!”

I sometimes feel that way about several foods that have become common ingredients in my meals, which average Americans don’t eat.  I love them all and would like to share the joy!  Almost all of these foods have been mentioned and briefly explained somewhere in The Earthling’s Handbook already, but until this Works-for-Me Wednesday there hasn’t been a handy reference page to explain them. Read more…

Steel Kitchen Cabinets!

Our house was a bargain, priced about $40,000 less than similar houses in the immediate area.  Our realtor said, “Well, it’s a bargain to you because you like the kitchen.  Most people would expect to spend about $40,000 totally redoing the kitchen.”

Yes, we’re charmed by our kitchen decor, which dates from the 1950s: pink and gray, with chrome trim and boomerang-pattern Formica counters!  There are a few worn-through spots in the Formica, but otherwise it’s all in good condition, and all the appliances are newer except the dishwasher, which has such a cool space-age look that we don’t much care if it’s usable.  The kitchen layout is excellent, about as efficient as a kitchen its size (10’x10′) can be.  But after living in this house almost eight years, I think the best feature of the kitchen is the steel cabinets.

Now I can’t understand why anyone makes kitchen cabinets out of any other material!  Steel cabinets

  • provide gobs of surfaces on which to display things secured with magnets.  In addition to the puny refrigerator surface, we have magnetic areas covering most of two walls!  We can hang up all the shopping lists, artworks, nutritional references, cartoons, and inspiring quotes without overlapping.  (Note to gift-givers: We always can use more magnets!)
  • are coated with enamel paint that can be thoroughly scrubbed with plenty of water, without damaging it.  The constant grabbing of the door edges by damp hands takes a long time to wear off that paint–unlike the finish of many wood and laminate cabinets I’ve known.  When we get tired of the color (which we thought would happen much sooner–they’re a kind of battleship gray that we thought would be depressing, but somehow it isn’t), they’ll be easy to repaint.
  • are extremely solid and durable.  They don’t rattle, and the shelves don’t fall out when we pack them with heavy stuff.
  • operate reliably.  The latches sometimes stick just a little in humid weather, but that’s about it.  Even the doors that are missing their latch pegs stay closed until you touch them.  The hinges rarely creak, stick, or get loose.  The drawers slide smoothly.  After 50+ years!!
  • don’t have a lot of annoying grooves to gather dust that then suddenly falls into your mixing bowl as you reach for the cinnamon!  There’s just one ridged panel, in front of the sink (our cabinets are almost identical to the ones in this photo), and apparently I’m dusting it with my tummy every time I wash dishes, because it doesn’t accumulate much dust.  Everything else is a smooth, vertical or slightly curved surface except (unavoidably) the top edges of the doors.

Steel cabinets work for me!  If you’re shopping for a house or planning a renovation, I highly recommend them.  Like most good-quality home furnishings made of “real” materials, I bet new ones are hard-to-find and expensive these days, but steel cabinets turn up regularly at Construction Junction, salvage yards, and yard sales.