What to Do When Your Child Witnesses Bad Discipline

If you have any opinions at all about the appropriate methods of disciplining children, and if you are ever anywhere near any families with different opinions, someday you will find yourself in this situation: Your child sees another parent respond to a child’s behavior in a way that your child recognizes as different, which may be shocking or upsetting to your child.  What can you say to help your child understand what’s going on?

My son Nicholas is eight years old now.  We’ve used a mostly gentle discipline approach that focuses on explaining, redirecting, and using these strategies:

We sometimes get fed up and start yelling or say things that aren’t so nice, but we do our best to avoid being really harsh and hurtful, and we don’t hit him.  That means that when he sees another parent using harsh or violent discipline, he expects an explanation. Read more…

Fast, Frugal, Fruit-Flavored Oatmeal (or, how to use up the jam stuck to the jar)

When a jar of jam is depleted to the point that it’s difficult to gather up enough jam for a sandwich or a slice of toast, it’s tempting to just chuck it.  If you’re going to recycle or reuse that jar, though, you need to remove every bit of jam…and if you’re removing it, you may as well eat it, especially if this is not really “jam” but expensive organic juice-sweetened fruit spread…so maybe you stick that jar back in the refrigerator and open a new one to use in your sandwich.  Pretty soon there are a lot of almost-empty jam jars taunting you about how you never get around to scraping them.

Years ago I read in The Tightwad Gazette that the solution to this problem was to fill the jar halfway with milk and shake it, creating tasty strawberry milk (or grape milk or boysenberry milk or whatever).  It sounds good, but I found that cold milk doesn’t dissolve much jam; you still have to scrape the jar, and even then the jam tends to settle to the bottom, so you’re drinking mildly strawberry-flavored milk and then having a lot of cold clots of jam slide into your mouth.  Not so great.

I have now found a solution to the jam-jar problem!

  • Boil some water in your electric kettle or other boiling device.
  • Put some quick-cooking oatmeal in a bowl.  I don’t like to measure stuff before breakfast, but I use about 1/2 cup.
  • Pour boiling water into the jar until it is half full.  Don’t fill it more because you need to leave room for steam.  Hold the jar with an oven mitt.  Put on the lid and shake until all jam is loosened.  Alternatively, leave the lid off and stir the water with a spoon or butter knife until all the jam comes off.
  • Using oven mitt, pour jam-water from jar over oatmeal.  Stir.  If oatmeal is not wet enough, add more water.
  • Optional: Add some dried fruit, some milk, or some fat (butter, flax seed oil, coconut oil) to the oatmeal.

Making tasty fruit-flavored oatmeal and getting the jar clean without wasting water works for me!  Visit Waste Not Want Not Wednesday and Fabulously Frugal Thursday for other waste-reducing tips!

Four Weeks of Pesco-Vegetarian Dinners (early spring)

A pesco-vegetarian is someone who eats no meat except fish.  That’s what we do when we’re at home and most of the time when we eat in other places.

Here’s what we ate for dinner (plus weekend lunches) for four weeks in March and April, including Easter, trying to make the most of seasonal produce sales (mushrooms, sweet potatoes, string beans, kale) and leftovers from my church’s Easter receptions and Daniel’s family Passover seder.  I plan our menu up to a week in advance and do the weekend cooking and some ingredient preparation during the week; Daniel cooks our weeknight dinners.

Week One:

  • Sunday:
    • Lunch: Leftover Mexican Pizza.
    • Dinner: I made this Thai soup using vegetable broth instead of chicken broth, tofu instead of shrimp, kale instead of spinach, and regular orange sweet potatoes.  It was pretty good.  I liked it better than the guys did, so I had the leftovers for lunch Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday!  When I bring soup as my lunch for work, I put it in a reused salsa jar, which seals well and can be microwaved–I just need to use my napkin as a potholder when I pick it up because the jar gets hot.
  • Monday: Whole-wheat spaghetti, sauce from a jar (Classico makes many varieties that have no added sugar, soy, or corn) with extra tomatoes (left over from a bag of frozen diced tomatoes that I’d thawed to make the Mexican Pizza), and sauteed mushrooms.
  • Tuesday: Tangy Honey-Apricot Tofu, Salty String Beans, and rice.  It’s unusual for us to have tofu twice in one week, but this time we did.  This is one of our favorite meals.  Daniel cooked extra rice to use the next day.
  • Wednesday: Fried Rice with carrots, mushrooms, and cashews.
  • Thursday: Spinach sauteed with garlic and olive oil and chopped pecans, over baked potatoes.  The spinach was frozen; I put it in the refrigerator to thaw the night before.
  • Friday: Bean Burritos.
  • Saturday:
    • Lunch: We attended the memorial service for a friend who had been an enthusiastic participant in our church’s many food-serving events, so of course the service was followed by a reception with sandwiches, fruit, orzo salad, and other goodies!
    • Dinner: I had the idea of trying to make a different flavor of baked lentils, using a lentil recipe as a guide for the ratio of liquid to lentils and using a tetrazzini recipe as a guide to flavoring.  Unfortunately, this didn’t work out so well.  The lentils absorbed all the water and didn’t burn, but they also didn’t cook completely, and they sank to the bottom while all the tasty stuff went to the top, so we had crunchy bland lentils with a yummy topping–and the guys liked it all right, but I was very upset!  I think that eating undercooked lentils may have a physiological effect that makes me anxious and depressed, because I have reacted like this before to lentil experiments that went wrong. 😦

Read more…

The Temporary Fate of “Cute and Thrifty Scouring Powder”

Hello, readers!  Click here for the real article about how to make your own scouring powder.

This post exists because, five days after I posted the original article, I noticed that it had totally disappeared!!!  Because I had connected it to a number of link parties, I hastily posted an apology and attempted to give it the same URL as the original post.  The fact that WordPress would not allow me to use that URL gave me a clue that the article still existed…somewhere….

At lunch break, I poked around some more and confirmed that the article wasn’t on my Published list or my Drafts list.  I looked at some help files.  Finally I noticed a Trash folder with one item in it.  There was my article!  When I opened it up, it had a Restore button.  I clicked that, and the article reappeared!  Yay!!!

Now, how did it get into the Trash?  I’m not certain, but this is my best guess: The article originated on my iPad, which my son used to take the photos for the article; I then uploaded the photos using the WordPress app and saved the post as a draft.  I remember feeling that the process was not quite complete, but we needed to get out the door to school and work.  Later, on my lunch break at work, I logged in to WordPress via Web and found the draft post waiting for me–so obviously it had saved okay, after all–and I wrote the text and published the post.  I think it was two days later that I was using the iPad when it alerted me to a new comment, so I went into the WordPress app to approve the comment, and there was the scouring powder article–and I forget exactly what text was on the only available button, I think “Cancel”, but at any rate I thought that because the post was already published via another computer, what I was seeing there was just an artifact of what I had been doing last time I used the app, so I pressed that button and got on with what I was doing….

That’s probably where I went wrong, huh?  Anyway, I am sorry that the article was unavailable for a while, but I’m relieved that it was so easy to get it back!

Thanks to Daniel for responding to my email about the mystery by calling me at work and “threatening” to investigate this for me, thus motivating me to look again while narrating about how I had already tried all the obvious things; that is, in my experience, one of the best ways to see the thing that was not obvious enough the first time! 🙂

Cute and Thrifty Kitchen Scouring Powder

My dishwashing method gets most food to wipe right off the dishes, but some things still need to be scrubbed–tea and coffee stains in mugs, blueberry-juice stains in bowls, and bits of pasta that stuck to the pot, for example.  I also like to scrub the cutting board really thoroughly after chopping onions.  Baking soda is a safe, affordable, environmentally-friendly scouring powder that does a great job!

The trouble with baking soda is that it’s packaged either in a cardboard box or in a gigantic plastic pouch.  The box isn’t damp-proof, so storing it anywhere near the sink is just asking for clumped-up baking soda.  The pouch, although it costs less per ounce than the little boxes, is just too huge to keep around our tiny kitchen.  Either type of package tends to dump out a huge amount of baking soda, whereas for scouring you need just a little sprinkle.

That’s why I decided to make my own shaker-top bottle with dampness protection, custom-decorated to coordinate with my pink 1950s kitchen!

Read more…

What to Serve for a Big Reception or Party (specifically, Easter)

I noticed my article What to Serve for Coffee Hour drawing more readers as Easter approached–probably people looking for ideas to make their church coffee hours following the Easter services particularly festive.  I have often taken charge of coordinating my church’s reception after the Easter Vigil (the night before Easter Sunday), and this year’s went particularly well, with the contributions of several parish chefs and the assistance of my extremely helpful eight-year-old Nicholas.  I’m going to explain what we served, where it came from, and where the leftovers went.  This might be useful in planning any kind of party for about 100 people. (We didn’t have that many at the Vigil, but we did on Sunday, and as you’ll see, the food stretched!)

The interesting thing about the Easter Vigil reception is that this festive, late-night party is just one of the events of Holy Week.  Our church commemorates the Last Supper with a simple meal of bread, cheese, fruit, and wine on Maundy Thursday, and the leftovers from that meal can be used in the Vigil reception.  Then, leftovers from the Vigil reception may be suitable for serving at coffee hour after the Easter morning service, when we have a big crowd to feed!  However, we can’t count on specific leftovers, so we have some people sign up to bring food specifically for the Vigil and for Easter morning.

According to the Gospel of Luke, when the resurrected Jesus came to visit his disciples, he said, “Do you have anything to eat?”  I bet if I had just come back from the dead, that would be the first thing on my mind, too!  So when we get to the end of the long Easter Vigil service and “The Lord has risen indeed!  Alleluia!”, I want to make sure to have a good spread.

This year, here’s what we served after the Vigil: Read more…


Happy April Fools’ Day! Today we present a crosspost from our sister publication on another world, The Pyqan’s Handbook.

The saptapper is a small waterfowl whose long neck ends in a large mouth. Its small, glistening eyes bulge up like beads around the neck.

Saptappers are purple, in bands shading darker, bluer, grayer from mouth to tail. Bright yellow speckles decorate the neck in a pattern unique to each individual.

Saptappers feed on the root sap of trees that grow along the riverbank with their roots partially exposed in the water. The saptappers swim in among the roots, puncture a root with serrated lips, and rapidly slurp its sap. The sated saptapper then releases the root and drifts about placidly.

The saptapper trappers trap saptappers in September to tap their sap to make syrup.

A trapped saptapper claps its flappers to warn the others.

The serenity of September Saturdays is shattered by the clatter of the clapping flappers of trapped saptappers.

You will find saptappers napping, in the aftermath of trapping, amid roots where water is lapping.