Spring Cleaning

My generally feeling about spring cleaning is that it’s a good idea, in theory. I mean, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s family did spring¬†and fall cleaning every year, and they always lived in “little houses,” so if their houses needed it, mine probably do, too.

I have, however, yet to actually complete spring cleaning of an entire house. We are kind of close this year…the main part of the house is uncluttered and about as clean as it’s ever been, but we’ve kind of cheated by shoving lots of stuff out to the garage and getting new carpet and paint to help the house sell. I’m enjoying the feeling of a clean house in the meantime, knowing it will not last and is unlikely to be duplicated in the near future.

But today, I did a different kind of spring cleaning: cleaning out the freezer to prepare for the return of the CSA box next week!! Since we never eat all of our produce on a given week, I tend to cook and freeze lots of it, and I wanted to start off with a (relatively) clean freezer, plus a better knowledge of what food we already had.

Here’s what I threw out (and I am quite proud that this list is not longer):

  • lots of ends of bread loaves (both good bread from the bakery and not so good from the grocery store) that never made it into bread pudding or breadcrumbs
  • lasagna sauce from June 2013
  • pizza sauce from September 2013
  • grease from the grease pot, which was already slated to be thrown out but just hadn’t gotten there yet
  • shredded zucchini from August 2013
  • 1 quart bag of cooked kale from May 2013
  • a can of orange juice that said “best before May 2012”

On my “need to use soon” list:

  • 2 kinds of chorizo
  • 1 quart bag of collards from November 2013 (I’m giving myself a 6 month grace period on food in the freezer, and the collards and chorizo is all going into Mexican beans and greens this week)
  • Cheese and pasta casserole, also from November ¬†(we ate it tonight, and so far everyone seems healthy)
  • 2 pie crusts from December 2013
  • Ham and green bean casserole from January 2014
  • Navy beans from February 2014
  • Frozen raspberries from who-knows-when, but they still look ok
  • Frozen cookie dough that my mom brought down in February, so I assume they still have some good freezer life in them

And finally, on my “need to use, but less urgently” list:

  • Duck stock from January 2014 (at least 5 or 6 cups, but it’s easy to use a lot of stock in a few dishes)
  • Pancake mix leftover from March’s pancake supper at church
  • Frozen green beans (from the store, not the farm share)
  • Frozen broccoli (ditto)
  • Pork chops
  • Pork roast
  • Bread bought in the last week and put in the freezer to last longer
  • Girl Scout cookies bought in February
  • Frozen macaroni and cheese (also from my mom)
  • Ice cream bought in the last month
  • Granola made last week
  • Ground beef bought last week

We’ve got some eating ahead of us, but I think we are ready to start the next growing season…next up to tackle is the random ingredients in the fridge and pantry that I don’t want to move to Maryland with us!

Do you have tips for saving/using up food?

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Library Books Enjoyed, 3/13/14

No theme today…

Harriet, You'll Drive Me Wild!Harriet, You’ll Drive Me Wild! by Mem Fox

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This may have been one I chose more for me than for the kids…but nevertheless, they enjoyed it and we read it several times!! It’s a sweet story about children trying not to make messes and parents trying not to yell when they do anyway.

The Story of Ursa Major and Ursa Minor: A Roman Constellation MythThe Story of Ursa Major and Ursa Minor: A Roman Constellation Myth by Cari Meister

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My five-year-old found this, and it’s one that parents will want to preview before sharing with young kids. I thought that the story was well presented and it was easy enough to gloss over adult topics…however, like many other Greco-Roman myths, this story about the nymph Callisto and Jupiter/Zeus involves trickery, adultery, unwed pregnancy, revenge, and a near-miss on matricide. It certainly makes a riveting story about how the bear constellations got where they are, though!

No Roses for Harry!No Roses for Harry! by Gene Zion

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

We love Harry the Dirty Dog, and when we saw this one that I don’t remember seeing before, we got it right away. This was a funny story about Harry getting a hand-knit sweater…with roses that he does not like! The solution to Harry’s problem is a bit far-fetched, but fun. The kids loved Harry, and I loved the knitting connection.

Benny and Penny in The Big No-No!Benny and Penny in The Big No-No! by Geoffrey Hayes

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is one that I would probably like better if my kids didn’t like it quite so well. We have read this at least a million times in the last week. All three kids like it, too, which means that while we have consensus on what to read, we then have arguments over who gets to look at the book after we are done reading it together. (Obviously, Hayes knows his audience.)

On the upside, even the two-year-old is reading this to herself (she is particularly expressive with the raspberry and the crying sound effects), and it is short enough to stand up to multiple read-alouds without completely exhausting the reader. Also, I feel like it is easier to read aloud than many other graphic novels–it just seemed to flow better, without having to vocalize the action that’s going on–so that was a nice feature.

And one grown-up (well, YA) book:

Now I'll Tell You Everything (Alice, #25)Now I’ll Tell You Everything by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was prepared by a previous review for this book to be a little longer than it needed to be, and I think I agree with that assessment. It makes me re-think my disappointment at not getting enough details at the end of other series (i.e. Harry Potter). On the one hand, it was fun to have an author who cares so much about her readers that she really did give them “everything” about the rest of Alice McKinley’s life. On the other, it’s impossible to make all that information as intimate and readable as Naylor did with earlier Alice books. I started to feel like the book would have been stronger if it had stopped after a key event (I would choose Alice’s wedding, but there were several other places that could have worked) and just given us the last scene as a kind of epilogue. I was also slightly disappointed at the title…Naylor tells us in the afterword that it was originally Always Alice, and I like that one better.

With all this complaining, I need to end by saying that I still really liked the book (I gave it 4 stars, after all!), and it felt like Alice’s adult life went the way I would expect, and want it to go. I was especially happy to read about her wedding and her career path–both turned out the way I’d hoped they would!

I think most fans of the Alice series will really enjoy this finale–I certainly did.

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Library Books Enjoyed, 3/6/14: Nutcracker Edition

Because March is the perfect time to read about the Nutcracker, right?

Actually, the Nutcracker has been a slight obsession with my five-year-old since watching excerpts in his music class at school (of course, this happened right after we decided the kids were not yet old enough to be worth taking them to the Nutcracker in person!!). About midway through January, he started asking to check out Nutcracker books at the library. I thought a few weeks of this were in store, but we’re going on about 5 or 6 weeks now with no end in sight. As a result, we and anyone else who’s interested will have a thorough critical review of Nutcracker books available from the Durham Public Library before next Christmas rolls around. A book gets bonus points if N. really liked the portrayal of the Rat King (but they get actual star increases in the ratings if I didn’t mind reading them ad infinitum). Here’s the first installment:

The NutcrackerThe Nutcracker by Susan Jeffers

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Anyway, this is my favorite of the ones we’ve checked out…Jeffers specifies that she wanted to do a version that was short enough for young readers/listeners (and as a parent who likes short bedtime stories, I am SO grateful), and that basically follows the plot line of the ballet (over that of the original fairy tale). Check and check. Add in Jeffers’ beautiful pictures (she also illustrates the McDuff books by Rosemary Wells) and we’ve got a crowd-pleasing winner.

Tallulah's NutcrackerTallulah’s Nutcracker by Marilyn Singer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Continuing in the Nutcracker vein…this one follows Tallulah (apparently the star of a series!) as she plays a mouse in a production of the Nutcracker. The kids enjoyed it, I got to reminisce about also playing a mouse in the Nutcracker, and I thought it did a decent job of showing what it might like to be backstage in a ballet production (minus the egos of the ballet bigwigs, though).

The NutcrackerThe Nutcracker by Michael Hague

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is one of those long versions that made me so thankful for Susan Jeffers’ version of the story. The kids loved it, and thankfully we had it checked out when my parents were visiting, so my father valiantly read it over and over again in my stead. I think the full tale is quite interesting, but once a week is plenty for me to read something this long aloud…the pictures are great, too, and my five-year-old was quite satisfied with the portrait of the seven-headed Rat King.

Ella Bella Ballerina and The NutcrackerElla Bella Ballerina and The Nutcracker by James Mayhew

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This Nutcracker story was an interesting mix of the fairy tale and a “child in a ballet” version. Ella Bella (who apparently stars in other ballet books…I didn’t realize how many ballet series are out there until we started looking for Nutcracker stories! In this one, Ella Bella and her ballet class are having a Christmas party, but when Ella goes to get her teacher’s music box, the music magically transports her (or is she just imagining things?) into the story of the Nutcracker. The Rat King made a sufficient appearance to please the five year old, and although we’ve only had the book for 24 hours, I’ve already been asked to read it 3 times, so I think it’s a success. It’s not as short as the Jefferson version, but it’s a lot shorter than the Hague version, so I’m ok with it, too.

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