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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Yarn Along: FO, Almost FO, and One to Make by Saturday

So, I have Nejat's shrug finished, Mariam's almost finished (and I hate this pattern - it is adorable, but it is fraught with errors, has more errata than pattern, and this is for a fairly straight forward, simple pattern - I pity a beginner who tries this). I only have the cuffs and edging to do on it. I haven't started Yasmina's yet. Though, I'm hoping to get to that tonight. And have it finished by Saturday, Friday ideally. Amira's was made in exchange for my making a knit jacket for a friend's son, so two out of four jackets are complete, one is almost complete, and another still needs to be started.

We always take Holy Week and Bright Week off from school, so this week the kids are doing a ton of cleaning. I am doing a ton of organizing, cooking, running of errands, and knitting, plus all the extra church services, and next week will be our real rest.

Still on the look out for more of this yarn which is discontinued. I only need between an eighth and a quarter of a skein to finish my project. If anyone has a skein, even a partial skein, of Classic Elite's Posh in hydrangea, color #93051, any dye lot, please leave a comment or e-mail me, and we can work out a way for me to buy it from you. I only have about one eighth of this project to finish.

There isn't much reading going on right now. I have too much on my plate.

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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Menu Plan: Holy Week

This banner is something that we made a couple years ago, with our palm fronds from Palm Sunday, to hang from our mantel. I keep meaning to share this picture with you all here. I might even explain how we made it, though it is pretty self-explanatory.

Thank you to all who are praying for me, I'm still hobbling around, but hurting a bit less (unless I put too much pressure on my left foot). If you could hold our family in your prayers, I'd appreciate it. There's nothing catastrophic going on, but we're struggling with some challenges that are leaving us a bit frustrated.

It is Holy Week again. It doesn't feel like a year has gone by, and yet so much has happened in that year. I'll try to write more on that this week. Although this year's Lent has been much less focused and much less chosen by me, God has chosen many of our sacrifices this year, and we have grown. I am finding myself excited by this week's journey. It will be arduous, but it will be good. At the end of it, there is the highest feast, the most glorious celebration of the Christian year. I am always a little amazed at churches who spend one day on the Paschal feast, with little or no spiritual preparation for it, and then declare it finished. Especially when so much focus is given to the birth of our Lord. I am thankful to have the liturgical year with its focus on these events. I'm thankful that Easter isn't one day, but eight, and that the season lasts for 50 days and culminates in Pentecost.

Our meals this week aren't too complicated. This is a full week of preparation for us, so I'm trying to keep it as simple and/or quick as possible. We will be in church four days out of seven this week. After Tuesday, we will be eating nearly vegan, and those who can fast completely on Friday and Saturday will be doing so. This is spiritual boot camp for us, and while it is challenging, especially with young children, it is so good. We learn and grow in our faith and come to the celebration of the resurrection with our hearts and minds prepared to rejoice and receive Him who rescues us.

May God grant you all a blessed and holy journey to the Paschal celebration.
What is on your menu this week? If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can. If there are any starred recipes, I will follow up separately with a recipe round up on Saturday.

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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Recipes: Red Borschty, Tacos de Papa with Avocado Relish

Red Borschty

I came up with this recipe about 4 O'clock on an August afternoon. We had loads of beets and lots of short ribs, so this seemed like a natural thing to make. Fortunately, that day was something like 95 degrees, so eating a late dinner was a little cooler at our home. Even with the heat, we all enjoyed this meal, eaten with sour cream, horseradish, and marble rye. We have since eaten it with egg noodles as well.

This recipe is so far off from authentic anything, that I don't think I can, in good conscience, call it borscht. So, red borschty it is. In your best Swedish Chef accent. This does take a bit of time to make, but it's time you mostly can be doing something else, like reading a book, working on your knitting, talking to your spouse, watching a fun movie.

1/4 cup olive oil, to cook beef and vegetables
5 pounds beef short ribs, preferably English style
2 pounds shallots or onions, peeled, halved and sliced
2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut lengthwise in half, then crosswise into 1 inch pieces
2 pounds beets, peeled and shredded (use a food processor, if you can, to avoid getting your kitchen all red)
1 pound potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 bunch radishes, halved lengthwise and sliced
4 cups beef stock
2 teaspoons salt + more for meat
1 teaspoon pepper + more for meat
1 teaspoon dried thyme (or 4 sprigs of fresh, if you have it)
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh dill sprigs, chopped (I've used about 2 tablespoons dried, in a pinch, added with the other herbs and spices)
Sour cream (optional)
Horseradish (optional)

Heat oil over medium high heat in your largest pot. This makes a lot of stew. Salt and pepper the beef generously, and brown on all sides in the oil. Remove and set aside. I do this in the inverted lid of our big doufeu oven.

Reduce heat to medium. Add onions and carrots to the same pot, and cook, stirring, until onions are translucent. Add beets, potatoes, and radishes, and cook a few minutes more. Pour in beef stock, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, thyme, bay leaves, 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves. Return beef to the pot. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to low, cover with lid and let simmer for about an hour and a half.

Taste for salt and pepper, and adjust seasonings as necessary. Remove beef from pot and remove meat from bones, return the meat to the pot. Sprinkle with the chopped dill and serve with sour cream, horseradish, rye bread or egg noodles.

Tacos de Papa with Avocado Relish

This is a great vegetarian recipe. It is surprisingly delicious and a great meal for serving others, too. The avocado relish makes it. It must be made with it.

10 small potatoes, peeled and finely diced
1 large onion, peeled and finely diced
2 - 3 jalapeños (depending on how hot you like things)
1 teaspoon cumin
1 pound queso fresco, crumbled
salt and pepper, to taste
40 - 50 corn tortillas

In a large frying pan, heat a good quantity of oil over medium high heat. Add the potatoes and onions, and cook until the potatoes are just starting to brown and the onions are soft. Add the jalapeños and cumin, and cook a couple minutes longer. Take off heat, and stir in the queso fresco, salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

In another pan, heat more oil over medium high heat.

Steam the tortillas, about 10 at a time, fill with a little of the potato mixture, fold in half and fry in the hot oil, turning once, until both sides are crisp and a little browned. Repeat with all of the tortillas. I keep the finished tacos in the oven on the lowest heat while preparing the rest of them.

Serve with avocado relish.

Avocado Relish

6 medium avocados, diced
1 small onion, or half of a larger one, finely diced
2 jalapeños, finely diced
1 bunch cilantro, stemmed and finely chopped
6 small tomatoes, seeded and diced
juice of 3 limes
salt to taste

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and serve with tacos. Any leftover relish is great with chips or over nachos or added to corn and cooked black beans as a salad.

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Friday, April 11, 2014

Randomizer Update

Jerome decided he wanted a new nickname: Bob Urchin Minion. BUM for short. He hasn't yet seen the humor that his siblings have.

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Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Yarn Along: Another Finished Design and Crazed Paschal Knitting

Not only do I have another finished project, but it is another design for submission as well! I have one more I'm working on to submit, and about 23 days to have it in the publisher's hands. Because of this, I've only done another two rows on my ring around the rosey scarf. It is on hold for at least the rest of the month. I hope to have photos of my designs posted soon, when I hear whether or not they have been accepted.

I am in sea of blue knitting right now. In an attempt to coordinate the girls outfits for the Paschal vigil, along with the boys' clothes, I am making three, small shoulder shrugs for our three youngest girls (Amira's was sewn by a friend and is already made). Nejat's is almost finished and I'm trying to decide if I have enough yarn, and time (should I be miscalculating how much blue I have), to edge it in the same color, or if I should edge it in pink (her dress has pink on it, too).

I'm still looking for more of this yarn which is discontinued. I only need between an eighth and a quarter of a skein to finish my project. If anyone has a skein, even a partial skein, of Classic Elite's Posh in hydrangea, color #93051, any dye lot, please leave a comment or e-mail me, and we can work out a way for me to buy it from you. I only have about one eighth of this project to finish.

Just started to skim through The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things, and I am reserving judgment. It has the potential to be wonderful, but also has the potential to allow speculation to form the backbone of the book. It is a story of Jane Austen's life told in several iconic possessions of hers. I'm still reading and loving Christ in His Saints. I won't quote any more at you. This time.

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Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Menu Plan: Fifth Sunday in Lent

The avocado pasta last week was so good! I accidentally burned the walnuts, so I used cashews in their place, and it was excellent. Probably better than the walnuts would have been. I will definitely make this again, with a few changes, but I just can't call it carbonara. It was a creamy avocado and walnut/cashew pasta.

I managed to either bruise extremely or break one of my toes on my left foot, and have it taped to the one next to it. I'm spending as much time as I can off of my feet, and Rich is helping me rest so I can keep it elevated. Our meals this week, therefore, are those which are either quick for me to make, or can be made by others, or with a lot of help from others. Please remember me in your prayers.

What is on your menu this week? If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can. If there are any starred recipes, I will follow up separately with a recipe round up on Saturday.

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Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Yarn Along: Matching Hat, Missing Yarn, and a Project for Me

I have another finished item this week! I made a little coordinating hat to go with my design submission using the lace panel from my design and the same edging for the brim. This is just for Nejat to wear when she is big enough to wear the other garment itself. I've been working on a smaller one that will fit her now, for our windy spring weather. However I have run out of the yarn. And it is discontinued. If anyone has a skein, even a partial skein, of Classic Elite's Posh in hydrangea, color #93051, any dye lot, please leave a comment or e-mail me, and we can work out a way for me to buy it from you. I only have about one eighth of this project to finish.

See how sad it looks, waiting to be finished?

I've also started a fun scarf for myself. I hardly wore scarves until we lived here. Since it gets frigid for about half of the year here, I've taken to wearing them quite a bit. The ruffly yarn is a bit of a challenge for me, but I'm hoping to have this finished in time to wear it at least a couple times this spring, and pull it out again in the fall.

I've made some more progress in Christ in His Saints. Here is some more from it that has given me much to consume and consider.

First, as the initial effect of grace, repentance is not of an order different from holiness. This needs emphatically to be said, because for some few centuries now there has roamed abroad the fallacious theory that God's act by which we are justified remains external to us. This rather recent theory effectively separates repentance from holiness, as though God would declare a man righteous without actually making him righteous, pronounce him to be just without causing him to be a "saint," and convert him but without giving him a new heart. Against this theory, the Bible indicates that the conversion of repentance is not just an act of God; it is also an act of man's free will under the accepted influence of God's grace. Man's heart, his interior, is altered by repentance. . .

Next, judgment was pronounced on the house of each offender in the shape of death (Genesis 3:19; 2 Samuel 12:14). Indeed Adam and David would each be preceded to the grave by a son born of that same woman (Genesis 4:8; 2 Samuel 12:18). That is to say, in both instances sin led immediately to death (cf. Romans 5:12). On the other hand, in each example, a new son was born as a sign of promise and renewed hope (Genesis 4:25; 2 Samuel 12:24). Thus in the circumstances of Adam's and David's sins, we see a narrative sequence of fall, judgment, curse, and mercy. . .

But calling myself "chief of sinners" is not a quantitative statement. It is not a thesis that I prove by demonstrating that I have committed a larger number of sins than other people. To think of myself as the chief of sinners is not an inference based on a comparison of myself with others. Indeed, the notion of "other sinners: here is nearly a metaphor; there are no other sinners right now, at this moment of Holy Communion. Only one sinner, and only one Savior. . .

Convinced that real saints are always in need of real improvement, I suggest the following list of three useful maxims for the life in Christ.

The top of the list should probably read: "I am still a sinner and will be a sinner until the day I die, and the subtler impulses of my heart are quietly conspiring to conceal that truth from my mind." In the life of grace, absolutely nothing is less reliable than my own assessment of my spiritual progress. Indeed, any thought or sentiment suggesting to me that I have made even the slightest spiritual progress should be regarded as a temptation coming straight from the Evil One. I dally with such a thought only at my peril. Temptations to fornication, homicide, and blasphemy are more safely entertained than this one. I should flee such an impulse as I would a fire, giving it not the faintest indulgence.

A second useful maxim of the life of grace may be: "It is in no way required that I feel good about myself." God does not require it; the Bible does not require it, and the entire ascetical tradition of the Church sternly warns against it. Self-approval is expected only within certain very dubious canons of contemporary behavioral sciences. A "positive self-image" is the most overrated of modern commodities and a very bad bargain at any price. Most often, in fact, the price is a concomitant compulsive disposition to pass judgment on other struggling servants of God.

A third useful maxim of the life of grace may be this: "I am just as likely to offend God because of my virtues as I am because of my vices, and if ever I am completely undone, my fall will more probably involve my strengths than my weaknesses. Consequently, in the spiritual life it is highly deceptive and even perilous to 'play to my strengths.'"

I cannot promise to stop quoting this book. It is basically one giant underline and huge set of brackets for me. And I'm only in the second chapter. Please go read it.

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Monday, March 31, 2014

Homemade Poultry Feed

I found a recipe for chicken feed on The Elliot Homestead. We have both chickens and turkeys, though, and they need a higher protein content to provide proper health for the turkeys and good egg production for our chickens. So, I modified her recipe, and came up with this, which our poultry are doing extremely well on and love. I, too, order from Azure Standard to get the best prices. I've tried to write this recipe with terms that will help you search Azure Standard, too. I buy these ingredients in bulk, and keep them in sealed containers to mix up in 100 pound batches (our feed bin holds that much). The kelp granules are available in bulk, organic, at Azure Standard for less than I've found it anywhere else. Including other packaging available at Azure. So, search for the best price per ounce or per pound, even when you are able to get them through a co-op or bulk retailer like Azure Standard.

Our poultry are able to range on our property year round, so they are able to find something to eat, whether it's seeds, greens, bugs, or what not, all year, though in the winter the pickings are pretty slim. We also give them all kitchen scraps that we cannot use in stock and that isn't harmful to them (or will flavor their eggs in a way we don't want, such as onions). The things that can't be used in stock and the things that can't be given to the poultry go into our compost, so we have miniscule waste here. This is one of the things we love about our chickens, too, they turn what would be garbage into eggs. I also like that we are feeding them with things that would be okay for us to eat, too. If our younger children got into their feed and ate it, it would do them no harm.

Anyway, I don't have the exact pricing in front of me, but we worked it out, and this was just slightly less expensive (by a dollar or so, total) than the layer feed (which is less expensive than the higher protein feed we need for the turkeys) at the feed store with all the agricultural byproducts, soy, GMOs, and possibly arsenic. But it's organic and non-GMO. The protein level is sufficient for our turkeys, while not being too much for our chickens. We feed poults in confinement with their mothers with a higher protein feed so they are protected, but also so the chickens don't get into their feed. We also offer calcium in various forms as a free choice when we bring out table and kitchen scraps to them, and they get calcium from the insects and small reptiles they eat.

28 pounds whole oats with hulls, animal grade
24 pounds whole barley, animal grade
19 pounds split peas (green or yellow)
11 pounds corn (I may leave this out in the late spring and through the summer, as they forage enough to get the sugars on their own - we were using blue corn until we ran out, because it's higher in protein, but haven't found an organic, bulk source since before January)
11 pounds lentils
4 pounds flax seeds
2 pounds raw, brown sesame seeds with hulls
1 pound kelp granules
3.2 ounces olive oil

Mix it all up in a large tub. That's it. Our older boys make a batch of this every two to three weeks. Our poultry eat more in the winter, both because there isn't as much to forage, and because they need more fuel to heat themselves. This is normal.

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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Menu Plan: Laetare Sunday

We come again to Laetare, or Mothering, Sunday. It is the Mother's Day for the Church who is our mother, for the Blessed Virgin, who is the Mother of God and all believers, for all mothers. It is a bright spot in our Lenten journey. The roots of the Latin Laetare are in the word for milk. Milk joy, like a baby at his mother's breast. I spent my Mother's Day with a friend of mine, knitting and talking, which was a great thing for me. Rich made dinner, and the kids helped rearrange furniture.

We had a ton of lettuce and salad greens and goodies for salads in our produce co-op boxes, so we're eating a lot of salad this week. Meals are pretty simple, though, because our schedule is pretty packed. We are only two weeks from Holy Week, and we have much to prepare for both in our home and in our hearts.

What is on your menu this week? If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can. If there are any starred recipes, I will follow up separately with a recipe round up on Saturday.

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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Recipe: Sticky Coconut Rice

This isn't hard to make, but it is a nice break from regular rice. We make double this recipe.

2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 cups jasmine rice
2 cups coconut milk
2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Heat oil in medium saucepan over medium high heat. Add rice and stir until translucent and fragrant. Pour in coconut milk and water, stir in salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce heat to low and cook, without lifting the lid, for 15 minutes. Allow to sit for 5 - 10 minutes with the heat off and lid still on before serving.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Yarn Along: Finally Finished!

I finished Elijah's pencil case exactly on time for his birthday. Which is good because his other present isn't slated to arrive until Saturday. This was a pretty quick project, and even with my lamentable crochet skills, I think I managed it well enough. If you want to read a little bit of how I changed it, check it out here. I've also been working a bit on a variation on my submitted design, Saint Catherine, to use a different yarn and slightly different edgings. This one is sized to fit Nejat.

As for the books, I'm still reading the wonderful Christ in His Saints. I'm also reading an interesting mystery, Mozart's Last Aria: A Novel (P.S.). I like it, but I'm not sure I will continue to like it. The writing is good. The storyline is good. But, as with so much modern fiction, there is a little too much of a message in it, and it's not that subtle. Though, I guess I'd rather it was easy to discern. I wish fiction authors would be more interested in their story than in their message. That goes for books whose messages I agree with, too.

However, I am still loving Fr. Reardon's book. Just his introduction is enlightening, and the rest of the chapters are marvelous. I cannot recommend this book enough. I've owned it for several years, along with his Christ in the Psalms, which I have spent some time in, but this is my first time delving into the treasures inside of this book. From the introduction:

The Epistle to the Hebrews, which repeatedly speaks of Christian worship in terms of “approach” (4:16; 7:25; 10:1, 22; 11:6), “entrance” (10:19), and “drawing near” (7:19) to God, describes this worship as a complex liturgical gathering: “But you have come [literally ‘approached’] to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel” (12:22-24). That is to say, when the Christian comes to God, he doesn’t come “one on one,” so to speak; he approaches also the company of angels and saints.

This text is particularly striking because of its explicit reference to Christ our Lord as the Mediator of the covenant that gives us access to God. The unique mediation of Christ, an important theme in Hebrews (Cf. also 8:6; 9:15), has rather often been cited in recent centuries to negate the role of the saints in heaven with respect to the Christian worship on earth. Yet, here in this description of Christian worship, along with the mediation of Christ and His redemptive blood, the author of Hebrews speaks also of “the spirits of just men made perfect.” The author obviously saw nothing incompatible between the unique mediation of Christ and the communion of the glorified saints in the Church’s worship.

Although the bodies of the departed saints are elsewhere described as “sleeping” (1 Thessalonians 4:13; 1 Corinthians 15:6-20), their spirits are very much alive and alert; indeed, they are already “made perfect,” even though they still await the glorification of their bodies. The departed saints are certainly not “dead,” because those who believe in Christ will never die (John 11:26). The departed saints did not simply live a long time ago and now they are gone. Oh no, they are still very much alive, standing in worship with the angels before God’s throne, and that is why, in the mediation of Christ and through His blood, we may join them in worship.

His examples of the saints in Scripture and their stories for us to identify with and meditate on are quite inspiring.

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Monday, March 24, 2014

Menu Plan: Third Sunday of Lent

We're pretty much back to normal here - thank you for your prayers. We have a slightly less busy week coming up, in some ways, though we have other things that are out of the ordinary going on, so it will be occupied with things that are not part of our normal routine, and that will shake things up a bit.

We're now half way through Lent. This has been a challenging time for us. My Lent seems more imposed on me than chosen this year. Sometimes, I think God does this to help us grow in places we wish we could ignore.

What is on your menu this week? If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can. If there are any starred recipes, I will follow up separately with a recipe round up on Saturday.

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Friday, March 21, 2014

Yarn Along: The Sick Edition

Since we last met, we had a horrifying stomach illness come into our household. Glory to God that Nejat did not get it, as she would have ended up in the hospital. I have gotten very little accomplished either in reading or with yarn.

Since Elijah's birthday is coming up, and we weren't sure if his present would arrive in time, I hustled to make sure this would be finished in time. I figure I can get it finished this weekend and have it wrapped up in time. It's a pretty simple pattern, I found here, but I think I'm still messing it up - my crochet skills aren't nearly what my knitting skills are. Elijah likes how it looks, though. I'm using bits and bobs of yarn from my partial skein basket that he chose.

I took some more time with Christ in His Saints, which is an excellent book. Even the first chapter has given me so much to think and meditate on in my faith. It is thought provoking and enriching for the spirit. This isn't the only book I've delved into since last time, but it is the one that I am enjoying the most. There is another book I'm reading, and while I enjoy the story, I do not like the political and social message it's blasting, especially as it is aimed at young people. Fr. Reardon, however, has a message that is direct and not underhanded, it is uplifting and challenging, I really look forward to finishing this.

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Monday, March 17, 2014

Recipe: Root Cellar Casserole

I picked this recipe up on a Lenten recipe group on Facebook last year. As always, I tweaked it a bit and made it more to our tastes. It is highly adaptable, you can use whatever hardy vegetables you have, and is an excellent main dish, which is often hard to do during fasting seasons. Our family still eats dairy for much of the fast, so we simply use milk, but vegetable broth or an almond milk or coconut milk would work just fine in this. If you are going to use other vegetables, prepare and cut to similar sized pieces, and maintain the total quantities in the recipe. My husband, who is a devoted meat eater, was satisfied by this and enjoyed it without feeling like he was missing meat. This is a nice dish for potlucks, too. I'm so sorry, I left a doubled amount in here, the milk quantity has been edited to reflect the amount for this size dish.

1/2 cup safflower oil
2 large onions, peeled and finely chopped
4 stalks of celery, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into thick matchsticks
12 small potatoes, peeled and cut into thick matchsticks
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 cup flour
3 cups milk or vegetable broth
1 pound fresh or frozen peas
1/2 cup finely minced parsley

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Grease a large baking pan, or two smaller ones.

In a large pan, heat oil over medium high heat, add onion, celery, and garlic. Cook until onions soften and begin to brown. Add the carrots and potatoes, and cook a little longer, to start to soften them. Mix in salt and white pepper. Cook for another few minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the potato mixture, coating the vegetables well. Add the milk or broth, a little at a time, stirring constantly, until there is a nice sauce. Pour entire mixture into prepared pan, then stir in the peas and parsley to combine.

Bake for 25 - 35 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked through and lightly browned on top.

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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Menu Plan: Second Sunday in Lent

My dad leaves tonight, which has left us all a bit sad. Three of our children are pretty sick right now, so we can use your prayers. We're also praying that my father doesn't catch this, as he has long travels, and a homecoming to deal with, and doesn't need to be violently ill. So, we covet your prayers.

Because of our sickness, it doesn't look like we'll have a nice corned beef and colcannon dinner tomorrow night. We are eating whatever can be kept down, tastes good, and clears out our fridge of all the numerous leftovers. My father has been spoiling us with lots of extra goodies, treats, and dinners out while he has been here, but it has filled every fridge and freezer and counter in our home. We will have at least one repeat this week, but I think that's it.

What is on your menu this week? If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can. If there are any starred recipes, I will follow up separately with a recipe round up on Saturday.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Yarn Along: One Sock Down

And now I need to be able to finish another man sized sock in four days. Not likely to happen. I think I'm going to end up mailing the socks to my dad in Saudi Arabia. I had planned to have this sock finished before he arrived, and have the second one started. Well, that plan didn't work out, and I've had less knitting time, because we're running around a lot more. We don't have that much more time with him, so I'm sad that these won't be useful for him while he's here.

This is the only knitting or crocheting I've been working on at all, too. I have a few things on needles/hook, and so much planned. It's kind of disappointing how little I have finished in the past two and a half months.

I have to admit that, though I've peeked at my Lenten book basket, I haven't had the time to really read anything deeply. So, instead, I finished a happy little murder one night while I was unable to sleep. Blackberry Pie Murder was light enough that I could handle it, but still allowed me to read. I will admit a weakness to this kind of book.

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Menu Plan: First Sunday of Lent

I'm not entirely sure why I'm even planning menus as my father keeps trying to make something else or take us out to dinner (which is a challenge when you aren't eating meat). We've already switched several meals around since I started trying to put this together. However, here is my rough plan for the week. We'll see how it actually goes. My dad is spoiling us by cooking and taking us out so frequently.

We have Ember days this week, so there is extra praying and fasting for the Church, vocations, and the clergy. I've been so pleased with how well and solidly our children have handled the fast this year. Also, if I am permitted to be proud of this, Amira told me she didn't have any money left, but it turned out that it was because she had given all of her money as offering to church and to charities. Rest assured, my father has replenished her coffers.

What is on your menu this week? If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can. If there are any starred recipes, I will follow up separately with a recipe round up on Saturday.

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Saturday, March 08, 2014

Two Week Recipe Round Up: Creamy Feta Salad Dressing, Chili, Yeasted Potato Doughnuts, Tunisian Ftira

Creamy Feta Salad Dressing

This is so simple to make and delicious.

1 cup yogurt
1 cup feta crumbles
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon dried dill weed (if you can get fresh, use about 1/4 cup, finely chopped)
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
salt to taste

Whisk all ingredients in a bowl or jar. Serve on salad or as a dip.

Not Texas Chili

I make no claims to this being authentic Texas chili. It is not. I am not from Texas, and neither is this. It is tasty, filling, and relatively quick to make. I have my own thoughts on the one true chili, seeing as how a stew is usually made from what someone has, so I don't think originally it was such a rigid recipe. Nevertheless, mine not only has beans, but also tomatoes, sweet peppers, and corn. We like it this way.

2 pounds ground beef
2 large onions, diced
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound sweet peppers, thinly sliced
5 cups cooked black beans
5 cups cooked small red beans (I use pinquitos)
2 pounds canned diced tomatoes with juices
1 pound corn kernels
1/4 cup ancho chile powder
2 tablespoons oregano
1 tablespoons cumin
2 1/2 teaspoon salt (if you're using commercially canned beans and tomatoes, you may want less)
1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder (more or less, depending on your taste)
water to thin chili if necessary

serve with:
sour cream
diced onions
chopped cilantro

In a heavy pot, over medium high heat, brown ground beef. If you have a lower fat beef, you may need to add oil to it. Add the onions, garlic and peppers, and cook until the onions are translucent and the peppers are soft. Add in the beans, tomatoes with their juice, corn, chile powder, oregano, cumin, salt, and chipotle powder. Bring to a simmer and cook until the flavors are melded and everything is heated. Thin with water if necessary. Taste to adjust seasonings.

We serve it with the things I listed above, and usually cornbread, too. If there is any left over, and I make double this recipe, I use it to make tamale pie, or serve over baked potatoes, depending on how much we have left. If it's only a small amount, it can be put into quesadillas, if you like. It freezes well, and is even better the next day, but still tastes darned good the first night.

Yeasted Potato Doughuts

Here is our version of yeast risen potato doughnuts. These are wonderful.

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cup plain mashed potatoes
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
5 teaspoons yeast
7 - 8 cups unbleached flour (either bread flour or all purpose)
oil to fry
lemon glaze (recipe following)

Either in your stand mixer, or by hand, beat the butter with the potatoes, eggs, sugar and salt until blended and smooth. Slowly mix in the milk and yeast. Add the flour, one cup at a time, until a smooth dough is made. It might be stickier than you are used to having.

Mix well, and knead well, either by machine or hand. Cover and let rise for an hour and a half. Punch down and let rise again for an hour.

After the second rising, roll out the dough, using one quarter of the dough at a time, on a well floured surface to 1/2" thickness. Using a doughnut cutter or biscuit cutter, or just a knife, cut out your doughnuts.

Heat oil at a depth of at least 2" to approximately 375 F. Fry doughnuts about a minute on each side. Drain on a rack and coat with the lemon glaze.

Lemon Glaze

6 cups powdered sugar
3/4 cup strained lemon juice
1/4 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whisk all ingredients together.

Tunisian Ftira
modified from: Taste of Beirut's recipe.

3 1/2 unbleached flour (either bread flour or all purpose)
3 cups semolina flour
2 tablespoons yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups water
1/4 cup olive oil
oil to fry
cinnamon sugar (I use a ratio of 1 tablespoon of cinnamon to 1 cup of sugar)

Mix first seven ingredients to combine well. Knead well, either by machine or by hand. Cover and let rise for an hour. Roll dough to 1/2" thickness and cut with a round cutter.

Heat oil at a depth of at least 2" to approximately 375 F. Fry doughnuts about one minute on each side. Drain on a rack and shake in cinnamon sugar.

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Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Feast to Fast

If you are looking for a traditional Ash Wednesday menu, here it is: Water. It is a 24 hour strict fast. The rules have been relaxed in the west (to the point of absurdity), but it is still a strict fast. If you cannot fast, try to fast from one or two meals and eat less. If that is not possible for some reason, this should be a meat abstinence day.

Tonight, we had our traditional fried food extravaganza and doughnut feast. Our last hurrah before the penance and abstinence of Lent begins. The day started with doughnuts (we had some my dad bought and figured it would be a good way to use them up - and I didn't have to make breakfast that way) and ended in fried chicken, onion rings, potato wedges, and doughnuts that we fried ourselves. In some ways, this makes it easier to fast the following day, because who wants to eat after having all of that?

This year, yet again, I will not fully be participating in the fast, as I am nursing a baby. Since my dad is here, as well, we have relaxed our family rule, so menus will include more dairy and egg, perhaps fish, than they normally would have.

Lent is a penitential season. We make sacrifices in our diet, of our time and of our finances. Our dietary changes allow for more money to give to alms, one third of the trinity of the Christian fast. I say this each year: To fast as a Christian is to fast, pray and to give alms. This is the definition of a fast. We do not simply abstain from eating and hope that by doing so we receive grace or earn favor. The fast is a daily reminder of our obligation to pray and care for the poor as well as using physical discipline to lead us to spiritual discipline. I still remember the teaching that all sin is an appetite indulged, so the fast is a way to teach us not to indulge our appetites. Even during the abstinent days of Lent, rather than the full fasts, we are to eat less than we normally would. We are to leave the table a little hungry. I read this somewhere, and I can't remember the source to give credit:

"By abstaining from meat (and dairy), we allow both creation (the animals) to rest from milking or laying and allow nature to rebuild. But more importantly, we embrace the simplicity of eating plainer foods so that we can focus more of our time on Christ. We also allow ourselves to be a little more hungry than normal in order to remember that God is the only one who can truly fill our deepest hunger!"

Although we are not Orthodox, I borrow from their tradition for the eve of Clean Monday: Friends and family, I humbly ask your forgiveness if I have offended you in any way. I bow down to the ground in my heart before each one of you and ask for your forgiveness. I ask forgiveness for having offended, scandalized and sinned against anyone, whether by my words, actions, or thoughts. Forgive me, a sinner. May your journey during this Lenten period lead you to peace, spiritual regeneration, and the joyous Pascha of our Lord.

Blessed Fast.

With Love in Christ.

"If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" Mark 6:14-15

I wish you a holy Lent.

"Yet even now," says the LORD, "return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments." Return to the LORD, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and repents of evil. Who knows whether he will not turn and repent, and leave a blessing behind him, a cereal offering and a drink offering for the LORD, your God? Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people. Sanctify the congregation; assemble the elders; gather the children, even nursing infants. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her chamber.

Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep and say, "Spare thy people, O LORD, and make not thy heritage a reproach, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, `Where is their God?'" Joel 2:12-17

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Sunday, March 02, 2014

Menu Plan Monday: March 2 - 8

As we are entering the Lenten observance, I thought I would include our daily scripture readings from Morning Prayer in case that would be something others might want to read as well. If you are interested in our Evening Prayer readings, I can post those as well. We are having our doughnut night again for Mardi Gras. Then the fast will begin. If I have sinned against you or offended you in any way this year, please forgive me and pray for me, a sinner. I wish you a Holy Lent.

I did not get my recipes posted this Saturday, so I'm working on that next. Here is our menu for the week. With my dad here, we have had so much leftover, that we are moving a lot around, and freezing a ton of extras. We are fasting a little more easily this year, with my father visiting, and with me nursing Nejat. We relaxed the rules a bit more than we normally do, so you will see dairy and egg on some Wednesdays and Fridays.

What is on your menu this week? If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can. If there are any starred recipes, I will follow up separately with a recipe round up on Saturday.

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Yarn Along: Not Much Progress

I was hoping to be finished with one of these socks by this week. That didn't happen. With our preparations for my dad's arrival and just life going on, I didn't get as far as I wanted on either the socks, or the leg warmers I'm making.

I want to have both finished in the next couple weeks, though. We'll see if I can make it. In the Shadow of the Sword: The Birth of Islam and the Rise of the Global Arab Empire is an interesting read. Heavy. I've just started it, and I don't think I'll finish it before Lent. It is definitely one I want to get back to, though. I also have my Lenten book basket prepared. I had another book suggested to me, but neither our library, nor Paper Back Swap had it readily available, so I'm noting it for next year.

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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Frugality (Part XVI): Reconsidering Convenience

I had another thought about living frugally: This is more of a mind over matter issue. I really think that people need to reconsider what they think of as convenient if they want to live a more frugal life. There is definitely a trade off of convenience or time when we are trying to save money. Not always, and not always in hugely demanding ways, but there are compromises made with every choice. Part of the reason that we eat well is because I have committed to cook nearly all of our meals and do the budgeting, grocery shopping, and menu planning that I do to make it happen.

Yes, we all know that time is money, and that our time is valuable, but if you don't want to spend the money on something, or if you don't have it to spend, then you need to spend the time. I take about an hour a week to plan our menus - after I have shopped the sales at the store and farmers' market (when it is open), and checked what's in our pantry. I don't simply plan our menus and look at the best price I can find for what I want (though I do that, too, sometimes), I see what I have to work with and what is a good price and plan our menus based on that. That time could be worth whatever we assign to it. In our family, it is worth about $300 in savings each week. Yes, it takes time, but the payoff is huge to us. I spend a good portion of my day on food preparation and cooking. That's where the hours really add up (though, now I also have older children who can be given a recipe or some specific tasks to cut down on my time doing it). Doing this means we aren't eating more expensive (and usually less healthful) convenience foods or eating out. It means that our health care costs are lower as well as our food bill. This is just in the realm of food.

This year, we tried an experiment, mostly because we didn't want to move a huge, heavy bookcase in our living room, which was blocking the heat control for the room. We bought what we normally bought in fire wood for the year (we've always had extra in prior years) and heated the living room entirely with our fireplace. Even on the coldest days here (and we have very cold days here), we were warm. And our electric bill was much lower. We also used up nearly all of our wood, including what was left from the prior two or three years. The savings, though, was still worth it. Even if we had to buy double, which we probably would, to do this next year, that is a cost of about $360 over seven or eight months. Our electric bills over those months were reduced by more than that. We normally pay an average of $250 a month in fall and winter here. We had that average down to $175 this year (we usually pay closer to $150 in the fall and $300 in the winter). This year, that was a savings of around $345 over the past seven months. Next year, if we do this again, that would be a savings of around $165. If we were too cold, or if we ran out of the wood earlier, we would have moved the darned bookcase, and paid more, but it was interesting that we didn't have to do that. This meant that we had added chores each day. The kids had to bring enough fire wood in for the day, I started the fires early in the morning, Rich banked it at night. That was about half an hour of extra work each day. It was well worth it to us. And it doesn't hurt that we like wood fires.

Delaying gratification also does this. In general, we don't go out and buy what we want right away. We wait and see if we really want it. We see if we can find it at the library and determine if it's worth buying to keep. This reduces the clutter in our home (though we really need to work on reducing it more!), keeps us from spending frivolously, and makes it more likely that what we buy we will be happy with in the long run. Letting ourselves be inconvenienced by extra time, work, or delayed gratification makes it possible for us to use our money as we like, and free it for uses we especially want.

One of the benefits of this way of life, and this compromise, is that we are able to better bless others. When friends or family have an illness, a death, a hospitalization, a new baby, a lost job, we are able to provide meals, supplies, sometimes even money, to help. We are able to donate to charities and charitable programs more often. We couldn't do this if we relied on convenience meals or eating out for a significant portion of our meals for the family. This was one of the most important things we wanted to do with our money and time. God has blessed us with better and better circumstances financially, and it is our responsibility to be wise stewards of it, both to provide for our family and to assist and provide for others.

Likewise, we are able to afford lessons and activities for our children because we have chosen to utilize the library for many of our media wishes, we also use Paper Back Swap (they deal in hard backs as well) and Swap a DVD to empty our home of those books and dvds we don't want or need anymore and to replace them with those we do want. We belong to a homeschool co-op here, which opens up some more elective options for our children, but there is a cost associated with that, especially for a family with eight children. Two of our daughters are in ballet, with another likely starting in the fall, two boys fence, one boy does t-ball, these all cost money. When we are wise about our entertainment choices as a family, only spending where it is absolutely necessary or when we have an event or occasion to mark, we have more money free to provide the activities our family enjoys and wishes to pursue.

Another great benefit to our choosing time and effort over convenience and expense, to our delaying our gratification somewhat, is that when we want to take a trip back "home" or Rich and I want to go on a date because life has been crazy, or we have a little celebration, we can do it. Living frugally does not mean depriving yourself (unless you are truly in dire straits, which we've had to navigate before ourselves). Even in the toughest circumstances or tightest budgets, there are ways of setting back a dollar or two and using buy one get one coupons, while exploring free activities in your town or area, to allow you a date or a treat when you just need that break. Since we've been paying off hospital bills from Nejat's stay, we've been a little more careful about our outings. So, one night this winter, Rich called me from work and asked if I could give him 10 minutes extra so we could go on a mini-date. We had to take Amira in to ballet, so he got popcorn and cookies from one of the FBOs at his work (they have them out for their clients/customers, and were glad to let him take them), some hot chocolate packets that he mixed with coffee, and had me bring a play list of our songs. We dropped off our daughter, drove around town listening to music and enjoying our treats and talking. It wasn't a huge thing, but it was a bright spot in winter, when I'd had a tough day, and it only cost us a little extra gas than we normally used.

I challenge and encourage you to reconsider what you find convenient or time consuming. It can help you, not only financially, but allow you the freedom to help others, to cut down on the excess in your home, which helps reduce what needs organizing or cleaning as well. Streamlining your life and home this way helps you have more time and energy for the things that will truly permit you to live within your means, serve the poor and needy (or some other group or individuals you wish to serve - I know someone who makes dinners for veterans, for instance), save for a trip, allow your family to do some activity that has been outside of your budget, or give you a date night fund.

One other thing: We are about to enter Lent. One of the practices our family does each year is to try to come up with 40 bags for the 40 days of Lent. We sort and eliminate each day and come up with a bag or box of items to donate or give away or to throw away if it is truly of no use to someone else. This frees us from our attachment to material goods, from the time and energy necessary to keep up such items, and allows us to give liberally to those in need, or just offer something nice that someone else might have wanted, but not been able to justify buying.

If you can't do it all at once, join the club! Trust me, we live in as much or more chaos as you do. Our home is still in need of so much decluttering, so much streamlining, but having an idea of what matters and where our energy and time should be focused helps us to work at it little by little. In this way, we can take the time or do something "inconvenient" that will help us and others in the long run.

Previous Posts:
Make it at Home
Grocery Shopping
Waste Not, Want Not
The Celery Stalks at Midnight
Use What You Have
Combining Trips
Storing Bulk Purchases
Turn It Off
Grow Your Own
Buying in Bulk
Entertainment on the Down Low
Finding Fun Locally
Holiday Shopping

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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Menu Plan Monday: February 23 - March 1

We do have one repeat this week. The next few days are taken up in preparing for having my dad here and Alexander's name day this week. This is our last full week before Lent, and we're doing it up well here. I have almost all of our Lenten dinners planned for the entirety of Lent. There will be changes as we go, of course, based on schedules and what is available or on sale at the grocery store. We thought that this year, we should try to plan ahead more, so as to be focusing less on what we're eating and more on the why of it.
What is on your menu this week? If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can. If there are any starred recipes, I will follow up separately with a recipe round up on Saturday.

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