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Friday, October 31, 2014

Poverty


“Feeding the hungry is a greater work than raising the dead.” –St. John Chrysostom

I've talked before here about the poverty of inconvenience. Over this past year, we've had several opportunities to see some real poverty up close. We live in a small, rural town, so though there is plenty of poverty here, plenty of kids go hungry at night, and we are aware of that, it doesn't show up in the same way. Because people have friends and family that take care of them, because restaurants take extra food to those who are in need at their back door, our soup kitchens, food banks and senior centers are set up in such a way that, even though there are a lot of people who use them, it doesn't seem so in your face. In some ways, I wish it was more in our face, because our government welfare and food stamps makes the poor somewhat invisible to us. We no longer have long food lines that make poverty visible to everyone.

That wasn't a problem while we were in San Antonio. We saw more obvious, and lonely, poverty there than we have in a long time. Our first night there, we were walking around, trying to find a pizza place we'd read about, when we passed a homeless man on the street. He was friendly, we smiled, and he asked where we were headed, we told him what we were looking for and, though he couldn't help us find it, he had been given a pizza to eat, and he offered to share it with us. On the one hand we didn't want to take food from a man who may not see it regularly, on the other hand, we were so touched that this stranger would share what he had with us. We didn't take it, but we did remember him and pray for him.

The very next morning, on our way to church across from the hotel, we were met by a woman, Kim, who had been abused by her husband. She had burns on her leg that she showed us, and she showed us ID to prove that she wasn't scamming us. This is not a part of our normal life, needless to say. She needed money for a bus ticket to get to her mother's. Since the bus station wasn't open yet, and we were on our way to church, we invited her to join us, then we would walk her to the bus station and pay for the ticket. She was really reluctant to go in, seemed to feel she wasn't in the right clothes or position to be in the church. So, Rich asked her to wait outside for him, while he got me settled, then he would return to take her to the bus depot. As we went in, we told the ushers that there was a woman in need outside, who needed prayer and assistance, but when they went out, she was gone. I don't know if she thought we were lying to her, or if she was just uncomfortable. Rich went after her, though, and found her to help. We've been praying for her ever since.

Even one day there while Rich was coming to meet me for something, he ran into a man, Eric, who was just out of prison, had turned his life around, but was having a hard time finding a job. Rich talked to him as a man who hires people and tried to give him some hints and assistance with ideas for interviews and applications, and he took him to lunch. We normally do not run into this many desperate people in a year, let alone in less than a week. Poverty is not as openly displayed here.

When we went to Ballard this summer, there was a man playing piano in the park. I stopped there to listen and sing along and knit. As he played and sang, he talked about his life, and how he was once a resident of this rather posh neighborhood. But he was down on his luck and had been homeless. He now played piano for the city, who did pay him, but he was not allowed to take tips. The only way I could assist was to listen. So, I did.

Rich and I are more and more convicted of our duty to provide for the poor in whatever way we can. Time are tough for everyone, but for us, it means tightening our belts a little. We don't have a lot that is extra, and with hospital bills and whatnot, there really isn't any extra anymore, but it is always possible to cut something or cut back on something to provide for someone else. Homeschooling allows us to bring our children with us to food banks to work, or to assist at the church soup kitchen. Even our gleaning club, while it provides excellent produce for us, and allows us to cut our grocery bills considerably, first gleans for the food bank or senior center, then people glean for themselves. This weekend, Dominic went with Rich to glean huge, organic, butternut squash and red onions, and after gleaning for the food bank, and for our family, the farmer told the gleaning club that there was another group there gathering squash for another charity, and their volunteers didn't all show up, so up Dominic went into the bed of a semi while Rich was tossing squash up to him to stack in the bins. We want our children to grow up with compassion and generosity for the poor, rather than disdain.

We try to keep food in our car as snacks for the kids, and emergency rations should we get stuck somewhere, but also so we can give something to those who are at street corners begging. Even if they are drug users, they still need something to eat. We hope our children are learning that. So, on a recent trip to Fred Meyer, which requires a drive to another city now, I bought some rosemary bread and a roasted chicken to get a little lunch in me before I left. I saved the rest for the kids, so they could have a snack when I got home. However, at the light, there was a young couple, who were holding a sign asking for money or food. I was embarrassed to offer them my leftovers. But, I asked if they minded taking my leftovers, told them I had used a fork and knife on it, and they took it, rather gratefully.

Rich has an acquaintance that he met through his work who has had a terrible string of disasters. Some of his own making, which he will readily admit. But God keeps putting this man in Rich's path. He'll see him walking into or out of town as he's driving, and feels moved to pick him up and give him a ride. They talk, they pray. In fact, this man recently converted to Christianity, and came by Rich's office after hours while Rich was still working because he wanted to share that with him, thinking that Rich was one of the few men he knew who would care and rejoice with him. He said he appreciated how Rich had always been honest as well as compassionate, telling him when what he was choosing was wrong, as well as offering assistance, regardless of that.

I'm not sharing this to tell you how great we are. Or how we always get this right. We don't. I can tell you a story of a lost opportunity here in our own town that both Rich and I deeply regret. Near our home, there is a little parking area where people stop to walk, hike, hunt, play paintball, whatever. There was a motor home parked there for some time. Every time Rich went to work and back, every time I went into town or home, we passed them. At first we wondered what the deal was, and why they didn't leave. Then, we realized they were living there, probably because they had no other place to live. Rich wanted to stop and bring them something, but was worried that the woman might feel threatened by a man coming alone. I wanted to bring them something, but we were worried about my safety going to strangers in a relatively deserted area where there are lots of transients and not lots of witnesses. So, we kept waiting for a time we both could go. Until one day, they weren't there any more. We didn't listen to our consciences and make the time and we lost the opportunity.

We strongly disagree with most government programs to relieve poverty. Not because we oppose it, but because it is the job of the Church, and the government does it badly. St. John Chrystostom said:

For if you wish to show kindness, you must not require an accounting of a person’s life, but merely correct his poverty and fill his need. When you see on earth the man who has encountered the shipwreck of poverty, do not judge him, do not seek an account of his life, but free him from his misfortune. Charity is so called because we give it even to the unworthy.

Let us also do this, I beg you, without making any inquiry more than necessary. Need alone is the poor man’s worthiness; if anyone at all ever comes to us with this recommendation, let us not meddle any further. We do not provide for the manners but for the man. We show mercy on him not because of his virtue but because of his misfortune, in order that we ourselves may receive from the Master His great mercy, in order that we ourselves, unworthy as we are, may enjoy His philanthropy. For if we were going to investigate the worthiness of our fellow servants, and inquire exactly, God will do the same for us.


It is not that we should be contributing to someone's addiction or poor choices. It is that God does not give to us conditionally. It is important to know the root of someone's poverty, and alleviate that as well, but if we do not have any reason or ability to have an accounting of his life, it is simply our duty to give. It is not our business to go rooting around in his history to discover if he is worthy of our assistance. On the contrary, however, when government takes money from citizens to do this work, it is precisely their, and our, business to make sure the money is not being squandered. This is one reason it is better for such actions to happen with individuals and private organizations. Asking why a person is sick, poor, homeless, addicted, or otherwise in need does have value, but not in determining worthiness. The person deserves help because he needs it, and because God has called us to help our neighbor. He even clarified that our neighbor might very well be our enemy. By all means, if you have a relationship with the person in need, discover what contributes to their plight, but use that to help lead them out of the situation, which is an act of justice which, like charity, is a Christian obligation.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Yarn Along: Unbirthday


Here is a mass of unbirthday presents. Who they're for, nobody knows! I was initially going to assign them for specific people at our unbirthday party, but then I thought I'd just put them all out on the table and see who wants what. One set is completely finished, one piece is almost finished, and one I just started. They need to be ready for November 6, when we'll have our dinner and celebration. We've all had a rough summer and fall, all of us are stressed out, homeschooling moms right now, missed celebrating all our birthdays, and a couple of us will be finished with local elections, for good or ill, so we're going to decompress, celebrate, commiserate, and eat delicious food.

I'm working on a really simple, striped cowl, that you can see above, knit at an aran gauge. It isn't a complicated or difficult pattern, the yarn was inexpensive (around $3.50 a skein), and it only requires four skeins, but just paying myself for materials and minimum wage for my time (which is $9.32/hr here in WA state, though in the past when knitting for hire I was paid closer to $20/hr), I am already at around $146.48, and I still have at least another six hours or more of knitting, plus a little time for finishing before it is completed. That puts the grand total at about $203, for a relatively small, simple, larger gauged item. Those of you who do handwork understand how much time, effort, energy, and thought go into a hand made gift, and that is not even accounting for the money used to purchase materials. I have no qualms about giving such a gift away, but always feel a little undervalued when someone puts a price on it. My late father in law talked about some $18 - 25 wool socks that were sold at his store (he worked for Keen, and they treated him and us so well) and I said that they were a bargain. I buy yarn for a pair of adult socks for that price and more. Even if they are factory made, which they are, and the materials gotten for a less, being bought in bulk, when you consider that the retail price is about three or four times the cost of the materials, work, employees' pay, overhead and so on, they really are rather inexpensive. This is why I write patterns rather than sell finished items.

Speaking of which, I still have some editing to do on Saint George, but the pattern is set to be released for sale at the end of this week. I hope you love it, favorite it, queue it, and buy it! Also, I spoke in error (typed in error?) a week ago. Though I do plan to have a new bonnet pattern posted by Thanksgiving, it is not the free pattern, that designation goes to a headband I designed for a friend's gift. There are so many designs in my head that I'm itching to get out there, but there is only so much time in a day, so I'm trying to pace myself.

There was a mention of a figure in the section on King Asa in Christ in His Saints that reminded me very much of someone I know. It's funny, because as I read it aloud, a few of my boys gave me knowing looks and said that they knew someone who fit that description extremely well. Aside from my reading there, I've finished another brain candy, happy, little murder: Moon Spinners (Seaside Knitters, Book 3) and I'm reading Northanger Abbey: (Classics hardcover) (Hardcover Classics) with The Motherhood and Jane Austen Book Club. I am ashamed to admit that, though I've read excerpts, this is the first time I've read it completely through, but I'm finding it delightful. Also, I realized a few weeks ago, that the reason the name abbey and so on appear in so many English estate names is a result of King Henry VIII stealing the Catholic Church's properties and handing them out to his nobility to ensure their support.



Also posting to Keep Calm and Craft On

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Sunday, October 26, 2014

Menu Plan: October 26 - November 1


So, I forgot to post the ful recipe. I will be making it again this week, and I'll post the recipe on Saturday. I'm just calling it a do over at this point. There are a lot of breakfast repeats this week, but I think no repeats for any of the dinners. The jalapeño macaroni and cheese was a winner last week, but I think I can improve it. Also, though I completely messed up the ingredients in the Greek pea stew (we had to substitute more than I planned or cared to do), it was still delicious, so we'll see how it is made the right way one of these days.

This is a busier than normal week for us, but I think I can manage the meals anyway. Nobody was injured seriously this past week, so I feel like we did pretty well. A few things are up in the air for us this week, but I think it will still be alright.

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 weekly recipe round up on Saturday.

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Belated Recipe Round Up: Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins


These are really tasty muffins. They aren't quite as cakey as the bakery muffins, which we think is preferable, but they are tasty and moist.

1 3/4 cup pastry flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
2 eggs
2/3 cup whole milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease 24 standard muffin cups (and/or line with foil muffin liners) well and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together pastry flour, brown sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Add the butter, eggs, milk, and vanilla extract, and mix well, leaving the batter a bit lumpy. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Scoop into muffin tins, filling about 2/3 of the way up the sides. Bake in preheated oven for 15 - 20 minutes, until they are firm in the center and the tops bounce back when pressed lightly.

Cool in tins on a rack for about 5 - 10 minutes, then remove and allow to cool completely. Or just eat them warm and melty.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Yarn Along: Saint George! (Plus Some Things I Can't Mention)


It's been rainy and grey, which is very unlike this area, for the past few days, so I have an in house photo of my project this week. I am finished with the knitting on Saint George. I really like the way it has corners and changes shape geometrically, but Alexander wants it square, so I still need to block it flat.




I'm finishing up editing the pattern notes and should have the pattern available for sale in a week or so. I'm also hoping to have another, free, pattern available by Thanksgiving. That one will be for a baby bonnet, so could be used for Christmas knitting or for a baby shower or for charity.

In other work, I have several unbirthday and holiday presents that are either recently finished or in progress. But the people who receive them might see it on the blog, so I can't really say much about those yet. I also have quite a few designs in the works, many of the simple and quick, but a couple that will be more complicated, that I hope to have ready over the next several months. Most of those are designs for my own stores, so I can discuss them here, but a few are not, so those will be surprises. I had another design idea that I was trying to finesse to meet the themes and requirements of a magazine's holiday issue for next year, but I just couldn't get it to fit both my ideal and theirs. So, I will be working on it for my own publication, or saving it for a time that it will work for them.

This weekend, I received another yarn club package from Paradise Fibers and my shipment for the Magnolia Society should arrive in the next week or so (registration is open now for the next one, too). When it does, I'll post pictures of both.

Now that I've had a little respite, and kind of read brain candy for a while there, I'm back to reading Christ in His Saints. I would really like to finish it before tackling another theological or spiritual book, though I have many I'm itching to read. It is so good, and it is something I can pick up and set down at will, since each character sketch is fairly brief. In my brain candy books, I also finished The Long Stitch Good Night: An Embroidery Mystery. This author's books are a little too predictable, but they are fun, easy reading for me when I can't quite handle other, more demanding writing.



Also posting to Keep Calm and Craft On

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Monday, October 20, 2014

Menu Plan: October 19 - 25


I just realized I was supposed to post my chocolate chocolate chip muffin recipe. I will get on that right away - our week and weekend were a bit more busy than we expected. Some friends of ours also gave us an opportunity to have an afternoon and evening to ourselves on Friday, so our meal for that night has been moved. Actually, it had already been moved, we switched Wednesday and Friday, then we pushed that meal to this week. So, we have a couple repeats on the menu this week. We've already had a few mornings that are below freezing, and our nights are pretty chilly, so we're having a lot more hot breakfasts and warming dinners.

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 weekly recipe round up on Saturday.

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Monday, October 13, 2014

Menu Plan: October 12 - 18


We had a much lower key week this past week, for which I am extremely grateful. Mariam is healing up well, most of us are over our colds, or mostly anyway, and nobody else had any more accidents or illnesses. Winter has come upon us. This is probably the longest, mildest fall we've had since moving here. They usually last around two weeks, and this one went from the week after fair through this last week. But now winter is here. And you all probably know how I feel about winter.

I have to share my grocery haul with you, though. This is why I shop Grocery Outlet first. I've heard that HEB and Aldi's offer similar deals, but we don't have those in our area. I bought all of this at the Grocery Outlet this weekend using their 20% off bag (fill a paper bag without ripping it and everything in it is an extra 20% off) and a small, separate, order of what didn't fit, using a $3.00 off coupon (the seasoned fish fillets, the pickles, the cat food, and the tissues):


For $94, I bought 3 pounds of frozen, wild caught, salmon fillets, 2 pounds of organic chicken drumsticks, 1 pound of pepperoni, 2 1/2 pounds of bacon, 2 1/2 pounds of frozen, Southwest seasoned, tortilla crusted, wild caught fish fillets, 4 pounds of co-jack cheese, 1 pound of Italian shredded cheeses, 2 pounds of ricotta, 8 ounces of boursin, 2 pints of sour cream, 2 liters of extra virgin, Turkish olive oil, 2 pounds of frozen, organic, California blend vegetables, 2 pounds of frozen, sliced onions and peppers, 1 1/2 pounds frozen peas, 24 ounces of tortilla chips, 3 quart jars of Claussen pickles, 2 tubes of toothpaste, 2 bottles of dish soap, 1 box of tissues, 16 pounds of cat food.

There was a time when all of this could have been gotten for between $50 and $60 at the Grocery Outlet, but these prices are still amazing, especially for the cost of groceries right now, so I am grateful to be able to provide good things for our family at a much lower cost. Our menu has a couple repeats this week because we had to shift some things around because of schedules or not feeling up to cooking something.

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 weekly recipe round up on Saturday.

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Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Yarn Along: Birthday Design


So, two nights after Mariam split her head open, and the night I had her go to bed in her own bed, I had to go tell her and Yasmina to stop playing around and go to sleep. I found Mariam climbing the dressers, using the drawers as steps! The same girl who went to the hospital for stitches two nights before. Really.

It's been a busy week. Needless to say, there hasn't been a ton of crafting this week. I did get started on Alexander's birthday present, which is not going to be finished in time for his birthday, but I'm hoping to have it ready for his party. It is also a design I will be publishing, which I think would make a great Christmas present for a man (or woman, but men tend to be harder to pick knit projects for, in my experience). I wish I could capture the color of this yarn. Imagine the very darkest blue grey there possibly could be that still shows some blue to it. This picture makes it look either just grey or maybe a shade lighter than black. It is a blue black/blue grey, and it is really gorgeous. This shot is probably the closest, but it's still off a bit.


I still haven't really read much. Between our trauma at the beginning of the week, all of us fighting colds, and school work, there just hasn't been time. I basically have been pushing myself to the limit on trying to get as much of the essentials done, and just crash at night. Rich and I have been falling asleep immediately after praying with the kids at night. On separate couches. Then, we wake up later, and either go to our own bed, or realize that it's time to get up for school/work/church/making breakfast. It's been a rough week. We are getting a little better, and it was just a cold, but it kind of slowed us all down at the same time, and that was the real challenge. Still, I've almost finished Mormon Christianity: What Other Christians Can Learn From the Latter-day Saints, and I picked up Stitch Me Deadly: An Embroidery Mystery for some light reading.



Also posting to Keep Calm and Craft On

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Monday, October 06, 2014

Yarn Clubs and Yarn Tasting Goodies

I joined two yarn clubs this fall, one semi-local, and one that is more well known.

The first is one through Paradise Fibers, which offers yarns dyed by American companies in colorways that have to do with the Pacific Northwest. You get a skein or two of yarn, a pattern to go with it, and it's a nice surprise each month. My first package came almost two weeks ago and had a skein of Three Irish Girls Adorn sock yarn in Spokane Riverwalk, along with a sock pattern to use with it (or not).


Paradise Fibers also had a Rowan yarn "tasting" a couple Saturdays ago, which I was able to attend with a friend. We didn't win anything, but the goody bag for signing up had a skein of Rowan Fine Art Aran, a skein of Regia Viva Color, and two skeins of Schachenmayr Boston, along with three patterns that could be used with them. My friend who came with me didn't want her fluorescent yarn and gave it to me, so I ended up with three of the Boston, instead of two.


Here is my Magnolia Society yarn club package for this month, two skeins of Twist Light in Caterpillar. I really wish I could have joined for all the different color possibilities, but I chose Naturals this round, and Jewels for the final month. I'll get a lot of Unicorn Tails in between. This is stretching me, because I don't get to quite choose the colors I get, but I like the surprise and the challenge of seeing a color with different eyes.

I tried to capture the color, and had a hard time with that. The first picture is too washed out and bright, but the second one is too dark and olive. But while the second is a little closer to the actual color, it isn't really right, either.




I would have gotten a goody bag from my knitting retreat this past month, but we cancelled so we could go visit Kim. However, they said they'd keep my bag behind the counter and when I could go pick it up, I could still have that. I was really sorry to miss my class, but think we made the better choice.

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Sunday, October 05, 2014

Menu Plan: October 5 - 11


Well, after last week's adventures, I'm hoping for a more peaceful week. We have a lot to do, as usual, but I'm hoping that will not include a trip to the hospital. We still have a ton of apples, so we're eating a lot of that, and we had a great deal on winter squash at the Grocery Outlet, so I picked up a bunch of those for us to roast and eat. There are some repeats this week, and I'll try to get all the meals done, now that we aren't all really sick. Alexander turns 16 this week! I can't believe that he is so old now. We are excited about him starting to drive because that means we won't have to drive everyone to every practice and class and rehearsal ourselves. He won't be allowed to drive his friends for the first six months, but he can drive siblings! We have started him later, though, so he will be doing his practice and driver's ed this fall and winter.

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 weekly recipe round up on Saturday.

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Saturday, October 04, 2014

Recipe Round Up: Pesto and Ricotta Baked Pasta


This is really easy to make. It is a pasta you don't even precook. You mix it all together and let the water absorb as it bakes. I do cook the onion, peppers, and garlic, so you will use two pans for the whole dish. If you steam sauté another vegetable or two as a side dish, you can even use the skillet without washing it in between.

1 pound pasta (any shape you like, but not long pastas like linguine or fettuccine, unless you break them up)
2 cups pesto
2 cups ricotta
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 pound sliced sweet peppers
4 cloves garlic, minced
kosher salt, to taste
2 cups water
1/2 pound mozzarella (fresh or aged), shredded
1/2 pound provolone, shredded

Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease a 9 X 13 inch baking dish. Place pasta in baking dish along with pesto and ricotta, and set aside.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add olive oil when hot, then add onions and peppers. Sauté until onions are wilted and starting to brown on the edges, then add garlic and salt. Cook for another minute. Taste to make sure there is enough salt and adjust as necessary. Add to pan with pasta. Pour 2 cups of water over the mix, and mix together well. Sprinkle with cheeses and cover with foil so it isn't touching the cheese.

Bake for 45 minutes, covered. Uncover and bake another 10 minutes. Serve with a salad, fruit, garlic bread, and/or another vegetable.


This isn't the best photo, but it shows the peppers in the dish.

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