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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Green Package Arrived Last Week

This has been a rather hectic week for me. We've had lots of things going on, and I'm getting ready to go out of town. However, I wanted to post about my lovely green package from Chris that arrived last Wednesday.

It was full of so many different things!

There was a candle with my initial all over it, two skeins of Lorna's Laces sock yarn in the camoflage colorway, a kind of spring green colorway in Taos, some fun, fluffy Patons yarn, two skeins of a really nice green in Patons Grace, which I love! I know there are a couple things I'm forgetting, oh! The chocolate mints! I had a really fun time looking at all the things in the box and reading her lovely card. It was really obvious she put a lot of thought into it.

Thank you Chris!

Also, I finished a tiny project last week, a leaf and stem bookmark.

I have two birthday posts that I owe Amira and Elijah. Amira's birthday was the 10th and Elijah's is today. She is three and he is five now. I will try to post when I get back home from my trip. If you don't hear from me by the 2nd, feel free to email me and bug me about it.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Works for Me Wednesday: Stretching the Food Budget

We have a larger family. Five children is no longer within the normal range of family size in the U.S. and it takes quite a bit of food to feed us all. We laugh now at recipes which use 8" X 8" pans or say things like serves 4. Since we live on one income, and it would actually be even more expensive for me to go out to work, even if I wanted to do so, we have learned how to make our budget stretch. A friend of mine thinks I should give seminars on grocery shopping and cooking as a service to homemakers and women who wish to be homemakers and thus add to our income a little and our pediatrician after asking if I was still at home with the kids said that of course I was, we wouldn't be able to afford five children if I was at work. Part of how I stretch our budget is by having a purpose for any leftovers.

Take breakfast, for instance. We like oatmeal here, partly because it tastes good, partly because it is inexpensive (especially when you buy it in bulk, as we do), partly because it is nutritious, partly because it is filling and easy to make. Most breakfasts during the week here are either oatmeal (steel cut or rolled, depending on how early we arose), or some sort of egg and toast with a glass of juice or milk. However, with boys that eat more than I do, who go through spurts of eating until we make them stop, it is sometimes hard to gauge how much to make. I tend to err on the too much side.

The fact is, though, that nobody wants to eat gloppy, leftover oatmeal. No matter how inexpensive it is, it is wasteful to just toss it, and costs us more per serving if we do that. Not to mention that we are pretty big on not wasting food as a general principle here in the Arabian Knits home. So, I use that leftover oatmeal to make bread. You can also add it to pancake batter or cookie dough. Today, I made four loaves of bread in our bread machine using the leftover oatmeal from two days ago that had been taking up real estate in our fridge. It was a container of about 1 1/2 - 2 cups of oatmeal. One became an oatmeal applesauce bread, another an oatmeal sesame bread, a third a honey whole wheat bread and the fourth a cinnamon apple bread. We freeze these and pull them out when we don't even have the time to dump bread ingredients in the bread machine, or when we forget to do so.

I don't really measure it, I just put about a third to a half a cup in the bread machine, add the fat (butter or olive oil), sweetener (sugar, honey or molasses), salt, flour (white or whole wheat), yeast and about 3/4 of a cup of liquid (water, milk, juice, beer, flat champagne, etc). I use the same ratio of other ingredients, I just reduce the liquid. I also watch it while it mixes in the first 15-20 minutes, and add more flour or liquid if it seems necessary.

By the way, our bread machine has been a food budget lifesaver. We bought our first two second hand at thrift shops for less than $15 each, our third we got on Freecycle. We basically work them into the ground and then get a new one. We make at least one loaf of bread a day, with some days seeing us make two or three or more. We use it to mix dough while we do other things, so we can make shaped loaves or rolls. I even have a bread machine recipe for croissant dough. We buy bread flour in 50 lb bags at a steep discount, and even our artisan breads cost about $0.20-0.40 a loaf.

I can almost always use leftovers from one meal as an ingredient for another food item or meal. I've used leftover cheese sauce to make a crustless quiche/soufflé type thing, leftover rice gets put into soup or fried rice, we've even made a sandwich spread with leftovers that was quite delicious.

Having a use for leftovers works for me!

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Monday, March 19, 2007

April Color Swap: Neutrals

Please take a button and save it to your photo host or server.

Here is your announcement for April. I've been getting some sign ups already, but hadn't posted here. I will be out of town next week, so I will take a little longer to get assignments to everyone. The deadline for this sign up is March 26th at 12:01 a.m. That is Sunday night. I will have assignments sent out by the 4th of April.

If you wish to sign up, send me an email with your full name, mailing address, email address that you check regularly, and blog url. This is open to knitters worldwide, but I am going to make a big effort to pair people within the same nation or at least continent, since there is only a month in which to allow for something to arrive. I am going to limit the swap to the first 50 respondents. Please feel free to spread the word about this, though.

The first thing to come to mind in terms of color is, of course, yarn, but please don't limit yourself to that. Handmade cards, candles, soaps, bath salts, stationery, candies, chocolates, knitterly tools or gadgets, knitting themed accessories and roving/fiber for those who are spinners as well are all good idea for gifts. Knitting something for someone would be a lovely gift. Including shipping, the minimum price for this swap should be considered at $25 (remember, that includes shipping and any packaging). I know how difficult it is to determine the monetary value of something handmade, or handspun or hand dyed, and I do not consider those things as cheap, but please keep in mind a general sense of the price of the package being sent. Participants should expect to receive one package and to send out one package for each round of the swap. Packages should arrive by the end of each month, preferably earlier.

Remember that registration for April ends 12:01 a.m. March 26, 2007 and the color theme is Neutrals.

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Menu Plan Monday: March 19

A family from church got a great deal on what they called Italian eggplant at the produce store and shared their bounty Sunday. I saw them and immediately thought of stuffing them. They were about two to three inches long and smooth and beautiful. So we went home with a bunch and that was tonight's dinner.

What is on your menu this week?

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Tooth Fairy Incorporated

Dominic finally lost his first tooth last night. Or rather, the tooth fairy took a hemostat and pulled it out while he was asleep so we wouldn't have to take him to the dentist to pay lots of money for them to do the same thing. You see, his adult teeth, yes that's right, teeth, are growing in behind his baby teeth, and pushing the baby teeth out, but he won't wiggle them out of his mouth. We were concerned about his teeth being messed up, so we told him to spend his days after the surgery resting, drinking water and wiggling his teeth.

When I was a kid and had loose teeth, wiggling them was all I wanted to do, and they told me not to! Rich says it was the same for him. Our son evidently has not received the dominant tooth wiggling gene. So, we resorted to telling him nightmare stories about having a dentist pull out his teeth for him so his mouth won't be eternally screwed up requiring orthodontia and pain every time they need to tighten them. Hey, if the shrinks are going to blame us anyway, we at least ought to have a hand in messing him up. It didn't work. He still wouldn't wiggle his teeth and his mouth has been looking more and more clownish and distorted.

So, last night, since Dominic fell asleep waiting to do the finishing touches on his science project (or rather Rich's, since he's the one doing most of the work on this, why do schools assign things that require them to grade the parents?) Rich took the opportunity to pull the one tooth that was literally hanging on by a little scrap of gum. Then, he made me promise to play along and not laugh. He shook Dominic awake saying "Look, look Dominic! Look what I found!"

Dominic was still groggy, so he didn't register what was in Rich's hand. He seemed also to think that he still had two loose teeth in his mouth, even when we made him check multiple times. Finally, we just told him that he LOST A TOOTH!!!! Yaaay! We told him to put it under his pillow for the tooth fairy. He was so excited! After we got him in bed, and a sufficient time had passed to assure us that he was asleep, Rich snuck in and put a half dollar under his pillow in exchange for the tooth.

This morning, Dominic was telling his brothers and sister all about his lost tooth and how he now had a half dollar. It was so sweet to see him thrilled like that. Well, Elijah looked at him at the breakfast table and said:

"Dominic, you're rich!"

Dominic replied that you had to have a diamond if you were rich. So I piped up that I had two or maybe even more! Dominic was in awe because, as he told us, diamonds are worth a lot of money, like 1000 pennies!

"They're worth $10, are they?" I asked.

He looked like he didn't know how to take that. Well, we've had a $10 bill sitting on our bar for a week or so, from a rebate check that we just cashed so we could use it to go dancing. I picked it up and showed it to him and said that we just had a $10 bill lying around our house. He said:

"We are rich!"

Rich gave me a squeeze and we said to each other, yes we are.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007


I tried to post this last week, but blogger or my computer or something acted up and I lost it all after I finally typed it all in. So, here it is again, only it's the first time for you, gentle readers. I'm saving as a draft this time.

Christine has posted this meme at her blog, and I picked it up here. I, too, love being married to my husband and enjoy talking about it. Since, I have a hard time thinking of who would be interested in a meme and who might post it, I'll leave it to you to decide if you want to do it or not. Though, I think that Alina (especially since they hit it off at our wedding, and I knew they would end up married after seeing them together on our wedding night) and Rachelle might be interested in it.

Marriage Meme

1. Where/How did you meet?
Gerlinger Hall at a University of Oregon Ballroom Club dance, July 15, 1994. Rich saw me across a semi-crowded dance floor and says that he thought I was pretty, looked like I could dance and wouldn't be mean about helping him learn and that he thought I had nice legs.

He asked me to dance, and I accepted. We danced several dances together and Rich either needed air or got tired and asked me if I wanted to go outside to talk. I said no, and kept dancing. When I got tired, I went out to see if he was still there. He was and we sat outside talking for a long time. There was a cemetary across the field from the dance, and we had riotous laughter predicting whose demise was near at hand based on whether or not the street light went out when someone walked under it passing the cemetary. We laughed about all sorts of things and found that we both read the obituaries daily, so our first real conversation was about the high incidence of renal failure in Lane County. We're romantic like that.

After talking for a little while, I told him to wish me a happy birthday because my birthday was the next weekend. He did and asked me how old I was going to be, thinking I would reply 22 or 24. I said 18! He says he thought to himself that it was nice to meet me and goodbye. He was 24. Anyway, we kept seeing each other at these dances and got to be friendly.

In September, I was telling people at my campus ministry about the ballroom club and organized a group to go to the first dance of the school year. Only one fellow showed up to go, and he seemed to think it was a date. Rich saw us and picked up on my discomfort with this guy, and Rich had fun tweaking the other man by asking me to dance and putting his arm around my shoulders.

The next week, Rich wasn't there and the week after that I wasn't there. The fourth week, I almost didn't go. I had gotten my hair done, repairing some craziness I had inflicted on my hair in the year before and gone over to a friend's house from high school. We got a movie and watched it, but he was still in high school and had the SAT's the next day, so he took me home and told me that I looked great and I should go to the dance. So, I threw on a dress and did my hair and face and walked to the dance.

Rich made a beeline to me and asked why I had been gone the week before. We danced together pretty much the whole time and toward the end I invited him to a movie night our house was having. We exchanged phone numbers and I told him where I lived. Somewhere along the line, I mentioned that I didn't have someone to walk me home after the dance. He offered to give me a ride home. He was supposed to drop off a friend of his, but she figured out what was going on and got a ride with another friend. I asked Rich later on what he would have done if she still needed a ride, because I lived closer than she did, and he said that he would have dropped her off first and then taken me home.

When we got to my house, I invited him in for coffee. He doesn't drink coffee, but he didn't mention this, and just accepted. My housemates were out seeing Forest Gump (with that fellow who went to the dance with me I mentioned above) and stayed out late. Rich and I were in the living room talking until they came in at around 2:00 a.m. Even though that wasn't really a date, it's what we count as our first date. He said when he went home he slept with his shirt wrapped around his pillow because it smelled like my perfume.

The next day was a Saturday, and I went out with some girlfiends of mine, and had a really bad experience and came home feeling pretty shaken up. On Sunday afternoon, I worked at a science museum, and that was near where Rich lived, though I didn't really know it at the time. He called me at work, because that was one of the numbers I'd given him, to make sure of the time for the movie night, which was that night. I told him and then I pretty much poured out my heart to him about what had happened the night before. Normally, I would have taken the bus home, but he said he would come pick me up and take me home, since he was so close by anyway. He came at closing time and helped me close up and we went to my house.

That was pretty much the beginning of it all. We went into it saying that we didn't want it to be serious and that we weren't going to be in love. He had flight school ahead of him still and I was just starting school, but within three months we were talking about if we would get married, within six months it was about when we got married.

2. How long have you known each other?
12 years and eight months as of the Ides of March. More than a third of my life.

3. How long after you met did you start dating?
Three months, almost to the day.

4. How long did you date before you were engaged?
One and a half months shy of two years.

5. How long was your engagement?
Four months. Initially, we were going to wait until he was out of flight school and I was finished with college. Since I was studying something I hated, and it was so hard on us living in different states while he was in flight school, knowing that we would get married, but that it was so far in the future, we started talking about doing it earlier the summer before we got married. We already knew we wanted to get married on New Year's Eve, so we said we'd do it that year instead of waiting nearly three and a half years. It was the best decision of our lives, and I would recommend any young couple who knew that this person was who God had for them, were willing to work together and for each other, and who were both committed to fidelity and marriage to get good pre-marital counseling and just get married. You save yourself a lot of heart ache, temptation and trouble that way.

6. How long have you been married?
10 years, two months and two weeks.

7. What is your anniversary?
December 31, 1996

8. How many people came to your wedding reception?
I don't know what our final head count was. We invited about 250 people, and I think somewhere between 175 and 200 people showed up.

9. What kind of cake did you serve?
Chocolate marble cake with raspberry filling and whipped cream frosting.

10. Where was your wedding?
St. Matthew's Episcopal Church in Portland, OR, reception in the parish hall.

11. What did you serve for your meal?
It was a late night wedding, and we didn't have a sit down meal, but we did have a buffet of lots and lots of Arabic food, mostly made by me. Things people could eat a bite of and then go socialize or dance and come back for more.

12. How many people were in your bridal party?
Four bridesmaids and four groomsmen.

13. Are you still friends with them all?
No. We have very loose contact two of the bridesmaids, we are friends with one (that's Alina I mentioned above), the fourth we no longer talk to or see at all. Of the groomsmen, one was Rich's brother, one was his dad, but the other two were friends we only see or talk to very occasionally.

14. Did your spouse cry during the ceremony?
No, he choked up a little during the vows.

15. Most special moment of your wedding day?
Taking communion together as a married couple for the first time. Close second was when Rich saw me in my wedding gown for the first time. We took pictures before the ceremony, but had Rich at the altar and me walking down the aisle to him so he could still have that moment of seeing me for the first time in my gown:

16. Any funny moments?
We made sure that people knew that our wedding was PG-13. It was a late night and a long ceremony, and we thought that little kids would get bored. Well, someone in the wedding party had something come up and had to bring some foster kids along. One of Rich's cousin's daughter hung out in the parish hall with the kids, to wait for the reception down there. At the point in the ceremony when the priest prays for the couple to have children, we heard this loud bong! and a child screaming. Perfect timing. Rich was shaking his head while we were kneeling there. Apparently, there was a large pipe downstairs that fed straight into the sanctuary and someone ran into it while playing downstairs.

17. Any big disasters?
Not huge, but there was flooding and an ice storm during the wedding, highways and freeways were being shut down and our string quartet never made it. We had to go to canned music, and couldn't find the piece I was to walk down the aisle to, so I walked to Pachelbel's Cannon, which I thought was too cliche. We found the music after the wedding.

18. Where did you go on your honeymoon?
Cannon Beach, OR

19. How long were you gone?
Five days.

20. If you were to do your wedding over, what would you change?
I would have eaten before the wedding. I was so busy and nervous that I didn't really eat the whole day, and the night before I had a breadstick and three Hawaiian Volcanos, oh, and the fruit on the picks in the drinks.

21. What side of the bed do you sleep on?
The side farthest from the door.

22. What size is your bed?

23. Greatest strength as a couple?
There are so many, it is hard to say. I think we make up for the deficiencies in each other. I make sure he is on time, and he makes sure I see the beauty of this world. We are a great team and a force to be reckoned with when we are working together. We are best friends and laugh at the same things.

24. Greatest challenge as a couple?
We are both strong willed, stubborn people. This has made for some pretty spectacular disputes. We see this as a blessing, though, because had we married weaker people, both of us would have walked all over them and then despised them for letting us do it. Fortunately, we managed to fit in a lifetime's worth of disagreement in our first year of marriage. Things are pretty mild and easy going now, for the most part. We are a living picture of the Proverb that iron sharpens iron.

25. Who literally pays the bills?
The lovely computers at the credit union. We have almost all our bills set to automatic withdrawal. On the rare occasions we have unscheduled bills, I usually pay them.

26. What is your song?
Moondance by Van Morrison

27. What did you dance your first dance to?
Ever? Fields of Gold, by Sting, a rhumba. At our wedding? Moondance, see above, foxtrot.

28. Describe your wedding dress.
Regal. White satin, fitted bodice, long ballgown with train, the bodice was handsewn with pearls and (!!) rhinestones. I didn't think it would be me, but I tried it on and fell in love with it. It was a bridal size eight and I had to have it taken in. Now, even if I was the weight I was then, I couldn't fit in it, as my, ahem, bodice, is too large. Maybe Amira will want it.

29. What kind of flowers did you have at your wedding?
Rich used to bring me stargazer lilies all the time while we were dating (he worked as a delivery man and one of his stops was a florist, and she gave him huge discounts and freebies). So, of course we had those, belladonna delphinium, freesia, white lisianthus, and other flowers I can't remember. That was for the bridal party, though, my flowers were all white, casablanca lilies, the freesia and lisianthus and I think white tulips and stars of bethlehem.

30. Are your wedding bands engraved? What do they say?
Nope. I gave Rich a pocket watch as a wedding gift, and meant to have it engraved with our anniversary and the word Yes! but never did get around to it.

If you do this meme, leave me a comment and I'll go read your answers!

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Blog Party!

Ultimate Blog Party

It is here, 5 Minutes for Mom's blog party has begun. I'm a little late to the party, but am definitely in on it.

If you are new to my blog, you can see my little disclaimer at the top of the page which will tell you a lot about what I blog, and my profile in the sidebar which says a little about who I am. My name is Ranee, I am a homemaker, married to Rich who is a pilot and the airport manager on the airport where we live. We have four sons and a daughter. From oldest to youngest, they are: Alexander, 8, Dominic, 6, Elijah, 4, Amira, 2 (she'll be three on Saturday!) and Jerome, 6 1/2 months. The eldest two are in second and first grade, respectively. We live over the water on Puget Sound, and love it here. Our house is hidden away by trees, and if you don't look carefully, you'd miss the street and houses on the other side of the fencing. You might not even see the fence.

I blog in fits and spurts, changing topic as I see fit. It gives me a chance to think a little, and to pass on photos of our kids to the family, along with chronicling my knitting progress and some recipes. Sometimes I post more about food, sometimes more about knitting, sometimes about the kids, and sometimes about my faith and observations. It depends on what is going on in my life at the moment. I am a knitter, obviously, and I am working on some designs to sell. I've recently submitted a few designs to a book that should be coming out in about a year. I still don't know if my designs were accepted.

My family belongs to a Charismatic Episcopal Church. We are very active in church life, and our church family is our closest community. Rich and I lead our youth group, Laudate, at our house and have been learning a whole lot along with them. Our faith has sustained us through so many things, and it is inseparable from any other aspect of our lives.

Being a mother of five makes for a busy life. It is fun and rewarding and lots of hard work. This blog is one of my outlets. I've been blogging for about two and a half years now. Knitting, crocheting, reading, cooking and dancing are my other major interests. Rich and I have been married for over 10 years. We met at a dance, and we've been dancing ever since. I used to teach ballroom and latin dance, and now we try to go out about once a month to have a fun date. I've been knitting for over 20 years now, and cooking at least as long. I hope you enjoy visiting my blog, find something to interest you and join in on the party.

I asked my friend Amanda if I could blog her when she came over for dinner on Sunday.

You see, I wanted to post photos, too, and not just a narrative. Amanda is a friend of ours that we met through our neighbors, she is their daughter and an incredible photographer. She is also the organizer and force behind The Delta Music Experience. I think she said they are overhauling the website, so you may have trouble viewing it now, but go and visit. If you click on her name above, you will go to her photography website. I should have had her take the pictures Sunday.

Please sit down and have a drink. We have wine, water and coffee. Feel free to grab some grapes out of the bowl.

Rich will grill the fish while we chit chat.

You can just keep me company while I slice up the garlic bread.

After we get to know each other over dinner, I hope you'll join me in eating these lovely molten chocolate cakes. I just had to dip into it, it was so good!

Thank you for coming, I hope to see you around again soon! Please leave a comment to let me know that you were at the party.

Menu Plan Monday: March 5 Plus a Tales from the Kitchen Classic

Okay, so this is really Tuesday. I was so exhausted, I didn't make it to posting at any point between Sunday night and this morning. I did make my menu plan, though. So, here it is:

Monday: Lamb Meatballs, Rice Pilaf, Salad (we moved this last week, and did a different dinner Saturday, saving the fish for Sunday)

Tuesday: Cream of Poblano Soup for soup supper at home group

Wednesday: Popcorn Shrimp, Peas and Tater Tots (can you tell that frozen food was on sale last week?)

Thursday: Chicken Ottoman, Egg Noodles, Salad

Friday: Corn and Potato Enchiladas, Tomato Rice

Saturday: Black Beans for Potluck

Sunday: Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes, Gravy, Green Beans


Cream of Poblano Soup

note: I roast the peppers under the broiler for about 10 minutes on each side. When they are charred, I put them in a bag to steam a bit, then peel them. The garlic I roast in a dry pan on the stove, still in the paper, but separated into cloves. Shake the pan a bit to turn them. I take them off the heat and peel them when they are charred.

1/4 cup butter
6 poblano chile peppers, roasted, peeled, seeded, and diced (These are sometimes called “pasilla” peppers in the store. They are dark green and 4-5” long.)
6 cloves of garlic, roasted, peeled, and diced
2 large onions (or 3 medium), thinly sliced
4 carrots, peeled and diced
1 tablespoon oregano
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
9 cups water
1 tablespoon salt
3 cups heavy cream or half and half
3 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro, optional
fried tortilla strips or crushed tortilla chips
2 cups Monterey Jack, shredded (garlic jack or pepper jack are really nice)

Melt butter in a soup pot over medium heat. Add poblanos, garlic, onion, carrots and oregano. Sauté an additional 5-10 minutes, or until vegetables are soft. Sprinkle with flour. Cook, stirring, an additional 5 minutes.

Whisk in water until blended. Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Using stick blender, puree soup or transfer soup in batches to a blender or food processor. Process until smooth and return to saucepan. Add cream and salt. Heat to a simmer. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.

Ladle soup into individual bowls. Pass tortilla strips, cheese and cilantro.

Serves 12 - can be halved or doubled easily.

Originally posted December 7, 2005 to Tales from the Kitchen

Last night I made Chicken Divan for the family, this is something we all like, and it goes together quickly, even if I don't have leftover chicken and need to cook it up from raw. I got the recipe from someone online, who I think got it from his wife, and I have changed it a bit, like I change every recipe that comes into my hands. However, we were a bit broccoli-ed out for a while, so I have used green beans or cauliflower instead, which really isn't Chicken Divan, so if you make it like this, call it Chicken Ottoman and the food police won't get you.

I have since discovered that baking this dish is completely unnecessary, so I have changed the instructions here. Here is the recipe with my changes.

Chicken Divan (or Ottoman)

1/4 cup butter
1/2 onion, peeled and diced
1/4 cup flour
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
2 tablespoons dry sherry
1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
1 cup grated parmesan (or romano, we like it either way)
1 lb broccoli, peeled and chopped (or any other vegetable you like, we've made it with cauliflower, green beans, among others)
2 cups cooked chicken, cut into bite sized pieces (this is about 2 chicken breast halves)

note: if you use the frozen chicken that has the sodium solution in it, you will not need to salt anything, but if not, taste for salt and salt as necessary. Also, if I am not using leftover chicken, I cook the chicken in olive oil after sprinkling it with black pepper in the same saucepan I use for the sauce, after steaming the broccoli, and remove it to rest while I make the sauce.

In a large saucepan, steam the broccoli for about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside. Using the same pot, over medium heat, melt the butter and saute the onions lightly. When they start to soften, add the flour and cook, stirring, to make a light roux. Add the chicken broth and cream, and cook, stirring, to thicken, about three to five minutes, then add the mustard, sherry and worcestershire sauce. Stir to blend and add the chicken pieces (along with any juices from the chicken if it was cooked for the dish). Add the steamed broccoli and the parmesan, and stir to heat and melt. Take off the heat. Serve with rice or pasta, a salad and fruit.

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

March Colorswappers

Please check your junk mail filters if you have not received your assignments. I've sent some of them twice, and a few people are saying they haven't gotten them. One person has found it in her junk mail filter. Thank you!


Friday, March 02, 2007

Crochet Class

Last night I took a crochet class at the shop. I have taught myself the basics, but I wanted to see how you are really supposed to do it and to progress beyond scrutinizing the charts and diagrams and patterns to get it done. It turns out that aside from crocheting really tighly (I suspected this, since I had to go up two or three hook sizes to get anything to work right), I have been crocheting all wrong.

Well, not all wrong, in that I am accomplishing the stitches, but I've been wrapping them wrong, kind of like twisting all your sts in knitting. Except, it's looser the way I do it, and the sts don't look crossed. So, I did it right last night, but unless someone is asking me a question about it, I am going to continue to wrap it all wrong. At least I am consistent.

I learned how to do some nice edgings which will come in handy for both knitting and crochet, picot, shell and crab st. I learned how to see the sts and which to count and how to make sure I don't end up with a leaning tower of Pisa when I switch to anything besides single crochet.

So, today, I covered a hideous hot pink hair elastic with the leftover yarn from the felted purse I made for Amira and crocheted a little scrunchie. I used the crab st to finish it off. It is quite lovely. It's even a little looser, I was only one hook size larger than I should have needed. Pictures later.


Thursday, March 01, 2007

Esther, Humility, Mortification

As I am traveling in the desert with Jesus, I am trying to be more diligent about my scripture reading. There are a couple places online where you can find the daily office with all the scripture readings for that day. I particularly like Mission St. Clare as they have any saints of the day with their stories listed as well as a guided morning and evening prayer, so you know how to use this tool the Church has given us. Since I get on the computer relatively early in the day while nursing Jerome, I can pray and do the daily readings at the same time.

It's relatively easy to pray when you have small children. You pray all day, when you're tired, when you need to get work done and have no time, when you need patience, kindness, wisdom, when they are sick, when they are fighting with each other, when they have a spelling test, when they are healing, when they are getting along, when they delight you. This isn't always a long, eloquent prayer, often just a quick one. Dear Lord, please don't let them kill themselves. Please don't let me. You know, all that spiritual thinking that goes on in a mother's head. It doesn't matter how much you love them, they still do insane things. This is so we understand how we look to God.

*Me: Don't run in the house! And look in the direction you are moving! Do you understand me?

Child: Yes, Mama. (continues to run while looking backward all around the house. Because it's fun!!!)

Me: Are you new? Are we supposed to run in the house?

Child: shakes head, runs into the corner of the door, crashing and crying.

Me: hugs child. "Do you see why I say not to run in the house?"

Child: nods head, recovers and runs around some more.

Repeat from * to end of Mama's sanity.

This is very similar to God's relationship with me. Only He is more patient and forgiving.

*God: Hold your tongue. Just wait. I will handle it.

Me: Okay. (blathers on gathering steam).

God: Ranee, didn't I talk to you about that?

Ranee: Yeah, but You were taking too long. I'm going to help myself. You help those who help themselves, right? Besides, waiting is boring. (talks herself into a bad spot that felt like a short cut to the solution, but now feels like a long cut, and has made a highly uncomfortable day)

God: Didn't I tell you not to do that? Don't you see the problems that causes?

Me: Uh-huh. (starts drifting to other thoughts...)

Repeat from * to me being made into His likeness.

See, the difference between me and God (one of) is that I run out of patience, while He works on making me more like Him. Patient. Wise. Slow to anger. Quick to forgive.

Part of Lent is mortification. This isn't a word that gets a lot of use now. It is making dead. The Protestants out there will think of this in terms of dying to self. It is a scriptural concept, and one that gets ignored in much of modern Christianity, as it makes itself into a bad copy of the world. The Church! Just like the world only not as good at it! We'll entertain you, and give you pretty lit stages, and a soundtrack and if you bring this coupon with you, you can get a free espresso while you watch (we mean worship)! The modern church is so obsessed with personal blessing, God blessing our paths, and all that we do, that it has forgotten the way to God's blessing. Christ said to take up his cross and follow him. He said that the world would hate us, and that there would be trouble in this world, but to take heart for he has overcome the world.

An aside, I just saw a book in a bible book store which had a title including something like Finding Your Personal Glory. After I averted my eyes and cringed, I thought, "Aren't we supposed to be seeking God's glory?" Anyway, the early church didn't find much health and wealth as they were being persecuted, and though they grew and spread, and prospered, their prosperity came to fruition in very different ways than people are being taught to look for now. They took on mortification, because they were commanded to do so, but also because it is a fact that if you won't mortify yourself, God will find ways for you to be mortified.

So, part of my discipline is to return to regular scripture reading and meditation. It is a mortification to set aside time daily to study. Not because I hate to study the scriptures, but because there is so much else I want to do and don't have time for during the day. It is also mortifying to find my character described in the scriptures, and not so favorably all the time. It is so important to have time to pray and hear from the Lord, not just my quick hellos and requests, or even the thanksgiving, but to communicate with Him.

I have been using the daily lectionary as my guide, but while listening to the local Catholic radio this morning and found that their lectionary was different from ours this morning. Usually, the lectionaries for the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Methodist and Lutheran churches are the same, at least on Sundays, but rarely, there are differences. Perhaps more so during the week, I don't know. So, while we were reading in Deuteronomy this morning, the Roman Catholic reading was in Esther. This part was emphasized, and it really struck me.

Queen Esther, seized with mortal anguish, likewise had recourse to the Lord [some versions say fled to the Lord].

Then she prayed to the Lord, the God of Israel, saying: "My Lord, our King, you alone are God. Help me, who am alone and have no help but you, for I am taking my life in my hand.

Esther is lying prostrate before the Lord, all day and night, with her maid servants. This is also during a three day fast. She is praying in desperation and utter humility. She is literally faced with two options of death. If she does nothing, Haman will succeed in destroying all of the Jews in Persia, and if she approaches the king, her husband, without permission, the law allowed her to be put to death. Yet instead of despairing, she goes to the Lord and says that she can do nothing, nothing at all and asks Him to intercede. She confesses her people's sins, and asks forgiveness and protection of the Lord.

It is this kind of prayer that I wish to pray. Not a flippant, please rubber stamp my plans kind of prayer, but a prayer in which I present my absolute weakness to God for Him to redeem. Christ redeemed suffering and weakness when he redeemed Man from sin on the cross, but if I hold on to mine and refuse to offer it to God to be transformed, it is simply worthless, wasted weakness. It is my desire to come before God, prostrate and receptive to hear His answers and plans, rather than to submit my own. This requires humility and mortification. A holy priest I know, the priest who married us and baptized our children, once said that humility can be practiced by listening to another rather than working on your response while they are speaking. This is especially true in our relationship with God. You may not get the last word, or the best word, but you will be mortifying yourself, and putting that person, or Person, first.

If you are not familiar with this passage, you may be wondering where in the bible this is. This is taken from the Greek texts of Esther, not found in most Protestant bibles. In bibles which have it listed separately, rather than in context, it is numbered as Esther 14:1, 3-4, in those versions which have it in context, it is Esther C 12, 14-15. If you are a part of much of modern Protestantism, you may want to know why I am quoting a Catholic addition to the bible, though there are some parts of Protestantism which do accept these books.

These texts, and a few other books missing from those bibles, are commonly called the Deuterocanonical texts. They are the writings between the first and second covenant. It is from these books (The Maccabees, to be specific) that the story of Channuka is related, that we learn about the angel Raphael, that the names Judith and Tobias originate, that the birth of the Messiah would come in the middle of the night is prophesied, among various other wisdom and information. The Greek bible is what the Apostles used, quoted both in their letters that are outside of scripture as well as in the New Testament. These books were included, in order, in both the original King James version of the bible and the Gutenberg bible. Until the Protestant Reformation, these books were universally accepted as canon.

It was only because Luther, and later Calvin, Knox and Zwingli, could not square their theology with the these scriptures that they were removed. These men also tried to remove the book of James, Revelation and most of the catholic letters, for many of the same reasons, but faced too much opposition. The main reason they gave for not keeping the deuterocanonical books was that they were only available in Greek, not in Hebrew. However, since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, this argument should have been revisited, since they were indeed found there. Also, since the Jewish scriptural canon wasn't decided until after the Christian canon was made, is is an odd thing for a Christian to argue based on that. The Jews also honor the oral tradition in a way much more like the Catholic/Orthodox/Anglican communions, so not having a text in the canon of scripture doesn't make it any less inspired or binding, and therefore doesn't pose the same problem in Judaism that is does in modern Protestantism. Since excising these books from the bible, many people have said that they were not quoted by the New Testament writers, but this is also incorrect, and requires a deliberate filter to miss all of the references within the New Testament alone. In the passage in Ephesians about putting on the whole armor of God, for example, Paul is quoting almost exactly a passage from the Wisdom of Solomon. I have also read an explanation that implies that these books were not considered canon until the Council of Trent. This is misleading. The Catholic church stated authoritatively at that time that these books were canon. That is true. However, it was in response to reformers removal of them, and was a statement of affirmation, as the original bible used by the Apostles and early church included these texts, St. Jerome's translation into the common tongue, known as the Vulgate, also included them and the Orthodox, which had broken from Rome much earlier and therefore wouldn't be bound by the Council of Trent, also accepted these books.

So, my answer to those who ask about all these books that were added to the bible is to respond by asking why these books were removed from the bible. The answer leads to the conclusion that it was strictly ideologically driven. We'll talk about the myth that the bible wasn't available in the common language of the people before the Protestant Reformation another time.

Now that I've given you a sermon and an education, may I suggest that you read David Mills' exhortation to give up something for Lent, even if that isn't your normal practice or the tradition of your church. His thoughts on it are quite edifying. Lenten sacrifices are not intended to be purging of our souls problems, but rather physical and mental training so we can do the spiritual discipline every day, all the time, not simply for a season. So the dietary restrictions that many use, and the abstaining from favorite activities or other similar things, isn't at all a reflection on the goodness of those things, nor are they to be seen as something that should be given up for all time, they also aren't just some little thing we give up to make us look good, but they are to be a way of training our minds and souls to give up greater things that we hold on to, such as our attachment to sin. Also, in the Tradition, fasting is code for fasting, praying and almsgiving. They are the trinity of the fast. Lent and Advent are penitential seasons, so we pray, examining our consciences, seeking forgiveness from God and repenting. This is the kind of prayer that is recommended during the fast.

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