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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Saints Alive!

This is one of the lion cupcakes we made for the feast day of St. Jerome. St. Jerome is often depicted with a lion because of a legend about him befriending a lion. However, I think the association with the lion is because it was the only animal that could put up with his temper. St. Paula, who worked with him in translating the bible, is known in large part for her ability to put up with Jerome.

Today is Jerome's name day. We try to celebrate the saint's day of each of our children (Amira gets her middle name, since there is no St. Amira so far, same thing for Yasmina). It is a fun way to teach them a little more about the lives of the saints and the character traits we'd like them to develop. We are really praying for Jerome to get his namesake's holiness, charity, zeal for truth and studiousness rather than his irascibility and sharp tongue.

St. Jerome is a Doctor of the Church, he revised and translated the Latin bible, the Vulgate, studying the original texts in their original languages so he could give an accurate rendition. He already was fluent in Greek and Latin, he learned Hebrew as well as Aramaic to be able to translate the Old Testament accurately. Jerome learned true submission, but he started out having some real authority problems. He was known for his quick temper and his stridency, though he sought to overcome these traits through prayer and penance. St. Augustine had some choice words about him, but he did respect him. He said "What Jerome is ignorant of, no man has ever known."

Jerome lived to see the sack of Rome, arranged for the shelter of the many Roman Christians who fled Rome for Palestine at that time saying: "I have put aside all my study to help them. Now we must translate the words of Scripture into deeds, and instead of speaking holy words we must do them." He had a true love for God and for His people which he lived out, in spite of his weaknesses.

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The Serpent

This was so much fun. I made a sweet dough in the bread machine, cut a little piece off to make the head of our dragon, and rolled the rest out into a rectangle for us to fill. Alexander and I made the filling of diced apples, dried cranberries, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and melted butter. We rolled that up like a snake, shaped it and Alexander made the head. Amira had the idea for the almond slices in the eyes and the red hots were Alexander's idea. I came up with the fangs. We used the sliced almonds for the scales and Dominic wanted to put spikes on the back, so we pulled out the slivered almonds for that.

His guts spilled while we baked him.

Here is his head up close. Notice the fire from his nostrils. That was a bonus.

I was going to give them a knife to hack it to bits when it cooled, but Rich gave them little bamboo spears. The children had a great time vanquishing the enemy. We ate our pieces and went out to the bonfire that Rich had set up and roasted marshmallows.

We never did fit in any blackberry picking, so I guess that's it for the blackberry season.

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Menu Plan Monday: Michaelmas

I am going to try to make that roast pork, finally. The weather is certainly getting autumnal, so a roast pork loin and nice creamy, warm gratins are perfect comfort food.

I'm also going to send the children out to pick the last of the blackberries because it is Michaelmas. This is just a fun tradition, it isn't part of the real story of St. Michael casting Satan out of heaven, it's just something to help us (and especially children) remember, much like the star in the core of an apple reminding us of the five wounds of Christ. The legend goes that when St. Michael cast Satan down, he landed in a blackberry bramble and cursed it. So, since this is the commemoration of St. Michael casting him out, this is the last day to gather them, because after today they will be cursed (shriveled, dried out, dead).

There are other fun traditions associated with this feast day. In England, it was traditional to have roast goose and renters tried to appease their landlords on this day, because in England the year was divided into quarters on feast days and this was the autumnal quarter, by bringing the quarterly rent, the lease for renewal and a goose to roast. In France they ate waffles and in Italy, they served gnocchi. One tradition is lighting a bonfire, which we will be doing. Since it was harvest time, there was a lot about grain and bread baking. Another is baking a cake with a gold ring mixed into the batter; the person who finds the ring can expect early marriage. Something another mother suggested was making a Devil's food cake, putting a figure of St. Michael on top and giving the children those little cocktail swords to pierce the devil, which would probably help them remember more about St. Michael than getting a wedding ring. We plan on making a sweet dough filled with apples, sugar and cinnamon and shaping it into a serpent/dragon* and using sliced almonds as scales for the children to cut up after dinner.

These are just fun little activities one can do. They are ways of making the church year come alive for people. It is how we impress on our children the significance of these days, the saints, the events that are commemorated. As for spiritual things, we did the collect and readings for the feast this morning during morning prayer, we are reciting the Prayer of St. Michael**, we also sang the song we sing in church and we discussed who St. Michael is, what he did and how it is he who is the opposite of the devil and not God, who is so much more powerful. We won't be having roast goose, but we're eating chicken tonight.

If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can.
What is on your menu this week?

*Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they were defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world -- he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. -- Revelation 12:7-9

Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle, be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him we humbly pray; and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly host, by the power of God, cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits, who roam through the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.Sancte Michael Archangele, defende nos in praelio. Contra nequitiam et insidias diaboli esto praesidium. Imperet illi Deus, supplices deprecamur. Tuque princeps militiae caelestis, Satanam aliosque spiritus malignos, qui ad perditionem animarum pervagantur in mundo divina virtute in infernum detrude. Amen.

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I Have No Words

I will get my MPM post up later, and I have a couple recipe reviews and funny family stories, but right now, I will wait on those.

Some people we know of from our homeschool lists lost their 14 year old daughter to an attack and murder on Saturday. Losing a child is probably every parent's worst fear, and this must be magnitudes worse that. Please pray for the Stauffer family, and hug your little ones a little closer today.


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Daring Bakers Challenge: Lavash & Dip

Well, this month's challenge was something I've been wanting to make for a while: Crackers. Lavash, specifically. We had the choice of doing these as per normal or making them gluten free. I double checked to make sure corn products were gluten free and planned to try to make two batches, one gluten free and one normal. However, I discovered I am a moron.

Now, I know a lot about food and cooking. I've been doing it a long time, have had great teachers and am a natural at it. If you have a food question or obscure ingredient, chances are I can help you out. That doesn't mean I know it all, though. I cook with semolina all the time. One of our favorite breads I make is a sesame semolina bread. Semolina, though? It comes from wheat. Not corn as I have thought for over 20 years!

I'm glad I checked a food dictionary before I went ahead and made my "gluten free" version. Boy, wouldn't I have looked like an idiot! Now, I only look slightly less idiotic.

I still used semolina (for 1/2 a cup of the flour). I was going to use za'atar, in honor of my people, with olive oil for my topping, but someone else came up with that, and I didn't want to duplicate. Then, I went ahead and used the most obvious topping possible. Sesame seeds.

I had great plans to make a few batches, all different, and to make these lovely dips, but our month was crazy, so I ended up making it tonight and one topping out of one of our red tomatoes from the garden and a few of our yellow pear tomatoes with fresh basil from the herb garden, salt, pepper, kalamata olive oil and champagne vinegar. The dip/topping had to be vegan and gluten free. I make all sorts of vegan dips, but all of a sudden when I was thinking of what to make, all I could come up with were things that required cheese or yogurt or sour cream. I wanted to make hummus, because mine is so good, but I thought that was a little too obvious. I decided on a tomato based relish/bruschetta type thing and came up with this.

Even though it was incredibly foolish to try these tonight, I did anyway. It tasted great and I am so glad I made it. Also, I didn't want the tomatoes to be all soft and wilty the first time I tasted it. Since I kind of copped out on the gluten free business, this really wasn't that hard, although I think I could have rolled the dough out thinner. It took me twice the time to get it browned and even remotely crisp. I forgot to split the dough in two and roll each half out, so I would try it that way next time I make these. And there will be a next time.

Thank you to Natalie from Gluten A Go Go and Shel, of Musings From the Fishbowl for hosting this month!

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Finished Object Friday: Dairy Products

We are fortunate to have a source for raw milk. There is a local farmer who sells us milk, she only bottles milk from one cow in each container so there is no mixing. Last week, I got there just a little after she had done the morning milking, and the cream hadn't even separated yet. We pick up four gallons a week, and still had two gallons left over from the week before, because with some end of summer colds, we hadn't been drinking as much milk. Well, Rich skimmed the cream off of those two gallons, and we let the cream rise on one of the gallons I brought home and skimmed that, too. Then we whirred it in the food processor and made butter:

So, really quickly, you want your cream to be about 60 degrees, not too cold, not too warm, it should take about five minutes in the food processor, pour off the buttermilk, keep it, then put ice water in with the butter, pulse it a little to wash out the rest of the buttermilk, pour it off, repeat until the water runs clear. Knead the butter with two wooden spoons or butter paddles, to work out the rest of the butter, and shape it into a ball or small shapes or cubes or whatever you like. Refrigerate to harden a bit.

We also have nice buttermilk in the fridge now, too. I used a half gallon of the new whole milk to make yogurt. I've made more granola this week as well as mayonnaise. I need to make more chocolate syrup and I'd like to make these energy bars, only I would use almond meal and not flax meal, and raw honey for the sweetener.

Aside from food staples, I made another double batch of laundry detergent, a batch of fabric softener, and a couple bottles of all purpose & glass cleaner. I brought a bit of knitting that just needed sewing up to homeschool PE, but never got a chance to work on it, and I've grabbed the needles and pattern to start the IK sweater from last fall that I want to make.

If you have one or more finished items this week, please sign Mr. Linky below and share all you have made. Your Finished Object(s) can be knit, crocheted, sewn, quilted, tatted, beaded, papercraft, woodwork or any other kind of craft. Show off what you have made! Please make sure you link to the exact post that shows your finished item(s) rather than just to your blog.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

God Bless Us Every One

Last night at dinner, Elijah informed us that he is starting to love girls. We told him that was a wonderful thing, and that we expected him always to remember to be a gentleman.

Then he told us that he was going to love mothers. I told him that he should love his own and the mother of his own children. Jerome spoke up: "And Deacon Michael."

We have been praying a lot for the good deacon, as well as several other people. So, I guess when he heard us listing off people, he thought we were praying and added his prayers as well.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A Good Yarn

I know, knitting content, it's too exciting!

Friday night, Yasmina and I trekked to Port Orchard to attend the grand opening party for A Good Yarn. Four of my friends are owners/managers of this business, and I received a little invitation card to go celebrate with them. What fun!

I came with plans to buy anyway, just to support their endeavor, but I was able to pick up some yarn (Rowan Felted Tweed) I've been wanting for over a year for a sweater in Interweave Knits, and a hank of hand dyed gorgeous silk lace yarn. I still have no idea of what I want to do with it except for look at it.

There was champagne, sparkling water, orange juice to make mimosas, there were sandwiches, cookies, chocolates, cheese and crackers, and yarn! It was a fast day, and all the sandwiches were meat, so I enjoyed the cheese and crackers and took some chocolate home to share with Rich when we weren't fasting. Also, I bought the yarn.

One of the designers noticed Yasmina in her hand knit sweater and made a comment about how cute she was, and how hard it was to find baby models for her baby patterns. I pretended not to notice what she said, and commiserated with her on her difficulty.

Debbie surprised me by mentioning me by name in her thanks, which was sweet. I was sitting at a table nursing Yasmina, so nobody could really see me, but it was a nice thing for her to mention me anyway. We met because nine years ago Rich taught her husband to fly and helped him to get his instrument rating. They took us out for a nice dinner on our anniversary as a thank you, we got to visit their home several times, talk shop (yarn for us ladies, planes for the fellows) and just got to know them in general. Debbie and I went out to lunch and yarn shopping a few times, she is a sweet lady. They even came to eat at our house when we still lived in the ghetto here.

The shop was lovely, and the people who own it and work there are great people. You should go there and buy lots of yarn.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Menu Plan Monday: Tried & True

This week MPM has a theme: Family Favorites. I have posted a menu with a couple of our family favorites as well as some new things. The starred recipes are our family favorites recipes.

We had quite a few winners last week. The lima beans were a hit, as was the oven fried chicken (I used panko, and would drizzle butter over the whole thing next time), barbecue pinquitos, jalapeno corn pudding and the cucumber-tomato salad. We used vegetables from our garden for almost all of the slow cooker ratatouille, and we added the ubiquitous crookneck squash to the mix, everyone loved it, and it smelled so good. A hint I learned from the comments section of that jalapeno corn pudding was to put a couple of layers of paper toweling across the top of the crockpot, taut, under the lid, so it absorbs some of the liquid. That worked nicely for the ratatouille as well.

Yesterday after church we went to the fair, since someone gave us free tickets. We try to avoid this fair, just because it is so commercialized, crowded and crass. However, since we missed our small local fair and our county fair, which we normally take the children to, this year, and the tickets were free, we went. There is nothing like a fair to make you feel thin and normal. We brought snacks, looked at the exhibits (which were few, sadly) and saw a few shows and demonstrations. We did not go on the rides this year. We also didn't eat there, because the prices are so awful for food that we can make better, so we're having a fair food night this week.

Going to the fair meant that my dinner plans changed considerably. We went to Burger King. My body is rejecting that meal as unrighteous. I consumed over my normal daily caloric load in one meal. It is only because of nursing a baby that it is within a normal calorie range for me. But still in one meal. And a particularly craptastic one at that. I used to be able to eat food like that, but my body is just not used to it. I was hungry, so I ate it, but, we will not be revisiting that for some time. Even Rich is not happy with that meal and is only eating fruit and vegetables until dinner tonight. We only spent $22.34 with coupons, though.
If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can.
What is on your menu this week?

Funnel Cake

Oil/Fat for frying
1 C plus 2 Tbsp flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
3/4 C milk
1 large egg
1 tsp almond extract

Mix everything but the oil with a fork. Heat about 3/4" oil in a heavy skillet. Use a 1/2" spout funnel, close with your finger and pour in about 1/4 C batter. Over the hot oil, remove your finger and let batter run out in a spiral about 6" in diameter. Fry until golden, turning once (they fry very quickly, maybe 2 minutes, tops). Drain on paper towels, keep warm in oven. Repeat with remaining batter, stirring before pouring. Sprinkle funnel cakes with powdered sugar, you can also put some strawberry jam in a squeeze bottle and squeeze that over the cakes and top with whipped cream, go nuts!

Lemon-Cranberry Scones

2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold butter
1/2 cup dried cranberries
Zest of one lemon
2/3 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 425. Prepare one pan for baking.

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. Cut in butter, I like to rub the pieces of butter through the flour with my fingers, but you may also use a food processor, until mixture resembles large peas and cornmeal. Add cranberries and lemon zest and mix together. Stir in buttermilk until dough holds together. Knead lightly on a floured surface. Pat dough into a circle about eight inches across and cut into eight wedges, like a pie. Place them two inches apart on baking pan. Brush tops with milk and bake for 15 minutes, or until lightly browned.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Freedom and Choice?

Oregon has a "Death with Dignity" law on the books. That is a euphemism for assisted suicide, which itself is a euphemism for murder by medical care worker. Well, surprise, surprise, it turns out that it is a choice for you if you are paying for your own medical care, but if the state is they choose death for you. There was plenty of evidence around the world that this would be the kind of approach such a law would permit and encourage, look at the Netherlands, for example, but people here seem to think that it will be different for us. Or perhaps they just don't want to foot the bill to help patients with cancer, alzheimer's or other long term diseases.

There is a bill here in Washington which would do the same thing. When the petitions were going around to get it on the ballot, most of the petitioneers (those people with the paper and clip board) didn't even know what the law was about. They hadn't read it. When I told them that there was no provision that protected the choice of the patient to seek medical treatment to prolong life (from insurance companies wishing to maximize their cost effectiveness, from hospitals who wanted to clear beds for the next patient, from government medical plans which would try to save the tax payer money by offing those they deemed unworthy of life), most of them were shocked.

You think medical decisions aren't influenced by pressure from insurance companies, hospital accounting boards and bureaucrats in government agencies? Change the medical issue and see if that is true still. They sell these laws on a vague concept of choice and freedom, but in the end, it is someone else's freedom and choice that determine your end. The proposed law says that it can only be used for a patient whose doctor has predicted that the patient has six months or less to live. How often are doctors wrong about this? Do we expect them to be prophets and God all rolled into one? Surely, someone has figured out that it wouldn't be hard to get a doctor to "predict" something like that for a patient who is depressed enough to wish suicide, or for a patient whose case is particularly complicated and would take a long time.

If you are in Washington state, I encourage you to vote against this ill thought out and dangerous law. Vote no on Washington Initiative 1000. For anyone else, be vigilant in watching your own state government's movements toward such a thing.

Also, get a Will to Live or Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. Rich and I both had our lawyer draw up the paper work for our health directives to reflect that we wanted not only basic nourishment and hydration (which is increasingly being considered an extraordinary measure of care), but also pain medication and lifesaving care. We each have given durable power of attorney to the other, and specifically we each also have durable power of attorney for health care. We both know where our Church draws the line on extraordinary care, we both share the same beliefs and values and we both would approach such a decision with prayer, study and good counsel from godly medical professionals as well as spiritual leaders. Since we know there isn't a judge in our state (and probably in our country) who wouldn't overturn our legal requests should one of us insist on it, we figure if it really comes down to it, and there are truly extraordinary measures being taken to prolong one of our lives, then the other would get the legal document overridden. Until that point, we do not want a doctor, hospital budgeting board, insurance company or a government agency making the decision to end our lives.

Here is my (slightly) tongue in cheek will to live. Edit it as you see fit for your own use.


Finished Object Friday: Hey Look Over There!

I think I finished the grocery shopping. Did you finish anything this week?

If you have one or more finished items this week, please sign Mr. Linky below and share all you have made. Your Finished Object(s) can be knit, crocheted, sewn, quilted, tatted, beaded, papercraft, woodwork or any other kind of craft. Show off what you have made! Please make sure you link to the exact post that shows your finished item(s) rather than just to your blog.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Not Gnomes

I used to mock people who had all that chintzy statuary in their yards. Now, I want to harness their power in the battle with the deer.

Those evil deer have been opening the gate to our fenced garden (completely encased, 20 or 24 ft tall). They nose under the little gate, move it over and romp around eating our tomatoes, greens, peppers, eggplant, brussels sprouts, cabbage, even taking a bite or two out of our squash. We've been closing up the gate only to find it open again each morning.

Evil deer.

Forget what I said about buying a steer and a pig, I want to eat venison all year. So here's my new plan: Put animatronic wolves with motion sensors that light up their yellow eyes and start them growling. I want them stationed all around our garden. In fact, I want one of the tableaux to be a wolf devouring an animatronic deer.

In spite of our late planting, our sparse planting, battling the bugs and the repetitive attacks by the deer, we have been harvesting a surprising amount of food from the garden. I attribute this entirely to our hard working honeybees. I don't think we'd see such productivity in the face of so many struggles in the garden without our girls. Our feral fruit trees (they were here when we moved) are bearing a lot of fruit without us doing the pruning, weeding or general care they need, not to mention them being in completely the wrong place for getting sun. They are, however, located right next to the hives.

We have several pumpkins and other winter squash that are almost ready to harvest, the multiple billion crookneck squash from the one plant that survived the deer, one tiny watermelon, lots of onions (they don't seem to like those), cabbage, broccoli and broccoli raab, kale, jalapenos (though they aren't that hot, because of our cooler summer this year), sheepnose pimentos (which are amazing, they have been razed by the deer multiple times, and keep putting out peppers, they are survivors, we will definitely plant them again), a few other peppers we've planted (our habaneros are pathetically small, both the plants and the three unripe peppers we have), we've been able to get a few tomatoes, but between the late start, the cool weather and the infernal deer, it looks like we will be making pickled green tomatoes, green tomato relish and green tomato sauce to preserve so we get anything at all from them this year. Our potatoes are doing amazing, so I hope we get a ton of those. We have some plants that have been razed so often that they haven't had a chance to make flowers. Our celery is struggling, and I planted it on time, and I think we have lost all chances with our brussels sprouts thanks to the deer. We hates them.

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Big Amazing

When we lived in Oklahoma, I worked at an insurance office in Broken Arrow. Broken' Arrah. B A. Across the street was a Big K K-Mart. I was friends with a group of women from church who went out for drinks after Wednesday night services and we called ourselves ECHO for Episcopal Chicks Hanging Out (those nights out, by the way, were how we got Alexander to sleep through the night, a cocktail or two and I'd come home to nurse him to sleep). So how are these things related? And what do they have to do with this post today?

A few nights ago, at the dinner table, Rich was asking me about something, I don't even remember what it was, and I described it as not just big, but BA. This is an acronym for Big A$$. I got that acronym from Jennifer in ECHO who told us about how when the new and improved Big Ks started showing up, she and her family would joke that it wasn't just K-Mart, it was Big A$$ K-Mart. It cracked us up. Maybe you had to be there?

Anyway, we turned it into the acronym, after all we don't have to actually say the word to know what we mean, and started using it to describe anything that was outrageously large or to mock something as trying to seem bigger than it was. Thus the term was born. Ask me about PITA, SNAFU, FUBAR and BOHICA one day. Or not. This is a family blog after all.

Since Rich and I pretty much never* swear, use profanity or vulgarity, these little phrases, code words and acronyms strike our friends as hilarious. We don't usually count a$$, though, since it is an animal, so if you call someone one, it is an insult, but not necessarily vulgar. Now if you are referring to one that belongs to someone else, chances are you aren't talking to a farmer, so it would be vulgar language at that point. Not that we use that kind of language around the children, anyway, which reminds me to start a rough draft about another funny thing related to this to post later.

Back to the first story (or second, I can't keep track). BA something or other. Dominic heard our little exchange and asked what BA meant. Rich grinned at me, and I answered "Very Large." Then, he wanted to know why it wasn't VL instead. So, I told him it stood for big and amazing.

Yes, I did.

*By never, I mean barring extreme anger of the sort that rarely occurs. Our children don't know any swear words, that's how rarely it happens.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Works for Me Wednesday: Easy Hot Breakfasts

I always wanted to have hot breakfasts for our children and it always seemed like such a hassle, especially for such a non-morning person like me. What I have found is that long cooking cereals actually saved me time, because I could start them while doing other morning preparations, and have them ready at breakfast time. Also, if that isn't a possibility, they hold up to long cooking in the crockpot overnight, for a hearty breakfast in the morning whenever you are ready for it. We generally stock steel cut oats for our breakfasts which cook at a 4:1 ratio of water to dry cereal. However, in the crockpot, it takes a little more liquid, I do a 6:1 ratio. Cook on low, starting it right before you go to bed, and you have a healthful, tasty breakfast. It is really important to include a dash of salt, though, it seems to keep them from being too bland.

Something else we do is to cook up lots of extra scrambled eggs when we make them, and the next day we use the leftovers with a little cheese, salsa and maybe guacamole or sour cream in egg burritos. Our family, at least, does not enjoy reheated eggs, but when it is remade and rolled in a tortilla, all of a sudden it's tasty. And quick. When we make pancakes or waffles we make four times the batch and freeze the extras (between waxed paper or parchment in freezer bags) and pull the out to toast in the toaster for busy mornings.

The major thing, though, is to plan for a hot cooked breakfast, and stock up on the foods you will need. We always have tons of eggs, and we always keep steel cut oats in the cupboard (I buy them in bulk and store them in an airtight container), I buy bacon when it is on sale, as much as we can afford, and store it in the freezer, same thing with breakfast sausage, though more often I buy ground pork and we season it with salt, pepper, paprika, sage (lots), brown sugar, red pepper flakes and a touch of nutmeg because it is cheaper and we know what is going into our sausage. We make a bread pretty much every night, so there is something for toast, and we keep loads of tortillas in the house. Breakfast is our house is largely eggs or oatmeal, yogurt and fruit.

I do keep grits around and we occasionally have that. Yesterday, for instance, we had cheddar grits with diced ham, jalapenos and shallots (scallions are great in this, also) that I sauteed and mixed in, and fried eggs to serve on top. Creamed eggs are simple, quick and tasty with toast to dip into the egg yolk (grease a ramekin or custard cup well, drop an egg in it, sprinkle with salt, pepper, chopped herbs like chives, drizzle with cream and bake until done to your liking, roughly 10 minutes). Those eggs fried in the toast, with the fried toast cut outs on the side are lovely also. We eat Arabic breakfasts as well, like diced up feta and tomatoes, sprinkled with za'atar, drizzled with olive oil and eaten with warm khoubz Araby, ful with warm bread and herbed egg omelets ('ijja) and other foods like that.

As the mornings are getting cooler, we also frequently have cocoa, cafe au lait or milky tea to warm up little bellies. The key, though, is planning. Just as I plan our dinners for the week, I make a rough outline of our breakfasts for the week. Since I have children who could eat oatmeal every day of their lives, if I can't think of anything else, we always fall back on that.

Easier hot breakfasts for my family works for me!

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Blessings in Disguise

Rich and I have had three main priests since we first started dating. Each one of them has had a ministry that was marked by a particular aspect of our faith. It wasn't that they didn't live out or teach the other parts, but somehow their focus and example really was on these particular areas. Under each of these men, we have learned a great deal and grown in our faith because of their teaching and lives. Fr. Bryce taught us about faithfulness and obedience, even under extraordinary pressure and in the most difficult circumstances, perhaps especially in those. Fr. Vic taught us about prayerfulness and trust. Fr. Joseph taught us about holiness and service. For that, we will always be indebted to those men.

I promised a post describing the good that has already begun to spring from our loss this summer. I've been trying to organize my thoughts, and I may not do a good job of it, but here are the things that struck me during that last mass together in August, and some of the things we've seen since then. I've been trying to round out my thoughts and put them together in a clear way, but in some ways I think it's just rough still, and I will write it anyway.

One of the things I love about the liturgy is that it forces you outside of yourself. It's not just how you think or feel about God, it is what the entire history of the Church has thought and felt about God, and how He has revealed Himself to us. It also makes you acknowledge truths that you may not be feeling, and allows you to confront the fact that it is truth, even if you aren't sure at that moment. Just this past week I had a morning when I told Rich I wasn't feeling particularly holy and prepared for leading Morning Prayer with our children (we had a late start, and Rich had to go to work and the children were acting up), and his response was that maybe that was kind of the point of the Daily Office: It makes us read and speak the truth whether we feel it or not, and can return us to that feeling by reminding us of that same truth.

Anyway. There were several lines in the mass on our last Sunday with Fr. Joe that we say every week, that I believe and know and can recite without reading from the book. They just struck me particularly that Sunday.

Each week we pray a set of prayers called the Prayers of the People, they are prayers for the church, for peace, for our world, for the sick, the poor, for leaders of governments, for those who travel, for the departed and for the needs of the local community and congregation. There are several forms, but a parish often uses one or two more regularly than the others. In this form, the priest says:

Father, we pray for your holy Catholic Church;

and the people reply:

That we all may be one.

And I was struck that one day the Church will be united. It has existed as one body in history and I hope for that to be manifest again one day. I pray almost daily for East and West to reunite. I figure if they can work out their differences, then I can submit to their authority and just try to work through the things that are hard for me to accept. So, even though our priest was leaving for the East, I knew that the Body of Christ was united in the Church Triumphant, and I could hope for the unification of the Church here on earth. It was a realization that we need not despair.

Part of the eucharistic prayer goes like this:

From age to age you gather a people to yourself so that from east to west a perfect offering may be made to the glory of your name.

The mind of the Church has always interpreted this to mean the fulfillment of OT prophecy in the continual offering of the mass throughout the world. That is true, there is not a moment in the day when the mass isn't being offered somewhere in the world. However the idea of East to West made an impact on me that it had not ever before. That this offering was being made from East to West, not just in one or the other.

I was near tears and choked up for pretty much the entire day. I did cry a little during the service and afterward when we were sending them off and eulogizing. However, I found that the one time during the day that I could not be sad was during the Eucharist. There was joy there. No sadness of mine or of our family or of our church could trump the grace, mercy and goodness of what Christ offered for us. The joy that bubbled up inside me during that part of the mass was a surprise and a good reminder to me to keep things in perspective. I literally could not be depressed during the Eucharist, I was too full of joy and thankfulness.

When it came time to sing the Agnus Dei, and the part where we sing about the Lamb of God who takes away sin of the world, it helped me to think that there will come a time when all sin will no longer exist. When our personal missteps, when our unlawful choices, when our willful rebellion will come under the authority and the majesty of God. We will be given eyes to see the truth, completely, not with our limited vision which has been distorted ever since the Fall, and to finally stand in righteousness before our God and King.

Our post communion hymn was One Bread, One Body, and again it was a sign to me of the reality of the union of believers. The body of Christ cannot be divided, and yet on this earth it is. It is a paradox we live in, and it was good to be reminded that although we would not be sharing a church with our priest and his family anymore, we were still companions in the Church universal.

We really are coming to have hope from despair, though it is by no means easy. It still hurts. Our parish is much smaller than it used to be, and it was already small. We are still not operating at full strength, but we are still working together and praying together. I am pleased that we were able to let the Ramos know how much we love them and honor them. I know it was hard for them to be leaving as well.

There were many touching moments, and I won't relive them here. However, one thing that really touched Rich, and me, was that Fr. Joseph took Rich aside to give him his Daily Office books. He said that in any other circumstances, he would have done anything to work with Rich in the church, and that he knew that Rich was going to make an outstanding deacon. It was high praise from a man we respect and love, whose teaching and example have been so edifying.

We were pleased that Fr. Joseph was able to talk to our bishop and leave on good terms. The bishop told him how sorrowful he was to be losing such a good priest and that if he ever changed his mind, we would be happy to have him back. Rich said he knew it wouldn't be enough to change everything and have it be back to normal, but it was nice that a door that had been locked was now simply closed. Who knows what the future will bring?

A friend of ours in GA told me, after I had moaned to her how every service had been like a funeral for two months, that the real healing happens when the funeral is over. That is when you are able to go through the grief, and not just brace yourself against the coming sadness. I think this is true. The hardest part is still our children's response. Elijah keeps asking when Christopher will be back, and I still remember the tears from the night we told them, and Dominic and Elijah asking why we couldn't just follow the Ramos to their new church.

Although this whole situation has been painful and difficult, we are much more hopeful as a family and as a church, and we are healing. People are still able to visit with the Ramos, there isn't an overwhelming sense of anger. We are disappointed, but I am excited to see what the Lord has for us.

For now, what looks like a farewell is really an until we meet again. I only pray that our paths will cross sooner than later. I pray for the unity of the Church.

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Monday, September 15, 2008


Our family received so many gifts this weekend. It was an embarrassment of riches, and we were truly blessed.

First, one of my homeschooling friends who is Dominican, and whose husband is Puerto Rican, came back from a two week trip to Puerto Rico. She said before she left that she would bring me back some avocado from their trip, the gigantic, smooth skinned ones.

Friday, as Rich and I were putting together the jalapeno popper pizzas (which were amazing, by the way, we will definitely make these again), I got a phone call from Claudia telling me that she was in our town and could she come over with the avocado. So, she and her family not only got us avocado from Puerto Rico and flew them back, but they delivered it to our door. Because we have eight bazillion crookneck squash (from one plant!), we were able to send them home with some and some ideas on how to cook them (the big, fat ones that got left on the plant too long are great shredded and cooked with garlic and olive oil with a little salt and pepper, tossed with pasta and sprinkled with parmesan, the little nice ones are great sliced and sauteed, if they are really little, you can fry them whole or split them in half to roast them).

Saturday, we went to an r/c air show and Amira won a radio controlled model of Air Force One. I'll get photos of the children at the air show up soon. Then, Cathy treated our family for dinner, but not before Rich's dad gave me a box of 14 cookbooks to look through, to see if I wanted any of them. I kept nine or ten. I hope to post about some of the books and the recipes here in the near future.

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Menu Plan Monday: September 15

I have a few repeats this week. Our schedule last week changed quite a bit. There were nights with lots of leftovers and nights when we just had other things going on, also, Rich's folks came up to support us and to see Rich in action leading his first service at our church. They came up Saturday evening and left Sunday afternoon, so it was a quick visit. Cathy at the restaurant insisted on treating us Saturday night, since she said it had been a long time since we had come up as a family, and she hadn't seen Rich's folks in an even longer time.

Rich did really well at church. Not in a performance kind of way, but he had a presence and a sense of consciousness of the Spirit. One of the men told Rich that he had a real pastoral way about him. Rich was just glad not to have done anything egregiously wrong while serving. We did not forget either the reserved Sacrament or the half and half. Rich asked me to be the last to receive the Eucharist, so I could finish off any extra wine in the chalice, as he doesn't drink anything but the sip of wine at church and the chalice bearer was underage. However, since I was not serving, being a woman and all, that meant that I had to stand there and pretty much guzzle the last portion of wine in front of God and everyone like I was chugging my last drink before the bar closed down instead of discreetly finishing it off while cleaning up the vessels after the Holy Communion.

Sunday was the feast of the Holy Cross, so Rich gave a brief history of the feast as well as talking a little about the significance of it. It is actually a major feast day of our Lord, on the same level as the Transfiguration, Annunciation, Holy Name and a couple other feasts. This week also holds the fourth season of Ember days for the church year. These are days of prayer and fasting (at least a meat fast), with the intention of increase of and preparation for vocations. Rich asked for prayer on his behalf as well as for Deacon Michael, which is sort of self-interested, but also for the health and growth of our church vocations in general. So, this week, we have an extra meatless day. I'm also trying to use up produce from our garden, so a lot of these meals use veggies we grew.

If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can.
What is on your menu this week?

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Best Medicine

It is hard to capture Yasmina's smile. It flits about her face unless you are right there talking back to her facial expressions, answering her coos.

It is even harder to coax her laughter. Her first laugh made its way into our lives on the Tuesday of that week that Rich was working so late. I was holding her and alternately talking to her and nursing her, when she looked up at me and bubbled up a laugh. Poor Rich had to get a phone call to hear about it.

Her next good laugh came on the Saturday night after that when our friends, our bishop and a deacon were leaving our house. I was at the door with Rachelle telling her we'd try to be at church on time the next day. We have been late (egregiously so on several Sundays) just about every Sunday since we've had Yasmina, and not only are we responsible for many things that need to be brought to church, but we are also a large part of our weakened congregation now. That Sunday, Rich was being installed as a lay eucharistic minister and licensed to dispense the reserved sacrament. We needed to be on time. As I was saying this to Rachelle, Yasmina laughed. Out loud. Not a chuckle or giggle, either, but a full on laugh. Rachelle tweaked her baby cheeks and told her that it was her fault that her parents were late to church.

It has only been two and a half weeks since that first laugh, and she is already cooing and babbling and laughing to communicate with us. She and I have sweet conversations at night when she wants to sit up and be with me without eating. She has her quality communication with her father at around 4:00 a.m. Sweet man! He is so good about walking the floors with her, bouncing her and just having conversation when I am exhausted, and he needs to sleep, too.

Jerome not only laughs at the drop of a hat, but also the donning of one (or two):
The blue hat belongs to Jerome, but it is too big. When we got the cream one, we thought we'd put the blue one away until it fit him, but he prefers us wearing it. In the morning he had me put it on, and when Rich came home from work, he put it on his father. Then he asked me to take a smile. Which is what he says when he wants a picture taken.


Friday, September 12, 2008


I am wishing that life would hand me lemons just about now.  Our inexpensive source of lemons is now selling a bag of about 15 lemons for $9.82, the limes cost about a dollar less the last time I checked.  We used to get them for $4.39. The grocery store price is far worse.

We use lemons and lemon juice a lot here. Since we don't always use the whole lemon or the zest (though I tried to zest lemons before I juiced them to freeze the extra zest when I remembered), I finally started looking around for another way to get the juice. I despise the real lemon bottled juice and its imitators. However, while looking for some bottled juice in the organic aisle, I saw these bottles of organic lemon and lime juice. They are pasteurized, so they don't taste quite as fresh as squeezing the fruit right before you use it, but they still taste good and like actual lemons and limes.

I was able to buy them on sale for $2.49 each, so I picked up three bottles each. The bottle holds the juice of about 16 lemons or limes, which makes it much cheaper than the bags of lemons and limes, even at the regular price for the bottle which is $3.79.

We've even used this juice in strawberry lemonade and it was quite tasty. When we need the zest, we bite the bullet and buy one or two lemons or limes, but since most of the time we are using the juice, this works for us. I've been pleased with how these bottled juices hold up in cooking and baking, and they tasted fine in -ades, so I'm pretty happy with how well these are doing. Considering we were buying standard lemons and limes, rather than organic, in some ways we are moving up in the world. We may even be able to buy one or two organic lemons or limes the next time we buy them, since we won't be buying a large quantity.

If you can find this at your grocery store, I highly recommend picking up a bottle or five.

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Not to Be Outdone

Alexander came up with an answer worthy of the Randomizer herself. We have taken a little side trip to the Americas in our history studies, and were looking at the ancient civilizations (questionable term, what with the human sacrifice and all...) in Peru and Central America. I asked a question of the children to see how much they retained from our reading: What was the name of the people group who made the etchings in the ground that can be seen from the air?

Alexander answered: The Nazgul*

Yes, he has been reading the Lord of the Rings, why do you ask?

Incidentally, I am most pleased with the term First Peoples over the inaccurate Native American moniker and the even worse Indian title. First Peoples is a hippy dippy politically correct term, but for once I am in agreement. They were not in any way native. They came and settled from Asia. They are the first people to populate the area. I'm all for a movement to replace both previous terms with this one.

*the correct answer was the Nazca. If you search for Nazca Lines on the internets you will find all sorts of cool photos.

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Finished Object Friday: Baking

It seems that my accomplishments lately are more of the culinary sort. I've made banana cakes and breads, and a few other things like cinnamon roll bread and granola. I still have made the jalapeno cheddar bread and the lemon-blueberry pound cake to make as well.

If you have one or more finished items this week, please sign Mr. Linky below and share all you have made. Your Finished Object(s) can be knit, crocheted, sewn, quilted, tatted, beaded, papercraft, woodwork or any other kind of craft. Show off what you have made! Please make sure you link to the exact post that shows your finished item(s) rather than just to your blog.

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

First Responsibilities and Blessings

This coming Sunday Fr. Steve won't be able to serve our parish as he has to be somewhere else as a chaplain. So, Rich has been called into service earlier than we expected.

Fr. Steve consecrated extra wine and bread for our host this coming Sunday, and sent home the vessels and elements with us after church, with instructions on how to take care of them in our home. We've set up a spot with the vessels and elements that has a lit candle by it nearly 24 hours a day. It is supposed to be 24 hours a day, but we sometimes miss it at night, and relight the candle in the morning. Fr. Steve said that in our circumstances, it wouldn't be a problem if we didn't have the candle going all the time, but the reason it is supposed to be lit at all times is to indicate the presence of the living Lord.

Rich won't be delivering a sermon or saying a mass this Sunday, but he will be leading morning prayer for the congregation, and distributing the reserved sacrament. We are feeling the responsibility of this. Usually we have a hard time remembering to bring the half and half. Now, we are keeping track of the Body and Blood of our Lord. What if we break the holy vessels? Or forget to bring the elements to church?

I understand a little bit more about holy fear now. The readings in the Old Testament about people's reaction to being in the presence of the Lord make much more sense to me.

Our children have been so reverent about it. I have been touched and blessed to see it. They understand what the wine and the bread are, and have been taught to be reverent about holy things, so I'm not sure that I'm surprised, but it was so good to observe anyway. When we do our prayers I find them praying with their eyes on the host. They focus their attention to the blessed sacrament and have discussed the significance of praying before the Lord in the Eucharist. We have adoration in our home at all times now.

Having the sacrament and that lit candle in the house has been a huge reminder to act and speak in a way that we would if we were face to face with our God. We have talked before about what our thoughts, words and deeds would be like if we were looking Jesus in the face, and how that should be what shapes them at all times, since God is omnipresent and omniscient. This is a material reminder of that. Here we have God using the physical and natural to present a spiritual and supernatural reality to us.

Even lighting the candle when it goes out has been sanctifying. I go to light it and say a prayer before the Lord, thanking Him for His presence, for His offering, for His sacrifice. I ask for strength to go about my work, for God's blessing on our home, family and church. I ask the God who brought forth light into the universe to bring light into our life as well.

The eucharist has been described by the Fathers as medicine for the soul and the antidote to sin. We are being blessed to experience that just in His presence in our home in such a tangible way this week.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Our Dainty Princess

Amira strikes again. After coming home from her first ballet lesson this year, she slammed her thumb in the car door while getting her ballet slippers out. Rather, while trying to get them out. Alexander was outside when she screamed, so he ran to open the door so her thumb could be freed. He also went to retrieve her slippers from the car. She had opened the front passenger door instead of their automatic sliding door which never would have trapped her finger, and which was the door she actually needed to get her dance shoes.

By a miracle of God, it looks like her thumb wasn't broken, though there was a lot of blood, bruising and swelling. She barely cried and didn't whine, but she was in so much pain. At the end of the evening she was feeling well enough to show us some of her lesson from the studio, so I don't think she's doing too badly. After cleaning the cut, putting neosporin on it and a bandage, I gave her some ibuprofen for the pain and an ice cube in the boo boo bear for the bruise and had her lie down in the living room to rest.

Please pray for our precious daughter. Maybe that she will stop hurting herself.

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I had intended to make a lovely Italian inspired soup with the Nero di Tuscana kale from our garden, borlotti beans, Italian sausage, onions, garlic, tomatoes, basil and oregano. My weekly menu plans were on my mind as I did kitchen preparations. So, I pulled out the beans and set them to soak while thinking of what I needed to do for the rest of the week's cooking.

After the beans had been soaking for three of the four needed hours, I realized I'd grabbed the scarlet runner beans that I was planning on using Thursday, rather than the borlotti beans. Well, it was too late to switch gears and still have the soup, so I went with it. I'll use Christmas limas for Thursday's dinner.

I cooked a pound of Italian sausage in a little olive oil in my soup pot, added a couple chopped onions, 8 cloves of garlic, chopped up, and red pepper flakes and cooked it all until all the sausage was browned and the veggies were translucent. I added the drained beans and covered with water, tossed in some chopped kale and brought it to a boil. Turned the heat down, partially covered the pot and simmered it for a couple hours. Those scarlet runner beans sucked up a ton of water, and got huge. So, I added a bit more water and let it simmer a little longer. Toward the end, I put in two cans of organic diced tomatoes, oregano and basil and a little salt and let it simmer to blend the flavors.

We served it with half of a Beam's yellow pear tomato from our garden topping each bowl, good bread (my day was off, and I never made the rolls, so we had some whole wheat bread I'd made and put in the freezer that we toasted to sop up the broth) and fruit (so the fruit flies wouldn't get it all). It was delicious. Everyone ate it up, and nearly everyone got seconds with enough for lunch today. The beans tasted slightly smoky, and were nice and meaty. I will still try to make this with our borlotti beans one of these days, but this was a great, hearty dinner - filling, tasty and inexpensive.

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Works for Me Wednesday: Children's Sandals & Swimsuits

Most people already know this, but in case you do not, hie thee to the local superstore or children's clothing store (or better, the websites, so they can send them to you!) of your choice to pick up inexpensive sandals and swimsuits for your children for next summer. I was able to buy sandals for Amira to last her almost until the second coming of the Lord last year, when Fred Meyer had the cheapie childrens' sandals on sale for $2.00 a pair. I picked up a number of sizes of boys' sandals also, though with the number of boys we have, and how rough boys are on them, they won't last quite as long, and I'll have to buy more this week for next year. I bought the nicer leather sandals for the children from Olive Juice Kids when they had their sale combo with free shipping and from The Children's Place Monster sale when I had an additional 15% off coupon.

Also, since our children are in swimming at the Y, we are able to swim more than just in the summer, but it makes their suits wear out. Just about every store in our area has huge markdowns on suits, and you can get them for under $5 in many places. We are stocking up.

Saving money on seasonal items works for me!

Oh, and here's another hint that we got from my BIL as a bonus. Free, just for today: Wash flip flops or plastic shoes or those foam sandals in the dishwasher to get the crud off of them.

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Ten Bananas & One Late Night

Rich and I stayed up way too late last night, but it was for a good cause. We had 15 bananas left from our big box by yesterday, and they were getting leopard spotted. Yes, we went through about 12 pounds of bananas in three days. I put out five of them for each of the children to eat with their lunches and Rich and I made the rest into these:

Two chocolate banana cakes,

a banana bread bundt,

and a banana bread loaf.

The loaf of banana bread and the larger chocolate banana cake are getting wrapped up and put in the freezer to pull out for coffee hours at church.

The chocolate banana cake started as a recipe from Dorie Greenspan. I know I'm going to offend some people, but I didn't think her recipe was all that great. It was too wet, seeped butter from the cake, and didn't have enough banana flavor and the chocolate batter was not all that chocolate-y. I made it as written a week and a half ago, and it was acceptable, but nothing amazing. So, here is my version of it, which I thought was much better.

Chocolate Banana Cake

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 ripe bananas
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
3 eggs

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and grease a large loaf pan well.

Sift together the dry ingredients in a medium bowl, set aside. Mash the bananas with the vanilla extract in another bowl. Melt the chocolate in the microwave, starting with one and a half minutes, and stirring to melt completely. Let cool slightly.

Cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in the banana mixture and incorporate well.

Add the flour mixture in two or three parts, mixing well in between to incorporate fully. Stir a little less than half the batter into the melted chocolate and mix well.

Using two large spoons, drop the white batter in the bottom of the pan, leaving room for some of the chocolate batter, then drop the chocolate batter over the white batter. Repeat this for a second layer. Take a butter knife or a spatula and make swirls in the batter all the way to the bottom of the pan. Bake for one and a half hours, or until a pick comes out clean from the center of the cake.

Cool in pan 15 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely on a rack.

Banana Nut Bread

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon allspice
3 ripe bananas
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, hazelnuts, or macadamia nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a bundt pan or two medium loaf pans.

Cream butter and sugar, add eggs and beat until mixed in.

Mix dry ingredients together.

Mash bananas with milk and vanilla, stir in nuts.

Mix flour in with butter mixture, add banana mixture and stir it all together. Pour into a prepared pan(s), bake for 50-55 minutes.

Cool in pan for five to 10 minutes, then turn out of pans and cool on rack completely.

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Late Farmer's Market Report

I never got around to posting this on Saturday. We were so busy over the weekend, but it was with family time, so it was pleasant. Saturday afternoon we took a nice, long walk together as a family and visited with some friends, a couple who recently celebrated 60 years of marriage, who came over with a baby gift for Yasmina. After church on Sunday, we went to Blueberry Park and picked berries and walked about the park just enjoying the sunny weather.

First thing Saturday morning, though, I did the marketing while Rich made breakfast for all of us. I headed to our local produce stand, where I bought a seeded watermelon for $0.15 a pound, a 27 pound box of pears for $14.95 and picked up Yakima tomatoes for $0.99 a pound. Next stop was the Farmer's Market, we still have a bit over a month before it closes for the year.

I wasn't looking for a whole lot this week, mostly I went to get lip balm from the bee lady, but I picked up a couple heirloom tomatoes and a jalapeno cheddar bread.

Rich said it was the last time we'd buy it, because now we could just make it. Stay tuned for my version of it to hit the blog soon. It was a very tasty bread, and looked simple, bread dough spiked with red pepper flakes, placed in a round cake pan with pickled jalapeno slices on top and covered thickly with cheddar cheese, then baked.

It was off to the feed store from there, then to our grocery store for the weekly shopping and our local market for a few other things we needed. Pretty productive morning - I was home before 10:00, and we were able to have breakfast and morning prayer together before our walk.

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Monday, September 08, 2008

Menu Plan Monday: September 8


is where we spent the afternoon. We picked blueberries and played around in the sun. It was a lovely day, warm with a gorgeous summer blue sky. That picture wasn't taken by me, though. On one of the visits we made to the park last month, a lady whose acquaintance we made there took the photo and e-mailed it to me when she got home. It looked a lot like this today. We spent a little over an hour there today after church. Jerome mostly ate all the berries out of Rich's bucket, Amira held a bucket and put five berries in it, Alexander filled his about half way and the rest of us just ate merrily as we walked. We'll be making lemon blueberry pound cake this week.

By the time we got home, I was pretty tired and Yasmina needed some mama time, so Rich made pizza bagels and fruit for dinner. Our dinner that was supposed to be for tonight is moved to Monday now.

My grocery deal of the week was organic bananas at our local market. A box of them were up at the register, which is a signal that they are marked down. I asked how much they were and the fellow told me half off, checked the price and said $0.49 a pound. Then, he asked how many I wanted. I said I'd take the whole box, so he checked with his manager and said I could have the box for $4.00. There were at least 14 or 15 pounds in the box. So, we've been eating lovely just ripe organic bananas, and I may try another permutation of the chocolate banana swirl cake I made over a week ago.

If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can.
What is on your menu this week?

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Sunday, September 07, 2008

What We're Using This Year

Since I have posted our homeschool schedule, I thought I'd post about our materials as well.

Our home economics is pretty hands on and we use it to demonstrate math and science as well. We teach social studies through their history and literature, along with geography and religion. As for the occupational education, that would be their chores, helping to cook, working in the garden, helping tend the critters, things like that. We farm out PE, though we do exercise as a family together. I tried to do a different recitation each week last year, but I think it is better to do them monthly, so there isn't as much of the cram and dump at work. Each week they have a bible verse to memorize and recite, each month a passage, speech or poem and in their religious instruction, we work on a different prayer or creed each month, memorizing and learning the meaning of each line. I'm not listing all the books they read, as there are just too many of them.

Religion: We use the catechism from the Book of Common Prayer as well as working on specific prayers/topics each month.
Child's Bible History

Art Appreciation: Child Sized Masterpieces Steps 1-4

Recitation & Dictation: The Harp & Laurel Wreath (this book has material from early ages through the rhetorical stage/high school age with poetry and literary analysis in the higher levels)

Science: Exploring Creation with Astronomy, Exploring Creation with Botany

Latin, Grammar & Music: Latina Christiana I
Lingua Angelica I

I'm looking for a good Latin dictionary, if anyone has recommendations.

Math: Singapore Primary Mathematics 1B & 2A This is more advanced than American math, but our children were behind in school, so Dominic is just finishing 2nd grade level math and Alexander is in 3rd grade level math, Dominic should be finished with 2A, maybe 2B by the end of this year, and Alexander should be finished with 3A. We were very disappointed in the way math was taught at the boys' school. I knew they struggled a little with it, but I assumed it was because of them goofing off. We had some nasty surprises when we first took them out of school, and a few more when we looked a little more closely at how they had been taught, especially Dominic, who was still counting to add or subtract when we started him in second grade. We looked into how the schools in our area taught math, and all of them taught broadly, but didn't focus on really learning the basics and progressing from there. I almost have them caught up to a level of understanding that should be normal for their ages and abilities.
Base 10 Math Manipulatives

Writing: Writing Strands

History (which also includes reading, writing, art, art history, home economics and geography): Story of the World
The Mystery of History
History Links

Penmanship (which includes religion): Memoria Press' Copybook III (later this year we'll be using the cursive book)
We also do dictation to work on memory and penmanship.

Spelling: Spelling Workout (though I'm not absolutely thrilled with it)
Unabridged Dictionary

Geography: Historical Atlas of the World

I also want to get the Atlas of Classical History.

Image of God Kindergarten Level

Phonics Pathways
(Looking into Sing, Spell, Read and Write & Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons)

Bob Books

Usborne Books Ready for Writing

Singapore Earlybird Kindergarten Mathematics 1A (1B later this year)

Little Saints for music, book lists, calendar, seasons, time.

Wooden Model Clock

If you homeschool, please share your curricula choices and the ages/grades of your children also.

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Spamming Mr. Linky

Someone used my Finished Object Friday post to spam. Urgh.

I have deleted it. Just to clarify, that Mr. Linky is intended for people to share things they have finished. NOT to get more business to a website.

I will not link to her website here, but I can guarantee I won't be doing business with a European company that is particularly content about knitting.


Saturday, September 06, 2008

Adventures in Groceries

Last week we made one of our twice a month trips to Farmer George's. Elijah and Jerome were asleep in the car, and Dominic wanted to stay in the car reading, so Alexander, Amira, Yasmina and I went in to get our two week's worth of meat. One of these days, we are finally going to go for it and buy a whole pig and a whole steer and just fill our freezers with them. We'd still buy lamb, veal, poultry and seafood, but it would make our yearly purchases of meat much lower even than they are now.

Anyway, this is The Pig:

Please do not judge me on the way their clothes match. They chose them.

It used to be that all of our children fit on the pig, but between the growing size of our family and the growing size of our children, only about four of them can fit. Tightly. With Amira or Jerome on the snout.

I love that our children see half an animal on the cutting table there and are just excited about the tasty meat. Even Amira, perhaps especially Amira, is not fazed a bit at the butchers cutting up the animal into steaks, roasts and chops. She is probably the most excited about all the good things we can eat from them.

In order to ensure that none of our children became vegetarians, we did a few things (aside from serving bacon regularly). One was that we always talked about how and where we got our meat. That it came from animals, that they had to be killed and that it was our preference and God's command that they be killed as quickly and painlessly as possible. Also, I shared with them the stories of the times I had witnessed a slaughter. The big thing, though, was that when we watched Babe with them, I made sure to sit through it all and tell them all the foods that came from each animal as it entered the story.

When our children go to petting zoos or the baby animal section of the fair, while other children are saying how cute they are, ours are discussing dinner options. We are so proud!

In other grocery news, we went back to the Grocery Outlet a couple weeks ago, and they still had the seeded watermelons. This time they were $2.99. We're going to look for them again this week.

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Friday, September 05, 2008

Weekly Schedule

I did have a request for our schedule, so here it is. Some of the things we do overlap and some elements are in other subjects as we study. This looks much more complex than it is, but I'm trying to be detailed. Where the children's names are put in bold, the activities are concurrent, just in two groups. Jerome plays with Elijah and Amira in the afternoon, while the weather is nice, everyone gets pushed outside as much as possible during their breaks and playtime. I haven't included their morning preparations and chores, as those are largely before morning prayer. I also haven't included their before bedtime routine and chores, since that isn't part of the school day, and I imagine each family has their own routine anyway.

Geography and art are usually tied at least a little with their history lessons, as is their reading and the science is loosely tied in (we're dealing with mostly Greek and Roman history right now, and Astronomy is the science focus). Yasmina nurses, sleeps, etc. at will during our day. I'm trying to add Arabic formally this year, and I would like to add French to that next year. Since English, Arabic, French and Latin are the only languages I have any background with, I figure I'll stick with those. Obviously, I read to all of the children more than just in their allotted times in the schedule, this is just the reading that is specifically school related. Some of the more advanced books for Alexander and Dominic's school work that are more advanced than their reading level, I read to them while they do their chores. We also celebrate and discuss the various saints' days, feast days and fast days on their days, and during our daily office prayers.

During the week, Amira has ballet, a couple weeks out of the month Alexander and Dominic have cub scouts. I'm trying to get Dominic and Elijah back into gymnastics, if we can do so without spending a ton more, driving too far or making our schedule so busy that I can't handle housework and cooking. We'll see. Alexander is going to start baseball this year, as well.

Every Day:
7:00 a.m. Morning Prayer
7:30 Breakfast & Clean Up
8:30 Begin School

All the children. Jerome usually plays with his special homeschool toys and books during this time. He listens and pays attention as he wishes, sometimes showing great interest, and sometimes doing his own thing.
Catechism Lessons/Prayers/Articles of Faith (~15 minutes)
Art Appreciation (~10 minutes)
History: Reading and Oral Question & Answer (~20 minutes)
Break (~30 minutes)
Split into separate classes, Jerome goes to his nap. Alexander & Dominic take the dining room table and Elijah & Amira take the coffee table
Alexander & Dominic: Math & Penmanship (~45 minutes) I have one of them work on his own penmanship while I go over math with the other, then while the math student is working on his practice, I explain the other boy's math to him and have him work on his practice while the other finishes up his work and penmanship.
Elijah & Amira: I have coloring pages, pre-writing exercises and story books for them to do while listening to classical music. I choose the music based on their Little Saints book recommendations. They do this while their brothers are working. When both older boys are doing their own work, I'll read a bible story and one or two of their story books to them. We also work on simple recitations. (~25 minutes)
Puzzles and Games, then free time
Alexander & Dominic: Spelling (~15 minutes)
Writing (~30 minutes)
Recitation (~15 minutes)
Everyone together get Jerome up from nap, prepare lunch, eat lunch. Clean up. (~60 minutes)
Alexander & Dominic: Reading (~30 minutes)
Elijah & Amira: Phonics (~10 minutes)
Math preparation (shapes/colors/numbers/comparison/matching/time) (~10 minutes)
Little Saints activities (arts & crafts/songs/poetry/games/calendar/seasons/religion) (~15 minutes)
Alexander & Dominic: Chores (~30 minutes)
Elijah & Amira: Clean up books, toys (~15 minutes)
End of school/work day. The children play, read, help out with cooking projects, do some animal care and play with other friends.

All the children.
Bible History (~15 minutes)
Science: Reading & Discussing Lesson (~20 minutes)
Break (~30 minutes)
Split into separate classes. Jerome naps.
Alexander & Dominic: Math & Penmanship (~45 minutes)
Elijah & Amira: Coloring pages, pre-writing exercises and story books, music. Bible story and one or two story books. We also work on simple recitations. (~25 minutes)
Puzzles and Games, then free time
Alexander & Dominic: Latin (~15 minutes)
Geography (~10 minutes)
Recitation (~15 minutes)
Reading (~30 minutes)
Everyone together get Jerome up from nap, prepare lunch, eat lunch. Clean up. (~60 minutes)
Alexander & Dominic: Chores (~30 minutes)
Elijah & Amira: Phonics (~10 minutes)
Math preparation (~10 minutes)
Image of God kindergarten activities (~10 minutes)
Alexander, Dominic, Elijah & Amira: Homeschool PE
End of school/work day.

All the children.
Catechism Lessons/Prayers/Articles of Faith (~15 minutes)
Arabic Lessons (~10 minutes), we haven't started this formally, I just have made the sounds at them, and speak to them in Arabic occasionally. They've picked up what they know from me the same way they picked up English, but I have a text book to try to teach them in a little more structured format the reading and writing, etc.
Split into separate classes. Jerome naps.
Alexander & Dominic: Math & Penmanship (~45 minutes)
Elijah & Amira: Coloring pages, pre-writing exercises and story books, music. Bible story and one or two story books. We also work on simple recitations. (~25 minutes)
Puzzles and Games, then free time
Break (~30 minutes)
Alexander & Dominic: Spelling (~15 minutes)
Writing (~30 minutes)
History: Mapwork/Art/Writing/Projects (~20 minutes)
Recitation (~15 minutes)
Everyone together get Jerome up from nap, prepare lunch, eat lunch. Clean up. (~60 minutes)
Alexander & Dominic: Reading (~30 minutes)
Elijah & Amira: Phonics (~10 minutes)
Math preparation (~10 minutes)
Little Saints activities (~15 minutes)
Alexander & Dominic: Chores (~30 minutes)
Elijah & Amira: Clean up books, toys (~15 minutes)
End of school/work day.

All the children.
Bible History (~15 minutes)
Split into separate classes, Jerome naps.
Alexander & Dominic: Math & Penmanship (~45 minutes)
Elijah & Amira: Coloring pages, pre-writing exercises and story books, music. Bible story and one or two story books. We also work on simple recitations. (~25 minutes)
Puzzles and Games, then free time
Break (~30 minutes)
Alexander & Dominic: Latin (~15 minutes)
Geography (~10 minutes)
Science: Notebook & Projects (~20 minutes)
Recitation (~15 minutes)
Reading (~30 minutes)
Everyone together get Jerome up from nap, prepare lunch, eat lunch. Clean up. (~60 minutes)
Alexander & Dominic: Chores (~30 minutes)
Elijah & Amira: Phonics (~10 minutes)
Math preparation (~10 minutes)
Image of God kindergarten activities (~10 minutes)
Alexander, Dominic, Elijah & Amira: Homeschool PE
End of school/work day.

All the children.
Saint Study (~15 minutes)
Homeschool Mom Study Group/Play Group for our children
Library time and any section tests that Alexander and Dominic have.
Recitation of their bible verse to Rich and me.
Once a month we hear the children perform their recitations for the month.

Occasionally we do bigger history, science or art projects as a family.

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Finished Object Friday: Lime Shortbread Filled with Blackberry Lime Jam

Yum! I made these Monday when we had the deacon over for dinner. A hot cup of coffee and two (or three) of these, made a very nice dessert. The cookie recipe needs a little tweaking to make it more suitable for rolling out and cutting the shapes. I used this recipe from Martha Stewart for the cookies, only flattening the dough into a disc and rolling it out to use my cookie cutters.

It got soft really fast, so the dough was a pain to work with. I think I would increase the sugar in the dough and skip the dusting with powdered sugar in the future, to begin with, so you can see the shapes a little better.

These were the best examples out of the batch.

I filled them with my homemade blackberry lime jam. They tasted divine. They were a lot of work for 18 cookie sandwiches and one little cookie left over.

If you have one or more finished items this week, please sign Mr. Linky below and share all you have made. Your Finished Object(s) can be knit, crocheted, sewn, quilted, tatted, beaded, papercraft, woodwork or any other kind of craft. Show off what you have made! Please make sure you link to the exact post that shows your finished item(s) rather than just to your blog.

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Church Lady

One of the priests we've talked to recently said that Rich becoming a deacon is really a formalization of what we do already as a couple. The deacons were called to serve the people in the church, serve the priests and bishops. He said that he's seen us doing just that on numerous occasions and this is partially just recognizing that role. The office of the deacon is unique in a way, in that it has always been seen as a husband and wife work. Because of the nature of baptismal practices of the early church (they were done in the garb in which one was born), and the necessity of chastity and modesty, women were needed to witness other women's baptisms. These women were not ordained and they were most likely the wives of the deacons who were called and ordained in the apostolic succession, which was why they were sometimes referred to as deaconesses.

As a deacon, aside from assisting at mass, Rich will be able to say the deacon's mass, will be charged with the proclamation of the gospel, might be called in to give sermons and will be offering the chalice during most of our eucharists until we either get a couple more lay eucharistic ministers, deacons or subdeacons. He will be required to study in the seminary.

I will be required to become a clergy wife.

This is the thing that scares me the most about Rich being called to the diaconate. This is part of what kept my mouth shut when I had communication from the Lord that Rich was set apart for this. I figured if He hadn't talked to Rich about it Himself, who was I to gossip? Then, one of our priests was evidently called into duty last year at our convocation, I guess God figured I wasn't passing on the message, and in front of church members from three states told Rich he needed to be in the seminary. Rich said (to himself) "I'm not going to be a priest!" and went on with his life.

The damage was done, though, the cat was out of the bag. Now, Rich started thinking about it. Then, asking me what I thought about it. Then, asking other people to be praying and praying himself. Thanks God.

All kidding aside, it is an honor, it is a burden, it is a blessing. Rich is a natural leader and God has molded him into a natural servant. We both believe strongly in giving of ourselves to the church, we are teaching our children to do so (oh, and Alexander begins his acolyte training this fall!). It is a beautiful, holy thing to receive communion from my husband. It is an opportunity for him to grow into a great instrument of God's. It is also terrifying.

Clergy come under such attack, spiritually. Clergy wives get sick. Clergy wives are supposed to be holier than I am. I said to the chaplain who is standing in as our priest right now that I was terrified, because now I had to behave. He said his wife never bothered to, so not to worry about it. He was joking, and so was I, but even more so, I have to be an example, not just to our children, or to the youth of our church, but to everyone. In a way, I'm supposed to be that anyway, by nature of my faith and baptism, but now I have this label that will cause people to (rightly) hold me to a higher standard.

And I am so weak. My prayer life is not as steady as it should be. It's really taken having children to teach and the blessing of the daily office that the Church so wisely set, that has me praying regularly at all. Oh, I prayed, and probably every day, but it wasn't consistent, I wasn't as focused on hearing from the Lord. It took my children shaming me this summer to even get back into the habit of the daily office when we weren't doing school every day! I need not mention that my reading of the Bible, the Church Fathers and the Saints is much more consistent now that I have children, whose religious formation is my primary responsibility. I am a studious person, and I studied these things before I was a Christian and after I was a Christian, but it's easy to go days or weeks or months without it when you are not bound by duty.

I know I've mentioned my quick temper. Evidently, this is not an ideal Christian trait. So, I hear. And even though it is a birth defect, I am duty bound to overcome my nature, as I frequently tell Rich when he tries to tell me that some annoying thing is hereditary. Then, there's this rising early to praise God thing. It keeps coming up in scripture and in sermons and even in hymns, and Rich and I are sick of it. 12:00 a.m. is early, right? I drive too fast, I get annoyed in traffic, I am able to write people off as not worth it when they give me too much grief (while thinking in the back of my mind that there is nobody worth it, yet God considered us worth it because of how great His love was for us), I can nurse a wound and keep alive the memory of a wrong done to me, it takes me a long time to hold real anger against someone, but it takes me even longer to forgive that person. I am really sarcastic and can be thoughtless. I don't have much patience. I am a little too aware of my rights. I am not a good candidate for a deaconess.

When I first had the inkling that perhaps God had plans for Rich in the ordained ministry, I was proud of my husband. I thought he was a great candidate. I have learned more about forgiveness and unconditional love from him than from anyone else. I have learned about sacrifice and obedience from him. He does it joyfully. I won't paint such a rosy picture as to say he does it easily all the time, but he is truly glad to do it. I can see him as a deacon. I'm not so sure about his wife, though.

It seems like the millstone keeps getting heavier and larger as we grow in our faith. First, there were our own children, then our priest trusted us with his and the children of our church! Please pray for Rich, for me, for our children. We will need some very practical help (and there are people already standing up to do just that - thank you!) and a great deal of spiritual covering as we transition to this new role. We will need it when Rich is ordained, too. And after that. This is an undertaking we cannot accomplish. But God can, and I guess that is the point.

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