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Monday, December 29, 2008

Menu Plan Monday: 5th Day of Christmas

Rich got his first leftover turkey sandwich in several years. We had them on toasted homemade bread with homemade mayonnaise and lettuce, which was amazing. We still have a little roast beef and a little of the turkey left, so I will be remaking them today for breakfast and dinner. We'll have some roast beef hash with fried eggs this morning, and the turkey tetrazzini for dinner since we had sandwiches instead last week. We will be making more Christmas cookies this week, and eating them up while we can.

Rich and I celebrate 12 years of marriage this Wednesday. We did a brief renewal of our vows after church on Sunday, and so far have a rather quiet anniversary planned. We usually have a party, but we aren't having one this year.

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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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

The tree is up and decorated, the presents are wrapped and under the tree and we are heading to bed for a couple hours.

I wanted to have something profound to share, but that will have to come later.

God bless you all, and merry Christmas!

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Quick & Easy Christmas Gift: The One True Chex Mix

The original recipe has been lost to all eternity. Unless someone's grandmother still has the clipping from the Chex box. However, as a connoisseur of Chex Mix, I offer you my idea of the perfect Chex Mix. If you still need a gift for some people, or a snack to have out for a party, this goes together in about an hour and is ready almost immediately.

First of all, you use butter, not margarine. Second, you make it in the oven not the microwave. Third, who ever heard of those garlic toasts in the 50s? I sincerely doubt they used them then. So, add more pretzels and nuts.

6 cups Rice Chex
6 cups Corn Chex
6 cups Wheat Chex
3 cups mini-pretzels, Snyders little squares are the best, not the low fat version
3 cups mixed, salted nuts (the kind with no peanuts)
1 cup butter (2 sticks), I use unsalted, because that is all I buy, but if you have salted it will just add more salt to this snack
1/3 cup of worcestershire sauce (I spelled that without a spell checker), Lea & Perrins, or whatever one you like
2 tablespoons seasoned salt
2 teaspoons granulated garlic

Preheat oven to 325 F. Get your big roasting pan out, and put the butter in it to melt in the oven while you gather the rest of the ingredients. When the butter is just melted, add the worcestershire sauce, seasoned salt and granulated garlic and stir it up. Dump in the cereal, pretzels and nuts and stir to coat well. Put the pan in the oven and cook for 15 minutes. Take out to stir some more and put it back in for another 15 minutes. Do this one or two more times, depending on how fast your oven is cooking. Take out of the oven and cool. Eat some of it while it is still hot and try not to burn your tongue on the nuts.

Finish eating this first pan with your family (who am I kidding? With your husband - give the children a token amount), then make another batch to give away. Feel free to eat half of that, too, if you don't have enough people to give gifts to this year.

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Menu Plan Monday: Christmas Week

We have had an exciting week. Lots of snow, ice, freezing rain, wind, power outages, good times. We were supposed to have a couple more Christmas guests than we will, because of the weather. People in the midwest and east coast may laugh at our little snow storms, but our snow is wet and turns to ice on the roads each night. A little snow does a lot of damage here. Not to mention that we have few snow plows and sanders and the de-icing trucks can only do so much.

This was the view out of our front door looking to the southeast yesterday afternoon.

There is no fasting during the 12 days of Christmas, though there are three meat fast days this week leading up to Christmas. However, Christmas day and afterward until the 6th of January, we will have no meatless days. We'll go back to our normal twice a week after that, until Lent, when we will have at least three meatless days a week, though we've been trying to increase that number each year.

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

I got this recipe from a friend on the internets. We make a double batch and watch it go. Using fresh nutmeg is a must. This is especially good with some kahlua.

3 pints Half-n-Half
1 pint whipping cream
1 1/2 dozen eggs (or the equivalent of Egg Beaters egg substitute)
1 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 1/2 cup sugar (varies to taste)
2 cups vanilla ice cream
1 to 2 cups milk
1/2 tsp. salt

Beat eggs very thoroughly. Half pint of the whipping cream is whipped.
Combine all ingredients and blend well. Shake before serving.

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Saturday, December 20, 2008


This church has the whole discipline thing wrong. The passage to which they are referring specifically talks about someone confronting someone who has sinned against him, not someone who has sinned against his own body and God. Not only that, but their concept of authority in the church is wrong. The Church is the whole authority of the church, not the parishioners. Publicly humiliating someone, or threatening them with that is not exactly restoring someone in a spirit of gentleness.

It is things like this that make me glad that we belong to a church which recognizes the authority and hierarchy in the church as set out in Scripture and the Tradition, and that our confessions are private and cannot be betrayed even to police or the courts. The only time there were public confessions were when the person confessing proclaimed his sins to the faithful assembly. The proper response if this woman would not be reconciled to God would be to excommunicate her, but they probably don't think much of communion either, if they don't pay attention to church authority.

If she is unrepentant, and it sounds like she is, they are to put her out of the assembly, which it sounds like she already is. However, if she were so concerned about her privacy and the rights of her children, she wouldn't go to the press. All messed up here.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Finished Object Friday: It's Been a Long, Long Time

Turns out, I haven't posted these for three weeks. Feel free to post all you have finished in that time. I have been busy with cooking over the last three weeks - Thanksgiving, Christmas treats, things like that. So, I have finished making brandied cranberries, Chex Mix, dark chocolate cherry cookies, vanilla marshmallows, chocolate marshmallows. We will not mention the things that need to be made still. Good thing we are stuck at home because of the icy roads. Good thing there are 12 days of Christmas for people to receive presents.

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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A Few Random Notices

Jerome put a very serious face on and told me that potatoes are very funny.

He also made his bed all by himself this morning with nobody telling him to do so. He saw that his siblings did it, and he decided he ought to as well.

Let's say you managed to run out of seasoned salt (the kind you only buy to make Chex Mix, which you replaced last year, which means you made a whole lot of Chex Mix, and ate most of it, but we won't mention that part), and you are iced in with six children and had planned on making Chex Mix this morning. You can use this instead, and then never support the seasoned salt cartel again:

2 1/2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 teaspoon celery salt
3/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon corn starch

Mix well and use in Chex Mix.

Chocolate marshmallows are addictive and impress everyone.

The end.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Family Stuff & More St. Nicholas

So, yesterday Alexander debuted as an acolyte. He was prepared for one job and had it switched on him at the last minute and still did a great job. I had intended to get a photo of him, but forgot to do it before the service began. Afterward, he changed so fast that I didn't get a chance to do it. He may be serving next week, so I will try to remember then.

Dominic, therefore, took over in the helping with the youngest siblings department. Since Rich is up front serving as subdeacon, that meant I was on my own with Jerome and Yasmina to manage. Yasmina is pretty easy going, but Jerome has been acting up at church lately, so it's been a bit of a struggle. He did better this week than last, so I'm hoping next week will go better still. Dominic was great at taking Yasmina and holding her while I wrangled Jerome.

I do have some quickie pictures we had done a little over a week ago. That picture above is one of them.

Here is a shot of the family. It's not the best picture of any of us, but we are all looking in relatively the same direction.

This is Jerome looking cool. Or pensive. Or befuddled.

Elijah is looking mighty grown up here.

Even though this isn't a perfect photo, I really like it. It shows our older boys with Yasmina as they are.

This picture is a better picture of Rich.

This is a better picture of me.

We just need to crop and put them together. Then we'd have a good picture of both of us.

In my last post, I forgot to mention the most fun thing about St. Nicholas day (for me, at least). We had initially been planning on just putting a little token gift in for Yasmina, but Amira said that we should ask St. Nicholas for treats that I like, since whatever I eat goes into Yasmina's milk. So, I got two stockings! The best part, is that Amira suggested this with absolutely no prompting from me or anyone else!

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Menu Plan Monday: Third Week of Advent

This is pretty late. Rich and I fell asleep in the living room reading last night. We have both been so wiped out, fighting illness (it hasn't won yet!) and absent minded. I forgot to thaw the meat for yesterday's dinner, so it has become today's dinner.

This is a rather strict fast week, with three full fast days, and even with only Rich fasting, it's not like we are going to feast in front of him. We are still making all sorts of treats for Christmas gifts this week, though. Which will go into airtight storage or the freezer until we can eat them, the actual gifts will be packaged and sent away.
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, December 13, 2008

Advent, Not Just the Weeks Before Christmas

I had plans to post on Advent either right before or right on the first Sunday of Advent. Well, you see how well that went. Here we are on the eve of the third Sunday, Joy Sunday, and I'm finally finishing this. So, you are going to get an Advent post as well as a St. Nicholas one.

Advent is its own season, rather than just the time before Christmas. It is indeed a time of waiting for the birth of Jesus, but it is about more than that. It looks forward to the second coming as well. Advent is a time of waiting and preparation. In fact, the gospel for the first Sunday is the parable of the foolish virgins. This is a penitential season, not one of gaiety. We are fasting, praying, taking an account of our souls, preparing our hearts for the Incarnation and for His return. What we are to do now is repent not celebrate. The Church set this time as a mini-Lent. Each week of Advent has a theme, the first Sunday is vigil, the second is prophecy, the third is joy and the fourth is readiness. Advent is always the four Sundays before Christmas, and ends at sunset on Christmas Eve.

So, in our house, we don't have Christmas lights up, we don't play Christmas carols (and my iPod is helping me ignore the carols everywhere else) and you won't see any Christmas ornaments or decorations. We have an Advent wreath with three purple candles and one pink one, we light one candle for each week and do our evening prayers around the candles at the table. It is pretty simple here, we sing O Come, O Come Emmanuel (which is an Advent hymn, not a Christmas hymn, much like We Three Kings is an Epiphany hymn), do the evening readings for the day and say our family prayers. Jerome asks us when we are going to do the Advent each night immediately after dinner. We think it's more because of the candlelight, but he has been learning the words to our song and joining in. The older children are learning the first verse and chorus of it in Latin.

We also have an empty creche. We put Mary and Joseph somewhere in the living room across from the creche, and they travel to the stable through weeks before Christmas. The children look for them each day as they travel through our house. Christmas Eve, they will be in the stable, and Christmas morning, the baby Jesus will be there with the shepherds and angels. This is a way for us to remind our children and ourselves of what we are doing and why.

Each year I have wanted to have a Jesse Tree, which is a kind of family tree for Jesus, which represents salvation history. It is a bare branch, the root of Jesse from which will spring forth the flower, and we put ornaments symbolizing the various characters of history which led to the birth of the Lord on it each day up to Christmas. We haven't done it this year, so we've just been reading the scripture passage and talking about the person each day. I've told the boys to be on the look out next year for a good Jesse Tree for us.

Since this is a time of repentance, not simply a time to shop, we are in opposition to our culture. Which is as it should be. The Church is to be set apart. Taking a reflective time to be penitent, expectant and prepared is not the norm. Christmas starts in June in most of the retail world, but the 12 days of Christmas don't actually begin until Christmas day. It is very hard to find anyone playing Christmas carols on the radio during that time, even on Christmas day. They play them for two months prior, and stop. Rich and I have been trying to collect all of our favorites to play for the 12 days, since it is really only then that we are ready for them anyway.

The first Sunday of Advent is the first day of the Church's new year. Our new year began with Deacon Michael being ordained as Father Michael, which was a great new year's day for us. Unfortunately, because it was also the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend, and we didn't find out his ordination date early enough, not a soul from our church was able to be at his ordination, which was in California. We were able to see lots of pictures and talk to him on the phone, but that was pretty much it until he returned.

Because this is a time of fasting, we don't do all the treats until after Christmas Eve Mass. There is an exception to that. We celebrate St. Nicholas' feast day on the sixth and we let the children eat their fill of the goodies from their stockings on that day. It's kind of a break in the middle of the fast. So, on the evening of the fifth, we put stockings out, the children write letters or make drawings for St. Nicholas to take to Jesus, we usually put out a carrot for his horse, too, which Rich usually eats up. The next morning we all awake to stocking full of peanuts, oranges, candy canes, chocolates, a sack of chocolate coins (because of the dowry money that St. Nicholas gave to a set of poor sisters), the children get some sort of little light that they usually burn out by the end of the month, and somehow, Rich and I end up with surprises, too. St. Nicholas usually makes sure that Rich gets maple sugar candies that he remembered from his childhood, and sometimes he'll find little gifts or foods that he doesn't usually have. I often find things like perfume, fancy creams, music I like, things like that. It's amazing that St. Nicholas shops in the same places that we do. Something that I've been wanting to do for years is make these filled cookies that are shaped in the first initial of the receiver to put in the stockings. I got as far as having the recipe ready and the ingredients in the house. Maybe next year.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Thanksgiving Recap (Belated)

For the first time in my life I have poured boiling liquid onto my hand. I don't know how real burn victims cope. I only had a proto-blister and a reddened hand, but it hurt for at least six hours and was excruciating. I was trying to hurry up making the gravy and getting it on the table, because someone else needed the oven, and I was kind of taking up all the space on the stove and in the way of the oven. So, as I was ladling up the liquid, I poured boiling gravy, fat and all on the last two finders of my left hand. I kept the gravy boat steady, though, and got it filled for the table, so at least it was only my hand rather than having boiling gravy splashed all down the front of my body. So, the moral of the story is don't rush. And don't drop the dish.

We had a houseful this year. We were able to arrange bedrooms and sleeping bags, and get everyone settled in for the weekend, though. On Thanksgiving day proper, we had 20 people, our leftover day party ended up being around 52 people. My breakfast plans for Thanksgiving were modified, because we were up until 4:00 a.m. making pies. Rich was supposed to be available to help me with the children and cleaning so I could nurse the baby and cook, but he ended up working over 18 hours on his "vacation" days that week. So, Arthur made breakfast for us instead, which was quite nice.

My father in law and Arthur both brought wine, so I think we only ended up putting out one of our bottles. Maybe two. We had a nice relish tray that Rich put together, no deviled eggs this year. Arthur actually didn't bring the cranberry relish, but since we had everything to make it, he put it together for us. The turkey was perfect. After Friday, there was none left. We still have our extra turkey in the freezer, though, so we will be roasting that sometime this month, and Rich will get a roast turkey sandwich for the first time in probably three or four years. Except for the gravy mishap, the meal went well. I made both dressings, the sweet potato rolls, the brussels sprouts, directed the making of the mashed potatoes, our friends brought a Waldorf salad, cranberry-cherry sauce, two ducks, a sour cream apple pie.

Alexander did make the gingerbread, and it was very well received. He did a great job following the recipe himself, though we did have to rescue him from ruining a bowl of ingredients in the microwave. Somehow, Rich's job of cooking the pumpkin and making the pumpkin pie filling ended up my job this year. Along with those, I made two apple-quince pies (we used the remaining filling which wasn't enough for a pie in oatmeal), two cranberry-cherry pies, two Nantucket cranberry pies (cranberry walnut cake cooked in a pie pan), two chocolate pecan pies. We served all of this with sweetened whipped vanilla cream and ice cream.

There was lots of sparkling cider and sparkling apple-cranberry, but we discovered last week that Martinelli's makes an apple-pomegranate sparkling cider, which is wonderful. Buy lots so they keep making it. We are.

Our day after Thanksgiving party went well, lots of people came, lots of food was eaten, games were played, lively discussions were had, children were not too injured by the end of the night. Rich set up the foos ball table in the basement, we had Boggle playing in the living room and Scene It going on at the same time. Outside, there was a football game going, not to mention the general playing on the play structure and in the play house. We still have two pairs of children's socks and a size four, blue, child's jacket here. I think we have returned every thing else to its rightful home.

Funny thing. When Kim was leaving, she forgot her purse. When she returned for it, she said that she wanted to make sure she had it in case I asked her out to dinner again.

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Monday, December 08, 2008

Menu Plan Monday: Second Week of Advent

I keep forgetting, when I refer people to the recipe for crockpot gyros, to mention that I use half lamb and half beef rather than the turkey she uses. I think I just automatically switch turkey to beef in my mind so I forget that other people don't. I also add about 3/4 to 1 teaspoon of salt to the meat mix. I made about six pounds of meat for our Sunday feast, and we came home with about a pound or more, so tonight that will go on the rerun buffet we are having. We have some French onion soup left, some of the Arabian spaghetti sauce and sides, some of the laban bi chiyar and harissa and some of the chickpeas and cauliflower from Friday. I will be serving it all up tonight to get rid of it before I make anything else.

I'm still working on my Thanksgiving post as well as an Advent one. Even though we do lighter school work for Advent, we've been busy with religious study and all the goings on at church, so I just haven't had much time to type on the computer. I have to figure out what to do with all the broccoli I bought, since Yasmina's tummy still does not agree with me eating broccoli. Veggie sticks for the children!

We've been drinking lots of apple cider this week. We borrowed a cider press from a fellow we know and pressed about four or five gallons of cider. It was lots of fun, the cider tastes like drinking an apple and now I want our own cider press even more. We are trying to find a way to buy the press from our friend. They don't use it anymore, but they aren't quite ready to give it up yet.

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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Thursday, December 04, 2008

Frugality (Part V): The Celery Stalks at Midnight

I have been off my game a little lately, we've had an awful lot going on, so please forgive the lateness of this post.

In my fifth installment on frugal living, I will recommend something that we do for religious reasons, but that anyone can do for economic reasons. We eat meatless at least twice a week. Right now, as it is Advent, we are eating meatless three times a week. Vegetables, beans and dairy are all much less expensive than meat. For most people eggs are inexpensive and tasty and a good source of protein.

I have a rather carnivorous husband, so I promised Rich that every meatless meal we ate would include lots of protein from other sources. I believe it is actually easier for him to fast completely than to eat meatless. We do not do an entire vegan day, though there have been a few meals that were vegan. Since we have a great source of fresh eggs, we do eat a lot of eggs on our meatless days. Frittatas, quiches, egg burritos, Eggs in Purgatory, hearty salads with hard boiled eggs, savory egg custards all make it on to our dinner table. Since we still eat dairy, things like the macaroni and cheese we had last night are great tasting and filling, we generally add a salad and some fruit for a full meal. I have gotten pretty creative in the types of meals we eat. Fortunately, our entire family likes all sorts of ethnic foods, so we partake of Arabic food (not surprising), but also Indian, Italian, Pseudo-Mexican as well as real Mexican, even French. Many cultures eat meat sparingly or occasionally, so those cuisines are good to choose from when making vegetarian meals.

I tend to avoid vegetarian by ideology cooks and cookbooks. We do this as a spiritual discipline, but we still want food that tastes good. Since we are trying to avoid most highly processed foods, we don't eat much in the way of fake meat, tofu, TVP, etc. Neither of us is really a fan of those things anyway and in a house full of boys, we don't need all that soy. We are not looking for a meat substitute when we eat this way, either, if we wanted to approximate meat, we'd just go for the real thing. It tastes better than the fake stuff. The processed, substitute meat is also rather expensive. In our religious discipline, fish doesn't count as meat (it has to do with Latin vs Greek in canon law), so occasionally there will be fish on our meatless menus, but I realize that for most people, seafood is more expensive than red meat or poultry.

Except for about three weeks of the year, all of my menus have two or more meatless meals, if you are looking for more concrete examples. Some of the simplest things are tasty, filling and meatless. We eat baked potatoes with cheese sauce and (usually) broccoli along with a salad. My vegetable soup is vegetarian, in fact vegan, we serve it with whole wheat rolls and all of us are satisfied, even Rich.

If you are trying to find more money to give to charity or for feeding the poor, you can take the money you would have used on a more expensive meal and set it aside to give. This can be a great lesson for your children as well, who will learn about money and about helping others. I haven't wanted to get too preachy, or to brag, but we've had a few experiences over the last few months which have impressed upon us how fortunate we are. We have had the opportunity to help a couple families in our area who truly had nothing. It was a great reminder to us of how sheltered we truly are from poverty. I am grateful that my children have not known this kind of poverty and committed to impress upon them the responsibility we have to personally care for the poor, rather than relying on other organizations or people to do it.

We did not start eating this way to save money, but it certainly has helped us do that. We have been able to use that money for us and for others in ways that we had not thought we could before. I hope this helps you do so as well.

Previous Posts:
Make it at Home
Grocery Shopping
Waste Not, Want Not

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Monday, December 01, 2008

Menu Plan Monday: First Week of Advent

I will post a separate Thanksgiving recap post to tell you about the food there. Alexander did make his gingerbread, and it was a hit, I didn't make the succotash and nobody seemed to miss it, and we made two quince-apple pies. Our pie to person ratio was down this year. In previous years we've had a 1:1 and sometimes a 2:1 ratio of pies to people. This year we only had 1/2 a pie per person. Thanksgiving day, there were 20 people including us, and our day after Thanksgiving party ended up with around 52 people counting us. All in all, both were a success, and except for pouring boiling gravy over my fingers while rushing to get the stove and oven clear for someone who needed it, all went fairly well.

Now that it is Advent, we will be abstaining from meat more as well as preparing our hearts and minds for the coming of the Lord and the second coming of the Lord. Our menus will reflect the fast, but there are two saints days this week for which we will break the fast. St. Barbara is a Levant saint, her feast day is the 4th, so we will have cracked wheat with our dinner to recall the grain she gave to the poor and we will have saffron buns for dessert. On the 5th, we will put up our stockings for St. Nicholas to fill, so on his feast day (the 6th), we will wake up to gifts from him. We have the children write letters or draw pictures for St. Nicholas to take back to heaven to give to Jesus. We tell the story of who St. Nicholas was to the children, talk about his life, his love for the Lord and for God's people, especially the poor. It is a good way to remind them of the truth while at the same time preserving their sense of wonder.

Anyway, for the sake of my father in law, I will post about the things we didn't eat last week, and what is repeated this week. We didn't have enough turkey left for the turkey rice casserole, so we had grilled bacon cheeseburgers with roasted brussels sprouts Saturday night instead. Last night, we were both too wiped out to do any real cooking, so I ate leftovers and Rich made mini-pepperoni pizzas on tortillas for the children. We'll have the soup tonight.

None of my normal weekly posts were made last week, I just didn't have the time between the cooking, cleaning and guests, so I will get back on track with those this week. I have a rough draft of my next frugality post that I will edit and should have ready by Wednesday. I was never able to get my Daring Baker's assignment done this month, so I may try to do a run of it just to try it, though it won't count for the challenge. Perhaps we can have it for our coffee hour luncheon celebrating Father Michael's ordination to the priesthood.
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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