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Friday, January 30, 2009

Finished Object Friday: Just Desserts

This is what I have finished this week. Although there must be other things that were finished this week, I have a hard time thinking of what they were. There has been very little knitting, no crocheting or sewing around here. I did a lot of baking and making of food staples for us: two loaves of soda bread, two loaves of oatmeal bread, one loaf of semolina bread, five loaves of sandwich bread, 24 khoubz Araby, three dozen raspberry jam thumbprints, two quarts of yogurt (why is it we speak in quarts about yogurt, rather than just say a half gallon?), a double recipe of mayonnaise and a large batch of hummus along with the tuiles, gelato and dip.

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, January 29, 2009

Daring Bakers Challenge: Tuiles

After missing two months in a row, I am back in the game. At some point, I would like to do a make up on November and December's challenges, I do not know when.

This month's challenge is brought to us by Karen of Bake My Day and Zorra of 1x umruehren bitte aka Kochtopf. They have chosen Tuiles from The Chocolate Book by Angélique Schmeink and Nougatine and Chocolate Tuiles from Michel Roux.

I chose to make my tuiles all chocolate, since there is little that cannot be improved with more chocolate. As we were to pair them with something soft, I made pomegranate gelato to go with these. Pomegranate and chocolate are wonderful together, which we have recently discovered in our home.

I thought of making lovely little butterflies as were the examples, but decided on the slightly more plebeian bowls. I have experience making fortune cookies, and this dough wasn't that different to work, so I thought I had an advantage there. However, I had a much harder time shaping this dough than I do with the fortune cookies. My first batch of two were far too thin, and were instantly crisp. I couldn't shape them at all. The second batch was too thick, and never crisped up at all. I ended up making them one at a time, adjusting the baking time and the thickness in the hopes of getting just two bowls that would work. There were four bowls that work, though I wasn't that thrilled with them.

The flavor is great, but the texture isn't what I wanted. I don't know if it is the addition of the cocoa powder, and the fat that comes with it, that changed it, but they never really got crisp. So, although they went well with the gelato and tasted fine, they got soggier than I would have liked.

Pomegranate Gelato
I don't know if you can really call this gelato with this much cream in it, but there you are. I looked at a few recipes, combined techniques and altered ingredients and this is what I came up with in the end.

1 1/2 cups pomegranate juice (bottled or fresh)
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 cups half and half
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 tablespoons PAMA liqueur

In a microwave safe glass bowl, I use one of those measuring cup/pourer/bowl deals, heat the pomegranate juice and sugar about two minutes to fully dissolve the sugar into the juice. Stir in the lemon juice. Add the half and half and cream and whisk well. Whisk in the PAMA liqueur. Cover and chill at least four hours, or overnight.

Give mixture a stir to make sure everything is evenly distributed and put in an ice cream maker and freeze according to the directions for your machine. Remove gelato from machine. It is fine to eat straight out of the machine, but will be soft. For firmer gelato that is easier to work with, put in a sealed container and freeze for about two hours.

We had the opportunity to make a savory tuile as well, and I took that opportunity to use some ingredients from my heritage. I used za'atar to flavor the tuile and made a dip out of feta, olive oil, harissa and mint.

See the sad, empty platter? The dough is made for this, but I didn't have time to bake them in time to post today, so that picture will come later tonight (I hope).

Thank you for a fun challenge! We definitely enjoyed these treats, even though they weren't exactly what I expected. The only thing I have left to do now is to decide whether to make custard with the remaining egg yolks or if I should just add them to our next breakfast of scrambled eggs.

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Frugality (Part VII): Combining Trips

Here is my seventh installment on frugality. Again, almost everything I have to say about this is nothing new. Nor are these ideas (for the most part) unique. With gas prices what they are and time being so scarce for everyone, try to plan your trips to the store to coincide with other things you need to do in that area.

For instance, I am in a town close to ours just about every Friday, the gas station where I can generally get the best price for gas is there (where we get a $0.15/gallon discount using our credit card), as is the butcher shop we patronize. So, what do you think I do on the way home? Also sort of on the way home is my milk pick up. This is a little off the highway, but much more efficient and quick to do when I'm already a ways from our home in that general direction rather than making a separate, special trip. In the past few weeks, the lady from whom we buy milk has actually been in our town earlier in the morning than I leave for my Friday outings, so I have been able to meet her with a cooler in the trunk and head out of town with our milk and a shorter trip to make home. Since we also buy our chicken feed from her, this has removed another trip from my rotation.

Our credit union is right next to our library, so when the children and I do our library day trip, I take any financial stuff that needs to be taken care of along with me. I have already told you that I don't shop all the loss leaders at all the different grocery stores in our area. I find that the savings on any particular item (unless it is huge) is generally taken up in gas and time. It is definitely worth it to me to only have to take our children on two or three stops rather than five or six. Taking up a whole day to do our grocery shopping and using all that gas is not my idea of savings.

Again, this is nothing revolutionary, just a way to set one's mind. When the children have activities, if there is time for errands, I arrange to do the things that are in the same area as their activity. If we are going to be in a particular neighborhood anyway, we make sure we have all lists and are prepared to do any shopping or activities that we want to do there. Since we live near a toll road, we definitely combine trips when we are going to get on that. These are some little ways to change how you do things that can make a difference in your monthly budget. When we first moved here, almost 10 years ago, our monthly gas budget was around the cost of what we pay for a week and a half of gas now. Saving money by not making unnecessary trips has definitely made a difference for us. It also means I'm not stuck on the road all the time, dragging the children out for more than we want or need to do.

Previous Posts:
Make it at Home
Grocery Shopping
Waste Not, Want Not
The Celery Stalks at Midnight
Use What You Have

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009


This was Jerome's idea of bedclothes a little earlier this month. I promise I will show pictures of the rest of the family sometime soon. There really are other people who live here besides Jerome and me. For now, though, we will be focusing on him.

A particularly endearing thing that Jerome does is to add Ys to the end of almost everything he says. If he wants milk, he'll ask for milky. If he's getting ready to go outside, he wants you to put his sockies on. If you ask who knocked over the flour bin and dumped a pound of flour on the carpet outside the kitchen, he'll answer "Jerome-y did it!" At least he's honest. And cute.

Jerome has been a bit of a mama's boy, though nowhere near what Dominic was, but he has recently been exercising his will and differentiating from me. Where before, he would immediately acquiesce and agree with me, now he seems to think he has a right to his opinion. It has been a trial not to smile and laugh at these efforts, because he is so funny, but when he directly contradicts me or disobeys, I cannot afford to laugh and egg him on. I just save the stories for the blog.

At Amira's ballet studio (see, we have a daughter, too!), I saw him chewing on something. We had brought no snacks. I told him to come directly to me, so I could figure out what it was he had in his mouth and asked him what he was eating. He wouldn't answer and walked as slowly as he could while chewing as fast as he could. I had Yasmina (Look! Another daughter!) in my arms, nursing, so I couldn't easily go and get him, of which he took great advantage. By the time he got to me, all that remained in his mouth were undiscernable crumbs in his mouth. I asked him where he had gotten it, what it was, etc. He told me he found it. I explained to him as slowly, clearly and kindly as I could that it wasn't good to eat things he just found, especially in a public place, as it could make him sick. I said it was kikha (Arabic for yucky, essentially) and could hurt him.

He said, "It isn't yucky!" in the sweetest, cheekiest little boy voice you can imagine.

I know he was thinking that what he ate tasted pretty darn good, thank you very much, so who are you Mama to tell me that it's yucky? You didn't eat it. You don't know. I stifled my smile as best as I could and told him that I didn't want him doing that any more, because I didn't want him to get sick. Did he want to get sick? No he didn't, so he agreed not to do it any more.

Tonight, as we were getting everyone ready for bed, he was playing with his baby doll, Bob. Yes, Bob, you have a problem with that? He had Bob walking on the glass coffee table, and Amira (the bossy sister that she is) told him that Bob shouldn't walk on the table. I decided to insert a lesson in parenting for him. I said that he should tell Bob not to walk on the table, because he could fall and hurt himself and a good daddy would make sure that his children didn't get hurt like that. Surely, he wanted to be a good doll daddy.

I smiled and said, "Why don't you tell Bob it isn't safe to stand on the table? He could fall."

Jerome answered sternly, "I don't want to."

Not surprisingly, we frequently have to get Jerome off the table. So much for teaching him the rules through toys. I think he was trying to tell me that if I was a good mama, I would let him crawl around and stand on the table.

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Works for Me Wednesday: Keeping Track of Library Books

After many years of supporting our local library through fines, I decided I'd had enough. Although I use our computer to put books/CDs/DVDs on hold and renew them, there were frequently times that I'd forgotten to check and the next day (or week) would find out that it was overdue.

What we do now is to go to the library on a particular day of the week. The children know that it is our library day, so they have their requests ready. There are occasions when we go another time, but that, too, is a set make-up day, so to speak. I know to check the library website each week on the same day, see what needs to be returned, what can be renewed and what is on hold waiting for us.

The other thing we do around here is set aside a shelf specifically for library items. We don't always keep them there perfectly, but when have just brought home a new stack of things or we are straightening out a room, everyone in the house knows what and where the library shelf is and puts their things there. When we have to return something, or see if it is still in the house, we know where to look first.

Especially in our homeschooling family of avid readers, which makes use of the library a great deal, this helps us avoid fines and keep track of library items. Works for me!

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Blessed Are the Poor

Rich and I were blessed to be poor when we were first married. I know that sounds a little odd, but we are thankful for our time of relative poverty. It wasn't the kind of poverty that you read about in the inner city, or hear about in far off lands. Rich was a student, I was a part time dance instructor and we were early in our marriage. We usually didn't notice our finances until we did our taxes and realized what in what bracket we fell! When we had Alexander, times got a little tighter, and there were about six to 10 months when things were really tight, but we still never felt poor and always had what we needed. Ever since I read this, it has been on my heart to write on this subject.

That first year with Alexander was hard, we learned a tough lesson about getting promises in writing which resulted in us not having any health insurance during the last month of my pregnancy and Alexander's delivery. We went to the hospital not knowing how we would pay the doctor and hospital for the largest part of the pregnancy expenses. I was no longer working outside of our home and we figured we'd be paying about $50 a month until Rich got a full time job. When we arrived home, we found a letter and check in the mail from some friends who said that since we were so far apart (we were living 2000 miles away from "home" at the time), and they missed the baby shower, they wanted to give us a gift to help with the raising of a new child. The check was written for $1500, which was about half of our hospital and doctor bills. We learned how to give without expectation in a great part from them. We have made it a practice never to loan money to people because of that, and only give if we can fully afford to, but when we do, we give it. We never ask for the money back.

Our first Thanksgiving after Alexander was born, we had a rather humbling experience. Our church had a year round food pantry for the poor, but around holidays would call on the parishioners to put together holiday meal packages for families in need. Rich and I picked up one of the Thanksgiving bags with the list on it and went to the store to buy the things to fill it. We knew we didn't have as much in the way of material wealth, but we certainly could help a family that needed to eat, so we did what we could. The Monday before Thanksgiving, a lady from our home group knocked on our door and brought us one of those meal packages. It was a shock to us, but we thanked her. We were embarrassed that the people of our church thought that we were poor, that we needed help. Fortunately, we knew another family that was having a hard time of it, so we told them what happened and offered to share Thanksgiving with them. We are still friends with that family and with the woman who brought us that package.

Most of what we considered poverty was inconvenience. It was uncertainty. It was pride. We still had a little savings, never went without what we needed, though if our car had gone out, paying for repairs would have been a huge burden. The Lord was so good to us in that time. We had a good friend and fellow student pilot with Rich at school who looked like a little troll, had fat fingers, and could make any mechanical thing run with the skill of a surgeon, using those fingers as delicately as any concert pianist. He would fix our car if it needed it for no other cost than the parts, and half the time he wouldn't let us pay for those. He drove the car with Rich across the country when we moved out here and that mechanical knack was a huge blessing as they drove through snowy places like Wyoming and Rob got out of the car to fix it so it would make it to Oregon. Our mechanic now is similar, though he's French, swears like a sailor and smokes like a chimney. Both of these men felt like they owed us and were repaying our kindness or what they saw as favors to them.

When we moved here for Rich's first flight job, it was just about the worst time to be starting as a flight instructor. The weather was bad, Rich hadn't built up enough students to have instrument students, so when the weather was bad, he didn't work. We moved with something like $4500 or $5000 to our names. If you counted student loan debt, we didn't even have that. We used to joke that our family of three brought the per capita income down, by itself, in our rather small, affluent town. That money we brought was enough to pay the first and last month plus deposit on our rental duplex, get our utilities and phone up and running and for us to pick up groceries and fill up the tank in our car. We had about another $3000 in checks that were supposed to arrive pretty soon after we did, last paychecks, our deposit from our former apartment, thinks like that. They didn't arrive. At the end of our first month month, we had $30 left. We started to worry that we wouldn't have enough to pay our second month's rent and that we'd be using that last month's rent payment as our last payment. Two out of three of our checks showed up on the day our rent was due, along with Rich's first paycheck. We paid our rent, got our bills taken care of and took care of the incidentals we needed to with that money, leaving a little financial breathing room for us.

God provided miraculously in so many ways. It was through that that we learned to depend on Him and that He was our provider, not Rich's job or whatever else, though of course God used that and still expected us to work. It was that knowledge that has allowed us to trust God when we have to make financial decisions. This was a time of great growth and learning for us, Rich and I learned what it meant to willingly sacrifice out of love during that time. My opinion and admiration of my husband grew a great deal during that time, as I watched him give up what he wanted so he could serve and be available to our family, but that is a story for another day.

Most flight instructor jobs do not provide any kind of health care benefits. Rich managed to work at the only FBO which did. This was handy, because it turned out that by the time we moved, I was pregnant with Dominic. Rich had taken a second job at night, one that he hated, but that kept him close to home, so he could come home and see us at dinner, rather than miss out on his family. It turned out to be a huge blessing, since he was also available when we found out I was pregnant, and we didn't need to worry about his being too far away if I went into labor.

When Rich applied for this job, we prayed and did not consider the financial benefit or cost when we were determining if we should take it. That seems odd, as without the job we wouldn't be doing as well as we are now, but it was because we knew money couldn't be the determining factor, but discerning what direction God had for us was. If we had never been poor, I don't think we ever would have learned how to apply that discernment to any decision, let alone financial ones.

While we never were as poor as is described here (please stop to read this, her story puts a lot in perspective), I do remember what it felt like to tell my little sons that something was too expensive for us to buy while we were at the grocery store. Things that we can afford now as a treat or even in every day circumstances, were a luxury we could not afford then. It was the only time I felt poor, telling my sons no when they wanted something simple.

We are rarely inconvenienced now. Each year, we are better off than the year before, each child has brought with him a raise in our paycheck. We run a tight ship, financially, as any family of eight has to, especially if a parent does not work for pay, and even more so if they are paying for their children's education either in homeschooling or at a private school, but we are not poor. I can buy fruit out of season each week if I want, though now I choose not to so we can buy better produce and more that is locally grown. We can afford the little treats and niceties that were once difficult to save for, even. We live in relative comfort and ease. I have not forgotten, though, how we got here, nor how to live should that change.

It is easy to forget that others do not live as well as you do. We notice that when people make comments about how we can afford to live as we do, while we see them spending far more lavishly than we do, but we do it as well. We live, as I have said before, in a rather affluent town and within that, a rather affluent neighborhood. Even the inner city, a town over from us, isn't that tough or poor. God has given us opportunities to serve the poor there and I am grateful for the reminders. We should be pricked in our consciences that it is not enough to provide for ourselves and that others do not have the comforts we do.

I didn't know whether or not to blog about this when it happened, because I didn't want to expose the persons we were blessed to help, but I think enough time has passed that nobody would be able to identify them, and perhaps, God willing, they do not remember that it was us who helped them. Several months ago, someone on an online group I belong to asked for some food. Not money for food, or to help with bills, or anything else. I have always considered that someone who is hungry should be fed, regardless of their decisions which may have brought them to that circumstance. I also thought that if someone was asking for food from strangers, chances were that they needed it. We have a lot of that around here, so I offered some to this person. God got to prick both mine and Rich's conscience through that experience.

I packed up a rather large box of food to give this person and worked out how we could meet. This person did not have steady access to the internet and no phone access at all. So, we arranged a meeting place and time. I packed up the box, my children and drove across a toll road to deliver it. I was stood up. I waited for an hour, stalked the meeting place asking random strangers if they knew or had seen this person and essentially made an idiot of myself. I came home frustrated and annoyed that this person had wasted my time (and the cost of the toll) in that way. I am ashamed of how easily I despised the poor. I called Rich and told him how I had wasted our afternoon (and the toll!) for someone who couldn't even be bothered to be there when I was trying to help.

I came home and e-mailed this person to ask if there was another time or way we could meet, I was at least conscious enough not to let on that I was frustrated. Rich told me he was going to have to be in that area the next day, so if this person was comfortable with a man bringing the food, he could do it. I asked, the person was, and this time I got the home address, since I wouldn't be going with children and possibly trying to either pass off the food with them in the car or try to bring them all into the house/apartment while carrying the box and keeping track of everyone. That day, this person was able to borrow a friend's phone, so I gave Rich's cell phone number and had him call to make sure everything was on schedule.

Now, the reason that Rich was going to be in that area was that he had an important work meeting. This person called him two or three times during the meeting, so much so that Rich got annoyed. He is a man of his word, if he says he's going to do something, he does it, so he was frustrated and found himself thinking "Look, I'm doing you a favor, can't you just wait? I said I'd come." When he arrived with the food, he says God straightened him out right away. The reason the person was calling so much was because of an empty stomach. He said as soon as he saw this person's eyes, he saw hunger. He came home a chastened man.

A couple months after that, another family asked for formula for their newborn child. I said that I didn't have formula, but because of the hospital selling our name, we had tons of coupons and we could bring those if they would help. While we were out shopping, I just had an urging from the Lord to buy the stinking formula and give them the other coupons for formula and diapers and such. We drove to the apartment, which turned out to be a tenement in a rather bad part of town. There were people out front keeping guard or keeping watch for drugs and definitely keeping their eyes on me. I walked in to a dingy, poorly lit, depressing place. The apartment where this family lived was cramped and looked rather squalid. Still, there was the mother and father and their little baby. I wanted to cry when I saw them. I told them about our new little baby and cooed over their child. I walked out thanking God that our children never knew this life, praying for that family and wanting to teach our children never to look down on people who did not have what they had. It had been a long time since I had seen squalor, or thought about it being so close to home, and we have never known it. We have never known real poverty. I still pray for those families.

This month, our Laudate group has taken on several service projects in our area. I was blessed to be able to serve with them on one at the beginning of the month. We did such simple work, cleaning floors and dishes and serving food at the rescue mission. Most of the people there are men, most are alcoholics or drug users, but there were some women and some families. One of the hardest parts was seeing a former neighbor. I saw him in the parking lot while I was waiting for the rest of our group to arrive. We chatted and he made up a story about how he was visiting a friend there, which I knew wasn't true. I know it was hard for him to see me serving in that line. I saw a family with two daughters who seemed too embarrassed to take food for all of them, no matter how much I pressed them to take more. There was a mother with a son, who wouldn't take anything but coffee, until we pressed her to at least take something for her son. I saw a father with a son the age of Amira, both of them so polite. It broke my heart to see them. It should break our hearts. Those brief hours of service reminded me of what our Lord commands us, it reminded me not to despise the poor for their poverty.

It is our job to care for the poor. That does not mean that poor are entitled, or always right, or somehow more noble, but we have been entrusted with their care. Scripture warns against both favoring the wealthy for their wealth and regarding poverty as righteousness. There is many a wicked poor person and many a righteous rich man, but neither state indicates the state of either heart. It is only in caring for the poor (and the sick, and those in prison, and the hopeless) that we can help them grow rich in spirit. God will demand an accounting for our works when that day comes to meet Him. I pray to meet Him having served Him in the least of all men, rather than having to explain how I never saw Him so how could I have served Him.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Menu Plan Monday: January 26

I realized I am finally getting out of the exhaustion/illness/sloth funk I've been in lately. Saturday, I was determined to get some things done, and I did. Lots of baking, a batch of yogurt, some mayonnaise, hummus, things like that. Even with a late start that day, I got almost everything done that I had planned on doing. I'm hoping to keep the momentum up this week and tackle some things in the house and yard that have been bothering me for a while.
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, January 25, 2009

Tales from the Kitchen Classic: Tortilla Casserole

Originally posted April 28, 2006 to Tales from the Kitchen

Wednesday we had this tortilla casserole, based on something I saw in Martha Stewart Living. I changed a couple things, based on what we had at home already, and ease of preparation.

I left out the spinach, didn't precook the tortillas in oil, used more poblanos than the recipe said and would make half the tomatillo salsa in the future. Even with serving some with the torta, we have tons left.

6 fresh poblanos (recipe called for 4)
18 corn tortillas, cut in half
Sunflower seed oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 small onion, thinly sliced (I used sweet onion)
2 teaspoons dried oregano
6 cloves garlic, minced (they said 4)
2 cans black beans, drained (you could easily use three or four cups of cooked black beans)
1 cup crema (we didn't have any, but did have sour cream, so I used that)
2 1/4 cups tomatillo salsa includes more for serving
1 1/2 cups grated queso fresco, Monterey Jack or a combination (I used the pepper jack we had in the fridge, I think it would be best with the queso on the inside layers and the jack on top to melt nicely)

Roast chiles over open flame, or under broiler on baking sheet, about seven minutes a side, until blackened and blistered. Put in a paper bag to steam about 15 minutes.

Peel chiles, remove seeds and stems and slice into about 1/2" wide strips.

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Heat two tablespoons oil large skillet over medium heat, add onion, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and oregano, cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent. Stir in chiles and cook to heat, about a minute. Transfer to a bowl.

Heat two tablespoons oil in same skillet, add garlic and cook stirring about 30 seconds. Add beans and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, mashing the beans a bit with your spoon. Set aside.

Line the bottom of a large round casserole, about three inches deep, with 12 tortilla halves, overlapping slightly. Layer with half of chile mixture, half bean mixture, and half the crema. Layer 12 more tortilla halves on top. Spread 3/4 cup salsa over top. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup cheese. Repeat for second layer. Top with remaining tortillas, 3/4 cup salsa and 1/2 cup cheese.

Bake until heated through, about 30 minutes. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving. Serve with more salsa and crema.

Tomatillo Salsa (half the original recipe)

1 tablespoon sunflower seed oil
1 small onion, diced (again used a sweet onion)
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 pound tomatillos, husked and washed
1/2 cup water
1 fresh serrano, stemmed
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped (or just torn up, like I did)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Heat oil in a medium saucepan, over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, cook about a minute, stirring occasionally. Stir in tomatillos, water, and serrano. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatillos have softened, about 15 minutes. Let cool slightly.

Working in batches (that's from the original, you could probably do the whole mess in one shot with half the recipe), puree tomatillo mixture in blender or food processor. Add cilantro and salt. Pulse to combine. Salsa can be made ahead of time and refrigerated for up to three days (probably more).

Tonight I am experimenting with a feta cheese and leek tart, to be served with a salad. If it turns out well, I'll post the recipe.

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Seeking Van

A person using the name Van left a comment for me. Van left no contact. I would like to ask a question before I publish the comment.

Finished Object Friday: I Hope You Have Something

Well, Tuesday night Rich succumbed to whatever it is that we all have had. He'd gotten away with queasiness and exhaustion the week before, but got it full on this week. Today he returns to work, though he is still pretty week and feeling sick still. At least he works close to home. Please pray for him as he gets back to work.

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, January 22, 2009

From Personal to Principle

It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.

Mother Teresa

Today is the 36th anniversary of two Supreme Court decisions, Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, which have resulted in over 50,000,000 deaths of American babies alone.

I grew up learning that it was my right to kill any life in my body for any reason. I bought into the my body my choice rhetoric (even though at least half of those "body parts" are male and all of them have unique DNA separate from the mother's). I believed all the lies about only a clump of cells (until I saw actual development of a baby in utero). I didn't think twice about the inconsistencies in the pro-choice argument, such as insisting that a woman had no ability to think ahead to the results of her actions, so could not be held responsible for them, but a man always did and should. This was why a woman was not responsible for her actions in an unplanned pregnancy and should be able to abort, but a man should have thought ahead if he didn't want to pay child support, and was therefore mandated to do so, even if he didn't want or plan the pregnancy (I will point out that the moral principle here upholds a man paying child support - at least - regardless of his plans, I am only pointing out a logical inconsistency). I thought that the very rare occasions of pregnancy from r@pe or inc*st, and the even rarer preservation of the life of the mother justified changing the law to affect every other circumstance, including a conflict in schedules or a desire to preserve her figure. And did you know that in every state prior to Roe, saving the life of the mother was already provided for in law. I did not see the oddity of referring to the pregnant woman as a mother, but considering the fetus inside her not to be a baby. Or a human. Or a person. I believed the leaders when they said they wanted abortion to be legal, safe and rare. Though they've dropped the rare from that list in this past year. I believed that if women had access to abortion, there would be no more unwanted children, child abuse or poverty. I believed that we should not legislate morality.

I was wrong.

I went from this view of abortion on demand being a right every woman had to thinking maybe it was a necessary evil, but one that I could not personally support or do myself, to realizing that if what was inside a woman when she was pregnant was, in fact a human person, then it was not lawful to kill him or her. Make no mistake. When someone reaches the point of being active in the pro-life movement, it is because of these realizations.

Science determines that the conceptus/zygote/embryo/fetus is human, distinct from her mother. So much for keep your laws off my body. The virtue of prudence says that we can not do an evil act to obtain a good end. There goes necessary evil. Logic reveals that one cannot base law on exceptions, otherwise we'd get rid of theft laws since there are some people who only steal because they are starving. We legislate morality in every law we have. Tax law is part of morality.

The year I was married, there were several headlines about girls who delivered babies only to wrap them in plastic sacks and go back to the prom or to their normal life. People were horrified. The reality is that we already had enshrined their acts into law. If they had simply done it a minute earlier, it would have been protected by the highest law of this nation. It is the logical outcome that people would not care for newborns if they do not care for the baby in the womb. We see this in President Obama's opposition to the Born Alive Act. If a baby has the audacity to survive an abortion, hospital policy was to put that child in a plastic sack with the biohazard material. The same hospitals had NICUs to help save the lives of babies the same age or younger. A man who only managed to vote present most of his tenure took the effort to vote against a law that would oblige these hospitals to care for these failed abortions. Not for the woman to go home with a baby, but for the hospital to extend medical care. This is what our soldiers are obliged to do on the front. Even if you shoot to kill an enemy combatant who was trying to kill you, if he survives, you are obliged to give him medical care. Not so for a child, in our president's opinion, who thinks that children are a punishment to women. Legalizing abortion does not eliminate unwanted children nor child abuse, it extends it. If we do not value a fetus because it cannot survive on its own, why would we value a nine month old who also cannot. If we say that it is legal to kill a fetus who will make our life much more difficult, how does that make our born children any more wanted when they also make our lives much more difficult?

There are two people who have taken me from being pro-life as a matter of conscience to being active in the movement. One was one of my best friends in college who was pressured into an abortion by her boyfriend who had always said that he would marry a woman if he got her pregnant. I still remember her voice when she told me that he couldn't even think of marrying her. I remember her depression afterward.

The second person who influenced my choice to become active in the movement was:

We were fortunate in that none of our medical team ever once suggested that we consider the "choice" of killing Elijah. It turns out that is rare. We have gained some recognition in the world of parents with children with tumors. We have had people referred to us, people contact us after reading my birth story about Elijah and, with only one exception, each one had to not only deal with the issue of the tumor, but had to begin by battling a doctor who told them that they should abort. The first time someone asked me how we fought our doctor I was shocked. It never occurred to our doctor, nor our midwife, that they needed to suggest that to us. We live in a world where it is legal, and if I wanted to do so, I could, regardless of anyone (including my husband's) wishes. They didn't have to tell us we (I, really, Rich had no choice) had that choice. That these doctors push it on their patients shows how little they care for their calling to heal.

I do not think that it is lawful to kill a child in the womb if he is going to die anyway. However, in our case and in the cases of all these parents I have had communication with, it was not so. I have known one of these children to die after surgery, and there have been several who have had complications, but not to even give them a chance? When the surgery is available? I cannot fathom the thought process. Nor can I understand the doctor who would push it on parents who are already trying to handle a hard diagnosis.

This is the boy those doctors would rather not have seen given a chance:

He is the punishment that President Obama imagines when he says that he wants abortion available to his daughters. Our president has said that he would help to kill his grandchildren if they came at a bad time or out of bad circumstances. Circumstances much like those surrounding his own birth and life. He is not the only grandparent to think this way, as I have the misfortune to know more intimately than some others might.

Today, President Obama overturns the Mexico City policy, sending millions of dollars to help kill brown children in other countries at a time when our economy is low already. He has pledged to pass the ill named Freedom of Choice Act, which would remove the choice of voters in each state by overturning laws passed by them putting restrictions on abortion. This is a scandal to the republic and goes against the federalism on which our nation was founded. Regardless of anyone's opinion on the abortion argument, this is bad law, because it takes away the state's right to make its own laws.

Please, contact your senators and representatives and tell them not to support FOCA. Each state should have the right to make their own choice.

There is so much more I could say, but I will not make this any longer than it is already. I will close with another quotation from Mother Teresa:

If we can accept that a mother can kill her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?

Those in the peace movement ought to think on that.

I am leaving comments open, but they are moderated. If you feel the need to make ad hominem attacks, use vulgar language or are in any way abusive, I will not publish your comments. However, I may quote you as an example of "tolerance."

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Jerome is Gaining on Her

Today, Rich and I tried to buy ourselves some time to clean out our room and organize our closet. Jerome came upstairs and told us that I had to read something to him. It was one of Rich's AOPA magazines. Rich told him that we were busy and that he needed to go to his crib with a book to read and rest. Jerome stomped off, exasperated.

"I can't read!" He exclaimed as he went down the stairs.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Something to Think On

Turn down my music player and watch this.

Abortion is the enemy of hope.


Speaking of...

I was reading something funny about oranges to Rich this morning, which reminded him that we had oranges in our trunk. He said he was going to go get them out. I said "Speaking of oranges"

Then Jerome says "Speaking of candy"

I say "Nobody was speaking of candy, Jerome."

He replies "I was!"

Well, then.

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Menu Plan Monday: January 19

Rich came home early from his trip as a surprise. We didn't think he'd be able to get on the earlier flight, but he raced to make it. Then, he called from the shuttle stop until he found someone who would bring him home to me. This meant he got home three hours earlier than I expected, and I didn't have to go pick him up either.

This week is the anniversary of Roe versus Wade, one of two decisions handed down on the same day that were both immoral and both bad law. We are praying for all those involved from the doctors to the women to the babies. Being legal does not make it lawful.
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, January 17, 2009

Pointless Time Waster

I could survive for 44 seconds chained to a bunk bed with a velociraptor

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Friday, January 16, 2009

Finished Object Friday: You Don't Want to Know

Not surprisingly, the whole everyone has been violently ill in my house thing has kept me from finishing my sleeveless top. Which is a problem since the hot and sunny days have arrived. Anyway. We're holding on here. Rich just left for his first seminary class and we're trying to get back to sleep, since we don't have anywhere we have to be for a little while.

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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Tales from the Kitchen Classic: Cooking with Our Crops

We were so glad to have a much larger harvest than we did from these potatoes. Of course, we actually planted a potato patch this year.

Originally posted September 23, 2005 to Tales from the Kitchen

Last night I made a large savory egg custard, 8 eggs, a cup of sour cream, two cups of cottage cheese, salt and pepper, 3/4 cup flour, a whole bunch of chives from the yard, some shredded cheddar folded in with the chopped chives at the end. Baked it for 30 minutes at 425 in a very greased 9" X 13" pan. I used our potatoes,

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which I parboiled in salted water, in a saute with thin green and yellow beans and baby carrots. I cooked them in some olive oil, and sprinkled with salt and pepper. Served the custard with the saute and some olive oil bread.

The potatoes grew in the recessed window next to our basement, when one of the boys (or all of the boys) threw some potatoes in there a while back. They harvested the little babies last Saturday.

Here is our little truck of potatoes:

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Food Cravings

Between the pregnancy and the fasting of this past year, I still have a lot of food cravings that have been left unfulfilled, plus some new ones. Now that I'm not emptying my stomach every hour, I'm interested in them again.

Lumpia? Still hasn't happened. Kung Pao chicken? Nope. Also, our grocery store had the best potstickers in their deli, which were just perfect if you pan fried the bottoms in a little sesame oil. They don't carry them anymore. It seems I was one of two people who bought them, and I only bought them twice. So, you know, now I want potstickers all the time.

We're going to get hot pastrami sandwiches this next week, so I can cross that off my list. The sauerkraut for those will go nicely with the grilled beer bratwurst and onions I've been wanting. Since I get the sauerkraut and bratwurst at the same place, that will be awfully convenient. I'm also wanting to make some more beer battered onion rings. I make the best batter for onion rings. Which reminds me to post something about that later.

I've been telling Rich about all my food cravings, and the other night as I was getting into bed, I told Rich that I really wanted the cioppino from a particular market. Which he had been right by on his way home, but I forgot to mention so he didn't get it, and it was too far and too late to go get it. I was waxing rhapsodic over the cioppino and their garlic croutons which go with them. So, Rich wraps his arms around me and says if they weren't closed I could just get dressed and run to the store, which I laughed about, then told him that they were open 24 hours a day. And looked pleadingly at him.

He said that I wasn't sick or pregnant, and so he wasn't budging from bed. Then he told me not to try to get pregnant just so Rich he* would go get me some, because he was on to me and my mischievous plans.

*He did not speak in the third person about himself, I somehow left his name in here from my notes to remind me that he said this.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Works for Me Wednesday: Story Time Chores

Mothers everywhere struggle with getting things done around the home and still having time for their children to play and do fun things. One way I deal with this is to read to the children while they do their chores. Children are able to comprehend at a higher level listening than they do reading, themselves, so I pick books that are more challenging than they can read on their own. This accomplishes many things: The drudgery of the chores is lessened as they hear the story, the time passes more quickly, they stay more focused on their task, some things like folding and emptying the dishwasher get done, the children learn a little of what it takes to run a household, they gain a sense of responsibility and, best of all, I don't have to do it. I get the fun job of reading.

Works for me!

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Frugality (Part VI): Use What You Have

Perhaps this is an obvious topic, but I will say it again. Use what you have. This requires knowing what you have. I'll admit to falling down on that lately. I used to have a list on each freezer with its contents on it, so I could see what was in it and I'd cross things off as I used them and add things as I added to it. I also had my pantry relatively organized so I could take a quick peek and know roughly what was available to me. While I'm admitting these things, I also had my herbs and spices organized alphabetically, as opposed to the haphazard way they are all in there now, and I need to get all these things back under control. And the towel closet, but that's another topic.

This kind of organization kept me from buying nine packages of sliced almonds from Trader Joe's (I just discovered these when organizing the baking part of the pantry over Christmas). It also allowed me to see that it was time to buy more ground beef, instead of finding out because we needed a set amount for a meal and were a little short.

The reality is that I have in this house enough food to last our family for a couple years. The meals might not be the most exciting or varied, but we would be able to eat and survive the coming economic disaster/terrorist attack/volcano eruption/earthquake/wind storm/ice storm until things were closer to normal. We also have tons of seeds for vegetables and live in a good area for gathering berries, fruit and greens, not to mention all the venison and seafood, so if the ship hits the sand, you can all head over here with your food, toilet paper, skills and tools.

Since we have all this food available to us and we want to use it before it goes bad, I figured this would be a good way to cut our grocery expenses as well. We already do pretty well, but I have challenged myself to cut our weekly grocery bills in half (which for us is about $75) and use what we already have. This means that I need to get on that organizing and inventory of the freezers, fridges and pantry (and the spice cabinet!). I spent $67.23 on groceries last week, including diapers, paper towels and iodine. I'm fairly certain that we can do better this week (though I did send Rich to the store to pick up two things, which means we may blow my goal in just that trip - he tells me he just cannot promise to stick to the grocery list, which is why I usually do the shopping with all the children or by myself at 10:00 at night). The weeks when I have to buy chicken feed and the first week of the month when I pay for our whole month's of milk will put me over my goal, so this is more of a guideline thing. However, I am hoping to reduce our grocery bill and rotate what we have in our freezers and pantry.

So, the plan is to take inventory of both freezers and our pantry and reorganize all of them so we know exactly what and how much of what we have over the next few weeks and see if I can keep our budget down by such a drastic amount for the next three months or so. I also plan on implementing a no consumer month or two this year. This actually won't be that hard for us, as we aren't the biggest of consumers, but I'd like to see how much of an impact our small consumerist purchases make on our budget.

So this week, I challenge you to use what you have. This, in conjunction with buying in season and on sale will help your budget, help your health and stretch your cooking abilities. You will also see if you have 85 pounds of frozen peas that you should use before you buy any more.

Previous Posts:
Make it at Home
Grocery Shopping
Waste Not, Want Not
The Celery Stalks at Midnight

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Invisible Penguins

Jerome, other than vying for the title (I never mentioned here how two weeks later, he fell off a chair at our Friday study, trying to get down from the table and landed on his face again, tearing his lower lip from the lower front to the inside with his jagged chipped teeth) in the family head injury competition this year, is now challenging our randomizer.

Aside from his vegetable humor, he has given us a couple other gems recently.

New Year's Day, at breakfast, I asked Rich if we still had any pineapple in the refrigerator. I spelled it or encoded the message somehow, because I didn't want the whining to start (can I say that I strongly dislike the twos, and it is made worse by the fact that our two year olds are cute, and know it, and people refuse to believe that they misbehave) if there wasn't any. Rich said that there was, brought it out to me, then said something else I don't even remember, to which I responded that I was SHOCKED!

Jerome said: "I want shocked!"

A few months ago, Jerome started to learn that things didn't go well for him when he defied us and said NO! Being a bright little boy, he decided to change his tactics. While we were at his sister's ballet class for an observation day, he was fidgeting and fooling with his reflection in the mirror. I told him, quietly, to sit down. He replied, "Maybe not." I stared him down and told him "Maybe so." He sat. Alright, so that one doesn't really count in the randomizer department, but it's funny.

Tonight, though, he really started to catch up to his sister in the randomizer department. There are still little bits of their gingerbread houses left. I've been trying to get them to eat them, so they are gone, because I can't throw them away, they would know. No mother on earth has had as much trouble as I have trying to get her children to eat cookies and candies. Anyway, Jerome told us he had penguins in his yard. Penguins. That none of us could see.

That's right, we now have invisible penguins in our house. You read it here first.

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One of My Kitchen Servants

Kristine asked about bread machine recipes that I use.

When we first started using a bread machine, we borrowed one from a friend to see just how useful it would actually be for us. We just used the basic recipe in the manual, then moved on to some of the more "complicated" ones in there. When we saw that it would come in handy, we got one from a thrift store, which didn't come with a manual and so we got some books from the library. Really, though, once you are used to the size of your machine, you get a feel for what to do with a normal bread recipe to make it work in the machine. A basic rule of thumb is that a one pound loaf of bread uses about two cups of flour, a two pound loaf uses four cups of flour, etc. This can vary with the type of flour, but it will help when you are trying to decide what to do with a recipe to scale it for the bread machine. One thing is that different machines tell you to put the liquids and dry ingredients in the machine in different orders. I have found that it works better almost universally to put the liquid in first, regardless of what the machine instructions say, but you may find that not to work for you.

I found Rustic European Breads from Your Bread Machine to be a great bread machine book. Their No Pain Ordinaire is the best bread for toast, cucumber sandwiches, etc. I know that there are people out there who think that yeast risen breads are bad for you and that strictly sourdough breads are the only way to go. Although those kinds of breads are good for you, I figure God puts wild yeast in the air and on the outside of grapes and walnuts, so we can have bread and wine. Even the so-called yeast-less sourdough works because of capturing wild yeasts from the surrounding environment. And you can use your bread machine to help you make sourdough.

Also, if you happen to inherit eleventy billion bottles of beer and nobody in your house drinks beer, aside from using it in soup, batter for onion rings and lamb stew, you can replace your liquid in your bread with it for a really great bread. It's kind of liquid bread anyway, so now it's just bread even more so.

Anyway, I thought I had posted a lot of bread recipes on the blog, but it turns out I haven't. Here is an English Muffin Bread recipe that we like and a Whole Wheat Roll recipe that I modified for the bread machine (and then modified a little more).

A few more things: Using bread flour, or at least a higher gluten content flour, really makes a difference in good bread (this is true with or without the bread machine), SAF yeast, if you can find it, is the best dry yeast out there, use warm, but not hot liquid and always err on the side of too cold so as not to kill the yeasts and waiting about an hour before you slice your bread makes it much easier to do.

Here are a few of my favorite recipes from Rustic European Breads as well as some that are my own creations.

No Pain Ordinaire from Rustic European Breads

1 1/2 pound loaf

1 1/8 cups water (1 cup + 2 tablespoons)
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
3 cups bread flour
2 teaspoons yeast

Place ingredients in bread machine pan and run on basic bread setting.

Pain de Mie modified from Rustic European Breads

1 1/2 pound loaf

1 1/4 cup + 3 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 cup semolina flour
3 1/4 cups bread flour
2 teaspoons yeast

Combine ingredients and run on basic bread setting.

Cinnamon Pecan Bread

1 1/2 pound loaf

1 1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter
3 1/2 cups bread flour
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 cup pecans
2 1/2 teaspoons yeast

Put everything in the bread machine. Usually instructions tell you to add nuts or dried fruits at the little beep that signals such things, with nuts, I just use halves added at the beginning and let the machine bang them up into chopped pieces. Run on your machine's whole wheat cycle for the best results with this, or the basic setting.

Sesame Semolina Bread

1 1/2 pound loaf

1 1/3 cups water
1/2 cup olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 cups bread flour
1 cup semolina flour
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons yeast

Run on basic bread setting with dark crust to really toast the sesame seeds or whole wheat setting if you have that.

Whole Wheat Walnut Bread

2 pound loaf

3/4 cup water
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup walnuts
1 1/2 teaspoons yeast

Run on whole wheat cycle or on your largest bread size basic setting with a dark crust.

I use leftover oatmeal in whole wheat bread or white bread, reducing the liquid quite a bit. It takes a little while to get a feel for how much liquid to use, so I advise that you start with 1/4 cup of liquid and stay by the machine adding more liquid or some flour (I try to add oat or whole wheat to up the whole grain) as it looks like it needs it. Don't do this for the first few times when you need to leave the house, because if it grows so big that it starts to spill over, you can remove that portion before it starts to char in the bottom of your machine. Ask me how I know. Once you get it down, though, it is a great way to keep from wasting food, will cut your food budget a little because of that and will help you add more whole grains to your diet. If you are interested in any specific kinds of bread recipes, please ask, because we make tons here. There are a few I really like, but that seem a bit complicated if you are just starting out, so I thought I'd ease you in with these. I have a sourdough rye that is amazing. I'm still looking for a good dark rye, if anyone out there has a tried and true recipe they want to share.

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What He Said Was

So, Rich asked me to remind him of something he needed to do before we went to bed last night.

I looked at him like he was nuts and asked "WHAAAAAAT?!"

I heard "I need to taste the joint for Charlie's checkers."

He said "I need to case the joint for Charlie Checker."

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Menu Plan Monday: Postponed

So, it's almost not Monday anymore. We got some sort of stomach bug or food poisoning this weekend, though, so mostly we've been subsisting on dry toast and water. Hasn't been that exciting. I'm breaking into the freezer for the extra batch of enchiladas I made last week for one of our meals.

I have my sixth frugality post almost ready to post, but have been too wiped out to sit at the computer much lately.
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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Friday, January 09, 2009

Finished Object Friday: First Object of the Year

See that hat? That is for Jerome. I should have posted it last week, because I finished it New Year's Day, but I was busy with Christmas and family stuff. I would have had two finished objects, but the ballerina top I finally sewed up was evidently designed for Song of Solomon 8:8 woman, because when I put it on I realized I could not actually leave my house dressed in it, and that was after I had raised the neckline by an inch. Rich seemed to like it a lot. So, I will be crocheting some sort of picot edging or something around the neck and the armholes to make them match, then it will be finished. I also realized how many objects I have which just need a little finishing work for them to be done. I told Rich if he wanted to give me anything, to give me time to work on my knitting, sewing and crocheting in peace and quiet.

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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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

12 Years Strong

We normally have a big New Year's Eve party to celebrate both the New Year and our anniversary. This is great for several reasons: I get to control the kind of food we have, we don't have to think about what we are doing for our anniversary or New Year's and we don't have to pay for babysitting, because we just put the children to bed.

Last year, we went to someone else's party after going out to dinner. They took our children and watched them at the party while we were out, and we joined everyone after our dinner. This year, between the bad weather and our exhaustion, we decided we'd have a quiet night to ourselves. I'd planned on making a nice dinner for us after we put the children to bed, Rich wanted to watch It Happened One Night or Persuasion, we had plenty of dessert, snacks and wine, and we'd ring in the New Year together. Quietly.

The Monday before our anniversary, though, Rich told me he'd like to go out. He asked me to try to get a baby sitter if I could (and I had a ringer, because we have some friends who would have come over to our house to stay with the children if our normal sitters couldn't do it). Well, one of our babysitters has gone and gotten a boyfriend, so she was busy, but the other one who is the eldest of six children himself, was free and in fact had a party to go to afterward that was closer to our house than his. So, he came over, the children tormented him with an RC tarantula (he's afraid of spiders), he got to shower once he put everyone to bed to get ready for his party and, evidently, left our house partly naked without us noticing, because after he'd gone, I found his hat, then his socks, then his shirt. The next day, Jerome found his cross.

So, Rich and I went out to a fun brick oven pizza place, shared a big salad and two of their pizzas (which meant we had leftovers, too!), I had a mandarin orange lemon drop, Rich had a Pepsi. What I really wanted, though, was a Bellini. They were out of the peach stuff. So, we stopped at the bar of the restaurant on the field, knowing they would make me a drink if I asked, even if they were closed. They also were out, and made me another drink. So, you know come August, I'll be making a whole pitcher of them.

We were home by 9:30, we let Jordan go to his party, I nursed Yasmina to sleep and we watched Persuasion. This was the first New Year's Eve since I was a child that I have gone to sleep before midnight. Rich held out until 11:30 and I did until 11:45. We have been really tired.

This was just the beginning, though. The lady who cleans our house, Cathy, also works at the restaurant, and she is always giving us too much of her pay in food and drink there. She told us that she wanted us to come by for appetizers and drinks on her as an anniversary gift. So, Saturday, Rich and I put the children to bed, left Alexander in charge and walked up to the restaurant. While I was dithering over what I should drink, Rich told them to give me a nice cabernet, because even my teetotaling husband knows that the first duty of wine is to be red. The chef had shrimp cocktail and coconut shrimp for us, we had salads, we sampled the crab, shrimp and scallop stuffed ravioli in a lovely tomato cream sauce and for dessert, we had creme brulee (which was bruleed perfectly) and a pistachio gelato. Then Alexander called us to tell us that Yasmina was awake, so I drank my coffee down and we headed back home.

We have had a good 12 years. Some harder than others. This year has been a rough year all around, with all that has gone on with our church, with the transition of the airport to its new owners, having a new baby and just being tired from that, but we are so glad we had each other to walk through it together. I cannot imagine another man who could have gone through some of the hard times we have. We have years of memories of things that might have broken other couples, and thank God, they have grown us. Rachelle wrote a Christmas post which sums up how important commitment is.

We've had many people ask us the secret to our marriage. They see us looking so in love, working together so seamlessly, and they want to know why. We tell them that it is our commitment to God and each other. I've had people tell me that this was too pragmatic, not romantic enough, but it is the truth. We have the romance and happiness we do because we have committed and do commit every day to the vows we made before God. Sometimes we don't feel it. The commitment gets us through that until we do again. If we relied on our feelings for our marriage to stay together, we wouldn't have made it through our first year.

The hard things we have gone through, the hard things we have made for ourselves, they are things that I would not want to lose (though there are things I wish we had handled differently), because they have grown us up and joined us together in a way I would never want to have missed. This isn't to say that there isn't romance, or that it is all drudge work, but that just like anything else that is worthwhile, there are times when it is more fun than others, but that we work at it a little bit each day, and the reward is great. Marriage is a lot of work, but it isn't a lot of work at once. If you take it minute by minute and do what needs to be done, it isn't that hard at all. This is why I have a hard time believing people who say that they just fell out of love. It takes a long time of not connecting, of not communicating, of saying no when you should say yes, of choosing not to put your energy into your spouse or marriage, of devoting your efforts to another cause, of focusing of the failures and faults instead of the successes and attributes of your spouse, of speaking ill of him or her to others or spending time with those who speak that way of their spouses. Dissatisfaction is the root of most failures in marriage, as far as I can tell, and it grows from all of those things. Being on guard against that is the best defense any marriage has, it keeps the other things that follow far off. Fidelity is one of the easiest parts of our marriage. Not because there isn't anyone else out there, but because it is such an ingrained habit not to seek that other person, this is something we do each moment of the day, not something we hoped would happen and then found out that once some of the shine has worn off that the other items on the market look brighter to us. We have learned to see the patina instead.

We are looking forward to another 63 years together. I love you Rich!

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Monday, January 05, 2009

Menu Plan Monday: Last Day of Christmas

Today is the 12th day of Christmas. Tomorrow is Epiphany, then the days before Lent. Lent is very late this year. I can't remember when Valentine's day has come before Ash Wednesday in the longest time, but this year Ash Wednesday is February 25th.

Last week our menus were switched around quite a bit, so I have some repeats this week that didn't get made last week. I hope to get back in the swing of things both at home and here on the blog. There is this giant backlog of topics I've been wanting to post about for some time, and I have actually done some knitting! The plan is to start the weekly frugality posts again and to be more consistent about Finished Object Friday. Of course, there are the pictures of the family, too.

This week we are back to our normal eating, with at least two meatless meals a week and soup once a week (I'm trying to sell soup to Rich by virtue of its being so inexpensive). We are still making some treats around here and have a few left over from Christmas that we need to eat up.
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, January 04, 2009

Christmas at Home

Today is the eleventh day of Christmas. Although our Christmas was quiet and relatively calm, which was a relief after the craziness of the snow and ice, it has been busy enough to keep me from writing this post.

Since Rich was so busy up to Christmas Eve with airport duties and we were relatively housebound, a lot of the things we normally do for Christmas didn't happen until later. For instance, even though Rich had picked out and marked our tree sometime in September, he wasn't able to cut it down and bring it home until 1:00 a.m. on Christmas day. We didn't put up my bell wreath until Christmas Eve, or get the cedar garland until then either. Rich clipped the holly for the mantle when he got the tree, and that along with the cedar and fir didn't go up until the wee hours of Christmas morning.

Waiting until the last minute has its perks, however, as the greenery we put around our Advent wreath, the cedar garland and five gingerbread chalet kits were given to us for free. Rich had to stop at Trader Joe's for me, and they told him to take a box and a wreath. He told them he had five children who would want to make the kits up, and asked if he could buy four more and they told him to take them, along with the cedar garland.

Usually, Rich puts up our tree about a week before Christmas, gets the lights on sometime during that week and I decorate it after Christmas Eve mass. Then, the children wake up to the decorated tree which is fun for them, we open presents before heading to church for Christmas day mass, drop off some gifts for the folks at the NICU and visit with them a little, then either come home for dinner or go to a party at someone else's house. This year didn't go that way.

With all that has gone on in our church over the past six months, we weren't able to have a Christmas day mass, which was very hard. We did have the Christmas Eve mass, at our house. We never made it to the NICU, so Elijah couldn't talk to the doctors and nurses there. We did get the tree up and decorated after Christmas Eve mass, which meant that the children woke up to the whole tree experience, and not just the decorations, which was kind of neat. Going to bed at 5:45 a.m. was not as neat.

We also discovered, at 2:00 a.m., that the children had used all of the scotch tape I bought. All eight rolls of it. Rich found some packing tape and I was doing creative paper folding, but we found one lone roll in with the Christmas decorations and used that.

We nearly missed being the absolute worst parents ever. Now, our children understand that Christmas is not about the presents and that the presents are just the bonus, but we had seriously neglected Elijah in the gift department this year. My list of gift ideas for him didn't pan out, and so while everyone else had a few presents of their own, plus the presents for all of them, a mix of fun and useful, he had a group present and socks. White socks. We realized this Christmas Eve day. So, I rattled off my list of things that I had wanted to get him, but hadn't found, and Rich found them for him. Whew! Disaster averted.

The children were absolutely sweet. We woke up around 8:30, they let us sleep in without pestering us to get up for presents, all of them were up, dressed, and sitting in front of the lit tree, they had even set up a chair for Jerome and kept him from messing with the tree and just waited for us. No presents were opened early, no whining, nothing. It was such a treat for us.

We are not extravagant with their presents. They each got about four or five things that were just for them and a few things that were for all of them from us, then there were the gifts from their godparents and grandparents and such. It was such a joy to watch them, throughout the month, making gifts, giving up toys that had been theirs to give as gifts to younger siblings, working on surprise performances for the family, all of that cozy, Christmas comfort. I hope they never outgrow it. Dominic especially went all out for everyone. He made gifts for all of his siblings - jewelry for Amira and for me. The first thing they did, though, was to look for the baby Jesus in the creche. They all told us how Elijah was the first to find Him.

As for the rest of the day, we had Fr. Michael over for dinner. Since his folks weren't able to make it, we had tons of food. Roast beef and turkey, and all the trimmings, plus chocolate cheesecake and candy cane ice cream. It was lovely. We watched It's a Wonderful Life, sang Christmas carols, prayed together. In the days afterward, we've put their gingerbread houses together, made and decorated cookies, watched more Christmas movies, lolled about and enjoyed our time as a family.

We are now preparing to finish off the final days of Christmas and move on to Epiphany. After that, we'll be back in the normal school schedule and all the doings about our home. I'll post some pictures soon and tell you a little about our anniversary as well. I hope you all had a lovely Christmas, that you were able to ponder the incarnation, the first coming of the Lord, and look forward to His return.

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