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Monday, June 30, 2014

Menu Plan: June 29 - July 5

We are doing a lot of socializing this week, so many of our meals are with others. Our neighborhood has a summer picnic and barbecue each year, and this was the week for it. We ate so much there, that we just had a snack for dinner that night.

This past week was much busier than I had initially intended. I thought our church's vacation bible school was going to be in August like it had been last year. It was last week. So, we got up early each morning and headed out there, where our oldest two helped, and the younger kids were able to participate. So, our breakfasts pretty much were tossed out the window, in favor of whatever could be made and eaten quickly.

Alexander made us a really lovely dinner last week, as I ended up having to do some running around with Rich to get some errands done. Unfortunately, we have had two set backs this week. Rich's truck was leaking oil, and we knew it needed repair. We expected a $300 - 500 bill, but since we got such a good deal on it, and it was an excellent truck with the potential to run for quite some time, that didn't bother us. Except, the leaking oil was a symptom of a much bigger problem. We're still trying to decide how to handle it, but in the meantime, it's out of commission in our garage, while Rich takes one of the vans to and from work. Also, our washing machine, which had the bearings replaced not even six months before, had the bearings blow out again on Saturday night. We are not happy. 10 people in a house make a lot of laundry. So, please be praying for us and these set backs.

What is on your menu this week? If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can. If there are any starred recipes, I will follow up separately with a weekly recipe round up a week from Saturday.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Yarn Along: Testing

This post was supposed to be written and queued up for publishing last night. But the best laid plans and all that. We were wiped out yesterday and the internets were not being cooperative, so here I am finishing this up now. I have started a test knit for Katherine to help her develop a pattern she hopes to publish this fall. Since I needed to do the swatch in the round, I decided to make a hat out of it, and then I'd have a matching hat, too.

Thank you to those who have offered to help me test knit Cirrus, please bear with me, as I am slowly working out the darts for the fronts, which will be my most challenging calculations for this project. I have tried to contact all the people who have contacted me, so if you haven't heard from me, please e-mail me with Cirrus Test in the subject line using an e-mail address you check on a regular basis. I'm still looking for test knitters, so if anyone wants a free copy of the pattern in exchange for test knitting for me, contact me via comments, or through the sidebar link to e-mail me if you are interested. I think if all people who are interested are on Facebook, I can start a closed group there to discuss the pattern and corrections. My goal is to have this available in five sizes, XS, S, M, L, XL, approximately to fit a bust of 34", 36", 38", 40", and 42", and I'd like at least one tester for each size. I anticipate having the pattern available to test around late July or early August.

Progress is slowly being made on the Beatrix Potter Scarf, I am hoping to have it finished by the end of August. Yasmina's heart bowl is giving me some trouble. I've never had to try to felt something in a front loading washing machine before, and now I understand all the fuss about it. It is a pain! It was much simpler to felt things in our top loader. So, even though it took me something like a day to knit this, it's taking me forever to complete it.

Still working my way through Christ in His Saints. I just started reading, for real, The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things, and I am pleased so far. She doesn't seem to be embroidering too much on the facts, but makes connections and gives information about each object and its significance that is fascinating to me.

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Sunday, June 22, 2014

Menu Plan: June 22 - 28

I forgot to mention something else that is nice about our small town (and surrounding small towns). Aside from our free bowling, free library programs, and free movies, there are also free activities at local museums and free concerts. Some for festivals, some just part of the summer programs here. Rich and I are really excited about Los Lobos coming to our little town. And there is a town sponsored Independence Day dinner (hot dogs, chips, drink, ice cream) and fireworks show, with a concert before the fireworks start. It's pretty nice. As hard as it can be for us here, missing trees, mountains, salt water, rain, Trader Joe's, this really is a great place for kids and families. So, even though we don't have a lot of travel planned this summer, we have so much to do each day (and we are so thankful for experience Christmas and birthday presents, like the water park membership from the kids' godparents, instead of more STUFF).

In August, my 20th high school reunion is scheduled. I'm a little wary of going, since nobody liked me then, and I'm not sure they will like me any better now. As an aside, one of the most beautiful, nicest, most godly women I know here also has this same feeling about her high school experience. She talked about how everyone thought she was ugly, and didn't like her. I cannot believe it, as she is so strikingly lovely and nice and intelligent, which I guess goes to show that all the nonsense in high school is really meaningless. Anyway, I went to school with many of them from grade school on, some from preschool even, and so I feel a tie to them like a kinship. After determining that the reunion was scheduled for the last weekend of the fair (for which we have serious responsibilities, as Rich runs the ice cream booth for our neighborhood fundraiser, with me and some of our kids working shifts each day and night) and at first saying that we just couldn't go, Rich floated the idea of us being gone the last two nights at one of the board meetings to let people know that someone would have to step up for those nights and that seemed to go over alright. So, it looks like we're going. And I can be unpopular and sit at the uncool table again. Though, at our 10 year, I did get to sit with the cool kids, but I think that was because of Rich and not me.

Anyway, this week turns out to be a busier week than I thought it would be. We've missed church here every weekend but three over the past two months, between illness and travel. So, we missed all the announcements about Vacation Bible School. I was still thinking it was going to be in August like last year, but no, it is this week. Starting tomorrow. Plus we have a field trip scheduled on Wednesday with a local homeschooling group. Since every little activity is still wearing me out (though I'm doing a little better, I no longer feel like the undead, just exhausted), I'm planning on resting at home with Nejat while the kids are busy at VBS.

We're still eating lots of asparagus, and snap peas and radishes from the garden. We are finishing off our produce co-op for the season, as the farmers' market is starting to be more full of local products.

What is on your menu this week? If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can. If there are any starred recipes, I will follow up separately with a weekly recipe round up on Saturday.

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Saturday, June 21, 2014

Recipe Round Up: Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies & Papas con Chorizo

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies

These really are the best chocolate chip cookies ever. Unless you are allergic to tree nuts. Then don't eat these. Otherwise, they are the best. I'll try to get a photo taken soon. Mostly, the kids eat these before I can snag a picture.

3 1/2 cups pastry flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened (3 sticks)
2 1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla brandy or vanilla extract (I make my own vanilla brandy)
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
3 large eggs
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (we get either Trader Joe's store brand, President's Choice dark Belgian chocolate chips, or Ghiradelli's Double Dark)
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts or pecans (optional, but not really)

I don't really need to tell you how to make these. Almost everyone in America can put together drop cookies, but just in case:

Preheat oven to 375 F. Line several cookie sheets/jelly roll pans with parchment paper.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

In a larger bowl, cream butter with brown sugar, until light and frothy. Add in vanilla and almond extract, mix well. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in flour mixture. Fold in chocolate chips and nuts.

Scoop by tablespoonful onto parchment lined pans, about two inches apart (I really put them about an inch and a half apart and they're fine). Bake for 10 - 12 minutes. Let cool a couple minutes on the pan, then remove to cooling rack and cool completely. Store in airtight container. If you have any left. This makes about 6 dozen cookies, give or take a few.

Papas con Chorizo

Papas con Chorizo

I'm sure this is not how your Mexican or New Mexican grandmother made this. It is how we make it. And, strictly speaking, it is, potatoes with chorizo, so the name is still true. This is delicious and cheesy, and if you have issues with fat, or calories, look away now.

2 pounds chorizo
safflower or sunflower oil
10 medium potatoes, diced (peel them if they aren't pretty, leave the peel on if they are)
2 onions, in large dice
2 pounds mixed bell peppers, sliced (I've used bags of frozen peppers, too)
4 poblanos, diced
1 - 2 jalapeños, finely diced (depending on how hot you like food)
8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
salt, to taste (you will need very little, if any)
1/2 pound cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 pound pepper jack cheese, shredded
Serve With:
Sour Cream
Diced Tomatoes
Sliced Avocados
Finely Chopped Cilantro

Brown the chorizo over medium high heat in a large frying pan, chopping up with a wooden spoon or a spatula, into bite sized pieces. Remove to a plate and reserve for later.

Add some oil to the fat in the pan. Toss in the potatoes, and let cook until they start to brown on the edges, then add the onions, and let them wilt a little before you add the peppers and garlic. Cook all of this until the onions and potatoes are perfectly cooked.

Add chorizo back to the pan, taste for salt and adjust as you see fit. Reduce heat to low. Sprinkle the top with both cheeses and let cook a few minutes more to allow the cheese to melt.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream, salsa, diced tomatoes, sliced avocados, and chopped cilantro. Eat with fruit or a salad to cut the grease. Mostly so you don't feel bad, because you really won't want to eat anything else.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Yarn Along: Birthdays & Plagues

I've already posted my finished object photos, so this is just a progress post. And not much progress at that. The day after my last yarn along post, I came down with a sudden attack of the plague. My voice is still pretty weak and raspy, and the littlest effort is still wiping me out afterward. I did read a lot, though. I finished six books in that time.

There is a little progress on Cirrus, but even that is pretty slow going. I found an error near the beginning, so dropped the st down to it to correct it, then used a crochet hook to hook up all the rest of the sts. I'm still looking for test knitters, so if anyone wants a free copy of the pattern in exchange for test knitting for me, contact me via comments, or through the sidebar link to e-mail me if you are interested.

I actually took a couple more photos than this, of my current WIPs, but now cannot find them at all. In any case, I have made some progress on the Beatrix Potter Scarf (my long distance hug for my friend who lost her husband a month and a half ago). Doing the foundation chain and first row with lace weight yarn was a huge challenge for me, but most of the work is done in the chain spaces, so it's going much more quickly and easily now. I am nearly finished with a present for Yasmina's birthday as well. I have done the first part of felting it, but it needs some more felting and shaping before I can count it as completed.

Aside from finishing the books listed in my sidebar, I also won a book (the book in the photo up there): Fancy Nancy: Ooh La La! It's Beauty Day. Harper Collins had a Mother's Day contest on Facebook, and I won! The book is technically for me, but since Yasmina is a bigger fan of Fancy Nancy than I am, it will be added to her birthday presents. Speaking of birthdays, today is both Rich's and Dominic's birthday! They are exactly 30 years apart.

I'm close to finishing Christ in His Saints. Each page has something new to learn or think on, and I think we'll refer back to it often.

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Monday, June 16, 2014

Menu Plan: June 15 - 21

I am back after a week and a half battle with the plague. We still made our trip for the boys to be confirmed, and that was a joyous Pentecost for all of us. I'm still sick, from something that took hold suddenly and fiercely, but no longer feel like death. However, even the slightest thing is taxing, so I have to rest after going to church, or the store, or making cookies, or sitting at my desk to write up a post. Even the smallest thing has been a challenge lately. And I pushed too hard for our trip back "home" as well.

In any case, I was able to read quite a lot (see my sidebar), but my knitting and crocheting kind of went by the wayside, as it was too hard to concentrate even on the simplest projects, and for a while, it was too hard to hold the knitting needles. This is bad illness. Not quite strep or flu, but just about. Everything from my throat up took a turn at being infected, and the chills, aches, fever, cough, drainage and so on were incessant. My voice is still raspy, but it's back, at least, and I still am wracked with coughing later in the evening and early in the morning, but it doesn't feel like it will be the end of me anymore.

We have both Father's Day and Dominic and Rich's birthday this week. I still have several things I have been wanting to write about from our trip to San Antonio, so we'll see if I can recover enough to do that in the next few weeks. Summer break is on, and we have a lot of fun, free activities to do in our area, so we are taking advantage of them. Two local theaters have free kids' movies during the summer, our library has several programs with authors, illustrators, plays, and presentations, the local bowling alley has a free kids' bowling program in the summer, and the kids' godparents bought us a membership at the local water park/pool again for our family Christmas present, so we can go there as we wish. That isn't accounting for a few homeschooling field trips, picnics, and just hanging out with friends and having a good time.

We're starting to see a few things from the garden, snap peas, radishes, and so on. Our fruit trees have fruit on them, so we're praying they ripen well and the birds don't get them. We have netting around the cherries. I'm pushing it this week with two soups, but with my sore throat, I think I can get away with it.

What is on your menu this week? If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can. If there are any starred recipes, I will follow up separately with a weekly recipe round up on Saturday.

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Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Yarn Along: Three Finished Objects and One Finished Book!

I feel like I need to apologize for this post. I had written a much better one, saved it, saw that it was saved, opened it up again to finish writing, then saw Blogger make it disappear and revert to my original, scant outline. Since Google owns Blogger, we know that they still saved a copy, that their advertisers probably have access to it, and the government certainly does, but the person who actually owns the content and thoughts does not.

This is an exciting week for me. I finished three objects, and one book! It's also an exciting week for us as a family, because our oldest boys will be confirmed together on Pentecost. What a perfect time to receive the empowering of the Holy Spirit!

The April burp cloth is finished, and I'll get the free pattern published as soon as I hear whether or not the set has been accepted for the book.

Rich's tacky, business tie bookmark is ready before Father's Day. That's the book Rich has been reading lately.

I kind of wish the pattern had been easier to follow for a beginner. There were errors that I can't tell if they were st count errors, or the st count was correct and the directions were errors. The instructions on finishing were also pretty unclear to me.

Not only that, but Dominic's birthday present was ready more than two weeks early! This Wise Old Owl is a cover for Dominic's kindle.

I'm about a third of the way through my own little jacket. Once I've finished it, I will post a free pattern in my size, then do the calculations for other sizes for a full pattern to sell. When that is complete, I'll still need test knitters, so if anyone wants a free copy of the pattern in exchange for test knitting for me, contact me via comments, or through the sidebar link to e-mail me if you are interested.

I finished Knitting Yarns: Writers on Knitting and only skipped two essays. Although I enjoyed Kingsolver's The Bean Trees some years ago, I just could not trudge through her rambling prose in this essay. Likewise, the fellow who knit his dog a sweater was a little to self-aware, and I didn't feel like entertaining him. However, the majority, even those written by people very different than me, and with whom I'd have many disagreements, were wonderful. I especially liked the poem. The essay about the mother and daughter who tried to finish UFOs over a weekend was a delight.

I'm still reading Christ in His Saints, slowly. It is something I try to take in smaller bites and really try to understand. The sections are so short, it is easy to be deceived that the book should be a quick read.

Where I'll go from here with reading is not sure. I have a book on marriage, One Flesh: Salvation through Marriage in the Orthodox Church, a book on raising godly children, Following a Sacred Path, Raising Godly Children, and a nice P.D. James novel, Death Comes to Pemberley.

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Monday, June 02, 2014

Menu Plan: June 1 - 7

We are back from a whirlwind week of travel. I was going to post a menu plan last week, when we first returned, but it took me so long to catch up enough on things at home and with our schoolwork, that it became more of a summary post, rather than a planning post. I did plan the menus, and we actually stuck to them pretty well, but I couldn't do much posting here all week.

Rich had a conference in San Antonio, so Nejat and I came along with him to sight see and relax while he did work. We were able to visit with some friends of ours who moved there from our state (one family from when we lived on the west side and one family from here), as well, which was so nice. As an aside, that experience proved the maxim that it is who you know. We needed a babysitter for Nejat for one event while we were there, and we asked our friends if they could recommend one, as we didn't want random people with questionable characters or skills to be caring for our baby. Well, it seemed like we'd struck out, but one of these friends managed to find someone who was willing to drive her almost 16 year old daughter downtown, to a hotel, to people she didn't know, to watch our baby. I asked the mother if she'd like us to meet her first, to make sure we weren't weirdos, since I would want that as a mother, and she said that it wasn't necessary as we had come so highly recommended from a most reliable source. Well!

Our last day there, Rich was able to do some of the sights with us, then we had a busy evening of travel, arriving home at a little after 2:00 in the morning, to a five square mile power outage, to rest a little, before packing up our kids and leaving again, that afternoon, for his mother's, to attend a memorial for his aunt, and a wedding, the next day. We literally drove directly from the memorial to the wedding. I changed in the bathroom at the funeral home.

I'd been trying to avoid grocery shopping until this past Friday, because we had so much to do for school and at home after all the traveling - I am so thankful to our friends who stayed with the rest of our children and supervised their school work while we were gone. Anyway, we were heavy on fridge/freezer/pantry ingredients last week. We are well stocked, but were pretty low on fresh vegetables and fruit, so I had to get creative. We still were able to eat healthfully, and nobody seems to have contracted scurvy. We'll be getting another big box of asparagus this week ($0.50/lb!), though, plus our normal weekly grocery shopping, so this week ought to be more of our normal fare.

What is on your menu this week? If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can. If there are any starred recipes, I will follow up separately with a weekly recipe round up on Saturday.

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