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Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Craft On: Not Much to Spy on this Wednesday

I would like to say that I finished those convertible mittens and made good progress on my cloche design and the sweetheart mittens. However, I cannot say that. I have hardly knit at all since my last post. Between normal busy-ness and Paschal preparations, I have not had the bandwidth to do it. Last night I fell asleep on the couch before 9:00. So, maybe tonight, since I slept a bit more last night, I can get the mittens finished, at least. Or at least closer to finished.

One thing I did finish was Songs of Praise. However, one of our study and prayer group members couldn't make it last night and we did not want to finish the study without her, so that is waiting a couple weeks, too.

This week seems a bit unproductive on these counts, but it has been more than productive on the spiritual level and on the practical level, so I will be satisfied with that.

Linking to Unraveled Wednesday.

If you would like to receive updates and early notice of new patterns, beta knitting opportunities, and great discounts (plus pictures of new yarns, new tools, fun places, neat hints, book ideas, recipes and more) each month, please subscribe to 1,001 Knits. My best, and sometimes my only, discounts go to my subscribers.

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Sunday, March 28, 2021

Menu Plan: Holy Week

The Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem

We have made it to the hardest, most draining week of the year. It is our walking the Via Dolorosa with Christ. Meals this week are lighter and simpler, and follow the strictest fasting rules. Traditionally, a full fast begins on the evening of Maundy (Mandatum - from the new mandate/commandment Jesus gives, as He established the priesthood, the sacraments of the Eucharist and confession), and goes through the end of the Vigil on Saturday, as we await Jesus by the tomb.

For the first time in our family's history, most of the people will be keeping most, or all, of that fast. Usually, we have too many little people, I have been pregnant or nursing, or something else like that. This is going to be odd, because it is really hard for me to cook for only one or two people. For after the Maundy Thursday service, I can have some fruit and cut vegetables out for the littlest ones, though. Even Nejat, our little sweet one, has told us that she is fasting from one meal on Good Friday and Holy Saturday. Jerome's diet continues for 13 days after the Paschal feast, but he refuses to break the fast completely and take his diet as his discipline, and had to be talked into eating the dairy and egg. So, it is only Mariam and Nejat who will be eating on Friday or Saturday. Mariam has been abstaining from two meals on strict fast days, and I have encouraged her to have dinner, so she does not go to bed on an empty stomach. These kids continue to amaze me with how they fast within their strength and understand how important it is to the practice and growth of our faith.

Rich has given me a mandate to break the fast earlier than everyone else, so I can taste the food I am preparing. It is a hard thing for me to do this and feel like I am "cheating" and enjoying things my family cannot have, but in submission to my husband, and for the benefit of my family, I do it, and try not to show them my tasting things too obviously. It is a sacrifice for me to break with the fast at this point. In many ways, Jerome's diet was my sacrifice, too, because I had to do so much more planning and checking and cooking. I'm looking forward to that being over, because I will be walking it with him through April 13. We have been looking for ways that Jerome can still enjoy the foods we make for our feast, beacuse so many of them include grains and/or sugar! Even the bacon and eggs we break our fast with after the vigil includes sugar in the cure. So, please pray I can find some good sugar free bacon for not too much so he can share in it. The plan now is to freeze many of the things that he can't eat, either as is, or prior to cooking them, so when he is able to have them, I can thaw or cook them for him to enjoy. He may share in our Paschal lamb, the hummus and baba ghanooj, the hot sauces, the laban bi chiyar, the vegetables, olives and pickles, and if I leave out the rice from the meat mixture in a separate batch, he can have the waraq 'ounab (grape leaves). Our breakfast is mostly things he cannot eat, so I am going to make my own sugar free chorizo to wrap his scotchicanese eggs, and leave off the panko, so he can have that and the fruit in the morning. I also figured out a way to make him hot chocolate with his monkfruit sugar, so he can have that, too. He is being so good about this, and encourages us to eat the things he cannot, even when we all feel a bit awkward having them in front of him. The kids have really made me so pleased and proud this Lent.

May you have a blessed Holy Week! If you are Orthodox, I pray for a continued Holy Lent.

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. Linking to Menu Plan Monday

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Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Craft On: Socks and Other Madness

Socks and Madness

This is my third year trying to compete in Sock Madness. The first year, I made cheerleader, and that was great. Last year, between Elijah's seizure and all the restrictions, I just couldn't handle it, and didn't even finish the one sock to be a cheerleader. This year, I made cheerleader again, but it wasn't nearly as fun. Even in previous years, when there had been harder (for me) and newer to me methods, the designers had always been so kind and helpful, and this time, it seemed like everyone was so afraid of how difficult her patterns were, but in actuality, they were just fiddly. It is a beautiful sock. As soon as I saw smocking and beading, I knew it was going to be a challenge for me to finish in time, because both of those slow me down considerably. The pattern was written in an unnecessarily confusing manner, in my opinion, and there were one or two new techniques. I really liked the cast on, though it took me a bit to get the hang of it. It is both stretchy and firm, though, and that is useful in a sock. Besides that, it was just following the pattern, but there were random underlined parts, the transition rounds were not placed together, and the heel gusset (which is great, and I can see many ways to use it in other socks) was written in a way that caused all sorts of questions, when it could have been written in a little more clear way, which probably would have reduced the number of questions which seemed to annoy her. I normally don't like to say anything bad about other designers but, in this case, the few unclear parts and the one missed instruction right at the end were really not the issue. It was the sarcasm and rudeness that met people who had legitimate questions (even if they had been asked numerous times by other people, since there are thousands of posts in the chat - as of this moment, there are 11718 and climbing - and sometimes you miss a post or don't use the right search terms to find something). I observed this kind of rudeness with other participants, repeatedly, and eventually resigned myself to "silent" searching for clarification and trying not to ask anything. It made the experience lesser than previous years have been.

In previous years, even when I had obvious ignorance, or saw it in others, the responses have been kind. Sometimes a bit abrupt or direct, but never rude or sarcastic. It sucked the fun out of it for me this year. Never before this year did I see someone told that he or she was too lazy to read the pattern when asked about a clarification (I saw this directed at someone who was not being rude and was simply explaining how he had to figure it out to understand). So, while the design is gorgeous, I am still a bit annoyed with it. The heel gusset, as written, was too shallow for me, even though the fit is otherwise perfect on the leg and foot, and since one of the rules is to knit it to specifications, I couldn't fiddle with it to make it a little deeper, which I would do if I were to knit something like that again. Instead, they will go to Mariam. After I have a little break from this pattern, and can look at it without being annoyed about the qualifying experience. Once the second sock is knit, Mariam will have a perfect, flowery, beaded pair of socks that will thrill her. In the meantime, I had to really force myself to read in the cheerleading thread, and I don't know if I will ever participate again. I'm taking some deep breaths and enjoying the new patterns, especially since I can knit them to my preference and fit.

Have you noticed in the predominately female led fiber world that people think it is mean to expect professionalism from dyers/designers/yarn producers? I remember seeing it when I was part of a yarn club which had numerous delays and little to no communication regarding the delays (the news only came when people pressed them for it). When people asked what was going on, politely, they were told that the company was run by these women and they were "nice" and it was "mean" to ask these things, because they were working hard, and trying their best, and it would hurt their feelings. We had all paid a significant amount of money for the yarn club and this was not a favor being done between friends. They run a business. It is their job to communicate with their customers. I'm seeing this on the Fiber Social Media that shall not be named as well. Even though the owners are running a business, and they are paid and make money off of it, we are supposed to pretend we are all buddies and so no criticism is allowed. I have to admit, I am a bit fed up with it. Again, I am trying to take some deep breaths and let it roll off of me, but I'm also rolling my eyes.

Anyway, I am so close to finished with Alexander's convertible mittens. Actually, technically, they are finished, but I am not happy with how I attached the button loop. I didn't make a note of how I did it on the first one, because it seemed so simple, but I have redone this twice, and I am going to undo it and try again tomorrow. I have a simple, vanilla sock on needles, and have the second of three mittens in progress for Basbousa. Because I want to make it for MalMarch, I am casting on a cloche hat for a fall design tonight. There are a few days left in our Around the World Stitch-Along, and it has been so much fun. The projects made by our participants have been gorgeous and amaze me with their skill. What are you knitting?

The kids and I finished Jo's Boys, and I am almost finished with Desert Queen. My weekly study and prayer group has only one more week before we finish Songs of Praise, and we are trying to decide what study to do next. I have three or four here, and am hoping they will have some suggestions, as well. As I need a little light reading, I picked up another happy, little murder, Yarn to Go, which is fun and silly and what I need for a break. What are you reading?

Linking to Unraveled Wednesday.

If you would like to receive updates and early notice of new patterns, beta knitting opportunities, and great discounts (plus pictures of new yarns, new tools, fun places, neat hints, book ideas, recipes and more) each month, please subscribe to 1,001 Knits. My best, and sometimes my only, discounts go to my subscribers.

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Sunday, March 21, 2021

Menu Plan: Passion Sunday

So, another problem with the West's deviation from the Early Church's calendar and observance of Lent is that we now don't really observe Passion Sunday, which really is the final Sunday of Lent. Holy Week was always its own, separate, observance. We marked the Passion on the last Sunday of Lent, as a remembrance of what Christ did for our salvation, then we walk that final week of His life with Him during Holy week, from Palm Sunday, through His betrayal on Spy Wednesday, His Last Supper and the institution of the priesthood and the Eucharist, His arrest and trial, His crucifixion, and His rest in the tomb, as He harrowed Hell to free those captive to death. We live through the events of that week each year. However, in the west, we also throw the Passion in there, and after we commemorate His triumphal entry, but before we actually commemorate the events of His Passion, as though it were too much to ask people to live those days with Him and with the Church. It is jarring and confusing, especially when even our own calendars and prayer books show that vestige. Regardless, the prayer book marks this day as Passion Sunday still, and we are remembering it. Since this week includes a birthday and the feast of the Annunciation, as well, we have a lot of bright spots to cheer us during this time.

It has been 33 days since we have eaten any meat or meat products (broth, etc.), and have only rarely eaten dairy or fish (for the oldest six of us, anyway), and will be 47 days by our Paschal feast. This is the first year we have been able to even attempt the more accurate fast as the early Church did (we had always had kids who were too young before, and I was either pregnant or nursing for a lot of that time), and while it has been a challenge, again, it has made us appreciate the food we do eat. Just the other day, I ate some carrots as a snack, and was amazed at how delicious carrots are. When we do get to have a bit of cheese or piece of fish, we are so grateful for it. The kids are amazing and encourage us in our fast. They have had us make fasting friendly foods for even their small birthday parties, which was really neat to see. Amira's friends didn't seem to notice that the meal was Lenten, and Elijah almost always gets a break on his birthday, since it is the Feast of the Annunciation. We are truly fasting within our strength, and reaping the benefits of obeying God's will and the teaching He has given us through His Church. We are so much more in awe of our Eastern brethren, who are much more strict about this than we are. It is definitely a discipline that grows us, though, and we look forward to increasing our observance and the increase in faith and in holiness that is offered to us through 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. Linking to Menu Plan Monday

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Saturday, March 20, 2021

Recipe Round Up: Colcannon Fish Pie

This is a really simple dish to make, and is remarkably tasty. One thing you will need to resist is making the mashed potatoes loose and wet, you want them a bit drier than normal so they crisp up in the oven. This is the quantity I make for my family, but it can easily be made at a third or half of the quantity. Because of Jerome's special diet, we have discovered that you can directly substitute tapioca starch for the flour. If you make a salad or a fruit plate to go with it, you have a pretty good meal.

For the Colcannon:
6 pounds potatoes, peeled
4 leeks, sliced thinly
4 cups finely chopped kale or cabbage
8 tablespoons butter + 4 tablespoons more
1/2 cup half and half or milk
salt and pepper, to taste

For the fish filling:
6 tablepoons butter
3 leeks, sliced thinly
1 1/2 cups white wine, dry vermouth or dry sherry (or add more stock)
6 tablespoons flour or tapioca starch
2 cups fish stock
2 cups milk
salt and pepper, to taste
zest and juice of 2 lemons
1 heaped tablespoon dijon or grainy mustard
3/4 pound cod, halibut, or other white fish fillets
3/4 pound salmon or tuna fillets
1/2 pound smoked trout or smoked salmon

To assemble:
1 cup grated parmesan or other hard, aged cheese

For the Colcannon:

Boil the potatoes in a pot of salted water for 20 minutes or until really soft. Drain and immediately add 8 tablespoons butter. Mash (or mix thoroughly in a food processor). Stir in half and half. Season to taste with salt and pepper

Sauté the leeks in the additional butter until softened and starting to brown. Add kale or cabbage to the butter and cook for another 5 minutes, until softened. I like to season the leeks an kale with a little salt and pepper, too. Fold together the potato, kale and leek. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400˚F.

For the Filling:

In a pot, sweat the leeks in the butter for 10 minutes until soft. Add the wine (or equal amount of stock) and reduce by two thirds. Add the flour, stir to incorporate and then drizzle in the milk and stock. Stir often and cook on a low simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the lemon zest, juice and mustard and stir to combine.

Trim the fish of any skin and bones and cut into large chunks. In a large casserole dish, about 11" X 15", place the fish around the bottom. Top with the sauce.

Spoon the Colcannon on top in several dollops, then spread them out a little to connect them together so they cover the pie. Use a fork to then fluff up edges and make lines everywhere. Try to keep the mash as high as possible. Sprinkle the parmesan over the top.

Cook in the oven for 45 minutes. Make sure to allow at least 20 minutes to cool before serving. We usually serve ours with steam sautéed green peas with garlic and tarragon, and fruit.

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Sunday, March 14, 2021

Menu Plan: Laetare Sunday

Laetare is milk-joy Sunday. It is the Mother's Day of the Church, remembering the Church as our Mother and the Blessed Mother herself. This week has a couple fish days in it for us, and is a little bright spot in the work and discipline of Lent. One of Rich's favorite saints, and one of our family patrons, is celebrated this week. The feast of Saint Joseph is Friday, and we are excited. Next week, we will have the feast of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary (and Elijah's birthday), and with the Paschal feast, we will have the whole Holy Family, which is of special devotion in our home. This week marks the fourth Sunday, fifth week, of Lent in the West, but the beginning of Lent for the East. It is years like this, when the distance is so far between us that I think I grieve the most over the disunity in the Church. Christ is not divided, though, and neither is the Church triumphant. Since both East and West are a little off on their calculation of the date of the Paschal feast, I think that we should all join together, get that settled and let the bunny and egg people just celebrate that on the old western date, and then the Church can celebrate on the more accurately calculated date and get marked down chocolate. Who is with me?

Jerome is really being a trooper about his diet. Nejat got to join him in a limited diet this week, as she had to have a soft foods diet all week from trying to bash out one of her teeth by performing acrobatics off the toilet. (Big sigh). At lunch, they sit together in the limited diet section of our dining table (which I didn't realize we had). I have to admit that not being able to use bread, pasta, corn, or rice as we normally do (or oats or rye or spelt or barley or any other grains) has been a pretty big challenge for me, especially during Lent. We have worked around it, and I am trying to make meals that we all can eat for our shared meals, at least, with few modifications for Jerome (and now Nejat), rather than multiple meals. In the end, that is still easier than making two or three meals, but the mind space it takes is a little tiring. Especially since he also cannot have any added sugars, including honey, molasses, or maple syrup (or most of them, really), no dried fruit, no pineapple, banana, grape, mango, kiwi, no juice, no balsamic, rice wine, or apple cider vinegar, and only three servings of root vegetables or sweet winter squash each week. You might notice that each week, I only include three meals that include carrots or potatoes or squash. Even that is something I have to check and count. My Lenten discipline, much like his, was not exactly chosen by me. That is alright, as we don't focus as much on what we are individually giving up, but rather what the Church in Her wisdom offers us as discipline for our growth, which we do corporately with Her. However, sometimes God adds a little more, and this is one of those years. Jerome has been teaching me about cheerfully accepting it. He has been so grateful, and so good about whatever his limits are. When the answer has been no (like could he use date sugar, since it is just ground up dates), he has simply accepted it and gone on with what he needs to do. That is pretty good for a 14 year old.

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. Linking to Menu Plan Monday

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Sunday, March 07, 2021

Menu Plan: Third Sunday in Lent

Saints Perpetua and Felicity are two of my favorite saints. They were a married noblewoman and her servant who were brought to be executed for their faith. Felicity was pregnant and delivered while in prison. The image of her bleeding, recently delivered body being set against wild beasts in the arena was too much even for the Romans, who were so used to this kind of violence as entertainment, and seeing them martyred in this way was the beginning of the end for this kind of execution in Rome.

This week is the opening of birthday season in our home. Amira is trying to plan a covid friendly birthday party outdoors. Thank God the weather has been warming up so it is even possible. She has had snow on her birthday here in previous years. She has been hard at work cleaning and putting together the gazebo we got for me several years ago that the wind blew over like a sail and damaged a bit. On her actual birthday, we are making a Lenten cake so the family can share in it, but we always let birthday kids break the fast if they wish on their birthdays. We will see what she chooses now that she is older. I don't think she chose to last year or even the year before. She might go for some dairy this year, though, I might if I had that option right now.

Anyway, we had a rough week last week, and I am hoping this week is much calmer with little excitement besides the birthday. Nejat was so excited to pick out a special present for Amira, and she made her a present and a card, as well. I love how our children love each other. Please pray for peace around us.

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. Linking to Menu Plan Monday

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Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Craft On: Stitching Along

Craft on March 3

Alexander's convertible mittens are nearly finished! I am still looking for a way to make yarn covered buttons so he doesn't scratch any aircraft if he is wearing them while working. Basbousa is moving right along, but my insomnia is still slowing me down. Being tired is really a pain! The good news is that I have been getting almost six hours of sleep each night. The bad news is that with Rich's sinus/breathing trouble, I am having my sleep a little disrupted, even when I don't wake up fully. Still, I am grateful for more than two or three hours of sleep.

As for my SAL project, I told you I was slow at crochet, but it is coming along, too, and I really like it. I just noticed that all the projects I mention here are for hands - either mittens or fingerless mitts or convertible mittens. Evidently, I have a theme right now. Do some of you more seasoned crocheters have a suggestion as to how to regulate my tension? I have it loose enough that I can manipulate the stitches alright, but it feels like the stitches themselves might be loose or tight and it doesn't seem to have a rhyme or reason. Is there something I should be doing?

If you want to join in on the stitching and fun on either our Ravelry Group or Instagram feed, the Around the World Stitch-Along will go through March 28, 2021. (And we have prizes!!!)

We didn't finish Jo's Boys, mostly because this has been a really busy week that had a few unplanned trips. I have picked up Desert Queen exactly once. I need a 36 hour day with 12 hours of sleep each night. (You can see that Building the Way to Heaven: The Tower of Babel and Pentecost arrived. It is a great book, and wonderful for children, but I really think that Into the Sea, Out of the Tomb: Jonah and Jesus was executed better, and suited to both adults and children in that way that all good children's books are.)

Linking to Unraveled Wednesday.

If you would like to receive updates and early notice of new patterns, beta knitting opportunities, and great discounts (plus pictures of new yarns, new tools, fun places, neat hints, book ideas, recipes and more) each month, please subscribe to 1,001 Knits. My best, and sometimes my only, discounts go to my subscribers.

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