Thursday, December 31, 2009

Motto: our new mottos for 2010

This will be our motto for 2010 ... the kids will be using this motto for copywork and memory work.  They'll be learning this quote from Philippians that sums up both our reason for prayers and all about which we should be thinking and learning.  The "sign" in the graphic above is a Christmas decoration which we will keep hanging in our dining room all year ... to remind us of the joy and love of the Christmas season throughout the darkness of Lent and the Passion! 

This is my personal motto for 2010 ... from St. Therese's "little way" as described in Story of a Soul.  I know that if all I choose is what God wills, than all will be well and I will be at peace ... even in the midst of controversy and turmoil!

Blessings to you all and prayers for a holy, healthy and happy 2010 .... from all of us here at Hillside Farm!

Friday, December 25, 2009


It usually takes so long to get to the day of finally celebrating Christ's birth!  Maybe because of the snow earlier this week (that threw all our plans katywampus) or because Kotch is home and helping so much or just because I'm getting older: for whatever reason, Christmas came "early" this year!

And, boy did we have fun:
Up for Midnight Mass at our parish ....

treats left out for Santa in case he came while we were gone ...

gift opening when we got home (and found that Santa had left the family a Wii ... incl a charger base ... smart Santa ... and a Nancy Drew game
with gifts from college-aged sister who spoils her siblings:

and hand-knit gifts for each of my loved ones (the boys are wearing the vests I made them):
hats and scarves for the girls ...
and wool slipper-socks for the guys (dh also got a cozy hat to keep his hair-challenged head warm in our chilly 65-degree house).

We finally all were abed by 3:00 a.m.  Dh and LegoManiac were up for 9:00 Mass (LM served) and then we attempted taking a family Christmas picture:

The girls got tired of the boys' attitudes and decided to have a picture with Big Z in lieu of their two brothers ...

then we made Almond Kringle (recipe to follow)

and roasted chesnuts (just because we could ...):

and playing Wii and making Miis for all the family ... fun!

A very blessed and happy Christmas to one and all and prayers for a holy, healthy and happy 2010
from our house to yours ...

Here's the recipe for the Almond Kringle:
Almond Kringle (from the Solo Foods website)
(NOTE:  I halved the recipe to make just one cake; my changes for one are below but you can click the link to get the recipe for doing two)

1 tbls dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tbls granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
1/2 can Solo almond filling (or about 1 cup of almond paste; the filling is so easy to use, but some folks are purists -- I'm NOT!)

Optional:  powdered sugar icing = powdered sugar + water

Sprinkle yeast over warm water and stir to dissolve. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes or until foamy. Combine flour, granulated sugar, and salt in large bowl and stir until blended. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Beat eggs and milk until blended. Add to dry ingredients with yeast mixture and stir just until all particles are moistened. (Dough will be sticky) Cover bowl with plastic wrap and overwrap with aluminum foil. Refrigerate overnight. (dough will rise very slightly)  [this is one thing I really like about this recipe is that I can START it in the evening and cook it hot for breakfast/brunch]

Grease one baking sheets and set aside.

Remove dough from refrigerator. Sprinkle 1 piece of dough with flour and knead gently 10 to 12 strokes on lightly floured surface. Roll out to 18 x 12-inch rectangle. Spread almond filling in 3-inch strip lengthwise down center of dough. Fold 1 long side of dough over filling and fold other side over. Pinch edge and ends to seal.  Place, seam side down, on prepared baking sheet.Cover with towel and set aside in warm, draft-free place to rise until light, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from baking sheet and cool on wire rack.

Finish:  ice with powdered sugar mixed with just enough water to drizzle (once cooled) or dust with powdered sugar.   Serve warm.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Motto: our new motto for 2010

This is our motto for 2010 ... taken from the readings on the 3rd Sunday of Advent (Gaudete Sunday ... or Rose Sunday).... here's the full scripture quote that the kids will be learning and, God-willing, taking to heart this year of 2010:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you.

Each line of this particular scripture reading tells so much about our Catholic faith!  You'll be reading more about this as 2010 blossoms ....

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Recipe: Farmhouse White Bread

THIS is the BEST sandwich bread I've found ... the kids will eat it and since I made it, I know what's in it.  After the holidays, I'll take some time to really tweak this to up the fiber and health factors while trying to keep the beautiful texture and taste.  I'll keep you posted!

Here's the basic recipe:
Susan's Farmhouse White Sandwich Bread (with a bit of my tweaking ... never could follow directions!)

Makes 3 loaves, approximately 1-1/2 pounds each
unbleached all-purpose flour 4 cups
active instant yeast** 2 Tablespoons
granulated sugar 2 Tablespoons
canola oil 2 Tablespoons
warm milk 4 cups
whole wheat flour 1 cup
unbleached all-purpose flour about 5 cups more
salt 1½ Tablespoons

**To bake an even better loaf, you can reduce the amount of yeast to 1½ Tablespoons (or even 1 Tablespoon). This will make your dough rise more slowly, so you'll just need to increase the fermenting and proofing times. You can reduce the yeast in pretty much any bread recipe—a lot of bakers go by the formula 'half the yeast and double the rising time.'

In a very large bowl, stir together the all-purpose flour, yeast, and sugar (I use a wooden spoon). Make a small well in the middle of the flour mixture and pour in the canola oil and then the milk. Mix well, then continue to stir vigorously, slowly adding 1 cup of the whole wheat flour at a time, than the all-purpose until you've added about 5 cups, or until you have a soft, slightly sticky dough; this should take several minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for about 6 or 7 minutes, adding more flour as necessary to keep the dough from sticking to your hands or the work surface.

Place the mixing bowl over the dough, and let it rest for 20 minutes. This rest period is called the autolyse.

Remove the bowl, flatten out the dough with your hands, and sprinkle about half of the salt over it. Begin kneading the salt into the dough. After a few turns, sprinkle on the rest of the salt and continue to knead for 5 to 7 minutes, until the salt is completely incorporated and the dough is soft and smooth.

Sprinkle flour in the dough bowl, place the dough in it, liberally dust it with flour, and cover it with a damp tea towel (not terry cloth, as it will shed lint on your dough). Allow dough to double in size. When the dough is ready to be shaped, you should be able to push a floured finger deep into it and leave an indentation that doesn't spring back.

Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, flattening gently with your hands to break up any large air bubbles. Divide the dough into three equal pieces.

Shape the dough into loaves and dust the tops with flour. Place loaves seam side down in greased loaf pans. Cover the loaves with a damp tea towel and let them rise for 45 to 60 minutes. When you lightly poke the dough with a floured finger it should spring back just a little.

Bake at 375° for 35 minutes or until the loaves are golden brown and the bottoms sound hollow if tapped. Remove immediately from pans and let cool on a wire rack. Try to wait at least 40 minutes before cutting into a loaf. Store at room temperature or freeze in zipper freezer bags. Make sure loaves are completely cooled before sealing in bags.

I'd like to try 3tbls flaxseed in place of 1 tbls of the oil; also would like to see how increasing the amount of whole wheat and/or adding wheat germ/oat bran would affect the bread.  I have to walk a line between "bunny bread" for the kiddoes and "high fiber/sawdust bread" for dh.  I'm determined to find a recipe that will allow me to stop buying bread and start baking all our own ...

Please let me know if you, too, try this bread and your results.  The WHOLE family liked my initial attempt (of course, they were in the midst of cabin-fever, but hey ... you take what you get!)

Snow Storm of 2009

As you may have heard ... Virginia got walloped by snow this past weekend (starting on the 18th and still recovering from on the 23rd!). 

It started innocently enough on Friday evening.  BamBam and I had to drive to a Tiger Cub meeting ... and the snow was just flurrying.  It took us 20 minutes to get to the meeting and by the time we arrived, the snow was starting to stick ... but I could handle it.

An hour later (at 7:30pm) I called the meeting done as we only had a couple of boys/parents and it wasn't even a quorum of our nine Tigers.  So BamBam and I headed out and found that the snow had increased, but again ... I could handle it.

TWO HOURS later (after an hour at a full-stop, only 3 miles from home) we were just one block from home.  We'd said plenty of prayers but the night wasn't quite over yet.  As I started up the hill, my 4-cylinder-front-wheel-drive van just couldn't quite cut it ... we started to slide.  I couldn't handle it anymore (even with the power of prayer!). 

So I did what any self-respecting wife would do ... I called my husband and he and String Bean came 10 minutes later ... up over the rise with flashlights, shovels and snow-salt.  Since a man had just yelled at me for blocking the road (he wasn't happy ... but I really couldn't help being stuck ....) I started to cry and slowly got out of the van ... I love my husband but Friday night it REALLY hit me just how much!

A few minutes of digging, salting, rocking the van back-and-forth ... we were home.  Thank goodness dh spent many winters driving around Minnesota!  I was a basket-case by the time we got home ... and still don't really want to go to another den meeting ... at least anytime soon.

Saturday, dh and I got up at 6:00 to see what the snow looked like.  We were supposed to go up to DC to play and then pickup Kotch at the airport at 2 p.m.  NOT! 

Here's what we woke up to:

and it was snowing INSIDE our screened in porch.

At. 7:30, it was still snowing and here's what we were looking at:

By 1000, it was STILL snowing and now we had this:

The object to the left of the front bumper is a bird bath ... and the "bush" bent almost in half in the foreground is my magnolia ... we don't know if the magnolia will make it through to Spring 2010.

By this point, we'd talked to Kotch down in Florida a few times ... suggested she try going to the airport and see what they could tell her.  By 1130, her flight had been cancelled and we had this (oh, and yes, it was still snowing):

By 1430, it was STILL snowing but dh thought it best to try and start the dig-out process ...

It continued to snow till 2100 or so on Saturday, 12/19 ... such that we woke up to this at 0600 12/20:

... and poor Kotch -- she'd tried everything to get out of Florida: a flight to BWI (canceled as they were having the same weather) and an attempt to re-book to Boston and drive down from there.  Thank goodness she was with a few other college-friends who will some day write a book about the Blizzard of 2009!

By 0800 on Sunday morning, the kids and dh were out there shoveling while I kept the home-fires burning (literally), the tea hot and provender ready for the hard-workers:

Almost five hours later ... we were dug-out enough to get to Tridentine Mass at 1330. 

Kotch got a flight up to DCA (one exactly 24hours later than the original) and a good friend was picking her up and bringing her down ... (dear sweet Karen, to appease me who treats everyone like my own kids, opted to spend the night with us ... and most of Monday, too!).

The kids got ready for Kotch's homecoming ...

It's Tuesday and we're still digging out ... and helping our neighbors dig out but the snow was picture-perfect:

the kids have had THREE days of sledding adventures:

and I got lots done .... bread-baking (and Christmas treats and gifts)

and lots of knitting finished (Big Z got a matching vest since "Big Z's birthday is Christmas Day" while LegoManiac's Christmas vest is just about completed)

But ...

most importantly ...

we have Kotch home, safely

and dh got snow days and so Christmas Break started a few days early .... and he's loving every minute of it, too!

In the final analysis .... yes, the snow is a BIG hassle and worry and yet, we needed to slow down and live, love and learn together in the midst of the blizzard of 2009!  The memories and stories will keep us warm for many years ... God is so good!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Feast Day: St. Lucy ... our very own ...

Here are pictures of our very own St. Lucy ...

String Bean was NOT pleased that I wouldn't trust lit candles in her hair ... she had to opt for the candles on the St. Lucy's Braid (which is just as fool-proof ... and yummy as Karen said!)