Saturday, October 31, 2009

Feast: Halloween 2009

We had SUCH fun today.  The kids are getting old enough to really get "into" Halloween and participate in all their ideas for making the day special.

We made cats yesterday ...
ghosts and scarecrows today ...

designed pumpkins for Dad to carve

dressed-up as Jeff Gordon, Flower Fairy, Jarhead Jerry

and headed out to trick-or-treat

Hope y'all had a wonderful All Hallows Eve ... tonight we get an extra hour of sleep (wooooohoooo) and tomorrow we start the month of the Saints and Holy Souls!

God bless you all ...

Friday, October 30, 2009

Recipe: Fall Colors High Fiber Pizza

Fridays are pretty good around here ... meatless meals (which means some pretty creative menu-planning), dad is home for the weekend, and we are all feeling better than we did this morning (which is saying ALOT!). 

I had PLANNED on making sourdough pizza but forgot to start the dough early -- needs a few hours to rise.  So, a quick gander at my various recipes, and I found a pretty good recipe (I think, originally from Family Fun) called "Pizza Bites" that I've used successfully in the past.  This time I "tweaked" it a bit more than usual and it was amazingly good.

Here's my recipe for Fall Colors High Fiber Pizza:
Soften yeast in the water for about 5 minutes.  In a large bowl combine 1 cup of the unbleached flour, the wheat flour, hot cereal, Italian seasoning, salt, yeast and water;  stir in the olive oil, sugar and garlic.  Stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough.  
Knead dough on a lightly floured surface for about 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic.  Place in greased bowl, turning to grease top; cover with plastic wrap and place in warm draft-free spot for about 30-45 minutes. 

Preheat oven to 425.

Punch down and flatten onto large pizza pan (ours has holes in it and is 16").

  • campari tomatoes -- about 6, sliced thinly
  • 1 orange sweet pepper -- sliced into small chunks
  • olive oil
  • 2 cups Italian shredded cheese (a mix of parmesan, mozzarella, asiago)
Sprinkle olive oil on top of unbaked crust -- spread to cover evenly. 
Sprinkle with about 1 cup of cheese
Sprinkle tomato and sweet pepper pieces evenly over top
Sprinkle with remaining cheese

Place in preheated oven and baked for 10-15 minutes; I should have removed mine at about 10 minutes but I was making a pot of tea and forgot!  You want to remove when crust is crisp and cheese is just starting to darken.

Serve with a green salad and you've got a great meat-less, high-fiber and YUMMY dinner!

And it must have been good as it gave the kids the energy to go to our very own bowling alley (Lego-style)!

Hope you and yours are snuggled up, like mine, enjoying a wondrous family movie after a satisfying dinner (and of course, ice cream for dessert).  Mine are watching the 3rd of the Tolkein Trilogy -- Return of the King.  A beautiful Friday night!

Crafts -- easy, seasonal craft for spooky nights

This is a GREAT craft that the kids remember fondly -- the last time we did it was Oct 27, 2007 (in Denver) and it's just as fun 2 years later .... it's an especially good for a don't-feel-quite-well-but-are-getting-bored kinda day .....

Take 9x12 construction paper -- the thicker the better.  Fold in half (so it's 9x6) and with a white colored pencil (crayons don't seem to give the depth of color you want), draw a tail, body, head and ears ....

Cut it out .... keeping outside the white lines ...

Glue the tail piece (save the back for a brace ... explained below), head and ears in place:

and then put in the details using colored pencils as they really do color better:

When you go to stand-up the cats, if your construction paper is a bit wimpy (ours was!), you can use that extra tail piece as a brace on the legs:

Enjoy your Halloween night .....

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Review: Go to Joseph!

After our "year of Job and Lamentations" (when we spent a full year trying to sell the house in Denver while living in Virginia and trying to buy a house here), I have found a new love and devotion to St. Joseph!  This is the go-to guy for all things impossible and necessary; he is the saint that is second only to Mary in the panoply of Catholic saints; this guy is good!

Well, when I saw a new book on the review shelf for the Catholic Company called Go to Joseph, I knew I had to read it.  And, boy am I glad I did!

Written by a Joseph-devotee and scholar, Fr. Richard Gilsdorf (1930-2005), this book is a very readable but scholarly book on all the things that make Joseph the "go-to saint".  Fr. Gilsdorf quotes scripture -- what little there is that mentions the head of the Holy Family; he synthesizes papal documents like encyclicals and apostolic letters; he summarizes other theologians' writings about St. Joseph. 

And, even with all this heavy scholarly writing, Fr. Gilsdorf imbues his writing with a sense of the love the author feels for the subject; a love that is a reflection of what St. Joseph must have felt for Mary and Jesus. 

Fr. Gilsdorf explains that in Joseph's life with the Holy Family, we can see his work and intercessory powers for us now (pg 69):
  1. he provides for us by answering the prayers of the faithful with powerful intercession
  2. he governs us for Christ has made him "Lord of His house and ruler of His possessions"
  3. he cherishes us as he loved Mary and Jesus
  4. he protects us under his title of "Protector and Defender of Holy Mother Church"
I particularly like how Fr. Gilsdorf explains the importance of the lack of detailed information about Joseph in the Bible and other early Church writings: 
We must understand there is a reason the Holy Spirit in His infinite wisdom has told us only so much and no more.  One obvious reason is that by limiting the information, all persons of all paces and times can apply the basic facts to their own individual lives .... Thus, families of all ages can more readily imitate the essentional virtues of the Holy Family.  Married couples can emulate the holy bond of Mary and Joseph ... Joseph, the just man, can be an example for all the faithful, but he serves in a special way as model for young men to answer God's challenge in all walks of life.  He can be the stron patron and intercessor of workers and family providers.  He can be a special patron of preiests married to the Church ..." (pg 101)
The appendices are well-worth perusing and using -- bibliography of other scholarly works and Church writings about St. Joseph, prayers written to St. Joseph (including the Litany to St. Joseph and one written by Blessed John XXIII) , and the homily delivered by Pope Benedict XVI for the Feast of St. Joseph, March 19, 2009.

Don't let this small (only four-by-six, 134 pages) volume fool you ... this is one of those books that I'll be constantly delving into when I need a boost, when I need to remember just how much St. Joseph has done for the Holy Family, Holy Mother Church, and me and mine.  This is a book to leave on the bedside table, in my purse, or on my desk for reference.  Yes, it's that good!

So "Go to Joseph" with whatever you need ... and he will intercede to God for you and yours!  And read the book if you want to know more about this quiet head of the Holy Family.

* - * - *

This review was written as part of the Catholic book Reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Go To Joseph.

Gilsdorf, Fr. Richard W. (edited by Patrick F. Beno) -- Go to Joseph.  Star of the Bay Press (Green Bay, WI).  2009.  ISBN:978-0692-003-008.  paperback (134 pages). 

Recipe: sourdough raisin-pecan drop biscuits

As requested from an earlier post, here's the recipe for Sourdough Raisin-Pecan Drop Biscuits (I LOVE drop biscuits because you don't have to roll them, they can be as big or small as you'd like, and they are so gooooooood!)  This is an edited (by me) recipe from The Sourdough Cookbook (a book well worth hunting down as the recipes are, so far, all really good)

Overnite Sourdough Starter (the original called for all all-purpose, but I make it with half whole wheat):
  • 2 cups warm water (105F)
  • 1 tbls active dry yeast
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
In a 4- or 6-cup plastic pitcher with a strainer in the lid, combine all ingredients, stirring with a plastic spoon.  Fermentation will take care of any lumps.  Cover pitcher with lid (leaving strainer open) and place in a warm spot for at least 6 hours or overnight.  Starter will ferment, increase in size, than become thin and back to original amount.  Refrigerate till use.
To replenish starter (every 7-10 days or each time used):  add equal parts flour and water and stir, set out overnight, then return to fridge.

Sourdough Raisin-Pecan Drop Biscuits (makes 12-15 hand-sized biscuits):
  • 1-1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tbls brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup oats (I added)
  • 1/4 cup Bob's Red Mill Whole Grain Hot Cereal (I added)
  • 1/3 cup butter, chilled
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup sourdough starter
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped coarsely
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins (I added)
  • cinnamon-sugar mixture for tops
Grease baking sheet, scatter cornmeal over pan; preheat oven to 425.
Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar.  Cut-in butter till mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Beat egg slightly and add to starter; pour over dry ingredients and stir till well-mixed.  Add pecans and raisins.
Drop by heaping tablespoon onto greased sheet.  Sprinkle tops with cinnamon-sugar mixture.  Bake for 10-12 minutes until nicely golden brown.  Remove and serve immediately (although they're awfully nice throughout the day as a snack ... if any are left!). 

We've also made these for dinner, omitting the raisins and the cinnamon-sugar tops.  Excellent!

Please let me know if you make these and what you thought!

Domesticity: it's just getting cozier and cozier around here ...

Maybe it's the weather (rainy and low 50s) or maybe it's my new attempt at being more domestic, but I got up this morning and made:

Sourdough Raisin-Pecan Drop Biscuits!

I had these ready by 7:00 a.m., along with a nice cozy hot pot of blueberry tea, to tempt the kids up.  It's 7:43 and I've only got String Bean up.  Hmmm .... maybe I should blow the aromas into the boys' room?

Have a fabulous day!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Domesticity: we get cozy around here

The ambient temperature around here has been chilly in the mornings and evenings (we're talking damp and in the mid-30s/40s).  My kids don't like to get up on even the prettiest days, so when it's cold, they really don't want to get up.  Since my kids a little older now, we've decided to do something a bit different ... hot tea with breakfast!

I ordered this wonderful 8-cup BrownBetty teapot (from England, not made in China) and then proceeded to make a cozy and trivet to keep the tea warm while the kids drink it during the morning school hours.  This also looks so nice on the dinner table in the evenings for those who like a warming cup with dinner.

The trivet is an 8x8 piece of particle-board that I sanded smooth to avoid snagging the knitted "purse".  I also cut legs off an old pair of nylons and slipped the panty-part over the wood to make doubly-sure the wood wouldn't snag the knitting. 

With the teapot's cozy and trivet, I can make a pot at 7a.m., when I go to roust them out of bed, and the pot is still warm by 10 a.m., when they're finishing the last drop. 

The cozy is made with Lion Brand Wool (the red is doubled, while the winter-white is held singly and stranded across the back, giving a third layer of yarn in the garter stripes).  The trivet, is the same red yarn, but held singly, and comes off the 8x8 board for cleaning purposes (note the button to close the trivet cover -- you don't need it, but I thought it was cute.  The cozy and trivet both have a knitted on loop for hanging to dry when I hand-wash the items.

Cool, huh?

If you'd like a free copy of the cozy/trivet knitting pattern, please leave a comment with your email-addy and I'll email you a pdf of the pattern.  It's fun to knit and fits the Brown Betty beautifully!

LSU -- we love you!

... especially BamBam.

He spent precious play time one day a few weeks ago writing a note to LSU Head coach Les Miles.  He wanted to wish them well in the game against Florida (which they lost, but played well) and let them know they had big fans up in Virginia. 

Saturday, we had one happy boy around here:

Thanks, Coach Miles, for understanding just how much a note would mean to my little 6yo!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Feastday: Priesthood Sunday -- October 25, 2009

Be sure and pray especially hard for your priests tomorrow -- Sunday, 10/25/09 -- as it's Priesthood Sunday ... a day when we especially remember our priests, their vocations, and their sacrifices for their flock!

Isn't this icon beautiful?  This icon is "based on a 15th century Greek prototype; here Christ is shown in Latin Rite vestments with a godl pelican over His heart, the ancient symbol of self-sacrifice.  The borders contain a winding grapevine and altar prepared for the celebration of the liturgy of the Mass; in the borders are smaller icons of Melchizedek and St. John Vianney."    The artist, Michael Czarnecki explains:
I wrote the icon about seven years ago [for seminarians and priests] to be able to see Christ in themselves, and themselves in Christ.  We often hear that the icon is called a window; in this case, it's also meant to be a mirror.

Here's a great prayer for priests (from St. Therese of Lisieux):
O Jesus, eternal Priest,
keep your priests within the shelter of Your Sacred Heart,
where none may touch them.

Keep unstained their anointed hands,
which daily touch Your Sacred Body.

Keep unsullied their lips,
daily purpled with your Precious Blood.

Keep pure and unearthly their hearts,
sealed with the sublime mark of the priesthood.

Let Your holy love surround them and shield them from the world's contagion.

Bless their labors with abundant fruit and may the souls to whom they minister
be their joy and consolation here and in heaven
their beautiful and everlasting crown.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

My Thinking Spot ... revisited ...

I received a wonderful note from a dear friend (who is now a KNITTER!) about my post yesterday.  Great minds truly do think alike as she has been mulling over much of what I was saying (and left unsaid) in my post.  She forwarded the following from Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman, written before the age of technology but at a time when the world was being rocked by the industrial revolution:

A Short Road to Perfection -- September 27, 1856
It is the saying of holy men that, if we wish to be perfect, we have nothing more to do than to perform the ordinary duties of the day well.

A short road to perfection--short, not because easy, but because pertinent and intelligible. There are no short ways to perfection, but there are sure ones.

I think this is an instruction which may be of great practical use to persons like ourselves. It is easy to have vague ideas what perfection is, which serve well enough to talk about, when we do not intend to aim at it; but as soon as a person really desires and sets about seeking it himself, he is dissatisfied with anything but what is tangible and clear, and constitutes some sort of direction towards the practice of it.

We must bear in mind what is meant by perfection. It does not mean any extraordinary service, anything out of the way, or especially heroic--not all have the opportunity of heroic acts, of sufferings--but it means what the word perfection ordinarily means. By perfect we mean that which has no flaw in it, that which is complete, that which is consistent, that which is sound--we mean the opposite to imperfect. As we know well what imperfection in religious service means, we know by the contrast what is meant by perfection.

He, then, is perfect who does the work of the day perfectly, and we need not go beyond this to seek for perfection. You need not go out of the round of the day.

I insist on this because I think it will simplify our views, and fix our exertions on a definite aim. If you ask me what you are to do in order to be perfect, I say, first--Do not lie in bed beyond the due time of rising; give your first thoughts to God; make a good visit to the Blessed Sacrament; say the Angelus devoutly; eat and drink to God's glory; say the Rosary well; be recollected; keep out bad thoughts; make your evening meditation well; examine yourself daily; go to bed in good time, and you are already perfect.
Interesting that the good Cardinal's words can still mean so much.  Maybe that's why he's currently a venerable and soon to be beatified?

Thanks, Gwen, for the reminder that it is not just what I do but how and why I do it!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

My Thinking Spot ...

St. Peter Canisius (1521-1597)

Today's "Reflections from the Saints" on (which is the BEST homepage I've used yet!), is a quote from Jesuit St. Peter Canisius ...
If you have too much to do, with God's help you will find time to do it all.

Now this is all well and good as long as what I'm doing is the GOOD!  I tend to "have too much to do" because I get caught up in the minutiae of daily living rather than focusing on the big picture of getting me and mine to Heaven! 

I've been thinking about this alot lately.  Maybe it's because I recently had a birthday ... not a momentous, earth-shattering day (like turning 50 or something), but still a time to look back, reflect and fix what ain't workin'. I've realized just how much of my time is spent in the minutiae ... in the self-serving ... in the muck and mire! 

For instance:  I just recently reactivated my Facebook account as I realize that it is a great way to connect with those far and wide ... friends in Austria ... or Rome ... or Australia ... or even here in the States.  A chance to see and read what we're all doing.  This is all good stuff ...

BUT ...

I spent over an hour this morning just trying to work my way around and trying to add things to my Facebook "profile".  I searched out friends ... and acquaintances ... and fun games to play ... but this is not what I SHOULD have been doing. 

Facebook can be a major time-waster; so too, many of my other online activities.  They are good things, but can lead to overindulgence ... self serving  ... one-upmanish in which I really shouldn't be participating. 

The solution? 

Who knows? 

Cutting back on my online time ... obviously.  Being aware of the "danger signals" and keeping all in perspective ... duh!  Letting the internet and online activities set the schedule for my day ... NO!

So, what have I learned over the last month or so of meditating on all this?

If I have too much to do ... activities that are the good, the true and the beautiful ... with God's help, I will find the time to do it all.  All the other stuff ... too bad! God shows us the way ... it's just that sometimes He has to hit me upside the head to get my attention.

Can I be self-disciplined enough to make a change.  Can I separate the online wheat from the proverbial chaff?  Am I making sense or am I being too Quixotic?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Feast Day: St. Paul of the Cross

Shame on the media!

I have been saying this for over a year ... and the media has no one to blame but themselves for NOT DOING the job journalists are supposed to do!  I guess FOX News are the only journalists willing to admit their chagrin.  I have a BA in Journalism and it saddens me to see how far we've come from the "watchdog" the fourth estate should be.

Unit Study: Norse Mythology

One of the things I'm doing differently this year is allowing each of the kids to pick a unit for one-on-one study -- in the past, we've all done the same unit.  String Bean chose doing history through the use of the Royal Diary series from Scholastic; we're going to go through them chronologically, attempting to hit all the high points in history and all the continents (so history and geography combined).  We've finished Isabel: Jewel of Castilla (1466, Spain) and have moved on to Anacaona: Golden Flower (1490, Haiti). 

BamBam chose mythology, fueld in part by his fascination with playing a computer-based game called Age of Mythology (whatever works, eh?).  We just finished up our study of Norse mythology and we're moving into Greek mythology.

The cool thing about studying Norse mythology is the variety of subjects we can include:  history, literature, geography, and yes even knitting!

Here's BamBam's (real) name in runes ... we found a few cool web-sites that taught us the alphabet and BamBam wrote his whole name (which is amazingly long!) and practiced other words.  I then transferred his fist name to graph-paper and designed a rune sweater just for the boy-child which will be a lasting reminder of our study of Norse mythology. 

We used the D'Aulaires' Book of Norse Myths as our spine and then supplemented with internet and other-book research.  I love the D'Aulaires' art-work and the stories are fun to read, while giving the pertinent details.  BamBam often pulled out the Dover's Norse Gods and Goddesses coloring book and colored the character about whom we were reading.  The cool thing about the Dover coloring books is that they have great additional information and stories on the opposite page of the picture -- when the stories didn't exactly gibe with the D'Aulaires' version, we talked about the differences, how they occur and why some aspects might be different.  It was great fun.

Here are some of the websites we also used to supplement our reading:

  1. Norse Myths -- great map of the Norse area, a "norse family tree" to help keep all the gods and others straight!

  2. The Gods and Goddesses of Norse Mythology -- additional source for background stories and additional hijinks of these "better-than-human" folks.

  3. The Vikings: Lesson Plans, Daily Life and More -- adds in lots of background on the Vikings; great links to lesson plans and activities with a Nordic theme.

  4. Runic Alphabets -- scroll down and you'll find the various alphabets used; we used the Medieval version that we got here (as it seemed the most basic)
This was a great unit for us ... and BamBam seems to like his sweater (and the hat that was the gauge swatch), coming:

or going ....

Monday, October 19, 2009

Feast Day: North American Martyrs

This is one of those not exactly politically-correct feast days since many would say that the eight Jesuit Missionaries slaughtered in the 1640s by indigent Native North Americans was just what they deserved.  That being said, this is a feast day where Catholics honor these self-same men for sacrificing their all to spread the Gospel.

I particularly like St. Isaac Jogues' comments about what (and why) he was doing what he was doing:
My confidence is placed in God who does not need our help for accomplishing his designs. Our single endeavor should be to give ourselves to the work and to be faithful to him, and not to spoil his work by our shortcomings. 
We were lucky, back in the summer of 1999 to see the Shrine of the North American Martyrs ... in Auriesville, NY.  It was a memorable drive from North Carolina, up through the Eastern seasboard states to drop two of our kids at CYO camps in New Hampshire and then on to Nova Scotia for a two-week camping trip with Baby Lego Maniac.  As we drove through rural New York State, the storm clouds dogging our heels, we stopped at a nearly-deserted Shrine which is so low-key and low-budget as to be filled with the aroma of sanctity!  Don't let the simplicity of the site fool you ... this is one very cool spot to rest and pray for all those who gave it up for God!

May the example made by the Eight North American Martyrs -- including St. Isaac Jogues and St. Jean deBrebeuf -- spark a new zeal for spreading the Truth!