On another note, Jennifer at BookClub Girl is launching a Betsy-Tacy Convert Week ... a chance to get others converted to reading these fabulous Betsy-grown-up books! These are such fun stories. Each goes through a year of high school, her "world tour" and then her marriage to Joe. These are GREAT, coming of age books that are reminiscent of some of the great Hollywood movies like: Life with Father, Cheaper by the Dozen (the original), or Meet Me in St. Louis -- classic movies where the family is at the core and there is love and faith and trust and all is good (eventually). This is the kind of world where teens grow up with their families -- with involvement and love and solid values of right and wrong -- the kind of world we need now (even if instead of note-passing during class, there is texting).
Check out these just-reprinted Betsy-Tacy books ... Harper decided to bundle the books, so you get two books for the price of one (and get to really get into reading these!).
While we're reading these books, String Bean and I will be knitting up a couple of items I've designed just for this occasion -- a snuggly hood, bright scarves and a lace-edged handkerchief ... based on the following two quotes:
…it was too cold for Betsy and Tacy to play in the snow any more. Their hands inside mittens ached, and their feet inside overshoes grew numb. The wind nipped their faces in their snugly tied hoods; their breath froze on the bright scarves knotted around their necks. (pg. 42)
She got it out of the bureau drawer. One side was filled with cards which said ‘Mrs. Robert Ray’. A little lace-edged handkerchief, smelling of violet perfume, peeked out of the other side. Betsy’s mother carried this case when she went calling. (pg 77)
I’ve always been curious … what are Masons and what do they do? Well, read on and you'll find the cliche, "truth is stranger than fiction" is VERY true where the Masons are concerned.
Maybe it was the popularity of the recent National Treasure movies where the plots hinged on membership in this secret society. Maybe it was the memory of smart, intelligent people whom I once knew who were members. Maybe it’s the mystique of a secret organization – what do they do, why do they do it, are they as bad as the Church would have us believe? What’s the deal with the “eye” and the “G”, the compass and the square? Why would anyone – let alone intelligent, God-fearing Christians, want to be a part of such a secret society?
Are you with me? Do you, too, want to know? Do you have relatives, friends, co-workers who are flirting with the idea of joining? STOP! Get a copy of Masonry Unmasked: An Insider Reveals the Secrets of the Lodgeby John Salza, read it cover-to-cover and then decide. I think you’ll be surprised, scared and pretty incredulous when you finish the book.
Salza, a Catholic lawyer from Wisconsin, was deeply embroiled in all the workings of Freemasonry, attaining the highest ranks and awarded the Proficiency Card (a big deal, apparently) sooner than anyone in Wisconsin history. He was a rising star within the ranks, attaining 32nd degree Mason in the Scottish Rite and membership in the Shriners. By 1997, he was a Lodge Officer and the self-professed greatest apologist for all things Masonic. He was a Mason, through and through … and then he threw away his membership card and wrote this book. Why?
While focusing all his free time on learning the ins and outs of Freemasonry, Salza began to get nudges and queer feelings about what he was reading. He began to see cracks in the carefully constructed edifice of Freemasonry; he began to question whether he could reconcile his Catholic faith with what he was learning. The further he researched, the more he found to question and worry about.
From a removal of Christ from the God-head, to espousals of bi-level charity toward others, to swearing on a Bible to oaths BEFORE hearing the promises … Salza finally saw through the smoke-and-mirrors of Masonry and left. Little things like the fact, exposed by the Orlando Sentinel in 1985, that the Shriners’ collection of charitable funds through their annual circuses amounted to $23 million (!) while the tax returns showed only $346,251 going to medical care for the children for whom they were purportedly raising the funds – less than two percent of the take!
One thing I really like about Salza’s account is that he openly admits his own gullibility, his own pride-filled sense of “I know something you don’t know”, and his willingness to accept what the Lodge and Mason-authored literature told him, with little questioning. His pride was at stake – he was in the inner circle and wined and dined accordingly. He didn’t seek the answers from Church authorities.
Once he did, he found the Grand Lodge filled with discriminatory practices (all-Black Mason lodges are not recognized by the main Lodge), atheistic practices (all religions are equal, thus making them all irrational and thus, not real) and double-talk and half-truths. Basically, the “truths” preached in Masonry are false – and the edifice of Masonry comes down like a house of cards.
In fact, since Clement XII in 1738 and as recently as then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s report to Pope John Paul II in the 1980s, the Catholic Church has consistently condemned membership in the Freemasonry. Writing encyclicals, letters and amending Canon Law in 1983, the Church has made clear to all Catholics that every facet of Freemasonry is irreconcilable with Church teaching – regardless of what the Masons themselves will say. This is not just a fraternal organization but a “religion” set up in direct opposition to Christian values. Salza, productively using his legal training, proves “beyond the shadow of a doubt”, that Freemasonry is not only against Church teaching but a real danger to the soul!
This is a great book for those of us who are curious about Masonry. This is a must-read for those of us who know someone flirting with the idea of joining Masonry.
Birthdays are funny ... when you're little, it's all about the presents you get and the great stuff you get to choose for dinner/dessert and the surprise and excitement of it all.
As you age, you begin to see birthdays as a time of review ... have I done what I wanted to since last birthday? Am I where I wanted to be at 30 ... or 40 ... or whatever? Birthdays almost become "death knells" ... days to worry about and stress over.
But, all of a sudden ...
you're at a point where birthdays are really fun again -- it's all about the surprises and the treats and the happiness of all around you. Some folks remember and some don't ... but the important folks always do ... and I'm so thankful for all those who thought of me today and prayed for me and sent good wishes ...
but especially, I'm thankful for my dear husband and my three youngest "babies" who made my day so extra special today (while my older two sent emails and cards and even called) ....
God bless them all .... and all of you who sent good wishes, prayers and cards ...
I love you all!
And for those who were wondering -- the kids and dh pooled their money and I got the scroll saw ... well, actually the beginnings of a fund for a scroll saw so that I can get a really good one. We're over half-way there (thanks to gift money from my darling in-laws and a bit from a teacher-friend), so I should have enough to get the goregous thing before Advent starts so we can make those Nativity figures for this year's Christmas celebrations!
[Oh, and a fellow home-school mom had an old beach cruiser bike she wasn't using and was getting rid of so... I'll get that too -- isn't God good????]
We are so fortunate because we have dear friends who
don't mind driving hours (even in Friday traffic on I-95) to come visit us ...
sleep on our floor ...
hang out drinking good wine and smoking (or just smelling) good cigars ...
playing at the lake twice in one day ...
staying up late reading ...
cooking sausages over a barbeque while pancakes sizzle on the griddle ...
even sharing a good cry or two!
So, from Hilltop Farm,
thank God for old friends and their new babies (two since last we hung out together!) ...
I was so excited on Thursday, September 17th ... it was cool enough during the day (actually pretty rainy, yucky, knitting-or-read-aloud kind of weather) to inspire me to cook a true Fall dinner: homemade split pea soup, sweet italian sausage, mixed greens salad and homemade bread. The warmth of the house from taking the chill out of the air was only exceeded by the aroma of successful home cooking!
Here's the bread recipe, tweaked from one I received many years ago from a friend in Greenville, SC. Kristy's version was very good .... but I'm not one to follow directions too well.
Fastest Yeast Bread Ever (this is how I made it; feel free to tweak as necessary):
Heat to body temp, 1 cup 2% milk with 1 cup plain (full-fat) yogurt
Meanwhile, prove 1 T yeast in 1/2 cup hot (100 degree) water and 1 T sugar
Cover and let dough rise 15 min in warm spot. If you live in a dry climate, cover with a damp towel to ensure the dough doesn't dry out.
Add 1 T olive oil and stir in. Than add, 1 cup at a time till a firm dough develops:
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
4-5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Divide dough into two and knead into a stumpy, football shape. Place on greased baking sheet. Cut slashes in the top (I always do a Cross and say a little prayer for the health of my family). Cover and allow to rise another 10 minutes in a warm spot. Preheat oven to 400 while rising.
Brush loaves with olive oil and place in preheated 400 degree oven. Bake for 20 minutes or so. Remove from baking sheet and place loaves right on oven rack ... bake another 5 minutes or until hollow-sounding when thumped.
Voila -- yeast bread in an hour that is amazingly good ... warm from the oven and the next day, too!
... we have a lovely, spring/summer weight cotton quilt that we love. It's nice and bright and looks and works great, that is until the temps plunge down to the 50s overnight. That's what's been happening around here lately ... and since we leave the windows open, it gets right chilly in the house and this quilt just isn't enough.
What to do? What to DO?
How 'bout making it into a duvet cover ... so on the warm nights we can use the light quilt, but once the temp drops, we stuff a down comforter in and it's cozy warm! Well this project took MAYBE an hour today ... seriously!
Our bed is a queen (as are the quilt and the down comforter). I took a flat queen sheet (happened to coordinate with the blues in the quilt cover!) and pinned it to the bottom and edges of the quilt.
Because I didn't want to fuss ... I didn't iron the sheet nor did I cut it to fit ... Instead, I tucked equal hems on either side and then used the extra fold at the top as an envelope to hold the down comforter in (so I wouldn't have to add ties or snaps or velco or buttonholes, all would have taken too long!). A simple 9-st/inch straight stitch (about 1/4-inch inside the edges) attaches the quilt on three sides.
Here, you can see the down comforter (really white) tucked into the cuff of the blue sheet while the top of the quilt is loose, but lays flat without additional attachments.
The back of the new quilt/duvet cover looks neat and tidy (and when the down comforter isn't in, it is just a thin sheet layer added!) The blue sheet coordinates nicely -- and we could even flip the "duvet cover" over and it would look like a completely different cover!
Doesn't the "new" winterzied duvet cover look lovely?
Thirteen some years ago, I sat in a cub scout meeting with my then 7-year-old boy and listened to a plea for a Tiger Cub den leader, someone who could take a dozen or so boys and get them on the scouting path. No one would volunteer, Brikhead looked at me pleadingly and the next thing I knew ... I was the Tiger Cub leader! The next year, after swearing I wouldn't ever do that again ... I was talked into being the Bear leader. In fact, I had to physically move out-of-state to successfully divorce myself from the clutches of the Cub Scouts!
Fast-forward 13 years: this time I'm sitting in a similar cub scout meeting, with my now 6-year-old boy and listening to a plea for a Tiger Cub den leader, someone who could take a dozen or so boys and get them safely on the scouting path. No one would volunteer ... some of the dads were already leaders for their older boys, while the new dads had the "deer in the headlights" look and there were no moms there.
BamBam looked at me pleadingly and the next thing I knew ... I was the newest Tiger Cub leader ...
Different state, different parish ... but same cub scout program ... definitely a case of "what goes around, comes around!"
We'll have a blast and the good thing is I'll know all his little friends and can be a bit of a dictator as far as what we do ... remember, absolute power is not ALWAYS a bad thing!
On Saturday, String Bean and I found the wall decals we've been looking for! Here's a set from Amazon that we liked, but we went to ACMoore which has TONS of styles (including, now how cool is this, chalkboard and dry-erase decals!). We chose fuschia zinnias, daisies and fuschia dots -- very pretty. We love these things ... they're easy to move around and if you have a 50%-off coupon, are really a great deal. These are so easy to use ... and move ... and don't leave any residue AND hide dings or marks on the walls! Very cool.
Here is her room, before:
And, here is her room after ... we still have to get her a dresser ... but it's getting there!
scroll saw and Dremel tool to begin a hobby with wood crafts (something I've always wanted to do and never did!). Now that we have a garage, this would be a great thing for the family ... so we might put it off until Christmas, but then we couldn't make the Nativity this year ....
dress-form to display my knitwear designs in a better format ... right now whenever I make anything for "women", I don't have anyone to try it on to photograph it ... problem with this one is that it would be hard for the littles to get anything to go with ... altho yarn would be nice ...
So, what would you do if you were nearing 48 and could ask for anything (within reason, that is) ....
Poor String Bean -- she just really does not like college football ... and since we have cable this year, we actually can WATCH college ball so she is definitely out of luck. So, this morning she and I spent a mommy-morning running errands with the first stop being the craft store!
We chose fabric for a ballet-class bag for her, wall decals to do her room (I spent today washing the walls in her room so the walls should be ready tomorrow for decorating -- we'll definitely post pictures!), and miscellaneous other craft necessaries.
Here's her very first sewing-machine sewing project! A simple drawstring bag for her ballet-class stuff. And boy is she proud ... she was also amazed at how much faster it is to machine sew than it is to hand-sew! Her stitching is really pretty even -- thanks to a piece of blue painter's tape placed on the plate that she could use as a stitching guide. Looks like we have a sewer in the family -- she must take after dh's side of the family (unfortunately, I sew for necessity rather than enjoyment or skill).
Here you can see both sides of the bag ... and it's full with her stuff, so a perfect size! She looks pretty proud of herself, doesn't she?
And, boo hoo, ND lost to Michigan ... lots of gnashing of teeth tonight ... but at least String Bean is happy!
This was what was left last night after making two 9x13 pans of homemade meatless pizza ... and we have only the three littles and dh and I home! This recipe is definitely a keeper!
I adapted this recipe from Nourishing Traditions (an awesome cookbook but some of her recipes need a bit of tweaking!) ....
Here's the version we made last night:
1 cup plain yogurt (full fat if possible)
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup stone-ground corn meal
2 tsp sea salt
Cream yogurt and butter together. Blend in flour/corn meal and salt. Let sit out covered in a warm spot for 12-24 hours (ours sat out about 15 hours).
Preheat oven to 300. Spray two 13x9 pans with cooking spray. Split dough in half and press into each pan -- the dough should cover the entire bottom of the pan. Poke the crust many times with a fork and place in
oven. Bake for 30 minutes.
Remove crusts from oven and pour tomato sauce over crusts. On one pizza, we put thawed frozen spinach (drained) all over and then covered with grated mozzarella/cheddar/monterey cheeses (about 2 cups total). On second pizza, we did just the cheeses (again, about two cups total).
Bake in 300 degree oven for 30 minutes more. Cut, serve and enjoy!
Wow, this crust recipe is a keeper -- would be great anytime you want a savory (that is, not sweet) pie-crust type crust (quiche or shepherd's pie, for instance). It's not really a pizza crust but had a great flavor ... especially the next day warmed a minute or so in the microwave!
Occasionally, when I’m looking for a book to review I try to choose one that is outside my comfort-zone, that discusses a topic for which I’m, at best, vaguely familiar. Hunting for God, Fishing for the Lord: Encountering the Sacred in the Great Outdoors is just such a book – I don’t fish (either regular or fly-fishing) and I’ve never been hunting (either with a bow or a rifle). With a bit of skepticsm, I wanted to see how a parish priest could help me “encounter the sacred in the great outdoors”.
Superficially, Father Classen’s book, Hunting for God, Fishing for the Lord: Encountering the Sacred in the Great Outdoors, is a real “guy book”. As a matter of fact, I chose to review it because I thought one of my brothers, in-laws or friends might enjoy the book. I thought of my husband and how he loves the outdoors: especially camping and hiking. This book is full of hunting and fishing stories, including the trite “one that got away” stories, with lots of helpful suggestions of how to catch those trophies.
But that’s just superficially.
This is a great book about fully experiencing God’s creation by doing not just watching. This book, in fact, is almost a companion to the one I wrote on creativity: my In His Image: Nurturing Creativity in the Heart of Your Home stresses the need to imitate the creator by nurturing creativity in the heart of the home so that we can fully experience His love and care for us; Fr. Classen’s book stresses the need to exist actively in God’s creation to fully experience His love for us. Both books stress the need to DO as a way to BE, a way to exist, rather than just passively accepting God’s gift of creation.
Fr. Classen, Associate Pastor of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque parish in the St. Louis (Missouri) Diocese, has written not just a classic book on fishing and hunting. His book also helps to place the enthusiast in the spiritual realm by explaining the difference between the childish obsessive pursuit of the “trophy trout” and the child-like pursuit of nature and God’s creation. He shows throughout the book the importance of the child-like wonder and peace garnered by being in nature. He also pokes fun at his own obsessive pursuit that ruined his experiences; it wasn’t until he became child-like in his hunting pursuits that he was truly successful, both spiritually and literally.
There are many times throughout the book that Fr. Classen hits it dead-on. He shows that the need for our society to try to re-invent peace and calm through our own acts never works. The fishing father rather shows the better way: peace and calm for mind, body and soul by reveling in God’s creation, even on a pre-dawn hike to a deer stand in Missouri autumn or hip-deep in the rushing waters with the fly to beat all flies.
Although this book is, as I mentioned earlier, a “real guy’s book”, much can be gotten from this book if the reader is married to (or mother of) an outdoor enthusiast. Father does a great job of putting the hunting, the pursuit of the prey, the search for the ultimate lure or fly in their proper perspective – all is worthless without trust in God, without love of His creation, without discernment of God’s will. The writing is not just informative; it’s also written with a gift for the English language, a turn of phrase that says much more than the words.
I would definitely recommend this book for those guys out there who are either outdoor enthusiasts and/or those guys who are searching for the spiritual in their lives. It is a great read – and has many great hunting tips as well as tips on improving the reader’s prayer life and getting us all on the road to sanctity. I would also recommend it for the moms, spouses or sisters of nature enthusiasts, especially those who don’t really understand the desire of our men to go out and spend hours in a stand, waiting for the elusive buck.
A dear, dear friend of ours needs help. She is a young teacher at dh's high school who believes God wills her to become a Dominican Sister of Nashville (an amazing, vibrant community of ladies who teach all over the world).
This is not an easy journey. There are many bumps, hills, and even mountains she must scale before she can join. First, she had to accept the call, the urging within her that God was asking her to "be of use" in this way. She has climbed that bump. First she had to be accepted into the novitiatiate. She has climbed that hill. There is at least one mountain, a big one at that, which she needs to climb before she is able to join. She's about two-thirds of the way up that mountain, but it is a big one ...
The Dominican Sisters will not allow you to enter until you are debt-free. Now, Karen is a very frugal person; however, her one big debt is the student loans she took out to allow her to receive a degree from Catholic University of America. She has cleared two of the three loans and now has less than a year to clear the last loan. Donations to Karen are not tax-deductible ... but they will help this lovely young woman on her journey to fulfill God's will.
Won't you help? On her blog, That I May be of Use, she has a donation button. There is also an address if you'd like to send her a check.
She also asks that you send up some prayers for her continued quest to be obedient to God ... all else will follow.
It's no secret we move often ... and have been involved in many different homeschool groups, co-ops, and activities. Some have been great ... and we still are in contact with the parents that ran those groups. Then, there were other programs that make my kids cringe/cry/generally shudder at the horror of attending those again. There were also one or two that were just plain mediocre -- which is almost the worst kind!
Today, we have hit the big time -- a long-running co-op that not only has great classes but is amazingly welcoming to all the new families as well as the old. This is an all-Catholic homeschool co-op that uses a Baptist Church free of charge for our all-day co-op. The wonderful folks at the Baptist Church allow us "free run" of their education building ... with enough space to have: infants, 1-2 yos, 3 yos, 4 yos, K, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th-12th (4 or 5 classes to choose from) -- all in separate rooms. We have a total of 30 families with 101 kids! Yep, it's very, very Catholic.
Mine had a blast today:
Lego Maniac's classes -- chess/logic; art/drawing (I help in this one) and liturgical calendar
String Bean's classes ---- dance; drama; American History (I help in this one)
BamBam's classes ------ pe/sign language (to get them ready to sit); phonics (I help in this one); math games; liturgical calendar (on a lower level than LM's class). As you can see, the courses are a good mix of "real learning" and real learning ....
There are many other choices but the point of this post is the prayers of thanksgiving I offered up that this is such a wonderful spot for us to have landed ... and we're not planning on moving any time soon (please, GOD!). Some of the families we "knew" thru my bro/sil who lived here 20+ years ago; some of the families we "knew" thru older siblings that go to dh's high school; some of these folks we actually KNOW from our VBS this summer ... but those with whom we have no connection, were just as welcoming as all those we "knew"!
My kids can't wait to go back next week. String Bean's comment summed it up for all -- "I can't wait till next Tuesday ... that means co-op is the next day!" We finished off the day with a Art Appreciation ... LegoManiac is enrolled in Seton Home Study this year (getting him ready for dh's high school in 4 years) and they have a GREAT art appreciation program ... we thought the whole family could benefit from the study, so we've made Wednesday evenings "art history night" with the Seton Art History program ... and it is GOOD! The kiddoes than watched Pickwick Papers with dh while I computered ...
What kind of co-op or homeschool group are you involved with? How does it work? Are you active?
... and school all the time and college football and cooler weather -- as my 6 yos says, "bring it on"!
Saturday, we celebrated the end of summer and beginning of Fall: the opening day of college football party and the annual lighted-boat parade here at the lake.
We love college football games around here ... and this year, since we finally have cable, we actually can watch and SEE the games! Unfortunately, the games weren't the best -- we were watching Nevada at Notre Dame and it was such a rout, that it got boring after the first quarter. We switched around but all the games that were on seemed similar routs. What to do? Eat all the junk food String Bean and I prepared for the boys: buffalo wings, taquitos, dilled cream cheese, pizza, chips, crackers, celery & carrots (for SOME nutrition), and just about every other kind of game-day food you can imagine ... with pride of place going to our traditional "game day menu": cheese whiz! We know it's bad for us all ... but hey, we just buy it for college football games!
On Saturday evening, LegoManiac and I boarded a party barge and headed out into the lighted-boat parade. This parade had been postponed twice due to rain ... but we couldn't have asked for a better night -- full "corn moon", clear skies and calm "seas". Our "Mame" boat didn't win, but we had a great time and dh and the littles said we looked great.
Today, I attended the annual "hoa" meeting ... not alot discussed but good to get involved. The rest of today was spent in true holiday fashion -- laying around, reading fun books and catching some smaller college football games. Don't you just love Labor Day? And yes, it's getting chillier here -- less than 75 degrees all day, kind of gloomy and a bit rainy ... leaves are starting to change and windows and doors wide open to bring in the fresh air!
I spend whatever free-time I have (I homeschool my three youngest) designing hand-knits, free-lance writing and keeping up with blogs and other online activities....all in order to stay out of trouble!