27 March 2015

Seven Quick Takes

"Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary, and [she] conceived of Holy Spirit!"

Not the answer I was expecting when I asked Little Bear if he remembered what we were celebrating on the solemnity of the Annunciation! I'm glad he's been paying attention when we say the Angelus.

How was your Annunciation Day? We had a... I don't even remember. This pregnancy, I tell you. I think it was a good day overall? Lemon-blueberry sweet rolls for breakfast, a visit to the chiropractor, having time to stop at the thrift store and find a new jacket, making Swedish pancakes for supper... I was pretty worn out by the evening and wound up not making it to RCIA class that night, spending most of the evening flat on the couch, but it was still a good day. I've enjoyed explaining the recent solemnities in toddler-language (Me: "The angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her she would be the Mother of God (insert the first part of the Hail Mary), and Mary said 'be it done unto me as you have said,' and then Jesus became a baby in Mary's tummy." Little Bear: "Just like the baby in Mama's tummy!"). What about Palm Sunday? There aren't prayers he hears every day directly related to the story; any suggestions for how I can help him understand it?

I found myself jacket-hunting on Wednesday after the zipper failed on the only jacket that still fit me... fortunately, the thrift store had a bunch of spring-weight jackets. I just picked up an extra large fleece jacket that'll continue to be able to zip over baby for the next month or so until it's warm enough that I won't need it. I suppose this could possibly change some day if I ever have a winter baby, but I don't believe in maternity coats. They want such a ridiculous amount of money for them, and there's no guarantee that they will even continue fitting as long as you need them to. My mom never had a maternity coat and she had several mid-winter babies, and I'll likely just continue wearing big bulky coats as well. It's not as fashionable as having a coat tailored for a pregnant belly, but there's really not much (sanely priced) overlap between "being fashionable" and "staying warm" in the winters here anyway.

We planned to attend our parish's weekly meatless potluck and Stations of the Cross this evening for the first time this Lent. After spending the last few nights stuck on the couch, I'm not quite sure why I thought this was a good idea... it was probably more that I'm so sick of not being able to do anything, and I miss participating in parish activities outside of Mass. My youngest sister came over this afternoon to play with Little Bear, and while they definitely made exponentially bigger messes than he's ever made on his own, it was helpful having him happily entertained by someone other than me so that I could peel five pounds of potatoes and make a big pot of potato soup for the potluck. And she helped him clean up all of the messes! That was wonderful. We did make it to the potluck, but I wound up needing to go home and lay down instead of joining everyone else for Stations afterward.

Photo by Artem Zhdanov
Matt's good friend from work is a great photographer, and last Friday afternoon he came out to take some shots of Matt "in his natural environment": splitting logs. He got some wonderful photos (the above is my favorite), and Matt got another week or two's worth of wood split.

Baby has decided that she likes ice cream. Now I'm all in favor of her getting over her ridiculous "I'm going to make you crave cookies, and then make you feel sick right after you finish them" thing against sugar, but it's sure inconvenient when I'm actually trying to be good! Last night I tried eating an apple to appease her, and the visions of ice cream did not go away. Same with tonight's extra bowl of soup. Why can't you want healthy food when I'm trying to be healthy, child? We finally compromised on whole grain cornbread (cornmeal, wheat, rye, flax, oats, spelt, wheat germ...) topped with stewed rhubarb. I'm thinking I'll try to convince her that yogurt is an acceptable alternative tomorrow.

I've spent weeks trying to find an Easter dress--my one maternity dress, a solid black maxi, was so very dark and not-cheerful-looking for Easter--and I finally gave in and admitted that I'd have to buy one new instead of from a thrift store or consignment shop. I hate doing that; new clothes are so ridiculously expensive! But there really wasn't anything in town, and I do not have the physical or mental energy to sew a dress before Easter, and we were running out of time to get something shipped. So on Sunday night I ordered this dress in the "deep wisteria" color that sure looks blue on our computer. When it arrived, surprise! it was very, very purple. If it had occurred to me to Google the color name, it would have showed me swatch after swatch of purple, which means that there's a problem with their particular photo and not with my computer's color display... but it's not the end of the world. I do like the dress anyway, as does Matt. The interwoven style of the bodice is so pretty!

Have a good weekend! Don't forget to stop by This Ain't the Lyceum for more quick takes!

24 March 2015

Tuna'n'egg salad

Growing up I loved tuna salad, but pretty strongly disliked egg salad until after we were married and I started making my own. I don't dislike it anymore, but it's less an "I want to make egg salad!" food and more a "well, it's Friday, what can I make for lunch?" food. I've heard people mention tuna-egg salad several times in the past year or so, and always thought "Um... no. Tuna salad is clearly superior to egg salad; why would I contaminate my tuna with eggs?"

I was wrong, y'all. Wrong.

I don't even know how it made its way onto the menu for tonight. Somehow it came up while I was sketching out the week, and Matt thought it sounded good. I kind of glanced at a few recipes on Pinterest this evening for quantities, but ultimately just threw in whatever I wanted to. And it was so good. Baby-who-always-wants-protein very much approved, Little Bear ate his entire sandwich, and I (thanks to baby) had to pack up the leftovers immediately so I didn't eat it all before Matt could have some when he got home from class.

Good, easy, and Lenten. The perfect food.

Tuna'n'egg salad

3 hardboiled eggs, peeled
1 can (5 oz) tuna, drained
1 tablespoon mayonnaise 
3 baby dill pickles, diced
Pepper to taste

Mash up eggs, then add everything else and mix together. 

Makes enough for 3-4 sandwiches, depending on the appetite of the people.

I served it on sandwich buns with lettuce and a slice of cheddar, but it would also be good on lettuce as a salad, or on crackers. Or just out of the bowl with a spoon...

23 March 2015

Menu planning for Monday

This afternoon Little Bear, who had been very very sure midday that he didn't need a nap, crawled into my lap and laid his head down. "I'm sleepy, Mommy..." Not five minutes later, he was sound asleep.

I couldn't let him have more than a half hour, else bedtime would have been awful, but thankfully he woke up happy. I love the happy-just-waking-up stage in little kids! He was awake-ish but keeping his eyes closed as he responded to me, so I started teasing him, trying to encourage him to continue waking up:

"Let's get something to eat. How does that sound?"

"Okay." (Eyes still closed, not moving)

"Would you like a hard-boiled egg?"


"Oh, I see. Then you must want... socks?"

The eyes stayed closed, but lazy grin crept over his face. "I don't eat socks, Mama!"

"That's probably a good idea. How about... pickles and peanut butter?"

"Apples and peanut butter?" His eyes popped open. "Okay!"

Planning this week's menu was at least as convoluted as finding Little Bear a snack; today, I believe, is the only day all workweek that we don't have anything marked on the calendar for the evening. Matt's class Tuesday, RCIA Wednesday, the Chrism Mass Thursday, and my RCIA class is leading the Stations of the Cross Friday. And then Wednesday is a solemnity--the Annunciation--so it's not supposed to be meatless. And Friday I only need to make a lot of one meal element to bring to the meatless potluck before Stations. And Sunday is Palm Sunday already!

Then there's the "waffles for the Annunciation" thing. Matt and I had never heard of this, but apparently it's a common thing to eat waffles on the solemnity of the Annunciation, because... why? Failing to come up with any remotely reasonable theological explanation, we looked it up. It turns out that this is one of those "too funny not to continue" bits of lower case tradition:

In much of Europe, the Annunciation is referred to as Lady Day. In Swedish, that translates to Vårfrudagen. Which apparently sounds, in some dialects, nearly identical to Våffeldagen: waffle day. No, seriously, that's the reason.

My "breakfast for supper is weird" husband thought this was funny enough that we definitely had to put waffles on the menu for Wednesday. So the plan for the week looks like this:

Passion Sunday: chicken enchilada skillet with black beans and corn

Monday: supper with my family

Tuesday: tuna-n-egg salad sandwiches, raw vegetables and dip

Wednesday (Annunciation): ham-broccoli egg bake, Swedish waffles with whipped cream and jam

Thursday: caribou chili, corn bread and green salad

Friday: potato soup in the slow cooker

Saturday: caribou steaks (on the grill!), steamed broccoli/carrots/cauliflower, potato salad

Palm Sunday: Psari plaki (Greek baked halibut), soft pretzels, green salad, ice cream sundaes

What are your plans for the Annunciation? And if you're making waffles, how did that become a tradition for your family? Did you grow up doing it, or hear about it somewhere? I'd never heard anything about it before this past weekend, and am really curious now about how it became so widespread.

21 March 2015

Making the master list

Sometimes, it works out perfectly to look at the calendar in the morning and realize that it's a particular feast day, and decide on the spot to do something to celebrate. But not very often, at least for me.

Usually, looking at the calendar while I plan out the week's menu on Saturday or Sunday gives me plenty of notice to make sure any holy days or feasts that are important to our family get covered. I'm still only cooking for three, and so far we haven't really extended our liturgical year celebrations beyond our immediate family, so there's not a whole lot of extra planning most weeks.

Not these next two weeks, though. It's time to sit down and make this year's edition of The List.

Last year, Matt and I talked through Holy Week and Easter and agreed on what we wanted to start doing to build traditions for our family for this liturgical season. We looked back at last year's list at the beginning of Lent this year, discussed what worked, what didn't, what we might want to change... and then I lost the notebook where I'd written it all down. Literally lost it; I left it in my cart at the grocery store the following week. I'm fairly confident that I remember what's different this year, though, so this morning I sat down with last year's list, my liturgical year cookbooks, and last year's blog posts from the time right around Holy Week and came up with the leading-up-to-Easter plan for 2015.

Day before Passion Sunday (today): track down purple fabric; order anything still needed for Easter baskets; Easter haircuts for Matt and Little Bear

Passion Sunday (March 22): veiling all of the crucifixes and statues of saints around the house (ideally with purple fabric)

Solemnity of the Annunciation (March 25): lemon-blueberry sweet rolls; Annunciation icon as the centerpiece

Palm Sunday (March 29): Greek baked fish (psari plaki, p.186 in A Continual Feast) for supper; ice cream sundaes to celebrate Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem; incorporate green/greenery/palms into centerpiece

Spy Wednesday (April 1): bake Jidáše (Judas buns); make Pascha (Easter cheese, p.205 in ACF)

Holy Thursday (April 2): all flat surfaces cleared of clutter; bake hot cross buns; a nicer meal observing the Last Supper (small roast, baked sweet potatoes p.203 ACF, spinach salad, applesauce); Way of the Cross icon on burlap centerpiece

Good Friday (April 3): hot cross buns for breakfast; potato or lentil soup with bread for supper; hard-boil eggs; stations of the cross; begin the Divine Mercy novena

Holy Saturday (April 4): dye hardboiled eggs (plus 3 raw); bake Italian Easter Bread; make whatever I'm bringing for dinner the next day; after Little Bear goes to bed unveil statues, replace purple/brown with white/gold, Resurrection icon out, Easter picture books out, fill baskets, replace black beans in sacrifice jar with jelly beans

Easter Sunday (April 5): Italian Easter Bread and hardboiled eggs for breakfast; convince Little Bear to wear bow tie; dinner and little kids' egg hunt at my family's house

How are you preparing for Holy Week and Easter with your family? I'd love to hear about your family's traditions. This is such a liturgically-rich season; there are so many possibilities!

20 March 2015

Seven Quick Takes

Joining the fun over at This Ain't the Lyceum! I have cooking on the brain today, so pardon all of the talk about food on a Lenten Friday...

For the solemnity of St Joseph yesterday, Little Bear and I made a "chocolate chocolate cake": a chocolate-buttermilk sheet cake topped with ganache. So very delicious, so very not Lenten. Matt put the uneaten remainder out on the enclosed porch this morning so that we wouldn't be (as) tempted to eat it today. We didn't give up sweets for Lent, but it still doesn't seem right to have a rich, chocolate cake on a Friday in Lent...

I'm having the hardest time remembering that it is Friday today, because Matt is at home—the university gives staff the last day of spring break off. Which is really nice, especially after Little Bear got up for the day at 5:45 this morning. We made him stay in bed until 7, because there is no way we're letting him learn that that's a remotely acceptable time to wake up, but we're all tired and less functional today. He's good with numbers, so we're going to try putting a digital clock in his room and telling him that he can get up when the first number is a 7... Hopefully that works!

Tonight's supper is definitely of the Friday-in-Lent variety, and working on it throughout the day is probably the main thing keeping me aware that it's not actually Saturday; homemade pita came out of the oven just before lunchtime, vegan and non-vegan versions of tzatziki are underway (we aren't omitting dairy, but an Orthodox friend is joining us for supper), and Matt's promised to help me with the falafel patties as we get closer to supper time. I haven't quite figured out how we're going to grind up three cans of chickpeas when our little tiny food processor isn't even big enough to handle one can... Someday we'll eventually get a reasonably sized one. Not this coming Mothers Day, but possibly next year. I wonder if the blender would be a terrible idea for grinding the chickpeas?

They call March 21 the first day of spring; that doesn't really mean much here, because it's a given that we'll still have snow on the ground until late April at least, more likely early-mid May. Yes, we have roughly 12 hours of daylight today, it being the spring equinox, but that doesn't feel like a remarkable amount when we're on our way to nearly 24 hours! It sure does feel like spring outside, though: 55 degrees, snow melting and dripping off the eaves, puddles in the parking lots in town, sun blazing in through all the windows. Between the sun, the fire Matt built this morning, and the fact that I had the oven at 500 F for the pita, our house feels like more like summer than spring!

On Wednesday, I made these black bean enchiladas for supper. Well, mostly; we used cheddar instead of jack, and salsa instead of enchilada sauce. They were very good fresh, and reheated well in the microwave today. I think they would probably freeze well, too, but you'd want to freeze them before baking. Little Bear wasn't much of a fan, unfortunately, but I'm going to keep them in mind as a possibility for at-home date nights on meatless days.

Little Bear, from the kitchen: "(Gasp) Oh no! So much water!"
Me: ...
Little Bear: "Where a towel?"

He'd put the stopper in one sink basin, which had completely filled and was overflowing into the other side. Somebody thinks he's ready to take over dish washing duties... No water wound up out of the sink, though!

After-supper notes: Our food processor is capable of handling exactly two handfuls of chickpeas at once, and I don't mean large manly handfuls. The cilantro that comes in a tube works really well. Vegan almond-milk yogurt makes an odd-smelling tzatziki (I didn't taste it, letting baby take responsibility for my lack of adventurousness). The pita, falafel and regular tzatziki all turned out so well; we'll likely be making them again before the end of Lent. Don't cut homemade pita if you aren't ready to fill them, though; the few left over were not nearly as pliable when I was packing them up after supper.

Have a great weekend!

18 March 2015

St Joseph and looking ahead

Two solemnities, Passion Sunday, Palm Sunday, Holy Week, Easter.

There's a lot happening in the next 18 days.

Tomorrow (March 19) we have the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, husband of Mary and foster-father of Christ. (Solemnity = really big deal, the Gloria and Creed at Mass, sumptuous food even though it's Lent, meat for supper even on a Friday, etc.)

St Joseph is, among many things, the patron of husbands, fathers, and workers. And also Sicilians, which made no sense to me so I had to look it up; apparently Sicily was suffering from a terrible drought in the Middle Ages and the Sicilians prayed to St Joseph for rain, and the drought ended and their crops were saved. But anyway, husbands, fathers, workers, Sicilians... all categories that Matt falls under. So after celebrating a portion of my heritage yesterday (and I was very proud when Little Bear excitedly explained to his dad that we were having shepherds pie "because St Patrick was a shepherd!"), we're making sure to celebrate Matt tomorrow. Both the Sicilian aspect and otherwise—St Joseph's feast is basically the Catholic version of Fathers' Day.

Somewhere, hopefully in the drawer with our other holy cards, there's a picture of St Joseph and the young Christ Child playing and laughing together; it's one of my favorite images of him, and if I can find it I'll set it out tomorrow. It has a prayer for fathers on the back, if I'm not mistaken. I'll try to share it tomorrow! 

Food-wise, I'm sending minestrone with sausage in Matt's lunch tomorrow, and for supper we're planning to attempt chicken piccata with capers alongside an as-yet-undetermined pasta dish and broccoli. I was thinking about a very small cheesecake but forgot to pick up any cream cheese or ricotta, but we'll come up with something good.

Also: I still haven't figured out the "why?" on this one, but a couple of websites said it's traditional in Sicily to wear red for St Joseph's day; glad I learned that tonight! (If anyone knows why red, please enlighten the rest of us!) I should still have something red that fits, maybe? There's always scarves again if not, although it was 51 F here today so it's not really scarf weather anymore! Matt and Little Bear are set, though.

Tomorrow or the next day I'm hoping to find the time to sit down with my calendar and some cookbooks and plan out the coming two and a half weeks of liturgical busyness in the Shifflerhaus, and to share our plans with you. If I'm not online tomorrow, happy solemnity of St Joseph!

17 March 2015

A little bit Irish

Happy St. Patrick's Day! I may be no more than a wee bit Irish, but St. Patrick's Day is always a day for celebrating in our house.

The math is a little bit fuzzy: my mom is a quarter Irish, and there's a possibility that my dad is also but no one really knows for sure; his last name most likely comes from somewhere in Britain or Ireland, but so far none of the family has managed to definitively trace it back across the Atlantic. I'm at least an eighth Irish, though, so I got to explain to Little Bear this morning that Saint Patrick is one of our patron saints, too. I try to make a point of celebrating all of the different cultures in our kids' very muddled heritage, and St Patrick's Day is sure a fun way to do that!

Everyone is in at least a little bit of green today; Matt found a shirt with some green pinstripes, and Little Bear turned down a properly green shirt for a striped one like Daddy's. To my disappointment, I don't have any green maternity clothes, but I do have a nice green scarf and some slightly-too-warm-for-today green wool socks.

I know it's Lent, but feast days are still meant for feasting; I'm not planning anything terribly over-the-top today, but we did take advantage of the day's festive nature to enjoy cinnamon rolls for breakfast, and later this morning Little Bear and I talked about Saint Patrick while we put a batch of applesauce into the slow cooker. Tonight we'll be having shepherd's pie, Irish soda bread and fresh applesauce: mmmmm.

Over lunch, we read about Saint Patrick in two books of saints, and I drew a three-leafed clover for Little Bear and explained that Saint Patrick used it to teach the Irish people about God the Fathsr, and Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Simple explanations for little people. :-) Little Bear was all excited to learn that Saint Patrick taught people about God and Jesus, "just like Mama teach people how to be Catholic at the church, and Little Bear and Daddy stay home and eat supper!" (RCIA)

We have a cluttered afternoon, several errands where the timing doesn't quite fit together, but I'm hoping we'll have time to be still again at some point and I can give Little Bear a coloring page—I loved this one, and it's free to print! Catholic Icing also has a great Pinterest board full of crafts and fun food ideas for St Patrick's Day; I'm going to have to try to remember to check it a few days ahead of time next year!

What are you doing to celebrate today?