13 September 2014

Sticky Buns for the feast of St John Chrysostom

For the feast of this "golden-tongued" doctor of the Church, these golden sweet rolls were fun to make and got our morning off to a great start! I was kind of mostly following this recipebut I made some changes so I'll write out our version here.

One of the symbols often associated with Saint John Chrysostom is a beehive, because of his eloquence (the "sweetness" of his words). To tie the rolls more in with his feast, I swapped the white sugar in the original recipe for honey... Local honey also helps build up immunity to pollen allergens, so I can pretend I'm cooking more healthfully by using it instead of the white sugar.

1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons honey
4 1/2 teaspoons yeast (2 packets)
1/2 cup butter
1 cup honey
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
2 well-mashed bananas
2 eggs
6 1/2 cups flour

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
2 bananas, sliced thinly

In a small saucepan, heat 1/2 cup of milk with 2 tablespoons of honey over low heat until the honey has completely dissolved. Allow it to cool to 110 F, then add yeast. Set it aside to proof for about 20 minutes. (That sounded like a ridiculously long time to me, but it really worked!)

Melt together the stick of butter and the honey. In a large bowl, combine them with 1/2 cup of milk and the salt. Beat in bananas. When well combined, thoroughly mix in the eggs, then beat in the yeast mixture.

Slowly beat in the flour. If your stand mixer can handle a stiff dough with 6 1/2 cups of flour, congratulations! Mine can't, so my wooden spoon got a good workout. The dough will be sticky, but not never-letting-go-of-your-fingers sticky, if that makes sense? Definitely the consistency of a dough and not a thick batter. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, at least 1 hour.

When the dough has risen, roll it out into a rectangle about 1/4" thick. Spread the softened butter over the rectangle. Sprinkle and gently pat down the brown sugar over the butter. Shake cinnamon over the brown sugar, then evenly scatter with pecans and bananas:

(Make the corners less round than I did here, and the next step won't be as messy for you!)

Roll into a log and cut into rounds. I didn't measure before I started cutting, and wound up with 11; if you start in the middle and subdivide, it shouldn't be difficult to get 12 rolls out of this recipe.

Lay the rounds on a greased baking sheet and let rise while your oven preheats to 350 F.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until golden brown.

The original recipe called for a caramel frosting, but I skipped it and thought they were fine without. Matt thinks they would benefit from something, maybe whipped cream or a coffee glaze. If you give them a try, let me know what you think!

12 September 2014

Seven Quick Takes of fall colors and liturgical meal planning

The fall colors are finally here. It was so very weird, last week, to be shivering in sub-freezing temperatures but have all of the trees and underbrush still green! In the past week, almost everything has turned: the trees are all golden, and the underbrush is a canvas of fiery reds, oranges, purples and browns.

We also got an unexpected thermal jump this week, so it's actually comfortable to be outside enjoying the fall colors without having to wear anything heavier than a light sweater: we've hit mid-60s most days this week, and supposedly today or tomorrow will even see 70. It's not expected to last long, so we're making sure we take advantage of it: We've gotten several walks in over the week, and last night we took a picnic supper to a park and let Little Bear run around and play on the swings and slides. I'm so glad he's finally conquered his fear of slides—up until a few weeks ago, he refused to go down even the shortest slide. Last night, he climbed to the highest point of the play equipment and went down the tunnel slide all by himself, without needing any encouragement from us! It was great to be able to sit back, talk with Matt, and enjoy watching Little Bear having fun on his own.

Tomorrow morning, Matt is kindly foregoing his precious Saturday morning sleeping-in time so the three of us can take a ride on the Riverboat Discovery. They give an excellent presentation of local history and culture, and now that the leaves have turned it should be an especially beautiful trip downriver. Matt and Little Bear have never been, and it's been years since I've gone; we are looking forward to it! Hopefully we will get some good photos.

Last weekend, we learned that Home Depot has free kids' workshops the morning of the first Saturday of each month. Matt was looking for materials to build a wood rack for our deck, but it was his weekend on call for work and he got a call right as we parked, so Little Bear and I went inside to wander and noticed the hammer-and-paintbrush-wielding children. The timing worked out perfectly: Little Bear and I finished building and painting our birdhouse just as Matt finished gathering his building materials. Little Bear held the hammer to help me pound in the nails, and he did a really good job of keeping the green paint on the roof and the orange paint off the roof (his choice of colors, probably because they're the only two colors he consistently points out). He was very proud of it!

This has been a two-Marian-feast week... How often does that happen? On Monday we celebrated the Nativity of Mary, and today is the Most Holy Name of Mary. I wonder if there was a tradition in early Judaism of naming girls, or children in general, several days after their birth? 

Aha: Wikipedia is an ever-helpful resource. The article on the feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary cites the Roman Martyrology as describing today's feast as "a day on which the inexpressible love of the Mother of God for her Holy Child is recalled, and the eyes of the faithful are directed to the figure of the Mother of the Redeemer, for them to invoke with devotion.

So it's more about her name as a reflection of who she is, not about her naming itself. 

To celebrate Our Lady's birth on Monday I'd intended to make a cheesecake with blueberry sauce, but ran out of time and patience and just made blueberry bread pudding instead.

It was wonderful. Also very purple. But now I'm out of blueberries, my go-to fruit for Marian feast days, and we have dinner guests coming tonight and I really wanted to make a good dessert for today's feast. I guess we will see what happens. There's a bunch of ripe bananas hanging next to the stove, and I've been eyeing this recipe all week... That would make a good dessert *and* a fun breakfast tomorrow morning!

Tomorrow is the feast of Saint John Chrysostom, and Sunday is the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. "Chrysostom" means "golden-tongued," a name he was given for his eloquent preaching, so I'm planning to make something "golden" for supper. Not sure what yet, though! (Although those banana sticky buns would probably be fairly golden...) There's a legend that Saint Helena found a basil plant growing at the site where she found the cross, so something Italian—possibly pesto?—sounds like a good idea for Sunday. 

I'm sorry for inflicting my "oops, I need to plan meals for this weekend!" thought process on y'all. What are you making this weekend?

Don't forget to stop by Conversion Diary for more Quick Takes!

08 September 2014

Happy Nativity!

Of Mary, that is. Today we celebrate the birth of the Mother of God! When I told Little Bear this morning, he asked, "Cake? Candle?" so I may be making a little cake for dessert tonight. Oh, wait; I have cream cheese and blueberry pie filling in the fridge. Cheesecake with warmed blueberry sauce? That sounds perfect.

Tonight, if the wood gets stacked this afternoon and I can keep the wiggly boy still long enough, I'm hoping to add the Akathist to the Theotokos to our evening prayers in honor of her birthday.


In the Church's calendar, we only celebrate the births of three people: Christ, of course, on Christmas; St John the Baptist, on June 24; and the Mother of God today, September 8. St John the Baptist was the cousin of Christ, the last prophet to prepare the hearts of the Israelites for the Messiah's coming, and the one who announced Him when he began His public ministry. 

Mary had an even more central role: she carried God within her for nine months, gave Him physical form from her own body, nourished Him as a baby, cared for Him as a child, brought Him up according to the law of Moses, continued to love and support Him through his public ministry, stood by Him in His death, received His Body from the cross. No other created being has been so intimately connected to Christ as Mary was to her son; it is fitting that she is honored more than any other creature, and recognized for her role in pointing us toward Christ!

Celebrating her birth today reminds us that if Mary had never been born, the Gospel as we know it would not exist; without her fiat, her "Let it be done unto me according to your word," there would have been no Jesus of Nazareth. Certainly God could have chosen another way to bring salvation into the world, but it would have been different: Not only did Christ's physical being, appearance, DNA, come from Mary specifically, but due to fetomaternal microchimerism (an exchange of immune cells between mother and child through the placenta), Christ carried actual cell lines from Mary—her DNA, not His—within Him, and she carried cells from Him. Even at a cellular level, Mary is uniquely connected to Him.

Hail, Infant Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou forever, and blessed are thy holy parents Joachim and Anne, of whom thou was miraculously born. Mother of God, intercede for us.

We fly to thy patronage, holy and amiable Child Mary; despise not our prayers in our necessities, but deliver us from all dangers, glorious and blessed Virgin.

V. Pray for us, holy Child Mary.

R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us Pray: O almighty and merciful God, Who through the cooperation of the Holy Ghost, did prepare the body and soul of the Immaculate Infant Mary that she might be the worthy Mother of Thy Son, and did preserve her from all stain; grant that we who venerate with all our hearts her most holy childhood may be freed, through her merits and intercession, from all uncleanness of mind and body, and be able to imitate her perfect humility, obedience, and charity. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

07 September 2014

Doughnut behavior

Since Little Bear has learned to associate the parish hall with treats, we've definitely begun using the classic "Be quiet or you won't get a doughnut after Mass" good-behavior bribe. Last Sunday we had to explain that he'd been too naughty to have a doughnut, and while he was very unhappy about it then, he was very quiet all through Mass today.

But then there were announcements. And more announcements. And more announcements. And then someone was invited forward to speak about Stephen Ministry.

And I picked up the squirmy, stage-whispering, trying to be good but why is it taking so long, Mama? two-year-old and carried him out to the narthex.

I'm not sure exactly what I'm frustrated about... The oodles of announcements? The placing said oodles of announcements before the final blessing? Probably that; I know that there are things the priest really needs people to know, and it's not enough to hope that everyone will actually read the bulletin. But for parents of littles who are trying to learn how to behave in Mass, it winds up being a no-win situation: Little kids have short attention spans. It's a fact. When they are at the tail end of their ability to sit still and quietly, and someone else gets up to talk for another five minutes, parents have to choose between A) risking allowing their child to become disruptive, and B) taking their child out and missing the final blessing.

Neither is a good option for the parents, but also, neither is a fair option for the kid. If you take the kid out, neither of you receives the final blessing. If you don't take the kid out and they do start losing control of their whispering voice (or their patience, which certain two-year-olds have in very short supply as it is), whose fault is it really? If I know that Little Bear has already been still and quiet longer than I can reasonably expect him to, but I try to keep him there through the extra five-ten minutes anyway, does he lose his doughnut privileges that week? He's been good and quiet all through Mass, watched Father and the lector, paid attention... I don't think it'd be fair to punish him by taking away the treat he's been looking forward to all week, when if the final blessing had been given before the announcements Mass would have been over and he would have successfully been well-behaved all the way through. Kids learn to follow along with the Mass pretty quickly; they know when it's supposed to be done, and they don't have adults' maturity to not express their frustration when the announcements are never-ending.

But. If he melts down during the announcements and I let him have a doughnut anyway, he's going to lose the association between "good behavior" and "getting a doughnut." So even though I don't think it's fair to punish him for the announcements being too long, I can't teach him that we can be loud and unhappy in church and still get a doughnut. Which leaves me with just one option on Sundays with long-winded announcements: Heading out to the narthex and missing the final blessing.

Surely it wouldn't be that big a deal to switch the blessing and the announcements? People are conditioned to stay until after the recessional hymn anyway; I doubt they would actually lose many members of their captive audience for the announcements.

05 September 2014

Seven Quick Takes of quiet and busyness, diagramming and grizzly bears

It's not even 10:30 am, and the day is already weird: Little Bear, who has been reliably napping from 12:30 to 2:30 pm, is sprawled asleep across my lap. But I intended for that to happen; we have a long crazy afternoon ahead of us, and the only way he was going to get a nap today at all was if I could get him down for a super early one. It's not often that I'm happy about him insisting that it's time to get up an hour early, but I gladly made an exception today!

A bunch of local homeschooling families (and pre-school-kid-having families) will be meeting for noon Mass today, followed by a back-to-school picnic at a local park. At 51 degrees it's a little bit chilly for a picnic, but it's certainly warmer than Monday was! I'm looking forward to seeing other moms and letting Little Bear run around. I stuck mittens in my purse in case he'll let me put them on him, and since he's been sniffly I should probably try to stick a hat on him as well. If we have a hat that fits. I think we do. Since the picnic would have interfered with nap time anyway, I figured it made more sense to have him sleep early and them stay in town and do errands between the picnic and picking Matt up from work.

One of Matt's night classes started yesterday. It's going to be a strange semester with him out until after bed time two nights a week. Little Bear kept running around looking for Dada, because he knew it was past time for him to have been home... We'll find things to do together in the quiet evenings while he's in class, though. Last night, Little Bear sat on the counter and helped me make a Mediterranean quinoa salad to bring to today's potluck picnic. He was very enthusiastic about getting all of the feta out of the little container and into the bowl!

Last Sunday my parents hosted a "last party of summer," which was definitely more of a first party of fall given the temperatures, but regardless of what it was called it was a lot of fun. I think my dad said they had more than 40 people over the course of the afternoon and evening. Matt and I both got to talk to other adults—a too-rare occurance some weeks—and Little Bear ran around after all of the older kids. Our contribution to the potluck was a pecan shortbread-sweetened cream cheese-blueberry pie filling layered dessert:

I thought about typing out the recipe, but it's really pretty self-explanatory, isn't it?

Speaking of recipes, I've finally added a tab up on the top bar for a page with links to all of the recipes I've posted: it's nothing fancy, but now I can find my chicken Provençal recipe without having to try to find the post from the night before Little Bear was born. Why I haven't written that down on paper yet I have no idea... but at least I know where it is! I'll try to remember to update the link list when I add new recipe posts.

I lay awake for the longest time last night trying to figure out to how diagram a sentence from a children's song. In "I stand up," I is of course the subject, and stand is the verb. Up would hang below stand as a modifier, right? It's been way too long since I've done this.

And for the "what are we going to do with this child?!?" category: 

I don't think they're dancing. 

Have a good weekend! Visit Conversion Diary for more quick takes.

02 September 2014

2T Haircuts

Would it really be so hard for there to be one standard sizing scale for kids clothes? Right now Little Bear is wearing mostly 2T shirts, as well as some 3T (but 18mo in button-downs); he fits into one pair of 18mo jeans, two pairs of 2T, and one lovely fleece-lined pair of 12mo. Most of his 18mo dress pants are still too big in the waist, and those that aren't are now too short in the legs, so we had to dig out the safety pins before Mass on Sunday. And he fits equally well in 18mo and 2T sweaters, and is wearing 3T-4T socks. What size is my kid wearing these days? I have no idea.

After helping me wade through sorting too-big clothes into boxes the other week, Little Bear picked up on how the sizing system works and is ridiculously proud of the fact that he wears size 2T. As he's getting dressed in the morning, he happily points to each piece of clothing as it goes on: "2T pants! 2T shirt! 2T sweater!" 

The other day while we talked to Matt's parents on Skype, about clothes and haircuts, he apparently put two and two together and came up with I just got a haircut. I wear 2T. It's a "2T haircut!" Since then he's been running his hand through his hair mimicking the clippers, saying "Vrr, vrr. 2T haircut!" and looking very proud of himself.

I thought, as I cut his hair in late August, that I was timing it perfectly: it was short for the end of summer, but it'd be longer (and warmer) by the time it got cold. Ha! After last fall's "Indian summer" with no snow or particularly cold weather until into November, we are freezing. Literally. It's supposed to get down to 29 degrees Fahrenheit tonight.

We spent the coldest Labor Day that I can remember--it didn't even reach 50 degrees out--bundled in fleece and sweaters and wool socks, stubbornly insisting that we weren't turning on the heat or lighting a fire because it was only September 1, for crying out loud. I finally gave in before bed and turned the thermostat up to 65, and waking up this morning was so much less unpleasant than it was yesterday. Fortunately, it looks like we will be reaching at least the mid-50s for the rest of the week.

I like fall weather, but goodness, we're tumbling toward winter temperatures a little too quickly here!

29 August 2014

SQTF 100: Celebrating August saints, Cinderella, and fall

This month I did a better job of planning meals to help us remember and celebrate the saints' feast days. Planning being the operative word; sometimes we wound up skipping those meals, or they got shuffled to other days. But at least we're taking steps in that direction! We did manage to make a few of the planned meals, and those nights we definitely did take note of the saint whose day we were celebrating, so I'm hoping I'll do a better job of actually making these meals happen in September!

(Today being the commemoration of the beheading of St John the Baptist, I'm slightly afraid to do a Google search for other people's meal ideas. Thankfully I'm off the hook for dinner prep at all tonight, because Matt is working late!)


August 14: St Maximillian Kolbe. 

The plan was to have polska kielbasa and pierogi, but as I went to put the sausages in the pan, I discovered that I'd thawed bratwurst instead. Close enough!

August 23: St Rose of Lima.

For my nameday, Matt grilled chicken breasts stuffed with Swiss cheese and coarsely-diced garlic. He added hickory chips to the coals to give the chicken a smoky flavor, and it was amazing! Not exactly Peruvian, but making a nice dinner on a day of the week that we normally don't put that much effort into cooking certainly helped to make the day special.


August 26: Our Lady of Częstochowa.

This has always been one of my favorite images and stories of Our Lady: the miraculous image received the two scars on her cheek when Hussites tried to steal the icon in the 1400s, and she saved the Jasna Góra monestary from invading Swedes in the 1600s. We did manage to thaw the Polish sausage this time, and enjoyed it with some Bavarian sauerkraut because I'm apparently incapable of keeping German food out of my Polish menus.

I've been away from the Lower 48 for long enough that it's surreal to talk to my siblings at college in Ohio and hear about their weather. August is the hottest month there, and they are complaining about 80s and high humidity while in the same breath being grateful that it's not over 100 F. It's so weird; I was wearing a sweater yesterday. There is a frost warning for the next couple of nights, and  we aren't really expecting to see the thermometer hit 60 degrees (above zero, at least!) for the next eight or nine months. I love these cool, crisp days we've been having, light rain, actual wind, the birches outside our bedroom window turning golden leaf by leaf. Maybe—okay, most likely—I'll be missing Ohio in October or November when they have cool weather and pretty trees, but right now I'm sure glad to be here instead!

What is your favorite fall drink? We have been enjoying the apple cider Matt accidentally brought home last week instead of apple juice! I picked up a small tin of hot cocoa mix at the grocery store earlier this week, too, but haven't made any yet for Little Bear.


Behold, Cinderella in athletic socks. Good to know my fun shoes see the light of day every once and a while...

Have a good weekend! Stop by Conversion Diary for more Quick Takes.