31 August 2015

31 August

At least there was no precipitation today! Thank heaven. I cannot believe that I already have all of the kids' winter gear pulled out, that I have to have their winter things out. It is still August. This is ridiculous.

Little Bear was pretty excited that we got to drive "through the clouds" this morning; thanks to the cold it was quite foggy in the valley on our way in to town.

While we were out running a million errands this morning, we stopped in Once Upon A Child. The only thing I managed to cross off my (very short) list for either kid was a red plaid shirt for Little Bear, which was only on there thanks to Sunday morning's minor meltdown when he realized that none of his plaid flannel shirts were red like Daddy's... The trials of an Alaskan three year old. But! I did find a midweight jacket for Little Bear and fleecy "snowsuit" for Kit, to bridge the gap between what they'd been wearing outside and their real cold-weather gear.
And I'd really like to actually get a month or two of use out of the lighter gear, so hopefully we don't go sliding into full-blown winter for a while yet! I just looked back, and last year I was complaining about the first snowfall happening on September 30; at this point, not getting snow until the end of September sounds unlikely and wonderful.

29 August 2015

Seven Quick Takes

Happy belated feast of St Augustine! He's one of my favorite saints, obviously; the blog's name comes from one of his quotes. I'm so glad I could make it to Mass yesterday with the kids. The homily for his feast was incredible, drawing parallels between Augustine's day and our own—a breakdown of society from within, a rising threat from barbarism from without, a loss of culture and language, a widespread lack of education, logic, and understanding of history. St Augustine intimately understood the faults and follies of his day, because he had personally adopted one after another of them in the years before his conversion. Following conversion and later ordination, St Augustine put his logical and rhetorical powers to work correcting error and instructing on the Truth; a remarkable body of his works have been passed down to us today, smuggled out of Hippo just before the city was sacked by the Vandals. It is for us to pray, Father said, for the grace to transform our culture and our world as St Augustine did. 

Our local Catholic radio station, an EWTN affiliate, brought Fr Mitch Pacwa, S.J., up for their annual celebration and fundraising event this weekend. (That was his homily yesterday that I appreciated so much!) Following Mass this morning with the bishop and some other priests from our diocese, Fr Pacwa gave a talk on "the glory of the liturgy," and is giving another this evening on "sanctifying Catholic families." I really, really wanted to go hear both talks, but with two potentially disruptive little kids, I didn't think it would be right to go and risk bothering everyone else. Both talks are being recorded, though, and I can't wait to hear them! When I find a link to the recordings, I'll be sure to share it. From what I've heard, this morning's talk was excellent.

I did bring the kids to the radio station's potluck supper tonight, though. Matt couldn't come, which was so unfortunate: I got to see so many of the people we know from all of the different parishes, including some I hadn't seen in years, and many who had not yet met Kit. As part of the supper, the event organizers set up a "crockpot taste-off" with categories for soup, stew, chowder and chili, as well as a dessert auction. I brought fudge for the auction (Little Bear was very disappointed to have to set it up on the dessert table and walk away from it!), and vegetarian chili with brown basmati rice to pour it over. I knew there was no way that vegetarian-anything would win in a crowd of Alaskan hunters, but I didn't have any meat thawed, and my crockpot was half empty by the end of the evening, so some folks must have appreciated having a meatless option! Plus, it made me happy to be able to label it "Friday Chili" and have a halfway reasonable expectation that if people had come to an event supporting the Catholic radio station, they would be able to infer that it was meatless.

No snow yet. I shouldn't have to say that in August, right? But we did actually have snow forecast for this morning; fortunately, it was 36 degrees F when we woke up this morning, so it was just raining instead of snowing. I mean, yuck, 36-degree rain, but at least we can still hold out hope for not getting snow until September this year! Matt ran out in the rain and brought in a load of wood and kindling, and he and Little Bear laid the first fire of the season before breakfast this morning.

Plaid flannel and carharts... those're my men. Matt split a bunch of wood this afternoon, and Little Bear helped him haul it up to the porch and stack it neatly in the wood rack. Winter will be here before we know it.

Amazon Subscribe & Save: the verdict is... meh. Last month, we got a box of Huggies sz 1 diapers, a box of Huggies sz 4 overnight diapers, and a box of Huggies Natural wipes. We've used the Huggies brand since Little Bear was born, but Kit's diapers and the wipes that they sent us didn't seem to be the same quality; the diapers didn't fit at all and leaked awfully, so I wound up switching to Pampers and buying them at the store all month; we donated the giant Huggies box to the crisis pregnancy center, hoping they would fit a baby with a different body shape. The wipes work fine, but frequently tear in half when I'm taking them out of the package, which has never been a problem before. They also have a different texture than we were used to. We are using up this box, but then I'm going to re-check my price comparison; I'm pretty sure we can get Safeway's store-brand wipes (which we like) for a better price than the brand-name wipes even with the Subscribe & Save discount.

The overnight diapers are fine, and are definitely a better price than in stores, so we'll keep getting those. I changed the sz 1 diaper subscription from Huggies to Pampers, so we will see how those are; this month's Subscribe & Save delivery was only the Pampers, and they just arrived yesterday—I haven't yet had time to open the box. So far, though, I'm definitely underwhelmed by the program.

When Little Bear was tiny, it was frustrating but kind of amusing that he absolutely flat-out refused to wear anything that didn't have two separate enclosed legs: the elastic-hemmed or closed-bottomed "sleep sack" styles of sleepers were completely unacceptable, and he would kick and scream until I changed him into something with feet. Now, Little Miss Kit does not like pajamas with feet. Not one bit. Last night I knew it was supposed to get down into the low 30s, so I put her in fleece footie pajamas... and she kicked and screamed until I gave up and handed her off to Daddy so I could slip into the sleeping Little Bear's room and find the great big up-to-9mo fleece sleep sack that I had never expected to need and had folded up and stuck in the closet. Once in her preferred style of pajamas, the crying immediately stopped and she snuggled down and went to sleep.

My siblings started school last week, so we did too; it's less of a scheduled thing and more of a "when I think of it and am sitting down feeding the baby and need something good for him to do" kind of thing, which is fine because it's mostly just of fun this year anyway, and I don't need to be making either of us stressed about "getting school done" at a particular time each day. Little Bear had a fun week: for religion, we talked about some of the basic prayers (sign of the cross, Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, guardian angel prayer, St Michael prayer, act of faith, act of hope, act of love, act of contrition), where they come from, what the words mean... We also read about St Monica and St Augustine on their feast days.

We did a page or two every day but Friday in the Early Literacy book, which is definitely his favorite book so far, except for when I ask him to practice using the "tripod grip" with his pencil. On Monday, the book told us to go for a walk and take a picture of something God had created to paste on the first page. Little Bear found this big toadstool:

He practiced writing 1s at Grandma's house Tuesday morning while I ran to town briefly with Kit, and he was so proud of himself for doing his schoolwork while his aunts and uncle were doing theirs.

We had decided that Saturday mornings would be a good time for science with Daddy, but I didn't have things ready for them this morning (a big cookie and frosting to depict a cross-section of the layers of the earth), so I baked cookies today and they'll do it tomorrow. So far, we're all enjoying preschool!

For more quick takes, visit This Ain't The Lyceum.

27 August 2015

Freezing zucchini

Zucchini was on sale last week, one of those end-of-summer produce sales that was just too good to pass up. Locally grown zucchini, for the last time until next summer? I already had the week's menu planned, but figuring that I'd find some way to use them, I picked up three zucchini anyway.

Then they disappeared into the bottom of the vegetable drawer. Every couple of days I'd remember them and ask myself, "Can I make zucchini work with supper tonight?" or "Should I just bake with it?" The answers were always "No" and "There's still a loaf of zucchini bread in the freezer," so there they sat... until this morning, when I gave up on using them fresh and pulled out the cheese grater.

Shredded zucchini freezes very well, and is so easy to thaw and throw in recipes later. Three good-sized zucchini gave me about six cups; my zucchini bread and vegetable lasagna both call for three cups, so Little Bear and I divided the zucchini into two quart freezer bags. Kit was very helpful, napping in the sling the whole time! In my experience, it's easiest to measure the zucchini before freezing it; that way, you aren't confronted with a giant chunk of frozen squash when you just need a little bit. You don't need to bother blotting the shredded zucchini dry before freezing, because you'll have to do so once it thaws regardless.

24 August 2015

Heaven & Earth Brownies

As messy as promised, but not a pie; my original dessert plan for the feast of the Queenship of Mary, a chocolate pudding pie with whipped cream, became chocolate brownies with a layer Marian-blue berry pie filling, topped with whipped cream and decorated with the M and cross from the back of the miraculous medal surrounded by twelve chocolate syrup stars.

They are delicious.

We're calling them "heaven and earth brownies," because the process of making them gave me the excuse to reiterate approximately twenty seven million times that Mary is the queen of heaven and earth: dense chocolate brownies for earth, blueberry pie filling for Mary and for the sky, and light, fluffy whipped cream for heaven.

And it worked: Little Bear just now walked up to me and said, "We made heaven and earth brownies, because Mary is the queen of heaven and earth!" Mariology in a dessert: how can you go wrong?

Heaven and Earth Brownies

4 oz unsweetened chocolate 
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract 
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour

2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch 
2 tablespoons water

Whipped cream, ideally freshly-whipped
Chocolate syrup

Break up the unsweetened chocolate into a microwave-safe bowl and melt it, then set it aside to cool slightly. In mixer bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs. Slowly drizzle in melted chocolate and vanilla with mixer on low speed. Mix in flours until just combined. Pour into a greased 7x11 pan and bake at 375 degrees F for 40 to 45 minutes. Cool completely when done, then take a fork and poke holes all over.

In a saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch. Stir in blueberries and water and cook, stirring frequently and smashing berries as you stir, until thickened. When pie filling and brownies are both completely cool, pour pie filling over brownies and spread smooth. 

Spread whipped cream over the pie filling. Decorate with chocolate syrup. Chill until ready to serve.

21 August 2015

Seven Quick Takes

We were all in the kitchen making granola the other day, Kit in the sling, me measuring dry ingredients, Little Bear watching the butter melt in the microwave. Ding! "Not melted yet," he tells me. I ask him to set it for another 15 seconds; next thing I know, the butter starts exploding. Little Bear is crouched down, peering up at the butter dripping off of the microwave ceiling. "The butter is totally melted!" he announces. "Now you need to clean the microwave."

Today was the first time that Kit stayed awake through an entire Mass, and the young lady was not happy about it; she was yelling by the time Father finished the opening prayer. I had to take her out back, where she finally decided that, oh, I guess I do want to eat, Mama... We made it back in for the general intercessions, and she stayed not-quite disruptive through Communion, when I took her back out because I didn't think she had much more "quiet-enough" left in her. Thank goodness my parents were there too, and could keep Little Bear with them! How in the world do you handle a baby and a little kid by yourself in Mass?

Happy baby: When she's not yelling her way through Mass, we've been getting so many smiles out of Kit this week! She'll notice someone looking at her and start cooing, and if you answer her back, she breaks out into a great big smile.

Love that face! ...Especially in contrast to her angry face, which, unfortunately for her, one of her parents noticed bears a remarkable resemblance to the Hulk's "roaring in fury" face...

It's been a busy week for all of us. I had the car four days as opposed to my usual two, what with checkups, grocery shopping, visiting the chiropractor, a rained-out attempt at berry picking, and Mass and a stop at the park today. We got up to 65 degrees this afternoon, which felt incredibly hot after days of barely brushing the lower 50s—we were all dressed for the weather we'd been having, and were very warm! Matt has been trying to finish building a couple of new rooms before classes start on Monday, and they just keep running into problems. He began working through lunches on Tuesday, and pulled out his laptop to rebuild new graphic user interfaces as soon as he got home yesterday and today. Tomorrow morning he'll be back at work first thing, staying "until it's finished." Semester Start is officially one of our least-favorite parts of the year.

Has anybody successfully dehydrated fruit in their oven? How did you do it? Will it work if the lowest heat I can set my oven to is 200 F? Peaches are on a really good sale this week, and I know they'll be astronomically expensive again so soon... I'd love to save them for the winter, to put in oatmeal and muesli and such, and I've heard that dehydrating is easy, but all the instructions I've seen online want your oven at 130 F or 160 F or something like that, and my oven can be set to "warm" or "200," but nothing between the two.

Two cords of dry spruce arrived Monday afternoon to be split and stacked, and we haven't even been able to begin because Matt's been so busy and I definitely can't swing a splitting maul with the baby on me. He has the small mountain of logs covered with a tarp as best he could get it, but we're still hoping that the called-for rainstorms all day tomorrow somehow miss us, because the wood at the bottom of the pile will get so wet. Everything happens all at once at the end of the summer, it seems like. Hopefully we will be able to get it all taken care of soon.

Feast days! It's a Marian time of year, with the Assumption last Saturday and the Queenship of Mary tomorrow. We joined my family for supper for the Assumption, and my mom made her traditional custard pie for the feast day. I don't actually know why that's the tradition; Google doesn't seem to think that it is a tradition from any particular culture. I'm sure she has a reason, but it's too late at night to call and ask... Regardless, it turned out as delicious as ever.

Tomorrow being the celebration of Our Lady's coronation as queen of heaven and earth, I've been trying to come up with an appropriate dessert. Somehow I don't have a bundt pan, so anything crown-shaped is out. It needs to be fairly straightforward, ideally something Little Bear can help with... I'm thinking maybe a chocolate pudding pie (for earth) topped with whipped cream (for heaven), and maybe we can make a little crown out of something to set in the center? Or draw a crown of stars with chocolate syrup? Hmm... That might be beyond my artistic talents, but Little Bear would love helping me make chocolate syrup stars, which would mean we'd be able to talk about why we were drawing stars... I think I'm going to try it. Stay tuned for photos of a very messy pie!

Have a blessed feast of the Queenship of Mary, y'all. Check out more quick takes for this week over at This Ain't The Lyceum!

20 August 2015

Quick & Healthy Weekday Breakfasts

For a while now, I've been working to incorporate more minimally-processed foods into our family's diet, slowly phasing out pre-made things that are full of preservatives and other chemicals not naturally found in food. I love cooking and baking, as does Little Bear, so the added kitchen time to make up for losing some of those convenience foods hasn't been a big deal so far. One area that's had me stymied, though, has been breakfast.

When we have time, Matt and Little Bear both prefer eggs for breakfast. Most weekday mornings, though, we're trying to hurry out the door and there isn't time to cook and eat a plate of eggs, so they both reach for cold cereal... which is generally heavily processed, full of sugar and preservatives, and ridiculously expensive for something that won't even really fill you up!

I fully expect it to take quite a while to wean the family off of prepackaged cold cereal, and maybe it will even remain an occasional treat, but to begin the transition I've been building up a collection of breakfast alternatives that are just as quick in the morning as cereal but are better for us, more filling, and less expensive.


I make up a batch of whole-milk yogurt every other week or so, depending on how quickly we're going through it. Six cups of milk, plus a quarter cup of yogurt left over from the previous batch for a "starter", fills four pint jars up to the shoulders. Heat, cool, add the starter, and let it sit... I put off trying to make my own for years, sure that it was too much work to be worthwhile, and when I finally gave it a try I felt so silly for waiting so long! I broke down my yogurt-making method here  Yogurt is a great way to get protein for breakfast without having to cook meat or eggs, and with plain yogurt, you can flavor it any way you like: add jam, honey, syrup, granola... Recently I've been eating mine with just a handful of frozen berries mixed in.


I've personally learned to enjoy—even prefer—unsweetened oatmeal in the mornings with just a handful of dried fruit and some freshly-grated nutmeg, but right now Little Bear's idea of "oatmeal" still involves a brown paper packet filled with more sugar than oats. I just saw this idea for do-it-yourself instant oatmeal packets  though, and I'm planning to give them a try; I think that picking out his own ingredient combinations will help Little Bear to be excited about eating slightly less sugary oatmeal.


A cold alternative to oatmeal, muesli has become one of Matt's favorite workday breakfasts: it's delicious, filling, easy to bring along to the office, and incredibly simple to prepare a bunch of jars in advance. Fill a pint jar just over half full with grains—we use a seven-grain blend, but rolled or steel cut oats would be fine. (Not instant; they'll be mush by morning.) Fill the rest of the jar up to just below the threads with your choice of dried fruit and chopped nuts; fresh fruit is great too, as long as  you're putting it together to eat the next morning and not several days in advance. The jars with the dry ingredients can just sit there on the shelf for weeks, if you want. The night before you want the muesli for breakfast, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of honey or maple syrup to the jar and fill to just above the top layer of ingredients with milk, leaving enough room to shake it a little (after the lid is on tightly!) Refrigerate overnight, and shake again before eating in the morning.

If the crunchiness of cold cereal is what you miss most, try making your own granola! You can eat it over fresh or cooked fruit, in yogurt, or just on its own with milk; there have been plenty of times when a mug of granola and milk satisfied my craving for something sweet and crunchy. There are so many different granola recipes out there, and making granola is a simple enough process that altering recipes to fit the ingredients you have or the taste you're looking for isn't a problem. Out of molasses? Use honey, or maple syrup. Like coconut? Add some in place of half a cup of oats. I have a pretty basic recipe that I usually follow... or at least glance sideways at, depending on how creative I'm feeling, but this past week I branched out and tried this recipe for Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Granola. Delicious!

Breakfast Cookies

Finding portable breakfast solutions, for the days when we really don't have time for Little Bear to eat before getting in the car, has been my biggest challenge. Muffins and most quickbreads can make such a mess in the back seat. Banana bread with peanut butter usually holds together well, but then there's peanut butter in Little Bear's eyebrows when we get wherever we're going. These breakfast cookies create the smallest disaster of anything I've tried yet, and Little Bear and I both like them. (I didn't exactly follow the recipe; I used milk and butter instead of coconut milk and oil, honey instead of maple syrup, and flax seed instead of chia.) If you have a not-too-messy, car-friendly breakfast idea, I would love to try it!

Healthy, simple, filling, inexpensive; what other quick breakfast options am I forgetting?

18 August 2015

Getting big

Monday morning, I took Little Bear and Kit in for well-child checkups. Both of them at once, because somehow I thought that that would be better than scheduling two separate appointments? I don't know why. Easier in terms of scheduling, yes, but getting twice as many unhappy kids weighed and measured was at least twice the challenge!

Both kids are doing fine, growing well; Kit really is gaining weight quickly—at two months, she's up 5 lbs 2 oz from her birthweight! She's currently in the 25th percentile for height, 75th for weight; Little Bear is between 10th and 25th in both, as he has been for a while now. I'm pretty sure he was up between 50th and 75th in weight when he was Kit's age, though; he was in 12mo clothes by seven months old for sure. They just gain a whole bunch at the beginning, and it evens out as they get older.

We hadn't seen this particular pediatrician before (we go to a big practice with a whole bunch of practitioners), but I really liked her and how she interacted with Little Bear, who has not been willing to answer questions for most of the doctors we've seen previously. She was also great because she really listened to my report of how each of them was doing, and answered my questions and concerns in a way that showed that she considered me capable of understanding what was going on and why certain things might or might not help.

As the pediatrician laid Kit on her stomach on the exam table, I told her that while I doubted that she really knew how she was doing it yet, Kit had been rolling over occasionally for the last three weeks. The pediatrician's response was surprised but positive, something along the lines of "she does look strong for her age," but I caught the attending med student's raised eyebrow... right before Kit pushed herself up and flipped over onto her back. Good job, little girl!

I know that the books say that two-month-olds can't roll over, so I don't entirely fault the med student for doubting me; it takes either personal experience or willingness to listen to someone else with personal experience to learn that while the book is a great guideline, each kid is unique, and they aren't always going to conform to the schedule or limitations dictated by the book. It's really frustrating to have a doctor tell you that you're wrong about something when you aren't, though, so hopefully Kit helped remind him of that!

17 August 2015

Grinding grain

Once you start asking "What is in this?" before eating something, it's really hard to stop... Even with things I tend to think of as "healthy," I'm finding myself double-checking ingredient lists. It's shocking to realize, for example, how many "multigrain" and "whole wheat" bread products have bleached white flour in them! I try to bake all of our breads myself, but buying whole wheat flour with nothing else added to it can get expensive, at least at the rate that I like to bake. One way we've found to make it more affordable has been to buy whole grain to grind into flour ourselves.

Being super pregnant, then having a new baby, and then realizing that the lid on the bucket of spelt berries was stuck on super super tight have kept me putting it off all summer, but yesterday with Matt's help I finally set up my Mother's Day grain grinder. I know, those don't all sound like equally-good excuses, and they aren't, but in my defense it seriously took my strong husband more than 10 minutes to open that lid today. "You really weren't exaggerating," he grumbled. "Yes, please order yourself the attachment to put a screw-on lid on this bucket, because I am not taking this off again."

Lid finally removed, we ran our first batch of spelt through the grinder, and it turned out perfectly. I'm using a WonderMill, which has settings for bread (all-purpose flour), pastry flour, and a coarse grind like cornmeal. Yesterday we just used the bread grind, but I'm looking forward to seeing how much of a difference the pastry grind makes; I have a record of using regular whole grain flour in doughs that should be light, and having them turn out... not light.

In less than two minutes, four cups of spelt berries turned into somewhere between seven and eight cups of flour.

Opening the canister when the grinding was done sure took me back; it smelled just like my mom's kitchen on a grain-grinding day when I was in high school. I haven't had fresh-from-the-grinder spelt flour to work with in years!

And there's not much that smells or tastes better than fresh-baked bread made with fresh-ground flour. While Matt put Little Bear to bed, Kit and I set a batch of sandwich roll dough rising. Because time and exposure to the air have not yet broken down the lipoproteins and unsaturated fatty acids of the grain, dough made from freshly-ground flour behaves slightly differently than dough from flour that's been sitting on a shelf for months. My dough was softer, more pliant, and had a rich, almost buttery aroma. The resulting sandwich rolls rose remarkably, and came out soft and chewy with just enough crust. The speckles are the bran, which is less finely ground (and thus more pronounced) than it would be in commercially produced flour.

Sandwich Rolls

1 3/4 cups milk
4 1/2 teaspoons yeast
4 tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 cups spelt or whole wheat flour
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup olive oil

Warm milk to roughly 120 degrees F. Stir in yeast and sugar; set aside to proof. In a mixing bowl, combine flours and salt. When yeast has proofed, mix into dry ingredients along with oil. Knead six to eight minutes, adding more flour if necessary, to make a soft, slightly sticky but manageable, dough. Cover and let rise until doubled, about one hour.

Punch down risen dough and divide into eight to twelve rolls, round or oblong. Place rolls on a greased baking sheet, leaving a good inch between them. Cover and let rise again while the oven preheats to 425 degrees F. Bake 12 minutes or until rolls are a deep golden brown. Remove from pan promptly and cool on a wire rack.

16 August 2015

What I Wore Sunday

It's not quite break-out-the-woolens time yet, but we woke up to temperatures in the low 40s Fahrenheit most mornings this past week. Today it was already up to 53 degrees when I got up—nice and warm! I don't know if this will be the last sandals weekend of the summer, but we're definitely running out of warm weather here, and I have a pretty pair of new-to-me sandals from my sister that were begging to be worn at least once before it's too late.

So I couldn't help but go with a summery-feeling outfit for Mass this morning. Are white shoes allowed with a black skirt and patterned shirt? I don't know, but it was this or a denim skirt, and I try not to wear denim to Mass on Sundays.

Top: White Stag, thrifted 
Skirt: Motherhood Maternity 
Shoes: Impo, hand-me-downs

And an adorable two-month-old little lady.

Kit is seriously the best baby ever. She hardly ever cries, except to tell me that she's hungry, wet, or tired. She rarely  complains about being in the car seat, and at home, she happily rides in the sling while I get things done. At Mass she's quiet even when she's awake, as long as I notice when she's getting hungry and feed her. And she sleeps. She sleeps in the sling, she sleeps in my arms, she sleeps on her blanket, while I vacuum, while Little Bear yells right next to her, and she sleeps all. night. long.

She was awake and quiet for most of Mass today, which is unfortunately more than I can say for her brother... Are three year olds just difficult? Please tell me three year olds are just difficult, and it's not just us... Little Bear used to be still and quiet all through Mass, and recently he has been so hard to handle: trying to lay down, fussing and whining when we tell him to get up, kicking and saying "No!"... We've been having to take him out at least once each week, and it's so frustrating and embarrassing! Even the threat of not being able to have his coveted chocolate donut hasn't gotten him to shape up lately. He's doing great in other areas; Mass behavior, though, needs work right now.

Most of you probably still have a lot more summer left than we do; I hope you're able to enjoy some nice warm weather this week! For some summertime Mass fashion inspiration from some much more inspirational fashionistas than I, check out this week's What I Wore Sunday linkup over at Fine Linen and Purple!

14 August 2015

Seven Quick Takes

"Okay guys, the first words out of your mouths when Mom and Dad get home are not going to be 'Rose caught her oven on fire!', right?"

I don't even know what happened. I baked cookies yesterday afternoon, and the oven was fine; I preheated the oven to bake biscuits at supper time, and something started burning off the oven floor. My parents had gone out for dinner but a bunch of my siblings were home, so while Matt stayed home with Little Bear, Kit and I drove over to bake the biscuits in my mom's oven. (After turning off our oven and throwing baking soda on the [small] flames, obviously.) New criteria to add to the house-hunting matrix: close enough to use Mom's kitchen if the need arises.

First thing on my to-do list this morning? Cleaning the oven. On my way home from dropping Matt off, I picked up one of my sisters; she watched Kit and helped Little Bear clean his room to keep both kids away from the kitchen while I took care of the oven. By the time Kit needed me I'd also managed to empty the dishwasher and wipe down most of the kitchen, and while I fed the baby, my sister somehow managed to get Little Bear to help her pick up the living room and fold laundry. She's amazing. With her help, pretty much the whole house was clean by the time we left for noon Mass.

Happy feast of St Maximilian Kolbe! Matt has a devotion to Kolbe, and a priest friend actually gave us a second class relic of him shortly after we were married. I intended to do something special to celebrate the feast day, but... lots of craziness this afternoon. At least I read Little Bear the paragraph in his "golden book of saints" about him. Oh, and Mass! We made it to Mass for his feast day. Today there was a funeral at the noon Mass, and there was hardly anyone there specifically for the funeral, so I was so glad that we were there; after Mass a number of the regulars stayed to pray a divine mercy chaplet for the deceased, and a few of his family members and friends joined us. If you have a moment, say a quick prayer for the repose of Charles Sullivan? Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and perpetual light shine upon him, and may he rest in peace. Amen.

I was about to say that that was the first funeral Little Bear has been to, but of course it's not: he was at Alex's funeral, last spring. And now that I think about it, I'm pretty sure that I brought him to a family friend's funeral when he was just a few months old, but of course he doesn't remember that. I think it's wonderful when the family has a simple funeral within the context of daily Mass: now there are many more people than would otherwise have known about and attended the funeral praying for his soul, even though we never met him. And it's good, I think, for our kids to participate in our communal prayer for the deceased, so that they can learn in a more experiential way about the communion of saints and the importance of praying for the dead. Today we saw all three aspects of the communion of saints: the Chirch Triumphant, as we asked the intercession of St Maximilian Kolbe, the Church Suffering, as we prayed for the repose of Mr Sullivan, and the Church Millitant, we members of the Church still on earth looking to the saints for inspiration and intercession, and ourselves interceding on behalf of the souls in purgatory.

As we're rapidly running out of summer here, I kind of feel like I have to scramble to fit everything in quickly. Yesterday was canned food day at the fair, so I took the kids—never ever budget less than an hour to take two young kids to the fair, including parking, figuring out the stroller you haven't used in at least a year, walking aaaaall the way from the far side of the parking lot, etc. At least I had the sense to bring the stroller! We went through two barns, one exhibit hall, talked very briefly with a nice lady at the FEMA table, and briefly contemplated buying "fair food" until I realized that honestly, nothing sounded like food except the place with spinach cheese bread, and I could make my own just as easily. As we hurried back toward the gate to go pick Matt up from work, though, we passed the Russian bakery's booth, and I couldn't resist bringing home a couple of her cream-filled pizzells for dessert and a slice of almond cake for us all to share for breakfast.

Today's adventure was something Little Bear had particularly been looking forward to. As a reward for participating, each child who completes the public library's summer reading program receives a pass for a ride on a train around a local park. The temperature was up in the 60s this afternoon for the first time in at least a week, so we took advantage of a sunny spell to take our ride. Kit slept through the whole thing, but Little Bear had fun watching as we went past the gold rush town, ducks in a replica dredge pond, sod-roofed Native village, and the playgrounds.

The original Engine 1 of the Tanana Valley Railroad, of which our engine today was a replica.

It's almost tomorrow, and I'm too tired to think of anything else... Here's a quote that I've been thinking about all week from the book I've been reading, Close to Home by Molly Sabourin:

"The question I need to ask myself is not, 'What, in addition to the blessings right before me, would make me happier?' It is rather, 'What do I need to rid myself of in order not to get sidetracked from my first and foremost goal of achieving salvation?'"

I bought the Kindle edition, and I think that was not the best decision... This is a book that I want to have a highlighter and a pencil at hand, and be folding down pages and making notes in the margins. Some day, I'm going to have to find myself a hard copy.

Have a good weekend! Stop by This Ain't The Lyceum for more quick takes.

07 August 2015

Seven Quick Takes

Yesterday was our anniversary. Four years, three kids, several job changes, and not too many spectacularly disastrous suppers... We're doing pretty well. Each Thursday at 3pm I receive a text with the USCCB's intention for Friday's penitence, and providentially, yesterday's was "That every married couple allow Christ to transform and perfect their love." It was the perfect prayer intention on our anniversary, and a good reminder of why we chose the feast of the Transfiguration for our wedding.

I risked adding another supper disaster to the count tonight: quinoa egg enchilada skillet. Little Bear ate enough, though he wasn't a huge fan, but Matt thought it was good enough to have seconds. "It would've been better with rice, of course." Of course. But I liked it, and he liked it, and it wasn't rice (which we all like, but I just needed a break from it). And it only used things I had in the kitchen, because somehow my meal plan didn't include Friday and I was not going to the store again. And it was easy! After cooking the quinoa ahead this morning, which is as easy as cooking rice, this evening the instructions were pretty much "Put everything in the cast iron skillet. Put the skillet in the oven. Take it out in a half hour and serve." Protein, vegetables, grain and dairy all in one pan; there's no other work to do to get supper on the table, which was great tonight since Kit needed to be held.

Matt's been so busy and stressed with work that we decided to wait until Saturday to do something to celebrate our anniversary, instead of trying to fit a date in between work and Little Bear's bedtime on Thursday. Thus the two notes on my day planner: "Aug 6 - our anniversary" and "Aug 8 - anniversary (observed)." The government and the Church both move the observance of important days to a more convenient day of the week; I can too. There are cinnamon rolls rising very slowly in the fridge right now, and I'll get up early tomorrow to bake them for breakfast. In the middle of the day, Little Bear is going to help me make cheesecake with a chocolate cookie crumb crust and strawberry rhubarb topping. Early tomorrow evening, we're hoping to go try the new Italian restaurant in town as long as Kit is cooperating, then come home for some cheesecake before Little Bear's bedtime.

It's going to be quite the weekend. After all of Saturday's excitement, we're getting up extra early on Sunday to go to the earliest Mass in town because Matt has to do an hour or two of work from home starting at 9 am, helping a coworker test some updates to the video conferencing system. As he's working I'll be keeping two kids quiet while making a giant pasta salad, because as long as it's not raining, we'll be spending a good chunk of the afternoon picnicking at the lake with my parents, several families from our parish, a few priests, and a handful of current students and other alumni from Franciscan University. It will be fun, I'm sure, but looking at my weekend right now, it sounds a little overwhelming... there might be a part of me that's hoping for just enough rain that I can't go because of Kit, but little enough that everyone else will still go and have a good time.


It's the beginning of the end... This morning the kids and I noticed yellow and red in the underbrush as we walked down to the mailbox at the end of the road. The fireweed pods are bursting, the rose hips are ripening, and the birches are even beginning to have yellow leaves speckled in among the green.

Today was the first day in quite a while that it was both cool and not-smoky enough that I kept the windows and deck door open all day long. It was lovely to have a light breeze blowing through all day! I don't think it reached 70 outside today, so even though I had the stove and oven both on this morning (quinoa and granola bars) and the oven again this evening for supper, it's just 73 in the bedrooms tonight. That will sound unbearable in a couple of months, but right now it's nice and cool compared to what we've had even just earlier this  week.

Not a sign of impending autumn, exactly, but on Tuesday Little Bear and I saw two moose in the woods close off our deck. Hunting season starts in less than a month! Moose season unfortunately coincides with the busiest part of Matt's year, when no one is allowed to take leave for a full month straight; hopefully he will be able to get out looking for moose on a couple of weekends at least. It would be so wonderful to go into the winter with a freezer full of meat!

Have a good weekend, and don't forget to stop by This Ain't The Lyceum for more quick takes!

05 August 2015

Rhubarb cake for Little Bear

Three years ago today, Little Bear was baptized! I love the idea of celebrating three special days for each of us: birthdays, baptismal days, and patron saint's feast days. Baptismal days are no less important than birthdays; they're the day that we became members of God's family! 

We're celebrating Little Bear's baptismal day today by reading and talking about the sacrament of baptism, looking at pictures from his baptism, and making a supper that he got to choose, along with dessert. His pick? A sesame pork stir fry with broccoli and mushrooms. It was completely his idea, even the mushrooms! I did invoke "I'm the one cooking" privileges on the dessert, though; he was sure that he wanted a radish cake, which sounds pretty awful... I made a rhubarb cake instead, and everyone agreed that it was a better choice. 

I actually used my mother's recipe for warm rhubarb cake with milk sauce, a classic I grew up with and love but I don't think I'd ever made before for Matt and Little Bear. Today was a good day to introduce them to it!

Rhubarb Cake with Milk Sauce

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk*
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt 
2 cups chopped rhubarb 

1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 

Milk sauce:
1 1/2 cups milk
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla 

For the cake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cream the wet ingredients. Mix in the dry ingredients. Fold in the rhubarb, then spread smooth in a greased 9x13 pan. Combine the topping ingredients and sprinkle over the top. Bake 35 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

For the milk sauce, combine all ingredients in a quart jar. Close tightly and shake vigorously. Chill until ready to serve. Pour over warm squares of cake.

*No buttermilk? No problem. Just measure out the same amount of regular milk, add a few drops of vinegar or lemon juice to "sour" it, and let it stand a few minutes before adding it to the batter.