Saturday, July 5, 2014

how to handle a rainy Independence Day

I guess the simple answer is to postpone celebrations until the sun comes out!  But, to make the best of a rather cozy day at home, pickles and jam were my remedy for any cloudiness of mood.

This recipe belongs to our friend Deb, though I use English cukes because something about the dark, slick skin appeals to me in a bread and butter pickle.  They are absolutely delicious.  I will be making these weekly while cukes are in season.

And jam.  Oh jam.  I didn't get to strawberry pick myself this year, but my dear friend Jennifer generously sent a few pounds my way.  It was just enough to make one delicate batch of jam using a mix of recipes from Canning For a New Generation, which you should just get right away if you don't already have it.  It's a combo recipe using mostly the "high yield strawberry jam" combined with the lavender recipe later in the chapter.  It's also a bit lemony, which I love.  It's floral in just the right way, enough to taste but not overpower.

Today we will celebrate the 4th right, with a family cookout and then the symphony and fireworks at East Park in Worcester in the evening.  I don't love celebrating holidays in this postponed form, but this year it will just have to do…and the tasty canned goods are certainly a consolation.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

what's cooking in the summer kitchen…or pickling.

This fantastic mechanism is a No. 4 bread bucket.  Have you ever seen one?  It was a convenience item invented around the turn of the century to save busy women time as they literally "cranked out" all of the bread they needed for their growing families.  It actually won a prize in the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904, which is noted on the bucket.  Let me tell you, this think is solidly built, and yet not over-heavy to use.  I can imagine it was a God-send to mother's across the growing U.S. of A.

I read about this handy-dandy machine in my January edition of "Backwoods Home" magazine.  You can read the article here.  As a collector of old kitchen items (because I USE them!), I knew I wanted to find one. I put my very talented yard-saling mother-in-law on the task, and sure enough, last weekend we got the call that she'd found one!  It's in great shape, as you can see, and today was it's maiden run in our homestead kitchen.  This little lady cranked out SO MUCh bread at once!  I'm really impressed.

I don't know about you, but while I love all of the various no-knead, wet dough methods of making artisan bread at home, it's just not what my boys want to make sandwiches with.  They want sandwich bread to be like grocery-store bread.  Fine.  Because this can sometimes be a bit of a hassle, I just don't often put the effort in to make this kind of bread at home.  Enter the bread bucket.

This process was as simple as dumping in the wet then dry ingredients, cranking a couple times to combine, and then cranking for three minutes.  I left my dough to rise, cranked it once to punch down, divided and transferred to greased pans.  One more rise in the pan, bake, done.  The recipe I used was an 18 cup recipe, and it made many (6 big loaves!)  This is the kind of sandwich bread the boys will like for PB&Js.  I'll just freeze them, and bring them out as needed.  It's awesome to accomplish so many loaves in one shot, without burning out the motor in my KitchenAid.  Awesome.

Also brewing in the summer kitchen…half sours!  These aren't our cukes yet, but it is my dill.  Ours will be along in a couple weeks I think.  We. love. pickles.   (those plates inside are to hold them down)

Next up are pickled peas!  There is a great recipe here (of course).  Yum.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

giving the mobile app a try...

I have no idea how this will appear on the blog, but it's been so long since I've posted...

Maybe a quick post from out in the world will get me moving again.  

Must. Start. Somewhere!

Today we're at the doctor on the north shore, an that's Peter looking very proud that he's a healthy almost-two year old.  

Now the fun begins...just a bit further north for a day on Plum Island!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Lent 2014: a study in virtue

Sometimes your Lenten focus comes to find you. Typically, we try to focus on some element of the faith together as a family, and this year I was coming up short trying to think of something. But that was probably the problem, right? I was trying to drum something up from my own resources, rather than trying to “see” what was already right there. As it happens, our gentle Lord was already pulling things together.

Benny is working on an amazing project right now for his Literature class at this fine learning institution for homeschoolers. There is a project fair coming up where students have to create a project that answers the question Why do we tell stories? The project must also approach the answer through the myths, legends, and fairytales that were studied in the first half of the year. Benny’s project is an involved, quest-style board game based in the legend of King Arthur and his knights. His answer to the question is To teach virtue. 

As you can imagine, the invention of a board game is a family affair. Consequently, there has been much discussion around virtue and vice as research for the game. It has opened up a world of language for us that we really didn’t have at the ready. As Catholic converts, neither Scott nor I had formation in the Virtues proper. It’s just not something that gets talked about in a systematic way very often in the church traditions we encountered. Have you ever noticed how language is crucial to complex thinking? If you don’t have vivid, specific language for something, it’s actually harder to think about it. This is why beautiful language matters...this is close to my heart!

Another discussion we’ve been having for a few months now has to do with Buckets. Buckets? Yes. As you may know, Scott is an elementary school art teacher. In his school, the language used to help the children with issues around “kindness” takes the form of “filling buckets.” You can imagine the scenario...Johnny hurt me on the playground, and that made my bucket feel empty. Or, When you said that you liked my shirt, that helped to fill my bucket. 


I hesitate to use the phrase ‘dumbing down,’ but…

And I guarantee that this methodology is being used across Massachusetts, if not across the country. Is “filling buckets” really the best we can do?

Can you imagine the greater possibilities for actually teaching virtue if we were willing to use words like fortitude, courage, hope, charity, temperance, kindness, humility, patience, chastity, diligence, and prudence?

So, we’ve been talking about this around the house for a while, and since Benny’s project is really drawing us into the subject, we’re studying the Virtues for Lent ( I guess, by the capital V, I mean the classical, time-honored virtues, including the Cardinal and Theological, as well as the medieval expression of the seven deadly sins and their counterpart virtues). Some of our "study" is coming directly from Aquinas, as we tackle each virtue and vice by definition. Some study and inspiration will come from other books.

Scott is reading The Father of the Family, which was recommended by you know who

I just finished Josef Pieper's A Brief Reader on the Virtues of the Human Heart, which dear Erin pulled right off of her shelf when I told her I was looking for books about virtue.  It was wonderful.  In fact, I will probably do some writing about it in another post, since this one is getting too wordy! 

I’m also using a lovely, lovely book called My Path to Heaven with Asher right now (he's 7), and may even try it with Jude (9). It’s full of complex illustrations by Caryll Houselander, which the children have to look carefully at as the text is read. (Thank you for this recommendation Jennifer!) It's not about virtue alone, but it certainly fits in with what we’re doing. 

And finally, we have our Stations of the Cross candle stand, which Scott made a while back. Do you remember?

(they look so little up there! I think that was two years ago...)

This past week was First Friday, and we went to Mass, so we didn’t do Stations as well, but tomorrow, and hopefully the rest of the Fridays in Lent, we will use this candle stand by lighting them all, and snuffing them as we move through the stations. We’ve used the Liguori meditations in the past, which are wonderful. Though, Auntie Leila assures me that no complicated meditation is needed, just the prayers. However, I am excited to try these. (Do you know about these beautiful UK Jesuits? Thank you Sarah, for this tip!!) I need to do a whole post about how this website is teaching us to pray anew… Finally, we hope to get ahold of the DVD done by Father Barron called Seven Deadly Sins, Seven Lively Virtues, though I don't know how yet. Anyone out there have a copy to lend?

What do you do to study the virtues in your family? Do you have any great resources to pass along the titles of?

Praying for a Holy Lent for all of Christendom!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

a book I think you should read

by Mary Reed Newland

This book arrived two days ago.  I can't believe how…well…just wonderful it is.  It is all at once affirming and exhorting.  Anglican and Episcopalian friends, do not be deterred!  Indeed, anyone in a liturgical tradition, or even any Christian willing to deal with the term 'Catholic,' will enjoy this.

I admit that there is a bit of the feeling of 'If only I had had this when baby number one was still nursing.' But there is no turning back, right?  When my dear friend had a look at it while our kids were at choir yesterday, her response was 'It makes you want to start over.'

This is why I need to tell you about it now!  So all of our very next babies will benefit.  And it is NOT too late for the others, or for us, I'm sure.  It's never too late to grow and change.  These pages contain some beautiful thoughts that I can tell will have a profound influence on the day to day around here.

Have you read any Newland before?  My friend Jess (probably without knowing the treasure she had!) sent me this vintage copy of The Year and Our Children, published in 1956.  It's cover is not so awesome now, and you may remember it from a recommendation on Like Mother Like Daughter back in May of 2013 in a "Bits and Pieces" post.  This book is sort of a rambling commentary on the faith, while it focuses on instructing families about how to let the Liturgical Year really seep into everyday life.    There are many many tremendously helpful little ideas about how to do this, even if the style and organization requires a lot of sifting.  It's definitely a book to just have around on your coffee table, because you can always open up to whatever season we're in, or about to be in, to see what little things you might do to celebrate.  Isn't this old copy adorable?  Can you believe it originally cost 95 cents?!

This book, on the other hand, feels much more organized and instructive in a "read from cover to cover" sort of way.  Just head on over to amazon and peek at the Table of Contents.  Having only read the beginning, the main thing I want to tell you about today has to do with her approach to prayer.  The piece of this that feels particularly Catholic has to do with offering up our sorrows and sufferings, and uniting those with our Lord's in the hope that it will ease His suffering, or be merited to our suffering world in some way.  I NEVER heard of this concept outside of the Catholic Church, and I did my fair share of running around.  It's so very powerful for me as an adult (and one who is still just learning to practice this!), but I am amazed at how Newland makes this powerfully accessible for the youngest children.  Or rather, shows us how to make it accessible to our children in the most intimate and lovely ways.

As a little example, she discusses how important it can be to help children see their work as prayer.  She says, "In the beginning, learning to make our bed, dry the dishes, and polish shoes is fun and a kind of play at being grown up, but soon the novelty wears off, and the chores that started out being fun can lose their glamour and become unpleasant drudgery.  If they are prayer, however, it can be different.  Not that tasks we hate doing are suddenly transformed into occasions of great spiritual joy; but there's a great difference between doing them because you're told you must, and doing them because they can be applied to the sufferings of some other child somewhere, who has no bed to make, who must spend his nights curled up in a hole, shivering, starved, unhappy, and with no one to care for him" (Newland 31).

Newland is confident that a child can see work as something Christ can use "as balm for one of His suffering members," and goes on to say that "one of the loveliest things about teaching children that work is prayer is that mothers can't help having it rub off on them.  These diapers that are changed daily, these meals that are cooked again and again, these floors that are scrubbed today only to get dirty tomorrow––these are truly prayer in a mother's vocation as the watches and prayers of the religious are in theirs" (31).  I love thinking that my time at the kitchen sink, if offered up, could be valuable prayer in the life of the Church, in the way that a dear Brother or Sister might drag him or herself out of bed for Matins or Lauds to pray for the rest of us.  And I believe that Newland is right about children.  We don't need to dumb down the faith for them.  We do need to share it, though.

In the first section, "Introduce Your Child to God" she articulates this vocation so beautifully.  She ends the section with this: "Simplicity of soul is one of the prerequisites of sanctity, and it's one of the things our children already possess.  We must be very careful not to contribute to the great cluttering up.  We must make a heroic effort to rid our lives of all but one motive, that "impractical" spirituality of the saints, a life in union with God.  If this is the undercurrent of our existence, we can expect the spiritual training of our children to bear fruit.  Without it, what they learn of God as children will be easily shoved aside when the world begins to make its noise in their ears.  We inherited Heaven at the Cross, and a way of life that should lead us all to sublime heights.  Our obligation as parents is heavy: we must raise children who are in love with God" (20).  Luckily she goes on to flesh out exactly what we can do!

I need books like this to remind me of just that: my primary focus is to aim to raise saints.  Primary focus!  It is so easy to lose sight of that in the mess or the chaos or the homeschool to-do list.  This book is grounding, encouraging, and its tone is loving.  I hope you'll take a look and let me know what you think.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

sunny day not-quite-done kitchen reveal

It seemed, on a recent sunny day, that showing you the kitchen, even though it's not entirely done, wouldn't be the worst idea.  Who knows, after all, when it may be finished?  This may also be a good way to collect a few opinions before we proceed.

As you can see, we need to close in the area above the oven, so that it will have cabinets above.  The same goes for the fridge, which isn't pictured.  I think this will really finish off the space, and the area of countertop there will feel more "cut out" of the big space, like a cozy nook, when those cabinets above oven and fridge go right up to the ceiling.  Since we can't exactly match the maple cabinets, I think we'll just go for a white farmhouse look.  Maybe with doors that are sort of "barn door" looking (think that Z shape on a barn door), but with hardware to match the maple cabinets.  Thoughts on that?

And can we talk about the ceiling?  We went with that whitewash look, which as it turns out we really really really love.  So much so that we're going to repeat it in the living room.  I love how the wood showing through gives it a warm look, and yet still puts it in the white family.  And somehow it really ties in the cabinets, as the hue of both is remarkably similar.  I wasn't sure if the cabinets would work once we did all of the painting, but I think they do.

There is also the issue of trim.  Nothing here is trimmed out.  As of now, the plan is to go with simple, Shaker-looking trim (on the chunky side), in the bright white that you see around the windows, and on all of the posts and beams.  Bringing that green from the built in couch over to the kitchen door was a last minute decision that we're really excited about.  It ties both ends of the room together.  I'm half tempted to do more with that green, but I think we need to resist this temptation to avoid overkill.  This spring I may swap out the red fabric on the couch for green and white, with a little bit of red.  We'll see.

That brings us to the hoosier, in desperate need of restyling.  It looks so much prettier in it's new bright white suit, but I do wonder if this is my chance to do more green.  I'm thinking green glass knobs, and maybe vintage paper for the back walls of the shelves, which you'd see through the glass.  I've been pinning various things I find, which you can peek at if you care to share an opinion.  hoosier pins

So what do you think?  The light in here now is amazing.  The overall feeling of clean warms my pine-smothered heart.  The only problem is now the rest of the house feels so unfinished!  Sometime I'll share our thoughts on what to do next.  The living room is on the docket for next room to work on.

Today is snowy and gorgeous.  I hope you East-coasters are enjoying this brilliant winter white.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Holy Family, pray for us.

On January 27, 2014 Joseph Maria Wassell, our unborn child, was lost.  We entrust this little soul to the care and mercy of our Heavenly Father.
Holy Family, pray for us!

(Holy Family with Garland of Fruits and Flowers, Jan Bruegel the Elder)