Friday, January 25, 2013

It's Later Than You Think...

That title is something that Grandma Dolly said to me one day as I bustled in to bring her something. I can honestly tell you that it stopped me dead in my tracks. When I asked her what that profound saying means, she said that it could mean a lot of different things. It certainly has provided me with a great deal of food for thought! It  made me think, "If not now, when?"  Why keep putting things off until "someday"? You never know when you will literally run out of time.
One thing that this concept encouraged me to do, is to take a class at a local yarn shop last Saturday morning. For 10 dollars an hour, a woman gave me a private lesson  and taught me how to crochet. At least  6 years ago, I bought the book above and have had it in my closet ever since. I could never teach myself to crochet by way of pictures when trying every couple of years. I have always wanted to learn to crochet because my Mother-In-Law made the nicest quilts and aphgans and gave them as gifts which we treasure. For so many years I have had a baby or a toddler on my lap so I had no room, nor a free hand to "'craft". With my youngest child slowly growing up, I now have room on my lap! I finally took a class, taking time away from my family in the middle of a Saturday, and for twenty bucks have learned a new skill which I can enjoy for the rest of my life!
Of course now that I have learned to crochet, I am hooked!!!! Get it?! It is soooo much fun! This is something to do in the evenings ( I have to give up some time to read in order to do this) and while waiting at Doctor's offices, etc.
A friend of ours gave me this wonderful collection of assorted yarns all in nursery colors! We just so happen to have a couple of  few! babies due amongst our friends and family! I am now crocheting away in preparation for them.
Dear God Our Father, Thank you so much for the great gift of hidden new life. Please help these babies to grow and develop and bring them into the world as you Will. Please help all of those who wish to be parents and who have asked us for our prayers, asking you in the name of your only son, our sweet Lord Jesus.  Amen.

Finished Project

The girls continued to work on their project bags and on our fourth day of sewing them (over a couple of months' time), completed their project!
One of the things that I liked about this craft was the discipline required to get the  sewing machine and ironing board out each time and to put them away again at the end of our time together.  We worked on this endeavor step by step, making progress, and eventually it was finished!
After the bags were made, I brought out the reason that we made the bags!
These junior sized knitting needles were only $2.50 and a big skein of yarn only $2.77. Each girl got a set and then we began our next project which their new bags will hold.
Knitting! They are going to make scarves. I am making one as well so that I can demonstrate how to knit. A "picture" is worth a thousand words and it is much easier to show someone how to do something than to tell them. We will continue this past-time during our visits together in the winter months while it feels so nice to have warm yarn in your lap!

Evening Reading

I recently finished a wonderful hard back book that I picked up for a dollar. The Short Life and Long Times of Mrs. Beeton , subtitled The first Domestic Goddess written by Kathryn Hughes detailed the domestic life of Victorian England especially in regard to its cookery. Mrs. Beeton, a young woman who married a book publisher, set out to create a cook book as a way to make money. She worked on it full time for three years and then died in childbirth at the age of 28! Her book, Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management, (1861) continued in print for a hundred years in many different reprintings and revisions! Keeping her death almost under wraps, her publisher husband was able to "Brand"  her name which became synonymous with capable household management  for all classes. They continued to publish new books using her name because the English people of that time were interested in learning and bettering themselves by way of reading books. Her book became the standard wedding gift for new brides for scores of years.

The author of the book that I read, which was not Mrs. Beeton's book but was all about the phenomenon of her book, claims that the actual young Mrs. Beeton could barely cook herself and that most of her recipes were directly lifted from other cookbooks in publication at that time. Apparently, it was the authority with which the young author spoke that made her seem like such an expert. She recommended that all vegetables be boiled for an hour and Mrs. Hughes believes that that advice taught generations of women how to overcook vegetables leading to the reputation that English food is terrible! This book was fascinating reading to me because it concentrated on the details of how these people lived their everyday lives during the time of Queen Victoria. The other interesting thing is that Mrs. Beeton never knew how popular she was to become because her book really took off twenty years after she died! This young woman was just trying to help her husband to have a book to publish and to make money for the family and her name became a legend!
Larry has also been reading in the evenings and I don't want to give too much information but we are really enjoying climbing into bed on these cold winter nights with a cup of herbal tea or hot chocolate and reading together! Berlin Diary, subtitled The Journal of A Foreign Correspondant  1934-1941., written by William L. Shirer was first published in 1941 and was an immediate best-seller. The dust jacket claims that this book " was the first uncensored account of Germany's march toward war." It is about the rise of the Third Reich and what was going on in all of Europe's politics at that time. This book is almost 500 pages long and after finishing that, he read:
The Goebbels Diaries 1939-1941 translated and edited by Fred Taylor and published in 1982. This book is also a published journal, this one written by Joseph Goebbels who was Hitler's Minister For Public Enlightenment and Propaganda. This guy, Goebbels, took his own life imitating his good buddy Hitler, after poisoning his six children. He set aside a part of each day to write in his diary throughout his life, and then carefully hid the lot of them in a woodland before his death. They were found and have been published. The Forward by the editor states that these diaries carefully track the focus of the Seizure of Power while Hitler was taking over the State, the Universities and professions, the trade unions and the youth movements. Larry found it fascinating and finished all 454 pages.
 He just started a 1000 page book on WWII but I won't feature it until he finishes it. Through reading, he is educating himself to become an expert on the Second World War like he already is on The Civil War. Those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it! It makes me so happy to see him reading such difficult stuff and I am very pleased about the good example this sets for the kids.
Meanwhile, John has discovered the Redwall series written by Brian Jacques, ( pronounced Jakes, as I  found out). He is tearing up this series both in paperback and hardback. There must be over twenty of these stories about a mouse kingdom and all of the other forest animals they associate with and battle. I am sure that my explanation is oversimplifying the plot. These books are very popular with young teen boys and Greg read many of them. John is checking them out of the library weekly.
Juby is reading these little Fairy stories as books that she chooses for herself when she goes to the library. There must be more than twenty-five of these that she has read which all follow the same formula. A fairy with a modern girl's name has an adventure that takes place in 65 pages. One night she read five of them (of course she had trouble getting up the next morning!)
For Christmas, she received a boxed set of 15 Beverly Cleary books sold at Costco for a very reasonable price. Although we own most of these titles, our books are very old and worn out. I knew that she would re-read them if she had fresh new copies and she has. These are great books for kids and there are titles preferred by both boys and girls in this set.
Katie John and Depend on Katie John, written by Mary Calhoun were given to us when our older girls were young by Aunt Catherine. These were her favorite childhood books! These have made great read-alouds for Juby and I. Our Read-Aloud is still our first subject right after our prayers. It is the time we enjoy the most. I would really like to figure out a time of day when we could read-aloud with our school kids but haven't gotten there yet. Sharing a good book together really builds a bond and it is pure joy!

Paying It Forward

Grandma Dolly is needing much more help lately as she pushes toward another milestone birthday. The Flu took a heavy toll on her but it wasn't as bad a the last time she took a flu shot, which was worse. One of the subjects in my very small homeschool is to help Grandma Dolly each week, sometimes twice. Juby and I help to cut up her pills and place them in her weekly pill container. We often bring in groceries and little treats that she didn't ask for like fresh donuts. Fortunately, she has another resource in another family member who works for her because she is needing more help than I can give with my own family responsibilities. I have recently started to do her laundry regularly taking it home to my house and then delivering it back. I manage her medical visits, medicines and her banking. She is becoming more dependent and my latest duty has been to apply for more help, trying to have someone come in to help her for more hours weekly.

On many occasions I have been extremely grateful to have been raised to be cash register honest. By God's Grace I have everything that I need so that there is no temptation to feel entitled to any of her very meager resources. It is a great privilege to have her trust me. I am awed by that trust and aware of the vulnerable place that she would be in without it. I am sure that there are many seniors who don't have someone to look out for their best interests.

 Dolly and I are related by marriage. This social order puts into place relationships that are designed to help each generation to provide for one another. She often says to me " How am I ever going to repay you?" That's easy, I say! I don't want her money or her stuff. What I do covet are her prayers!!!! This gal is a Prayer Warrior. She prays for me and my family regularly and if someone in the family has a particular need, I ask her to pray for them. To me that is worth over a million dollars and that is selling it short!

The other wonderful thing involved here is that Dolly is a lot of fun. She does appreciate what folks do for her and so the reward is her kind words of thanks. I would probably still help her if she wasn't, because that is the right thing to do but it wouldn't be half as much fun. We are friends. We talk when we visit. I tell her all of the news from our very busy family life. I am quite sure that it brightens her day and gives her something to think about later.She knows all of the players in my life. I cannot imagine living for a day without the sound of another human being's voice ( except for the TV) but that is the experience of many senior citizens, like Dolly.

Lastly, I enjoy helping  Dolly because I am really hoping that my children will want to help me when I can no longer do for myself. I do it for my husband as well. On his deathbed, Larry's father asked him to take care of Dolly. We have done that as best we could, and I am the one who has the time for it. Women are very good at taking care of others because we are hard-wired for it. I am delighted to have the opportunity to do this. It really suits me to manage things and it is a good learning experience to work with Dolly to get her needs met while respecting her freedom and choices.

Still Packin'

Seeing these lunch boxes lined up on the counter was too much fun to miss taking a picture of them! I still enjoy my second task of every school day. After starting a pot of coffee, packing lunches comes next. I do it  before sitting to down to read a meditation and pray because this job takes some time.
I had the pleasure of having my nieces and a nephew spend the night before an activity that we did together. Mom had given me some leftover hoagie rolls and a bag each of cut-up carrots and celery from our gathering the day before. These supplies made packing lunches a breeze! Sliced turkey and Provolone cheese, romaine lettuce and mayo (added because of the rolls) made for tasty sandwiches. I cut each roll in half and gave each student two halves separately bagged up. Fruits and vegetables are a main stay of sacked lunches and Mom's carrots and celery were all ready to go! Small apples make a nice dessert and clean the teeth after eating lunch. A new bottle of water ( I label the bottles and reuse for my own children) was the beverage.
I like to show my love by packing a tasty looking lunch. My reward comes from the not infrequent comment from a kid " My lunch was really good today".  Seeing the empty packaging come home in the bags is the other gratifying remuneration from this daily chore.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

New Favorite Hymn

God, We Praise You!
by  Christopher Idle, 1978

Although the video is boring, the music is good and the lyrics, beautiful!  Please sing along if so inclined!

1.God, we praise you! God, we bless you!
God, we name you sovereign Lord!
Mighty King whom angels worship, Father, by your church adored:
all creation shows your glory, heaven and earth draw near your throne
singing "Holy, holy, holy, Lord of hosts, and God alone!"

2 True apostles, faithful prophets, saints who set their world ablaze,
martyrs, once unknown, unheeded, join one growing song of praise,
while your church on earth confesses one majestic Trinity:
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, God, our hope eternally.

3 Jesus Christ, the king of glory, everlasting Son of God,
humble was your virgin mother, hard the lonely path you trod:
by your cross is sin defeated, hell confronted face to face,
heaven opened to believers, sinners justified by grace.

4 Christ, at God's right hand victorious, you will judge the world you made;
Lord, in mercy help your servants for whose freedom you have paid:
raise us up from dust to glory, guard us from all sin today;
King enthroned above all praises, save your people, God, we pray.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Scalloped Potatoes with Ham and Cheese

At a Christmas party, a group of our friends was talking about the joy of cooking and someone mentioned their recipe for Scalloped Potatoes.
Realizing that I actually had all of the ingredients to make that dish, it was prepared and served on New Year's Day. 5 pounds of potatoes were peeled and sliced very thinly.
Sweet onions and 4 cloves of garlic were sauteed to caramelize the edges.
Then a stick of butter was melted in the bottom of a saucepan. To that I added about 3/4 of a cup of flour to make a "roux". Once the flour and butter were smoothed together, milk could slowly be added to the pan and blended without lumping. 3 cups of milk seemed about the right amount.
I sprayed the bottom of a very large casserole pan with Pam and started to layer the ingredients: white sauce, potatoes, ham, onions and cheese, winding up with four layers. Over all of this, I poured the remaining sauce which had by now thickened quite a bit. Panicking, I poured a can of evaporated milk over all so that it wouldn't be too thick, but creamy.
In the past, I have noticed that it takes a long time to get the potatoes to soften in the oven. The friend that I obtained the recipe from cooks this casserole for four hours at 325! I cooked it for one and one half hours at 350 and the potatoes were great. My version was a tiny bit soupy although very flavorful! We could have lived without that last can of milk. At the same time, it wasn't too dry which is never good. This is no diet food- it is a homey "comfort" food. We all enjoyed this tasty dish which was labor intensive to make and therefore very special for a holiday meal.

First Night

I have never been a fan of New Year's Eve because watching all that craziness on TV really depresses me. This New Year's Eve changed all that and I had the best time ever bringing in the New Year! With our youngest child old enough to stay up until midnight on this special occasion, we made a plan to attend "First Night", a family celebration of the Arts.
Lynnie and Tori hung out with us at the house before they left for their own party with friends.
During the afternoon, I had bought the pin-on badges for the evening (allowing for admission to all events) which these folks stopped by to pick up. Then we all headed downtown to begin a very pleasant evening of  interesting sights and wonderful live entertainment.
Our first stop was the Model Railroad Exhibit appropriately housed in an old train station! We had visited this as a family many years ago. Jeff was very excited to show Chelsea and we looked forward to having our boys see it.

Notice the control station at the top of this picture. The guys stand up there to operate and control the trains running on the many different tracks. All of them were running, probably ten sets of long trains or more. The building is arranged for viewing with a one way pathway cut out, an entrance and an exit door.

The attention to detail in this model train landscape is phenomenal. The men who are a part of this Club have been meeting once a week for Thirty years to construct and maintain the display!

Next we booked it a long way to the farthest end of the walking mall. We went to the first of four different churches to see a classic rock band comprised of people we know! The myriad of entertainment choices  were listed on a program, each show beginning on the hour and performing for 45 min. That left a 15 minute time span to walk to the next venue, usually a few blocks away.
All the performers played in the sanctuary of these very old and beautiful churches decorated for Christmas. We visited the Presbyterian, Methodist, Episcopal and Lutheran churches throughout the evening and saw spectacular woodwork, hardwood floors, wooden pews and fabulous organs.
This next band packed the church including a wrap around balcony where we were seated. The music was beyond great and the front man was a born entertainer. I noticed a great deal of folks were middle aged and older and there were a lot of families with children. The young people were in the restaurants and nightclubs along the mall and a hundred teenagers were gathered to talk and hang out at the intersection (closed to traffic) in the center of the mall. This event truly had something for everyone!
After two rock bands, we changed it up by watching the "Spoon Man". This guy was very talented in his spoon playing but also in the way he got the entire audience involved in his act. He was hilarious!
The last live performance of the evening was "Mean Mary" ( not on stage yet in this picture) who was by far one of the most talented young musicians that Larry and I had ever seen live. She could play a banjo like nobody's business and sang so well with a unique rhythm punctuated by her stomping foot. It was a treat to hear her.
By then it was nearing midnight and time to get to our vantage point on the top of the parking garage to see the "apple" drop and witness the fireworks. We had a lot of fun up there as it was covered with a few inches of ice and made for great sliding! Many members of our family and old friends were there ( reminds me of "Auld Lang Syne"!) and spirits were high, in our case naturally! Loud music filled the air and we could see folks dancing on the ground level from our fifth floor height. The "apple" was held up by a crane and dropped slowly as everyone counted down loudly to midnight. Kisses and hugs were exchanged!
Then the fireworks began! They were great. Jeff had fun posing folks for pictures with the bright fireworks exploding in the background.
This was an evening to remember and so perfect for children and the entire family to enjoy. For some reason, I had always thought that these buttons were too expensive ( about 9.00 each), kids eight and under free, but we agreed- it was worth every penny paid! Being out and about together in the nighttime, walking quickly from one church to the next, hearing great music, and seeing old friends along the way was awesome!
This was a terrific way to bring in the New Year and a great improvement over my usual plan. In the future, I hope to say good-bye to boring, depressing New Year's Eves!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Fresh Fruit Flavored Water

This pomegranate was given to me by my future daughter-in-law (yaaaay!). She has figured me out in that I like to pretend to be elegant! She saw that the day before, I had set up one of my new Christmas gifts, a glass jug with a spigot on a stand, (Thanks Meg and Jon!), used for serving cold drinks like lemonade, iced tea and fruit flavored water. The first day I used it, I had it filled with 5 or 6 cut up clementine oranges that were loosing their looks but not their flavor.
Chelsea told me how to cut the pomegranate up to release the pellets filled with juice.
These were squeezed and dropped into the jug where they stayed at the bottom. The white pulp surrounding the pellets that managed to get into the water floated to the top and was easily removed with a small sieve. I added ice and waited for my customers to come try some!
Despite the rich red color of the juicy water (that red being a real stainer for clothes) no one in the family would touch it! Or, if they did take a sip, they didn't finish their cupful! Nevermind- I will try to drink the whole gallon like I did the orange water. I think it tastes fine (it isn't sweet, it is just a little flavor added to regular cold water). I will have to be elegant all by myself! haha!

I'm busted:  Notice the careful staging above! In the third picture I have my old "Twisted Peppermint" hand soap container refilled from a bulk container from the discount department store. In the fourth picture, I have placed my brand new container of "Winter Candy Apple" handsoap, (Thanks Cindi and Greg!) that I will thoroughly enjoy until it is all gone and then refill it also, elegantly of course!

The Feast of the Holy Family

The Sunday after Christmas is always the Feast of the Holy Family. On this day, the Church meditates upon the humble holiness of the family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The readings for this day were beautiful and the homily by our pastor outstanding. I really enjoyed this Mass and felt like I had had my "Spiritual Bucket" filled by all that we had heard. I would like to try to hit some of the highlights, aside from the Eucharist, that were helpful to me.

 A reading from the letter of Saint Paul to the Colossians , 3: 12-17.

Brothers and sisters: Put on, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another. If one has a grievance against another: as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns,and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Taken from the Magnificat December 2012 Vol.14 No. 10,pp.442-443.

Our pastor, Fr. Stan Krempa,  is a magnificent homilist who has written a few books. His comments, (as I understood them), on the Holy Family I will paraphrase from notes that I took on the back pages of my checkbook during Mass.
" The family is the most important community to which we will ever belong. It is a "Bridge" that connects generations. Respect and care are given to young children as well as to parents and grandparents as we care for them in their older ages. One generation cares for the next.
As individuals, we are not on "spiritual automatic pilot". The family is a "Workshop" of Love and Faith.
Just like factories that are messy and full of lost tools, families are not always neat and clean. Family life is where we learn the virtues and where rough edges get smoothed.

The family is a "Living Cell of the Larger Church Community". Each family joins their lives to the larger community which is the Body of Christ.

Fr. Krempa mentioned that societal changes do impact family life today but no more so than in the town of Nazareth where our Sweet Savior grew up with his Mother, Mary, and his earthly dad, St. Joseph.
It is easy to focus on Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus and its angelic choirs and visits from shepherds and exotic Wisemen from the east. However, Jesus grew up in a little home in Nazareth where he had to be cared for as a small child (the Bridge), and  taught the carpentry trade (the Workshop). On a journey from Nazareth, He was eventually found teaching the elders in the Temple after his parents "lost" him on their pilgrimage to Jerusalem (Joining the Larger Community).

He summed up by stating that it is nice to "have" a family but it is more important to "be" a family.
Like the Lord Jesus, it is in family life that we learn and grow in wisdom, age and grace."

 Paraphrased from a Homily by Fr. Stan Krempa, December 30, 2012.


We received this gift of Bananagrams for Christmas. So far, we have left it set out on the table although the bag is very cute! It is somewhat like Scrabble but easier to play.
Each player takes 21 tiles from the 144 in the game and works independently and at the same time as (or concurrently with- since we are talking about vocabulary!) the other players to create his own "crossword", using all of his letters. Difficult letters can be exchanged from the big pile by substituting one tile for three more.  A player can constantly rearrange his own puzzle if desired. The object is to keep taking more letters from the main pile until they are all gone.
I like this game because it is quick and easy to play with no real set-up involved. It is easy for good spellers and good practice for the "spelling-challenged."  What it doesn't offer that Scrabble does however, is the reward in scoring high points for using challenging letters like "q" and "x" in big words. Bananagrams doesn't differentiate between long and short words or easy and hard letters. That may be the simple beauty of it- each player can do the best they can with their letters at whatever level they are able to.