Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Since Everyone's Talking About Florida...

I thought I'd whip up a Key Lime Pie.  Well, actually Daddy's been asking for one ever since he found that Costco sells key limes.  He has fond memories of visiting the Florida Keys with his Mom and Dad as a child.  They camped all over the United States for a month at a time.  He's pretty much been everywhere.

Here's what you'll need:

4 egg yolks
1 14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk
1/2 c. fresh lime juice
1 Graham cracker crust or you can make one yourself (Look elsewhere for this recipe since I was too lazy to make one myself!)

Now before you go all hay-wire on me, yes, you are going to eat raw eggs with this pie.  I don't worry about stuff like that since the lime juice neutralizes the eggs.  And, yes, I'm a Biology major so don't correct me if I'm wrong!  You will also keep the pie chilled and if you're human and love sugar, the pie won't be sitting around long!  But just in case, you're a little iffy on eating raw eggs, you can do this:

To make key lime pie safely, heat the lime juice with the raw egg yolks in a pan on the stove, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches 160 degrees F. Then combine it with the sweetened condensed milk and pour filling into baked pie crust. Top with meringue. Bake all meringue-topped pies at 350 degrees F for at least 15 minutes.
Let's start with those notorious eggs.  Crack them and separate the yolks from the whites.  I just discarded my whites, but I'm sure you wonderful stewards can find many uses for them instead of throwing them out.

To this you will add the sweetened condensed milk and mix it all together.  I used a hand mixer on a medium speed.

Next, add the lime juice and mix again.  You will notice that the mixture will start to thicken.  That's what you want!

 Pour it into your prepared or ready-made graham cracker crust.  Place it in your refrigerator to chill for a few hours or overnight.

I just waited a few hours and decided to work on the cream for the top.  I chilled my mixing bowl and beater for 10 minutes in the freezer.  I used a medium sized container of heavy whipping cream and 1/4 c. granulated sugar.  I mixed the cream on a high setting for about 5 minutes or just until peaks started to form.

You don't want to over mix because it will turn to butter.
I then grabbed a pastry bag and a 2D star tip.  I always use a tall glass to fill my pastry bags.

 Then you just pipe stars starting in the center of the pie until the whole top is covered.

I cut very thin slices of lime to garnish the top.  And voila!  Now you can watch the drama unfold with the Florida Primary.

I have another little surprise for you for the upcoming feasts....The Presentation/Candlemas and the Feast of St. Blaise (Blessing of the Throats).  Think light!  More on that later.

Here's a bonus photo of Jane who wanted me to take her picture.  It was all she could bear not to swipe her little finger across that pie!  I applauded her effort.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Basketball Cookies for Maria

 We worked on Maria's cookies on Friday.  These were super fun to make.  The basketballs, of course, were easy...just simple circles with orange royal icing.  I used a food writer to mark the lines and piped them in black.

Next, Maria really wanted me to try to make a backboard and net.  I used a wedding cake cutter and modified it a bit using a template I traced onto card stock.  I've done this before.  You can make any template from a tracing.  You just have to hand cut it with a knife or pizza cutter.

If you flip this upside down, doesn't it look like the beginnings  of a backboard and net?
I hope you see it, too!

Here's my card stock template and my knife.

When we placed the cookies on the sheets, they reminded me of milk bottles!  I'll have to make a batch of milk bottles for the State Fair in honor of the Dairy Barn!

Decorating them was pretty easy.  I used royal icing...white, black and red.  I used to use piping bags exclusively to decorate cookies, but have since found it WAY easier to decorate cookies using 10 second icing and plastic squeeze bottles.  My favorite tips are #1, #1.5, and #2.  I use #2 tips for piping a border and flooding the cookies.  I use the smaller tips for piping the details.  The consistency of the icing is what makes all the difference.  You can check out both of these places for icing consistency tutorials:

Sweet Sugar Belle
Sweet Ambs

I think the cookies came out very cute and most importantly, Maria loves them!

I then had an idea that came to me from a Pinterest post.  I've never thought of little tags for my cookies.  I used to seal them in cello bags and glue a little ribbon bow on the tops.  These were always cute, but I think this is way cuter.

I sealed the cookies and then ran down to find scrapbook paper that would fit the theme.  I found this sports sayings paper that was just perfect!  I cut 4 X 3 pieces of paper, folded them in half long way, and then stapled them onto the sealed tops of the bags.  I think they look so finished and cute in the box.  Maria was so happy when she saw them!

These are the party favors that will go home with the girls.  Aren't they cute?
And here's the best part that makes me happy.  This is the beautiful little girl that was born to us 11 years ago today.

Maria at 5 years old
Maria, a beautiful young lady, with her sisters and Daddy before the
Little Flower's Snowflake Dance

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real: Baking Up Some Love Edition

round button chicken

~ Capturing the context of everyday life ~

Yesterday, I made the dough and baked the cookies for Maria's upcoming Basketball Birthday party.  Because I always like to have a little fun of my own in the kitchen, I decided to make a few Valentine cookies, too.


I found all of my "love" cutters...

I hate getting dough in my ring so I took it off and set it aside.  Sigh.

Happy & Funny

I had a little baking helper that insisted on using the cutters and transferring the cookies to the sheets.


Here are the final products.  I definitely have to get into a zone to decorate.  I did this work while the older girls bathed Jane & Nick and helped Daddy put the kids to bed.  Meanwhile, I worked a little magic in the kitchen!

These are ok.  I like them because they are "mini" cookies.  I had an idea to make them into "conversation
hearts", but I must have forgotten about that idea.:(  I guess I'll have to make another batch!

These are my favorites!  I love the cornelli lace on the double hearts, and I used rolled Pettinice fondant with a design mat for the larger heart and smaller scalloped edge square.  The pillow effect was something new I wanted to try.  Amber over at Sweet Ambs has a good video on this technique.  I added sugar pearls at the seams on the pillowed heart.

I still have to go back to the "workshop" to make those basketball cookies and hoops/nets.  Go see more Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real Moments by clicking on the button above.  Looks like Auntie Leila is on tour grandbaby holiday!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Just one more...

Load of laundry before I go,
Email to send,
Bill to pay,
Call to make,
Stitch to sew,
Cut to make,
Dish to load.....

I do at least one of these things every time I should be getting my coat on and getting my butt out the door to drop of a kid, get to a meeting, meet someone, get to Mass or confession. And without fail, I'm almost always inevitably late! I've missed opening talks, the Gospel, and not to mention the comments and disappointment from the kids because I make them late. Why do I do this? I think it's because I think whatever that last thing is that I want to do will only take a minute which really means I want it to take more like 15-20 seconds because that's really all the time I have to spare. Does anything ever take only a minute? There's always a glitch that happens.

The phone rings and I have to answer it,
Someone yells from a bathroom they need help,
Someone yells that Nick needs a diaper change,
I remember something else I have to do before I do that one last thing,
I have to go to the bathroom,
I realize I don't have any make-up on!

I probably have ADHD, but I really don't want to find out if that's true. For now, I'm happy not knowing. And by the way, I thought I should try to get one more post in before I go to bed because I'm under the crazy assumption that I'm a Super Mom!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, January 23, 2012


I started writing this post on Saturday morning, but then the stomach flu hit one of the kids so I'm just getting back around to it now.  I thought it was still worth posting.

I was just thinking this morning that I should try once again to put together a menu for the month.  I know it's a little late in January to make one for this month!  I did put together the first week of the month, but I didn't get past that week.  As I was sitting there, I thought a bit about how our weeks go.  I usually make a couple large things sometime in the week....3 lbs. of ground taco meat, a roast, a roasted chicken, chili, spaghetti, a large rice cooker filled with rice, a pot of beans, or a couple large pans of steamed vegetables. I always have three things ready to go in my fridge....meat, starches, and vegetables.  This way I can make any number of things quickly, nutritiously, and with minimal fuss.

I'll give you a little example.  Last evening, I planned to cook rice and sautéed vegetables.  I knew there was a bit of leftover chicken breast and a bit of roast that was leftover from a previous pot roast.  I was going to mix the two, reheat them, and serve the meats with the rice and vegetables.  It was going to be "my take" on Chinese.  When I went to serve the rice, Monica had forgotten to hit the COOK button so no rice!

I had to punt so I grabbed bags of flour and corn tortillas, heated them on the stove, and pulled out a container of beans I had defrosted the day before.  We heated the beans and served them with guacamole, salsa, and shredded cheese.  Paul was raving...a lot.  He and the kids loved it!  I had to think quick on my feet to come up with a "save" for last night's dinner.

So what are we having tonight?  I defrosted pork chops that I've been meaning to make for some time.  I decided this morning we would have them with steamed vegetables and the rice that was finally cooked last night.

After discussing this with Daddy, he told me not to sweat the menu planning.  He is pleased that we are all getting healthy, nutritious meals and he really doesn't have much to add.  This led us to a few other thoughts.  We talked about the balancing of our checkbook which mind you, never happens.  I used to balance my checkbook when I had a job before I was married, and I basically made money and spent it.  I didn't save anything because there wasn't anything to save.  I lived hand to mouth.  I balanced my checkbook because I was told you were supposed to do that!  I approached my checkbook the way I try to approach menu planning and organization.  I've been told and inspired by a lot of well meaning people.  But I have to ask.  When did Martha Stewart become our spiritual and organizational guide?  She's a convicted felon!  I know she served her time, but she also kept making a dime from her nicely padded prison cell off of all of the gals like me who go to her like she's an organizational goddess.

Granted, I'm not receiving spiritual direction to find out if I'm being a good enough steward nor am I actively seeking it out so I go to the next best thing...my husband.  He came from his father's financial philosophy...

You want to know the quickest way to double your money?  Fold it up and put it in your pocket.
We have never balanced our checkbook.  In the first years of our marriage, we felt guilty over not doing this.  After a while, we consulted help from a financial planner who told us there are 2 kinds of people:  those who balance their finances to the gnat's eyebrow and those that don't.  He asked if our checkbook was serving us or were we serving our checkbook?  We finally decided to stop feeling guilty.  In this age of online banking, we can basically look at our checking or savings balances at any time.  Daddy handles our finances and does rather well with them.  He invests, moves our money around so we can get better rates, and does the old bankroll under the mattress trick by stashing money away in separate online accounts earmarked for things we want to save up for.  I help out by shopping online deals, buying in bulk, and letting go of money wasters like junk food, eating out, and cable TV.  I also try to make lists whenever I have to hit Target, Wal-Mart, or Costco so I'm not tempted to impulse shop.

So am I being irresponsible? Are WE being irresponsible?  I wondered if Ma Ingalls ever made a menu for the month.  I don't think she did.  I'll bet she kept everything pretty simple.  They probably ate the same things day after day or depending on the season.  She probably made a lot of their food when the time was right for it.  She probably bought staples in town when she needed them.  And she probably wasn't tempted by big grocery stores, concession stands at games, or drive-thrus because she was in a hurry.

I think simple is the way to go....menu or no menu, balanced checkbook or not.  I don't want to discourage anyone from actively pursuing spiritual direction or a very good Dave Ramsey course.  I'm just saying if you aren't doing these things and your wondering if you can still be a responsible member of society, I'm here to tell you that you can! When you think about secular responsibility, you probably can use Martha Stewart as your spiritual and organizational guide.  But if you truly seek spiritual guidance from a reliable source, your responsibility meter surely changes.  We'd rather be responsible for imparting the faith to the kids, being active participants in their education, building strong family bonds, and living every moment intentionally trying to build a culture of life.  If we can get to the checkbook or the calendar to plan meals, so be it.  But if we don't, you can be sure there are other very worthwhile goals on our plates!

Oh, and here's a cute picture I snapped after lunch today.  I love cardinals in winter!  This one was just outside the kitchen window in a little pine.

Friday, January 20, 2012

What's Love Got To Do With It?

I wanted to write this post on "Love" since Valentine's Day is coming up and all, and I just couldn't resist this title for a post...bear with me!  I was thinking about this after I wrote about it in one of my daily journal entries.   Yes, in addition to keeping up this blog, I also journal daily.  It really helps to put things into perspective because blogging sometimes is filled with uploading pictures rather than actually digging deep into myself.

I was asking myself, "Self, do you really understand what love is?"  It can't possibly be just the stuff in songs and cards.

 I found these on Pinterest.  Cute, huh?
Love is that which makes you give when you don't want to give, when you're tired, and when you'd rather isolate.  For me, food was what I used to medicate myself during those times so I could keep on going.  I would sneak away to grab cookies, mini chocolates that I had stashed away in cupboards, bowls of ice cream, or forkfuls of cake leftover from birthdays or other celebrations.  I needed sugar to get me up from the computer or the couch or out of my room to attend to all those needy little people in our home.

But then I miraculously had a willingness to clean out my cupboards, shake off the fetters that had me in bondage, a slave to my cravings and food temptations.  Miraculously my eyes were opened to the truths around me.  Babies needed to be changed, fed, and held.  Older kids needed understanding, compassion, and direction.  Daddy needed attention, encouragement, and support.

Amber is the genius behind these cookie creations.  Find her
at Sweet Ambs.
And then there was me.  When I was infatuated with sugar and sugar cravings ruled my waking moments, I never went to bed without guilt, shame, or remorse.  I had all kinds of demons plaguing me in the mirror as I brushed my teeth before I went to bed.  Those demons tried to tear me down and wear at my soul.  My motherhood was in jeopardy.  I was doubting my vocation.  Did I love myself?  Did I love myself enough to stop letting sugar and food in general be my god?  I did some definite soul searching, praying, and asking God to give me the willingness to give up those things that weighed me down, literally and figuratively.  He did!  And now I love myself honestly and maturely.  There is no guilt.  There is no remorse.  There is just love....pure, simple, and unmedicated.  If I can do this, anyone can do this one. day. at. a. time.

Found these on Pinterest, too.  Wet on
wet Royal Icing and toothpicks...easy, peasy!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real & A Review

round button chicken
~ Capturing the context of everyday life ~

Daddy and I visited Chesterton Academy last Tuesday with Monica.  We received the notice of an Open House just days before in our email inbox.  Reason being, I had inquired about their a la carte Homeschool classes just in case that might be an option for us.  I was deterred by the cost of the classes in comparison to what we've paid for Yeah Academy and Memoria Press Online Classes.


Photo taken of the girls by their friend, Milah

I love this shot a friend took of Maria during a photo shoot.  I love the JOY of this picture!
 The girls are getting older and their needs are changing, however.  Where I had always planned to homeschool them through High School, now I am not so sure.  This year has been different with trying our hand at Unschooling.  Maria likes the freedom and has enjoyed the putsy stuff being removed from her schedule leaving time for studying two instruments and pursuing Latin and her crafts with more time.   Monica has greatly enjoyed the removal of the putsy stuff to focus on two languages, two instruments, and playing sports with our parish school.  Their schedules are plenty packed, but I also noticed something else.  Monica lugs her books around everywhere.  She's always working on Latin or Math, will make sure she's staying on track with her literature study, and recently asked me for a research project.  To coordinate with her study of French, I chose a Jackdaw packet on Napoleon.  These packets are pretty awesome as they contain copies of primary source documents, photos, and just plain old interesting stuff you just can't get from reading through textbooks.  It's a fun way to go in depth in a history subject.


I can't remember who gave us this print, but it always makes me happy.

As I was going to bed, I was just happy that my nightstand wasn't too overly cluttered.
Now your servant can rest in peace, Lord!
After watching Monica for the last few months, Daddy and I felt she might welcome the challenge and rigor of a High School along with all it entails.  Monica was already making plans to play sports at the local High School or a similar Christian High School that welcomes homeschoolers who want to play sports.


The boys have been enjoying sharing a room together again.  Yes, we moved all the kids around AGAIN.  I won't
bore you with the details!
 I looked at Chesterton Academy's curriculum, their mission, and schedule a couple year's ago; but I was unimpressed.  I can't remember what turned me off or didn't jazz me, but when I looked at those things again in preparation for the Open House, something was different.  It's like my heart and mind weren't ready to embrace another option.  Could they be ready now?  Monica is still a year off from attending if she does so we have some time to get our head's wrapped around what this could mean for our family.  But at least I'm open to the possibility of change.


Daddy has another book in his book basket...The Book of Man  by Bill Bennett was suggested by a friend.
Thank you, Carmen, by the way!  A wonderful suggestion...we both love this book!
You can look at Chesterton's curriculum here and here.  You can read about their mission here.  It also doesn't hurt that I feel comforted in knowing the director and his wife whom I've known for a few years now and also home schools four of their children, and I attended UD with the wife of the Latin teacher.

You can see more Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real Moments over at Like Mother, Like Daughter by clicking on the button above.  Again, Auntie Leila has some pretty wise words you should probably check out!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Yarning Along....Dishcloths

I've needed more dishcloths.  As great as they are for cleaning in the kitchen, they do wear out.  I had some crazy idea they would be the last dishcloths I'd ever need and make.  Not so!  They do wear out and get gunky and stiff even if I put them in pails of bleach.  So I've been scrounging around the house looking for all the leftover skeins of Sugar & Cream yarn to make more.  I finished all of the Christmas gifts and am half way through a pair of socks for Monica, but right now these dishcloths take precedence.

We're also reading The Last of the Mohicans (Great Illustrated Classics Version).  After looking over the original,
I thought I'd better try this version so I wouldn't have to stop after every sentence to explain the vocabulary and meanings.  A cop out...I know.:(
I'm still reading another Willa Cather book, O Pioneers!  I'm at Part V - Alexandra.  It's been a great read as I love all the description and Cather's style of writing.  The story is believable and exciting.  I finished A Lost Lady a week ago.  That wasn't as exciting as O Pioneers!, and nothing beats My Antonia which I finished last summer.  Next, I'd like to read Death Comes for the Archbishop, but I think I'll wait because I have Tess of the D'Urbervilles on my bookshelf and a long list of other books that have popped up that I'd like to read from the following bloggers:

  • Death Comes to Pemberly was recommended by Ana but was given a mixed review by Faith.
  • Brideshead Revisited piqued my interest after Callah posted about it.
  • Dracula also sounds interesting after Jen said she couldn't put it down!
As for the kids, here is what they are reading and knitting....

Monica - still working on finishing leg warmers for her friend, Milah.  She meant to have them ready for Milah's skating lessons, but those lessons were finished in December.  Monica is still knitting away every chance she gets!  She's reading The Father Brown Mysteries by G.K. Chesterton on her Kindle which reminds me I still need to post about the Open House we attended last week at Chesterton Academy.

Maria is reading The Outcast by Rosemary Sutcliffe on her Kindle.  It is the first in a trilogy of literature based on Ancient history.  She's also knitting a beret for her American Girl doll to match some AG clothes she received for Christmas from Monica.  She's working on size 1 DPN's so her work is slower than usual.

Molly is getting into the Nancy Drew Mysteries and is currently reading The Secret of the Old Clock and would like to read The Hidden Staircase next.  She is interested in learning to crochet in a circle, but is still practicing with a chain.

Lucas has been enjoying some of the books by Tomie DePaola.  He and Gabe love The Quicksand Book and are now asking when they can make quicksand.  I think we'll wait on that little project!  And Gabe is still reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as I posted recently.  He gets such a kick out of the Oompa Loompas!

You can see what others are knitting and reading by hopping over to Ginny's.
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