Tuesday, March 27, 2012

What Are the Odds....

of winning an international cookie decorating contest?  Hmmm?  Probably not very high....for me!  But I still want to try.  Yep, that's me all getting into the fray of going up against cookie decorators the world over.  Yesterday I got wind of this interesting challenge over at Georganne's blog, LilaLoa.

What I have to do is come up with a cookie design using this cutter, but here's the catch....it can't be a present.  I get to cut off parts, flip it, do whatever I want to with it.  It just has to be original and look amazingly beautiful.  Now, 75% of my score will be based on creativity so I could win based on that alone.  Here I am getting all huffy about my creative prowess...humility, Grace, humility!








See, easy peasy!  Even I have a chance to win.  Well, I spent all of about 10 minutes with Monica coming up with 3 different designs for this cookie cutter.  I'm sure you could come up with way more than just 3 because you're all cooler than I am!


Oh, well, I'm glad I have until May 5th because April is going to be a busy cookie decorating month.  Now that I'm grateful for.:)


So, should I go for it?  I hope you think, YES!!!!


And if you want to see what the prizes are, just click on over to Lila Loa's blog to see all the booty.  It's a confectioner's dream load!


OK, I think I'll stop now because I've used way too many exclamation points in this post!  Hee, hee.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Little Boy Love

Today the Church will claim another little soul for Christ.  We are so excited to have been asked to be the godparents of this little darling.  He's adorable...I've seen him and rubbed his little cheek!

I've gone nuts making things for this little guy.  Remember this little sweater?



Well, I also made these sweet cookies for today's celebration.


Here they are just a little closer up.  Can you smell the buttery goodness?



These two gals helped me pull it off.  After all their practice it has surely paid off.  Thankfully!




I picked up a set of musical note cutters that they practiced on before the big job.  I'm glad they share my love for cookie decorating.  It surely comes in handy when you have a deadline!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Happy Spring!

Spring cookies I made for the kids.  These were baked on sticks and piped with
10 count royal icing using tips 00, 1, and 2.

Spring has been springing like 3 weeks early which I am in no way complaining about.  We have been enjoying record breaking weather for over a week now. That is just amazing!  All the trees are budding and shoots are shooting up out of the ground in the backyard.  The robins are back in full force, and the geese and ducks are enjoying leisurely swims in the thawed lake.  It has truly been glorious.  The kids have been to the neighborhood park, played tennis at the neighborhood tennis court, gone on walks, played soccer and basketball outside, and run around like crazy because of the warmer weather.  We did our warm weather shopping very early this year for all the trail blazers....Monica, Lucas, Jane, and Nick.  The three other kids are fortunate enough to get nice looking hand-me-downs with little to no wear.


These two have become little backyard buddies.  It's great and scary to see Jane so protective of Nick and influence his bad behavior, too!



For our Feast of St. Joseph we were a bit busy filling a cookie order.  We finished in time to make 5:30PM Mass.  I decided to take the kids out for Chinese since the restaurant is close to the parish.  I wasn't up to making an Italian feast and bringing Marino's pizza home would have been unwelcome after having pizza for lunch.:(  We came home to a power outage and a raging thunder storm.  Thankfully our Pater Familias had his class cancelled and was able to get Maria through a back window to unlock the front door since the garage door would not open due to the power outage.  It was very rustic sitting in the basement with my knitting, two lanterns, the kids cuddled under a blanket, and Paul hand cranking an emergency radio to hear the updates on the storm.  Those are the times when you wish you had a data plan!

These are the cookies I was working on.  I think they turned out well.  These will be shipped to Florida for a birthday.  I was happy with the challenge!



So Happy Spring everyone!  I hope your weather is cooperating.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real: Feasting & Fasting


round button chicken

~ Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life ~

I have been anxiously awaiting the upcoming Feast Days.  For a cookie baker, every holiday and feast day turns into many preparatory work days.  This week has been a double whammy!  I told Daddy that I hate having deadlines hanging over my head.  It makes me feel stubborn and that I don't really want to do the work.  But when I get to this stage of the game....



A new recipe....chocolate/coffee butter cookies!  The kids think there should be more chocolate
and less coffee.  I think it's because we grind our own beans so the larger coffee bits make the coffee
taste a bit overpowering.  I wouldn't know!;)

I get very excited!!!!

Pretty

For St. Patrick's Day I decided to go a couple different routes.  Shamrocks....



and Celtic crosses....


Next, I had to come up with something for the Feast of St. Joseph.  I decided to make lilies...


The kids helped with getting the coloring right.  I wish I had more time to tell you all the little details about these cookies.  I'll just have to wait for another tutorial opportunity.:(  If you are looking for ideas for celebrating the Feast of St. Joseph, you can click on my Virtual St. Joseph Altar button in my sidebar. That will lead you to the site that Evann hosts every year.   You can also find coloring pages over at Charlotte's site...Waltzing Matilda.  And here are my past posts showing our family's St. Joseph altars.

Link 1
Link 2

Happy

I have been wanting to make large batches of yogurt in our oven.  We set up the milk, heated and cooled it, stirred in a cup of our existing Costco yogurt, and voila!



This is just way too cool for me!!  I also have 50 lbs. of steel cut oats coming sometime via UPS. 

Funny
 The kids are wondering what freaky Granola-y things are happening to their mother!

Real

I finally finished the Easter table runner and am now starting to quilt the larger Merry-Go-Round blanket.

Maria took this picture.

And this one!

And this one!


It is really hard to wrangle a large-ish blanket with a standard sewing machine for quilting.  I had to move my work station to the dining room to lay the quilt out flat without too much bunching.  I know it can be done, but boy is there a learning curve.  I'm so glad I'm a lifelong learner!  I can hardly wait for my free-motion quilting class tomorrow.  If you are in the Cities, Just Sew Studio is a very cool place.

You can see more P, H, F, R moments by clicking on the button above.:)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Consumed

I love that Daddy has a class every Monday night with the Catechetical Institute.  He always comes home with the best insights.  Many of these things I've heard before, but it's always great to be reminded.


We are a Eucharistic people!  We are....

taken
blessed
broken
given


Just as Christ offers himself on the altar at every Mass, we are invited to offer ourselves...to place ourselves and all of our sufferings, strengths, and weaknesses on the altar.

As a stay at home mom and homeschooler of my children, I choose freely to offer myself on the altar of my day to be taken, blessed, broken, and given by my spouse and children.

Why am I so spent, so tired, so exhausted at the end of the day?  It's because I'm being consumed.  I'm supposed to be consumed.  I am supposed to die in the furrow to give life to another generation of Christ's followers.  When I look back on my day....if I have the strength to even look back on my day....I should see that I was spent doing the will of God.

Even if I fall many times during the day in the form of yelling, eye-rolling, sighs, frustrations, and a thousand other things, I have the gift of being able to choose again tomorrow.

For now, I feel like I have nothing left to give but to change into my pajamas, brush and floss my teeth, and hit my pillow.  I should sleep soundly.  There is nothing left to give for today.  I have been consumed.

Looking ahead to the week....


St. Patrick's Day cookies (shamrocks and Celtic crosses)
St. Joseph's Day cookies (lilies)
New chocolate cookie recipe....a hit with the kids and Daddy
Free-Motion Quilting & Raising Urban Chickens Classes....squee!
Quilted Easter table runner...here's a little peek...







Friday, March 9, 2012

Creative Friday: A Sweet Surprise!

I remember speaking to my MIL (Grandma C) a few weeks ago about a quilting project her grandmother had undertaken YEARS ago.  Since Grandma C acquired many of the crafty things from her mother, this quilt project was among them.  My MIL knows I'm crafty and love to sew as much as she does and wondered if I'd like to have the project to keep it in the family, see what could be done to preserve it, and possibly finish it.  She knows I have a lot going on and didn't want to add any pressure, but she thought I might like it.  When I got home yesterday evening after a long day of driving the kids around....remember Hell Thursday?....Daddy told me Grandma C left something for me.  She always leaves things for me....newspaper articles, hair binders left at her house, COUPONS, notices about local events, etc.  I wasn't too thrilled until Daddy mentioned it was from Great Great Grandma H.  Oh, I squealed like a little piggy and danced a little dance and ran around the house looking for the bag!  After all that, Daddy told me to calm down and handed me THE BAG.  I greedily snatched it up and this is what I found....



I almost peed my pants I was so excited!  Then I breathed deeply and looked more closely.


G3H (I have to shorten up her title because that's a lot of G's!) hand sewed each of these little hexagons.  Let me repeat that.....hand sewed each of these little hexagons!



How little are these LITTLE hexagons?  Let me esplain you with a little perspective.


I kid you not....that's a quarter!  This is tiny, tiny, oh so very tiny hand work.  Then I looked at the tin....remember that tin in the first picture?


There it is that deceptive little tin.  Look what I found it contains....


Many, many, many more hand sewn quilt "blocks" that need to be hand sewn to each other to make a work of historically, incredible art!  I almost fainted and cried....and fainted and cried again.  I AM NOT WORTHY of such a gift.  Remember I'm an outsider....and not just any outsider....I'm a REAL outsider to this family.  I'm not the slightest bit German or Austrian or fair looking or even from the same gosh darn state!  BUT....there's the BIG BUT....I LOVE to sew, and I love patchwork, and I love vintage crafty things.  So, I began this morning to try to wrap my little head around this project.


OK, I stink at hand sewing.  I may take out those stitches and try again.  I don't know.  What I do know is that I'm challenged by this project and totally humbled that my sweet MIL (Grandma C) trusts me with this task.


What do you think?  Should I continue piecing this together?  I also thought about just doing what G3H did and starting with a center block and sewing on 6 additional blocks.  I could back, bind, and quilt these and send them to the various H grandchildren....there are a few.

Oh, and I'm linking this up to Natural Suburbia's blog so I can get this out to the rest of the crafty world to get some tips on how to proceed.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Magazine Browsing: Cast Iron Pizza

I don't usually browse magazines, but I thought it would be nice to have an uploaded subscription for my IPad for when I have to wait at doctor's appointments.  I was surprised to see in the March issue of Martha Stewart Living an article about making pizza in a cast iron skillet.  Of course, I was all over that so I bought a few supplies at the grocery store and decided to make a couple of pizzas for the kids for today's lunch.

Here we go!


I used a #9 skillet and set up the IPad on the counter so I could follow the instructions.  I used pre-made Rhodes pizza dough to save me a lot of steps with the crust.  First, I spread olive oil in the bottom of the skillet and then began to work the dough with my fingertips.




Next, I added pasta sauce, shredded mozzarella cheese, and fresh mushroom slices.




I then added freshly grated pecorino romano cheese and a bit more mozzarella.  To this I sprinkled on a bit more olive oil.


I took this over to the range and browned the underside of the pizza crust.  It only took about 4 minutes.  See!


I had already preheated the oven to 500 degrees so it was ready to go.  I placed the skillet in the hot oven for approximately 10 minutes.


It was a hit!  I also made a second cheese pizza that was quickly devoured at lunch time.  Here are the yummy results.




Here's a link to Martha's website so you can find the article or better yet give yourself a subscription for the year.:)  I couldn't find the article to post a link here so I'll do my best to give Martha's team the credit for this recipe.  The original article can be found in the March issue of MS Living that includes three very nice recipes using fancier ingredients than I used for those of you with more eclectic tastes.  I had to keep things simple for my crew and doable for me!  

Saturday, March 3, 2012

What I Do, Not Just What I Say

I have moms, friends who have asked me how I get my kids interested in things they find most kids aren't interested in...

vocations
prayer
reading
crafting
writing
learning

The only thing I can think of and clearly never articulate well is that I do these things myself.







Jane set up a little cooking station in front of me at the coffee table. I was sitting on the couch with my knitting, tea, and a box of Kleenex. I also had my copy of The Well Trained Mind, the iPad and my camera. I won't be moving much today as my head feels like an inflated balloon.





Jane decided to bring her party to me. She even scripted her own cooking show....a regular mini-Martha Stewart. She's seen me make cookies so many times drawing all of the kids into what I'm doing.





That's the trick....drawing them in....not demanding, but doing the thing you want them to love simply because you love it yourself. I love sewing because my mom sewed my clothes and let me use her machine. I love knitting because I saw my mom, my aunts, and my grandmother crochet and knit, too. I love to can because my mom canned her own vegetables. She wasn't really into cooking, but she gave me room to experiment and supported my efforts.





I have done all of the things I listed above.....yes, I even discerned a vocation to the religious life. I gave away my clothes, most of my other stuff, and went away for a year. It was a great experience. I didn't know at the time that it would become a lesson later about hearing the voice of god and acting on that call. I can't tell you how many times that lesson has come up with my older girls who are open to the religious life as well.  And, more so, they are dedicated to hearing the will of God and acting on it.  Even though I wasn't called to live life as a religious sister, I have fully embraced my vocation to be a married person in this world.  Yes, I am the 99%!  That is, the 99% who do not have a call to live as a spouse of Christ.  I have the chance to show that I am living a true marriage to my children.  Not only is marriage about being in a loving and committed relationship, it's about loving when there is little to no love being returned and when the commitment is challenged because of the lack of that love.  What are you committed to?  If it's rosy feelings and only staying committed when those rosy feelings are there, what will you show your children when the going gets tough because it will?






How, you might ask, can a child in this anti-life culture desire things that are not popular (i.e. prayer, vocation, reading, writing). Well, it really does take a village! But you have to make sure you know who is in that village and are they the influences you want your child to be influenced by. Are they good influences? Do those influences (teachers, schools, friends, media) uphold the true, the good, and the beautiful? What is in your village? Does that village see parents as the primary educators of its children or is that authority questionable? Do you question if you have enough to influence and guide your child yourself? If not, you're going to need a village. But make sure it's one where you hold the reins of what comes in or out.

If I read, they read. If I write....blogging does count!....they write. If I craft, they want to learn. If I pray, I find evidence that they do quietly to their Father in heaven.  If I want to receive the Holy Eucharist worthily, I have to go to confession.  And if I go to confession, amazingly, they also want to go.  The same goes for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.






Likewise, the children also pick up bad habits. This is never more humbling than if you homeschool your children. Their bickering, slipped swearing, discontent, maliciousness, and lippy comments likely come from you. Unfortunately, I do swear, yell, and may be taken to a point where I fly off the handle. They see all of this and can't help being influenced. When they are frustrated, hormonally challenged, or sick; they revert to mimicking my lowest moments. I think I also speak for Daddy. I am not proud of my weaknesses, but know that you are not alone. We all have our deficiencies. But I do think the positive outweighs the negative. At least I believe in a higher power that compels me to live with that hope!  And my higher power is greater than myself and my whims and has given me the sacraments I mentioned above to give me the spiritual advantage to encounter Him in order to overcome those deficiencies.  In my weakness I am made strong because He comes to me.  I really believe that.





If they're is something you would like to improve take heart. As we approach the second Sunday of Lent, know we all have more time in the desert. Lent isn't over yet. And I know I have to go deeper than giving up diet pop!

*Sorry for the fuzzy pictures....they were taken from the IPad.  They were just too cute not to give you a peek into our day.
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