Sunday, December 22, 2013

4th Sunday of Advent

Plus we've had a visitor in our backyard.  He's been driving the dog crazy.  Tup hates this raccoon!  Meanwhile, Paul is looking up the effectiveness of birdshot in either killing or injuring small animals.  He's bound and determined to take care of the raccoon.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Happy Holidays

I have no problem saying "Happy Holidays" to people during this time of the year.  I think it's because I live the liturgical seasons of the year.  Honestly, we are in the season of Advent, we celebrated the feasts of St. Nicholas, St. Ambrose, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and St. Lucy.  We also celebrated Gaudete Sunday.  So, yes, there are a lot of "holy days" in this month and the next.  And we are not stopping there.  We are now celebrating the O Antiphons, there will be 12 days of Christmas, the feast of the Holy Innocents, Mary the Mother of God, and St. Stephen.  Is that enough holy days for you?  So do I get upset when someone doesn't wish me Merry Christmas?  They better not wish me Merry Christmas….YET!!!  I'm not there yet!  I'm taking each holy feast day one day at a time.  So, yes, I began our yearly newsletter with "Happy Holidays" because I'm not just stopping my festal celebrations at Christmas.

In case you were wondering, Paul provoked me!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Catching Up

I've been doing a lot of this lately....

This has to be the yummiest chair for napping I've ever had.  It's perfect for two people to snuggle up on a cold winter day.  I don't even have to coax Nick to nap with me.  This is our afternoon routine right after lunch.  I enjoy it so much that I don't want Winter to end!

Our beastly Beagle has been enjoying the snow.  Today he saw a raccoon in the backyard and went nuts chasing it up a tree and marking his territory all over the backyard.

We had a nice celebration meal for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  I cooked all day making Enchiladas Suizas, Chicken Mole, Menudo, tacos, rice, beans, and bought Mexican sweet bread for dessert.  I invited our associate pastor to dinner.  We enjoyed having him over and he led us in a decade of the Rosary prayed in Spanish.  

cilantro ready to be chopped
I also did a lot of baking last week for our parish bake sale.  I have a go to recipe for holiday bread that I've been making since I was either 12 or 13.  I forget.  It is a Finnish Coffee Braid made with ground Cardamom, braided, baked, and drizzled and decorated with white icing, candied cherries, and silver dragees.

All packaged and ready to be delivered.  I made 12 loaves for the parish and 8 baby loaves
for giving to friends and family.
MNVA sponsored a holiday field trip at the Depot in Minneapolis.  This is a fun venue for ice skating.  The girls were excited to skate at an indoor rink!

The girls also decorated and entered a gingerbread house in a contest held that day.  They didn't win.  First place went to a giant hobbit hole made of gingerbread and frosted green.  It was quite impressive!

Over the weekend, I took a trip to Atlanta for my sister, Nora's, graduation from her Master's program.  It was a relaxing weekend watching tv, sleeping in, and catching up with her.  I needed the break so she was quite accommodating.  This week finds us busy before the holiday break with concerts, projects, and buttoning up school work.  Gabe asked for a Christmas party with his friends so I spent this morning putting together a Christmas table for the food that will be served.  He and his friends will be sledding, decorating cookies, and possibly watching a movie.  He's so excited to be a host for a change.  He couldn't believe I agreed to have the party.  As a result, he's been super cuddly and kind, finishing his homework in a timely manner, and doing his chores.  

We've also been enjoying our Magnificat Advent Companion, the last few ornaments of our Jesse Tree, and starting the O Antiphons.  I get so excited for these last days of Advent, but I have to slow my thoughts and anticipations down to really absorb the richness of the season.  Besides there are 12 days of Christmas to enjoy, relish, bake, and celebrate.  There's no need to rush.....all will be well and as it should be!

Finnish Coffee Braids

2 c. milk
1/4 c. butter
1 c. sugar
1 t. salt
1/2 c. lukewarm water
2 pkgs. active dry yeast
1 t. ground cardamom
2 eggs
7-8 c. flour

2 c. powdered sugar
3 T. milk
1 t. vanilla

Scald the milk and pour over butter, sugar, and salt which has been placed in mixing bowl.  Stir to dissolve and cool to lukewarm.  Meanwhile, pour yeast over 1/2 c. lukewarm water and stir to dissolve.  When milk mixture is cooled, mix in yeast, eggs, cardamom, and 2 cups of the flour.  Stir with electric mixer for 2 minutes scraping sides of bowl.  Gradually add in remaining flour and knead with electric mixer for 8-10 minutes until dough is formed and leaves the sides of the bowl.  Turn dough out and place in greased bowl turning once to grease both sides.  Let dough rise for 1 hour until doubled in size.  Punch down dough and divide into 4 parts.  Divide each part into 3 additional parts.  Roll each part into a long rope about 10-12 inches long.  Braid 3 strips together to shape bread.  Tuck ends and allow to rise an additional hour until doubled in size.  Bake loaves at 315 degrees for 20-25 minutes.  Drizzle glaze over warm bread.  Decorate with candied cherries and silver dragees.  Makes 4 loaves.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Holiday Bokeh

I am so intrigued by cool photography effects.  I am certainly not good at getting any cool effects in my pictures, but this evening I forced myself to watch a tutorial on how to achieve the bokeh effect.  Here are a couple of the results.....

I think Nick's is good....natural, nice close up, and very distinctive large circles of light off to the side.  You can't really tell it's the tree lights.  (BTW....we set up our Advent tree and decorations today at the children's request.)  So what do you think?  Needs work, right?  Finding willing subjects is the greatest challenge here.  That and getting all the equipment and lighting set up....sheesh!  Is it worth it?  Don't know....maybe.  The jury is still out!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Pie Baking, Kid Wrangling

I felt super-overwhelmed this morning having all the kids but one home today.  I don't know how I home schooled all of them before!  I'm such a wimp now.  So I decided to pull a few tricks out of my home school Mommy hat and improvise.

I set up two work stations for the boys to make the pumpkin pies....

Lucas and Gabe did a great job and were very willing to don their aprons and roll up their sleeves to help out.  Those pies are now baked and finished and ready for whipped cream tomorrow!

Next, I put Molly on apple pie duty.....

Grandpa's apples....very organic, very nature intended!

I worked the corer, peeler, slicer; but Jane came over to crank the last two apples through.  She was so proud of herself for helping.  *Note to self:  teach Molly how to level off using a straight edge and not her finger!!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Haciendo Caldo: Break from the Prep

I figure I can't really make any Pre-Thanksgiving foods today.  Tomorrow will be a whirlwind with pie and mashed potato baking.  I'll put the stuffing together and get the second turkey ready for roasting on Thursday.

But today I was being a bit nostalgic.....tear-jerker alert for my sisters and my Mom.....

I was thinking of the times when it would be so cold at the farm where my dad worked for 16 years. There was nothing out there to do because of snow or high winds so Dad would get the day off and head home before we were out for school.  He would usually make a big pot of beef soup....caldo....for when we got home.

It was the perfect soup!  He used beef short ribs braised in oil and added potatoes, veggies, water or broth, seasonings, and finally cabbage.  We would eat this with saltine crackers.  He wouldn't add salt because of the saltines.  I would line my crackers around the edges of my bowl and allow them to soak up the broth, pick them up, and watch them drop back into the bowl.  It was saltine and soup mush that was so yummy!

To make this soup, I used 4 quarts of the beef broth I made last week.

Isn't that a great color?!
 Next, I added 2 stalks of chopped celery, 1 chopped onion, 2 cups of sliced carrots.....

and 2 pint sized jars of canned, stewed tomatoes.

I also didn't have the heart to feed the beef from the soup bones I made the stock out of to the dog.  So I bagged it up and thought I'd use it later.  I added about 1 1/2 lbs. of beef to the pot along with 6 potatoes I cut into large chunks.

I brought the whole thing to a rolling boil, reduced the heat, and am letting it simmer for about 35 minutes until the potatoes and carrots are cooked through.  After that I'll add about a 1/2 head of roughly cut up cabbage.  You could shred the cabbage, but I like large cabbage pieces in my soup.

To this wonderful pot of yumminess, I'll add a side of cornbread made from scratch.  This will ensure that the picky eaters who won't eat soup will at least eat cornbread for supper....sneaky Mommy!

I just put my nose up to the pot to take a little sniff, and I was so happy.  It smells just like my Dad's caldo.  It felt like a big hug from him!

¡Buen Provecho!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Still in the Kitchen: Pre-Thanksgiving Prep

Today, Nick and I decided to do a little experimenting.  I bought a bag of cranberries yesterday and wanted to make up the sauce in advance.  However, after this batch, I've decided to buy 2-3 more bags and run it all through my sauce maker.  I plan to put the sauce in jars and store it in the fridge so it will gel.  I know the longer I leave it sit, the more jellied it will become.

Oh, and here is the stock festering away!  It has an awesome color and aroma.  Lo and behold, I found several references to Nourishing Traditions' stock recipes and tips.  I rarely get that book out, but now I'm even more informed about gut health.  Who knew?  Anyway, I'm so tempted to stop the process and make soup.  However, the book says the longer you let it sit and stew, the better.  But I'm so impatient!!!!!


Time to run around with the kids so I'm saved by my erratic schedule once again.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Keeping Busy: Pre-Thanksgiving Prep

I've found that keeping busy usually helps with the nausea.  It probably just helps to keep my mind off of feeling terrible.  I also have a lot to do so it all works well together.  I've been excited to be in the kitchen.  I've always found it very therapeutic and something about making food for Paul and the kids always makes me feel like a better mother.

Yesterday, I was feeling the morning.  Usually the nausea doesn't hit until after lunch, but yesterday I was slammed right around 10 in the morning.  I quick called Nick over to the kitchen, handed him his apron, and told him we were going to bake something.  He hopped up on the counter top and proceeded to narrate as I worked.  He's a great kitchen sidekick!  We whipped up 6 pie crusts, 4 loaves of bread, and prepared our roll dough.  I froze the shaped roll dough after several internet searches assuring me I can thaw the dough over night in the fridge and let it rise the next day as normal.  We'll just see if that all works out!

Today, I decided I'm too early to start baking any pies.  I think I'll wait a few more days before baking and freezing the pecan pie.  The apple and pumpkin pies will be made the day of or the day before.  I plan to roast the turkey on Sunday, and I bought a smaller turkey for roasting the day of just so there's roast turkey smell in the house.  Yum!

A couple months back, I made the decision to buy a quarter of beef to have in the freezer.  It was a great deal for all the poundage I purchased.  Unfortunately, I received six packs of soup bones to which Paul was ultimately disgusted.  What do you do with soup bones?  I decided to pull the packages and prepare for making a huge batch of beef bone stock.  After more internet searches, I am finding out there is a lot of nutritive value to beef broth.  Not to mention you can have your own broth on hand for soups and stews.  I'm all for that!  I figure I can also can it and squirrel it away to use later or even MUCH later.

The bottle of Malbec in the background (Argentinian Wine) was opened on Sunday.  I served it with braised beef short ribs since Monica was doing a presentation on Argentina for Spanish class.  Who says you can't do "homeschoolish" things with a public school kid?
Since I have six packages of bones, I'll roast them in the oven to get them nice and browned, but I'll make the broth in my stock pot. I was so drawn to using the crock pot to make the stock since it's out of the way, so to speak.  However, with this many bones, I think the stockpot is the better way to go.  I'm excited to see the product.

Likewise, I am in desperate need of poultry broth for my gravy and stuffing for next week.  Thankfully, I'm roasting the turkey on Sunday.  That should give me plenty of time to debone the turkey and make more stock!

I tell you, it's been awesome having kids in school and two at home that basically homeschool themselves.  I have time during the day to bear my nausea, read, and slave away in the kitchen.  Oh, I also get ample time to do laundry, clean, and do a lot of the administrative stuff of running a household.  Phew!  Imagine all the time I have!

All kidding aside, I really do love to be in the kitchen and at home.  Homemaking is definitely my bailiwick. I really do find great joy and satisfaction in it.  I'm also getting super excited for our newest addition.  When I look at the other kids and marvel at the amazing people they are, I get so excited to have another sweet flower in our field.  The girls are beautiful and talented and the boys are affectionate, handy, and skilled.  Even Nick with his "Dark Evader" apron is a help to me.  Even if he can't say Darth Vader, it's something I'll be mumbling in my 90's remembering the gems of my homemaking and motherhood!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Food, Food, Food

It seems food has always plagued mankind and never so much as it plagues me now.  I'm used to cooking for for meals, making bread, canning, and bulk cooking for the week.  Last Monday was no exception so I decided to make scalloped potatoes for dinner along with steaks.  I received a mandoline slicer for Christmas last year and have only used it a handful of times.  It's perfect for slicing potatoes, cucumbers, and making julienne strips for stir fries.  I was into a groove with the slicing when all of a sudden I felt my fourth finger on my right hand throb.  I sliced it clear across the middle only to be stopped by my nail.  It was horrendously painful and the blood, oh the blood.  I yelled at Paul to bring me a steri strip to pull it back together.  I was in no way going to go to Urgent Care for stitches.  We finally got the bleeding to stop and while I waited for another bandage to cover the whole thing up, my eyes glanced down to see the damage.  I suddenly felt woozy and spun around to toss my chips in the sink.  I didn't, but my knees buckled, my hearing started to fade, and I was blacking out.  Paul caught me, set me in a chair, and I proceeded to rest.  It was freaky scary sitting there not being able to move my arms, legs, faintly hearing things at a distance, and sweating.  I had broken out into a horrible sweat all over my face.  I was going into shock.  Paul quickly called 911 and within 5 minutes the paramedics were in my kitchen.  I could hear them, but I couldn't open my eyes.  They checked my blood sugar, oxygen intake, blood pressure, and my pulse.  They assessed that I had indeed gone into shock, but my blood and sugar levels were returning to normal.  They asked if I wanted to go to the hospital, but I just wanted to go up to my room.


Ever since that Monday, I've had the worst week of nausea.  I know nausea is a good thing meaning the hormones for the baby are all there and that things are working well, but wow would I be grateful to turn a corner with this.  Since I do follow a food plan, we had to make major adjustments to my meals fitting in more snacks so that my eating could happen every 2 hours.  I was only eating 5 times a day last week.  This week, I'm eating 8 times.  That adjustment has helped tremendously.  I feel a bit of nausea so I look at my plan and eat what's on it.  It's amazing to be so in tune with my body.  I know my midwives aren't going to believe me when I say I don't eat sugar unless it's listed 5th or higher on an ingredient label.  They didn't believe me with the last 2 pregnancies.  But they do like that I can pinpoint exactly what I've eaten and what makes me sick or feel well.

So far these are the things that are working:

Proteins (cheese, eggs, taco meat, steak, lunch meat)
Starches (rye bread, rice crackers, potatoes, corn tortillas, tortilla chips, Lawash wraps, oatmeal)
Veggies (salads, pickles, green beans, carrots, raw mushrooms, V-8)
Fruits (apples, bananas, raisins, oranges, applesauce)
Fats (almonds, pecans, coconut oil, avocado)
I also stopped eating yogurt for my dairy and have two 8 oz. glasses of milk per day.

I'm having 11 oz. of protein, 10 starches, 4 veggies, 6 fruits, and 7 fats per day.  I wanted to catalogue this here so I can remember what has worked for me at this stage of pregnancy.  I've never done this before, but maybe my girls might find it helpful in the future.  I guess I'm in my 6th week so I have a bit until I'm out of the first trimester.

I can't say enough about the oatmeal I eat.  I could eat it the whole day through, and I pretty much do!  We're now in our 3rd order of a 50 lb. sack of steel cut oats.  We make them overnight in a small crockpot that is dedicated for that purpose.  I have 8 oz. of oatmeal with 2 tablespoons of raisins, and 7 grams of coconut butter.  I've had offers to buy coconut butter in bulk from a friend, but we just get ours from Costco.  I love the aromatic smell and the taste is incredible!  To that little bowl of awesomeness, I add a bit of cinnamon and slip into the most comforting of comfort foods.  I've told Paul many times that it feels like a big hug!

So that's what's been quasi-working for me lately.  I also started taking Zofran yesterday for the nausea.  I really want to control things with just the food, but sometimes the nausea is too much to take, and I end up shivering in my bed like I have the flu.  It's that crippling.

As far as beverages go, I've been drinking lots of tap water, ginger tea, cinnamon tea, chamomile tea, and I have one 7-up per day.

Hopefully, things will change for the better.  For now, I'm trying to listen to my body and speak up about what is working and what isn't.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Friday Update: Home Remodel & Feeling a Bit Better

I thought of participating in Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real, or in 7 Quick Takes; but I just don't have the energy to do all the writing or link-ups.  However, I did want to update you all on the plans for the house.

I met with a builder this morning.  He's done work for us before and wanted to get a more recent look at the house.  He took measurements, we sat and viewed my Pinterest boards, he gave me advice about the proposed mudroom and garage.  He also gave me a time line.  I was really hoping to break ground soon and have the interior work completed over the winter months.  But with cost of working in the winter being much higher because of the frozen ground, we should really wait until March to start the project.

Here's a proposed plan from the architect for the interior work:

And this is the proposed plan for the exterior front view of the house:

Here's a front view of our house currently:

Hee, hee....just kidding!
OK, here's the real pic of the front of our house.....

With the proposed plan the garage will be built out pushing it further into the driveway area.  The front of the garage will likely be at the end of the small curved sidewalk that leads up to the front door.  The front entryway will also be built up forward to match the garage and not be set so far back.

I also am getting a handle on the nausea of the pregnancy.  The plans for the house also put my mind at ease.  When I see all of us struggling for space and organization and squeezing around in the kitchen, I feel super-overwhelmed.  I know we can squeeze a baby in any space in the house and in our hearts, and he or she will grow there becoming another integral part of our family.  It's awesome that babies start out small!  Items can be purchased or borrowed, and all will be well when this baby arrives.  It also feels better now that most of our friends and family know.  I feel the prayers of those around us who know how overwhelmed I get.  All those prayers are buoying my spirits.  

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Expecting the Unexpected

After May, I was having a hard time adjusting to my new life.....being a woman without a father.  My grief counselor said it would be a hard adjustment, but I didn't know she would actually be right.  The piece that was really struggling was our marriage.  For two months I couldn't figure out why I was so bitter toward Paul and almost resented everything he did for me or for us.  I would look at all of his actions critically, and what may have annoyed me before was now really getting under my skin.  I couldn't pinpoint why the sudden change.  It wasn't until September that I was able to put my finger on something.

I would call my parents religiously every weekend usually on Sunday evening while driving to my weekly meeting.  It was a time I could be alone without interruptions and debrief with my parents about the week.  Somehow my dad would either rub me the wrong way or give me something to think about in which I would appreciate the same quality in Paul.  He would either criticize something I was doing or have an opinion about a decision we'd made or just kinda not really be paying attention to me while I talked.  I would always come away from those conversations thinking, "Paul would never treat me that way," or "Paul would never say that," or "I'm so glad I'm married to Paul.  He's so sweet."  On the positive side, I would be grateful that Paul would think or act similarly to my dad.  I would come home in greater appreciation of my husband and my marriage.

After dad died, I no longer had those weekly phone calls with him.  All of the things I looked forward to him doing or saying to me stopped.  My goal post of comparison was no longer there.  Now Paul had to stand on his own two feet with all of his failings and foibles.  So Paul went from a hero to a zero in my eyes.  Well, maybe he didn't go down that far on the totem pole.

I was so happy that I finally had a reason for my frustrations with Paul.  I was so happy that our marriage wasn't falling apart.  I was also very humbled by my attitude and behavior toward Paul for 14 1/2 years of marriage.  Sheesh!  I'm going to be 40 in December, and I was still acting like a kid in high school comparing a boyfriend to her dad!

Take all of that plus my cycles were all over the map.  With all the added stress, my age, and all of the anxiety over our marriage, homeschooling, etc.; I just couldn't get a handle on my fertility.  All I knew was that I couldn't just go on blindly and just shut down completely in an area where our intimacy could really benefit the love we have for each other.

So insert God and the Holy Spirit and probably all the angels and saints, too, because I was instantly thrown a curve ball of sorts!

That's where I find myself today....very pregnant, very scared, and very nauseous.  I'm probably only 4-5 weeks along.  I haven't even looked at a calendar to pinpoint know, dates and such. All I've been doing is walking around in a daze, a nauseous daze.  I am happy, too, but I would be lying if I let on that I'm over the moon about this baby.  I gave away everything after Nick.  Yep, I have no crib, no clothes, no bassinet, no receiving blankets, or anything else for a baby.  I was mentally over all of that.  I have had so much emotional and psychological difficulty since 2010, I was sure that another pregnancy would send me to the looney farm.

So I called my mom on the day I took my pregnancy test.  I grabbed the leash, the dog, and headed for the park.  I cried to her telling her how afraid and overwhelmed I was feeling.  I kept saying, "I can't do this.  I don't want to do this."  She was amazing!  She said I can with God's help and that I will do just fine.  But....there's always a BIG BUT.....she said I'd have to slow down.  I'd have to take it easy and let things go.  I told her I like having a clean house and keeping a strangle hold on the schedule.  I like baking and cooking and spending oodles of time in the kitchen.  I also love homeschooling the girls and driving everyone around.  She said I have to let go.  She's supportive and also very practical.

There you have BIG NEWS!  I guess that's why I've been so quiet around here.  We've been busy as usual, but nausea and exhaustion have taken over.  We've also been processing a lot of apples so it's been a little crazy around here!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

You Say It's Your Birthday

Well, yesterday was Lucas's 9th birthday.  I had a mom-fail and gave him a dud of a birthday party.  First, off I forgot his age and only picked up 8 balloons.  What was I thinking?  Then, I forgot a special present which I always do for the kids even if it is a pack of gum, a smallish gift, and maybe a cool t-shirt or sweatshirt.

However, I did think of a few things and made a "party room" for the birthday boy....

I picked up camouflage plates and a blaze orange tablecloth at Party City.  I purchased a hunting birthday banner from Etzy from That Party Chick.  Next, I used Paul's and Maria's target sheets from their last trip to the gun range to set in the middle of the table.  I made the table tents from a Google image, orange construction paper, and camo scrapbook paper.  I think they came out well!

Lucas is super into archery, has a couple bows, and has spent a bit of time at the archery range with Paul and Gabe.  He's a very good shot.  I'm still trying to wrap my head around being the wife and mother of hunters!

Which leads me to another bit of news.  Paul entered the two oldest girls into a lottery for a youth hunt in St. Croix State Park.  They won.  Note I didn't use an exclamation point with that last sentence!  This means he'll be taking the girls up to Hinckley, MN for a weekend hunt in November.  That means more range practice, a squirrel hunt next weekend, and hunt dog training for Tup.  

Kettle River in St. Croix State Park
Isn't that a beautiful picture?  So, Paul and the girls will get to enjoy that in a few weeks.  Meanwhile, I'm starting to enjoy the colors around here....

I've also been processing a lot of apples from Grandpa Ben's apple tree.  This year has been a good year for apples so I've been saucing, freezing, and canning over the last week.  I have 3 more large boxes of apples in the garage which I am grateful to have.  This evening I'll be giving a 10 minute presentation on home canning & freezing as part of "The Lost Arts" Evening for the women of the parish.  One woman will be talking about Kombucha, another will be showing how to make yogurt at home, while another mom will be talking about quilting and knitting.  I think it will be fun!

Stay tuned for more Minnesota living.  I hope to report the girls getting a deer in the weeks to come!

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