We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. ~Isaiah 64:8

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Links for Advent Week 3

Oh, my - busy week!  The Nutcracker (Kalliope's first!) is one for the books.  She did great - as did all the young dancers. So - anyway - very quick on the links today.

How to wrap gifts like a Japanese professional.

Making traditional mincemeat pies - I do LOVE mincemeat!

You know, the Advent and Christmas season can positively buzz with activity making it difficult to provide healthy home-cooked meals.  And right at a time when you are trying to spend more time as a family...and less money at restaurants!  Once a Month Meals is a like the honey in that wild buzzing beehive of the holiday season.  Check it out - great resource for quick fix and make ahead meals.

Do you, like me, seem to wind up every year with some oddly-shaped gift that absolutely defies wrapping?  Oh, sure you can just get an enormous gift bag...but then the gift just sort of knocks around in there always tipping over.  Check out this helpful idea!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Links for Advent Week 2

The parade coming down Main Street.
Good Sunday evening, friends!  Our little Kalliope is going to be in the county youth ballet's production of The Nutcracker...and today all the cast members got to participate in our small town Christmas Parade!  She was so excited to ride the float and feel like a "star".

There is something so comforting and lovely about a small town at Christmas, especially: walking the town today, seeing some familiar faces, hearing greetings of "Merry Christmas" yelled back and forth.  Love it!

Here's the float - I marked Kalliope with a yellow arrow.

On Saturday, we had a very low-key St. Nicholas feast day.  Shoes by the fireplace and gingerbread for breakfast.  The weather was awful, so we ditched some outdoor plans and opted instead to drive to a local house that does an amazing light show.  Then we came home and watched "Rudolph".

Here are some links from the last week:
Faramir, Erik, and Artemisia
An Advent calendar from The Economist - not at all "Advent-y", but interesting!

This is an older post, but I just love the humility and grace she expresses as she shares with us her desire to incorporate Advent into her life.   (Becoming Peculiar)

Christmas Trivia Game - One is more secular, the other has more religious-oriented questions.  I'm going to combine the two to use with my classes for a fun game on their last day before break (Dec 4th)...and then again with my family!

More serious: Ferguson in the Shadow of Advent

Artemisia and I enjoying some Peppermint Mocha
from our awesome coffee shop.
This one isn't particularly Advent-ish, other than that I've put this book on my list to Santa...wonder if he'll bring it?  Marilynne Robinson's "Gilead" books, now a trilogy, are by far my most favorite pieces of contemporary literature.  Some people find them too slow...I adore them for their slow, careful pace.  I haven't read Lila, yet, but I can recommend it highly based on the previous books. And I think it would make exceptional, if un-orthodox, Advent reading. A good review by Amy Frykholm.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Saint Nicholas Feast is nearly upon us!

Jan Steen - The Feast of Saint Nicholas - 1663
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Today I had to run a couple of errands, and so that means, as is almost always the case, a child or two is with me.  This makes shopping for Christmas tricky.  But I'm good at distraction and subterfuge.  Which is good, because I had a couple more things to pick up for St. Nicholas' feast day.

Are you celebrating?  It doesn't have to be a fancy celebration...shoes by the fireplace with a bit of chocolate and maybe a very small gift is certainly in the spirit!  Sometimes we do a lot, sometimes we only do a little.

This year it will be a little feast as we have a busy Saturday.  Some goodies in the shoes and a breakfast of freshly made gingerbread.

Here are some posts to get you started:

  • And, if you homeschool, perhaps a little Picture Study using Jan Steen's Feast of St Nicholas (that's the image above).  Here's a little background from the Rijksmuseum where this painting is housed.
I'd love to hear how you celebrate!  Please share in the comments - and link to your blog if you have a post about your celebration!  I'll update here!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Links for Advent Week 1

Welcome to Advent week 1!  

Here are some links I've collected in the last week for you.  Just a few this week to whet your appetite.

  • Lent and Beyond is an amazing and extensive resource for Anglicans and other liturgical-minded Christians.  Loads of Advent links!

  • Christmas Movies - I love to record them and have some to watch during the 12 Days.  This website has a very complete listing, and very easy to copy and paste into a document for printing. The bold ones are this blogger's top picks (classic movies and such).
Yesterday, I let the girls dig through the Christmas crafts box.
Oh, they had fun, which is obvious from the mess they made!

  • The Celebration Project - my IRL friend Amy (and a friend of hers, Deb) are blogging their way through the Church Year - a project near and dear to my heart!  Be sure to subscribe to this blog if you also love the Church Year.  And don't miss her guest posts on St Nicholas from Anne Kennedy (of Preventing Grace) and yours truly.  (I'm so honored that she even asked!)

  • Preparing for the New Church Year - from Internet Monk.  This is an exceptionally-complete introduction to the Church Year.  If you are new to this whole concept, this is a great place to start.  But even if you are quite familiar with the Church year, you can find some very helpful resources.  Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

  • A grown up's Advent calendar - Professor Carol puts out a fascinating email-based Advent calendar.  Lots of interesting historical and cultural tidbits!  

Monday, December 1, 2014

Daybook - Monday, Dec 1st

outside my window . . .  the leaves are falling as fast at I can pay my kids to clear them.  I'm torn between trying to keep a cleared driveway and yard and just waiting until they ALL FALL.

listening to . . . Kalliope's spoon scraping the bottom of the bowl of her favorite breakfast: Cream of Wheat.  She's the only child who really likes Cream of Wheat, which makes me quite satisfied.  I've passed on the love of creamy wheatiness to another generation, as well as the jingle my Dad always sang when he served it to me, "Cream of Wheat, Good to eat, Makes the Baby fat and sweet!"

wearing . . .  Oh, heavens - I'm still in my PJs.  At 9:45.

so grateful for . . .  really good friends.

pondering . . .  see below

reading . . .  finishing up the last couple of chapters of  The Litte Way of Ruthie Lemming by Rod Dreher, which has made me want to really put down some roots in this little town of mine, but also it has made me want to move home to Va Beach.  Dreher's writing about his sister's illness has helped me understand more clearly the purpose of suffering in this life.

creating . . . Russian Tea Mix for gifts this week.  I'm not sure this really counts as "creating" since it is really only mixing and dumping.

around the house . . . Plotting and planning rearranging my den and sun room.  Maybe pictures to follow!  We have a nice sized den, but with two full-sized couches (which we need with 6 of us - and four of them full-sized humans) it is cramped.  I'm thinking a slight rearrangement just might work.

from the kitchen . . . Ok - I posted this on Facebook, so disregard if you are a FB friend and have already seen this.  Made a most-delicious pie for Thanksgiving: Buttered-Maple Black Walnut Pie.  NO corn syrup!  Made the old-fashioned way with maple syrup and butter.  Really, really lovely - custardy and delectable!  That website is all "old" recipes - so a great resource.

real education in our home . . .  We always break for the holiday season.  This will be our last week of school.  Instead, we'll focus on Advent, puzzles, playing checkers (a new favorite thing), learning some kitchen skills, and preparing for Christmas.

My new-to-me teapot.
the church year in our home . . . Thanksgiving and Advent falling on the same weekend always means I don't quite get my Advent act together.

one of my favorite things . . .  Just bought this lovely little teapot at a local consignment store.  It is perfect for our school morning tea.

recent milestones . . . My eldest is just about to complete his first semester of college.  He's attending my (and my husband's) Alma Mater: James Madison University.

the week ahead . . . Last day of classes (I teach 2 classes on Thursdays to homeschoolers), last day of Classical Conversations, getting ready for Saint Nicholas Day (more posts about this very soon), and putting Advent up.

picture thoughts . . .

Girls and I spent a morning at a local park.  This heron, cautiously hunting
his breakfast, is a resident of the pond.  He is reamarkable.

A weekly feature hosted at The Simple Woman's Blog.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Advent Season: Music for Advent

Well, the Christmas music has started on the local radio stations.  Since they'll stop playing it on December 26th (only the 2nd day of Christmas, y'all - not to be too much of a curmudgeon about it), we will enjoy it while it is around.

But I also like to play some Advent music, too!  Hard to find on the local radio stations, but if you do a search on Youtube for Advent music playlists, you'll find some.

Here's one I put together:

Friday, November 28, 2014

Super Easy Bone Broth in 4 Steps!

So, have you heard all the hoopla about BONE BROTH?  If not, go read those links.  It's really just the hip new way of referring to something that homemakers have known about for an awfully long time: making stock.  And it is so simple!

Here's how I do it in the slow cooker:

STEP 1) Save the bones from any meat you've recently eaten (chicken carcass, turkey carcass, beef bones from steak, etc).  You can also ask for bones from your butcher, but it is recommended that you cook the bones before using them if they are raw.  Some people will save bones in the fridge or freezer until they have enough to make broth.  I'd say you'd want bones from about 5 pounds of meat, at least.

Here is the broth above at the 18 hour
mark.  You can see the color is a nice
dark gold.  The flavors have started
to mellow. 
STEP 2) Throw the bones into a crock pot with a splash of vinegar (helps pull minerals from the bones), enough water to just about cover the bones, some veggies for flavor, herbs, if you like, salt and pepper.  For veggies, I usually use an onion and 2-3 stalks of celery, maybe a carrot.  Anything else you have on hand is good - I used a bunch of parsley that I had leftover from Thanksgiving this time. The broth will have a distinct vinegar scent at first which will mellow and disappear by the time the broth is done.

The broth after 24 hours.
The color hasn't darkened significantly,
but the carcass has broken down quite a
bit.  Bones are still hard at this point,
but beginning to release their gelatin
making the broth quite unctuous.
STEP 3) Set the cooker on "LOW" and let it do its job for the next day or two.  Yes - day or two!  The broth will darken and mellow... you'll even begin to see a gelatinous oil towards the end... and those bones may get positively soft.  That's all good!!  If you just can't wait that long, you can take it out at the 18 hour mark.  But, oh, do try to wait a little longer!  The results are much better.

Bone broth at about 36 hours.
Notice the color has gone from dark
golden to a rich brown.  Bones are soft
and crumble when squeezed with your
fingers. It could be left it cook longer,
but I think this is a perfect point to
finish the broth.
STEP 4) Once you are satisfied with the broth (anytime after the 18 hour mark, but I'd suggest letting it go for at least 24 hours), let it cool a bit and remove the larger bits of veggies and bones with a slotted spoon.  Then carefully (get someone to help with this) pour it through a sieve and into another container.  Now you can serve it, use it for soup, or store it.

Final product!  I wound up with
about 3 qts of broth which
I divided into two gallon ziploc
bags to freeze.
If you refrigerate it before using, you can skim off some of the excess fat, if you like.  I don't generally do this as I think that stuff is GOOD FOR YOU!  I let mine cool quite a bit and then freeze it in gallon freezer bags.

Do you make bone broth regularly for your family?

Thanksgiving 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!  I hope you had a lovely day with family and/or friends...and for those of you who got snow, I hope you enjoyed it!!  My kids were a little jealous.

We had no company, nor did we travel for the first time in a LONG time.  It was a quiet and relaxed Thanksgiving.  Not how I'd want to spend every Thanksgiving, but it was nice this year.  

We laid out a craft paper banner for everyone to write or draw what
they were thankful for...this was so easy and enjoyable, that I think
it will be a new tradition!
Here is our table.  We have inherited quite a bit of china and
silver, but this is our wedding china.  I love using it!  
Mid-feast - (right to left) Artemisia, Kalliope and Erik.

(left to right: Faramir and Athos)

Our cat, Zeke, is a notorious
counter-surfer.  We had to put him
while we ate for fear he'd get into
turkey on the counter.  He sat on the
windowsill and pouted.

Faramir and Athos enjoyed a
checkers throwdown.

And at the end of the evening - the
turkey carcas, an onion, some
celery and the leftover parsley
all went into the crock pot with
water and a little vinegar (and salt
and pepper).  Bone Broth!!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Summer travels

We travelers, walking to the sun, can't see
Ahead, but looking back the very light
That blinded us shows us the way we came,
Along which blessings now appear, risen
As if from sightlessness to sight, and we
By blessing brightly lit, keep going toward
That blessed light that yet to us is dark.
--Wendell Berry 
Sabbaths 1999, VI

Kalliope and I went away - the two of us, intrepid travelers.  We flew far away to Washington state for a special visit.  We stayed in Seattle for a few days with a dear friend and her family. This is one of those friends with home whom you've shared your youth and early adulthood...and with whom you always feel a whiff of "home".  Then Kalliope and I drove through a piece of the Cascade Range (Wow - how beautiful!) to a charmed valley and the inviting town of Ellensburg.  There we visited very new friends, but ones with whom we share a great deal.  They showed us their town and schools and church...and shared their home and extended family.  These are those friends who, eventhough you've just met, you know you share a deep kinship.  A few days later we returned to Seattle for one last visit and then flew home.  But not before we stopped at Bakery Nouveau to get treats for our trip home.

It was good to get home, and yet, that trip was such a wonderful moment in time.

Here are some photos: