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

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

WFMW: Keeping Track of the Freezer

Recently, my hubby noticed a bag of pureed peaches that I froze back in the summer of 2007! I wish I could say this doesn't happen very often, but it does.

Are you like me? Do you forget what inthe world you have stashed away in your freezer? Well, I have an idea that I've started using in the hope that it will help me remember what I have on hand in the freezer.

So, what is this marvelous organizational technique? Are you ready for this? Ok...

WRITE ON YOUR FREEZER DOOR. That is right - just write right on it, no, not with Sharpie markers...with dry erase or liquid soluble markers. Most refrigerators and freezers are covered with a similar material to a dry erase board. You can write on them and wipe it right off. (Test to make sure your markers will come off!) Sometimes I have to use a little dry erase remover to get it perfectly clean (rubbing alcohol is just about the same thing), but it does come right off.

I keep a pen handy by using a magnetic clip.

Here's a picture:
For some reason this is easier for me than a paper list. Maybe it is because it is written much larger and I can quickly cross out or add items as I pull them out or put them into the freezer.


This post is part of Shannon's "Work For Me Wednesday"- Kitchen edition. Go by and check out all the wonderful tips!


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Feast day of St. Gregory the Illuminator, Apostle of Armenia

Anglican and Roman churches usually celebrate St. Jerome today. We are choosing to celebrate St. Gregory the Illuminator instead due to our future connection to Armenia through our to-be-adopted daughter.


Here's a little about St. Gregory, the Illuminator:

The ancient kingdom of Armenia was the first country to become Christian, and it recognizes Gregory as its apostle. Armenia was a buffer state between the powerful empires of Rome and Parthia (Persia), and both of them sought to control it. Gregory was born about 257. When he was still an infant, his father assassinated the King of Parthia, and friends of the family carried Gregory away for protection to Caesarea in Cappadocia, where he was reared as a Christian. About 280 he returned to Armenia, where he was at first treated severely, but eventually by his preaching and example brought both King Tiridates and a majority of his people to the Christian faith. About 300, Gregory was consecrated the first bishop of Armenia. He died about 332. Armenian Christians to this day remember him with honor and gratitude. (from http://www.satucket.com/)


A prayer for today:

Almighty God, whose will it is to be glorified in your saints, and who raised up your servant Gregory the Illuminator to be a light in the world, and to preach the Gospel to the people of Armenia: Shine, we pray, in our hearts, that we also in our generation may show forth your praise, who called us out of darkness into your marvelous light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Simple Woman's Daybook - Sept 29th

For today, September 29th, 2008: Feast of St. Michael and All Angels

Outside my Window... the sun is almost at its nadir for today and the sky has recently begun taking on that deep blue of fall. Don't you love that color? Today and tomorrow are expected to be a bit of "Indian Summer" with temps reaching in the low to mid 80s, but we'll be back to crsip and cool by Thursday.

I am thinking... about getting a bell. Weird, I know. I'll explain later.

From the learning rooms... today my eldest is working on a report about the Redwoods. We measured out the diameter of the largest Redwood - 40 feet today. Wow - that is an amazingly THICK tree trunk!

I am thankful for... hubby making lunch for the kids today while I get a shower!

From the kitchen... My menu this week includes things like Roast Chicken a la Normande, Fish Poached in Wine, and White Chili. You can read more about that here.

I am wearing... Mondays often find me in my "just hanging out clothes" - clothes I'd never leave the house in, for example today: gray yoga pants, yellow tank top, and a white hoodie. However, now that ballet has started back up (on Mondays) I will be taking a shower and getting changed! Not sure what that will be...probably a jean skirt and blouse.

I am reading... The Family Cloister and Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid

I am hoping... for our approval (i800a) to bring an orphan into the country to get here quickly.

I am creating... a lesson plan for American Art (art appreciation) this week using a National Gallery of Art's education package. (I'll be posting that, so if you are interested, come back and check in!)

I am hearing... my kids taking a mid-day break from their lessons to watch "Arthur" while I check my email and blog, of course.

Around the house... we got our pillows back after their two-weeks spent in "detention" (black plastic bags) to rid them of critters (lice). Oh, it is so wonderful to have my really AWESOME down pillow back.

One of my favorite things... Changing the bed linens to "cool weather" linens: fluffy down comforter and my pretty green printed duvet. Oh, it feels so good to snuggle down into all that fluff on a cool fall evening.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week...
  • Celebrating Michaelmas today (and neighbors coming to share that celebration with blackberry pies and ice cream...and a belated gift for my middle son).

  • Boys have soccer clinic Tuesday while daughter and I go with girlfriends to see a local children's theatre production of "Peter Pan".

  • Saturday the whole family was invited to a wedding for a church family's daughter. It is also the Feast of St. Francis, so we'll do something special for our pets, too.
Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you...

Me with my favorite new cookbook. Don't I look ridiculously excited?






You can read more posts (and more about the Daybook) here.

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sweet Potato Fries

These are so easy and SO GOOD. Everyone loves them and one batch is just not enough!

Updated to add: the recipe I originally posted was not the one I was thinking of when I raved about these. I'm not sure what I've done with that recipe, but it made "fries" instead of "chips". When I made the "chips" version, I was not very pleased with them - they never got crunchy - at all. So, I've found a "fries" version that should work better. These should have a nice chewy-crunch on the outside and a warm moist inside.

4 medium sweet potatoes
-- cut lenghtwise into 1/2 in slices (like "steak fries")
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place sweet potatoes slices in a large bowl; add oil and toss to coat, add salt and pepper, toss some more. Put slices on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, turn over and bake another 15 minutes.

You might also try tossing them with parsley, thyme, basil or oregano!


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Portuguese Cornbread (Broa) - for bread machine

This is a new recipe I've just found and can't wait to try out. White cornmeal is traditionally used, but yellow or even blue can be used, too. This recipe is for a 2 lb bread machine.

1 2/3 c water
1/4 c olive oil
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 c white cornmeal
3 1/2 c bread flour
2 1/2 tsp yeast

Place the ingredients in your breadmaker according to the manufacturer's directions (mine is all wet ingredients first, then dry and, finally, the yeast). Set on Basic cycle.

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White Chili

This is a great way to use up leftover chicken from a roast in the slow cooker.

1 c onion, chopped
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried oregano
3 15 1/2 oz cans Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
2 4 oz cans diced green chilis
4 c chicken broth (you can make this from your roast chicken or use boxed/canned)
3 c chopped, cooked chicken
2 c shredded Monterey Jack cheese (8 oz)
sour cream (optional)

In a 3 1/2 to 6-Qt slow cooker place onion, garlic, cumin oregano, green chilis, broth and cooked chicken. Stir to combine. Cover and cook on low heat setting for 7-8 hours (or high heat for 3 1/2 to 4 hours). Stir in cheese until melted. Top individual bowls with sour cream, if desired.


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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Fantastic Fingerprint - Saturday?

You may remember Erik's difficulties with getting his fingerprints taken earlier this summer? He and his men's group ended up making quite a joke out of it calling our repeated fingerprint trips "Fantastic Fingerprint Fridays". Well, we had another (hopefully the last) fingerprint appointment last weekend. (I know, you'd think someone somewhere could come up with a way to share fingerprints - especially when they are digitized...oh, wait they have and it is called AFIS...so, why isn't it being used for something like this? No idea.)


This appointment went REALLY well. We arrived at USCIS Charlotte for our 3:00 appointment at 2:58. We left the building at 3:15. I'm not kidding. We even had a slight problem with an incorrect code on our form which they quickly fixed and we still got out in 15 minutes. That just doesn't seem possible, does it?!?

So, now they have our fingerprints. They use these to do ANOTHER background check (local, state, other states you've lived in and then national - it really seems they need a centralized way to do that), they check into other issues addressed in the homestudy...and I'm sure some other "checks", too...then they issue our approval to bring an orphan into the country. (That's when the whole ball REALLY gets rolling.)

Pray for a speedy approval. We sure would like to get it before Thanksgiving!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Book Review: Gilead by M Robinson

Back in March, I won a copy of Gilead, a book with which I was totally unfamiliar, from my blogger friend at Two Square Meals. I recieved it just before we left for a get-away weekend, but didn't get a chance to start it that weekend. We were...uh, busy. Heh.

Finally, earlier this summer, I got a chance to pick up this wonderful, beautiful, book. It is written as a memoir of an elderly pastor to his young son (he married very late in life, yet his wife was quite young).


"Your mother told you I was writing your begats, and you seemed very pleased with the idea. Well, then. What should I record for you? I, John Ames, was born in the Year of Our Lord 1880 in the state of Kansas, the son of John Ames and Martha Turner Ames.... At this writing I have lived seventy-six years, seventy-four of them here in Gilead, Iowa.... And what else should I tell you?"


From there the author, Marilynne Robinson, weaves a tale that stretches through the Civil War, the Great Depression, and World War I and II - and yet, barely leaves the small, dusty town of Gilead where Ames' grows up the son of a pastor and becomes a pastor himself.


What shine throughout this book are John Ames' relationships with his brother, grandfather, son, wife, friend and fellow pastor, Boughton, and his namesake and Boughton's prodigal son. The centerpiece of the story is this prodigal son's return to his hometown of Gilead. John Ames must find the grace to forgive the person that has perhaps caused him the most pain by hurting those he loves. This forgiveness is personally costly to Ames, but certainly an amazing example of Christian grace and love. Marilynne Robinson's ability to express this in the simplest (and yet most profound) passages makes this book such a joy to read. I felt uplifted even in the saddest moments of the story.


Let me share some of my favorite quotes...


"To his mind, all those people in all those churches are the scribes and the Pharisees. He seems to me to be a bit of a scribe himself, scorning and rebuking the way he does. How do you tell a scribe from a prophet, which is what he clearly takes himself to be? The prophets love the people they chastise...."


Ames often comes across his old sermons and here he comments on one:
"...it makes the point that, in Scripture, the one sufficient reason for the forgiveness of debt is simply the existence of debt. And it goes on to compare this to divine grace, and to the Prodigal Son and his restoration to his place in his father's house, though he neither asks to be restored as son nor even repents of the grief he has caused the father."


"Last night I finished 'The Trail of the Lonesome Pine'. It gave me sort of a turn for a while. The old man sees the girl with someone her own age and remarks how well suited they are, and then he starts getting old and shabby and broke, and she's still very beautiful, of course. But it all turns out fine. She loves him only and forever.... It strikes me that your mother could not have said a more heartening word to me by any other means than she did by loving that unremarkable book so much that I noticed and read it, too. That was providence telling me what she could not have told me."


"I don't know exactly what covetise is, but in my experience it is not so much desiring someone else's virtue or happiness as rejecting it, taking offense at the beauty of it."


And that is the word that comes to mind when I think of John Ames, Boughton, and the town of Gilead: Beauty.


Yes, there is a balm in Gilead.


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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Celebrating Michaelmas

Ordinary time has been good in my home, not perfect, but good. I haven't celebrated some of the saints' days the way I'd planned, but we've enjoyed a type of "growing time" as my son calls the Pentecost season. (This came from a song or chant they did in his Catechesis of the Good Shepherd class years ago.)

However, the feast day of St. Michael the Archangel and All Angels, also known as Michaelmas, is just around the corner, literally - September 29th, and that seems like a good time to start gearing back up for the celebrations of the Church Year. I've been neglecting that here on the old blog!

So, Michaelmas. What is it? When is it? How does one celebrate it? Hmmmm.... time for some research.

This Catholic website has some great background info. From that website, a listing of those issues of which he is a "Patron Saint" (ex: artists, bakers, bankers, boatmen, cemeteries, endangered children, Emergency Medical Technicians, fencing, and more....). And I learned from the The Oxford Dictionary of Saints that St. Michael is often associated with high places and was quite popular in the British Isles since early church times.


Here are the appointed readings for the day (for the American Church).

If you keep a family altar, perhaps you might like posting an icon of St. Michael for you kids to see and be reminded, visually, about who the day's special celebration is commemorating. (You should be able to right click on the image to the right and save it to your computer.)

I always find it interesting to learn how feast days were celebrated back in the Middle Ages. For some reason, those Medievalites knew how to observe a holy day! Seriously, many of our church year traditions come to us from the Middle Ages and our modern celebrations can be "informed" by learning about the origins. A fattened goose?

Some other ideas for food traditions associated with Michaelmas are: Blackberries - from Catholic Culture: Folklore in the British Isles suggests that Michaelmas day is the last day that blackberries can be picked. It is said that when St. Michael expelled Lucifer, the devil, from heaven, he fell from the skies and landed in a prickly blackberry bush. Satan cursed the fruit, scorched them with his fiery breath, and stamped and spat on them, so that they would be unfit for eating. A Traditional Irish proverb says: On Michaelmas Day the devil puts his foot on the blackberries. In France, waffles are eaten. In Italy, gnocchi. And in England a roast goose. Maybe a dinner of roast chicken, a side of gnocchi and dessert of blackberry pie?

And because, you know, I love Art History, this might be a day to read about the beautiful Mont Saint Michel in Normandy, France.














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Monday, September 22, 2008

Simple Woman's Daybook - Sept 22nd

For today, September 22nd, 2008

Outside my Window...oh, my it's been a busy, busy day and I'm only now getting to my blog and it is DARK outside. The evening air is lovely and cool.

I am thinking... that I'm not going to oversleep tomorrow like I did today.

From the learning rooms... our co-op is talking about the Pilgrims, but I'm emphasizing the fact that Jamestown was first (my Virginia roots can't let that slide).

I am thankful for... a new sandbox that my kids are thrilled with!

From the kitchen... a Clafouti aux Poires (pear flan)

I am wearing... gray pants, white blouse, blue sweater vest

I am reading... just finished "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" - it was so good!! Now, I'm going to pick up a non-fiction: "The Family Cloister" and an autobiography "Life and Times of the Lightening Bolt Kid"

I am hoping... for a better day tomorrow for two of my kids

I am creating... a list of all the wonderful things I plan to make from my new cookbook: Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child

I am hearing... my middle son coming downstairs again because he's having trouble getting to sleep

Around the house... my daughter's room manages to be the MESSIEST room in the entire house. It is almost too much to take! I keep hoping for the day she can't take it anymore and starts keeping it neater.

One of my favorite things... my toes feeling so chilly last night I had to put on my fuzzies to keep them warm - yeah, fall is here!

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week...

  • Boys have their first soccer clinic tomorrow
  • A round-table discussion on homeschooling for an upcoming show on "Raising An Amazing Generation" (INSP channel)
  • Family Reunion in South Carolina this weekend.

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you...
My husband and son walking home from breakfast on my son's birthday. Hubby takes each child out to breakfast on their birthday. We have a great little local eatery just down the road from our neighborhood - easy walking distance. It's not a great photo, but it was a very happy occassion and I wanted to share that with you!


You can read more posts (and more about the Daybook) here.


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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Creepies, Crawlies, and Critters, OH MY!

Oh, what a weekend we had...in fact I'm just getting back to normal, I think. (Yes, it is Wednesday!)

We discovered on Friday night, very late, that our son brought home lice from Sweden. Lovely Swedish lice! I went out and purchased the RID kit, but it was so late we decided to start the whole process in the morning. It was hard to send him to bed like that, but once you start the process, you gotta do the whole thing! I knew we'd have to treat the whole family since we've shared beds and pillows.

After one last outing to the farmer's market, I came home and began the de-lousing.

We stripped all the beds and recently worn clothes. (Lice can only live a day off the human body, so it really only had to be those things we'd worn recently.) Began washing all that - I think it's been 12 loads or more. (We are still washing! We put the "dirty" laundry in large plastic trash bags instead of laundry baskets to keep any live lice contained.)

We also had to gather up all the bed pillows, throw pillows and stuffed animals to store in sealed trash bags for 2 weeks to kill off any lice and eggs. (Which meant that new pillows had to be purchased for us to sleep on during that time.)

Finally, I began the shampooing and goopy comb-through stuff. It took me over 6 hours to get through the 3 kids' heads. Then hubby and I did each other's heads - we were up until 2AM!

Now, for the next couple of days I have to continue to check for nits. That takes about an hour per head...so you can see what a process this is. :)

Hubbie and I looked at each other at the end of Sunday and commented that it was a totally lost weekend. Luckily, Hubbie had this week off, as did the kids from CC, so we've made up for lost weekend time!!

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Monday, September 15, 2008

Colcannon

This traditional Irish dish is a perfect in fall and winter.

1 1/2 lbs potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 in. chunks
1 tsp salt, divided
1 1/2 c chopped green cabbage
1/3 c finely chopped green onion
2 c boiling water
2/3 c milk
2 T butter
1/8 tsp finely ground pepper

Place potatoes with cold water to cover by 2 inches and 1/ tsp salt in large saucepan. Bring to boil for 5 minutes. Add cabbage and boil for another 10 minutes until potatoes are tender.

Meanwhile, place green onion in sieve, pour boiling water over them and drain. Add drained onions to a medium saucepan with milk, butter and rest of salt and pepper, bring to a boil them remove from heat.

Drain cooked potatoes and cabbage and return to large sauce pan. Beat on low speeed with a hand held mixer until coarsely mashed. Increase speed to high and gradually add milk and onion mixture and continue to beat until potatoes are light and fluffy.

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Savory Squash Bread Pudding

I think this will end up being like corn pudding, which I LOVE, but with the slight sweetness of butternut squash.

3 C butternut squash (peeled, seeded, cut into 1/2 in. pieces)
1 C chopped onion
1 clove garlic
3 large eggs
2 large egg whites
2 C milk
1 C parmesan cheese (divided into 1/2 cups)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp nutmeg
9 cups day-old french bread, cubed

Arrange squash in single layer on greased baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt. Bake at 400F, 12 minutes, until tender. Set aside. Remove from oven; reduce temp to 350F.

In a frypan, saute onion in 1 tsp olive oil over medium-high heat until tender, 5 minutes. Add garlic and saute 1 minute. Remove from heat; cool slightly.

Whisk together eggs, egg whites, milk, 1/2 C parmesan, salt, pepper, and nutmeg in a large bowl. Stir in squash, onions, garlic. Add in bread cubes and stir gently to combine. Let stand 10 minutes. Spoon into greased 2-qt baking dish. Sprinkle top with other 1/2 C of parmesan.

Bake in preheated oven at 350F until custard is set and top is lightly browned, 45 minutes.

This recipe is another from one of my FAVORITE seasonal cookbooks: Simply In Season (World Community Cookbook)


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Simple Woman's Daybook - Sept 15th

You can find out more about the Simple Woman's Daybook here.


For today, September 15th, 2008

Outside My Window... the sun is rising and the sky is perfectly clear.

I am thinking ... about what a crazy weekend we had even though we barely left the house.

I am thankful for... a good haircut.

From the kitchen ... making my Cinnamon-Raisin Bread, again, and some pesto. These recipes and my weekly menu can be found at To Every Meal There Is A Season (Roasted Chicken, Squash Bread Pudding, Crazy Colcannon, Chicken & Veg. Soup).

I am wearing ... it is still pretty early, so I'm still in PJs and my robe.

I am creating ... a special day for my son.

I am going ... to take the kids out to get my caramel apples, as requeted by my birthday boy.

I am reading ... "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" by Lisa See.

I am hoping ... that we are rid of the critters that invaded us. (You'll have to come back later today or tomorrow for that story).

I am hearing ... a jingling bell on my cat's collar as she gets herself all clean and pretty for the day. My birthday boy sniffling (I think a couple of us have fall allergies starting up).

Around the house... there are stacks and stacks of laundry to be washed, folded, and put away (each of those represents a seperate "stack" -or heap). This is also related to those invading critters.

One of my favorite things... my really wonderful down pillows which are now sealed up in a plastic bag waiting for two weeks to make sure any remaining critters are done for. Sigh...I miss my pillow.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week:

  • Today is my middle boy's birthday! He's 9! His dad will take him out this morning for breakfast. While he's gone the other kids and I will got get his gifts, wrap them and have them ready when he returns. Then this evening, we'll have his favorite meal of tacos before we enjoy yummy caramel apples!

  • We are having an "at home" vacation this week. We've decided to spend that week doing a little backyard fixing up. The kids have been asking for us to build a sand-box...and maybe a fort of some sort. So, that is what we are doing. Hubby and I are also hoping for time to get some bushes moved and new ones planted...maybe even a tree!

  • On Saturday, we go for our fingerprint appointment for our adoption and then right after to our Supper Club. This is a group from church with whom we have become very close over the years we've been meeting for Supper Club.

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Liturgical Year - a shared plan

This year I am setting up a plan of sorts for the way our family will celebrate the Church Year. I've put together a calendar of special feast days and collected some ideas for activities or other learning experiences to accompany our celebration of the Liturgical Year.

As with many things in my homeschool adventure - there is WAY more here than we'll accomplish, but having a plan helps me accomplish more than I would with nothing.

If you are interested in something like this for your family, I'd love to share it with you...and if you have any ideas to add, I'd love to hear them! Just keep in mind this is for my family and you may want to tweak it to meet your family's needs and traditions. You'll notice some days do not have specific activities, for these, we just read about the Saint's life.

My current plan only goes through the beginning of Epiphany, but I'll add more plans later this Fall to continue through the rest of the year. (If you subscribe to my RSS, you won't miss out when I post the rest!)

If you download this, would you leave me a comment letting me know? This just helps me know if my plan is useful to others (if it is I'll continue posting things like this). And if you have any other ideas to add, I'd love to have them!!

To go along with this plan, I highly recommend getting simple kids' book about the saints. The ones I'm using are from a Catholic perspective, which is not a problem for our family eventhough we are not Catholic, but be advised you may want to do some editing if you are Protestant and reading the following books:

  • Saints for Young Readers for Every Day, Vol. 2: July-December - Vol 1 covers January- June, but is not available at Amazon. I've found it at Abebooks.com. This set of books has a saint for every day of the year. Even those saints not listed on my plan we read about from this book most days.
  • Loyola Kids Book of Saints (Loyola Kids) This is a great little book, although not in chronological order. You'll have to sift through it to find the saint you are looking for. I'm considering making a chart to use with this book. I'll post it if I get it done!
  • You can find other books I've recommended for various Liturgical Seasons. These are appropriate for Protestants.

(By the way, any books you buy via these links puts a little money in my Amazon account. I use the $$ to help fund our school books, which allows us more savings for our adoption. So, if you appreciate the plan I've put together and are considering purchasing books, please consider doing so through any of these links. You do not have to buy the books I recommend - any books purchased after following those links will count.)

Here is the link to a Google Documents page I've created with our family's plan. The first part is the calendar for the whole year, keep scrolling to get to the activity plan.

Liturgical Year - Family Activity Plan - 08-09

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Friday, September 12, 2008

More good news!

Yesterday, I mentioned that we might have to have some of our documenation reissued. My agency reviewed our document dates and said we are all good! So, no reissuances needed! That is wonderful as it cuts my work load in half.

We still have a number of documents to gather, notarize and send off for an apostille (authentication).

Homemade Croutons

Got some day-old bread? Why not make croutons? It is pretty darn easy...here's how I do it.


Start with about a 1lb loaf of day old bread (or the equivalent in bits of old bread you've saved up). This is a Rosemary-Sea Salt bread I got from a "day old bread" giveaway.







Slice and cube the bread into bite-sized pieces and place in a large bowl.










Drizzle oil by 1/4 cups full over the cubes, mixing thoroughly between each addition. Add 3/4 cup total - or enough to drench your bread cubes. Add seasonings of your choice (salt, pepper, herbs) and stir well.







Lay cubes on a a baking sheet in a single layer (use one with sides to make stirring during baking easier). Place in a 275 degree oven and bake for an hour or more depending on your desired crunchiness.

I like my croutons really crunchy, so I leave them in for close to two hours. But keep a close eye one them and stir them frequently!







Store in an airtight container or baggie. A one pound loaf will fill two of these large (Qt. size) mason jars, plus a little extra.

Enjoy in soup or on salads. Watch out, you'll be tempted to snitch them right from the jar, too.







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Happy Anniversary!


Today is our 16th wedding anniversary!


They've been 16 really good years
full of laughter and love.
And I love him even more today
than I did when I said, "I do"!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Pasta e Fagioli (Pasta and Bean Soup)

Ahh.... Pasta e Fagioli! An easy, delicious soup for any time.

This recipe comes from my favorite Italian cookbook:Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan. Pasta e Fagioli is a very flexible recipe, but hers is the best. I don't use it exactly as she has it here, but it is an excellent starting point.

1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
2 T chopped onion
3 T chopped carrot
3 T chopped celery
3-4 pork ribs or ham bone with some meat on it (I totally skip this, because hubby doesn't eat pork)
2/3 c canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, cut up, with their juices (or fresh tomatoes, peeled and cut up)
2 lbs fresh cranberry or red kidney beans (or 3 c. canned or cooked dried beans - drained) (I use whatever beans I have on hand - often canellini, always canned)
3 c (or more if needed) beef broth (1 c. canned broth diluted with 2 c. water) (We don't eat beef either, so we use Chicken Stock.)
Salt
Black pepper (freshly ground)
1/2 lb small tubular pasta (I use whatever I have on hand, but never anything long like spaghetti/fettucini/linguini)
1 T butter
2 T freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese

Put olive oil and onion in soup pot and turn on heat to medium. Cook the onion, stirring, until it is pale gold. Add the carrot and celery, stir once or twice to coat them well, then add pork. Cook for 10 minutes, turning meat and vegetables from time to time. Add the cut up tomatoes and their juice, adjust the heat so that the juices simmer very gently, and cook for 10 minutes.

If using fresh beans: Shell, rinse and put in soup pot. Stir 2-3 times to coat well, then add the broth. Cover the pot, adjust the heat so that the broth bubbles at a steady, but gentle boil, and cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the beans are fully tender.

If using canned (or cooked dried) beans: Extend the cooking time for the tomatoes in Step 3 to 20 minutes. Add the drained cooked or canned beans, stirring them thoroughly to coat them well. Cook for 5 minutes, then add the broth, cover the pot, and bring the broth to a gentle boil.

Scoop up about 1/2 c of beans and mash them and return to the pot. Add salt, a few grindings of black pepper, and stir thoroughly.

Check the soup for density: It should be liquid enough to cook the pasta in. If necessary, add more broth or, if you are using canned broth, more water. When the soup comes to a steady, moderate boil, add the pasta. Stop cooking when pasta is tender, but still firm to the bite. Before turning off the heat, swirl in the butter and grated cheese.

Allow it to settle for 10 minutes before serving as it tastes better when warm rather than piping hot. Serve with a nice, crusty bread!

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Classical Conversations - Science Lessons - Cycle 3

Finally, I'm getting the promised science lessons online today! I'm sorry I didn't get this posted prior to so many CC groups starting up. And thank you to the commentor who gave me the gentle reminder recently!

This is only the first semester. I was planning on posting the second semester history and science plans by the end of the month, but with the adoption picking up some speed, I've got to focus on that for the next month. I will have those plans posted as soon as we've completed the next batch of paperwork, which we expect to be late October or early November. Be sure to subscribe to my RSS feed and you won't miss those posts!

So, without further ado....

Classical Conversations - Cycle 3 - Semester 1 - Science Lessons (That is a link to the file on Google Documents.)

The books I'm using are:

If you have any problems downloading it, please email me. Please leave a comment letting me know you've downloaded this file, thanks. This just helps me know my work is useful to others.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Fingerprints!

Late last week, we received our fingerprint appointment! I'm amazed! We go next Saturday, September 20th for our "biometrics" - fancy word for fingerprints - at our local USCIS branch.

So, to update the timeline I gave in the last update:

8/15- submitted our i800a to our local USCIS branch office (Charlotte)

8/22 - we recieved a notice from our USCIS branch office that the i800a had been received

9/2 - recieved an I-797C, Notice of Action form from the Hague Unit (US Dept. of Homeland Security, USCIS, National Benefits Center, Hague Unit - in Lee's Summit, MO).

9/3 - recieved an email (in response to an inquiry on my part to the Hague Unit) letting me know that the processing time for the i800a is 90 days.

9/6 - heard from other adoption friends that the Hague Unit was processing i800a forms at around 60 days

9/7 - received fingerprint appointment for the 20th of Sept.

Today, I pulled out our dossier information to start getting that ready and realized that many of the doucments may need to be updated before we submit the dossier to Armenia. (They must be no more than 6 months old - which some will be.) So, the next couple of weeks, my focus will be: gathering documents, getting old ones reissued, and sending stuff off to be apostilled.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Baked Butternut Squash and Apples

Oh, the color is gorgeous! We'll see how my kids like it...they'll groan when I say "squash", but the brown sugar glaze may get their attention.

2 lbs butternut squash (peeled, seeded, and fibers removed; cubed)
2-3 baking apples (roughly chopped)
1/3 c brown sugar
3 T butter, melted
1 T flour
1/4 tsp allspice

Arrange squash and apples in baking dish. Combine next 4 ingredients in a small bowl then sprinkle on top of apples and squash. Cover and bake at 350 degrees until squash is tender, 40-50 minutes.

This recipe is from one of my FAVORITE seasonal cookbooks: Simply In Season (World Community Cookbook)

Updated to add: Oh, by the way, the kids LOVED this!


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Balsamic Marinated Chicken

This is easy and delicious! My kids rave about this and they can be picky eaters. It is so easy to fix, but you do have to think ahead in order to get the 2 hours of marinating done. Not a last minute supper...but almost!

1/4 c balsamic vinegar
1/4 c honey
1/4 c olive oil
2 T fresh rosemary
1 tsp salt
3 lbs chicken (breast, thighs, legs)

Combine first 5 ingredients in a large heavy-duty zip-top plastic bag; add chicken. Seal and marinate in refrigerator 2 hours, turning occasionally.

Remove chicken, and place in a lightly greased baking pan (13x9); pour marinade over chicken.

Bake at 375 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until done, basting often with pan drippings.

Serves my family of 6 with leftovers.

I like to make extra and have this for lunch the next day, too. It is quite good over rice or couscous - and save some of the good pan juices to pour over that rice!

Simple Woman's Daybook - Sept 8th

You can find out more about the Simple Woman's Daybook here.


For today, September 8th, 2008

Outside My Window... after a couple of mild-ish summer weeks, we seem to be in store for a sweltering day today. It is steamy and sunny and the screeching bugs are really singing this morning.

I am thinking ... about learning more about traditional French cooking.

I am thankful for... my special friend, Susie.

From the kitchen ... check out my menu plan for the week at To Every Meal There Is A Season (Balsamic Chicken, Spaghetti & Meatballs, Pasta e Fagioli).

I am wearing ... oh, I hate to admit this, but I'm still in my PJs. Well, I have "upgraded" them by putting on a hoodie.

I am creating ... nothing much right now.

I am going ... to be getting ready for my Dad's visit. Need to clean the kids' bathroom, change the sheets, do a quick vacuum and dust, and get the kids to take some of their junk upstairs.

I am reading ... "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" by Lisa See.

I am hoping ... for a nice 16th anniversary on Friday.

I am hearing ... hubby passing out vitamins to the kids.

Around the house... there is a stack of cookbooks on my kitchen counter that need to be put away. I was going through them last night to make my Autumn meal plan. You can read more about that at my other blog devoted to seasonal and local cooking: To Every Meal There Is A Season.

One of my favorite things... my French Press. I was recently telling someone how we'd made the switch to the French Press when our coffee maker's carafe broke. We happened to have the Press and started using it...and ended up giving away the coffee maker!

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week:
  • My Dad is coming for a visit today. We have a lot of stuff planned for only a short visit: a trip to the airport to look into flight lessons for my eldest, catching a movie, and a trip to the planetarium.
  • Need to make plans for my middle son's 9th birthday on Monday. We keep them pretty low-key except for the "big" ones (1, 5, 10, 13, 16, 18). DH always takes them out for a special breakfast.
  • Our 16th anniversary is Friday! We have a special date planned next week, so we may just make a special meal at home on Friday. Or maybe go out for a dessert date.

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Friday, September 5, 2008

Art History for Homeschoolers - September 2008

Frida Kahlo exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

George Eastman House has some fantastic online photographic collections.

Artists respond to Genesis: "In the Beginning..." from the Contemporary Jewish Museum.

A "zoomable" and searchable online collection from The Frick Collection. The zoom gets close enough to show your the brushmarks! Pieces in the online collection also feature a short essay discussing historical, artistic, and thematic aspects.


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Thursday, September 4, 2008

Coming up for air

Whew...ever have a week or two like that? Mostly good stuff, but even the good stuff can wear you out...or at least it can wear me out.

As I mentioned a while ago, my eldest son went on a 10-day trip with his grandmother (my MIL) to Sweden. They flew in to Stockholm and spent a few days there visiting the city and enjoying the sites: Old Town, museums, palace, etc. Then they ferried over to the island of Aland that sits in the Baltic ocean between Sweden and Finland. This is where my MIL was born and where most of her extended family still lives. They visited the family home (now a B&B, but still owned by family), Kastelholm (13th c castle), Mariehamm (main port city), a few churches (from 13th and 14th c), and many family members.

They had a WONDERFUL time and every thing went well (other than a parking ticket). My son got to meet some lovely family members and had a fantastic time. My MIL took my husband when he was a young boy and I got to go when we were engaged. She plans on taking my other kids as they get a bit older, too.

Before they left, Classical Conversations started up for my eldest - so he attended the first day, but then missed the next one, so he has quite a bit of catching up to do. Some of it I'm letting slide - but not Latin and Math. Poor kid!

While he was gone my Mom came for a visit. Things are very rocky for her right now, so it was good to have her hear where I could "dote" on her a little bit. She's also always so good about helping me catch up on laundry. I don't know why - she hates it as much as I do. :) Actually - that isn't true. We both don't mind doing it and folding it...but forget it when it comes time to put it away! Oh, well, at least I know I get it honestly.

MIL and eldest son arrived home Monday evening. We had a wonderful reunion! All three kids crammed into the back of the van, again, and chitter-chattered the whole way home. I particularly loved looking back and seeing my 6-year old daughter with her arm slung around her big-brother's shoulders. So sweet.

All the grandmas left the next morning and while I wished they could have stayed for another day, it was good to have things a little back to "normal". It also gave us a chance to get ready for our Wednesday Classical Conversations day.

Everything went really well on CC day - middle boy and youngest girl both loved their new tutors, as do I. However, after lunch my little girl started to wilt, so we called Daddy to come pick her up. She's been on the verge of getting sick, so I chose not to push her.

Their CC classes end at 12, but we stay on campus to wait for big bro. I have them signed up for French during this afternoon time. My middle son was not too enthusiastic about it, but went and found it fun. I knew he'd like it!

Last night I had the first Women's Retreat meeting. This will be our first women's retreat as a new church, so it's exciting! We are going back to a very much loved location in the mountains of North Carolina in November. It should be a really lovely weekend. But, there is a LOT to be done! Came home and stayed up WAY TOO LATE watching the Republican Convention.

Today was a bit of a tough day. Kids are a bit bickerish - boy, those good feelings of having "brubby" back didn't last long. :) Actually, I think most of it is just exhaustion...doesn't make it ok, though.

My daughter had a bit of a melt down and wound up on my bed asleep at 10:00 am. She slept the rest of the morning, so no school for her today.

Middle son had a bit of a "stress session" during his school. He got frustrated when he didn't have the whole Latin lesson memorized on the first day. But we seemed to redeem the day when we moved on to reading about Science (Human Body - pretty cool) and working on ideas for his CC presentation.

Eldest son did an awesome job on his first day of independent CC work (Challenge A) until he hit Math. Math is the subject he tends to "wig out" on, even though he is pretty good at it. If he encounters any "hard" stuff, he seems to have a hard time with it. He's not used to having to struggle through understanding school - and math this year is a bit harder. :) But, with a little help from Daddy (and reading the text - wow, amazing how that helps) he was able to get through it.

I'm not sure we'll continue with math with CC. I've never made him do *all* the problems in a Saxon lesson. I pick and choose the ones I know he needs more practice with...or the ones that are building up to future lessons. (ie. I skip the stuff he's got down, but even there, I do have him review some of those, too) But with CC they are expected to do all the problems, which I find a bit too much for my son. I may just talk with his tutor and see if she is bothered by that. If she is than, I'll just have him sit out of Math and we'll do it at home. I love that this is an option with CC - the parent is still in charge.

So, that is where we are.... My husband will be none-too-thrilled, but I'm considering making a run to McD's for dinner for the kids. Oh, I hate to let them eat there, but we really RARELY do anymore, so I don't feel guilty. That or I'm making pancakes. Hmmm.... maybe the pancakes are really the better option.

Anyway - posting has been sparse lately, and may continue that way for a bit...but I am still here!

So, how has your week been?

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Wednesday, September 3, 2008

i800 Process Update

Well, things are moving along and it looks like we should have our i800a approval around Thanksgiving!

There are lots of questions about how this new process works floating around the adoption websites. For any of you who are also in the adoption process, here's what our timeline has looked like:

8/15- submitted our i800a to our local USCIS branch office (Charlotte)

8/22 - we recieved a notice from our USCIS branch office that the i800a had been received
(During this time, we heard from others in our adoption agency that these were being forwarded on to a special unit set up to handle these called the "Hague Unit". Wondered if ours would be forwarded on quickly or if USCIS Charlotte had to do some processing first. Stressed that this might mean an even longer wait time for the i800a to be processed)

9/2 - recieved an I-797C, Notice of Action form from the Hague Unit (US Dept. of Homeland Security, USCIS, National Benefits Center, Hague Unit - in Lee's Summit, MO). This form was notifying us that they'd received our application (as of 8/25), assigned a case number and we'd be assigned a fingerprint appointment with our local USCIS office (of which we'd be notified by mail).

9/3 - recieved an email (in response to an inquiry on my part to the Hague Unit) letting me know that the processing time for the i800a is 90 days.

This is shorter than we would have had if the process had been done through USCIS Charlotte - unless their are issues with our i800a. I've heard that many, many, many have been returned for further documentation or wording changes (in the home study). I'm very hopeful ours will be accepted without further adjustments as our agency has achieved a successful i800a approval recently, but we'll see.

If you are in the middle of this process and have questions, comments or information, leave a comment! Let's help each other out!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Simple Woman's Daybook - Sept 1st


You can find out more about the Simple Woman's Daybook here.


For today, September 1st, 2008

Outside My Window... bright and sunny, 84 degrees - lovely! But I'm looking at the disaster my dogs made of the garden plot we are planning for next summer.

I am thinking ... about my son and Mother-in-Law getting home from Sweden today!

I am thankful for... my friends who had my middle son over for a playdate yesterday. He's missing his brother and needed some "friend" time to get his mind off it!

From the kitchen ... Nothing special today - but for dinner we are planning Bok Choy Stir-Fry and Chinese Dumplings.

I am wearing ... Tan pants, peach top - this is a super comfy outfit. The pants are a "swishy", lightweight cotton. Oh, and frizzy hair.

I am creating ... a landscape plan to improve our yard. We'll have to do it in stages, since we can't afford to do everything we want to right now.

I am going ... to the airport to pick my my MIL and son TONIGHT!

I am reading ... my Mom just gave me a new book (I finished Gilead, finally! It was so good, I'll post a review later this week.) - "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" by Lisa See.

I am hoping ... the first day of Classical Conversations goes really well on Wednesday.

I am hearing ... my dryer humming along, thanks to my Mom.

Around the house... trying to get everything cleaned up and straightened for the "homecoming". Oh, we finished painting the kids' bathroom today!

One of my favorite things... my new LARGE format (Monarch) planner pages!

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week:
  • Classical Conversations - first day for Foundations kids on Wednesday.

  • Having friends over for pizza Friday or Saturday.

  • Doing all the laundry my son will be bringing home.

  • Getting ready for my Dad's visit early next week.
Here is picture thought I am sharing:














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