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

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Daybook - November 20th

outside my window . . .  most of the leaves have fallen, but the trees are still clinging to quite a few.  The raking will continue for a few more weeks.  Today is beautifully sunny and makes the remaining leaves look like amber jewels.

listening to . . . dogs excitedly running to the backdoor for their morning romp.  Hubby trying to quietly let them out.

wearing . . . still in my fuzzy blue robe, soon to be in my running clothes.  Later?  No idea.

pondering . . . appreciating moments, activities, and things for their simple "goodness" with no thought to achieving some goal through them... and productivity as vanity

creating . . . a crocheted infinity scarf for myself, and soon to start the same for the girls.

around the house . . . laundry has piled up in the laundry room and den.  Time to get my laundry-helper (Kalliope) on the job!  Still have towers of boxes to dismantle. 

from the kitchen . . . leftovers tonight for dinner.  Need to make pasta salad for lunches at CC the next two days.

real education in our home . . .  the girls and I finished A Samurai's Tale  last week and have now started Watership Down.  I'm sure Kalliope doesn't get most of it, but that's ok!  

rhythm and beauty in our home . . . still finding my footing here in this new house, and in this new phase of life (teaching outside the home).  I'm finding it is very odd how a home can shape your family life. 

the church year in our home . . . Advent is just around the corner.  We had a family meeting last night to discuss some of our Advent and Christmas activities.

one of my favorite things . . . my new favorite tea: cinnamon spice.

recent milestones . . . Athos has submitted his first two (of about 8) college applications! (Elon U and Chapel Hill)  

the week ahead . . . the week is half over, already!  School and co-op preparation today, Challenge tomorrow, and Foundations on Friday.  Need to prepare my tutor gifts for the Foundations group as Friday is our last day before Christmas!

picture thoughts . . .
Our Artemisia-designed All Hallow's Eve pumpkins

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Red Wine Beef Stew

Recipe from Southern Living One Dish Meals, Jan 2011.

This is so yummy and warming!  It is a fairly simple recipe, but does take several hours to cook.  (ie., It isn't something you can decide on for dinner last minute)

4 lbs beef boneless chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 2" cubes
4 T flour, divided
1 3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt
2 T veg oil
1 c dry red wine
2 (14 1/2 oz) cans beef broth OR 1 (32 oz) carton (I prefer the cartons)
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 small turnip
1 8 oz pkg fresh mushrooms
1 16 oz pkg baby carrots

(I use slightly less beef and quite a bit more veggies just for my family's preference.)

Pat beef with paper towels to absorb excess moisture.  Combine 3 T flour, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp paprika, and 1/2 tsp pepper in a bowl.  Toss beef with flour mixture to coat.

Cook beef in batches in hot oil in a dutch oven over med. high heat, stirring often, 4-6 minutes or until just brown.  Remove beef from dutch oven.  Add red wine, stirring to loosen particles from bottom of pot. Return beef to pot; add broth, thyme, bay leaf, and 1/2 tsp salt.  Bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, 1 hour.

Meanwhile, peel turnip, and cut into 1 inch cubes.  Halve mushrooms.  Add all veggies to pot (including carrots) to stew.  Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until meat is fork-tender.

Whisk together remaining 1 T of flour and 1/4 tsp salt until blended.  Whisk 1/2 c of hot broth into flour mixture until smooth.  Whisk flour mixture into stew until smooth.  Cook, stirring often, 20 minutes or until thickened.

Serve with thick crusty bread, or rice to soak up all the gravy.  Don't forget a nice glass of red wine for the adults!

Productivity and Stew

You know how you enter a house where someone is making something delicious for dinner, and the whole house is filled with that aroma?  Earlier this evening, I stepped outside for a minute to talk to some roving missionaries, (the good kind -collecting donations for Thanksgiving meals) and when I stepped back in I was enveloped by the overwhelming scent of beef stewing in a rich red wine sauce.   It is so nice when that good smell is coming from my OWN kitchen!

My pathetically-congested eldest son, Athos, actually commented on how good it smelled..and that is saying something coming from someone with little sniffing ability left.

This recipe is actually one of my favorites - "Red Wine Beef Stew".  I discovered it several years ago in a  "One Dish Meals" magazine while I was looking for good meals to make in my new-at-the-time dutch oven.  And while it isn't a difficult recipe, it is quite time-consuming. In fact the directions state: "This takes some time to prepare, so make it on a day when you have a bit of spare time."

Spare time?  Who has "spare" time these days?  I've been feeling a distinct LACK of spare time in the past several months.  The sale of our home, the crazed search for another, the complicated move from home to apartment to home (and all the storage and moving details), and then the start of college visits and applications on top of our eldest's high school football season (his first!), and trying to homeschool and direct our Classical Conversations Challenge 3 level!  Honestly, when I start to really think about it, I start to get heart palpitations.

Beyond the heart palpitations, I also realize that I have done what I set out NOT to do...become too overburdened with "doing" leaving me with very little "spare time".  I've not even had time to really unpack from our move!  There are still boxes filling my sun-porch, dining room, and upstairs hallway.  Which wouldn't be so bad, but I've no hope of really making much headway until the late spring when our classes end.

All this "important" stuff, stuff that is leading to some worthy goal, is keeping me from getting to the "good" stuff, stuff that is just good in itself: reading a good book, taking time for favorite hobbies, having time to make our new house feel more like "home", etc.  But the tyranny of the "to do list" keeps me ever pushing forward.  If it isn't a productive use of my time, I'm forced to skip it, or suffer the consequences.

Liz Horst, in her article at Human Pursuits, makes a case for the "good" being goal enough.   Imagine that, reading a book just for the sake of the enjoyment of it!  Not to check it off some "BBC List of 100 Books Everyone Should Read", or to complete some assignment. Ms. Horst's ideas about things being "good" in and of themselves is something I do believe, but have not been living out lately, maybe not ever, really.

Well, that isn't altogether fair, but perhaps it is fair to say I've only succeeded in fits and starts.  Perhaps fits and starts isn't so bad in this day of uber-productivity and multi-tasking (which it turns out may not be so productive after all).  Ms. Horst even goes on to make the case that it is vanity to pursue productivity.  I'm inclined to agree.

I read her article while the Red Wine Beef Stew was simmering away, and it made me wonder about other areas in my life where I seek productivity or some "goal" over simple enjoyment of an activity or moment, or even worse, where I encourage (or force) my kids to do the same.  And, darn it, that isn't why we started homeschooling!  Their education was to start a fire (ie. desire to learn) rather than fill a bucket (industrial/productivity/checklist - cram it all in model).  Credit to William Butler Yeats.  My recent focus on the pursuit of productivity in our homeschool, church, daily life, hobbies, and work needs to be reconsidered.  

What is good?  Seek it.  If something productive comes of it, all the better.

So, in an hour when I serve up that delicious Red Wine Beef Stew, I'm going to really enjoy it - not just as fuel, but as a delicious meal.

Want the recipe?   Red Wine Beef Stew