Thursday, August 27, 2015

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real} August 27


The hummingbirds have loved the bee balm I planted this spring.


We have had an abundance of green goodness from our garden.  Tomatillos, green beans, swiss chard, and kale were harvested this week.

We had guferati (Indian green beans) as a side this weekend using our homegrown green beans. Yum!

I've also been collecting a drying herbs (some I grew and some I foraged) to be used in teas, tinctures, salves, etc.   In this photo I have mint, yarrow, and lavender.


It cracks me up to find photos like this on my iPhone.


The valley was blanketed in fog and dew this morning and a definite chill was in the air.  Summer is coming to a close and fall is nipping at our heels.

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Thursday, August 20, 2015

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real} August 20


We grew a new variety of Cosmos in one of the flower beds this year.  I think Cosmos are my new favorite flower.

This is the variety we planted last year and it went to seed.  We have Cosmos coming out our ears and it is lovely!


Our sweet Angela turned 16 this week.  It was all about the food for her.  For breakfast she requested crepes with lemon curd filling.

For dinner it was ham and apple stromboli

and the cake was chocolate cherry with chocolate frosting and chocolate dipped cherries on top.


What is it about boys and sticks?  They seem to find them and collect them no matter where we go.


This is not a sunset.  This is the smoke from all the wild fires in neighboring states.  The air is thick with haze and smoke.  

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Fresh Berry Shortbread Bars

I've enjoyed going to the local farmer's market this summer.  It's a great place to purchase produce which I do not grow myself, or has not yet ripened in my garden.  One of my favorite stands sells baskets of fresh raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries.  I usually purchase a flat of blackberries and raspberries as blueberries are not generally a favorite in this house.  The following recipe (adapted from this recipe) is my favorite way of enjoying fresh berries.

Fresh Berry Shortbread Bars

Crust and Topping
1 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt

Melt butter in a large glass bowl. Whisk in sugars until combined.  Add the flour and salt and stir until combined.  Mixture will resemble sandy crumbles.  Set aside 1 1/2 cups of the crumbles and press the remaining mixture into a greased 9x12 baking dish. Set aside.


2 whole eggs and 1 egg yolk
1 cup full fat coconut milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup flour

Whisk eggs, coconut milk, and sugar until sugar is nearly dissolved.  Add vanilla and stir to combine. Lightly whisk in the flour.  Pour over top of crust in the baking dish.

Berry Layer

3 pints fresh berries (any combination of blackberry, raspberry, blueberry, or boysenberry)
1/2 cup sugar
1 TBSP cornstarch

Toss berries, sugar, and cornstarch together gently and spoon over top of the filling in the baking dish.  Sprinkle the reserved crumble mixture over the berries.  Bake for 45-60 minutes in an oven preheated to 350 degrees.  The crust should appear golden, the filling should be bubbling but set and the crumble topping should just be turning a golden color.  Cool for at least an hour before cutting into squares.

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Monday, August 17, 2015

Kingdom Animalia--Lesson 7

Lesson 7--Mammals (Class Mammalia)

Read about and find examples of different kinds of mammals using a good resource of your choosing. Our favorite resource is Eyewitness Books: Mammal.

Characteristics of mammals:

1) Body hair

2) Nurse their young

3) Warm blooded (define this term and compare to cold blooded)

4) Four chambered heart (you might watch this short video about the heart)

5)  Relatively complex brains (discuss here what it means to have a complex brain)

Class Mammalia is divided into 15 major orders:

1) Monotremata (e.g. platypus)

2) Marsupial (e.g. kangaroos)

3) Chiroptera (e.g. bats)

4) Carnivora (e.g. dogs, lions, bears)

5) Sirenia (e.g. sea cows)

6) Cetacea (e.g. whales, dolphins)

7) Proboscidea (e.g. elephants)

8)  Perissodactyla (e.g. horses, zebra, rhinos)

9)  Artiodactyla (e.g. sheep, deer, pigs, cattle)

10) Rodentia (e.g. squirrels, rats, porcupine)

11) Lagomorpha (e.g. rabbits, pika)

12) Edentate (e.g. anteaters, armadillos, tree sloth)

13) Tubulidentata (e.g. African aardvark)

14) Insectivora (e.g. shrew, moles, hedgehogs)

15 Primates (e.g. monkeys, lemurs, apes, humans)

While discussing what makes a mammal a mammal be sure to compare and contrast to other animals studied thus far.  Use a dictionary to look up the root words for each of the 15 major orders and discover why certain animals might belong to that particular order.


Younger students-- Draw a picture of a particular species of mammal and use the biodiversity website to explore the animal's taxonomy.

Older students--Fill out an animal report form (this one from CurrClick is free and will work for this activity), making sure to include the characteristics that make this animal a mammal.  Use the bio-diversity website to explore the animal's taxonomy.

Objectives:  Student will be able to identify mammals and give major characteristics.  Student will be able to define the term "warm blooded".  Student will be able to explain the implications of having a complex brain.

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Thursday, August 13, 2015

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real} August 13


Pretty yellow dahlia

Pretty red poppy


This was our first attempt to grow corn.  I am so excited.  We are starting to get ears!

We will also soon have string beans!


This is my little red hen.  She's a Welsummer and very friendly.  She likes to follow me about the chicken yard, but she hasn't yet braved following me out the gate.


Found this photo on my iPhone.  Ben was taking photos of me taking photos of a praying mantis. Too funny.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2015


Leo has developed an elaborate hierarchy of favoritism in the family.  The adjectives change from time to time, but for the most part his hierarchy looks a bit like this from top to bottom:

Super-Duper All Favorite
All Favorite
Tie Favorite
1/2 Favorite
Part Favorite
(w)Hole Favorite

Members of the family move up and down the hierarchy depending on his mood, whims, and ire.  The only family member who consistently stays in the same slot is Chris, who cannot seem to buy Mr. Leo's love and move from (w)hole favorite to any thing higher up the list.  

For the longest time, it seemed as I would never be booted from my top position on the list as Super-Duper All Favorite. That was until an unfortunate bath time incident in which I managed to get water in his eyes and then had the audacity to swat his behind when he screamed disrespectfully in my ear.  From that moment, I was completely banned from his list of favorites.  He insisted I would not recover my position until I had apologized for getting water in his eyes and swatting his behind.

I was truly sorry for getting water in his eyes, apologized and I regained a bottom position on the list, but I could not apologize for swatting him.  He definitely deserved and needed a little slap on the rear.  For days on end I remained fixed at (w)hole favorite.  One evening I asked if I would ever recover my top position.

"Not until you apologize for spanking my butt," he stated emphatically.

"I am sorry I had to spank your butt," I attempted.

"No! You have to be sorry FOR spanking my butt!"

"Well, I can't be sorry for that.  You deserved it."

"Then you can't be my super-duper all favorite."

Yes, this one gets the subtleties of the English language.  Why am I so surprised?

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Friday, August 7, 2015

Kingdom Animalia-- Lesson 6

Life has been extremely busy here and I apologize for the lapse in posting.

Continuing the weekly lesson plans for an elementary science unit focusing on Kingdom Animalia.

Lesson 6: Fish

Read about and find examples of different kinds of fish using a good resource of your choosing .  Our favorite resource is Eyewitness Books: Fish.

There are two main types of fish:

Cartilaginous Fish (Class Chondrichthyes)

1) Skeleton of cartilage

2) Rough leathery skin

3) Stiff fins

4) Many species bear their young

5) Powerful jaws with numerous teeth

Bony Fish (Class Osteichthyes)

1) Bony skeleton

2) Scaly skin

3) Flexible and often foldable fins

4) Lay eggs

Both cartilaginous fish and bony fish

1) Live in water

2) Take oxygen through gills

3) Have a swim bladder for buoyancy 

While discussing what makes a fish a fish, be sure to compare and contrast to other classes of animals they have already studied.  Be sure to help student understand and define words they may not have seen before, such as cartilage, flexible, buoyancy, etc.


Younger students-- Draw a picture of a particular species of fish and use the biodiversity website to explore the animal's taxonomy.

Older students--Fill out an animal report form (this one from CurrClick is free and will work for this activity), making sure to include the characteristics that make this animal a fish.  Use the bio-diversity website to explore the animal's taxonomy.

Objectives: Student will be able to list major characteristics of fish and give examples of both cartilaginous and bony fish.  Student will be able to define "cartilage", "swim bladder", and "buoyancy". 

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Thursday, August 6, 2015

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real} August 6


I planted sunflowers this year and they are beginning to bloom.  The plan is to dry them, once they have seeds, and feed the entire seed heads to the chickens as treats throughout the long winter.


One of our favorite recreations around here is tubing down the river.  The kids have an absolute blast.


So, did you hear about the blue moon?  Well, come to find out, a blue moon isn't really blue at all.  It is just the occurrence of a second full moon within a calendar month.  They don't happen super often and that is where we get the phrase, "once in a blue moon."  The moon was really just a yellowish color so I used my editing software to give it the blue cast seen here.


The boys and I discovered this creepy albino praying mantis. Shudder.

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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Apple Watch Review

For my 47th birthday, Chris convinced me I needed an Apple Watch.  He dragged me to the Apple Store and had me try on a watch and I begrudingly went through the tutorial.  By the end of the demo, I was pretty enamored and  acquiesced to the purchase.  Chris had his own motives for pushing the watch.  Let's just say, Father's Day was right around the corner.

I've had my watch for more than a month and have had plenty of time to explore its features and to get familiar with using it.  As with most everything with Apple, the  Apple Watch is not just a watch.  It really is a little computer you wear on your wrist which contains watch features.

The App I use the most, and has actually become a near obsession, is the activity tracker.  The activity tracker is a fitness feature which tracks your daily exercise, calories, and the number hours you stand up and engage in some kind of movement for at least 1 minute (a terrific element for those in fairly sedentary jobs).  In the 6 weeks I've had my watch, I've met or exceeded my three activity goals all but 9 days.  In the first two weeks, I was so caught up in meeting my goals, I would find myself running up and down the stairs at 10 pm just to get in those last few calories.  Thankfully, I started to relax a bit when I realized most days I exceed my goals, so it is quite all right to end a day here and there below target.  The main benefit is the new motivation to move and I'm seeing real results.

This is my activity calendar for July.  The target reflects three goals: red for calories, green for exercise, and blue for standing and moving for at least one minute each hour of the day.  Every goal is customizable and at the end of the week, iWatch will offer a suggested goal adjustment.

The second reason I've come to love my Watch is I am untethered from my phone.  I can receive my text messages and phone calls on my  Apple Watch and so my phone usually sits on a counter rather than in my hand all day. Which has eliminated many hours of mindless web and Facebook browsing on my phone.  Answering texts on my Watch is not always the best option as there are only a few key words or phrases, as well as the full gambit of emoticons, one can choose from for responding, but at least I can discern which texts need only a quick, abbreviated response, and which need more of a thought out longer response.

The Apple Watch is comfortable and I'm able to exercise, garden (I wear gloves which cover and protect the face and band), and do housework while wearing it.  It is water resistant to 10 meters, but I haven't tested that feature.  I own the least expensive Apple Watch Sport with an aluminum case, Ion X glass screen, and black sport band.  I intend to purchase a dressier band fairly soon. I'm just waiting to see some more variety before choosing.  Chris owns the straight up Apple Watch with the larger face, stainless steel case, Sapphire glass screen, and a sport band.  I have managed to scratch the face of my watch just a tad, but a disappointment, nevertheless.  Chris' has yet to scratch the Sapphire face of his and we anticipate his will continue to hold up, damage free.

What you can do with an Apple Watch: track activity, heart rate, and exercise;  receive text messages; respond to text messages with pre-set keywords or emoji;  make and answer phone calls; communicate via touch with other Apple Watch owners in your group;  receive notifications via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.; check weather; check email;  control music;  listen to music via bluetooth; browse photos; see time, date, stocks, etc.

What you can not do with an Apple Watch: write longer responses to text messages beyond the set keywords, phrases, and emoji; post to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.; browse Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.; browse the internet, respond to email; take photos

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Thursday, July 23, 2015

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real} Sister Ollie Came to Town

Sister Olivia was able to come for a quick one week visit this week.  It was an unlooked for surprise and we were so happy to have her home, even if just for a few days.


The new photo for our vocations' board in our parish, as I had cut off Saint Joseph's head in her previous photo.  She wanted the mountains in the background this go-a-around.


One of Ollie's favorite meals is dry rubbed and grilled ribs.


Olivia was doing her best Benedict Cumberbatch imitation for the Mamarazzi (see the napkin over her face).  Seriously, this family cannot take a good photo.  Why is that?


With Sister Olivia home, we took full advantage of her seamstress skills.  She helped her two younger sisters make elements of their cosplay costumes for Comic Con in September.  

She did a beautiful job putting together Angela's Tauriel cloak.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Mediterranean Lamb Flatbread

Mediterranean Lamb Flatbread

Flatbread dough:

2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup semolina flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp honey
2 1/4 tsp active yeast
1 cup warm water
1/4 cup olive oil

In the bowl of a standing mixer stir together all the dry ingredients.  In a small bowl combine warm water, yeast, and honey and stir to dissolve the yeast.  Let set for 10 minutes until foamy and pour into dry ingredients.  With a dough hook, mix dough ingredients on low speed and slowly add the olive oil.  Mix to form a soft, elastic dough.  Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and let rise for about an hour.  Meanwhile, preheat a pizza stone in a 450 degree oven for at least 1/2 an hour. Divide the dough into two even pieces and roll into balls.  On a lightly floured surface, roll one ball into an oblong flatbread about 12 inches long and 8 inches wide.  Dust a pizza peel with corn meal, place rolled out dough on top, and brush it with a little olive oil.

2 tsp olive oil
1 small sweet onion; diced
2 cloves garlic; minced
1 1/2 pounds of ground lamb
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground cardamon
1 tsp salt 

1 cup toasted pine nuts
2 cups shredded cheese (goat or sheep cheese would be most authentic I use pecorino Tuscano)
Rosemary sprigs

In a skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat, add the onions and sauté until soft and translucent, adding a pinch of salt to draw out the moisture.  Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds.  Add ground lamb and sauté until cooked through and no longer pink.  Add all the spices and continue cooking until fragrant and the mixture is evenly spiced.  Set aside.  Top rolled out dough with 1/2 the cheese, 1/2 the lamb, 1/2 the pine nuts and a few small sprigs of Rosemary.   Gently slide flatbread onto preheated stone and bake for 10-20 minutes until the bread puffs and begins to color on the bottom.  Cool for 5 minutes and cut into rough rectangular pieces.

Sauté lamb until it is no longer pink

Toast pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium low heat.  Be very careful not to burn.

Tear small sprigs of Rosemary to scatter on the top of the other toppings

Finished Lamb Flatbread

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Monday, July 20, 2015

Marriage Mondays

My dear friend, Sam, has begun a prayer campaign for traditional marriage.  She calls it Marriage Mondays.  To participate, one need only recite the Saint Michael prayer and make a small sacrifice or fast for the intention of strengthening traditional marriage.  Sam has enlisted our friends in Maryland and over Facebook.  I've passed this campaign on to my friends here in Utah, and they have passed it on to their friends and family.  Please join us and pass it on.  A nation uplifted in prayer for the traditional definition of marriage would be a wonderful thing.

Saint Michael Prayer

Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host -
by the Divine Power of God -
cast into hell, satan and all the evil spirits,
who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.


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Friday, July 3, 2015

Thoughts on Obergefell

SCOTUS really took the sails out of June for me, but even more disheartening is the misunderstanding so many Americans have of the real meaning of marriage.  As one friend (Katherine) observed on Facebook, we have taken down three of the four pillars of marriage in the last 100 years: Fecundity was first when contraception became widely accepted and practiced after the Anglican Lambeth Conference of 1930; Permanence fell once no fault divorce became the norm rather than the exception; and then Complementarity/heterosexual union. With the Obergefell ruling, gay marriage has not only become legal in all 50 States, it is mandated.  The only pillar left standing is Monogamy and there have already been polygamous licenses applied for in Montana.  How long before the final pillar falls? Not long at all, in my opinion.  We are now living in a time when marriage means nothing and we will continue to see the decline in marriage and the destruction of the family as the years roll by.  Unfortunately, those who will suffer the most will be children.

Three of the largest mainline Christian denominations have made getting married as a gay couple in their churches a reality, showing even within the Christian community a very deep division and departure from authentic Christian teaching on marriage and morality.  As for the Catholic Church, I firmly believe we are safe, for now.  The Catholic Church already denies marriage within the Church to couples who are not Catholic, who have been divorced, etc. She will not be compelled to marry gay couples, but I am sure she will be punished for her non-compliance.

I've read so many wonderful reflections on Obergefell, I really have nothing more to add myself, but if you are interested in reading what the "smart" people are saying here are several links to brilliant pieces.

Matt Walsh has actually written several pieces since Obergefell, but this one is probably the most persuasive article regarding how the ruling does indeed harm people like me personally: Yes, Gay Marriage Hurts Me Personally

Aleteia has a great article regarding getting the conversation right about gay marriage.  Rather than focusing on the sinfulness/morality of homosexual marriage, it points out the real dangers to children raised in gay households: Gay Marriage: Getting the Conversation Right is More Important Than Ever

First Things asked the question of several members of their symposium, "Where to from here?" in this article: After Obergefell

This final piece by Adam Freedman lays out how the Obergefell ruling threatens opposing Christians: Obergefell's Threat to Religious Liberty

As the celebration of Independence Day approaches, I pray for our country.  I pray she might restore our God given rights to practice and live our Faith freely without fear of persecution.  May God Bless America. Print Friendly and PDF

Thursday, July 2, 2015

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real} July 2


Dramatic sky


Birthday-palooza came to a close with this little guy turning 9.  Can you believe it? 9!


"You lookin' at me?!"

The chickens really are quite funny.  They love their perch, but usually I find them all crowded together in one little corner.

They aren't quite sure what to think of me with my camera.


Ben asked for a pistol style BB gun for his birthday.  That thing is dangerous!  It can easily put a hole in a tin can.  We keep it locked up and they are only allowed to shoot with Dad.  We thought it was a good idea to teach them gun safety and how to use a gun with the BB gun first.  After a few lessons, we've come to realize we are pretty wise.  It will be a loooooong time before the boys are ready to handle something more powerful.

Ben has had the most trouble deciding which hand to shoot with.  He writes with his right hand, but does almost everything else better with his left hand.  It has caused him a lot of confusion when trying to shoot properly.  

Leo loves shooting with Dad's help.

and he is pretty good about following all the safety rules.

Safety first, always! 'Merica!

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