Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Nutcracker 2010

As if life weren't busy enough, we had to throw the Nutcracker into the midst, once again. Skoshi A auditioned in late September and was chosen to play a toy soldier for the Joffrey Ballet's production at the Kennedy Center. Performances ran all last week, with the exception of Thanksgiving Day. She had a marvelous time and enjoyed meeting up with friends she has made over the last three years. Every evening she had fabulous and funny tales to tell of the antics on and off stage. The Joffrey's professional dancers were exceptionally kind and friendly to the children. It was truly sweet to see these world class dancers interacting with children, signing autographs, taking photos, bestowing gifts of worn out point shoes and ballet slippers, and tossing some of the younger dancers around. It was a joy to be a part of this particular cast.


I scored $5 education tickets for Lil' Wingnut and I for the working dress rehearsal. This was his first Nutcracker and he was incredibly excited to see his sister in action. He did great, until about halfway through the second act when eye rolling and "Good grief, not another dance!" ensued.


Skoshi A before her first performance in front of a marquis.


Toy Soldier costumes lined up and ready to go.


Skoshi A in costume. From the audience the costumes look spectacular. Up close, one can see the ravages of 25 years of Nutcracker performances.

Toy Soldier salute.
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Friday, November 26, 2010

Battle With the Pies

We had a lovely Thanksgiving. We began the day with Mass at our home parish and then rushed home to start making pies. I thought I was ahead of the curve, as I had prepared pie crusts on Tuesday and they were patiently awaiting being rolled out. Taking the first crust from the fridge, I could tell immediately there was something wrong. As I attempted to roll, the pastry crumbled and there was no salvaging it. Argh!

Quickly, Skoshi A and I assembled the Nantucket Pie and popped it in the oven. We then turned our attention to making a new batch of pie dough. I should have known there was something not quite right about the recipe--7 tablespoons of shortening and 11 tablespoons of chilled butter to 2.5 cups of flour does not seem like a correct ratio and the blob of soft gooey dough confirmed my suspicions. I added enough flour to change the texture to a crumble and then added the needed ice water to form the ball of dough, flattened the pastry into disks, wrapped them and popped them into the freezer to chill as we turned to making fillings for the remainder of the pies.

My sous chefs made or helped make the fillings and within half an hour we were ready to roll crusts once again. The dough wasn't too dry this time around, but it was a bit soft so I rolled it between two sheets of parchment paper and attempted to ease the 1st crust into the pie pan. It was a complete disaster and fell apart and tore. Into the trash went the second crust. With only one ball of dough left and two pies still awaiting crust, it was time to improvise. As I'd decided to try a graham cracker crust for the pumpkin pie, I thought I could always do the same for the pecan pie. Skoshi A crushed crackers and pecans for this particular crust, we assembled the pie, and we were back on track. With an hour and a half left before "show time" we had three pies in the oven and just the cherry pie to go. I very gingerly rolled the over soft dough in to a thin disk, carefully eased it into the plate. Some tearing did occur, but I trimmed the excesses dough from the edges and made repairs. The edge looked pretty ragged but I had a trick up my sleeve to salvage that. Taking leftover dough I rolled two long snakes and placed them around the top of the crust, pinching and sealing and fluting. The unbaked shell looked very pretty. Normally with a cherry pie, I like to make a lattice top, but I was out of dough. Why not try a streusel topping for the cherry pie? Stat nut makes a delicious streusel for his muffins so I had him whip up that recipe for the pie. 4 pies in the ovens, Nantucket pie comes out and in goes the sweet potato casserole a la Stat nut. Karate Kid tosses together a quick and lovely dressing and into the oven, beneath two pies it goes.

It was a stressful afternoon in the kitchen, but by 2:40 we were ready to roll. Everything was still hot and needed to be packed and transported carefully, but we made it. Dinner was absolutely delicious. Our hostess really knows how to roast a turkey and she makes the absolute best mashed potatoes and gravy. The kids' dishes were a huge hit and the pies turned out to be truly delicious, if not beautiful. The Nantucket Pie was perfect. The pumpkin pie made with goat's milk instead of cream turned out great and tasted heavenly. The cherry pie with streusel topping was really yummy, although it really could have used about 10 more minutes in the oven. The pecan pie with improvised crust was the biggest hit, even though it was so gooey and sticky it completely fused to the side of the plate, and was nearly impossible to remove, making the slices pretty messy and ugly. It was the one pie that did not have any leftover at the end of the evening.

Pie crust is definitely not my forte. I think making the perfect pastry dough is an art that one must work at and develop over time. I may need to practice more over Advent until I'm satisfied with the results. I'm sure the family won't mind in the least.
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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Thanksgiving Menu

Thrown in with all of the Nutcracker performances this week, we will take a day to pause and give thanks for all the gifts God has given us. One of these gifts our family has been blessed with is an invitation to Thanksgiving dinner at the home of some dear friends :)

Nevertheless, our kids are tradition freaks and will only be happy if they can cook up the dishes they traditionally provide on our own Thanksgiving table. So, with assurance that we are not stepping on anyone's toes, my older three children will be making many of the side dishes and two of the younger children will be making pies.

Here are the traditional Thanksgiving dishes our children just cannot celebrate without:


Statnut will be assembling this Sweet Potato Casserole and has promised to NOT double the candy-like topping.

Oleander makes her own Cranberry Sauce recipe, utilizing orange juice, orange zest, and freshly grated ginger.

Skoshi A's favorite pie is pecan and she will be making The Pioneer Woman's perfected Pecan Pie.

Special K is making pumpkin pie using homemade pumpkin puree and the graham cracker crust seen on Pumpkin Pie Throwdown with Bobby Flay.

I'll be making Cook's Illustrated's Cherry Pie and The Pioneer Woman's Nantucket Cranberry Pie--we've got at least 16 people, possible 20, so we need a lot of pie!

P.S. All the links link directly to a recipe with the exception of the Cook's Illustrated Recipes. Their recipes are copyright protected and one needs to be a member to access them online. If you see a recipe from Cook's that intrigues you, just email me at mamamayerleatmacdotcom and I can send it to you via email. Happy cooking!
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Monday, November 22, 2010

Movie Review: RED


Wingnut and I saw RED (Retired Extremely Dangerous) several weeks ago, and I just have not had the time, nor the inclination to post a review until today. As time is short, my review will be abbreviated :)

Well cast, funny, spy/action/comedy, very entertaining, well worth the price of movie theater popcorn but will still be a great Netflix or video pick, several instances of vulgar language makes this movie appropriate for much older teens and adults only. John Malkovich's uber paranoid former spy character makes the film. USSCB rating A-III (adults).
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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Small Successes: Count Down to Nutcracker Week


Next week is a busy one for us, including Thanksgiving and Nutcracker rehearsals and performances at the Kennedy Center. Skoshi A is once again performing with the Joffrey as a toy soldier and we are looking forward to performance week and the end of this nutty schedule. Despite the craziness, I think I can conjure up some Small Successes for this week ;)

1) Laundry is washed and dried and will hopefully get folded and put away a bit later this afternoon.

2) We are officially in the third trimester of this pregnancy and have only 10 weeks to go. After some very slow weight gain, and even a couple weeks of weight loss, I've put a few pounds on fairly quickly. Leo is gonna be a big boy and an active one at that. He is a real mover. In fact, I can't recall a pregnancy in which the movement was nearly constant as it is in this pregnancy. He's going to give Lil' Wingnut a run for his money!

3) The master bath is spic-n-span.

Have Small Successes to share? Leave your link at Faith and Family Live.


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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Heirlooms

Last summer, during our trip to Spokane, one of my very favorite aunties passed away after a long illness. I have the warmest and fondest memories of my Great Auntie Lil and her farm in Post Falls. When we were children it was always a treat to visit the farm, play on her piano, chase the cows, dare each other to touch the electric fence, and just explore the land and house that were filled with odds and ends and treasures of all kinds.

Several years ago, my dad's cousin inherited the farm from her father and she and her husband made vast improvements to the land and the house without interfering with it's innate charm. Our sweet cousin and her husband have hosted my children and I on the few trips I've made back home over these last several years. A visit to the old-farm-made-new continues to be a highlight of my own children's visits to the Pacific Northwest.

This past week I received an unexpected package from my dad's cousin. Contained within was an heirloom gift of dainty pewter Norwegian earrings that had once belonged to my Great Auntie Lil. Cousin Nancy had wanted my sister and I to each have a little something that had belonged to her mother. The gift is touching and means so much to me. I now have a new favorite pair of earrings to wear and each time I do, I'll be reminded of my extended family on the other side of the country and of the treasured heirloom memories from my childhood.
Ooh, I love them! They are so light and dainty and tinkle when I move my head.


These are old school earrings with screw posts, much more secure than the type we find today.
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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Roman Holiday

Photo credit goes to Stat Boy, with the exception of the two shots of himself, which I assume were taken by Wingnut.

Pediment of the Basilica of Saint Paul's Outside the Wall. I love the angle Stat Boy got on this.

Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls. Another great angle shot.

Cool shot inside the Colosseum.


Colosseum from the vantage of the Vestal Virgins. Do you see the cross? Did you know the Colosseum was consecrated as a Holy Site by Pope Benedict the XIV. Although there is no direct evidence Christians were martyred at the famous site, many Christians were martyred in arenas and colosseums throughout the Roman Empire.


Colosseum interior looking down onto the arena floor. Obviously the floor no longer exists, so what you are seeing are the cells and halls beneath the floor.

Mosaic from inside the Colosseum.


Basilica and next to an ancient arch (possibly the Arch of Septimus Severus) in the ancient section of Rome (Rome is divided into several sections, Ancient Rome, Old Rome, and Modern Rome).

I loved this photo of a coffee and wine bar outside of Saint Paul's Outside the Walls.

Statue of Gaius Caligula in Ancient Rome.


Awesome view of Saint Peter's Square from the Dome of Saint Peter's Basilica.

The man, himself, at the Papal Audience on November 10th, 2010. Our pilgrims were sitting with a huge contingent from the Czech Republic.

Proof positive of a "fieldtrip", Oleander and Stat Boy at the Colosseum with the Arch of Constantine in the background.

Stat Boy in Rome at night.
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Monday, November 15, 2010

The Demented Man I Married

Ok, we do have photos from the Roman Holiday, but they are currently uploaded on the main computer that is being used by our Calculus student today. There are some wonderful photos taken by Stat Boy and Oleander, and hopefully I can post those tomorrow.

In the meantime, I have an example for my dear readers that will illustrate the disturbing sense of humor Wingnut has, and exactly what I've had to live with for nearly 20 years now.

On my way to the airport to pick up our weary travelers, I received a text message from my dear husband, that I did not answer, as I was driving and I won't answer texts while I'm driving. Several minutes later my iPhone began to ping and when I glanced at it I read, "The onboard diagnostics has detected a problem with your device. All data will be deleted and your device will shut down. Thank you."

We own a new Toyota that has all the wonderful bells and whistles, including bluetooth and iPhone compatibility, so I immediately believed it was the car's computer that was going to erase my data and destroy my phone. I unplugged my phone in a panic, but nothing further happened. Phew!

It wasn't until the pilgrims had been home for several hours that I mentioned the strange message I'd received to Wingnut. The evil man began to smirk. I hate that smirk. He had used his iPhone and an application called "Find My iPhone" to send me that message as his little joke. Oh, how they laughed at my stupidity.

The next time I was out alone in the Toyota, the phone pinged and the message read, "The onboard diagnostics has determined there is nothing wrong with your device. Have a nice day."

Is there a place in Hell for evil practical jokers?
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Friday, November 12, 2010

The Boy Wants a New Nickname

Stat Boy/Nut has spoken, and being the loving mother I am, I am listening. He no longer feels his current nickname is an adequate representation of who he really is and he is requesting a new name. He suggested I sponsor a nickname contest here on the blog and I aim to please. If you have a suggestion for a new moniker, leave it in the combox. Of course, readers that actually know the Boy will have an easier time capturing his essence. As a way of assisting the rest of my readers, I'm providing a list of his interests and special qualities.

He loves sports.
His favorite teams come from Seattle, unless you are talking college sports and then his blood runs Carolina Blue.
He has a wicked sense of humor.
He loves pasta, pizza, and queso.
He keeps lists of sports stats in notebooks buried in the pit of despair that is his room (this was how his current nickname was derived).
He's become a compulsive texter.
He has a talent in impersonating people and movie characters. He's especially good at impersonating Gollum, Napoleon Dynamite, and Patrick (from Spongebob).
He spent $70 of his own money on a gorilla costume and swears it was the best $70 he's ever spent.
He's very rarely separated from his iPod.
He runs our family's football pools and March Madness pools and for all his sports knowledge, he can't seem to beat his flute playing, book worm, ballerina younger sister.
He's very social, and friendly.
He's my biggest complainer when it comes to chores (he declares I'm obsessed with chores).
I have had to look up to him to scold him for over a year now and he's still growing. Another couple inches and Wingnut will be looking up to scold him.
He also has an ego the size of Texas and thinks everyone should bow down and worship him.
Did I mention he loves sports?

I really do need your help here. My best idea for a new name is Gorilla Boy. What do you think?
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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Small Successes: An Ode to my Dirt Devil


Small Successes for November 11, 2010:

1) I have been on the prowl for a good canister vacuum for the multitude of stairs in this house, as well as a machine that will get into all the cracks and crevices. I think we found a winner, a Dirt Devil Easy Lite Canister. I have gone crazy with this vacuum. The cracks, crevices, stairs, hard wood floors, door jams, vents, have all been vacuumed. We pulled out the kitchen appliances and vacuumed behind and under the refrigerator and stove. I could not believe what a wonderful job it did around the base of the toilets! It has a telescoping wand, brush and crevice tool attachments, and it is bagless. I love my new Dirt Devil!

2) For art this year, the three girls and I are working our way through Sewing with Saint Anne, or at least we are supposed to be working our way through Sewing with Saint Anne. I've really been slacking. I love the idea of art, but do not enjoy doing said art. This week, we broke out the actual sewing machine and tackled a long promised project. Skoshi A and Special K were so excited to use the sewing machine. They made two scented sachets each and had an absolute blast. We had so much fun, I'm truly looking forward to pulling out my Janome next week for our next project.

3) Lil' Wingnut has been missing his big brother and his daddy while they have been on their Roman pilgrimage. Poor little guy hasn't been able to play football, baseball, or basketball all week. I have made a point of spending time tossing pitches to our little slugger, for which he as been very appreciative. He's constantly telling me what a great pitcher I am. My brother would be completely shocked at my skills. No really, I can throw a mean wiffle ball.

Have Small Successes to share? Leave your link at Faith and Family Live.
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Misadventures in Pompeii

Monday the pilgrims ventured from the safety of Roma into the wilds of the Italian rail system that ended up being the ultimate in the comedy of errors. Their story was so outrageous I had to cry foul for a moment or two before finally believing.

The alarm was set for 6 am but the threesome slept through it and did not awaken until 6:45.

Undaunted by the tardy awakening, the teenage boy took his usual casual and prolonged shower. In the end they missed the 7:37 train, but did make the 8:47.

One stop from Naples, the train broke down. Classic Italian efficiency promised a 20 minute delay, only to come back later and admit they had no idea how long the repair would take.

Wingnut and bambini disembark from train and hail a cab. Protracted haggling over cab fare ensued. Victorious, Wingnut managed to talk the cabbie down from 80 euro to 40 euro--this was the highlight of the day.

Naples was then hit by a downpour and roads were washed out. The cabbie had to make several detours before getting the threesome to Napoli Centrale Station. Tickets were purchased for Villa Pompeii and a rickety subway was boarded. Unfortunately, this was the wrong subway and the pilgrims were required to backtrack to the station and board another subway.

Villa Pompeii was finally reached. They had planned on a noon arrival but had missed that by more than 2 hours, still they had 1.5 hours to tour the ancient ruins. The visit would be fast and furious, but it could still be done.

Following signs, they made their way 1/4 mile to the site only to be turned away as it was the exit and not the entrance. Trudging back to the subway station to find the entrance to Pomeii, a thunderstorm struck. Thunder, lightening, gusty winds and horizontal rain stranded the travelers beneath a metal awning. This proved to be the last straw and the pilgrims gave up on seeing the ruins and returned to Naples for pizza.

You would think this would be the end of the misfortunes, but you would be wrong. Still to be endured were the bathroom police, washed out rails, closed pastry shops and lost maps. Ah yes, Pompeii will be remembered. Print Friendly and PDF

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I Know Someone Who May Get a Chunk of Coal in His Stocking

The words and thoughts that come out of this boy's mouth can either yield side-splitting laughter or complete mortification. I honestly do not know where he gets most of it, but we had another eye-opening, and hysterical conversation just the other day.

Lil' Wingnut: "I don't like Santa Claus. He's a little weird."

Me: "How is he weird?"

Lil' Wingnut: "Well, he's a fat old lard and he smells like dead ol' flies."

Karate Kid: "Saint Nicholas is a Saint in Heaven and a friend of Jesus."

Lil' Wingnut: "Oh! I shouldn't have called him a fat old lard, then."


What are we going to do with this one? Print Friendly and PDF

Monday, November 8, 2010

Pilgrims' Progress

Our home phone plan is Vonage World, which is quite convenient when one has family traveling in Italy as one can call numbers in Italy free of charge. It is also quite convenient for the travelers in Italy who do not have access to the internet (I know! We Americans are soooooo spoiled!), as they need to know train times to Naples, where to pick up their Papal Audience tickets, and where to get the best gelato or espresso in Rome.

Wingnut, Oleander, and Stat Boy's first day in Rome was a bit rough; including a vomiting incident, being locked in an Italian restroom, and a broken camera, but perhaps the most disappointing was they were too late to make it into the Papal Mass for deceased Cardinals. We were told they would not need tickets for this annual Mass, but nevertheless, Saint Peter's Basilica was packed to the gills. It would have been an experience of a lifetime to participate in a Papal High Latin Mass in Rome. Sigh.

It's amazing how much they have already seen in just 4 short days: the Vatican, the Colosseum, the Pantheon, Saint Paul's Basilica, Saint John Lateran, Saint Mary Major, the Forum, the Jewish Ghetto, and the most impressive thus far, ancient catacombs. I wonder if the iPhone's camera will do any of these sites justice? They've raved about cheesecake, espresso, and pizza. It truly sounds like they are having a glorious time. Print Friendly and PDF

Friday, November 5, 2010

Halloween 2010

Photos from our Halloween:

Special K loved her pumpkin from last year and so decided she'd have another go at it this year. She did all the carving on her own and I only helped with the clean-up.

Oleander gets better at carving every year.

Karate Kid did a fantastic job helping Lil' Wingnut with this Darth Maul pattern Karate Kid found online.

I believe this was the first year Skoshi A managed every step of carving her pumpkin on her own. She did an absolutely marvelous job on a fairly complicated pattern to boot!

The girls all designed their own costumes this year. They ransacked my old prom and graduation dresses for their creations. Skoshi A went as a Victorian lady in waiting.

Special K went as the young Queen Victoria.

Although she didn't join her younger siblings in the Trick-or-Treating, Oleander dressed as a Colts fan and handed out candy at our house for several hours.

Lil' Wingnut was thrilled to finally be dressed as his hero Davy Crockett.




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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Small Successes


Small Successes for November 4, 2010:

1) Oleander has an annual flute competition she enters each year. This year she had to record two pieces of music, which her flute instructor so kindly sent to me in an email attachment. Although the recording is not due until next Wednesday, I, with the help of the much more computer literate Wingnut, managed to paste together her two pieces and successfully uploaded them to the contest site a full week early.

2) I spent a good portion of some found free time updating and redesigning the blog. I was also able to write several posts that will auto-post over the next few days.

3) Although it was not a holy day of obligation this year, Wingnut and I took the family to the National Shrine in DC for Mass on All Saints Day. We went expecting to enjoy a simple daily Mass, but imagine our joy when we learned the Mass was to be celebrated by the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Pieto Sambi. We had the pleasure of experiencing a High Mass in the Upper Church with a full choir, incense, bells, and a fantastic homily! The celebration was a full hour and a half, but the kids were all wonderfully behaved--even with bellies full of sugar from the festivities the night before.

Have Small Successes to share this week? Leave your link at Faith and Family Live.
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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Opportunity of a Lifetime

Wingnut has been building Hilton points and saving airline miles for years. The plan was to take the family to Italy this coming February, but you know the old saying, "The best laid plans of mice and men . . . " Instead of a trip to Italy, I'm expecting the arrival our newest little bundle of joy in February.

On a date night, soon after discovering our impending arrival, Wingnut joked about taking a couple of the kids to Italy this November. Imagine his shock when I declared I loved that idea. He thought I'd feel disappointed in missing my trip, but I'm not the envious type and I really wanted our 15 and 13 year olds to have this wonderful opportunity (Karate Kid went to Italy with her grandmother nearly 5 years ago and we really have hoped our other children would get the same experience). Italy will always be there, and if I die without seeing Rome, I honestly believe I couldn't regret it.

I've been right there, all along, helping with the planning and the packing. I even got the information they need to attend a Papal Mass. Today they left for their pilgrimage. Wingnut and Oleander are beside themselves with anticipation. Stat Boy could not have been less enthusiastic. The boy truly hates to travel. He has always hated traveling, especially anything that involves long distances and/or flying. It was all I could do to get him on that plane this morning, but by golly, he is going and he's going to love it. At least I'm hoping and praying he loves it. Dear readers, if you have a moment in the next 8 days, say a prayer for my pilgrims!


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Monday, November 1, 2010

More All Saints


Our family is so blessed to have the Novitiate House of the Servants of the Lord just down the road from us. On Saturdays, our girls spend their late morning at the Little Flower Oritory with the Sisters and throughout the year the Sisters throw festive and fun celebrations, including their annual All Saints party.

Not only does multi-talented Sister Katie help lead the Oritory, she also teaches Special K's 3rd grade CCD class.


Sisters Leonie (from New Zealand!) and Maggie, demonstrated their complicated two nun relay race to a group of eager children.


Sister Leonie (from New Zealand!) partnered up with a very eager Lil' Wingnut, who promised the sisters he was as fast as an arrow.





The Sisters call this game "Halo on a String".


Ben calls it "Lunch!"


You may remember this Sister from posts past. She is Sister Aeiparthanos. She just returned to help out at the Novitiate House after a stay in the Junior House of Studies in Washington DC. I think Sister Aeiparthanos is the face of this order; young, beautiful, joyful, and completely in love with Christ and dedicated to her vocation. We are so glad to have her so close to us once again.

What a wonderful witness these Sisters are to our community. What a blessing for us to have them here!

Happy Feast of All Saints!
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