Friday, January 31, 2014

One of These Things is Not Like the Others

We are ready for the big game on Sunday.  Having grown up in Washington State, I've been a life long Seahawks fan, and much to the chagrin of my Viking loving hubby, most of the kids have taken after my love.  When I say most, you may notice there is one non-Seahawk, non-football related T.  That would belong to Special K.  She could not care less about football of any kind.  Sigh.

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

I Would Never Call Myself Crafty . . .

but sometimes I surprise even myself!  When Oleander broke her wrist, she still had several projects she needed crafted before her return to the Aspirancy and she needed our help to finish.   Every year the aspirants create a new outfit for baby Jesus representing a particular nation.  This year,  Baby Jesus is dressed as an Argentinian Gaucho. Ollie was tasked with hand making his shirt and Gaucho hat.  The shirt was nearly finished and just needed three teeny tiny buttonholes.  I had never made buttonholes before, but they turned out very nicely and Ollie was pleased enough.  She and I then created and sewed together a hat from felt with a little leather chin strap.  She was very pleased with the result.  I was relieved!

Sister Hope sent photos of the newly clothed Child Jesus and gave me permission to post them here.  Ollie has become quite the little seamstress.

We thought using orange thread to sew the hat would give it a little more character.

Isn't he sweet?

I love the fringe and satin ribbon touches on his poncho--one of the other girls made that.

Of course, you can't see the ding-dang buttonholes I slaved over.  Sigh.
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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

All About K

Sometimes it may seem that our older children get short shrift on the blog.  There is a good explanation for that.  As the children get older, their lives are more and more their own.  They may not appreciate that I expose their lives here for others to read, and I try to respect that.  Often, before posting a story, I will ask an older child if it is all right with them that I do so.  Most of the time they are more than willing, other times they will ask that I not or ask that I edit aspects of the post.

Special K likes to have stories posted about her.  She also still likes to have her photo taken.  She tends to get short shrift because she is so busy living her life and she isn't usually right in my face like the little boys tend to be.

So today's blog post is a bit of an update on Special K.

She is growing up so fast and I often feel wistful that we very likely will have no more princesses in the house.  It won't be long before her dolls are put aside for more grown up things.  She relishes in the fact that like her older sisters, she is NOT a lady.  Why, oh why aren't any of my girls prissy little things?  Sigh.  She loves skiing, riding her bike, roller blading, hiking and hopes to take up skateboarding and snowboarding in the very near future.

Her current interests obsessions are Ninjago and Phantom of the Opera (in fact she's belting out Phantom tunes as I type).  She loves reading, but is fairly picky about the type of book.  She leans towards stories of peril in which the hero/heroine is a child and has to survive without the aid of adults.  Thankfully, we have several books here that fit the bill and for her birthday I have a list of several more titles that will suit.

 I loved that she was smiling a grand smile as I photographed her skiing last week. 

 She is one of my only cooperative photography subjects.

Several years ago we discovered K has a sensitivity to artificial colors, flavorings, and certain preservatives.  This sensitivity manifested itself in emotionally and behaviorally for the most part, although she did confess certain foods with these additives made her feel physically sick.  We've been very careful of her diet and just eliminating those types of foods made a drastic improvement.  She even noticed a difference and has always been very good about policing herself--she did not like at all feeling out of control of her emotions. As she has grown older, we have relaxed a tad--birthday parties are hard when you can't have cake or ice cream because of culprit ingredients.  She seems to handle occasional indulgences, but if she indulges to frequently she does indeed seem so much more emotional.  She is aware this may be the case her whole life and is judicious in her choices, for which I am very proud.

And there you have Special K, still my little girl, but growing up into an adventurous young lady.

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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Gorgeous Day for Skiing

One of the most awesome benefits Wingnut has from his employer is drastically discounted season passes at Snow Basin Resort. Which is only about 15 minutes from our house.  Last year Wingnut, Skoshi A, Special K and Wingnut Jr. took up skiing.  They hit the slopes about 2 to 3 times a week during the season.  Enough for me to call skiing "homeschool PE".

It was a lovely day yesterday and Wingnut invited Lil' Lamb and me up to watch how our skiers have progressed and to enjoy a nice lunch in the lodge.

Lil' Lamb was so excited to see the skiing and waited patiently for his siblings to come down the mountain.

Here they come, led by Special K.

Before our homeschool year began, I offered to allow Skoshi A to go to the local high school.  She didn't hesitate to decline.  Being tied to a conventional high school schedule would really cut into her skiing time.  Smart girl!

Wingnut Jr. asks to go skiing almost every day.

Looking like a pro.

After lunch, Wingnut took Lil' Lamb up the mountain on the gondola.  They stopped and got a cookie at the mountain lodge before coming back down.  Lil' Lamb is convinced he was on an airplane.

Skiers in action

Ski buddies

Lil' Lamb had his first ski lesson.  It was the highlight of his day.

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Super Easy Chicken Pot Pie

I love, love, love chicken pot pie.  I used to buy Marie Calendar's frozen chicken pot pies and eat them for lunch until I finally read the nutrition info and saw that each pie was two servings and each serving was 450 calories!  How depressing!

Fortunately, a couple years ago, a Facebook friend posted a really delicious looking pot pie recipe she had found online from the PBS cooking show Everyday Food.  Not only is this recipe delicious, it is super easy.  I've made my own adaptions to it, which goes to show how easy pot pie can be.  You can find the original recipe here.  I have never been a fan of cooked carrots or peas.  I much prefer most of my veggies raw, but I do really love the combination of chicken and broccoli, and so my version reflects my personal tastes.

Chicken and Broccoli Pot Pie

2 bone in, skin on, split chicken breasts
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 yellow onion; diced
salt and pepper
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 cup flour
4 cups chicken broth
3 medium sized broccoli crowns; cut into florets and chopped into bite sized pieces
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 egg yolk whisked with 1 tsp water

Season chicken with salt and pepper on a roasting pan and bake at 350 for 1 hour.  Allow to rest until cool enough to handle.  Remove and discard skin and bone and then shred chicken into bite sized pieces and set aside.

In a large high sided skillet/saute pan melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the onion and some salt and sauté until onion begins to soften and caramelize.  Add the spices and flour and stir until the flour just begins to color and give off a nutty fragrance (about 5 minutes), slowly add chicken broth, whisking constantly until sauce is fairly smooth and begins to thicken.  Add broccoli and reserved chicken and stir to combine.

Pour chicken mixture into a 9 x 13 casserole dish.  On a lightly floured surface roll puff pastry until it is approximately 9 x 13.  Place gently over the casserole dish and refrigerate at least 15 minutes while the oven preheats to 375 degrees.  Remove pie from fridge and brush evenly with egg yolk/water wash.  Bake 30 to 35 minutes until pastry is puffed and golden.

Martha's recipe serves 4, but this I think it serves 6 perfectly at 252 calories per serving.  Chicken pot pie is perfect cold weather comfort food!

Chicken and broccoli pot pie ready for puff pastry crust.

Finished chicken and broccoli pot pie.
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Monday, January 20, 2014

Ticking Time Bomb

Why, why, why, why, why?!  Our 20 year old came home for a four day weekend only to come down with a truly horrific stomach virus.  I hoped.  I prayed.  Could she possibly be the only victim?  Of course not.  Poor Special K began vomiting last night.  That can only mean one thing.  The biggest  negative I can think of in having a large family is that when one family member goes down with a virus it is only a matter of time before the rest of us fall, one by one.  A virus can put this family out of commission for a week or more, depending on the type.  We are a ticking time bomb.  It's going to be a very long week.  Sigh.  Pray for us!

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Friday, January 17, 2014

It's not Him. It's Me.

When we first moved into this house two years ago, it made perfect sense to me to set up the bathroom so that I had the longer counter with the vanity cut out and to set up Wingnut with the shorter counter.  After all, being a woman with all the beautifying products I use, shouldn't I have more counter space?

Apparently not.  Now I do not mind in the least picking up after Wingnut.  He isn't as organized as I am and clutter doesn't get under his skin like it does mine.  He's a big picture kind of guy, whereas I notice all the little details.  I don't mind clearing the long counter of his collective junk each day, but over the last two years his stuff just kept encroaching until I had literally no counter of my own to use.  I had to put my makeup bag in the sink.  Seriously.

Call me dense, but it took nearly two years for me to come up with a solution that was better than moving his pile over to his counter in a fit of passive/aggressiveness, of which I am not proud.  The solution:  switch counters, of course.  Wingnut didn't really have a counter preference and he was perfectly good with my reorganization idea, as long as I carried it out myself.  As I moved our things from one side to the other, I came to realize that the shorter vanity has wider drawers.  Nice!  Marital harmony has been renewed.

The long . . . 

and short of it.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Blog Scrub

I read this frightening article yesterday that has me scrubbing this blog like crazy!  Bloggers beware and be careful to use images that are either your own (you took them yourself or paid for them) or are public domain.  If you are grabbing stock images, movie posters, etc. from google or any other search engine you could be committing copy write infringement and the actual owner of that image can sue you and you will lose!

I have spent the last three hours removing images, no matter how innocuous, and deleting nearly 50 archived posts.  From here on out, I will only post photos that I have taken, or that I have carefully selected from public domain and properly attributed to artist and owner.

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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Lone Survivor: Movie Review

Wingnut and I saw Lone Survivor on opening night.  The theater was packed and on edge throughout.  This was probably the best war movie I have ever seen and is based on the true story of ill fated Operation RedWing, SEAL Team 10, and more personally Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell and his team members' Matthew Axelson, Michael Murphy, and Daniel Healy.

Operation Redwing took place in June 2005 in the mountains of Afganistan.  The mission: to capture or kill a murderous al Qaeda leader hidden amongst the resurgent and heavily armed Taliban.  Inserted into the Afghani mountain wilderness the four would come under heavy fire from the Taliban and ultimately lead to the largest loss of Navy SEAL life in history--including three of the four team members and a helicopter full of potential rescuers.

Based upon Luttrell's memoir of the same name, Hollywood did take a bit of license in dramatizing the events, but for the most part Wingnut felt the film held true to Luttrell's narrative.  Hard hitting, violent, and profanity laced, it was difficult at times to watch but still riveting and fascinating.  Navy SEALs are no wimps.  I'm sure Hollywood did not dramatize the SEALs ability to continue pressing on despite multiple shot wounds and numerous other injuries that would stop the average human being in his tracks.  The SEALs never lost hope or courage and that is definitely made apparent in the film.

One particular scene stands out from the film for me.  The four man team debates what should be done about the goat herders that have accidentally stumbled upon them in mid-operation.  Should the civilians be shot, tied to trees, or released?  That decision changes the course of the mission and the course of these men's lives forever.

CNN commentator Jake Tapper took from the film an overwhelming feeling of senselessness.  That's too bad, that is not the intent of the movie in the least.  Americans need to know that not every mission is victorious.  Every mission is fraught with imminent peril and American lives are lost nearly everyday in Afghanistan, even to this day.  That loss of life should never be perceived as senseless.  Our military men and women have a mission and a purpose and their lives and deaths have meaning to their families, to their country, to their brothers in arms, and to their mission; whether they are victorious or fail.  Lone Survivor is not about the senseless loss of life of so many brave men. It is about the dauntless courage, fortitude, and continued hope in the face of certain death.

At the conclusion of the film, tribute is paid to all the men who lost their lives supporting and participating in Operation Red Wing.  As the credits rolled, the breathless audience clapped; not just because the movie is that good (it is), but because the audience got it.  It would be nice if our country's leadership did the same.

I'm reading the book now.  I'm hoping the movie did the story right. I have a distinct feeling the film makers got this one right, as the movie is doing much better than expected and continues to draw moviegoers because of wide spread word of mouth.

Due to pervasive language, graphic violence, and scenes of extreme peril, I would recommend this film for adults only.

SEAL Lt. Michael P. Murphy, from Patchogue, N.Y., and Sonar Technician (Surface) 2nd Class Matthew G. Axelson, of Cupertino, Calif., taken in Afghanistan.

This file is a work of a sailor or employee of the U.S. Navy, taken or made as part of that person's official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain.
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Monday, January 13, 2014

Why Was Jesus Baptized?

Several weeks ago, Wingnut Jr. came home from CCD and had a question I could answer, but not explain adequately.  He'd had a substitute teacher that day and she had told the class that Jesus had Original Sin as part of his human nature and that was why he was baptized.  I knew that was wrong.  First of all, it doesn't make sense.  As the Son of God, and as the Second Person of God, Jesus is perfect in every way.  He did not sin and he did not possess Original Sin.  Secondly, I recalled being taught he did not possess Original Sin, but I could not recall why he chose to be baptized.  Thankfully, I was able to correct Wingnut Jr.'s bad theology, and was subsequently backed up by his usual CCD teacher when she returned.

This last Sunday we celebrated The Baptism of the Lord, and we were all blessed with one of the best homilies I have ever heard on baptism.  You can actually hear Father Erik's entire homily via podcast here.  It's just under 8.5 minutes and a really great listen, if you've got a few minutes.  For me, it finally impressed upon me two of the reasons Christ was baptized.  The first reason comes directly from Sacred Scripture : 

Jesus said to him in reply,

“Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us
to fulfill all righteousness.”

--from Matthew's Gospel chapter 3

To fulfill all righteousness is the first reason.  The second reason I know I've heard before, but it wasn't until this weekend that it finally stuck.  When we are baptized we are cleansed.  Jesus did not need cleansing from sinfulness and so his baptism had a different purpose.  Jesus cleansed the water by his baptism.  Pretty awesome, right?  Anyway, I found it all to be pretty profound.  Listen to the homily.  Tell me what stands out for you.

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Saturday, January 11, 2014

Awesome Art Work

Continuing to chronicle Skoshi A's room makeover.  Here are her Christmas gifts.  I found the posters on Etsy and they were hand made by an artist in Malaysia.  I took them to a local craft store to have them matted and framed.  She was truly pleased.

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Thursday, January 9, 2014

Book Review: Gunnar's Daughter

Many years ago, our parish priest introduced me to Norwegian author Sigrid Undset.  Her two most popular Medieval Norwegian series--Kristin Lavransdatter published in 1920-1923 and The Master of Hestviken published in 1925-1927--have been read and re-read over the years.  They are among my all time favorite series of novels.  Recently I discovered Ms. Undset had written an earlier novel, entitled Gunnar's Daughter, also set in Medieval Norway.

This much earlier work (written in1909) does not yet have the deep classical narrative found in Undset's later works, but it is still a wonderful read.  Exploring themes of lust, love, revenge, and motherhood the novel certainly does not shy away from heavy lifting.  While Undset's later Norwegian sagas are set at the height of Catholicism in Medieval Norway, Gunnar's Daughter is set a bit earlier, just as the new faith is taking hold.  Undset does a fine job conveying the time.  Still finding her footing as a formidable descriptive narrator, this novel is much shorter and a quicker read than the later series, but well worth a gander.

Due to more adult situations and themes, I would recommend Gunnar's Daughter to older teens and adults. Print Friendly and PDF

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

What We've Been Up To

I took a bit of a blogging break to enjoy my family over Christmas.  It was lovely having Oleander and Karate Kid home for two weeks.  Ollie once again experienced a little travel hiccup--her flight was delayed several hours because of weather, but she made it home safe and sound.  My favorite memories from the last couple weeks were hearing my three oldest girls laughing and enjoying each others company.  What a blessing to have siblings!

Christmas was pretty low key for us.  We went to Mass, came home and had birthday cake for Baby Jesus, opened gifts, and ate a lovely meal.  I did not go crazy baking this year.  We did make Naniamo bars during Christmas week and lefse on New Year's Eve.  I made a couple pies here and there and that was about it.  I wasn't much in a baking mood due to the fact Ollie came home with requests for all her favorite elaborate meals, leaving me with little energy and appetite to bake much.  She was pleased to have all her favorite meals over the two weeks--lamb curry with naan, Chinese orange chicken, Navaho tacos, black bean soup, chili, calzones, etc.  Unfortunately, my scale is none too happy.  I decided to forgo counting calories from Thanksgiving through Ollie leaving and now I'm paying the price.  We are back on track and eating healthier again and I'm hoping that holiday weight drops off quickly.

Ollie has had continuing knee issues and so skiing was out for her.  We thought we might go sledding instead.  Wouldn't you have it, the first run down the hill, she and Wingnut Jr. went flying over a jump and she broke her wrist.  The day after Christmas is the busiest day in the ER I was told after waiting 4 hours for her to be seen.  Poor Ollie!  That put just a bit of a damper on her visit home, but she is a trooper and did not complain a bit.

The skiers managed to hit the slopes several times over our two week break.  Wingnut even found photos of the kids online available for purchase.

Oleander made it back to the East Coast without a hitch, between winter storms and the crazy polar blast being experienced there now.  Two weeks flies by too fast!  We are already looking forward to her next visit in April.

We started back to school on Monday and as much as I was dreading it, it wasn't so bad.  It's nice to be back into a routine.

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Monday, January 6, 2014

Frozen--Nope, Not the Movie

I just think it is so cool that the lakes freeze completely over in parts of Utah.  We have a frozen lake just 30 minutes from the house, and since Oleander was home for Christmas, we thought she'd enjoy venturing out onto it.

East Canyon Lake, Utah

The best photo I was able to get of my ruffians.  Notice the youngest ruffian is not in the frame.  He was being a bit uncooperative.  No surprise, there.

I did get a few with him included, but look at what the rest of the bunch is doing.  Scoundrels.

Ice fishing is fairly popular on the lake.  I would love to take that hobby up with Wingnut.  I wonder how much it would be to get all kitted up. 

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Thursday, January 2, 2014

Lefse Step by Step

Growing up, one of our favorite days of the year was Lefse Day.  Lefse Day isn't a special holiday with a particular date, it was just the day on which our Grandmother chose to make lefse--a traditional Norwegian potato flat bread that is absolutely delicious.  It has been important for me to pass this tradition down to our children and has become one they love as much as I do.  I've had requests for the recipe, and I'm happy to oblige, but be forewarned this is a traditional dish that takes quite a bit of practice, skill, and special equipment to make properly.  Even after 45 years, I still don't feel my lefse lives up to the perfection of my Grandmother's. 

Lefse begins with peeling, cutting, and boiling 5 pounds of red potatoes until fork tender (the same tenderness you'd want for mashed potatoes)

After draining the potatoes, add 1/2 cup unsalted butter cut into pieces and allow the butter to melt in the potatoes as they cool down enough for you to handle.  The potatoes and butter then must go through the ricer--pictured above.  The ricer is much like a garlic press, but much larger.  This yields lovely fluffy and slightly texture potatoes.  In lieu of a ricer, the potatoes can be gently mashed--but I can not guarantee the final results of your lefse.  Ricers are fairly easy to find and are not very expensive and if you are serious about making lefse properly, you will procure one. After ricing the potatoes, chill them thoroughly.

The lefse dough is simple enough to make.  Gently mix together 5 cups of riced potatoes, 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 tsp salt, 1 TBSP sugar, and 2 TBSP of heavy cream until the ingredients just come together as shown above.  Chill the dough for several hours.  Cold lefse dough is happy lefse dough.

Other equipment needed for making lefse include a cloth covered rolling board, lefse griddle, and lefse stick--known to Norwegians as a spudu.

Take a golf ball sized ball of lefse dough, roll it in flour, and flatten into a disk.  Using either a silicon rolling pin or a wood rolling pin covered in a pin sock, roll the dough turning between each roll using the spudu until it is the diameter of a very large tortilla and very, very thin. See how you can read the words on the cloth through the lefse? That is how thin you want it.  This is where the skill comes in.  The dough is very fragile and finicky.  It will tear and stick if you are not careful.  See how mine isn't perfectly round?  I still need a lot more practice to get mine as beautifully round as my Grandmother's. Use flour liberally, but do not use too much or you will end up with dusty or crackery lefse. 

Using your spudu, gently move your rolled dough to a very hot lefse griddle.  I heat mine to about 425-450 degrees.  Once again practice and skill come into play.  Too hot and the lefse will burn, too cool and you'll end up with very large crackers before the lefse is cooked through.  Watch carefully for bubbles to form on the side of the dough in contact with the griddle.  Once the bubbles begin to turn color, flip the lefse and cook on the other side until bubbles form on that side and begin to turn color.  Lefse should be a creamy yellow color with darker brown spots from the bubbles.

Using your spudu, gently lift your cooked lefse from the griddle and onto a cooling rack covered with clean tea towels.  Allow to cool as you roll and cook more lefse.

As the lefse multiplies fold int quarters and set aside until served.

I always cook a tender, fall-apart, pork roast to serve with the lefse.  Open up a lefse quarter and layer with copious amounts of butter, pork, honey, or cinnamon and sugar.  Fold over and roll up into a burrito shape and enjoy.  5 pounds of potatoes makes approximately 25 lefse, which in our house is gone by the end of the day.


5 cups peeled, cooked, cooled and riced potatoes
2 cups all purpose flour
1 TBSP sugar
1 tsp salt
2 TBSP heavy cream

Mix gently until the ingredients come together into a dough.  Chill until ready to roll.

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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Saint Adelaide of Burgandy

If you hadn't read already, Jen Fulwiler has her Saint Name Generator online again this year. I have never participated in this particular annual Catholic blogging ritual, but this year I decided to give it a try.  Before clicking the "show me my saint" button I said a little prayer and was I ever pleasantly surprised with the intercessor I received--Saint Adelaide of Burgandy.  While much of her patronage is not applicable to me, she is still a wonderful choice for me in my current state of life.  I'm looking forward to learning more about Saint Adelaide and hoping I remember to call on her intercession throughout 2014.  Happy New Year!

Feastday: December 16
Patron of abuse victims; brides; empresses; exiles; in-law problems; parenthood; parents of large families; princesses; prisoners; second marriages; step-parents; widows
932 - 999

Born c. 931 in Burgandy, St. Adelaide married, at 15 or 16, Lothair of Italy to whom her father had engaged her when she was two. When Lothair died three years later, his successor and usurper Berengar of Ivrea imprisoned Adelaide and attempted to force her to marry his son. Legends tell of Adelaide's escape to Canossa, where she appealed to Otto of Germany for help. He conqueredItaly and married her in 951. John XII crowned the pair rulers of the Holy Roman Empire the following year. After Otto's death in 973, Adelaide quarrelled with Otto II, possibly at the instigation of her daughter-in-law, Theophano, and lived with her brother in Burgandy. She established many monasteries and churches; she also became interested in evangelism. She and her son reconciled before his death in 983, and she became regent for her grandson, Otto III. Adelaide died in 999 at the convert at Seltz, which she had founded. Cluny became the center of her cult. She was canonized in 1097.

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