Friday, February 27, 2015

Lemon Bars--Emphasis on the Lemon

When we were kids, my brother, sister and I used to race home from the bus stop after school to bake something sweet and then the three of us would devour it all.  One of our favorites was lemon bars.  I've made the same lemon bar recipe ever since, but have lately decided it needed a little revamping.  I really wanted to boost the tart lemon flavor of the filling which I felt had always been missing from our old familiar recipe.  With a little tweaking, I think I've come up with the perfect-lip-puckering-tart-lemon bar recipe.  This recipe makes a 9 X 13 pan of lemony deliciousness.

Lemon Bars


2 cups flour
1 cup butter; softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 TBSP lemon zest

Mix all ingredients together using a mixer or food processor until blended well and the consistency of  pebbly sand.  Press into a greased 9 X 13 pan and bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.  Allow to cool for 15 minutes before pouring filling over the top.


2 whole eggs
4 egg yolks
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cups sugar
2 TBSP lemon zest
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder

Mix all ingredients together thoroughly and pour over cooled crust.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes, until filling is completely set and has just begun to brown slightly.  Cool completely and then sprinkle with powdered sugar.  Cut into squares to serve.

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real} February 26


Another beautiful Utah sunset.  This one was taken from Mount Ogden. You can just make out the outline of the shoreline of the Great Salt Lake in the distance.


Our neighbor's sister-in-law brought a truck load of organic lemons from Arizona and I purchased a bushel from her.  We have been in lemon heaven here.

They were huge, extremely juicy, and absolutely delicious lemons.

They could not have come at a better time, either.  Several of us have an upper respiratory issue and I've been dosing everyone with a concoction of raw honey, organic lemon, and sliced ginger.  I keep a jar in the fridge at all times, just in case.

I've also juiced many of the lemons and reused a store bought lemon juice bottle to store juice for sparkling lemon water.  We've already gone through two bottles.  Fresh lemon juice is sooooooooo much better than the store bought junk.

I've made lemon bars twice this last week.  I've been tweaking a recipe I've made since I was pre-teen.  The crust was perfect, but the lemon filling needed to be more lemony.  I think we've perfected the recipe and I'll be posting it later this week.


We finally got some new snow this week.  It hadn't snowed since Christmas.  Leo has really been enjoying skiing with Chris.  He's even graduated to a bigger hill and we decided it was time to put him in a helmet to protect his little noggin.  He doesn't look so thrilled in this photo, even though he was really excited to go.  He's such a funny little guy.


I've really been suffering from lack of inspiration in photography lately.  I think the dull, gray, winter environment is the culprit.  Without any snow, the landscape has been looking forlorn and barren.

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Friday, February 20, 2015

Ham, Cheddar, and Apple Stromboli

I haven't posted a recipe in a while.  I found a recipe for ham stromboli on Pinterest and when I went to make it, the link no longer worked.  No biggie.  I made one up myself.  Angela says it is one of her favorite dinners.  This recipe makes three Stromboli and fed 6 of us easily with some leftover.  For my dairy allergic fellas, I subbed pecorino Toscana for the cheddar.

Ham, Cheddar, and Apple Stromboli


1 cup very warm water
1 TBSP honey
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
3-3 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup olive oil


3 large apples; peeled, cored, quartered and sliced into 1/2 inch thick slices
2 TBSP unsalted butter
1TBSP sugar

12 slices breakfast ham (which is a thicker cut of ham--if you prefer, deli ham will work too, I would just use quite a bit more, maybe double and then layer the ham)

1 cup shredded smoked cheddar (If you can't find smoked cheddar, any other cheddar would work too, as would most any other smoked cheese that melts easily)

Honey Mustard Sauce

1/2 cup yellow mustard (I prefer Dijon)
1/3 cup honey
juice of 1/2 lemon

For the Crust

In a small bowl, dissolve honey in warm water. Sprinkle yeast over the top, stir gently, and set aside to rest for about 10 minutes.  The yeast should activate and the mixture will become bubbly.  Put 3 cups flour, and salt into large mixing bowl and stir to combine.  Add yeast mixture and olive oil and mix using dough hook until combined into a smooth and elastic ball.  If the dough is too sticky, add more flour until you get the correct consistency.  Place ball of dough into a large, oiled bowl and set in a warm, draft free spot to rise until double--about 1 hour.  Divide dough into three equal portions and roll each portion into a rectangle, approximately 12 inches long and 8 inches wide.  

For the Caramelized Apples

In a large saute pan, melt butter over medium high heat.  Add the apples and toss to coat with butter. Sprinkle sugar over apples and stir frequently until apples have released their juices, softened, and have begun to caramelize--about 12-15 minutes.

To Assemble the Stromboli

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Cover a sheet pan with a sheet of parchment paper.

Orient rectangles of dough so the short sides are at the top and bottom facing you.  For each Stromboli lay 4 slices of ham down center of the rectangle parallel to the short sides.  Spoon 1/3 of apple mixture onto slices of ham,  and then top with 1/3 cup of shredded cheese.  Roll the Stromboli from the long side, making sure to keep the seam side on the bottom and tuck the top and bottom 1/2 inch under.  Place on prepared sheet pan, and cut several slits in the top of the dough.  Brush with olive oil.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the filling is beginning to bubble.  Serve with honey mustard sauce on the side.

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real} February 19


My girls and I made these very pretty cherry cordial cupcakes for Saint Valentine's Day.  I found all-natural-dye-free maraschino cherries at the commissary, and I was able to get the very pretty pink color in the frosting using beet powder, donated by the Godparents. I also subbed canned coconut milk for heavy cream when making the chocolate ganache.  I've become the queen of substitutions. LOL! Not only were the finished cupcakes pretty, they were absolutely delicious.


I made homemade mango chutney this weekend.  It was soooooooo yummy with our curry rubbed pork tenderloin.  My belly was certainly happy.


I love finding random selfies on my phone taken by my kiddos.  This is Katerina, whose current obsession is Pokemon.  This is her Ash Ketcham get up she ordered from Amazon.  She is a funny girl.  We love it.


Every year I forget to bring our palms to our parish for what our priest gleefully calls "pyro-Tuesday"  or the day before Ash Wednesday.  The ashes from last years palms are placed on attendees foreheads during masses on Ash Wednesday.  We ended up burning our palms in the sink, which is one of the ways to properly dispose of last year's palms from Palm Sunday. (You can also bury them in the garden).  The boys loved having fire in the house, of course.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

To Mark the Mind

The ashen cross
a thumbed design
a trace of loss
to mark the mind
remind the flesh
of its return
refresh the ear
to hear and yearn.

Commencing on the forty days
the crowds still come
to turn away
to brow the smear
to wear the smudge
to bear the grit and grain
of love.

--Rita A. Simmonds

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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Heading to the Desert to Pray

News flash: Lent isn't just about giving up chocolate.  Lent is about drawing closer to God and striving toward holiness.  I've been reminded so many times the last couple weeks to not just give up the same old thing, year after year, but instead to look for what it is which might be coming between me and a deeper relationship with God.

Each Lent, we as a family do something together.  In the past we've given up desserts or going out to eat.  This year, instead of giving something up, we are doing something more active.  For 1/2 an hour each day we are turning off all electronics and retreating to a quiet place where we can engage in spiritual reading or prayer.  Leo will be a bit tricky, but Angela and I have come up with a solution for him.  During the family 1/2 hour of quiet and reflection, I will read to Leo from saint stories and The Catholic Treasure Box series.  Angela will take him after she's had her quiet time and I'll then have my own 1/2 hour to read and pray.  We are all really looking forward to it.

We all participate in the family Lenten sacrifice, but then we encourage them each to choose something extra to do on their own; something more personal.  My personal sacrifice is one I've been mulling and feeling the Holy Spirit nudge me with for quite awhile.  For me it will be quite a sacrifice, but one I've needed to make as I know this is one of my personal foibles which keeps me from that deeper relationship I've been desiring.

So, what has the Holy Spirit been calling you to do this Lent?  As our priest recommended this Sunday, spend some time praying for guidance before Lent begins.  Let's make this trip into the desert truly meaningful!

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Monday, February 16, 2015

The Cross of Matará

Three new postulants, Sister Olivia, Sister Gia and Sister Benoshi (from Australia) received their Crosses of Matará on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.  Mother Aeiparthenos was kind enough to send me photos from the mass and conferring of Crosses.  You can read more about the Cross of Matará here.

The sisters have mass said daily in their chapel at the convent by one of the order's brother priests from the IVE.

Blessing of the Crosses of Matará

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Friday, February 13, 2015

Inspiring Each Other in Holiness

When Olivia and I went to Maryland, we stayed with the God-family.  I love visiting the God-family.  Their home is so full of love, peace, and holiness and they always inspire me.  Throughout their home are constant reminders to live a life of faith.  These reminders come in the forms of placards with inspirational quotes upon them, printed homilies from their wonderful priest, and printed snippets with prayers and words of wisdom taped, and pinned here and there. What a wonderful way of surrounding your family with spiritual encouragement and reminders to pray always.

Enkindled by their example, I have gone through our home and taped some new prayers to mirrors, cupboards, and walls in most of the rooms of the house.  It helps to see a visible reminder to pray at all times, no? The effect was immediate.  Benedict noticed the slips of paper taped here and there and asked about them.  He enjoyed searching his own room for his reminder to pray.  Thank you, God-family for moving your godson toward a life of prayer and holiness.

Daily Offering

O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer You my prayers, work, joys, and sufferings of this day, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world. I offer them for all the intentions of your Sacred Heart: the salvation of souls, the reparation of sin, the union of all Christians.  I offer them for the intentions of our bishops and of all Apostles of Prayer, and in particular for those recommended by our Holy Father this month.

Prayer of Saint Gertrude the Great

Eternal Father, I offer thee the most precious blood of thy divine Son, Jesus, in union with the masses said throughout the world today, for all the holy souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal Church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen

Prayer for Daily Neglects

Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Sacred Heart of Jesus, with all its love, all its sufferings and all its merits.
To expiate the sins I have committed this day and during all my life. Glory be. . . 

To purify the good I have done poorly this day and during all my life. Glory be. . . 

To supply for the good I ought to have done, and that I have neglected this day
 and during all my life. Glory be. . . 

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Thursday, February 12, 2015

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real} February 12


We really live in one of the most beautiful parts of the United States.

When I'm lacking inspiration, I'll often go for a short drive and will invariably find some new vista to photograph

or an unusual plant that inspires


The boys are really enjoying their new wood building blocks.


I was trying to get a photo of Leo's Pokemon birthday balloons.  He just could not sit still or keep the balloons still enough for a good shot.  That's ok, it really is just about having fun on your birthday, and he sure enjoyed himself.


Chris is not much of a gift giver on Saint Valentines, or any occasion for that matter.  If I want cherries macerated in liquor and then covered in chocolate, I better pick them up for myself.  Romance is overrated anyway. Lol!

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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

February Virtue of the Month

We have been using the Dominican Sisters of Saint Cecilia's Virtue Program for the last two years as part of our religion program at home.  I really love focusing on a single virtue for an entire month and I'm hoping it is a study my kids will remember for their entire lives.  This month's virtue is Cheerfulness.  What a great one to work on, especially with Lent fast approaching!  I've changed the quote on our board to reflect this month's virtue.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

February Babies

We celebrated two birthdays this month.  Our youngest,  Leo the Tyrannical, celebrated turning 4 and  our oldest, Nadja, turned 22.

The youngest three are currently obsessed with Pokemon and Leo was absolutely thrilled with his Pikachu cupcakes, designed by Katerina.  She drew a cupcake wrap and then made twelve copies.  Angela baked Leo's vanilla cupcakes, so all I had to do was make the frosting, frost, and then spray the tops with Wilton's spray food coloring. 

He took the birthday song and blowing out the candles very seriously.

These are his birthday books, which he loves!  He also received three plush Pokemon, old school wood building blocks, and wood alphabet/word puzzles. 

Nadja came home for her birthday dinner and had requested a Texas Chocolate Cake.  I use The Pioneer Woman's recipe, which is the absolute best! I use dark Dutch processed cocoa, which accounts for the darker color of my cake.  We are a dark chocolate kind of family.

I wandered Hastings Book Store for quite awhile before finding a book I thought Nadja would enjoy. Based on her reaction, I'm pretty sure I made a good choice.  Even at 22 she still enjoys mythology and this one looks really promising.  She also received a Bagallini tote bag, and a scarf, along with the season ski pass we purchased for her at the beginning of the ski season.

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Friday, February 6, 2015

Depositing Our Postulant

So, I did not take nearly as many photos as I had planned.  I was too caught up in everything, that I often forgot to take my camera out, but our trip back to Maryland was amazing!

Once we arrived at Reagan National, we quickly picked up our rental car and drove 45 minutes to stay with Benedict's god family.  They had two pots of hot soup, freshly baked bread, and a glass of wine all ready for our arrival.  We had time to chat for a bit before praying a couple decades of the rosary and then heading to bed.

The next morning we all went to Mass in their home parish.  What a wonderful Mass and an amazing homily by Father Larry Swink.  What a blessing!  After Mass, my dear friends held a brunch for Olivia and I and nearly all our friends from our Maryland days were in attendance.  It was such a great time to catch up with all my old homeschool friends and to hear about all of their children's comings and goings and accomplishments. Two of my dearest friends are now grandmothers! Unreal! I can't believe I didn't take a single photo of the brunch, but after everyone left, I was able to spend some quality time with godmother and our other dear friend, who makes up our BFF trio.  I did manage to get a photo of the three of us together! Ha!

That evening, I took Olivia and the eldest daughter of our hosts and headed into DC to the Juniorate.  The sisters were just arriving after their day of activities and they received all of us so warmly and joyfully. Viva la Virgine!  Sister Clemente and Olivia's skirt, which was hand made by Sister Hope, Sister Divine Innocence and a third sister, all from the cloistered monastery in New York.  You can imagine how many prayers from these sisters went into Olivia's skirt.  She was allowed to change into her postulant's habit and then we all joined the sisters in the chapel for an hour of Adoration, followed by evening prayers--which were sung!  So beautiful and peaceful and holy!  After prayers, a wonderful dinner was served.  Oh, how I have missed these celebrations!

Along with Olivia, the sisters welcomed another postulant, Sister Gia, from Beulah Wyoming, who was accompanied by her grandmother and great aunt.  She is a lovely, intelligent girl and seemed to fit in immediately.  Please keep her in your prayers! After supper, Miss N. and I took our leave of Sister Olivia and headed home.

The next morning, Miss N., Miss I., Miss G. and I were up bright and early to join them all again for morning prayer and then Mass, at Saint John Baptiste de la Salle, ( an IVE parish) celebrating the Feast of the Presentation.  Let me tell you, the IVE and SSVM choir is absolutely beautiful!  I have to admit, the homily (touching on many themes of the consecrated life) was way over my head!  After Mass, there was a brunch served in the parish hall and I was thrilled to see two of the brothers I've known for several years, Brother Rinju and Brother Chris.

Here I took leave of M. Ephesus, who was Olivia's mother for the three and a half years she was in school in Avondale, PA.  I so enjoyed seeing her again and catching up.  We then followed the Novitiate sisters back to Upper Marlboro to the convent there for an afternoon of touring and chatting. The girls made rosaries and joined the sisters for their afternoon community walk while I toured the convent and out building with Sister Gia's family and M. Aeiparthenos. If you have read my blog over the years, you may remember Sister Aeiparthenos from all of my SSVM posts and as Olivia's confirmation sponsor.   She is now Olivia's Mistress of Novices or Mother Superior, as you have it.  After a brief lunch, it was time to say our final goodbyes.  It was hard to feel too sad when I feel so happy for Olivia.  We will miss her so much during these next long months of discernment for her.  She is in good, capable, and loving hands.

The three amigos, together again!  I love these ladies!

Introducing Sister Olivia!

Sister Olivia with M. Ephesus and her former classmate, Sister Clemente

Brother Rinju of the IVE.  I can't believe how tall he has gotten!  I've known him since he was about 11 years old!  He is in his first year of seminary at the Fulton Sheen House of Formation.

The Novitiate is located on a farm in Upper Marlboro.  Our family has spent so many happy and holy hours there and we are looking forward to many more in the future, God Willing!

This is the 19th century house the sisters rent from the owner of the farm.  He is an incredibly generous benefactor who charges a pittance for rent, pays their heating bills, and has given them the thumbs up on all the many improvements they have made to the property, which include installing and renovating a beautiful chapel, painting the entire interior of the house, paving the drive, and renovating the three door garage into a large classroom downstairs with a bathroom and three guest bedrooms(for visiting families) and a full bath upstairs.

This will be Sister Olivia's official photo for our parish religious prayer board here in Ogden.

The girls made rosaries with the sisters.  

This map represents all the missions around the world the sisters now support physically, financially, and spiritually.  Each mission has at least 3 sisters working at it.

(I am going to start using real names on the blog, beginning today.  Really there isn't a reason not to. I mean, who am I fooling anyway? Plus I would really like Sister Olivia to be prayed for by name!)
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Thursday, February 5, 2015

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real} in a Single Shot

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real}

I returned from dropping Sister Olivia off at the Novitiate and have been so busy with Lil' Lamb's 4th birthday I haven't had time to write about our trip.  I'm still editing photos and will definitely blog about our busy, happy, bittersweet week in the next few days.  Until then, here is our pretty postulant, bidding us farewell as the wind gusted around her.  I wanted to cry, but she made me laugh.  She is so happy to finally be where she's wanted to be for so long.  I can't believe she is gone, and for such a long time. 

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