Thursday, April 27, 2017

Whiskers on Kittens


Our miniature farm has become overrun with mice.  The neighborhood cats can no longer keep up with managing the rodent population.  We decided we need to add a couple kittens to our family to help rid our garden and hen house of mice.  Nadja found a couple kittens through  local online want ads and brought home two brothers, Zuko and Sasuke in August of last year.  They weren't more than 6 weeks old and were so cute, mischievous, and friendly.  We discovered they were excellent mousers as well.





Zuko kitty looking out the window from here favorite perch.






Don't let this photo fool you.  Cat and mouse are not the bosom buddies they appear to be.  Saskuke was merely taking a little break from batting this very confused mouse around.




In January, a suspicion I had about the two brothers was confirmed.  They were not brothers at all, but two sisters.  Zuko gave birth to 4 kittens on March 15th.  She's been a very good mama and we've really enjoyed having kittens again.  



I love their sweet little faces.




Just look at those whiskers.




They rule the roost,



and have stolen our hearts.


Unfortunately, we cannot even consider keeping six cats, no matter how cute. The four kittens will go to their new homes next week, just in time for Sasuke to deliver her little litter. 





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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Fermented Food: Freaky or Fabulous?

It seems the latest craze in natural health is fermented foods.  I have to be honest the idea was a bit freaky to me, but then I had my first taste of kombucha--a fermented tea often flavored with fruit, spices, and herbs.  I had purchased a bottle from a local health food store and was immediately hooked by the refreshing flavor--think of a slightly fruity and sweet carbonated vinegar.  After researching some of the benefits of drinking kombucha: increased energy, improved digestion, immune support, and reduced joint pain, I decided to let Chris in on my new found love.  He was an immediate fan.  At upwards of $3 a bottle this was not a habit we could maintain on a daily basis, but I recalled seeing kombucha recipes on Pinterest and decided it might be worth brewing it ourselves.




I purchased The Big Book of Kombucha: Brewing, Flavoring, and Enjoying the Health Benefits of Fermented Tea on Amazon and started reading.  After acquiring a few more materials such as gallon glass jugs, ceramic flip top glass bottles, and a scoby, we were brewing our first batch for a little less than $100.  The process and set up were surprisingly easy and we were enjoying our own brew within just a couple weeks.  We've become quite adept at making different flavoring combinations: cranberry-lime, pomegranate-clementine, blueberry-ginger-lime, grapefruit-ginger-hibiscus, apple spice, and minty melon are some of my favorites.  Over time we've had to purchase extra jars and bottles, adhesive thermometer strips, and seedling heat tape, but in the long run we are truly saving quite a bit of money brewing at home.

As far as the promised health benefits are concerned I have noticed a marked improvement in my afternoon energy levels and I am convinced my immunity has been kicked up a notch as I can't recall having so much as a cold since we started drinking kombucha daily in October. That's a pretty good track record.



I've seen all different sorts of set up, but the following is the one that works for us


Brew strong black tea and sweeten with sugar, cool to room temp and add scoby and 1/2 cup to 1 cup of fermented starter (this comes with the scoby for the first  brew, but afterward you'll need to set aside some of the first fermentation liquid each batch to start the next batch). Cover with a paper towel and wrap with seedling heat tape.  Try to keep brew between 75-80 degrees (optimally). Let stand 4-21 days depending on amount and desired fermentation.  After about 5 days I start smelling and tasting the brew every other day until it reaches the level of acidity we like.


Remove scoby and add the desired flavorings, cover, and let stand another 2 days.




Strain and bottle.  Add a pinch of sugar to each bottle.  Secure the caps, shake the bottles to distribute the sugar, and set aside for 2 more days.  Refrigerate and enjoy.  With this method you may find a tiny baby scoby in each bottle. Many kombucha enthusiasts ingest the baby scoby.  We don't because it has the consistency of snot (blech!). We strain the kombucha into a glass and discard the baby scoby.





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Friday, April 21, 2017

A Study in Easter Lilies

I love everything about Easter Lilies--their sweet fragrance, white purity, triumphal trumpet shape and the deep christian symbolism associated with them.  They are also wonderful subjects for photography.






I used the natural light coming from our front window and messed around with settings and positions.




Typically this would not be considered a "good" photo because it is underexposed, but I love it.  It reminds me of something Caravaggio might have painted.  In my mind it represents Christ beginning to roll the stone away from the tomb in the darkness just before dawn.



I wasn't getting the focus I wanted using the auto focus on my camera so I switched to manual and took a few more shots from a few more angles.  I love the crisp focus on the pollen laden anthers.




 I love the soft lighting and dark background captured here.


Easter morn with lilies fair
Fills the church with perfumes rare,
As their clouds of incense rise,
Sweetest offerings to the skies.
Stately lilies pure and white
Flooding darkness with their light,
Bloom and sorrow drifts away,
On this holy hallow’d day.
Easter Lilies bending low
in the golden afterglow,
Bear a message from the sod
To the heavenly towers of God.

Louise Lewin Matthews



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Thursday, April 20, 2017

A Fruitful Lent

I'm working a little backwards here, but today I wanted to write a little about what I read for lent.

Our parish handed out copies of The Lamb's Supper by Scott Hahn during Christmas.  I've actually never read Scott Hahn before.  This selection was awesome and truly apropos for me, as I'd just finished reading the Book of Revelation using the Navarre Bible.  The book of Revelation and it's application to the mass is what drew Hahn to convert to Catholicism.  Having grown up an evangelical, Revelation was always a scary read for me.  Reading
Revelation in the light of the way we celebrate Catholic liturgy was eye opening, reassuring, and I'll never look at the Mass the same way again.





If you haven't heard of the Blessed is She community, you need to get on over to their website today.  During Advent I used their beautiful journal filled with scripture and reflections written by the always inspiring Elizabeth Foss.  I was so touched and encouraged during my advent journey, I purchased four copies of the Put on Love lenten journal; one for me and three to give to three of my dearest friends here in Utah.  Once again, this journal was filled with scripture and beautiful reflections prompting us to put on love in our everyday lives. Elizabeth Foss is such an amazing writer and her words spoke directly to my heart.  As a bonus, there was an excellent examination of conscience at the end of the journal that fit perfectly with the theme of putting on love.  Next year I plan to buy several more copies and will give one to each of my daughters.




I read a new selection to my little guys for their lenten spiritual reading. A dear friend turned me on to Storyteller Productions and I chose Amon's Adventure: A Family Story for Easter.  The boys loved the book, especially since the main character was a boy and an inventor.  Set in Jerusalem during the days leading up to Jesus' triumphal entrance and subsequent crucifixion, the story follows Amon as he attempts to unravel the mystery of the stolen funds from the Temple treasury, hoping to prove his father innocent of the theft and saving him from crucifixion.  It was an exciting tale, perfect for the boys, and each chapter concluded with a scripture verse and reflection.  I had only one little quibble.  In a scene in the marketplace, the characters are given a taste of chocolate--which could not have really happened, as chocolate was not discovered until the 16th century. It still bugs me.  There are several books in the series, and I plan on choosing one to read aloud this coming advent.




Lent this year felt especially fruitful.  Here's to praying those fruits continue to produce throughout the rest of the year.





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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Easter Blessings

Was it just me, or did Lent just fly right by?  Holy Week was crazy busy. Not only did we have our regular schedule of homeschooling and driving Olivia to and from school, but I had choir rehearsals  and sang during the Triduum.  Ben served as an altar boy both Good Friday and Easter morning.  Easter, itself, was a lovely day.  We invited good friends to share our meal and day with us.  Unfortunately, I did not take many photos. I didn't even get a photo of everyone in their Easter best because I had to leave the house for Easter Vigil choir rehearsal before everyone was dressed.  Despite the craziness, we had a wonderful and blessed week.




Katerina was in charge of the annual bunny cake.  This year she created "Maestro Bunny" complete with conducting baton.



The start of the Great Easter Egg Hunt (just ignore the goofball standing inside the doorway.  I wasn't able to photoshop her out :) )





It's a tad difficult to see in this photo, but Katerina surprised Ben with a glitter bomb egg.




So much sugar



Just in time for Easter my daffodils began to bloom




along with my poppies


Alleluia, He is risen!  He is risen, indeed!

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Thursday, April 13, 2017

Biscuit Topped Chicken Pot Pie

One of my favorite comfort foods is chicken pot pie.  I made the following variation for the family last night and it was a big hit.  Personally, I do not enjoy cooked carrots and peas, so I usually use broccoli in my filling.  For the chicken I usually bake bone-in, skin-on, split chicken breasts, seasoned with a little salt and pepper, in a 375 degree oven for 45-60 minutes, depending on the size.





Sauté onion and celery until translucent. Add broccoli and sauté until broccoli turns a brilliant green.  I like to salt in layers as I add ingredients.  A soft touch each layer and then taste at the end to see if you need anymore.






Add the flour and stir to coat the vegetables.  Stir and toast the flour for just a few moments to give it a little color and to prevent having a "raw" flour flavor to the sauce.






Slowly add the broth, stirring constantly to prevent lumps of flour from forming.  Simmer until sauce is bubbling and beginning to thicken. Add parsley at the very end.







Spoon biscuit batter over the top and pop it in the oven.





Bake until biscuit is cooked through and golden brown on top.



Filling

2 TBSP unsalted butter
1/2 onion; diced
2 celery stalks; chopped
3 cups broccoli; chopped
4 split chicken breasts; baked, cooled, and cut into bite sized pieces
1/3 cup flour
2 pints chicken broth
1 TBSP fresh parsley; minced
Salt and pepper to taste

Biscuits

2 cups all purpose flour
1 TBSP baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
6 TBSP cold unsalted butter; cut into pieces
1 1/4 cup milk of your choice (I used raw goat milk)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Filling
In a very large cast iron skillet melt the butter.  Add the onion and celery along with a little salt.  Sauté until soft and transparent, about 10 minutes.  Add the broccoli and a little more salt.  Sauté until broccoli begins to turn a brilliant green, about 3 to 5 more minutes. Add pepper and stir to distribute. Sprinkle flour over the sautéed vegetables and stir to coat and toast the flour.  Slowly add the broth, stirring constantly with a whisk.  Add the chicken and simmer on medium low heat until the sauce begins to bubble and thicken.  Add more salt and pepper as needed.

Biscuits
Put flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl and whisk to combine.  Drop the pats of butter into the dry ingredients and using a pastry blender or a fork cut the butter into the flour mixture until incorporated.  Add the milk and stir gently until just combined.  Drop biscuit batter onto the filling in the cast iron skillet and bake for about 20-23 minutes until biscuits are golden brown.  Allow to cool 5-10 minutes before serving.





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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

I'm Back???

It has been several months since I've posted.  Life has been crazy busy and one of my outlets had to go by the wayside.  I've also decided it was time to make this blog public once again.  The reasons for making it private have resolved, for the most part.

What have we been up to the last 9 months?  Our focus has been on helping Olivia readjust to family life after having lived with a religious community for four years.  She's done amazingly well! We were able to get her accepted to the local university in the fall and she dove in head first taking on a rigorous program of study in Emergency Medical Services.  She's a straight A student and passed her national EMT exam in January. Recently, she was accepted into the paramedic program beginning this fall.  She seems to be very satisfied with the direction God is calling her and we are so thankful the adjustment period went so smoothly.  Unfortunately, with her years away from home, she was never able to obtain a driver's license, and so our days have been filled with running her to and from school, which is a 30 minute drive each way.  Happily, she is working hard on accumulating driving hours and she should be a fully licensed driver by the end of May at the latest.

Nadja lived with us until January, when she moved to an apartment much closer to work in Salt Lake City.  She is once again lab supervisor for Salt Lake Mosquito Abatement and really enjoys her work.  At this point she is weighing her options, still unsure if grad school is in her future.

John Paul lives on his own and has learned "adulting" is tough but rewarding.  He is working as a manager in a restaurant and is still hoping to go to school with an interest in business.

Angela will graduate high school in May.  She applied to NET Ministries this last winter, but then found out she would not turn 18 in time to be considered for this year. She really feels called to serve with NET and plans on applying again for next year.  In the meantime, she applied to the same school as Olivia and was accepted.  She plans on majoring in psychology, which I think is a wonderful fit for her.

Katerina continues to astound us with new artistic talents.  She draws, paints, sings, plays the piano, and absolutely flourishes on the violin.  She was invited to become part of the local chamber orchestra next fall.  She spends countless hours everyday practicing.  It has been a real gift.

Benedict has become an incredible and diligent student.  He's such a joy to homeschool and he sets such a wonderful example for Leo.  He has consistently declared his desire to become an inventor.  I can see engineering in his future--unless he eventually called to the priesthood ;) He's earned the position as altar boy #1 from our priest and is also learning to serve the Latin Mass.

I am so glad I thought to ease Leo into kindergarten this year.  It has been a decision richly rewarded. In just a few short months he's absolutely astounded us with his math comprehension, and has been learning to read with little cajoling.  Best of all, he's incredibly proud of himself and actually asks to do school nearly every day. He worships the ground Ben walks upon and has insisted he wants to become a policeman/inventor.  His ideas are absolutely hilarious, but also show a mind constantly at work.

I am hoping to write here more consistently.  We shall see if life will allow it.


Pax,
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