Saturday, December 31, 2005
I have a special aunt who is also a convert to the Catholic faith. I once asked her why she converted. She told me simply, "Catholics were the happiest people I knew. I wanted to find out why."
How joyful are you? Do people look at you and wonder what it is that makes you so happy? Do they see the love of Christ in your face, your voice, your actions?
Might make a good New Year's resolution.
Friday, December 30, 2005
Girlfriends say, "Way cute outfit!"
Husband's say, "How much damage did that outfit do to my checkbook?"
Girlfriends say, "Love the new haircut!"
Husbands say, "There's something different about you, but I can't figure it out."
Girlfriends say, "That new lipstick color makes you look younger!"
Husbands say, "I'd kiss you, but you have too much lipstick on."
Girlfriends say, "Girl, you look hot!"
Husbands say, "What are you so dressed up for?"
Girlfriends say, "That new haircolor really sets off your eyes."
Husband's say, "Uck, there's a red hair in my soup."
Girlfriends say, "Have you lost weight? You look so slim!"
Husbands say, "You're not pregnant are you?"
Girlfriends say, "Hey, can't wait to go out with you tonight!"
Husbands say, "Why do women get so dressed up just to go out with their girlfriends?"
Bein' a good Irish lass, I took me leftover ham from Christmas and made Colcannon. If you've never had this Irish dish, and you like mashed potatoes, I recommend that you give it a try. Basically, all you do is mix mashed potatoes, ham or bacon, and cabbage. Yes, cabbage -- now don't turn up your nose just yet. Most people don't like cabbage because it's oftentimes overcooked. If someone offers you limp, brown cabbage, it's okay to pass on it -- eek!
Here's a basic recipe that will set you right:
3 lbs. potatoes, scrubbed (Or peeled, personally I leave the peels on.)
2 sticks of butter, separated
1 1/4 cups hot milk
Freshly ground black pepper (If you don't have a pepper grinder, get one. It's worth it!)
1 head cabbage, cored and finely shredded
1 lb. ham or bacon, cooked the day before
4 scallions, finely chopped
Boil potatoes until tender and mash thoroughly to remove lumps. Add in 1 stick of butter in pieces. Gradually add hot milk, stirring all the time. Season with a few grinds of black pepper.
Boil the cabbage in unsalted water until a gets a little darker. Add 2 tablespoons butter to tenderize it. Cover with a lid and cook for only 2 more minutes.
Remove any fat from your ham and chop into small pieces.
Add cabbage, scallions, and ham to mashed potatoes, stirring them in gently.
Serve in individual soup plates. Make an indentation on the top and place 1 tablespoon of butter into each indentation. Sprinkle with fresh parsley.
Thursday, December 29, 2005
As The Thrifty Homeschooler, I just had to pass on this article, which was passed on to me by my friend Linda, which was passed on to her by her sister Lisa: Blessed Be the Lower Middle Class.
I love the author's thesis. The only thing that I would add is that he could own all that STUFF if he just gave into the credit card debt demon. But then, that's a demon that has a bigger price tag than most people realize.
The author, Eric Scheske, is a contributing editor of Godspy and the former editor of Gilbert Magazine. Great credentials, imo.
It's a really cool (the good kind of cool) blog all about teaching math and science in our homeschools, started by Alicia VanHecke.
I'm in the final stages of writing a book on using literature in our homeschools. I read a LOT of real math and science books in my research, so I hope to be able to contribute a book review or two each week. So make sure to visit every so often, and leave a comment!
I also occasionally contribute to Alicia's Love2Learn blog.
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
My offense? I wrote "Oh my goodness" instead of "OMG" in my last post.
Horrors! I hope the cool police don't find out.
Quite honestly, I've been working for years to get the "cool" out of my system. Been there, done that. And I didn't like it.
To save my children from being too cool, my goal as a mother is to raise a houseful of nerds. Nerds don't get into trouble. They do their homework, come home long before curfew, and they don't date.
If my children grow up to wear pocket protectors, own glasses taped up in the middle, snort when they laugh, and walk around with toilet paper stuck to bottom of their shoe, I will consider myself a great success.
Shhh, don't tell Drama Diva!
Oh my goodness, I think I'm finally an official Michigander.
I was making a shopping list this morning for the big New Year's blowout, and wrote down, without even thinking, POP! Yep, I wrote pop instead of soda!!!
Next thing you know, I'm going to be eating pasties and hunkering to go ice fishing!
I moved to Michigan twelve years ago from Missouri and still insist on saying ya'all, even though my Michigan children mock me when I do. I still make gooey butter cake, sweet tea, and toasted raviolis. But, less and less.
In fact, I took the following test and passed. Scary!
YOU MIGHT BE A MICHIGANDER IF...
... you define summer as three months of bad sledding.
... you have an ice rink in your backyard.
... your definition of a small town is one that doesn't have a lake.
... your family breaks into violence during the UM-MSU game (any sport!).
... snow tires come standard on all your cars.
... at least 50% of your relatives work for the auto industry.
... you have ever gotten frostbitten and sunburned in the same week.
... you can identify an Ohio accent.
... owning a Japanese car was a hanging offense in your home town.
... you learned to pilot a boat before the training wheels were off your bike.
... you point at the palm of your right hand when telling people where you grew up.
... you don't understand what the big deal about Chicago is.
... someone asks you if you've been to Europe and you answer, "No, but I've been to Ann Arbor..."
... "Down South" to you means Toledo.
... you have any idea who Bob Ufer was.
... octopus and hockey go together as naturally as hot dogs and baseball.
... traveling coast to coast means going from Port Huron to Muskegon.
... you refer to your relatives in southern Michigan as "trolls" or loopers," but not Fudgies, as that's too offensive for your "ant" and uncle.
... the "Big Three" can mean either Ford, Chrysler and GM or Domino's, Little Caeser's and Hungry Howie's.
... a Big Mac is something you can drive across.
... you have no problem spelling Mackinac Island.
... you have as many Canadian coins in your pockets as American ones.
... your kid's baseball and softball games games have been ever been snowed out.
... the trees in your backyard have spigots.
... you know that a place called "Kalamazoo" really exists.
... you bake with "soda" and drink "pop".
... you know what a pastie is.
... you drive 70 mph on the highway and pass on the right.
... your favorite hockey team's mascot is an octopus.
... you have a favorite hockey team.
... you don't have a coughing fit from one sip of Vernor's.
... you know what a Vernor's is.
... you know how to play Euchre.
... you know how to pronounce Euchre (not to mention Sault St. Marie and Ypsilanti).
... you find yourself incapable of throwing cans and bottles away when you are in another state.
... you use the term "party store" to describe a store where you buy snacks, beer and liquor.
... you know how to pronounce panczki, and what you can do with one.
... you've used the term "Yooper."
... you've heard the band "Da Yoopers."
... you've ever told someone that your move to Alpena was a move to "a big city."
... you've totaled more than three cars bagging a deer.
... you can't understand why the government feels threatened by the Freemen.
... Kazoo is not a toy, but a town (who actually calls it Kalamazoo anyway?).
... you refer to Ann Arbor as A2.
... "The Haven" is another term for Grand Haven, "Nasty Hatchet" for Bad Axe, and "Hazeltucky" for Hazel Park.
... Big Beaver is a road, not an animal.
... you call Lake Michigan the West Coast.
... a sunny day qualifies as a holiday.
... you recognize these people by one name: J.P., Sonny, Soupy, Coleman, Rosa, Mitch, Mort, Eli, Sparky, Bo, Barry, Stevie, Gordie.
... you know someone from Porch Yeurn.
... you know where the city of Ocqueoc is AND can pronounce it.
... you know that Ontonogan isn't a geometry term.
... you know that Saline isn't just a term for contact solution.
... your car rusts out before the brakes wear out.
... your "Go Lions" cheer is followed by "...and take the Tigers with you."
... the word "thumb" brings to mind an axe, not a body part.
... your favorite holidays are Christmas, Thanksgiving, and the first day of deer season.
... there are really only TWO seasons: hockey season and off-season
... your snowmobile and fishing boat have big block Chevy engines.
... you want Toledo BACK!
... you think "going up north" would be a great vacation...in January.
... you know at least two yooper jokes
... fudge and bicycles remind you of your honeymoon.
... November 15 is a paid holiday from work.
... you can name all 5 of the Great Lakes, and point to their locations around your left and right hands.
... you don't cross picket lines.
... you eat muskrat on Fridays during Lent because it's "seafood" (well, it's wet at least...).
... you can sing along with YES MICHIGAN, DIA or old Faygo commercials.
... you know what's on the corner of 9 Mile and Mack.
... saying "50 watts per channel babycakes" with a Russian accent brings a chuckle.
... you know that Pontiac and Cadillac are cities (and people!) as well as cars.
... you've ever gone "trolling for taillights."
... you can travel through Detroit and not get mugged.
... your idea of creative landscaping is putting an extra pair of pink flamingos next to your blue spruce.
... the highlight of a Friday night date with your girlfriend is shining for deer.
... you know all the words to Gordon Lightfoot's classic ballad, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald."
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
One of my favorite cooking tips comes from Rachael Ray of 30-Minute Meals on Food Network. She calls them meatloaf muffins. I call them mini-meatloafs.
So, here's the tip:
Use your ice cream scooper to shape your meatloaf. For real! Use your favorite recipe, scoop into muffin (cupcake) pans, bake for 20 minutes at 450 degrees F. So easy, so yummy, so cute!
Finely shred vegetables and mix into the meatloaf mix. Carrots, broccoli, peppers, zucchini, all work.
Here is my base recipe (I usually double it):
2 lbs. ground sirloin
1 medium onion, cut into chunks
2 carrots, cut into chunks
1 green or red pepper, cut into chunks
1 egg, beaten
1 cup plain bread crumbs
1 1/2 cup spaghetti or barbecue sauce
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 450F.
Put ground sirloin into a big bowl. Finely chop vegetables in food processor and add to meat bowl. Add egg, bread crumbs, sauce, salt, and pepper. Mix it altogether with your hands. (Or, in my case, make the kids mix it with their hands.) Wash up and spray two muffin pans with Pam. Use an ice-cream scooper to fill each tin with meat mixture. Should be nicely rounded when you drop it in.
I like to then top each mini-meatloaf with an extra spoonful of sauce.
Bake for 20 minutes. To double check, just cut one open and make sure there is no pink.
If you like cheesy meatloaf, top each meatloaf with cheese in the last 5 minutes of cooking.
Monday, December 26, 2005
Sunday, December 25, 2005
For our before Christmas dinner snack, the kids planned sliced apples and caramel dip. I tried out a neat idea that a girlfriend shared with me. I took a can of sweetened condensed milk, put it in a 6-quart pot of boiling water, and cooked for 3-hours. When I opened the can, we had a delicious caramel.
Here's the problem: I just went to Borden's website and it warned: "Notes: For safety reasons, heating the unopened can (an old cooking method) is NOT recommended." OOPS!
Instead, they recommend:
OVEN METHOD: Pour 1 can EAGLE BRAND into 9-inch pie plate. Cover with aluminum foil; place in larger shallow pan. Fill larger pan with hot water. Bake at 425º for 1 hour or until thick and caramel-colored. Beat until smooth.
STOVETOP METHOD: Pour 1 can EAGLE BRAND into top of double boiler; place over boiling water. Over low heat, simmer 1 to 1/2 hours or until thick and caramel-colored, stirring occasionally. Beat until smooth.
MICROWAVE METHOD: Pour 1 can EAGLE BRAND into 2-quart glass measuring cup. Cook on 50% power (medium) 4 minutes, stirring briskly every 2 minutes until smooth. Cook on 30% power (medium-low) 20 to 25 minutes or until very thick and caramel-colored, stirring briskly every 4 minutes during the first 16 minutes and every 2 minutes during the last 4 to 10 minutes.
I'll follow these directions next time!
Saturday, December 24, 2005
Thursday, December 22, 2005
The Full Range of Our Emotions
If I can be sure of one thing about my children, it is that they have tested the full range of my emotions. I will never forget the immense joy I felt as I watched my babies take their first steps or speak their first words. Or the fear I experienced as I held my oldest son on his 1st birthday inside of an oxygen tent in the children’s ward of the local hospital. Or the sadness I feel when I cannot take their pain away. I have even felt my angriest at the hand of one of my children.
My oldest daughter was just two and a half when she tested the full range of her mother’s rage. It was a few days before Christmas and we were preparing for a 500 mile road trip home to St. Louis, so that we may spend the holidays with our family. After putting the children to bed early, I spent hours wrapping presents for all of my children, nieces, nephews, parents, in-laws, brothers, and sisters. I enjoy gift wrapping and did my best to make each package perfect and pretty. When I was finished, I stacked all of the presents into my closet and went to spend a few quiet moments with my husband in the living room.
After an hour or so, I rose from the couch and headed for bed. As I walked down the hallway, I knew something was amiss; I could smell the sweet fragrance of Neutragena sesame seed bath oil. I cannot begin to tell you what I felt as I walked into my bedroom and saw my sweet little Mary surrounded by opened Christmas gifts and covered with the $28 bottle of bath oil intended for my sister-in-law. Not only did my child open every single present, she ripped apart the packaging as well. The entire king-sized bed was covered with wrapping paper, bows, ribbon, pieces of cardboard, ripped warranty cards, and, right in the middle of it all, there she sat grinning from ear to ear. Not only did my child wreak havoc on my Christmas plans and budget, she was proud of herself!
I could feel the rage bubbling up inside of me. I was so angry, I had to turn and walk away. This was one of those moments that all of us as parents come face-to-face with at one time or another. If I had attempted to discipline her at that moment, I might have done something that we would both regret later. Instead, I went to my husband and, as calmly as possible, explained the situation to him. Then, I let him play the role of disciplinarian. Because I forewarned him, and because it was not his hard work that had just been wasted, he was able to deal with the situation in a calm adult manner.
My family received their Christmas gifts that year in a less than perfect manner. I had to stand in front of everyone and explain that their gifts may not be packaged in their original boxes and they may smell of bath oil. Even so, some good did come from the experience, my daughter and I both learned important lessons. She learned that she should never go into Mommy’s closet without permission and I learned that sometimes Mommies have to simply walk away from anger.
Instead of wrapping the can in plastic wrap, I sprayed it with Pam after removing the label. That worked perfectly. I also used a springform pan, so transferring the wreath from the pan to the plate was quite easy. Also, I didn't put it in the fridge to cool, I just left it on the counter until it was firm.
I imagine that you could apply this technique to any fudge recipe. If I have enough ingredients this morning, I'm going to try it with the Never-Fail Fudge recipe for my family. (We gave the other wreaths away to neighbors.)
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
In order to help my teens avoid the dreaded socialization problem that we homeschoolers hear about so often, I started a teen club for them a few years ago. We meet every Wed. at a coffee house in a local bookstore.
First Wed. is Writers' Club. This is for teens who love to write and hope to make it their life's work.
Second and Third Weds. are Socrates Cafe . The teens pick a topic and we have a Socratic discussion.
Third Wed. is Readers' Anonymous. The teens vote on a book to read each month and then we get together to talk about it.
If there is a fifth Wed. we'll do something special. For example, we're planning on discussing the Chronicles of Narnia, all 7 books, next 5th Wed.
This has turned out to be a pretty popular club. We have a dedicated core group of about 7 or 8 teens for Writers' Club and about 20 to 25 who come to Socrates and Readers.
If your community doesn't have anything like this for your teenaged children, I encourage you to start it yourself. It has been a very rewarding experience, not only for the teens but for me too.
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
When one of my children was diagnosed with celiac disease and had to go on a strict gluten-free diet, I gave up my annual tradition of baking dozens upon dozens of Christmas cookies. My old family recipes just didn't convert well to the gluten-free flours.
About a week ago, this child began to ask if I would be doing any Christmas baking this year. He caught me off guard, considering that it has been many years since he was diagnosed at 19-months old. Lately, he's been feeling a little left out because of his diet restrictions so I decided to get on the ball.
Popcorn ball that is. Today we made old-fashioned popcorn balls and butter crunch popcorn -- recipes found at www.jollytime.com. We also made cream cheese mints and never-fail fudge -- recipes found at www.daniellebean.com.
Tomorrow we plan to make fudge wreaths. Here is the recipe from my friend Linda B:
Three varieties: the Chunky Chocolate Fudge Wreath with Walnuts and Currants, the White Chocolate Wreath with Pistachio and Cranberry or the Goober and Raisinette Wreath! Or, just spread out in any greased pan for an everyday treat!
Chunky Chocolate Fudge Wreath with Walnuts and Currents
• 12 ounce package semisweet chocolate chips
• 1 cup butterscotch chips
• 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk (save the can)
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 8 ounce can walnuts, plus more for topping
• 1/2 cup raisins or dried currants (a couple of handfuls)
• candied red and green cherries to decorate top (like holly)
• softened butter to grease an 8 inch round cake pan
1. Grease an 8-inch round cake pan with softened butter. Pour the chocolate and butterscotch chips, condensed milk and vanilla into a medium saucepan. Put the pan on the stove and turn the heat to low.
2. Cover the empty condensed milk can with plastic wrap and put it in the center of the round cake pan.
3. Stir the chips and milk until they melt together, about 3 minutes. Stir in nuts and raisins. Scoop the fudge into the cake pan all around the plastic-covered can in the center to form a wreath or ring shape. Let it be all bumpy on top. Keep pushing the can back to the center if the fudge moves it away from there. Cut the red cherries in half with scissors and the green cherries into quarters. Use the green pieces to make leaves and the red to make holly berries. Decorate the fudge with several groups of holly berry sprigs made from the cherries and garnish with walnuts between the sprigs.
4. Put the fudge in the fridge and chill until firm. Remove the can from the center, then loosen the sides and bottom of the fudge with a spatula. Cut the fudge into thin slices to serve. To give the wreath as a gift-wrap in cellophane and secure with a bow or ornament.
White Chocolate Wreath with Pistachio and Cranberry
• Substitute the chocolate and butterscotch chips with white chocolate chips, 1 12 ounce bag plus 1 cup.
• Substitute 1 to 1 1/2 cups of shelled natural pistachio nuts for walnuts.
• Substitute 1/2 cup dried sweetened cranberries for currants.
Goober and Raisinette Wreath
• Swap butterscotch for peanut butter chips
• Swap large whole peanuts for walnuts used in original recipe (such as peeled Virginia Peanuts)
• Swap 1/2 cup large raisins for currants in original recipe
Okay, maybe I'm not such a bad homeschooler. We've been making treats with The Narnia Cookbook and taking all kinds of wonderful rabbit trails with it.
To see my review of the book visit http://love2learnblog.blogspot.com/.
We used the cookbook to make a few Christmas treats last night: Turkish Delight and Toffee. Note, if you make the toffee from this cookbook, cook it only to 290 degrees and stir constantly. I cooked it to the recommended 330 and burnt it the first time around.
Monday, December 19, 2005
I've joined the Sudoku craze. I'm not an addict, but I'm golly gee darn close to it. And so are my children. Even my 5-year-old attempted a puzzle yesterday.
It all started when we went "home" for Thanksgiving. Dad was doing all the puzzles in the newspaper, as he always does in the morning. And, just like when I was a little girl, I asked if I could help.
I picked up The Original Sudoku at the gas station on the way home. The kids and I worked puzzles throughout our entire 8-hour drive.
If you're not familiar with Sudoku, you can get a glimpse at www.sudoku.com. You can also download a computer version of the puzzles for a free 28-day trial.
Don't try it though unless you're prepared to be hooked. But don't fret, it can be counted toward homeschooling. After all, it's a test in logic.
Sunday, December 18, 2005
If I were a good homeschooler, I would have pulled it out and called all the children into the kitchen for a teachable moment. I would have quickly built a unit study around the plastic bag full of mold. I would have sent DH to the library for books on Louis Pasteur and penicillin. I would have had the children put on the rubber gloves and pull out the microscope. I would have engaged the children in a Socratic discussion, gently guiding them toward correct conclusions about the science of mold. I would have planned a field trip to the bread baking factory, taken pictures for our scrapbook, added mold-related words to our vocabulary and spelling lists, and had the children write a thesis paper on why they should check behind the microwave when cleaning the kitchen.
Perhaps we could have taken some rabbit trails and made posters about food poisoning and lapbooks about whole wheat versus white.
But, I was too grossed out to be a good homeschooler. Instead, I squealed and tossed the icky stuff in the trash can outside.
Saturday, December 17, 2005
The kids were absolutely awesome. My oldest was battling a cold and I loaded him up on Vicks 44, which may not have been the smartest thing as he got a little foggy on his lines at one point. But he still did an incredible job as the Franciscan missionary and as one of the rappers.
My second child played the sweet 1920's teacher and an evil developer. She had a beautiful stage presence.
I would tell you about my third child but she won't let me.
My fourth child was a Chippewa child, a homeschooled child, and an extra in the crowd scenes. He only had two lines, but his funny personality shined through.
All their friends did great too. There is a lot of talent out there in the homeschooling community!
It was wonderful too working with all the moms and dads. I've never worked on a play before and there sure is a lot of behind the scenes work to be done. I look forward to doing another production . . . someday in the future.
The plot centers around the life of a tree and spans more than 150 years. It begins with a scene of a Chippewa mother teaching her children under the tree, with a little settler boy (Jebediah) listening in as he hides behind a rock. She speaks of how the tree has a spirit and so on. Later a Franciscan missionary comes and teaches the Chippewa children about Jesus, under the tree again with Jebediah listening in. The Franciscan speaks of St. Francis and nature's proper place in God's plan.
Many years later, a teacher in the 1920's is teaching her class under the tree. Jebediah, now an old man, takes one of the students aside and tries to explain how the tree is special but he becomes confused and the little girl thinks that the tree is magic.
The legend of the magic tree grows out of control over the years. There is a beautiful 1940's scene of a young couple saying goodbye as the man goes off to war. They make the tree their promise tree. She promises to come to the tree everyday and pray for him, and he promises to come home okay.
There is a fun 1960's scene with the hippies saving the tree from the evil developers. And there is even a scene set in 1989 with rappers. (ALL the kids wanted a role of a rapper -- too funny.) Toward the end, there is another beautiful scene with the 1940's couple, set 60 years after the first scene, with their large family.
In the end, the confusion is straightened out with the help of a homeschooling mom, her children, a kind priest, and Jebediah's long lost journal.
"The spirit of the tree gives the greatest gift. But that's not what Jebediah was saying. The greatest gift comes from Jesus whose cross came from the wood of a tree."
Friday, December 16, 2005
In fact, tonight is the world premier of The Watching Tree. Our esteemed director and producer couldn't find a play that fit well into a homeschool environment -- one that allowed players of a wide age range. So, he just wrote his own.
I'll let you know how it goes tomorrow. In the meantime, I've got lots of last minute preparations to attend to today. (The children are glad, as that translates into little academics today.)
Thursday, December 15, 2005
My oldest has been blogging for a couple of years now and it has been a good experience for the most part. However, after his two younger siblings joined the blogging world a few problems popped up.
If your children blog, make sure to read their blogs, as well as the comments left, every single day. Occasionally leave a comment, not only at their blog but at their friends' blogs. It's good to let them know that they're being monitored. If you can't do that, it would be better not to let them blog at all. You'll also need to talk to them periodically about Internet safety.
So, my children continue to blog with their mother watching them like a hawk. Now who's going to watch the mother?