Friday, January 29, 2010

Strings Attached Relationships

I find it so funny...

As a kid, if you tried these shenanigans you'd be called on it for sure.

But big companies can get away with it.

"If you be my friend, I'll give you treats."

It's kind of creepy, actually.

The new trend for free stuff is, "If you join our 'fan page' on Facebook or join our fan club, we'll give you free stuff."

If you're not truly a fan, don't do it. You're like that grubby kid who only befriended the rich kids 'cause he wanted stuff.

So examine your motives, get in touch with your conscience, and if you really approve of these places and want free stuff.... let Free Friday continue =).

1. Join the DQ Blizzard Fan Club and get 6 "buy one get one free" Blizzard coupons.

2. Get a free Fresco taco at Taco Bell, no strings attached!

3. Get a free Cream of Wheat sample, no strings attached!

4. Get free Chips and Queso (within 2 days of signing up) by joining Chili's E-Club.

5. Fan Del Taco and get free chicken tacos, free shake and coupons.

6. Join Mimi's club and get a free breakfast.

7. Free smoothie or Orange Julius when you join their Quench Club.

Have a nice weekend!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Bring It... Or Maybe Not


1. Am starting NFP charting again (after giving up in futility last October).

2. Finished a 54 day Rosary novena!

3. Am NOT going over the grocery budget this month and have lived 2 WEEKS without butter (and this coming from the wife who routinely uses 1/2 a pound a week for baking and toast).

Bonus #4. After battling the blues, unsuccessfully, for a few weeks, I finally went to Confession (when it wasn't even a Saturday afternoon). Ah, the sweet mercy of God!

Check out others' small successes, this week at Faith & Family Live.

Whoever said that having your femur bone cracked in half is the most pain a human can experience... well, they've clearly never dislocated their pinky toe on a couch corner.

And then popped it back into place.

And then hosted a youth group night.

But knowing my luck lately, perhaps it'd be better not to take any chances with that good ol' femur.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Little Ironic

Our new computer came with a Norton Anti-Virus 30 day trial. Every time I would log onto the computer, the annoying (un-"x"-able) popup would come: "Do you want to activate your product now?" "Remind me later."

Well, "later" to Norton is about 5 minutes.

Finally, after weeks of this curse, I clicked, "Activate Now."

And it left me alone!! For exactly 3 days.

After that it popped up every time, "You only have 27 days remaining of your free trial. Purchase now, or remind me later?"

I thought if I had 27 more days of that mosquito I'd rather have a virus. So I uninstalled the whole thing, intending to download Avast or AVG or another freeware program... but of course I didn't.

Now? I have a malicious virus and will most likely have to reinstall Windows (losing all my files).

Suddenly that un-"x"-able box wouldn't be so annoying. Now would be a good time to remind me to activate and upgrade, Norton.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Potential Filet Mignon?

Things aren't all gray and gloomy around here.

The robins are starting to come sit on the irrigation lines.

And calving is beginning!

This little calf was born this week. Not much family resemblance, eh?

Just chillin'.

She doesn't have a name... it's best that way.



Sweet and Sour?

Okay! I'll stop now!!

Monday, January 25, 2010

New Growth

In these cold gray days of winter, you can either get depressed or reflective.

The cherry orchard is so bare this time of year.

But I love going for walks through the farm.

This tree is old (by fruitbearing standards).

I love this one.

Winter around the orchard is time for pruning.

Not just deadwood, but also good wood that overcrowds the chance for new growth.

This was a healthy branch... but there were too many healthy branches on this tree. Some of it had to go to make room for new life.

Cutting it out hurts.

But it's necessary for the benefit, life, and fruitfulness of the tree.

Wintertime, with its seemingly unending nights, is the time I start pondering things in my life it's time to prune out. Dead wood? Obviously. But perhaps I'm overcrowding my schedule a bit too much, and though they're good and healthy activities... maybe it's time to make some painful cuts (no embroidery class? no foil fencing class? no chair caning class? not being on 4 committees? volunteering for a million things?) and say "no" so as to make room for new growth.

Like... keeping my house clean? Applying myself more to teaching the nieces? Exercising more?

It'll be worth it come harvest time.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Today's Project, Again

It seems like no matter how quickly I make applesauce (from these apples), we are always out. I made a gallon of it last week and we're already scraping the bottom of the bowl!

French Kitchen, by Meadow Gist.

It might be time to invest in a peeler/corer (though I really want one of these).

Ridiculously Easy Freezer Apple Sauce:

Apples (you'd be surprised... it takes about 10-15 large apples to make 1 qt.)

1. Peel/slice/core apples, throw 'em in a huge pot, add a little water (optional).
2. Cook over medium/low heat until they're all squishy, sweet and caramely. Stir occasionally.
3. Add cinnamon and sugar to taste... actually I didn't put any sugar in the last batch -- it was sweet enough.
4. Store in your old yogurt or cottage cheese quart containers (or serve warm with vanilla ice cream).
5. Wonder how two people can go through a gallon of applesauce in one week.
Free Friday:

Get a free Fresco taco from Taco Bell! These actually look pretty good.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Praise God for Small Successes


1. I went to Mass this morning! Often, the night before my day off I watch a movie until really late and then sleep in as late as I can...  if I've deemed I've woken up too early for a day off I'll force myself back to sleep. Awful, I know, but there it is. This morning I tried those shenanigans again but remembered a little picture from the Baltimore Catechism:

Amazing how those things can come back to you. So I got up, thank the Lord!

2. I made applesauce this week. In bulk... to freeze. Without a peeler/corer/slicer. My knife-handling hand is a little sore but it was worth it!

3. This isn't a success as much as a severe mercy of the Lord, but I was outbid on EBay on a frivolous item and didn't up my bid in order to "win." This is huge for me! I'm really really competitive and there's such a thrill to winning an auction that I've been known to spend way past what I should just so I can "win".

Check out others' small successes this week at Faith & Family Live!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Success and Disappointment

My amazing parents gave my husband a subscription to Netflix for Christmas. We've been using it to watch (online) episodes of All Creatures Great and Small, a Brit-com from the 70's and 80's based on the hilarious true veterinarian stories by James Herriot.

Anyway, all of these Brit-coms have had their effect. My husband and I have caught ourselves slipping into an affected British accent. I obsessed about finding the china pattern they use on the show (and found it!).

Bristol, by Crown Ducal (made in England, circa 1930's).

Anyway, we've also had hot tea twice. And now I couldn't resist... I made scones.

Orange scones with blueberries (frozen, not dried).

I used Ina Garten's recipe, but adjusted it to use buttermilk instead of cream, a lot more orange zest, and blueberries instead of cranberries.

But I was pretty disappointed. I like crumbly (American) scones. These were just like orange-flavored biscuits... and without the orange glaze on top they weren't very orange-y at that. They went great with tea, though.

At the moment, this is what I'm MUCH more excited about! I made another successful loaf of bread!!

My ultimate goal is multi-grain whole wheat bread, but I'm starting slowly. This was a basic white bread but I replaced 1 cup of flour with 1 cup of wheat bran (amazing source of fiber).

It's light, fluffy, and delicious. Easy? Mm... not really. Quick? No. Satisfying accomplishment? Most definitely!

If you've got some time at home, though, I highly recommend trying this out.

I find it makes me more productive!! "Hm... 1 hour for it to rise... I bet I could pray a Rosary while doing dishes and laundry in that time." "Hm... another hour to rise... I can go clean that desk drawer." "Hm... another hour to rise... sheesh... lemme go check my e-mail and read some blogs." (hehe)

Stand Mixer Farmhouse White/Wheat Bran Bread (basic recipe for a million variations)
Adapted from The Mixer Bible, 2nd Edition (Deeds & Snyder)

1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup butter (cut into pieces)
1 package (2 1/4 tsp.) active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (btw. 100-115 degrees)
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp salt
4-5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup wheat bran

1. Microwave milk and butter 20-30 seconds at a time until butter is just melted. (If you have an instant read thermometer, which I really hope you do, it should be no warmer than 115 degrees... hotter than that and you'll murder the yeast).

2. In the mixer bowl, stir together yeast, water and sugar. Let stand 5 minutes. Add warm milk mixture and salt. Attach the flat beater and mix on speed 2 until well combined. Add 4 cups of flour, 1/2 cup at a time, and mix until a wet dough forms.

3. Attach dough hook. Knead on speed 2, add wheat bran. Add remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time until dough forms a smooth and elastic ball that cleans the bowl. Continue to knead for 2 minutes, adding flour 1 Tbsp at a time as necessary to keep dough from clinging to the bowl (you may not need it all). Using your hands, form dough into a ball. Place back in the mixer bowl, rub with softened butter (or spray with Pam, or rub with oil, or lard... it really doesn't matter which one) and cover loosely with a non-terry cloth. Let rise in a warm, draft-free place for 1-2 hours (while you go clean your house, make shopping lists, take a shower, etc.).

*You'll love me for this, if you ever bake bread in a freezing cold house in the winter. My "warm draft-free place" is this: turn the oven on 200 degrees for 1 minute. Shut it off, put the bread in and leave the oven light on. It works like a charm.*

4. Uncover dough, press down (don't beat the poor thing, no punching!) several times to work out air bubbles. Form back into a ball, cover and let rise another hour. (Do your dishes at this point! You have one whole hour to be productive)

5. Cut in half, form each half into a loaf shape, stick 'em in your greased loaf pans, and let rise yet another hour (this is the time to get online and waste time).

6. (Coat the tops with an eggwash if you want, and press some old-fashioned oats on top). Bake for 25 minutes in a 375 oven. Turn the oven off and leave the loaves in for an additional 5 minutes (to keep from over-baking and getting a crunchy crust).

7. Remove from pans, let cool on racks, or just rip into it with a vengeance with butter and honey.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Dating on the Cheap

Last night I scanned the pantry. Ouch. It was... low. I'd have to make breakfast out of black olives, marshmallows and ketchup. No oatmeal?? Despite the fact it was 9:00, my husband and I went grocery shopping.

On the way, we tuned into Catholic radio. Fr. Corapi was on!! We arrived at the store around 9:15 and I begged my husband to let us listen just a bit longer.

So he kept the pickup running, the heater on, and the radio resounding with that legendary booming voice.

Then the windows fogged up. And Fr. Corapi was over. And my husband turned off the pickup. And it was raining.

And the sound of the rain of the roof was so peaceful.

And the soft glint of the parking lot lights through the foggy windows was dream-like.

And my husband's arms were so strong and safe and loving.

And we sat huddled in the pickup listening to the rain and enjoying each others' silent blissful company until 11:00.

Halcyon is the only word I can think of to describe it.

It wouldn't have been anymore wonderful if we'd been parked by a mountain overlooking a lake. When you're with the one you love, the location is irrelevant.

But then my stomach rumbled... and now we have enough oatmeal to last the winter.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Rainy Saturday

I feel very much like an old-fashioned housewife today (after a long week in the office, it's kind of invigorating, actually).

On the agenda:
  • Patch my husband's holey jeans (yes, with a needle and thread).
  • Bake bread (as per husband's request).
  • Make a few quarts (or gallons if I have time) of applesauce to freeze.
  • Make scones for tomorrow's tea.
  • Wrap and freeze the bulk beef and chicken.
  • Go grocery shopping.
  • Do dishes / mop floor.
  • Scrub bathrooms.
  • Put away Christmas decorations.
  • Make dinner.
  • Bleach linens.
  • Holy Hour.
Guess I'd better get started.

Friday, January 15, 2010

All Good Things Come to an End

Our Christmas tree is coming down today. There are more needles on the ground than on the tree... my carpet looks like a forest bed. It's got to go.

But I've been putting off this wretched day because I've known for some time the poor tree's fate.

My husband has been eagerly anticipating this moment. He's been eyeing the drying dying tree like a fresh batch of beef jerky. He has dreams about taking it out to the farm, waiting for the last little blip of moisture to be sucked from the pine, and then incinerating it in a grand bonfire.

And then the Christmas season will be officially over.

Free Friday Continues:

I'm not sure which states have Einstein Bros Bagels in them (they had them where I hail from), but they're giving out free bagels if you become their fan on Facebook.

Thanks for a tip from Rachel, Starbucks gives out a free music download every week. The free download cards are available near the checkout (so technically you don't have to buy a $5 latte to get one).

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Tiniest of Successes This Week


1. Inspired by this post I prayed with my niece before teaching her how to add with regrouping. What would normally have been a nightmare turned into a delightful experience. She got it right away!

2. Went another week without grocery shopping. Though it's more out of laziness than economy, it did allow me to get a bit more creative and utilize the pantry.

3. Covered the parish office (phones, visitors, regular duties) whilst the secretary was on vacation; talk about stress! But so far this week, so good.

Check out others' small successes this week @ Faith and Family Live.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

God's Covenant Makes Me Smile

Yesterday I was feeling particularly blue about the fact we are so happily married but so sadly childless. I had a Job fit of anger, actually. Then I sighed, said, "Jesus I trust in you," and went about my business.

When I walked outside a few moments later, there was the most beautiful rainbow.

When I told my husband about it, he said "I saw the same one... but from where I was on the farm, it was a double rainbow."

God writes the most beautiful love poetry.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

One of My Favorite Sights

If I've got a lot on my plate, sometimes my husband stays home late in the morning and helps teach our nieces.

He's 6'3", my 2nd grade niece is 4'2". He's hunched over the table... her feet can't reach the floor. His massive strong hands line up the Cheerios for math practice that she could slip over her pinky finger. Correcting grammar, pronunciation, math facts, spelling, Catechism questions... he seems filled with infinite patience.

This sight makes me swell with pride, joy, and love. What a man I've married!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Killing Me Softly

My new obsession is Garlic Triscuits and cottage cheese. The combo of those two textures and flavors is extraordinary. Salty crispy garlicy crunchy goodness + smooth tangy creamy amazingness = new favorite snack.

But I was reading the ingredients on the Garlic Triscuits and my heart fell. The handwriting of doom on the wall: "Monosodium Glutamate." The "deadly" MSG.

The stuff has been banned from our household. If you need a mental image of the ferocity with which my husband and I reject the stuff, think of how a mob of 1st grade boys would treat a spying little sister trying to get into their clubhouse. Mm hm.

MSG is in just about everything. And among a million other things, it supposely triggers something in your brain to make you want to eat more. Which might explain why I can't stay out of those things.

So... cottage cheese on a spoon? Hm... thanks, but I think I'll pass.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Vanity, Oh Vanity

Last night I wanted to make my husband something hearty and delicious using ground meat. Meatloaf, meatballs, hamburgers.... anything with a good brown gravy and mashed potatoes. He'd been pruning the orchard all day in the wintry cold, and I knew he'd enjoy a hot and hearty meal.

But there was a problem.

One of the teens in the youth group came over for breakfast and did my nails. It was the first time in my life I've ever had my nails painted and decal-ed... and I liked them (you can tell from how short my nails are that I use my hands a lot for practical stuff).

I spent much of the day looking at them.

I didn't want to chip the beauty get nail polish in the ground meat.

So I made dinner from a box.

Well... dinner was okay but afterwards I had to face reality. I washed the pots and pans.

And my nails are shot. Serves me right.

Free Friday returns.

In the interest of New Years resolutions which might include organizing, get some free Post-It Durable Tab Samples.

Then there's one for free baby wipes... but it requires going to Sams and taking a picture. See this link for details.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Taco Gyro


1. Instead of just drooling over other bloggers' food successes, I actually made one I thought my husband would enjoy (see below).

2. After sleeping in to insane hours over Christmas break, I've actually stuck to waking up at 6:45 or 7 all week (though I reserve the right to nap on my day off).

3. Despite countless temptations, both my husband and I have resisted eating all desserts and sweets. We're saving them for Sundays so they'll actually be a treat and not a staple. (This has also been, no kidding, the longest week I've had in years.)

Check out others' small successes this week at Faith and Family Live!

Grab the recipe for Chicken Gyros at Annie's Eats, but here is my own version (with homemade thick tortillas instead of homemade pitas... I've been calling it Taco Gyro).

We don't have a rolling pin, but this thing works fine.

I like making tortillas.

They're so much cheaper than the store version, and they're never gummy.

And they're really simple. (4 cups flour, 1/3 cup Crisco or lard, 1 1/4 cups warm water, dash of salt, 1 Tbsp. baking powder... mix 'em all. The dough should be soft, not sticky. Let it sit for 20 minutes, then break off a ping-pong sized ball, roll it out really thinly and cook in a dry non-stick or cast-iron skillet over medium heat.)

But we're filling 'em with Gyro stuffing. Gotta have tzatziki sauce! (I added dill to mine)

This stuff on its own goes great on a Triscuit.

The chicken is so flavorful!! (I did add some Greek Seasoning in addition to Annie's recipe)

Red onion, tomatoes, black olive... it was pretty amazing.

I'd call this one a small success!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Snowy Day Activity

It's a cold one. Nothing like cold gray days to make someone want to do a tedious project!

Start out by tossing 2 lbs. of pecans in 4-8 Tbsp. of melted salted butter (depending on how serious you are about those New Years resolutions).

It's rather imperative that you use a double boiler. The first time I made these, I did 'em by microwaving the chocolate. But the chocolate kept hardening up and I'd have to re-microwave it and it was a mess. As you can see, I don't have a double boiler, nor do I have a nice big glass bowl. But a small saucepan inside a large saucepan worked quite nicely.

In a double boiler, melt 1 cup of dark (or semi-sweet) chocolate chips, and 1 cup of white chocolate chips.

Throw in a large handful of roasted pecans. Using a large fork, fish 'em out of the ooey gooey chocolate.

Or take a whole bunch out at a time.

Tamp several times on the side of the pan to get rid of as much excess chocolate as possible.

One by one, slide them off of the fork onto wax paper. (Sure, you can pour all of them on and separate them after they dry, but they're much prettier this way... and I told you this was a snowy day activity -- where are you in such a big rush to go?).

It was a really snowy day... I made a lot of 'em.

Take pictures of the snow while you wait for them to dry.

I love snowy school days.

You'll have extra chocolate. Add 4 cups of milk (or so) and make hot chocolate!

It's a really cold day.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!


Aunt Debbie's Chocolate Covered Roasted Pecans

2 lbs. pecans
1/2 - 1 stick salted butter
1 cup white chocolate chips (or Almond Bark)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 275. Melt butter. Toss pecans in butter and put in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast for 20 minutes.

In a double boiler, melt chocolate. Dip pecans a large handful at a time into the chocolate. Using a fork, remove pecans and tamp to shake off excess chocolate. Put dipped pecans individually onto wax paper and wait for them to dry before you devour them like a chocolate fiend.

They'll store well in a tin for up to 2 weeks, but there's no way on earth they're gonna last that long!