Thursday, September 30, 2010

Our Love Story, Part IV

(I'm pretty sure I'm enjoying this more than y'all are!).

[Part 1, 2, and 3.]


The day after my harried exit, Meg and Tim were married during a beautiful Nuptial Mass.

It was during the wedding reception that my crush on My Miriam's Brother started developing into genuine admiration. Solicitous of his mother, he made sure her glass was never empty and her plate remained full. With grace and charm he was lighting up the dance floor with his sisters. Most endearing of all, however, was how the children flocked to him and how sweetly he danced with the toddlers and little girls. Oh, what an amazing father he would be!

I was trying to refrain from staring at him. I was sitting with many dear friends and genuinely wanted to visit with them, and also did not want to be obvious about my dance floor surveillance. But I casually glanced up long enough to see that he was headed straight towards our table!

Of course I would have to refuse him. The mere sight of him made my knees weak; there's no way I could stand long enough to dance with him! In the twenty seconds it took for him to reach our table, I had hurriedly crafted four excuses.

On principle: "Oh my, thank you, what an honor, but I don't dance." By a common complaint:  "Thank you so much, but I'm so sorry, my feet are really sore." The simple approach: "I'm so flattered, but no thank you." And the delicate feminine excuse: "Oh, thank you so much, but my shoes are too tight for dancing."

I wasn't sure which one I was going to use but I had to pick quickly, he was here and extending his hand!!

I opened my mouth to speak, picking the airtight "on principle" excuse... my heart was galloping and the color was rising in my cheeks. In an instant I had to cover my mouth and fake a yawn to conceal my gasping squawk. He had asked my friend "Diana," who was sitting next to me, to dance!!


I was both fuming and relieved at the same moment. I'd be ready for him when he returned with Diana and asked me to dance. All civility aside, a cold and flat, shunned woman: "No thanks," would do.

But I never had a chance to score the sting; he returned to the table escorting Diana and then walked away. That evening he didn't ask me to dance at all.

To be continued...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Our Love Story, Part III

In case you missed them, you should catch up on Part 1 and Part 2.


It was almost four years since I'd last seen Miriam's older brother. I hadn't dated anyone else because, frankly, I wasn't interested in boys. I knew if I were to marry, it would have to be a man.

I'd grown a lot in the past four years. I'd spent a semester living abroad and had traveled widely over Western (and some Eastern) Europe, I'd taken a keen interest in Philosophy and was (GPA wise) at the top of the department in my graduating class, I'd been accepted straight from a Bachelor's degree into a Ph.D. program on a full fellowship with a stipend. I was happy, accomplished, surrounded by friends, confident, liked by my professors (the brownie bribes helped), and I had a deeper sense of who I was and who I wanted to be. I was going to live in a big city, be a renowned and published Philosophy professor, and I was going to set the world on fire.

Meg and I were bosom buddies, and her roommate Miriam and I had grown to be good friends, too. So it came as a shock when Meg told me, out of the blue, that she was going to graduate a semester early and marry Miriam's brother. No, not my Miriam's brother... another Miriam brother.

I mean, I knew she'd been talking to him on the phone since she had visited Miriam that Summer, I knew they liked each other, but I'd been wrapped up in my ivory tower and hadn't noticed that it had gotten that serious. My best friend was leaving and going off to marry a man I had never met.

It was at that moment, however, after I'd stopped gaping and started the heart-felt congratulations, that the thought crossed my mind, "Hm... I guess that means I'll be seeing Miriam's other brother at the wedding. I wonder what he's up to now..." It surprised me that the idea didn't meet me with fear. I was no longer the dewy-eyed freshman talking to an unapproachable Master's student. I felt as though now I could meet him as an equal.

That Christmas came, and four days later I flew up to the NE to attend Meg and "Tim's" wedding.

The family was eating when I arrived, but instantly I saw My Miriam's Brother and did a double take. I'm dying if I'm lying; he had gotten more handsome. Working on the farm the last four years, he had gotten noticeably stronger and was darkly tanned. I immediately averted my eyes for fear of gawking and blushing.

"You want some pepperjack?" Tim asked me, cordially.

"Sure, I never turn down a good hunk of cheese."

"Did ya hear that?" Tim ribbed his brother, "She says she never turns down a good hunk."

I flushed the deepest shade of crimson humanly possible, promptly forgot my "air of equality," and, no better than my awkward freshman ducking self, darted for the nearest exit.

To be continued...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Shrimp Tacos with Cilantro Lime Dressing + Dessert

Tasty Tuesday

To celebrate the fact that I updated the Recipes section of the website yesterday (oops, it's been 4 months), I'm highlighting two recipes from those contributed to Tasty Tuesday. I could post the recipes here, but then you probably wouldn't visit the contributor's sites, and that wouldn't be good. So share the love, and the deliciousness, and go visit Mary and Lexi!

This week I plan on making these Shrimp Tacos with Cilantro Lime Dressing (courtesy of Mary), and this Carrot Bundt Cake with Cinnamon Glaze (courtesy of Lexi).


What are you making?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Mrs. Tractor Operator

On Saturday I had tractor lessons!

My husband needed to rake and bale hay while his brother set up irrigation in another field. Well, you can't rake and bale at the same time (different machines) and it had to be done, so he set me up on a tractor, gave me a few directions, rode around several passes with me until I started getting a little cocky in my new-found tractor skills, and then he left me!

My mock confidence plummeted. Oh, I was a nervous wreck. The tractor was huge and there must've been 30 buttons, levers, switches, clutches, brakes, throttles, gauges, pulleys, knobs, warnings, and ejector seats on that thing. No airbags or seatbelts.

My husband believed I could do it or he wouldn't have left me. Well, I prayed Hail Mary's from the top of the row to the end and then I had to do the hard part -- turn around and go up the next row. Turning is hard!

"Padre Pio, help! Get down here and turn this thing for me! NOW!!"

What do you know? It wasn't actually that bad. I was burning up fuel and moving at approximately .025 miles per hour (I saw a few snails go around me), but I was doing it! Thanks, Padre.

I had a great routine going when reality set in: my face and arms were getting sunburned, the glare was really bright, and it was all really loud.

Just when I started getting grumpy, my husband reappeared with a hat, sunglasses, long sleeve shirt and a noise reduction headphone radio, so I could be a "proper farmer."

What a darling, and what a difference!

The part that really opened my eyes, though, was that when I got home, all I wanted was someone to smile at me and have a clean house and hot meal ready. Wow.

Excuse me... I've got to go rake the back 40.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Goals, Scents, Sweet Gestures

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 98)

I've walked 2 miles towards Rivendell. Just 456 miles to go. Who knew you could get blisters after just 2 miles? But oh, how glorious it is to have a goal. Walk/jog with me? Just use a pedometer and record your mileage each day.

I was lamenting to my nieces today that I had no mail, and they furiously set about doing some craft project in their break between math and vocabulary quizzes. Half an hour later I came in to two smiling girls who announced, "There's mail in your mailbox!" The little dears made me cards.

Note to self: it's wonderful to be on a whole wheat kick, but substituting whole wheat for all purpose flour in recipes is not the way to do it. Unless you're trying to discover a new type of mortar. Blech!


It's cold outside. I love Autumn! It's the season of cardigans, shorter farm working days, apple crisp, microfiber blankets, hot chocolate, steamy soup, misty mornings, early chilly evenings, and, most importantly... my birthday. hehe

We had a lot of fun doing this easy Fall craft project highlighted on the Crafty Crow (we used watercolors).

I've only ever bought perfume once in my life. It was a teenybopper scent and I've still got it... it makes me smell like cotton candy.
A lady on a plane gave me a perfume sample for Prada Infusion d'Iris, and by only using a drop every three months, I've managed to make it last five years. It's running low and I've got a date to a musical revue (my date doesn't know yet) next week.
Now I remember why I don't buy perfume -- besides inevitably giving me a headache, the stuff costs more per ounce than gold! (But it is still a lovely scent).

Kansas Mom posted instructions for making caramel apples on Tasty Tuesday that includes a recipe for caramel. I think tomorrow I'm going to make another batch of Samoas, and I'll be using her homemade caramel to do it.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Thou Shall Not Steal -- Lesson Learned

My nieces are constantly leaving things at my house. When they go home each afternoon, inevitably there are items left behind. Jackets, hairbands, crumpled socks... I could start a thriving second hand shop for their "forgotten" items.

About four months ago they left a hairbrush. It was a nice one -- wooden handle, broad head, soft tines.

"I think I'll hang on to this one," I thought as I stowed it in the bathroom. Of course if they asked for it back or said they were missing it I would produce the item, but maybe this would teach them to keep their belongings together and use their backpacks.

Yesterday my fifth grade niece spotted it.

"Hm... is that my old brush? There was a reason we quit using this one. Let me think... oh yeah! That's the one we dropped in the toilet!"

Remind me never to touch any of their stuff, ever ever never ever again.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

No Frills Cookies and Cream Ice Cream

Tasty Tuesday

Grab the button here and come join us, or just link to another site with a recipe you're going to try... or post a recipe in the comments!

This post is dedicated to my younger sister, "Joy."

The girl is addicted to cookies and cream ice cream. Growing up, no matter which ice cream joint we went to she would always get cookies and cream. There were dozens and dozens of flavors, but she always homed in on that one.

It drove me crazy, quite frankly. And I chided her for it often.

Nevermind the fact that I always went for strawberry cheesecake ice cream; that's an addiction I can understand. But you can get Oreos any time, and you can get vanilla ice cream any time. What's so magical about that combination?

Um, I get it now.

Yeah... I... hang on, my ice cream is melting...

Sorry. Okay, where was I?

Just make it. It's good. Really good.

No Frills Cookies and Cream Ice Cream

Yes, you could make a custard ice cream, but frankly, why? This is a "quick" (as quick as homemade ice cream can be) version that gets my husband's two-head-nod-eyes-open-wide-look-down-to-the-right reaction.
  • 2 cups heavy cream*
  • 1 cup whole milk*
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (the better the vanilla, the better the ice cream)
  • 10-12 Oreos, chopped
*You can also do 3 cups of cream and omit the milk.

Mix all ingredients except Oreos. Freeze in your ice cream freezer "according to manufacturer's instructions" (I always love that part of recipes, it sounds so official). When you spoon it out into the freezing container (after you've ceremonially licked the paddle and eaten a whole bowl of it soft-serve), fold in the Oreos. Freeze 4 hours or overnight for best creamy frozen scoopable incredibleness results.

Joy, this bite's for you.

Monday, September 20, 2010

My Favorite Bread-Making Tip

I haven't bought a loaf of bread in six months. Now I also no longer buy buns, rolls, french bread, pitas, pizza dough, or bagels. Why? Because I can make them!

I've learned a lot in the last year about making bread, but the single greatest trick that turned my bread from hockey puck to a heavenly cloud was: how to get the dough consistently to "double."

You know that little line in all bread recipes that reads: "Let rise in a warm place for about an hour, or until double"? Well... my house is always an ice box and after two or three hours my dough was barely poofing. The poor little baby dough was just too cold.

Yes, I'm sure all of you earthy baking homesteading women know this is the oldest trick in the book, but I didn't know about it until recently and it has given me confidence in my ability to make consistently good bread.

So here it goes.

My Favorite Bread-Making Tip
  • Turn the oven to 350 for exactly 1 minute.
  • Shut the oven off and turn the "oven light" on.
Congratulations. You've just created a "warm place" to put your bread for one hour. It works like magic every time.

Excuse me while I go be domestic.

Give Us This Day, by the very talented Jeffrey T. Larson

Friday, September 17, 2010

Our Love Story, Part II

If you missed Part I, you can find it here.


A week or so had passed since my ducking incident, and I was grateful not to have seen Miriam's older brother again. I knew I would be awkward again, and I didn't want the slightest trace of my infatuation to be discovered by Meg or Miriam. Brothers, after all, are strictly off limits. I couldn't admit to Meg that in my first semester of college, still wet behind the ears, I had met the love of my life. That would make me no better than the gaggle of giggling girls we liked to roll our eyes at. No, there was nothing to be done but to forget the tall, dark and handsome Master's student, and to apply myself to my own studies.

Firmly resolved to forget him, I was walking to class with Philosophy students... er... philosophical thoughts in mind when something caught the corner of my eye. Oh no! I panicked... it was him. He was walking back from class.

There were two sidewalks to this academic building. One of them was a steeper incline but more direct, and the other went a longer way but was a gentler grade. I usually took the gentle grade, but he was coming down the steep path. I was coming upon the division of the sidewalk and had to make a split-second decision. Take the steep way and cross him, or save my already pounding heart and go the easy way?

Before I'd had time to weigh my options, my feet had already carried me towards him. My path was set, my fate was sealed... I couldn't turn back now and take the other way -- that would be too obvious, even for me.

The sidewalk was most inconvenient; it was long and unbending. When first you spotted someone at the other end, you had the options of either locking eyes the whole uncomfortable way, or you could both pretend to be fascinated by the grass and pavement cracks until right before you met, make brief eye contact with a smile and nod, and then go on your merry way. Whoever designs long straight sidewalks should be shot.

I didn't know which option he had taken, because suddenly I was absolutely captivated by the grass. Truly fascinating stuff. I had noticed, however, that he was wearing the most abominable brown moccasins, black jeans that were a little too fitted, and a tattered threadbare white t-shirt that looked as if it had barely survived the Nixon era. "Oh yay!," I thought, "he does have an area that my woman's touch will soon cure."

Without having looked up I had already calculated, based upon his original speed, exactly where our paths would meet on the sidewalk. My pulse quickened, my legs were cooked spaghetti, my head was in a cloud, and I felt I was suffocating. I think I was, actually, 'cause the path was harder and I hadn't drawn a breath since I'd seen him. After taking a little gasp of air I looked up just before we passed, to give the customary smile, eye contact and nod. It was the courtesy on the campus; you did it to everyone on that sidewalk, whether you knew him or not.

When that moment came, the moment I had anticipated and feared since the bottom of the sidewalk, the moment I had both dreaded and craved, that I had prayed to get through... it was already over.

He hadn't looked at me. He hadn't smiled. He hadn't nodded. He'd looked straight ahead, completely ignoring me and denying my existence.

"Well of all the nerve!!" I scoffed to myself. "What a jerk! And he has terrible fashion at that!"

But I couldn't forget him. "Maybe he hadn't seen me." "Maybe he'd tried to look, smile, and nod while my head was down." "Maybe he was lost in philosophical contemplation!"

This identical scene was repeated once more before I firmly eradicated all thoughts of Miriam's older brother from my mind. He was an unworthy.

At the end of the semester he left the University and I didn't think of him again.

To be continued...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Country Living Initiation Success!


1. Without knowing what yesterday's (September 15th) daily marriage tip from the USCCB was, I did it anyway.

2. I had another initiation into country life! I (literally) separated wheat from chaff! It was invigorating.

My mother-in-law generously gave us a gallon of wheat berries, but since they're straight from the farm (not the store), they still have a little chaff in them. After sitting there for almost an hour picking out the little chaff pieces from the wheat, I called my father-in-law to get some tips. "Do you do this every time?? It takes forever!" He said you have to turn on a fan and slowly pour the wheat from one container to another in front of the fan; the wheat drops into the bowl and the chaff is blown out... do it a few times and you're done.

It worked!! My husband ground the wheat and I made lovely honey whole grain bread. Yum!

3. Using Food Tidings, I brought orange chicken to my sister-in-law who just had a baby. If you haven't heard about Food Tidings, it's a great site that allows you to set up schedules for many different people to bring food to new mothers, or grieving families, or anyone who needs a break from cooking for a while. If you have a supportive community (not strangers; a homeschool group or parish families or even your own local extended family and friends), it's a great way to organize everyone and make sure the new mother is covered!

Be encouraged. Read others' small successes and share your own at Faith & Family Live.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Our Love Story, Part I

A kind reader commented recently, "You've yet to tell us about how you two crazy lovebirds met! :) Or, maybe you did and I came along too late or missed it. Always like a good love story..."

I got to thinking about that and realized we've got a pretty unusual and wonderful story. It just never occurred to me to write about it! If you don't like love stories, then you can ignore this series of future posts; they'll be plainly titled "Our Love Story, Part..." and will not occur at any regular intervals -- just as the mood strikes and the words flow.


It all started on a chilly October evening. I was a dewy eyed freshman in college, still finding my place on campus and in the world at large.

I'd made friends, almost immediately, with a skirt person. Skirt people are safe. They are stereotyped characterized by long straight hair, corrective lenses, canvas shoes with white socks, an ankle length skirt (bonus points if homemade), a collared shirt (bonus points for ruffles), a love of literature, and a wholesome virtuous character. They're usually overlooked by the world, but if you want a true blue friend, go for the skirt people.

Anyway, "Meg" was just such a skirt person, and we bonded instantly over a love of Lord of the Rings. Only, she didn't wear a skirt... or canvas shoes with white socks, or a ruffled shirt. If I remember correctly, she was wearing jeans, a pretty sweater, and stylish shoes. But she had long raven black hair, glasses, and a wholesome virtuous character! A real salt of the earth gal from Pennsylvania. So she qualified for best friend potential.

On one evening late in October, under a harvest moon, a rare event called "open hours" was going on. For a few hours, guys were allowed into our dorm. So long as the doors were wide open and the RAs could walk in and out at will, no place was safe from giggling girls and grinning guys. My own room was to be host to a batch of eligibles, but I suspected that if there were one room in the dorm that would be giggle free, it would be Meg's. I liked Meg's roommate, "Miriam," well enough, so I retreated there for the evening to watch a movie.

Propped up on my elbows in the top bunk, we chatted and laughed freely about things of no consequence. Midterms were behind us and this was going to be a fun evening. Miriam mentioned, in passing, "Oh, I invited my brother to watch the movie with us tonight, I hope you don't mind." I figured brothers were innocuous enough... "oh, no problem."

Gentle readers, I was clearly not prepared for the ensuing events.

Into the room strode Miriam's older brother. I let out a barely audible gasp. My pulse quickened.

She had failed to mention that he was 6'3. She had failed to mention that his shoulders were broad and strong. She had failed to mention that he had peaceful azure eyes with a penetrating gaze. She had failed to mention his brawny hands. She failed to mention that his deep voice had rich amber tones. She failed to mention he was a Master's student. This was no "brother," this was a man!

I gaped at him in girlish wonder, my heart now throbbing in my ears.

Initial introductions were made and small talk commenced as Miriam tried to get the VHS player to work.

"What are you studying?," Meg asked him.


A more audible gasp escaped my lips, along with the overflow of a squelched squeak. I tried to feign hiccups.

"What are you studying?," he asked me, politely.

He's talking to me. What do I do now?? Remain calm. Wait, I'm not calm, how can I remain calm? Just answer him!

"Theology, with a philosophy minor," I finally blurted out, a little too eagerly and a little too loudly. "Who are your favorite philosophy professors here?," I asked in a more disinterested tone, trying to recover.

Our little exchange lasted less than two minutes, but I couldn't take it anymore. I had never met anyone like him before. Sure there'd been plenty of nice guys, and some of them quite good looking, but none of them had ever had the power of presence and personality to make me literally swoon. This man was different.

To this day I don't know what made me do it. Abruptly and out of nowhere, I just ducked.

Literally. Overwhelmed by it all, like a flash I dropped down in the top bunk, out of sight, awkwardly ending the conversation. Not knowing how to recover from this faux pas, I slowly peered over the bed rail just in time to catch his quizzical and amused look and the traces of a tiny grin.

I've never been so grateful as I was seconds later when the blue screen flickered and the VHS started. The lights were turned off and I finally breathed as he turned his gaze to the movie.

"Oh, I'm such an idiot!! What must he think of me! Why did I duck?? What was I doing??"

I honestly can't remember which movie we watched that night; I don't think I even saw a minute of it. I was only watching him.

To be continued...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Crispy Sticky Sweet Orange Chicken

Tasty Tuesday

Grab the button here and come join us, or just link to another site with a recipe you're going to try... or post a recipe in the comments!

I don't often cook the same thing twice. I mean, we have the same category... "hamburgers" or "fajitas" or "pasta," but there are wide variations on the theme. There are three or four recipes in my repertoire, however, that cannot and will not be altered. The recipes are so good that they admit no substantial changes (though slight tweaks will always be acceptable).

These recipes also show up fairly regularly on the meal plan because I know if I want a sure winner for dinner (unlike some of my experiments), I've got it.

The recipe I'm going to share today is one that I credit with wooing my husband. We had a short courtship (like... less than three weeks. Hey, when you know you know, you know?). When we were first engaged he came over for dinner and I whipped out this little ditty. Had there been any doubts before (which there weren't), they would have been completely obliterated after he sunk his teeth into this culinary delight. I was forever grateful that he was so appreciative of my cooking, and he was forever hooked on the taste of crispy sticky sweet orange chicken.*

I make this meal for company, as a celebratory dinner, when my husband is having a bad day, and on occasion... just because.

Image from SheKnows

Crispy Sticky Sweet Orange Chicken
Recipe originally from Cooking at Home with America’s Test Kitchen, via Annie's Eats

For the marinade and sauce:
1 ½ lbs. boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into 1 ½” pieces
¾ cup low sodium chicken broth (water is fine)
¾ cup fresh squeezed orange juice (fresh is great but use what you have)
1 ½ tsp. grated orange zest (optional, but oranges it up)
8 thin strips orange peel (optional)
6 tbsp. distilled white vinegar
¼ cup soy sauce
½ cup dark brown sugar
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp. fresh grated ginger (or a tsp. of powdered)
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. cornstarch
2 tbsp. cold water

For coating and frying:
3 large egg whites
1 cup cornstarch
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
3 cups peanut oil (or canola oil)

For the marinade and sauce, place the chicken in a Ziploc bag; set aside.  In a large saucepan, combine the chicken broth, orange juice, zest, vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, ginger and cayenne pepper; whisk until the sugar is fully dissolved.  Measure out ¾ cup of the mixture and pour it into the bag with the chicken; press out as much air as possible and seal the bag, making sure that all pieces are coated with the marinade.  Refrigerate 30-60 minutes, but no longer.  Bring the remaining mixture in the saucepan to a boil over high heat.  In a small bowl, stir together the cornstarch and cold water; whisk the cornstarch mixture into the sauce.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, until thick and translucent, about 1 minute.  Off the heat, stir in the orange peel (if using); set the sauce aside.

For the coating, place the egg whites in a pie plate and beat with a fork until frothy.  In a second pie plate, whisk together the cornstarch, baking soda and cayenne until combined.  Drain the chicken in a colander or large mesh strainer; thoroughly pat the chicken dry with paper towels.  Place half of the chicken pieces in the egg whites and turn to coat.  Transfer the pieces to cornstarch mixture and coat thoroughly.  Place the dredged chicken pieces on another plate or a baking sheet.

To fry the chicken, heat the oil in an 11- to 12-inch dutch oven or straight sided sauté pan with at least 3 qt. capacity over high heat until the oil reaches 350° on an instant read or deep fry thermometer.  Carefully place half of the chicken in the oil; fry to golden brown, about 5 minutes, turning each piece with tongs halfway through cooking.  Transfer to a paper towel lined plate.  Return the oil to 350° and repeat with the remaining chicken.

To serve, reheat the sauce over medium heat until simmering, about 2 minutes.  Add the chicken and gently toss until evenly coated and heated through.  Serve immediately (with steamed broccoli and white or stir-fried rice).

*Actually at that fateful meal, I made this version (with chicken) which I still much prefer. It has a much richer, deeper and orangey flavor, but it also takes forever to make because you have to double the sauce, add more brown sugar and a little water and cook it down until it was a really thick syrup; sometimes that takes 45 minutes! I suppose if you start cooking down the sauce at the beginning of the preparation it wouldn't seem as long... but this recipe posted here is much quicker and still provides a very tasty meal.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Monday Musings

Right Now:  It is 10:30. The girls arrived a while ago and are doing Phonics and Reading; they've finished Handwriting, Spelling, Vocabulary, and Religion. I woke up at 6, went to Mass, cleaned the whole house (not as big of a deal now that I'm "flying with the FLYLady"), had breakfast, and am in a great mood.

I've always had a hard time getting up early; I'm a total night owl. I talked with my mom this weekend and she told me how she gets up at 5:30 to go walking. 5:30!?! "How do you do it??" She has her clothes laid out the night before (my mom's a born organizer) and just "doesn't think." She says once you start reasoning with yourself (even "I wonder what day it is") you've already lost the battle. Just don't think and get up.

So I laid out my clothes last night (a FLYLady evening routine) and this morning at 6am, *ring ring ring.* Slap the alarm clock. "Hm... I'm sooo tired. If I went back to sleep I could still get to the 8:30 Mass... QUIT THINKING AND GET UP!!" Thanks, Mom! It worked!

This Weekend: was glorious. I love weekends. On Saturday I opened all of the windows and sat in the sunshine reading Mrs. Mike. It starts off a bit like "cheap literature," and I thought, "it's not going to be very profound." I'd had it on a very trusted and respected authority, however, that it was a good book, so I kept going. Wow. It was very good.

Yesterday I made my husband read it and we had a grand time discussing it. Then we called my Dad, went to Mass (there was no music, and I had a gut-twisting guilty feeling the whole time that I should just volunteer and play from memory, but I didn't and I regret it), and then my darling took me on a surprise date! Dinner and star-gazing in the park. Oh what wonderful conversations we have!

Anyway, I feel refreshed and ready to face the week, now.

Some Plans for the Week:  Bacon and eggs are great for breakfast, but we need toast so I need to make bread. While I'm at it, I'd like to make some more hamburger buns, some bagels, and try something new (maybe a multigrain bread).

My husband has promised to give me tractor lessons this week. He and his brother are going to put in another 40 acres of hay and need to plow up the fields. While they're working on setting up irrigation, I'm purportedly going to run the plow. This should be rich.

If I Find Some Time for Myself I Want To: Find another good book to read. Having associated reading with dry philosophy, I'd forgotten how much I do love reading literature. Any recommendations?

Special Prayer Intentions: in thanksgiving for the wondrous and sacred gift of Holy Matrimony. For an end to the culture of death and the "contraceptive mentality," and for a strengthening and renewal of marriages.

Something That Makes Me Smile: what else can I say? My husband! But I'm also smiling because my pastor smiled at me this morning. Smiles are contagious.

Monday Musings are hosted at Patch O' Dirt Farm.

Friday, September 10, 2010

To Mantilla or Not?

A Young Beauty Wearing a Red Veil by Gustave Doyen.

I have been pondering whether or not "to mantilla" for several years. I've had mixed feelings.

It's not required of Catholic women, anymore, but nor is it prohibited. Within the last few months it's come more frequently into my mind. As necklines get lower and hemlines get higher, why not, in this crazy mixed-up culture, imitate the Blessed Mother by showing a little more femininity and more reverence for the Eucharist? To dress in a way that demonstrates our belief in the sacred; in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ?

Well, because of the labels and stereotypes, mostly. There is a stigma attached to mantillas. In many minds (sometimes, sadly, even my own), they instantly conjure up the label "ultra conservative," a "we reject everything after Vatican 2" image, and the zenith of pejoratives, "holier than thou."

(As an aside, I take "ultra conservative" as a compliment if it means totally and completely faithful to all of the teachings of Holy Mother Church. I take issue when "ultra conservative" means "holier than the Church.")

I have feared wearing a mantilla because I didn't want to project the "holier than thou" image. I didn't want to be judged and labeled.

Why is it that a simple head covering on a praying woman can bring out such violent reactions? And since when do I allow strangers' opinions to paralyze my actions and dictate my decisions?

I homeschool, which could project a "more dedicated to education than thou" image. I don't eat the majority of processed foods: "healthier than thou." I don't hide the fact that my husband and I are in love: "happier than thou." And on, and on, and on.

Do I really think I'm more dedicated to education, healthier, or happier than everyone else? Not by a long shot! I'm just trying to eke out a happy, healthy, holy life for my family. If it won't endanger your soul or another's, I couldn't care beans about whether you eat a pop tart or send Archibald to Vista Public High.

I would suspect that most so-called "--ier than thou" projections don't exist in a person's actions, anyway, but solely in the minds of the jealous or guilty. We only think someone is trying to one-up us if we feel like our own actions are somehow lacking. Rather than place the onus on ourselves to confront our decisions, we trivialize or demonize another for trying to show us up.

What pride.

Seeing a woman in a mantilla only seems to cross my radar and trigger a conscience twinge when I'm wearing flip-flops to Mass. And that says a lot.

So what'll it be? I'm not strong enough, yet, to don a mantilla at a Sunday "guitar Mass." But I do think I've been convicted, and will start imitating Our Lady's piety and worship by wearing a mantilla to Adoration.

If you don't join me, you're a dirty rotten sinner!

Just kidding.

El Rosario by Jose Gallegos Y Arnosa
As a timely event, they're actually having a mantilla giveaway over at "Will You Mantilla With Me?"

And if you are considering donning a veil, two sites that have lovely mantillas are Veils by Lily and Garlands of Grace.

AND FYI: City Wife, Country Life is on Facebook now!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Major Success!

1. After literally 10 years of trying (hey, I started young), I have finally perfected homemade flour tortillas! Authentic, soft, airy, delicious. I'm SO happy about this one! Dozens of attempts and they were never right. Seriously, I'm going to ride this kitchen high for a long time. (I'll post the recipe and tips in the coming weeks).

2. I froze 3 gallon bags of peaches and made several pints of peach butter. I thought I could never get my fill of peaches, but...

3. In just 10 days I've earned $5 on Sidetick and actually cashed in my first $5 Amazon gift card from Swagbucks. At this rate, I should be enjoying my dream flour mill by May 7th, 2011. Not bad for a few minutes a day. Check out the guides on the right sidebar if you're interested.

4. Bonus success for my husband: He figured out that lemon seeds were clogging the little sprayers in our dishwasher. Maybe we won't need a new dishwasher after all!

Check out others' successes and share your own at Faith & Family Live.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Dinner Fail

Yesterday I tried to get away with some fru-fru food for dinner. Teriyaki burgers with mango pineapple salsa. I had some ripe mangoes and a fresh pineapple; why not give it a go?

Because I'm married to a manly man, that's why not. With the notable exception of pineapple ham pizza, fruit belongs in desserts and meat belongs in... meat.

Suspiciously eyeing the mango pineapple salsa: "What do you do with this stuff?"

"You put it on the burger."

"To eat?"

"That's the idea."

I thought it was pretty good, actually. It wasn't a "let's eat this every week," but it was a "nice Summery meal."

My darling, on the other hand, ate with the same resigned look on his face as when my niece put a flower ribbon in his hair. Of course he would never complain!

"The buns and meat are really good. And I like mangoes." (There's a non-sequitur for you).

Thankfully there was pumpkin roll for dessert.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Homemade Hamburger Buns

Tasty Tuesday
Grab the button here and come join us, or just link to another site with a recipe you're going to try... or post a recipe in the comments!

I'm not much of a rebel. I stop before turning right on red. I stay between the lines in coloring books. And I walk on the right side of the sidewalk.

But every time I make something that I formerly thought I had to buy because I couldn't make an "as good or better" substitute... well... I get a little thrill of "sticking it to the man."

These homemade hamburger buns give me that thrill. And yes, they're definitely better than their chemical-laden counterparts.

No chemicals, fillers, preservatives, or high fructose corn syrup. Just bready goodness that freezes well, holds up to even the juiciest of burgers, and stands back to let the burger stand out.

They're not the "wow" of the hoisin-glazed chicken. But they don't have the gluey gooey texture of megamart white breaddom, either. And that's stickin' it to the man.

Homemade Hamburger Buns
Recipe from Annie's Eats

3 tbsp. warm milk
1 cup warm water
2 tsp. instant yeast
2½ tbsp. sugar
1½ tsp. salt
1 large egg
3 cups bread flour
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2½ tbsp. unsalted butter, softened

For topping:
1 large egg beaten with 1 tbsp. water, for egg wash
Sesame seeds

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the milk, water, yeast, sugar, salt and egg.  Mix briefly to combine.  Add the flours to the bowl, and mix until incorporated.  Mix in the butter.

Switch to the dough hook and knead on low speed for about 6-8 minutes.  The dough will be somewhat tacky, but you want to avoid adding too much extra flour which will create tough buns.

Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 1-2 hours.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.  Using a dough scraper, divide the dough into 8 equal parts.  Gently roll each portion of dough into a ball and place on the baking sheet, 2-3 inches apart.  Cover loosely with lightly oiled plastic wrap and let rise again, 1-2 hours, until puffed up and nearly doubled.

Set a large metal pan of water on the lowest rack of the oven.  Preheat the oven to 400˚ F with a rack in the center.  Brush the tops of the buns lightly with the egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds.  Bake the buns about 15 minutes rotating halfway through baking, until the tops are golden brown.  Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

What are your "stickin' it to the man" recipes?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Get Back on Track

Right Now:  11:00am. I'm thinking I need to clean our bedroom. I've slipped a bit and the junk piles are slowly creeping back in. Let's nip this one in the bud.

This Weekend:  Was delightful! For the first time in a long time my husband took the Saturday off and spent it at home with me! It was an unexpected but utterly wonderful treat. We had some wonderful conversations, cleaned out the chicken brooder, peeled and froze a huge box of peaches, made pineapple ham pizza and watched The Two Towers.

We're also kicking our joint-prayer life up a notch. I'm so grateful he's taking the initiative to deepen our prayer as a couple. I feel so safe and loved.

Some Plans for the Week:  I ordered ooma (substantially cheaper on Amazon) but don't have a phone to use with it, so that should be bought. I also need to bake some bread and procure some milk jars and a milk fridge. Ofelia should calve within the next month or so and I don't want to be caught off guard. 

If I Find Some Time for Myself, I Would Like To: Work on Christmas presents for some of my family. I'd also like to go to the library and get some books for my husband and I to read aloud. It's a tradition we've let slide the last few months as we've filled our evenings with Sudoku puzzles and inane diversions. I much prefer reading.

Special Prayer Intentions:  For growth in virtue.

Something That Makes Me Smile: It's almost becoming a given to this question, but what else can I say? My husband.

Friday, September 3, 2010

What's This World Coming To?

I caved.

I'm not proud of myself. In fact I'm a little disappointed.

I held out longer than I thought I would. In fact, I'm probably jumping on a sinking ship now.

Alright, alright... I'm on Twitter.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Schooling, $$, and Burger Buns


Grasshopper, by 3rd grade niece

1. Finally realizing that learning doesn't have to be straight out of textbooks, I'm allowing and encouraging my nieces to use a sketchbook for science. For the life of them they couldn't remember what the thorax and abdomen were, how many pairs of legs, how many compound eyes, or where the breathing pores of insects were until they could "see" it on their drawings.

 Lucy the Butterfly, by 5th grade niece

2. For a few minutes a day and doing something I already do anyway (searching), I'm picking up a ridiculously easy $25 a month, which will go a long way in my tight budget!

Grasshopper, by 5th grade niece
3. I made sesame seed hamburger buns! My husband actually did the eyes opened wide nod two times thing when he tasted them (his "you've cooked perfection on a plate" reaction). Check one more thing off the list of grocery items to buy. They weren't difficult to make and if I do a baking day each month and freeze them they'll be as convenient as store bought.

Unfinished Butterfly, by 3rd grade niece

Read others' successes and share your own at Faith and Family Live.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Sidetick and Swagbucks -- An Easy $25 a Month

*To see an update on this post, click here.*

My husband has gotten jilted for his last two birthdays and the last two Christmases. Between weddings, family visiting, and burglars, he's been shafted for four major holidays.

This year I'm determined to get him something nice without taking the money to purchase it out of his bank account. I've searched, in earnest, for ways to pick up a few extra dollars.

Yes, this post is going to sound like a commercial, but I'm honestly trying to share my joy and research with y'all.

I've discovered two websites that actually work! They will not make you rich, it's not a "get-rich-quick scheme," but it will give you some extra spending cash each month for very little effort. I research like the FBI and I don't recommend anything until I've actually signed up for it myself, and I can safely recommend these two places now.

Earnings: $15 a month + $1 for each referral + $0.25 for 5 tiers of each referral's referral +pay per click
Time it takes each day: About one minute.
How it pays: Via PayPal (which can be linked to your bank account for deposit).
When it pays: After you accrue $25 (50,000 "Tickbucks" or approximately every 50 days).

The first, easier, and more lucrative site is "Sidetick." It's a social networking site along the lines of Facebook. They generate money from the ads on the site, and they give a percentage of the ad revenue to their users.

It's "guaranteed" $0.50 a day ($15 a month) if you do two things each day (you can't just do one and get $0.25... you have to do both).

Is it as easy at it looks? I'll walk you through it.

First, log in and check your messages.

Then open up the message. You don't even have to read it, just open it up.

Halfway done.

Next go back to the homepage.

Scroll down and look for "Jenny's Blog." Click that link.

Then click the day's post.

Each day she has a question you answer in the comments. Yesterday was "Is it true that all is fair in love and war? Give a reason for your answer."

Type up a quick answer, and you've just earned yourself $0.50.

It takes me about one minute a day, and that's if I really think about the answer to the blog question.

If you spend any appreciable amount of time on the site your potential income would be greatly increased: you get paid for any content, photos or videos you post, everytime anyone views the content, photos or videos, 1/20th of a cent for every time you click on any link on the site. Well, I wouldn't mind some extra cash, but I'm not actually going to do any of that stuff. I don't want to be a full-time Sideticker.

However, referring is something I wouldn't mind doing. Why not share an easy $15 a month with others? For each person you refer that signs up, you get $1. For each person they refer (and their references referrals down 5 levels) you get $0.25. Share the wealth.

So get started here.

Earnings: About $10 per month in gift cards (assuming 30 points per day)
Time it takes each day: The time you would normally spend doing internet searching.
How it pays: Via giftcards (most notably through gift cards).
When it pays: After you accrue $5 worth of "Swagbucks." (450 points, or about every 15 days)

Search & Win

The second "easy money maker" is Swagbucks. It's a search engine that uses, Again, they pay their users some of their ad revenue.

Unlike Sidetick you won't get cold hard cash, you get paid in "prizes." One of the prizes is a $5 gift card. I shop so often on Amazon that to me it's just as good as cash.

Another use for Swagbucks: DATE NIGHT!!! For 400 "Swagbucks" (about every two weeks) you can get a $25 giftcard. Not bad.

So how do you use Swagbucks?

It's all about points, called "Swagbucks." You earn them in various ways.

Searching (6-50 points a few times per day, about 24 points average each day)
You don't get points every time you search. If you do online searches in the morning, afternoon and in the evening you'll probably get 7-10 points about three times per day.
How is the search engine itself? Well, if you're looking for something easy ("City Wife, Country Life," say?) then it's fine. If you're doing a more complicated search ("What is the tax assessment vs. market value of a home in Hoboken, NJ?") then go with Google.

NOSO (1 swagbuck per day, takes about 30 seconds)
No Obligation Special Offers. Just click "skip" on about 5 pages to reject the lame-o offers, and at the end you're rewarded with 1 swagbuck.

Daily Polls (1 swagbuck per day, takes less than 10 seconds)
Take part in the daily poll (e.g. "What's your favorite ice cream flavor?") and you get a swagbuck. (And if you suggest a poll and they use it, you get 100 swagbucks!)

Using the Search Toolbar (1 swagbuck per day, use to do a normal search)
If you download the search toolbar and use it each day you've got another swagbuck. Don't search a lot? Well, just use it to type in your e-mail server (like "yahoo"), and with one extra click you've just gotten a swagbuck for using the searchbar and checking your e-mail.

Swagcodes (about 5-10 points, several times a day)

It's a total gimmick to get you to use their site more, but it does pay rather well if you do it. Swagcodes are random strings of words and numbers that are hidden around the site (or searchbar, Twitter feed, or Facebook page) and expire a few hours after they are posted. You could waste your whole day looking for swagcodes, or you can sign up for free e-mails (or tweets or texts) from and get alerted to the location of swagcodes whenever they are available.

Add your swagcode on the right side of the main page.

Trusted Surveys (1 point just for checking, 10-200 swagbucks for a complete survey)
After you've been a member of Swagbucks for one week, you have an opportunity to participate in 2-10 minute surveys (worth anywhere from 10-200 points). These (like everything else) are completely optional. I've yet to qualify for a survey, but I visit the page every day just to get a free swagbuck.

Shopping (2 swagbucks per $1)
If you do your online shopping through Swagbucks (iTunes, Walmart, Macy's, Overstock, etc.) you get 2 points for every dollar spent. You can probably make more kickback money from other online e-tail programs, but there it is.

Trade-Ins (5-1000's)
Got an old iPod, cell phone, gaming console or video games lying around? You can trade them into Swagbucks (they'll pay shipping) for points. If you're thinking about selling them, by all means sell them, but if they're just collecting dust why not trade them in? My 2 year old Razr is worth all of about 9 points (two cents), but if you're always upgrading cell phones (hey, I know people like that) and have some nicer phones or video games, you could trade 'em in.

Referrals (up to 1000 points per active referral)
Everytime someone you've referred to Swagbucks wins swagbucks on a search, you'll get the same amount of points they've gotten, up to 1000 points. If they get points for NOSO, Trade-Ins, Surveys, whatever... goose-egg for you. You only get points when they "win" in searching.
But considering you can get around 30 points a day by searching, if you referred 15 people who actively used Swagbucks you'd get 450 points (a $5 Amazon gift card) every day for a month (that's $150 smackers in a month... hello KitchenAid Pasta Extruder)!
Of course that's a big assumption and I dare say "results not typical." Finding 15 people to do anything is hard, much less something like this, but if you're a natural salesperson you just might be able to work this system.

If you want to sign up for Swagbucks, do so here!

So there you have it. By using these two sites for a few minutes a day (and searching like I normally would), I'm well on my way to getting my husband something nice for Christmas.


On Sunday, when my husband was at the farm changing water, I was at home, domestically and housewife-ily making a peach pie. I'm sure doves were floating around my head, a sunbeam was at my feet, and angels were strumming their lyres as I skillfully weaved the lattice top crust and thought dreamily of my husband.

And then, it happened.

I spotted a movement out of the corner of my eye. And it didn't look like a cherub.

A five foot inch long mouse was in my pantry, squatting on my shelves, chomping on my oatmeal! We spotted each other about the same moment, we both let out of squeaking shriek, and we both ran for the hills. He didn't run for his .22 caliber, though.

I sat guard with the barrel pointed towards the pantry until my husband got home. I don't know why I actually had the thing -- it's not like even in my most hysterical moment I would have actually shot a hole in my floor to stop a rabid rodent. But it did make me feel better for that agonizing eternity while I kept vigil.

After he got home he insisted I relinquish the death-grip on the firearm, he grabbed his own favorite weapon (a baseball bat), and we embarked upon a futile search for the vermin. We gave up after a while, set up peanut butter loaded traps and went to bed.

Sunday evening, amidst the blackest watches of the night (obviously I couldn't sleep with the thought of Fievel scurrying over my toes), there was a loud SNAP! My husband darted awake and gleefully ran out to declare triumph... but it was not to be. Trap snapped, dexterous fugitive with peanut butter breath still on the loose.

Two days passed and our traps were quiet and still.

Yesterday I was peeling a cucumber for our dinner salad and saw a pink yarn underneath a flipped trap by the refrigerator. "That's strange," I thought as I inspected closer.