Friday, October 29, 2010

Our Love Story, Part XI

[Read Parts I-X here.]

The day's labor was over and Mr. Amazing was driving me back to the farm. I was still reeling from my brief encounter with Janet (or more accurately, from his brief encounter with her), and sat staring blankly out the window.

I have the navigational skills of turnip, but I knew somehow we weren't headed for the farm. He asked, almost as an afterthought, "Would you like to see some scenery?"

That's one question I am powerless to refuse. I suffer from severe wanderlust, and few things get me as excited as the prospect of a roadtrip.

The ride that had begun on a four lane highway had twisted and turned to a dusty gravel road, climbing higher and higher.

"Peter's Plunge," read one of the bullet-riddled street signs, heading off toward a steeper slope.

"Hunters come up here a lot... and teenagers," he said, answering my puzzled expression.

"Oh," I said quietly. I wasn't sure where we were going, or why, but I didn't question it because the scenery was becoming increasingly more breathtaking.

Finally, I couldn't contain my excitement any longer and broke the silence.

"This is exquisite! What is this place?"

"I thought you'd like this. These are wheat farms, but some of it is government set-aside land, too. I just wish I could take you to the dryland wheat country; you'd really love that."

He was clearly delighted that I was so impressed by the countryside.

"Hm," I thought. "What is this guy up to? Does he like me? Maybe he's just being nice." The shadow of Janet's visit loomed in the back of my mind.

I was seriously confused.

But for the next forty-five minutes, I took in the sublime surroundings, and enjoyed Mr. Amazing's pleasant, humorous, and always fascinating conversation. At last the dirt path wound back to a main road, and we said goodbye to the hills.

He started to slow down but then gave a disgruntled grimace and, as if changing his mind, sped up again.

"What is it?" I asked.

"Oh... this is kind of a neat road," he said, nodding in the direction of a pot-hole ridden sliver of a gravel path that hugged a careening precipice, climbed into the stratosphere without a guardrail, and eerily brought on the feeling of certain death.

"It's the ditch bank, and it goes behind our farm. You could see the whole place, but the road is probably too bumpy for you."

"Too bumpy!?" I said, perhaps too eagerly. I trusted him implicitly.

He flashed me a cat-that-swallowed-the-canary grin, and off we went.

I white knuckled it at the beginning, but relaxed a bit when I saw a fuzzy gray bunny hopping fearlessly close to the sheer dropoff. There were birds I had never seen, and flowers I couldn't have imagined. It was beautiful, and the view of the farm was quite impressive, too. I believe, however, that I was most taken with the sight of the driver. He looked so pleased, and proud, and confident, and competent, and happy... not to mention outrageously handsome.

"I really like the sage brush," he commented.

"Really?" I wasn't too much for it, but could say with honesty, "It is rather pretty in the sun."

That night we had another late night porch conversation, serenaded by frogs and crickets. I don't remember what we talked about, but I remember laughing and debating, and perfect ease. I still knew very little about this man, but I felt I'd known him all my life.

The end of my visit came at last, and I hugged each member of the family goodbye. Meg was going to take me to the airport. I briefly and a little awkwardly shook hands with Mr. Amazing, and after thanking my hosts profusely, made my way to the car. I purposely left rather abruptly, hoping to make a break from the family and get to see him alone. I was trying to give him ample opportunity to make his move; my plane was due to take off in just a few hours, and I couldn't go home without some resolution to my long-standing crush, one way or the other!

So I sat in Meg's car in the driveway for a while, windows rolled up in the desert summer, making an effort not to sweat. She was getting something in the house. The front door opened and he came out.

My heart leapt. He was coming towards the car!!

The world was moving in slow motion... except my heart, which was galloping.

*crunch, crunch, crunch* on the gravel drive

He was most clearly not looking at me; his eyes were on the ground, or on the dog, or on a bird overhead... but each step brought him closer to the car.

After an eternity, he reached it, and I quickly rehearsed in my head how I would accept his declarations. I would look up at him just so, and then look down, and then give a little half smile, and then shyly return his compliments and affections... and then attempt not to blush, which would make me blush more.

But he didn't open my door. He opened the trunk.


I turned around, awkwardly, while he said something through the back window.

He pointed to some blankets he was carrying. "Meg asked me to get these blankets out a while ago, and I just remembered them."

"Oh... he was looking for an excuse to come out here." I thought. "Alright, any day now... go ahead and declare your intentions, Sir," I thought impatiently. "Meg is on her way out! Hurry up!! Tell me you'll call me, or something, anything, just do it quick!"

But he just waved a half-wave, said, "bye," and ambled back to the house.

"THAT'S IT!!!" I screamed in my head. "Oh, I am SO over you!!" I hurled at him, internally.

I was frustrated, dejected, rejected, humiliated, and filled with the fury of a thousand Irish grandmothers. With all the hot wrath I could summon, I mentally bellowed after him, "AND I DON'T LIKE SAGEBRUSH!!!"

A few weeks later I took a new job as a Religion teacher and began courses for my Ph.D. I went to a ballet in the city and sighed bittersweetly, "this is where I belong."

To be continued...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Stretching Your Grocery Budget: The Art of Gleaning

Last Saturday my husband and I gleaned over 100 pounds of apples.

One of the neighbors had just finished his apple harvest. I didn't know this before marrying a farmer, but there is always lots of fruit left on the trees after a harvest.

There are various reason for this, but usually it's either because that fruit was unripe when the rest of the fruit was ready, or because it is a pollinator variety that is not generally sold to the public (either because it doesn't transport well, or just hasn't been marketed). There were literally tons of apples for us, ripe for the picking.

If you live near any farms, you might consider asking the farmers if you can glean after their harvest for your family's use. It's been my experience that farmers are friendly folk and so long as you're not trying to sell their produce at a farmer's market or fruit stand, they often let you go right ahead. (But be aware that many farmers don't want children in their fields or orchards; one accident, one law suit, and their whole family's operation could go under).

By gleaning, in the past we've gotten enough nectarines, peaches, plums, apples, rhubarb, onions, peas, corn, potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, grapes, and hazlenuts to preserve for a whole year's eating; all for just the labor it took to pick them, and the nerve to ask.

We made apple juice.

Actually we brought the apples to a friend with an apple press, and he squished it all into juice for us.

It made 10 gallons!

We were going to freeze it, but we just put up 1/2 a grass-fed beef, so decided to save the freezer space and can the juice instead.

It was a fun project, and very satisfying.

I hear the Pink Lady and Granny Smith apples were just harvested.

Time to make applesauce.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

They're All In League

What happens when you turn your back on a freshly baked cookie:

There were two suspects spotted near the scene of the crime during school hours. One of them is missing a front tooth, and the other has a history in this line of work.

Neither party has confessed.

My husband suggests I use enhanced interrogation methods by baking another batch.

I sense sabotage.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Chewy Chocolate White Chocolate Coconut Oatmeal Cookies

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!

 A few weeks ago I volunteered to be a baker for the funerals at our parish, and I was called for the first time this week! The thought was a little morbid at first, but then I figured it might count for both "feed the hungry" and "bury the dead," and why turn down the opportunity for two corporal works of mercy with one act?

"Would you like to make a dessert or a salad?"

"A dessert!"

I'm actually not much of a baker. On the rare occasions growing up when we had sweets in our house, my older sister was the one who did the baking. But my husband has a ferocious sweet tooth and I've been wanting to improve my baking repertoire, so I tried a new cookie recipe this morning.

The second to last step (before "bake") is "add 1 1/2 cups oats and 2 cups chocolate chips." Yeorg!! We only had 1/2 a cup of oatmeal and 1 1/2 cups of chocolate chips left! So I added 1 cup of coconut and 1/2 cup white chocolate chips, and was more than pleased with the results.

True confession: I made cookies instead of cake so we could have some. Does my greediness negate my generosity?

Chewy Chocolate White Chocolate Coconut Oatmeal Cookies
Adapted to what we had on hand from The Mixer Bible, 2nd Edition (p. 285)
[Printable Version: Here]

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup shredded coconut

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.
2. Place butter in a large bowl and mix butter until light and fluffy. Add eggs sugars and mix, beat in eggs (one at a time) and vanilla. Add flour mixture, in 3 additions. Fold in chocolate chips, oats, and coconut.
3. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto prepared baking sheets. Bake in the middle of a preheated (350° oven) for 10-15 minutes (mine needed a full 15 minutes, but adjust to your own oven), or until golden and slightly firm to the touch. Let cool on sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Other variations: Substitute walnuts or pecans for a portion of the chocolate chips, or use peanut butter chocolate chips, butterscotch, or whatever floats your happy boat.

What are you making?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Demonic Dreams: How Compromising Let Evil into My Home

A New Hobby for the Happiest Time of the Year

The end of Daylight Savings time is near! Slowly over the last few months "I'll be home after dark, dearest," has transitioned from 9:45pm to 6:45pm. From November to March, it'll move to 5:45pm and I'll get a whole extra hour each day with my husband!

I've been on the hunt for a project to fill our cozy Winter evenings, and finally settled on one. We're going to take up pyrography (wood-burning) and attempt to craft a beautiful chess board (or perhaps a whole game table) like this one. I have lots of designs in mind, and if we can pull off a whole table with a Backgammon board, Scrabble board, and chess/checker board, we'll have picked up a new skill and shared many lovely evenings making a beautiful heirloom to cherish in our family.

But there's a problem: we know nothing about pyrography. I searched online for some beginner tutorials, tips, and basic guides. There aren't very many, let me tell you.

My Mistake; Lingering with Evil

One site proved rather helpful. It had lovely designs of floral patterns, in-depth tutorials, and lots of helpful advice. There was a link to view more of the artist's work.

Dragon designs. Hm. Some cuddly and fuzzy, and a few rather scary looking ones.

"Ew, I don't like that," I said to myself, but saw a garden scene so kept clicking.

Pentagrams, goddesses, and astrological symbols, along with many other strange symbols and images that I didn't recognize (but felt uneasy about) were interspersed with how-tos of lovely floral work and landscapes. When I saw the 3rd ornately scrolled pentagram, I said "That's it! This is evil" and left the page, not caring that the next click promised a how-to of delicate daisies and lilies. Trial and error would be a safer teacher.

That night I had a horrific nightmare and startled my husband when I awoke repeatedly yelling, "Jesus, help me! Jesus, help me!" I attributed the nightmare to the late-night ice cream, said a prayer, and at last fell back asleep.

The next night, I had a similar dream of possessed people encircling me, grasping for my soul, transforming into beasts, hurling curses and shrieking profanities.

The next night, the same thing.

Having eschewed spicy food and late night ice cream, I could only trace back the demonic nightmares to the day I'd visited that site.

I told the whole of it to my husband, and we prayed the St. Michael the Archangel prayer and a Rosary while I erased our browsing history, cleared the cache, deleted all cookies and eliminated all temporary internet files; purging our home of any traces of that evil place.

Last night I dreamed of butterflies and babbling brooks.

What to Take from This

I use this as a cautionary tale, though. There are many pockets of peace and beauty, truth and goodness online, but it doesn't take long to find scores of great evil.

Upon reflecting on my recent encounter with evil on the internet and similar experiences over the years, I've put together two lists for surfing the net: one for safeguarding my virtue and the sanctity of our home, and the other are my non-negotiables... a one strike policy, and I instantly leave the site, not lingering to find a redeeming quality.

Of course one must use prudence in all cases. For example, while Christmas shopping online you don't want the screen visible to everyone, and some sites that are perfectly moral are not age appropriate for children... but these help me as a general guide with exceptions as necessary.

5 Strategies for Safeguarding Virtue and the Sanctity of Your Home while Online

1. Before turning on the computer, say a prayer to your Guardian Angel and invite him to guard your virtue online.

2. Place the computer in a highly trafficked area of your home with the screen visible to everyone.

3. If you have a laptop, as much as possible, do not use it in your bedroom.  
    This fosters isolation, and it's easier to go astray when you're by yourself.

4. Limit your time online.
    I have a major problem with this one, wasting untold hours in cyberspace. But for personal use (as opposed to work-related use or responding to e-mails), my rule of thumb is: don't spend more time online than time in prayer. When I honestly try to implement this, suddenly "I don't have time to pray" disappears.

5. Think, for every single website visited (even mine): "Would I show this page to the Blessed Mother?" or "If somebody walked in right now, would I instantly click off of this site?" And I don't mean because you don't want others to know you're researching your IBS symptoms. We're talking moral value, here.

My Top Five One-Strike Non-Negotiable Bye-Bye Website Criteria

1. If a website has a black background (unless it's EWTN on occasion) I immediately close it.
    I don't care how artsy it is, I don't need darkness (plus it's hard on the eyes). This one may seem strange, but most evil encounters I've had online are on sites with black backgrounds.

2. If there are any pornographic images (ads, or otherwise), bye bye.
    I quit using as a web host because they're more interested in buxom broads than anything else.
    I recently downloaded AdBlock Plus for Firefox and it has eliminated almost all ads, so I don't deal with this as often as I used to (especially in Yahoo! Mail).

3. Any images, representations, or text of: pentagrams, horoscopes, astrological symbols, pagan symbols, symbols of the occult, tarot cards, amulets, etc. are instant deal breakers.
    It was because I lingered on a site with these that evil entered my home. Just stay away.

4. If there is any mockery or blasphemy of Jesus Christ, the Blessed Mother, or the truths of the Catholic Church, adios.
    Comedians especially love to mock the Bride of Christ, the Church. I don't care how funny they are, this is satanic. Bye bye Jim Gaffigan. Your Hot Pockets skit was so funny; why do you have to mock the Immaculate Conception and do extended diatribes against the Church?

5. If there is any coarse language, I just don't need it.
    I'm sorry to some of my ex-favorite Bloggers; expand your vocabulary and rid your language of foulness. If I read it, I'm more apt to think it; if I think it, invariably it will slip into my speech. No thanks.

Finally, I've recommended it before, but I think (especially around Halloween) it deserves re-reading: Bishop Donald W. Montrose's "Spiritual Warfare."

I'm interested to hear from you. What are some of the ways you safeguard your virtue when online, and what are your non-negotiables when on the web?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Our Love Story, Part X

Catch up on Parts I-IX here.

The next morning dawned bright and maliciously early. Farming families, apparently, think little of sleep.

I wish I could say I was one of those girls who was so excited to be in love that I barely ate or slept whilst floating in love land. But while I could be oblivious to the blisters shrouding my feet and hands, the peeling layer of sunburned epidermis on my face, and the aching groan of my overextended muscles, I still slept like a log and awoke with a voracious appetite.

After downing a hearty plate of bacon, eggs, and homemade cinnamon rolls (his mom's cinnamon rolls are bundles of beauty), Mr. Amazing and I set out for the alfalfa field.

After our late evening chat the night before, the ride was rather quiet. It wasn't awkward at all, but we were both comfortably lost in our thoughts.

He took a scenic route past rolling lush green fields, and I involuntarily gasped in delight at their perfectly ordered beauty. It was so perfectly even it looked fake and I wondered who the rich dude was who could afford mammoth fields of AstroTurf.

"You like this, hm?" he said at last, breaking the silence.

"It's exquisite." Before I could stupidly ask, "What kind of grass is it?" he said,

"If you think these wheat fields are beautiful, then I know a place you'd really enjoy."

Wheat? I thought wheat was golden. Boy did I have a lot to learn.

By then we'd arrived and set out to work with Tim and Meg. I was asked to prime the pump (a cushy job allowing one to sit in the shade), and was pleased with my comfy lot while the others went out looking for those danged pipes seeking buried treasure.

A few hours later, while I was sitting there avoiding reassignment, a car drove up. A slender woman with dark eyes spotted me lounging working in the shade and rolled down the window. She called over, and I quickly discovered her purpose and surmised her identity. She was looking for Mr. Amazing. This must be "Janet," his ex-fiance.

I couldn't help it. I arched an eyebrow! But I answered civilly, "Oh, he's out in the field." I gestured to a dot on the horizon that I'd been watching for an hour. "If you hurry you'll probably catch him before he gets out of sight."

"Oh I'm not wearing the right kind of shoes. I'll just wait for him."

"Not wearing the right kind of shoes?? I'd run over burning coals barefoot to see him!" I thought, defensively, but just smiled and shrugged.

She honked several times and at length he spotted her. He smiled broadly and went over to talk with her. I couldn't bear to watch. A few minutes later she drove off. Blast. He was still smiling. He came to take a break in the shade, sitting near me.

I looked at him coolly.

"How's the pump priming going?" he asked, oblivious to my stony cold glare.

"Fine," I shot back, tersely. "Who was that?" I finally asked, casually.

He shifted uncomfortably.

"That's right, buddy. Squirm sucker, squirm." I thought.

"That was Janet." And we both said nothing more.

Of course I had no reason to be mad at him. I was the one with the crazy crush; besides a disinterested and cordial porch conversation, he'd made no move and he owed me nothing. He'd played the part of a gracious host when Miriam was working, entertaining me as any good older brother would do, and chauffeuring me out to visit Meg.

But at the time I felt like a crossed lover.

Meg and Tim came over and we all called it a day.

I had two days left in the Pacific Northwest, but I was ready to go home.

To be continued...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Small Successes: Bills, Bells, and Boxes


1. I finally paid the lab bill for this bad news zinger. I bitterly refused to pay the negligible amount for the last two months, wondering why they should add insult to injury by sending a bill. It was more the fact that I didn't want to think about it, and signing my name to a check would kind of ratify the news and make me face it anew. But justice demanded I send them their wages, so my account is now settled there.

2. I picked 30 pounds of bell peppers and jalapeños before it froze. Yay!! Now to slice and freeze them...

3. I refrained from checking the UPS tracking code obsessively when I knew I had packages coming. Instead I was happily surprised when they arrived. I amaze myself with my self-restraint sometimes. hehe

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

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Our Love Story, Part IX

Catch up on Parts I-VIII here.
The evening after my heatstroke incident, I remembered my little promise to St. Anthony. Six Rosaries was the final bid for a few unearthed pipes. Sheesh. I knew I'd better get started.

It was around 10:00 at night when I went out on to the front porch at the farm to start chipping away at my debt. There was a cool breeze blowing up from the river, the crickets were chirping merrily, and the irrigation runoff was trickling lazily admidst the chorus of frogs. There was such deep peace and natural idyllic beauty.
Jane Bennet: "I want to talk very seriously. Let me know every thing that I am to know, without delay. Will you tell me how long you have loved him?"

Elizabeth: "It has been coming on so gradually, that I hardly know when it began. But I believe I must date it from my first seeing his beautiful grounds at Pemberley."
And how!

Mr. Amazing was out that evening and the others had turned in for the night. I was quite content in my meditations on the Aves and Paters to the tranquil tunes of the twilight. As I finished the end of my first downpayment and pocketed my Rosary, I could see twinkling lights from off in the distance.

They were too rigidly parallel to be fireflies. Headlights!! Gasp!! He was coming home, and I was on the front porch... looking like I'd waited up for him!

"Go inside and pretend to be asleep," my interior counsel beckoned me. "Hurry!"

"Stay out here and pretend to be asleep," my Id urged. "Or better yet, whip out those beads and look pious!"

Aah!! He was nearly there!!

My superego was squelched and I planted myself more firmly on the front porch. I did, however, swing my chair around to face away from the steps up the porch; if he wanted to talk to me he'd have to approach me. I sat in the dark silence with my Rosary dangling from my fingers freely and quite conspicuously over the chair.

He parked. Turned off his pickup. The door slammed. Footsteps on the gravel drive.

Crunch, crunch, crunch.

He paused to pet the dog.

My pulse quickened.

He paused to take in the starlight (I safely observed by glancing over my shoulder, veiled as I was by the darkness of the porch).

"Would you hurry up and get up here?" I thought, as I tried to position my Rosary to catch the faint beams of moonlight. "Got to dazzle him with my radiant piety," I reasoned.

Finally, his heavy work-wearied feet clomped up the stairs. He stalled to take off his muddy boots.

"Glisten, Rosary, glisten!!" I entreated the dull cold beads. He hadn't yet noticed I was there, and my boldness in remaining on the porch would've been foiled had he gone in. Obviously if I'd walked in after him, he would have discovered my creepy stalker tendencies... following him in after lurking in the shadows, and all.

"Well, if you won't glisten, at least chime some delicate tune," I thought as I rattled them lightly.

The dumb dog barked just as the beads clinked an angelic clink. (How I wanted to strangle him with them!)

Getting desperate as he opened the door to go in, I let out a gentle feminine cough, as though the cold wind had damaged my delicate constitution.


"Oh," he paused in the doorway, surprised. "Hi. I didn't see you there."

"Oh," I said, as though I were equally surprised by his presence. "I was just enjoying the lovely evening while praying my nightly Rosary."

"Oh," he replied. I could tell he was impressed. Score!

He came out and closed the door. Yes!

He commented on the croaking frogs and I turned my chair around to face his. He patted the dog with his socked toes.

So passed another of the loveliest evenings of my life. We talked for hours, but it passed oh so quickly. We could hear the chime from inside the house; midnight.

The spell was broken. "Oh my, it's late. You should go to bed; farm work starts early tomorrow, hm?"

"Yes, you're right," he said... a little reluctantly, I thought. "Are you coming to work at the alfalfa field tomorrow?" he asked.

I briefly recalled my brush with death the day before, the unforgiving heat and the grimy film of sweat and dust that had covered my entire being. But he was either asking for free labor or was genuinely interested in having me along; I wasn't sure which, but I didn't want to take any chances and was hedging my bets for the latter. "Of course! I wouldn't miss it!" I said enthusiastically.

"Alright, you'd better get to bed too, then," he smiled. "Good night."

To be continued...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Aunt Debbie's Luscious Cheese and Macaroni

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 would call this Macaroni and Cheese, but that would be a misnomer. It's cheese sauce with macaroni added (although usually I add whole wheat medium shells).

It's rich, decadent, filling, and oh so "comfort food." This is not Kraft Mac & Cheese. This is something you can serve to company.

My Aunt Debbie, like all good home cooks, doesn't use measurements. I would make them up, but that wouldn't be an Aunt Debbie recipe.

Oh, and be sure to tell stories the whole time you're making this. Aunt Debbie never cooks that she doesn't tell some great stories.

Aunt Debbie's Luscious Cheese and Macaroni
Adapted to serve about 4
  • a few Tbsps. of butter
  • a little more flour than butter
  • one can Evaporated Milk (not condensed)
  • a few glugs of heavy cream (about 1/2 or 1 cup)
  • cream cheese (about 1/2 a block or so), chopped
  • grated cheddar cheese (about 1/2 a pound or so)
  • salt, pepper, paprika, and cayenne pepper to taste
  • macaroni or shell noodles (1/2-3/4 of a box or so)

Cook noodles in salted water according to directions.
In a deep skillet, melt the butter and add flour. Cook on medium heat, whisking constantly for about 3 minutes, or until flour is semi-cooked but not browned.
Slowly add in the can of evaporated milk, whisking to avoid clumping of the flour, then add several glugs of heavy cream (1/2-1 cup).
Cook on medium/low heat until it bubbles and thickens a bit; season to taste.
Add in chopped cream cheese, and whisk occasionally until it melts (this is the longest part of the process, approximately 5 minutes).
When cream cheese is melted and incorporated, add cheddar cheese and stir occasionally (it should melt very quickly).
If the mixture is too thick, add some milk to thin -- just eyeball it.
Drain pasta and add to the cheese mixture (if your pot is not deep enough, spoon the cheese sauce into the drained pasta); stir and serve.

No need to bake it, though I'm sure you could (and add some breadcrumbs).

Oh, and I'm of the opinion that bacon grease makes everything better, so sometimes I add a little bacon grease to the butter/flour.

What have you made lately?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Our Love Story, Part VIII

Catch up on Parts I-VII here.

My first cherry harvest was an event to remember! Prior to that experience, I had completely taken for granted the fact that there's ripe fruit in the grocery story, and it came from somewhereHow much work it takes to harvest a crop! Be assured, behind every piece of produce are blood, sweat and tears (not to mention blisters, dust, and sunburn).

But oh I had fun! Despite the fact I was still dying of the bubonic plague (or.. um.. a really bad cold), I worked every day from 4am-3pm in the sun, walking, walking, walking around the orchard giving receipts to pickers for their labors. I lost about 15 pounds that week and was sporting a golden (farmer's) tan that would put beach bums to shame. And of course I was glowing -- I was in love with the farmer's son!

Cherry harvest only lasted about a week and my stay was for over two weeks. What to do?

Miriam was working full time, but I was staying with her family, so Mr. Amazing offered to drive me out each day to visit with Meg while he and Tim worked on turning a brush-covered abandoned field into an alfalfa oasis.

"Hm... time alone with him in the pickup," I thought, "I'll take it!!"

On the drive over, we fell into easy conversation. I was so worried we'd have nothing to talk about, but the chatter flowed freely without awkwardness or hesitation. 

At last we arrived at the dust patch. Little did I suspect, however, that Meg and I wouldn't be sipping iced tea on the porch whilst watching the menfolk labor. No, Meg was right in there with 'em!

Aaaaah!! You mean I have to get my hands dirty? I'm going to be a scholar! The only dirt I touch is dust on ancient tomes.

But I wanted to show Mr. Amazing that I could be a great farmer's wife, so I leaped out into the field, shovel in hand, ready to dig up the buried irrigation pipes.

My enthusiasm was curbed a bit. Dirt. As far as the eye could see, and not nicely compacted level dirt. No, this was like walking through quicksand, and our destination was (of course) the far end of the field. Help.

The goal was to find the buried irrigation pipe and put a cap on it so water wasn't wasted in the wrong part of the field. You started digging, looking for a pipe, but you had no idea where the pipe actually was, except when given the vague directions: "it's about 3 paces West from the last hole." What the...?

If you were 4 inches off, you could keep digging to Kingdom Come and never find the danged pipe. After about 10 minutes of digging, in the unrelenting sun with no shade, I was getting desperate. Did I mention it was about 110° in the full sun?

"ST. ANTHONY," I yelled. "I'll pray 5 Our Fathers if you help me find the pipe!"

Dig, dig.


"Alright, you drive a hard bargain... I'll up the ante to 10 Our Fathers."

Dig, dig.

Nothing (but a blister).

"10 Our Fathers and an Apostles' Creed."


I knew what he wanted. *sigh* "A Rosa..."

Clink. Paydirt.

"Alright, alright, thanks, but a Rosary is extortion for one little pipe."

And so the routine continued for 5 more pipes. I'd lowball the saint and get nothing until I promised another Rosary.

Oh it was so hot.

A few hours later, and 6 promised Rosaries in, I realized I couldn't open my parched mouth. I was lightheaded, dizzy, and very sleepy. My limbs felt like lead. It came on all of a sudden, with little warning.

"Uh oh," I thought. I knew I was in serious trouble. I looked up and the world was swimming. I had tunnel vision and clouded hearing.

Heat stroke.

I stumbled 1/4 of a mile (but it felt like a marathon, and I fell to my knees and crawled part of the way) back to the shade and to water. The field was so big, and I was alone on that end... I couldn't open my mouth to speak, much less call for help.

There was a gallon jug there in the shaded pickup under the tree, and I chugged the whole thing without thinking. The whole gallon and I was still parched. I was sweating but freezing.

I really thought I was going to die, or at least wake up in a hospital. I put water on my forehead, neck, arms and backs of my knees -- it helped.

I can't die without him knowing that I love him!!! To this day I still believe it was that thought that kept me from collapsing. I couldn't succumb and I willed myself (with the grace of God) to stay awake and alert.

To be continued...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

I'm Feelin' It In My Bones

The days are getting shorter and the nights are getting chilly.

That can only mean one thing (no, we're not going to butcher a hog).

Time for a Pinochle party!

Next Friday. My place. Bring it.

Friday, October 15, 2010

My Husband, A Bum?

There's a grocery store nearby that sells a wide selection of imported $3 wines. None of them would win any awards, but on an occasional weeknight they do go very nicely with dinner; a treat we would never otherwise go in for.

Once I tried a sip of a $125 bottle of wine. I was at a nice restaurant with a good friend from grad school and we casually requested to see the wine list. Our waitress offered to bring us a sample of some wines, and amongst her array of libations was the $125 Pinot Gris.

It was a transcendental experience. I had never before been able to discern the difference between "cheap" wine and "good" wine (ranging from $5-35 dollars), but I still recall, with exquisite clarity, the ontologically higher value of that fermented blood of the grape.

We then proceeded to order the $2.50 a glass house wine, shielding ourselves from the fiery poison darts the waitress's eyes were shooting at us. We tipped her handsomely and called it good.

So anyway, last night my husband came home bearing a $3 bottle of Merlot and some asparagus.

"What's this for?" I asked, putting the asparagus away and glancing at our meal plan for a day to serve it.

"Oh... well... um... I'm wearing my irrigation boots, and I haven't shaved and... well, I didn't want to march right in, grab the $3 bottle of wine and pay for it in change, ya know? The cashier would've just said 'sure, sure' if I'd told her I was bringing it home for dinner. So I frantically looked around for anything and the asparagus was handy."

Sitting with my sweet husband, the bum, the $3 wine tasted remarkably similar to the $125.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

How Many Hogs' Worth of Bacon We Eat a Year

This is my soapbox manifesto. Mostly I just wanted to articulate it for myself, but thought I'd share it with anyone who was interested.

A Little Background and My Driving Factor

I've been thinking a lot this past year about the various food movements: "slow food," "real food," "raw food," "traditional diet," "organic," "sustainable," "fresh foods," "unprocessed," etc.

I hadn't given much thought to any of this other than, perhaps "they're health nuts," "they're liberals," "they're environmental extremists" or "they're crunchy hippies." Then I saw the (propaganda-laden, no doubt) film Food Inc [Part 1 and links to the rest are here]. After that I started doing tons of research.

You know what? It made a lot of sense to me.

There's nothing "liberal," "extremist," "hippy" or "nutty" about the unprecedented rise in heart disease, diabetes, cancer, infertility, and obesity of this past half century, not roughly but precisely correlated to the demise of the family farm and the takeover of the industrialized food mega-corporations.

What finally hit home for me, though, was the outrageous number of fake foods that effect our hormones and fertility. Bearing the painful cross of infertility myself, that's when it got personal.

The Basic Principles

For anyone unfamiliar with these movements, the basic principles are:

1. God's food (fruit, vegetables, grass-fed meat, raw milk) is good.
2. Artificial food (chemicals, preservatives, pesticides, fillers, genetically modified grains, soy-fed animals) is bad.
3. Local, in-season (zucchini in Summer), fresh (picked ripe and recently), minimally processed, sustainable food (cultivating rather than damaging the earth) = good.
4. Imported (Chinese apple juice, Taiwanese shrimp), out-of-season (strawberries in December), weeks-old (picked pre-ripe and ripened with chemicals sprays), ultra processed/ultra-pasteurized, unsustainable (soil toxicity, increase of pesticides, earth damaging) food = bad.

Some of the blogs I frequent, nowadays, where you can find more are: Kitchen Stewardship, Heartland Renaissance, Food Renegade, Gnowfglins, Cheeseslave, and The Nourished Kitchen.

Harsh Realities of Living It

But how do you get local oranges in Iowa, or corn in Florida? Well, as in everything, use prudence. The idea is, what you can get locally, you should, even if it's a higher price (the principle of subsidiarity, and of supporting your local economy).

Once you start to shift your paradigm and attempt to live the principles of these movements, however, you get slammed with reality.

Either you have to start making, growing, and raising the bulk of your own food, which is practically a full-time job (and was for many of our great-grandmothers and all of their mothers), or you have to pay through the teeth to buy organic, grass-fed, raw local food.

I don't work out of the home anymore, and I'm finding that setting up a daily rhythm allows me to make bread and freeze summer produce between math lessons and vocabulary quizzes. Yes, it's work, but it feels more human, and is much more fulfilling.

How I'm Incorporating the Principles into Our Lives

We are so dependent upon processed packaged foods that the idea of doing all of this was, at first, overwhelming. But I started with what I considered the most pressing and the most expensive. Putrid feed lots that can be nosed several miles away and e. Coli infested slaughterhouses scare me.

I'm blessed to be married to a farmer and have access to a few acres I can play with. We bought a milk cow and some chickens to start with because there's no way I can afford raw milk ($10 a gallon and $8 per pound of butter; other raw dairy products aren't even available) or pastured poultry ($4 a dozen eggs and $15 for a whole pastured chicken).

Our fat cow still hasn't had her calf, but once she does we'll be able to raise some hogs for grass and milk fed pork.

My goal for the next year is to raise all of our own meat.

Putting It Into Perspective 

When I first embarked upon this step of raising our own meat, I put the pencil to the paper to figure out how much we would need to raise.

Chickens: We were buying about 3 packages of boneless skinless chicken breasts a month. Wings? Blah. Thighs? Never. Legs? On occasion. Organs? Do chickens still have those? Quick calculation: 18 chicken breasts a month (9 chickens)... that's 108 chickens a year for 2 people! But no, that's just 108 chicken's worth of breasts. We'd eat less than half that many chickens if I cooked with the legs and the thighs (and we'd buy zero chicken stock and no bouillon if I used the bones).

Pork: We were going through a pound and a half of bacon a week. That's 78 pounds of bacon a year. A pig (roughly, and it does vary) has about 18 pounds of bacon on it. We're going through 4 hogs of bacon a year!! A family of 4 could comfortably live on one hog a year!

Beef: I won't go there. We like tender juicy steaks. And we don't have the freezer space to handle the number of cows we'd have to raise to maintain our current steak consumption.

We are a classic case of the unsustainable diet of many Americans. We pick out the choice cuts and discard the rest. It's not real, and it's not right.

By changing our habits, bacon will be a treat instead of a staple. Chickens won't be valued for their boneless skinless breasts. And prime rib will be a Christmas feast instead of a normal Sunday meal.

The Bottom Line

Since beginning to adopt these principles this Lent, I have more energy, have lost 10 pounds, have clearer skin, have much much much less drastic mood swings, and for the first time since I've been doing NFP charting (almost two years), I'm starting to have real signs of fertility.

I'd really like to hear from any of you to see if/how you've adopted and adapted these principles in your life. Or do you think it's quack bunk? How has your diet, shopping, budget changed? Have you lost weight? Feel healthier? Saved or spent more money? Or what negative effects have you seen?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

My Least Favorite Fall Tradition

There are a million things to love about Fall. I won't articulate them all, because, quite frankly, that would be snuggle poo.*

But there's one tradition I don't look forward to.

The first piping hot bowl of Autumn soup.

Yes, a steaming bowl of soup warms the innards, soothes the soul, and relaxes a tensed body from the day's stresses. It's medicinal. It's comforting. It's wonderful.

But every year sometime between mid-April when I put away the soup bowls, and mid-October when I dig them back up, I forget the fine art of soup eating. Or, more properly, the skill of soup blowing.

And every year I slurp the first spoonful of liquid lava without properly puffing and I get the ceremonial tongue, lip, and palate burn.

Now that I'm officially sportin' the swollen soup lip, I can say with confidence: Fall is here.

*[noun:ˈsnʌɡəl •puː / snuhg-uhl • poo: a pejorative term which refers to events, items, or situations that have the quality of cliched comfort. E.g. hot apple cider with cinnamon sticks, warm blankets by the fire with hot tea and a book, eating a fresh apple in a sunlit window, sipping hot cocoa while listening to classical music, cuddling with a teddy bear, etc.]

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Incredible Meatless Sandwich

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!

Yesterday my husband came home for lunch!! It was so exciting; I felt like I'd won the lotto.

When you have a treat as wonderful as his presence, you can't serve peanut butter sandwiches. So I started brainstorming. One of my neighbors (they really are dear ladies) had brought me some huge Portabella mushrooms, and I'd made a fresh batch of these beauties that morning.

Inspiration? Inspiration? My muse had left me, so I went to Swagbucks (and won 8 points for the search) and discovered Grilled Portabella Mushrooms with Caramelized Onions and Avocados.

They were very quick and simple to make (about 10 minutes on the gas grill while the onions caramelized). I made some changes to the original recipe (reflected in the directions below).

I could definitely see these on the menu for Fridays.

The verdict?

Eyes wide open, two head nods while looking down to the left. (Translate: perfection)

Grilled Portabella Mushrooms with Caramelized Onions and Avocados
  • 4 large portabella mushrooms, stems removed
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and sliced thin
  • 1 pat butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt, pepper, and seasonings to taste
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 ripe tomato
  • lettuce leaves
  • mayonnaise
  • 4 large hamburger buns
  1. Scrape out the dark muddy gills of the mushroom (optional), brush both sides with olive oil and salt lightly. Broil or grill mushrooms on both sides until just tender, about 5 minutes per side.
  2. Meanwhile, cook onions in butter/olive oil over medium heat until very tender, stirring occasionally, about 10 to 12 minutes. Season to taste.
  3. Cut avocado in half, remove the pit, and peel and cut into slices. Slice tomato.
  4. Toast buns. Top bun bottom with grilled portabella, 1/4 of the caramelized onion, lettuce, tomato, and avocado slices. Spread top of bun with mayonnaise and top the sandwich. 

What are you making this Tasty Tuesday?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Estrogen in the... Peanut Butter? Yippy Skippy

Soy mimics estrogen. Who knew? Soybean oil (which is vegetable oil), "partially hydrogenated" soybean oil, soy lecithin, soy powder, soy flour, and anything else with "soy" on the label... hello estrogen.

I have an overload of estrogen already. It's one of the many factors of my present inability to conceive. So over the last several months I've slowly been weeding out everything that has soy and soybeans and soybean oil in it. It's really hard, but each time I learn to make something from scratch, sans soybeans, I get a little thrill.

This week it was time for the great peanut butter purge. Our last jar was running out and I sadly read the Jif label for the 1000th time. There staring back at me, unblinkingly, was "hydrogenated vegetable (soybean) oil."

Yes, I know there are natural peanut butters. But I like JIF! I like PETER PAN! I like SKIPPY! I even like STORE BRAND PEANUT BUTTER!!!! I've tried Adam's Natural (with the two inch layer of oil on top) and can I just say, "blech"?! Give me smooth, creamy, and hydrogenated any day!

So in the bulk section of our grocery store this week, my husband saw a vat of plain roasted peanuts that you could grind right into a container. It was a pretty cool gadget so we gave it a spin.

*crank crank crank, grind grind grind, whirl*

Out came some pretty neat looking peanut butter.

That evening my husband brought me a graham cracker with our new peanut butter and some Nutella on it (I let him keep his Nutella -- a man's gotta have some things he likes).

"Oh my goodness, this is delicious!! I wonder if it's just the Nutella or if the peanut butter is really just this good?"

"No, it's the Nutella. The peanut butter tastes like chewed up peanuts."

"No it doesn't! This stuff is amazing."

He shrugged and I basked in the triumph of another step towards freedom from Sir Soybean.

This morning I tried some of the peanut butter on a spoon (the best way to eat it).

"BLECH!! This tastes like chewed up peanuts!"

Mr. Amazing smirked.

I added salt. "Now it tastes like chewed up salted peanuts." I added honey. "Chewed up salted peanuts with honey."


I so want to Skippy on down to the grocery and be back with a Jif.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Why My Neighbors Branded Me with a Scarlet A

Yesterday I mentioned our neighborhood watch. It's an unofficial group, comprised mostly of wannabe Miss Marples. We don't have one of those fancy signs on our street, but I guarantee our gals are every bit as good as the major leaguers.

Yes, they've had some mishaps. They called the cops on one of our friends (he was visiting overnight and took a morning walk; they thought he was a disoriented vagabond), called to ask if I was sick when my sister-in-law dropped off a gallon of milk (she was coming for breakfast), reported that I had stalkers in my driveway (when my parents came to visit and were accidentally locked out, so they slept in the car). Oh, and there's the little fact that when we actually did have a burglar, they were all asleep.

But for all that, I do feel a little safer knowing they're all packin' heat, and they're all watching our house neighborhood like hawks.

So a few months after we got married and I moved in to the neighborhood, my darling was working late and had left his pickup at the farm. He'd driven his brother's pickup home, and for some reason parked in front of the house instead of in the driveway. It must have been 11pm, and the overcast sky made the night dark as pitch.

I noticed the telltale split in the blinds across the street as our neighbor peered through to inspect the strange headlights, but as she did this often, I thought little of it.

At 4am he had to get back to the farm to bale hay, but promised he'd be home for breakfast. We smooched goodbye in the doorway, and I thought I caught another split in the blinds out of the corner of my eye. "She's watching, you'd better go," I told him, so we had a good chuckle and he hurried away to the farm.

Around 9am in full sunlight he came back for breakfast, this time in his own pickup, and parking (as usual) in our driveway. By now there were three Jr. Miss Marples huddled across the street, whispering, shaking their heads, and casting sidelong glances in my direction.

The neighbors who were usually so friendly shunned me for weeks! They wouldn't wave to me, smile at me, or bring in my trash can. The situation finally came to a head when one of them brought some homemade preserves and coolly added, "for your husband."

That's when it clicked and I realized why they were blackballing me. I was Hester Prynne!

"Oh yes, that darling husband of mine. He's been working late nights, with the hay and all. Sometimes he can just come home a few hours a night, and once he even drove his brother's pickup home." I knew that last bit had nothing to do with the sentence, but I wanted some of those preserves and she didn't look like she trusted them in my tainted possession.

Immediately her death grip on the sparkling jar of goodness loosened and she was all smiles. "Oh, that's just like him! He's such a good man. I know you two are so in love; it's great to see that in a marriage."

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Great Escape, Chickens on the Loose

If you don't follow me on Twitter or Facebook, then you probably missed out on the major event this week.

It was the excitement of a lifetime. Maybe a housefly's lifetime, but a lifetime nonetheless.

It all started when my husband woke up (at the crack of dawn) and went out to feed the chickens. He came back in and said, "Darling, you've got to see this."

Well, I knew it had to be something big for him to rouse me, because before 6am I wake up like the Cave of Wonders in Aladdin. *wild eyes, roaring growl, bilious fumes of morning breath* "Who distuuurbs my sluuuuumber?"

But he was undaunted by my groggy glare, so I knew it must be good. "Coming dearest!"

Well, there in the garage, strutting fat and happy, were 27 chickens. Outside of their coop.


I am thoroughly unhelpful when it comes to the chickens. I love the idea of having them, I don't mind feeding them, and I can't wait for the eggs; but they're dirty... don't make me touch them, please.

So I watched and laughed as Mr. Amazing became a chicken wrangler.

It's so hard to count chickens because they won't stand still for the census. But I tried and I thought I counted 20 somethings back in the coop, so we called it good, ate breakfast, and Mr. Amazing went out to work.

Noon. I'm starving.

*Knock on the door.*

"Is your husband coming home for lunch? There's a chicken in my plum tree."

Sure enough. A chubby biddy was perched high atop our neighbor's plum tree, looking suspiciously like one of ours.

The idea of chicken fricassee for lunch was suddenly very appealing. 

Well, my darling came right home and rescued the foul fowl from certain smothering in onions and gravy. In the meantime, we discovered and disbanded four more plump poultry lurking in darker corners of the garage. I'm sure they were planning a coop coup; I could see it in their beady little eyes. I'm watching you, Clucky.

If nothing else came of the chicken escape fiasco, the neighborhood watch was all abuzz. They hadn't been so excited and aflutter since the day after they missed our burglar.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Small Successes, Survival Edition


Until the irrigation water is shut off (October 18th), I'm operating in "survival mode."

Before I married a farmer I had no idea that there was any such thing as an irrigation district, and that they decide when and how much water farmers can have. In our district, farmers are only allowed to have water on their crops from April to October.

Thank the good Lord! If it were any longer I don't know if I could do it. When the water goes off, by and large, the farmer's work hours are greatly shortened.

My own darling farmer is gone before I wake up and often comes home after I go to sleep. Yes, he calls me often during the day to check in and say "hi," but sometimes a whole week goes by where I only see him an hour or two combined from Monday through Saturday. Sometimes I bring him dinner in the field, but it's just to see him for a few minutes before he has to get back to work.

Just 11 more days. I can do it. Just 11 more days, and then I'll have my husband back.

1. Am using the long hours of the afternoons to write Our Love Story. This is actually very helpful to ward off loneliness.

2. I tend not to cook for just myself, and live off of cereal or whatever is in the fridge. It's just no fun to cook without someone else to enjoy it. But last night I made some homemade corn tortillas and chipotle pork. Yes, it would've tasted better with my husband there, but I think this is progress.

3. Last night when the walls were particularly suffocating, I prayed a Rosary for my husband (and for military wives). Our Lady is so dear, and she's excellent company.

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

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Our Love Story, Part VII

[Catch up on Parts I-VI here] 

My time in Arizona was wonderful! I have never seen so many stars that were so dazzlingly bright. It was stunningly beautiful and one of the top 10 most breathtaking sites I've beheld in all my life!

But while I was in Arizona, en route to Miriam's, I picked up a nasty cold. I had a pretty intense fever, and on the last day of my side trip to Arizona I lost my voice.

Cherry harvest had already begun when I arrived, so Mr. Amazing's mom picked me up from the airport instead of Miriam. I whispered to her that I had lost my voice, so she lovingly and hospitably picked up the conversation so I didn't feel awkward. Oh, and she hoped I wouldn't mind, but she just had to make one quick stop at Costco for some french bread.

I think it was somewhere in the middle of the parking lot that she tired of the one-way conversation because she started asking me lots of questions. She was content with the fact that I could whisper so she asked me all about my family, my studies and plans, what kind of bread I preferred, how I liked the Pacific Northwest, how I had enjoyed my semester abroad...

After each question I expected her to see how I was straining and re-take control of the conversation, but after each hoarse whispered answer she'd volley another question. So every few aisles we would stop and I would put my face close to her ear to squeak out a response, all the while trying not to breathe on her for fear of spreading my cold.

It was the worst after trying the samples. Miriam's mom would ask what I thought of the sample and the lady giving them out would casually eavesdrop to hear the answer. Denied. I'd lean in and whisper "it was delicious." "What?" "It was delicious." "I'm sorry, what was that?" "DeLICious," I'd croak as loudly as I could. I ignored the disparaging stares of the other bulk shopper bargain hunters.

Of course now that I've worked several cherry harvests myself I realize how frazzling the whole experience is! Months of agonizing preparation, hoping you'll make it past the frost, then rain, then get enough workers, then have a good crop, a good price, all the while keeping track of a huge crew and getting everyone fed, clothed, bathed, rested, and remaining civil. I'm amazed that she was so generous and gracious to pick me up during lunchtime when she was expected to feed the whole harvest crew!

But at the time all I knew was that I wanted a soft bed, a warm drink, and some NyQuil.

We arrived back at the farm, victoriously armed with multiple loaves of french bread, and I sat at the counter to eat a piping hot plate of spaghetti. I've never been good at eating spaghetti. That fancy skill where you twist it up on the spoon so as to eat it in a refined way? Unlearnable. So my face was splashed with sauce and I was very indelicately wrestling to slurp up a long noodle that wouldn't be tamed when in strode Mr. Amazing. 

I choked.


I either inhaled the danged noodle or it had gone out my nose. I don't know but I choked. Coughing... tears in my eyes...

Why? Oh why did he have such a power of presence over me?? Why did he inspire me to do the most humiliating things? He was a recently engaged man; still taken for all I knew. I had moved on. I had gotten past it. I had attempted to stop being a creepy stalker and forget him.

After I'd recovered and wiped my face (and eyes) he cordially said "hello."

I was glad I could blame the scarlet hue of my face on my recent choking episode.

"Hi." I whispered weakly.

"Oh, she's got laryngitis," his mom interjected, thankfully rescuing me from further comment.

"Hm," he grinned, "she's so awed by my presence she's speechless, eh?"

OOH! What a HAM!

But I couldn't deny it. I was awed by his presence. I was still hopelessly in love.

To be continued...

Our Love Story, Part VI

[Catch up on Parts I-V here]

Part VI is a segue of necessary background information for the rest of the story. I will post Part VII sometime this afternoon to compensate for the transitional nature of this post.


Yes, Mr. Amazing was engaged. And I had another semester of my undergraduate degree to complete. I had finished my Theology major classes and thesis, so the Philosophy major was my focus now. I threw myself into my education. I took 18 credits and audited 2 extra classes (for fun), worked 2 jobs, and never slept.

But I was so happy. I loved being Catholic. I loved college. I loved Philosophy. I loved my friends. I didn't feel incomplete without a boyfriend, and I didn't feel impatient to get married; I was content with my lot.

And yes, I still loved Mr. Amazing. After I'd had my good cry-out, I prayed that he and his new bride would be very happy and fulfilled in their vocation (little did I know then that I was praying for myself!).

Miriam and I had grown to be quite close during that time. She had already graduated, but I called her frequently and we corresponded by e-mail. Every once in a while I would ask her about her family and was genuinely interested in their goings-on since I had become enamored of them at Meg and Tim's wedding. But I did listen a little more attentively when she spoke of Mr. Amazing.

She kept telling me how unhappy he was. "How can he be so unhappy when he's going to be getting married?" I kept wondering... and I prayed for him. Miriam told me often, "She's not the right girl for him and we can all see it. He's miserable."

And again, I prayed.

Several weeks later, during one of our conversations, Miriam mentioned in passing, "Oh, and my brother just called off the wedding."


Judging motives, even our own, is a sticky business, but I think I can honestly say that the news made me happy for his sake, and his ex-fiance's, and not for any "oh, there's new hope now" on my part. I was really impressed that both of them had the courage to call off a wedding for which others had already bought plane tickets and made arrangements and plans... that they didn't just "go through with it" for fear of embarassment or expense or inconvenience. During the Engaged Encounter weekend they had mutually come to the conclusion that they weren't suited for each other, and didn't love each other in a way necessary for the life-giving life-long commitment and Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. Despite both of their efforts, they couldn't turn their relationship into something it wasn't, and ultimately they respected each other enough to admit it.

It was also during this time that Miriam invited me up for cherry harvest. I should mention that when I first met Miriam and she told me that she lived on a cherry farm, my patronizing response had been, "A cherry farm? How quaint." Yeah... maybe that's why we didn't originally hit it off so well.  Anyway, Meg and Diana had both been up for it before and were always telling glory stories; it was the Summer after my graduation and the first Summer since I was 14 that I didn't intend to work! So why not?

I ended my last semester, graduated Summa cum Laude, said goodbye to my dear Alma Mater, bought my ticket (with several days layover in Phoenix to visit a dear friend) and I was off!

To be continued...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Baked Potato Mashed Potatoes

"Those were the best mashed potatoes I've ever had." Sister-in-Law
"Those were the best mashed potatoes I've ever had." Brother-in-Law
"These are the best mashed potatoes I've ever had." My Amazing Husband
 "Oh my goodness, these are the best mashed potatoes I've ever had." Me

They don't need gravy.

Who has ever met a mashed potato that didn't need gravy??

I'm always trying to find the holy grail of the mashed potato. Roasted garlic. Cream cheese. Roasted red peppers. Caramelized onions. Cheese of any kind. Or all of the above.

I've tried 'em all. And they always taste like spruced up mashed potatoes. Yes, they were really good, but they're all just variations on the theme of the plain kind.

And they always needed gravy.

Until now.

I don't have a picture, because who thinks to take a picture of mashed potatoes? They don't look any different than your ordinary mashed potato.

[Insert your idea of what a mashed potato looks like here.]

But the flavor is radically different from your ordinary mashed potato. I'll say again: they don't need gravy.

Note: I never measure when I'm cooking unless I'm baking or trying a strange new recipe. So these measurements are rough and approximate.

Baked Potato Mashed Potatoes
a.k.a. Don't Put Gravy on these Mashed Potatoes

1 medium potato for each person (Russet or Yukon Gold)
butter: 1-2 Tbsp. per potato
cream: 1 Tbsp. per potato
sour cream:* a dollop per potato
chopped green onion* / chives: 1-2 Tbsp. per potato
bacon grease*: 1/2-1 tsp. per potato
salt and pepper to taste
garlic and onion powder (not garlic or onion salt) to taste

*These are the secret weapons of the recipe.

Boil your chopped potatoes (skin on) in salted water as usual. Mash and add the rest of the ingredients.

Prepare to hear "these are the best mashed potatoes I've ever had in my life."

Could you add bacon itself? Probably, but I don't like how bacon gets soggy when you add it to other things.
Could you add cheese? Yes, but why complicate matters? They're already rich enough.
Could you bake/roast the potatoes instead of boiling them? By George, I think that might be brilliant... but it will require more research.

What are you making?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Monday Musings

Right Now:  It's about 11am. My nieces are doing Reading and Phonics. It's downright cold outside but I'm in denial and am keeping the windows open anyway. I'm also hoping the neighbors won't complain that we still have 27 chickens in our garage, though Howard the rooster keeps crowing and betraying our secret. They're going to go out to the farm soon, to their spacious new digs... really!

This Weekend:  Was not blissful as usual. My husband and his brother are planting some new hay fields, but it's a massive undertaking. For the past five months I was slowly getting used to having him gone 16 hours a day, 6 days a week and only coming home to eat dinner and go to sleep, but now he had to work on Sunday as well. It was "necessary" labor, and of course we still went to Mass, but I don't feel refreshed and like I can face another week of this, having been robbed of a Sabbath.

Some Plans for the Week:  In a moment of weakness enthusiastic zeal I volunteered to play the piano for the Sunday "youth Mass." Our first rehearsal is tonight.

I need to bake bread (this is a weekly happening now that we're not buying it) and pick up the slack to do the chores my husband does, since he's away every waking hour (and many sleeping hours, too). I know I can operate a lawn mower, but we're just going to have to go without weed-eating around the fence, as that contraption makes me wrists hurt. Time to take out the trash, too.

If I Find Some Time for Myself, I Want To: write a letter to my sister. I've been neglecting her far too long.

Some Prayer Intentions: for the hay project to be successful and quickly finished.

Something that Makes Me Smile: Sunlight through windows, and grapes about to be frozen.

Monday Musings are hosted by Nadja at Patch O' Dirt Farm.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Either/Or or Both/And?

I just made caramel and it's absolutely delicious. But the stuff has 10x more bonding power than extra strength super glue.

I also just discovered that my dishwasher is broken.

I can either go stick my head in a hole and cry, or I can offer up this housewifery suffering for the success of my husband's endeavors and the conversion of poor sinners.

*thinking pause*

Actually, I think this is a both / and proposition.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Our Love Story, Part V

[Catch up on Parts I-IV here]

Yes, I waited almost until the end of the reception and there had been no offer to dance from My Miriam's Brother. I'd tried to remain lively company for my friends, but I couldn't help it... I was sulking. Oblivious to my infatuation, Mr. Amazing had now shunned me three times, and that was unpardonable.

I went back to the house where Mr. Amazing's family was staying, because (dance stealer) Diana was lodging there with Miriam. We talked and laughed for a good while; I chided her for making a move on my man (I could be quite free with Diana since she wasn't a member of his family as Miriam and now Meg were). Then the family came back. They were carting bottles of champagne (the wedding reception had been a teetotaler event) and were in lively spirits.

I threw my most chilling Gorgon glare at Mr. Amazing but it was wasted because he turned to close the door just as it would have hit its mark. At least now it was out of my system.

Miriam's father and uncle poured a round of champagne for us all and we toasted and sipped and laughed for the next hour while they entertained us with stories from their youth. The champagne put me in a more forgiving mood, and I even condescended to smirk at one of Mr. Amazing's bad puns.

At last the merriment died down and the wiser generation said their goodnights. There were a few ounces of bubbly left, so Mr. Amazing split it amongst us and Miriam, Diana and I somehow began talking about My Fair Lady.

I contended (and still do), that no self-respecting woman can feel happy with the ending of that movie (although I don't call into question the timelessness of the beautiful costumes and unforgettable music). In the play, Eliza leaves the no-good misogynist flat and marries Freddy, but the Hollywood ending is unbelievable and unsatisfying because without his undergoing any substantial change she goes back to Henry Higgins. Yes, he's had an awakening that perhaps he hasn't treated her in a way that respects her dignity as a human person to put it mildly, but all the proud blackguard can say is that he's "grown accustomed to her face." Disgraceful!

"And why should Henry Higgins have to change for her?" came a booming voice from the corner that I had forgotten was there.

Hm. So Mr. Amazing was finally acknowledging my existence... for the first time in four years.

What ensued shall go down in my personal history as one of the happiest and loveliest evenings of my life. Mr. Amazing and I talked and debated and sparred and laughed until almost dawn. The others had long tired of our philosophical conversations about substance and accidents and essences and principles and had fallen asleep. But it was truly electrifying. I credited it all with the two ounces of champagne I'd had many hours earlier, but of course the lightheaded dizzy ambrosia giddiness was love.

Pardon me the cheesiest line in all of blog-dom... but I can't resist...
♫♪ "I could have talked all night, I could have talked all night, and still have begged for more. I could have spread my wings, and done a thousand things, I've never done before. I'll never know what made it so exciting; why all at once my heart took flight. I only know when he began to talk with me I could have talked, talked talked... all night!" ♫♪
I still smile and blush a little when I think about the sweet joy of that evening. When I discovered that on top of his movie star good looks, solicitous sweetness, and saintly piety, that Mr. Amazing's mind was sharp, agile, and quick... I was hopelessly smitten.

I spent the night upstairs with Miriam and Diana, and the next morning my awkwardness around Mr. Amazing was gone. I could look and smile at him without timidity or shyness. We'd had a true meeting of the minds.

I flew home more on air than in a plane and promptly did what I knew how to do best. I cooked. Lemon poppyseed muffins, banana nut muffins, and chewy chocolate chip cookies, airmailed to Mr. Amazing's whole family with little notes to each of them. It would have been far too obvious if I had just sent a note to Mr. Amazing, so I had to write everybody and tell them how much I enjoyed the wedding. Without indicating my adoration in any way, I wanted to make sure that he wouldn't forget me this time.

I had never thought to ask if he was seeing someone else. The thought of it never even occurred to me; he was so plainly perfect for me. So a month later when I got a call from Miriam, my whole world turned upside down.

Mr. Amazing had just announced his engagement.

Readers... for the first time since early childhood, I sobbed uncontrollably.

To be continued...

Saints of October Printouts

Being thrifty, I didn't buy my nieces a coloring book for their breaks in between classes this year. I feel like a rotten teacher, and an even more rotten Aunt.

So I'm trying to make up for it by making them some coloring pages. I made St. Therese first because her Feast Day was fast approaching at the time, and then St. Francis... you can tell he's a pretty rough drawing... and then I got hooked and couldn't stop. I did almost all of the saints of October, some whose Feasts even fall on a Saturday or Sunday this year.

I'm certainly no artist; hands scare me and my creepy hands on the drawings scare me more, but little kids don't seem to care about such artistic blunders license.

If you want to use them for your kids, for CCD, or for any other private use, feel free to browse them here, or check out the right sidebar of the blog for printable versions. (Just please don't try to rework them in any way to sell.)

If the girls enjoy them I might keep going through the year.

St. Therese of Lisieux, October 1st

St. Francis, October 4th

St. Faustina, October 5th

Bl. Marie Rose Durocher, October 6th

Our Lady of the Rosary, October 7th

 Bl. John Henry Cardinal Newman - October 9th

St. Teresa of Avila, October 15th

St. Gerard Majella, October 16th

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, October 16th

St. Ignatius of Antioch, October 17th

St. Luke the Evangelist, October 18th

 The North American Martyrs, October 19th

St. Anthony Mary Claret, October 24th

St. Jude Thaddaeus, October 28th

St. Simon the Zealot, October 28th