Monday, February 28, 2011

Convicted by a Three Year Old

Today when I was in Adoration, a woman and her young children came in and knelt behind me.

I heard a cooing baby and a spunky toddler and wanted so badly to casually glance over my shoulder (who can resist chubby cheeks?). But my siblings informed me when I was a little kid that if you look behind you in church you see the devil's face. A few decades later, and I'm still not takin' any chances.

From the little girl came a squeaky stage whisper, "Mother Mary looks a little bit upset in that picture. Why?"

I stifled a guffaw. She was referring, of course, to Our Lady of the Angry Stare -- the stern-faced modern stained glass image of the Blessed Mother in our Adoration chapel. Because we're grateful to have stained glass at all in these days of warehouse churches, nobody ever comments on the fact that the ones we do have are rather... um... well... "a little bit upset."

"Is somebody being naughty to the Baby Jesus? Is that why she's upset?"

Wow. I knelt corrected and convicted.

Henceforth, I will never again be able to look at that image without offering prayers of reparation for myself and the world. Whoever you are, little girl: thank you.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Unresolution

I resolve to make more desserts.

Like this one.

My husband likes them.

Desserts terrify me. They cook in the concealment of the oven; I can't watch them. The line between underdone and burned is a split second. Exact measurements (instead of eyeballing it) are needed. The results can be influenced by the weather. If it's raining you might have to add more flour; or if there's too much humidity in the kitchen! What they hay?? Chemistry is involved! There's just too much that can go wrong.

Plus, we never had them growing up. As my dad says, "I'm a salt and grease man." We just didn't have them in the house.

My husband eats desserts after every meal. And sometimes before. And often in between.

His family excels at making them. There's always a pie, a cake, cookies, or sweet bread lying on the counter. If not, there's backup candy in the cupboard.

I don't know how he maintains such a slim athletic physique, but he can handle them (I, meanwhile, am still working off the piece of coconut cream pie I consumed the Christmas of '07).

With fear and trembling, then, in the interest of self-sacrificial love (of course), I resolve to bake at least once a week for my husband. Tonight I'm making choco-mallow bars.

The timing of my unnerving unresolution is perfect.

Lent starts in two weeks.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Of Mice and Mortgages: Successes

1. In the last 72 hours, I've earned about the equivalent of a minor in both Real Estate and Accounting (from the University of Google). I've been trying, furiously, to figure out how we could a) qualify for and b) afford the mortgage on our little dream house. After calculating, recalculating, fudging, figuring, and finagling, I think we might be able to do it. Maybe.

2. We only have four more days of the month, and I think we can finish it without another trip to the grocery. This is a success because we've got 30% of our grocery budget left to spend for the month. It would be nice to put that into savings.

3. ♪♫ Three dead mice, three dead mice, see how they lie, see how they lie... they all ran after the Farmer's Wife, she set out the traps which was extra nice, did you ever see such a sight in your life as three dead mice? ♪♫

Three down, who knows how many to go. We've been praying for the pitter patter of little feet, but not that kind! I haven't heard any today; I hope the infestation is over and the mice have called a truce. I've got more peanut butter traps if they want to keep this war going, though.

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

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Giveaway Winner

Let me just say: if you want to recommit to blogging, host a giveaway. My goodness, thank you all so much for your kind comments!! They'll keep me fueled up for a good long while.

At the start of the year, I was really trying to hone in on a focused niche for this blog (e.g. just recipes, just marriage, just homesteading...), but after hearing from you all I think the variety is what makes this blog work... and also what makes it utterly unmarketable for advertising revenue, hehe.

Without further ado, the winner of the:


Commenter #52: "Thenotsoperfecthousewife." 

Congratulations!! Please contact me to claim the code.

So again, thank you all! You've really helped me to refocus.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Pick Your Poison

"If you were a mouse..."

Any conversation that starts like this gets my attention pretty quickly. I stopped mixing the mashed potatoes and lent an ear to my husband, who was loading up the traps with peanut butter.

"If you were a mouse... would you rather die eating creamy or crunchy?"

I used to think they were cute. But when they ate a hole in my wall and floor, and scampered fearlessly across my bedroom in daylight hours... well... they declared open war.

Image credit: T.H. Taylor Homes


Are you a creamy or a crunchy fan? (I actually prefer crunchy, but I was trying to think like a mouse).

Don't forget, the Amazon gift card giveaway entries end tonight!

Monday, February 21, 2011

High Apple Pie in the Sky Hopes

Right now...It is late afternoon, and I've been researching house grants, loans, and other items along those lines.

Honestly I was quite content living here in our "House of Happiness" (as my niece calls it), until this weekend when a charming house close to the farm became available. I've often driven past the home and thought, "what a beautiful set-up!" They have the prettiest barn, sweetest house, and loveliest pasture... and a towering lazy tree that turns bright crimson and flaming orange in the Fall. There's enough space in the house for us to house some guests, and enough land for us to keep our chickens and a cow on our own property. The owners (I found out after I'd been admiring it for a while) are actually friends of my husband's family and long-time parishioners at our church. Sadly, their reasonable asking price is pretty far out of our reach.

This weekend... I became a godmother! "Tim" and "Meg" of Our Love Story fame, asked my husband and I to be godparents to their charming baby daughter.

Some plans for the week ahead:  Figure out how we can afford to buy a house. And pray some novenas to that effect, as well.

If I find some time for myself, I want to... work on getting our garden area ready. It's almost time to plant peas!

Prayer intentions for this week:  for a dear friend who is grieving, and another who is expecting. For Suzanne's baby and pregnancy. For Amy Caroline's daughter. And for the asking price to come way down.

Something that makes me smile: Surprise calls from my husband in the middle of the day.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Our Reunion Ritual

The saddest part of my day occurs each morning when my husband leaves to go to the farm. I love him. Dearly. I love being with him, and the forced separation each day is a heavy blow.

This is pretty much how I look when we part...

Image credit: "The Farewell" by Eugene de Blaas.

... with brown hair and a modesty panel, of course.

But the happiest moment is when he returns home after dark. What joy! It delights him that I am so excited to see him, and the whole reunion ritual is so transcendently beautiful, para-liturgical almost, I can hardly contemplate it without reverence and awe. The privilege and responsibility of being a woman, and his wife, is almost too much goodness to bear.

Reflecting upon this deep joy has made the Fourth Glorious Mystery of the Rosary (The Assumption of Mary into Heaven) so much more real to me. I never really understood it before. But now I know: to be reunited with her love after separation must have been such an indescribable ecstasy! I can feel some small part of our Blessed Mother's bliss each time my husband returns home. The marriage covenant truly is a foretaste of heaven on earth.

Image credit: "Jesus Christ Receiving the Virgin in Heaven" by Jacques Stella, 17th Century

Though the inevitable ups and downs of life (and original sin) mean that not every day is heaven, I have the incredible power and privilege as the heart of our home, as a woman, as his wife, to set the entire tone of the evening by those first few moments of our reunion.

He'll be home in just a few hours. I can't wait!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Trapezing Without a Net

1. On March 9th, Lent begins. This fact is very significant. My New Year's resolutions typically last five or six weeks, tops. Then Lent comes and I make new resolutions which keep me going another six weeks. So I have a full three months of the year with all of the motivation and accountability I need to be a better person.

But Lent isn't starting this week like it usually does. In fact it doesn't start for another three weeks and my New Year's resolutions have already expired.

How to bridge the gap!?

This week I enlisted the aid of the Communion of Saints, begged for some heavenly assistance, and what do you know? I've been more on top of my resolutions this week than I was the first week of January!

Six weeks in, how are your New Year's resolutions going? My husband hasn't wavered, and his dedication is really helping me.

2. After a whirlwind marathon all-day top-to-bottom "I've had enough of this JUNK" house scrubbing yesterday, I was just now able to receive two unexpected visitors with absolute calm. My husband even suggested we have a party to celebrate and show off the spic-and-spanness. So we can... mess it up again? Bring it!

3. This week, my heretofore (since moving up here) nonexistent social life is starting to expand! This is making me very happy. I'm a melancholic introvert, to be sure, but I do have a sputtering streak of extroverted sanguinity that flares up on occasion and needs to be sated.

Read others' Small Successes and share your own at Faith & Family Live.

Have you entered my Amazon Gift Card Giveaway yet? Entries end on Tuesday.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Amazon Gift Card Giveaway

My life has been so edified by you, the kind readers of this blog. With your sweet comments and e-mails you have given me confidence as a writer, with your excellent book recommendations you've given me many delightful evenings of reading, and with your loyalty you've given me the motivation to continue this discipline of blogging.

I want to thank you and express my sincere gratitude in some tangible way.

I wish I could give one of these to everyone who visits! Sadly I can only gift this giveaway to one person, but my gratitude and prayers (yes, I pray for you each day... mostly not be scandalized by anything I write!) extends to everyone.

I also know that many of you aren't familiar with all of the bloggy accouterments and doodads. Let me give you a rundown of some of the symbols (which will play a part in how you enter this giveaway).

What the buttons mean:

On the right sidebar you should see something that looks like this.

The orange box with the signal symbol on it is called an RSS feed. If you click this (and then click "subscribe" after that), you can read all of the posts from this blog on your computer desktop, in a feed reader (such as Google Reader or Bloglines), or even as a folder in your bookmarks that will auto-update each time there is a new post here.

The envelope icon is an e-mail subscriber. Instead of visiting the blog to see if there has been an update ('cause I post at all hours of the day), you get an e-mail each time there is a new post.

The blue Facebook button is for my page on Facebook. If you have a Facebook account, you can "Like" my page on Facebook and receive blog updates there (and also extra pictures, statuses and things that don't make it to the blog).

The little blue birdie icon is for Twitter. If you tweet, you can get updates there.

The YouTube button is for my channel on YouTube. Hopefully this will get more use in the coming months.

Finally there is that "Follow with Google Friend Connect" button. If you have a Google account (or even Yahoo) this is another way to stay updated.

Giveaway Rules: There are 3 possible entries for this giveaway. 

1. To enter, simply leave a comment answering the question: What is your favorite type of post on City Wife, Country Life? Recipes, stories, marriage posts, photos, earthy crunchy stuff, homeschooling, homesteady stuff... something else? (I'm not doing this to inflate my ego. Seriously! I just want to know which types of posts I should focus more of my attention on in the future).

2. To increase your chance with a second possible entry, leave a comment indicating that you have (or already) subscribed to this blog by RSS feed, Google Friend Connect, or E-mail.

3. For a third possible entry, leave a comment indicating that you have (or already) liked CWCL on Facebook, followed on Twitter, or subscribed on YouTube.

Please leave a separate comment for each entry.

Entries must be received by Tuesday, February 22nd at 11:59pm PST. The winner will be announced on Wednesday.

Good luck, and seriously... thank you!

Oh, and if you need any ideas on how to spend it, I'd highly recommend: this, this, or this.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Dinner

I've been dreaming and scheming for over a month for last night's dinner. And it turned out almost as wonderfully as I'd hoped!

Beets! What wonderful little creatures! They make such delightful hearts with so little effort. And their juice perfectly dyes anything else you want to turn red without using Red #40 liquid food coloring. With a little salt, pepper, oil and vinegar, they made a wonderful salad, too.

Homemade beet fettuccine, alfredo sauce, lemon pepper grilled chicken, and my favorite quick and easy  breadsticks (using 1/2 whole wheat and 1/2 white flour).

I say dinner was almost as good as I'd hoped, because I wanted red pasta. About a half hour before I started making it, using a recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks, I thought I'd better check a few more sources online. Sure enough, the unanimous consensus is that to get red pasta you have to use fresh roasted beets and not canned! So all of the lovely pink of the raw pasta dough was cooked away in the water, but it still tasted amazing.

Excellent champagne was provided by my darling. And we were a little too full for dessert, but that's what February 15th is for, right?

What did you do last night?

Monday, February 14, 2011

My First St. Valentine's Day

This was me on my first St. Valentine's Day with my very own Valentine:

 Oh it was a doozy!

You can read all about it over at one of my favoritest blogs ever, A Perpetual Jubilee.

Besides being one of the kindest women I've ever known, Celeste Behe, mother of 9 and writer extraordinaire (whose amazingness appears, among other places, in the National Catholic Register, Faith & Family, and is the jubilant blogger whose witty posts and delightful stories make her one of my writing heroes. Check out her blog, A Perpetual Jubilee, and share the love by subscribing to her feed!

Happy Feast of Sts. Cyril and Methodius... they always get shafted, even though its actually their feast!

Image credits: Queen of Hearts, Sts. Cyril and Methodius

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Book Recommendation

At the recommendation of a kind reader, I checked out The Family Nobody Wanted from the library.

I'm a little blurry eyed right now from lack of sleep last night. I couldn't doze off until I'd finished it!

The book chronicles the misadventures of the Doss family. After receiving the hope-crushing "infertility" tag from the doctor, she "couldn't pass a layette display in a store window without getting a lump the size of a baby rattle in [her] throat." Finally coming to grips with it, she and her (often unwilling) husband began adopting, and developed the Lays Potato Chip Syndrome. On their meager salary they ultimately adopted twelve children, mostly of other races... the children nobody else wanted.

It's a laugh out loud kinda book. Sweet without being sappy, utterly hilarious, and really well-written. The woman knows how to write a good story.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

I'm A Success This Week


1. I vacuumed. Due to extraordinary extenuating circumstances, I have to borrow a vacuum from our in-laws each time the floors need attention. I wasn't scheduled to solicit the sucker for another week or so, but a certain fifth grader, who shall remain nameless, spilled the contents of a rice heating bag all over the carpet. It blended in beautifully with our amazing camouflages-everything-but-red-koolaid-carpet, but made for seriously uncomfortable barefooted walking. I'm glad to report that the grains are good and gone.

2. I packed a full two hours before we left for our roadtrip last weekend! And I actually made a list the night before so I wouldn't forget anything!! When I spent a semester abroad in college, I'd routinely pack and be ready to go to another country for the weekend on 5 minutes' notice. But it doesn't work quite so well these days, and while my personal proclivity for procrastination was inkling for indulgence, I tamed the internal tempter and planned ahead.

3. I took the second step* to overcoming my social phobia (the first step being to admit it) and went to a book club, even though I hadn't read the book! I had the time of my life. Faithful young Catholics with razor sharp intellects? I love this group.

Read others' small successes and share your own.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

My 4 Qualms with Monthly Menu Planning (+ A Download)

I've hit a snag in my housewifery.

Monthly Menu Planning.

AAGH!! While I used to feel so on top of it when I finished making a monthly menu, those words which used to bring a creative explosion of delight at the endless possibilities now strike dread and terror into my innermost being.

Once a month grocery shopping, while great for my budget, just isn't cutting it for me anymore, for four reasons.

 #1. Planning 90 meals in one sitting requires brain surgeon-like concentration. I don't know about you, but it's really hard to anticipate our cravings a whole month in advance, plus add variety, new recipes, and flexibility into the mix. On the occasions when I've actually done this, it takes a really long time to plan out a month of dinners (even figuring toast and eggs for breakfast and leftovers for lunch) and write down all of the ingredients for the shopping trip. I lose interest an hour into the venture.

#2. When I inevitably stray very far from the plan, I feel like a failure. Flexibility is necessary with any plan, but I get ambitious when crafting the menu plan and think I'll actually wake up 45 minutes early to make blueberry muffins on a Tuesday three weeks from now. When I sleep in on that Tuesday, I realize I've set myself up for failure.

#3. I miss some really great sales. Chickens: $0.79 lb. Two pounds of sharp cheddar cheese: $3.99. Avocados: 4 for $1. It invariably happens that after I've spent our grocery budget, there'll be a great sale like this. "Do I buy it for next month?" Once or twice this would be fine, I suppose, but it happens just about every week which leads me to #4.

#4. Mammoth waste. I started monthly menu planning last Summer when I was getting most of our produce from the garden. But now that I'm getting a lot of produce from the store, the amount of waste as the month draws to an end is disgusting! It seems like such a "duh" thing (did I really think a head of lettuce would last indefinitely? or a gallon of milk would never expire?) but it still surprises me anew each time my wilty soggy fuzzy green dripping cauliflower hidden in the back of the crisper drawer needs to be tossed onto the compost pile.

The obvious solution would be to buy the bulk of the food once a month, and then do weekly or bi-weekly trips to the store for perishables. But I'm just not controlled enough to stick to a budget with that many trips to the grocery store ("but the Shitake mushrooms and imported Dijon mustard were on sale, darling!").

It's been said that a man will pay $2 for a $1 item he needs, but a woman will pay $1 for a $2 item that she doesn't need. Amen to that!

So I'm experimenting with a new method. Bi-weekly menu planning. 

By cutting my budget in half and allowing myself to spend it in full every two weeks, I seem to have reached a compromise. It's not nearly as overwhelming to plan two weeks. I don't dream quite so big when the deadline for the meal isn't so far away. I can take advantage of the loss-leader grocery ads. My broccoli stays crisp until the next shopping trip. Voila, works for me!

One tool that's always really helped me with meal planning is this simple Weekly Meal Plan PDF.

So, I know there are as many ways to meal plan as there are women to do it, but how do you do it in your home? Weekly? Bi-weekly? Monthly? Freezer cooking? Skin of your teeth?

This post is linked to: We are THAT Family.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

My Muses

Now that Tasty Tuesday is retired, I'm unprepared to fill the void with new content on Tuesdays. So I turned to my 8 and 11 year old nieces for possible ideas and inspiration.

"Blog about how to find the best and softest blanket. Aunt Rosemarie knows how to get the best ones. I think she has a fairy world where she picks the best possible Christmas gifts."

"You could tell about the mouse who was in the BBQer. He was super chubby."

"You could write about beef jerky. If you don't know how to make it you could just look at the package and get the ingredients."

"You could get a joke book and copy them all and make a new section of the blog called 'jokes of the week.'"

Or I could just post their ideas and call it good.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Possibly the Most Fun Board Game I've Ever Played, and Other Items

Right is 3:45pm. The girls went home a little while ago and I'm prepping for dinner.

This weekend... we went on a roadtrip and visited some of my husband's family. It was so fun!! The highlight of the weekend, to be sure (besides making truffles, seeing the countryside, visiting his dear Aunt and spending time with the gracious and fantastic hosts, "the fun cousins,") was learning how to play The Settlers of Catan. I was dreaming strategy all weekend long. I almost won the first game (until our sneaky silent cousin pulled off a surprise victory) and miserably failed the second game, but I can't wait to play again someday! Anybody else ever played and loved that game? It's incredible!

Some plans for the week:  I need to try to figure out a work-from-home solution. I'll be scheming business ideas and researching them like mad. Good thing I paid off my library fines last week.

I'm also excited to be going to my first book club ever. We're reading Theology and Sanity by Frank Sheed. Anybody read it before? Have any amazing insights I can use to impress the book clubbers with?

If I finds some time for myself, I would like to... dehydrate some apples. And learn a new trade (Joomla or Drupal web designing, perhaps).

Prayer intentions for the week: continued prayers for my baby nephew, who has had some miraculous interventions but still isn't out of the woods yet.

Something that makes me smile: a well stocked fridge and the memory of our grocery date the other night.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Date Night, Old Style

Tonight we're kickin' it old style. Well, more like old fogie style.

Actually, grocery dates are my favorites.

Excuse me while I go primp and preen!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Prodigal Chicken

On Sunday, you may remember, our chicken hospital pens were ravaged by a stray dog. All 10 sick chickens were missing, and after much searching my husband found 9 of them (though one poor poultry died the next day).

The whole thing has been terribly traumatic, but the fate of the 10th hen has weighed most heavily on us. What happened to her? Why were there no feathers? Where did she go?

I'm happy to report: The Prodigal Chicken has returned! She just walked right up to my husband when he was feeding the other chickens, healthy as a horse (why are horses so healthy?) and as bossy a biddy as ever there was. It really is great to have her back, safe and sound.

There was much rejoicing, and though we didn't kill the fatted calf, we did have an extra cookie bar in her honor.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Final Tasty Tuesday: Gooey Decadent 12 Layer Bars

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!

My "Mr. Linky" subscription ends tomorrow, and I've decided not to renew it. Tasty Tuesday has been wonderful, but while I'll still be posting fabulous recipes regularly, I will fondly bid the linkup farewell. There's a very popular "Tasty Tuesday" linkup over at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam, if you're interested.

I didn't want to go out with a dud recipe! So I present, on February 1st (a.k.a. New Years Resolutions are Officially Over Day), the single most decadent recipe I could conjure. 

This Christmas, I had grand plans to make cookies of every imaginable combination and fudge all the shades of sugar in the universe. Long story short, I changed plans and ended up making truffles and turtles instead. That left a ton of bags of different sugary chips. I've slowly been going through them, but... really? You can only make so many Kitchen Sink cookies.

Enter: 7 Layer turned 10 Layer Bars. I'm ashamed to say I had every ingredient on hand, plus an additional 2 layers. It's sick, I know. But these would be perfect for St. Valentine's Day: get your whole chocolate/candy fix in one dessert!

Look at that and tell me you just salivate.

Look me in the eye when you say it.

Mm hm. Didn't think you could. Yes, they're that amazing.

The recipe for these 12 layer bars makes about 18-24 (you could do 12 but you might never come out of the sugar coma) so you can share 'em or enjoy 'em all week.

CWCL 12 Layer Decadence in a Dish
Recipe adapted from Inn Cuisine


  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 & 1/2 cups crushed graham crackers
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup dark chocolate baking chips
  • 1 cup butterscotch baking chips
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 cup Heath Milk Chocolate English Toffee baking chips
  • 1 cup sweetened angel-flake coconut
  • 1 cup miniature marshmallows
  • 2 cups chopped walnuts
  • 7 ounces canned Dulce de Leche (easily homemade!)
  • 7 ounces sweetened condensed milk

Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Melt butter in a saucepan and mix in the crushed graham crackers (or microwave the butter and make it in the pan). Press the mixture into the bottom of a lightly greased 13"x9" pan.
Layer in the semisweet chocolate chips, layer in the dark chocolate baking chips, layer in the butterscotch baking chips, layer in the white chocolate chips, layer in the Heath Milk Chocolate English Toffee bits, layer in the flaked coconut, layer in the mini marshmallows, and layer in the chopped walnuts.
In a small bowl, mix 7 ounces EACH (14 ounces in total) canned Dulce de Leche and sweetened condensed milk (warm in the microwave for a few seconds if necessary to blend and make pourable). Pour mixture evenly over layered ingredients.
Bake for 25-30 minutes. Cool completely in pan and cut into squares (resist cutting ahead of time unless you want a royal mess -- don't ask me how I know that). Serve at room temperature.

 What have you made lately?

This post is linked to: Tuesdays at the Table, Tasty Tuesday, Raising Homemakers, Delicious Dishes, What's Cookin' Wednesday, & Tasty Tuesday. Check 'em all out!