July 28, 2010

Keeping the Littles happy on a hot day.

It can be a challenge!  Keeping the littlest members of the family happy in the heat.  There's only so much pool time they can handle!  For us, they want to be outside but aside from riding cozy-coupes in the garage, what is there to do?

One thing has saved my life this summer, seeing as we don't have a swingset yet for the kids.  This:



We bought this table as a present for Liz on her birthday.  It was by far the best thing we could have gotten her.  All of the kids enjoy it and since we've used up all the sand, it has just become a water table.  The things I like about this table are: the umbrella (a necessity for those of us with no trees!), the lid, and it is sturdy (it doesn't collapse even when climbed on!).  Most of all, it is versatile.  First, we used it with sand and water, then just water, and come fall, I plan on filling it with rice and keeping it on the porch (or basement) for cool weather play.

The hit right now is ice cubes!  All day I fill trays of ice cubes and they play with them in it until they melt.  Lots of fun.  And sometimes, I make "surprise" trays:
This one is filled with trinkets from our "junk" drawer.

This is an "ice mountain" with a dinosaur waiting to be excavated.


As much as I love the water table, you could do this with a big, shallow sterlite container.  And we have done that before, but invariably, one of the pets ends up in it!  And, you could get cheap funnels, measuring cups, and other containers from the dollar store for more play (which could also be used with sand or rice).

July 27, 2010

Book Review--39 New Saints You Should Know.

I am finally getting around to reviewing Brian O'Neel's book 39 New Saints You Should Know.  It took me awhile to read it--there is a whole lot of information packed in there!  And, I don't know about you, I can't just absorb all the stories of those lives all at once.  I have to do it slowly, reflect, then move on.

Now, there are some saints in this book that you have probably heard of.  For instance, Mother Teresa and Gianna Beretta Molla.  But for the most part, I have never, ever heard of any of these people. Crazy.  Crazy because in this day and age of so much information, I haven't heard of so many of the people in the church who are making waves, standing strong in faith, who are being examples to all of us.  So, I think a book like this is a great way of making all of us aware of those people who have existed in recent times and yet, managed to become a saint. 

All of these saints are an inspiration to us because they dealt with a lot of the same issues we all try to overcome in our lives.  They were ordinary and yet, extraordinary in their faith.  If you read these life stories, you will think, "Wow.  Maybe someday I can be saintly, too!"  Seriously, I can use this kind of inspiration.  We often belittle ourselves because of our normal struggles but even these can be a springboard to sainthood.  It is easy to think that saints of other times don't really relate to us.  That we can't be saintly because we didn't live then, that we are hopeless in our attempts.  The saints in this book prove that notion wrong.

One of my favorites in this book is Blessed Alberto Marvelli.  He was the second of seven boys and the son of a homemaker and a banker.  Mr O'Neel states that he "was no 'add water and stir' saint." and that "he struggled daily with his faults."  Alberto Marvelli did all sorts of normal things--he worked in a car plant, he taught high school, he worked as a civil engineer and then city council.  What set him apart was his desire to become holy and his determination to serve the needy and poor.  Alberto is quoted as saying, "For us to proceed in the spiritual life, our efforts must be constant and determined.  We need to continuously progress step by step, day by day, minute by minute, always aspiring to that which is our highest summit: God."

This book, 39 New Saints You Should Know, is full of fantastic examples of people who lived their lives to the fullest for God.  Brian O'Neel did a wonderful job with the layout of this book.  For each saint, there is a condensed biography, their lifespan, date beatified or canonized, and a prayer for reflection.  The saints listed are varied--from mothers, fathers, priests, children, even an Emperor and a Pope--you will find a saint here that touches your heart.  Maybe a new patron saint to adopt?  :)

You can find 39 New Saints You Should Know at The Catholic Company for $13.99.  You can find the author Brian O'Neel at his website here.

July 26, 2010

Feast Day of St. Anne and Joachim

Since we have our own little Anne here, we had a little celebration today of the Feast of St. Anne and Joachim.  We found this watermelon cookie recipe over here at Catholic Cuisine in honor of St. Anne.  We wish all of you a blessed Feast Day, too!

Good St. Anne,
you were especially favored by God to be the mother of the most holy Virgin Mary,
the Mother of our Savior. By your power with your most pure daughter and with her divine Son,
kindly obtain for us the grace and the favor we now seek.
Please secure for us also forgiveness of our past sins,
the strength to perform faithfully our daily duties
and the help we need to persevere in the love of Jesus and Mary.
Amen.


Kitchen helpers.

Cookie pic by Jacob.

Enjoying the fruits of their labor!

July 23, 2010

Garden Tour

Jumping in with the Garden Tour over here, and because I've really really been wanting to post pictures of my garden, here are some current pictures.  And garden art to boot!  I must preface this with--I am so thrilled!  I am so thrilled to even have any flowerbeds or a vegetable garden since I really thought that this year we wouldn't.  Having gardens really makes me feel fulfilled, isn't that so funny?
This is my favorite pot and one I carried over from last year.
Hosta, Wandering Jew, White Impatiens
The hosta stays in the pot year-round, I took a cutting from the Wandering Jew (Tradescantia pendula?) and rooted it over the winter, and the impatiens are a little four-pack from the store.  Cheap and Easy!



This is one of my favorite parts of the lanscaping.  I just love how everything filled in mumbo-jumbo.  And the petunias and roses were Mother's Day presents.
Knockout roses, petunias, sedum, iris, and one rogue black-eyed susan popping up on the left!

Same garden but bigger view, had to get St. Francis in a pic somewhere!
Same things, adding in purple coneflower behind St. Francis.

Hydrangea

No, this is not just a pile of weeds.  This would be my vegetable garden!
I have fought long and hard and lost.  Well, I lost the onions.  There in the front mess somewhere.
I added this picture because I think it is kind of funny.  But really if you look from the other side you would see that it isn't ALL weeds.  Just sections!

Baby Cantaloupe coming to a kitchen near us soon!


Harvest from yesterday:
A few remaining green beans, peppers, zucchini, two kinds of tomatoes, corn.

And now for the garden art.  This could have had a post all of it's own, but I'm economizing!


Queen Anne's Lace by Patrick.
I don't know why, but blogger won't let me turn it right-side up!

Blackberry bushes by Jacob


Bushes by Nathan.
As illustrated by this picture here:
See?  :)


Front garden as seen from the front porch by Nathan.


Pot of sedum, top view by Patrick.

And that's all for now!

Aren't you glad? :)



July 19, 2010

Recipe of the week!

Blackberry Cobbler

With all of these wild blackberries around us, blackberry cobbler just had to be made.  I remember my mom making one every summer.  We would walk to a bunch of wild blackberries just down the road from us (in the middle of our subdivision!) and pick them and she would make blackberry cobbler.  Yum!  The only problem is, I didn't have a recipe.  My handy-dandy-usually-trustworthy Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook didn't have one and all my other cookbooks are still boxed up.  Well, you can always count on the internet in a pinch and I found this recipe here.  My mom probably did it better but this one was pretty good.

Ingredients:


• 2 tablespoons cornstarch

• 1/4 cup cold water

• 1 1/2 cups sugar

• 1 tablespoon lemon juice

• 4 cups blackberries, picked over, rinsed & drained

• 1 cup flour

• 1 teaspoon baking powder

• 1/2 teaspoon salt

• 6 tablespoons butter, cold, cut in small pieces

• 1/4 cup boiling water

Preparation:

In a large bowl, stir together the cornstarch and 1/4 cup cold water until cornstarch is completely dissolved. Add 1 cup sugar, lemon juice, and blackberries; combine gently. Transfer to a cast iron skillet, about 8-inch. ( As you can see, I did my in a 9x13 pan which I preheated in the oven so it was hot when I added the blackberries).

In a bowl, combine the flour, remaining sugar, baking powder, and salt. Blend in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add 1/4 cup boiling water and stir the mixture just until it a soft dough is formed.

Bring the blackberry mixture to a boil, stirring. Drop spoonfuls of the dough carefully onto the boiling mixture, and bake the cobbler on a baking sheet (line with foil to avoid a mess) in the middle of a preheated 400° oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until the topping is golden. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

July 16, 2010

Fancy Nancy Fancy Dinner.

Elizabeth loves Fancy Nancy.  Elizabeth loves "pretty stuff" just like Nancy.  So, Ken had a great idea to have a Fancy Nancy dinner.  We all dressed up fancy, which was a stretch for the boys--they wanted to just be Jedi's.  But I said no.  So they got a little more creative.  But just a little!  But that is all right.  We said "dahling" a lot and even some French (monsieur and mademoiselle)....keeping in mind that my French is oh-so-lame.  :)


Le Menu
Poulet de Rotisseri
Les Haricot Verts
Au Pain
De Vin (really sparkling grape juice)
We ate off of the fine china and had fancy glasses.
All food looks fancier on china.
Even with mis-match placemats!
My dear, sweet husband even thought to bring home roses.
How fancy!

And parfaits for dessert, of course!

Elizabeth was absolutely thrilled.
She kept saying, "Thanks, dahling!" all night long.
She said it was the best dinner ever.
We finished the night off by putting on our pajamas and watching a movie.
Perfect!



July 14, 2010

Name that bug!

It would be a Northern Walking Stick!

Totally amazing!

He is about 3 inches long and brown, so we're guessing it is a He, not a She.
Cool!

Simple Woman's Daybook.

Outside my window...it is very dark.  And very late.  I made the unfortunate mistake of having one Starbucks tall cafe mocha and one large coke within a three hour period.  Gluttony and now I can't sleep!  It will be a rough day tomorrow!


I am thinking...that if it is hot again tomorrow, we should do a homemade slip-n-slide and set up the kiddie pool.  Backyard Beach!

I am thankful for...Starbucks!  No really, that is just silly!  I am thankful for so, so much.  We have really been blessed in just so much.  We all have.  I think that pretty much, if you are in a position to have access to an internet connection and can actually read this right now, you have no right to complain.  I'm just thinking here about people like those in Haiti, living in tent slums.  We sponsor a little boy through Compassion in Haiti and it is a constant reminder to be thankful for all that we have. 

From the learning rooms...well, I'm starting to piece together my plan for next year.  And, I'm trying to get my school stuff organized.  I'm getting kind of excited!

From the kitchen...blackberry cobbler,and lots of grilling and salad to try and keep the heat out of the kitchen.

I am wearing...my pajamas.  Shhh!

I am creating...lists!  Lists of what I need to buy for who for school and lists of things I'd like to do and lists of places I would like to go camp.

I am going...nowhere.  Nowhere at all.

I am reading...online book catalogs and other people's blogs for inspiration!

I am hoping...for rain.  I always enjoy a good rain shower in the middle of the heat and my plants could use some help.

I am hearing...the air conditioner run.  Nothing else.  How nice is that?

Around the house...starting to finally get things organized.  I need to finish my chalkboard wall.

One of my favorite things...bed.  And I am going to go there right now and hopefully fall asleep.  Wish me luck!

Here is a picture thought I am sharing...



Lovin' the kiddie rides at Coney Island!



Visit Peggy for more fun summer daybooks!

July 13, 2010

On going counter-culture.

I was listening to a Focus on the Family radio broadcast tonight and it was really fascinating.  It was an interview with Dr. Richard Swenson on his book In Search of Balance.  I came into the broadcast halfway through so I would like to go back and listen to the beginning to hear everything Dr. Swenson had to say but what really caught my attention was his assertion that 90% of our ("our" meaning those of us living in the Western World) health issues are directly related to the culture at large. 

My health is affected by the culture? Say, what?

Dr. Swenson's point was that our way of living, our societal demands and expectations, and even stress about such things as the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico affect our health.  He goes on to make a few other points: 

  • Eighty-something percent of visits to Primary Care Physicians revolve around stress-related issues.
  • The Western Countries are the most "depressed" of any countries--and the most medicated for depression.
  • Happiness is decreased with material desire and acquisition.
His answer? Simplicity.  So, so, simple.

Now, Dr. Swenson is a very bright man (listen to him talk--you'll see) and he brings up all sorts of issues and a major discussion on progress (with a capital P) that I am not going to go into.  But he certainly made me think.  It seems I am surrounded by people (and yes, I include myself here) who are stressed out, worn out, feeling depressed and just at their general wits-end.  

Why?

Well, Dr. Swenson voiced exactly what I think so many have been feeling.  Our human bodies have physical limitations that cannot possibly keep up with societal expectations.  So, the answer is to go counter-culture, learn to say no, slow down, take back what is ours.  This is the exact feeling I expressed earlier with my call to arms to take back the summer.  We must go simple.

It is amazing that what is so obvious so often eludes us.  It is hard to cut-back and tell people no and do what our bodies and families need so much.  Now Dr. Swenson did say that in his book he discusses how all of this affects our communities, our families, and our faith.  So I am looking forward to checking this book out and I am going back and listening to the broadcast again.

If you're interested, you can listen to the broadcast here.

And, don't quote me on statistics exactly, I was listening to this in the car!  This was a purely voluntary, inspired review!

July 12, 2010

Blackberry Picking.

You just can't beat berry picking in your own front yard!  Even though the bushes are so thorny, you just can't help yourself from reaching in for all of that berry goodness.  It feels like finding treasure, and what a treasure it is!
Liz was the official bag-o-blackberries carrier.  This was the first of three.

Nick had the best job of all--riding and eating as much as anyone would feed him!

We originally weighed in our pickings at 2 lbs 11.5 oz. 
That was before Ken nibbled!


July 8, 2010

Green and Black.

The first fruits of the season.

Zucchini, Green Peppers, and Green Beans

 
Wild Blackberries


YUM!