There's no place like home.

There's no place like home.
Home is where my husband and I reside; wherever that may be.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Oh my how inconstant I am

How I need to take my own advice that I often give to those who say, “I don’t have the time...” How many times I have shot back with, “You will never have the time. You need to take the time.”  I do believe this with all my heart, if something is important enough then the time for it must be taken...taken from screen time, taken from gossip time, taken from time wasted in not being Christ-like.  Yet here I am, no kind of example to anyone.

Now that I am done browbeating myself I go back to the contemplation of this time in my life and exactly what my place and purpose are.  Yes I am still wife and mother, I now have the titles mother-in-law and grandmother but I continue to struggle with what all that means.  I often get caught up in being Martha, because that’s what I am good at, that I fail at being Mary.  There has to be a middle ground that I am not finding.

God calls me to this or that trial or sacrifice and I revert to cleaning the house and cooking.  Fear of failure, lack of self-confidence, and the age old voices in my head telling me of all my inadequacies drown out the voice I should be listening too.  I rally for a day, a week, maybe a month then the fear and trembling set in and I back off in retreat.  Lately there have been not so gentle hints that my dislike of being with people and the resultant urge to retreat and hide are not what is right and what God expects of me.  It is so easy in this world today to be just what my not so noble self wants me to be...a recluse.  I can have conversations with total strangers via FB. I can avoid shopping by using Instacart. I excell at buying and selling online and yet I know that that kind of life is not right nor is it what God wants.  We have been clearly exhorted to interact with others and become both better for the interaction and to somehow make them better as well. And now we come to the crux of the matter, who is going to become better by knowing me?  There is where the  voice of the evil one comes in, and he is so very convincing.  I agree there is nothing within me that is good.

The struggle is real and the pain and frustration are burdensome. But somehow I will continue and though overcoming may not be end result I know that it is in the effort that I will find the reward.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

And on and on it goes

I could say I am very busy, but that's a lie. I'm no more busy than I have ever been, perhaps even less.  I could say that the words have dried up but anyone who knows me or lives with me would know that wasn't at all true.  I think if I was cut open, along with the blood and garlic in my veins, the doctors would find whole sentences floating around in there.  No, if the truth were known my frequent silences are the result of an inner struggle between letting things out and trying to be invisible. 

Anyway, today I find myself inadvertently unoccupied by what usually fills my days, sewing.  My main sewing machine and the vast majority of some really important tools are currently stowed in the back of my daughter's car. The irony of this situation is that where she works is a comfortable mile walk from here but that walk would be most uncomfortable when encumbered by a sewing machine, sewing box, and bin of other sundries.

Boy do these ramblings sound self-centered and whiny! Here are a couple of today's earth shattering questions.  Why don't all the different ink tanks in my printer run low at the same rate?  The OCD in my doesn't like having to change one tank at a time.  Why don't men empty their pockets when they throw their pants in the laundry?  Can't they feel the weight of that wrench in there?

I have been washing tools, insects, toys, and sundry bits of hardware for many a year and it still shocks me what will come up in the washer after a load of laundry.  Actually the hardware, toys, and tools are not so bad it is the organic matter that really bothers me.  Soybeans, ladies beware of them!  Once they are dried and roasted they become little ticking time bombs of destruction.  They fit perfectly into the holes in the drum of the washer, soak up water, and plug things up.  If that isn't bad enough when they get left behind under the agitator the smell of them rotting is beyond noxious!  Shelled corn can be just as bad if it gets stuck down there.  Ask me how I know this stuff.  Stink bugs, garter snakes, and toads are even worse.  If any of these critters make it past the washer to the dryer, well my advice is to burn the whole load and go shopping!

Lets talk about being a grandma and having the little people over for a few days. Grandkids are like viruses, they get into everything, hang out there just waiting until you are vulnerable then they strike.  You would think that after raising six of my own I would be able to effectively child proof a house but they keep getting in here, stealing my heart and leaving their sticky little love notes all over the place.  Seriously though, this place is eerily quiet for a day of so after the kids go back home.  Perception is everything and having grandkids is the perfect way to figure that out.  When I am home alone this place is huge! I cannot find anything because of the sheer size of the house and the number of places where things, like my glasses, can hide.  When the kids are here the house feels like it is made of wool and has been washed in hot water and mistakenly put in the shrinks! While they are here I cannot find anything, like my glasses, because of the infinite number of places that sticky little fingers can move them to. 

I may often sound like I am complaining about the little buggers but for 30 some years my person and life were totally defined by the small people clinging to my skirts.  Now that they have all successfully launched themselves into the realm of adulthood it is very difficult to find a new definition for who and what I am.  When the grands come it is like slipping on a comfortable pair of jeans and a warm hoodie, I am the nose wiper, tear dryer, hug giver, and confidence listener.  Those are things that I know well. 

Friday, December 22, 2017

My Christmas Gift

There is really one gift that is worthy to be given and received. Just as the first gift given on the first Christmas is the ultimate gift given on the first Easter, love is the only gift that has true value.  Granted all other gifts are valuable because of the love that is their motivator, still love given without thought of the cost and with no expectation attached has the greatest value.  Because of this truth I give to my family all of my love expressed in words that I can write though not often speak.

Douglas, your life, given to me on our wedding day reflects the love of Christ himself given in the Incarnation and in his Passion.  You have given to me each and every day wholly, truly, and unreservedly.  Never have you counted the cost, attached any expectation, or held back in all of the 35 years that you have been mine.  My gift to you, though a poor reflection is the pure intention of reflecting that love back to you.  Though the cliche says that actions speak louder than words I would like you to see my intentions as your gift. Your happiness and ultimate salvation is all I have ever and will ever desire for you.

Ian, when God sent you I thought there was no way my heart could hold all the love I felt.  There is no way a mother can express what her firstborn means to her. You are the living embodiment of the love that your father and I have for each other.  You show that love not only by the fact of your birth but by the man that you have become.  You have often heard it said you look like him but more than that you possess and show to the world all that is best in your father. You are selfless, humble, generous with both your goods and time.  The love that you have for your wife and children is reflected beautifully in the hard work that you do each day and in the faith in God that drives that work.

Ryan, there are no words to express the awe that I have for you.  When I think of your faith and intelligence, the things you write and the way you think I am sure that there must be none of me in your make up and only God and your father.  I have watched you grow from a little boy full of ideals and determination to a man who is fierce and determined.  Those who encounter your words, example, compassion, and the love you show to your wife and children cannot help but become better for having exposed to you.  I find myself waiting to see to what new heights, insights, and conclusions your quiet thoughtfulness have taken you.  You not only follow God  but you lead the way.

Adam, the best word I can use for you is joy.  From the first moment of your life you have brought joy to all who have been near you.  I watch the way that you love your wife and son and wonder that your heart hasn't left your chest with the love that is reflected their.  I listen to you talk both to Ryan and your father and am amazed at the depth of your faith.  Your smile and laughter and the bit of deviltry that lurk in them still light up the room when you are around and spread the same joy that has always followed you. 

Jason, though you don't see it you are the goodness between your father and I.  Hard work and helpfulness have been your creed since you could walk.  I have never known you to deny help to any who ask.  Those who know you best know that to have you on the job is to have a man who is going to start early, work hard, and stay on the job until it is done.  If stubbornness is a virtue then you are one of the most virtuous men I know.  God also filled you with talent.  When you sing or make music of any kind the world is always a better place.  I have seen you transported away from yourself, this world and all the trouble it holds when you were seated at a piano.  I have seen your big, calloused, work-worn hands turn gentle while bandaging a wound, holding a tiny baby, or soothing your distressed wife. 

Mary-Kate, what can I say.  You are my miracle.  It is no secret that I was bone deep afraid of having a girl.  How was I going to raise a little girl to be all that God would want when I struggled so?  You came along and taught me how.  Every day since you were born you have taken my hand and led me to God's grace and shown me how.  You have blossomed in ways that I never imagined a daughter of mine could or would.  You are generous, caring, loving, strong, compassionate, humble, talented, and any other thing you can name.  If God blesses you with a husband he will have to be a man among men 'cause I cannot imagine one good enough.  If not the way that you lavish yourself on your patients, nieces, nephews, and siblings is already beyond that of a mother's love.

Matthew, I love you.  When God sent you he knew what the future would be for this family and knew that you were the perfect ending for us.  You are loving, and funny.  You give without reserve like your father and siblings with a laugh and smile added on.  You love with tenderness that is touching to see and experience.  When you are gone from home the whole family feels a big void where you belong and when you return it is like you were never gone from us.  When you hold one of the babies or kneel before the Blessed Sacrament my heart barely stays within my chest.

All of you I love you.  All I do, each meal made, each garment washed and folded, every stitch taken every bit of dirt and dust dispelled are all in service of you.  This is my gift for you all this Christmas and forever.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Marrying the past and the present.

When I was a kid I can remember many sermons our beloved priest preached about family and the importance of things done together, especially family meals. When the kids were growing up my husband and I struggled to have a family meal together every day, it usually turned out to be lunch.  But on Sunday there was no question about Sunday dinner.  Whether we packed a picnic lunch and went on a hike or were at home on the farm, that was the day when we would all be together for our big meal.

Last Sunday this table, which is the one that my siblings and I gathered around every Sunday, enjoyed a family gathering once again.  The weather has turned cold and the deck furniture has been put away for the season.  Now is the time for us to come indoors, gather around the table for meals, and games afterward.  Oh the memories this board must hold in all its fibers.

Food and more food.

I am always surprised when asked for a recipe by a person who doesn't know if I'm a good cook or not.  I am totally flattered and stunned when asked by a person who I know is an outstanding cook.  To any who ask for recipes based on the advice of my sons, I guess their size and health is a testament to something in my kitchen.

With the coming of cold weather and having waked up to snow on two mornings recently I have been breaking out not only the comfort food recipes but the ones that are easy, quick, and good keepers.  The nature of my husband's job, and now Mary-Kate's, makes for unpredictable dinner hours and the need for meals that are hearty, not ruined by waiting or reheating, and plentiful without being costly. (MK generally takes leftovers for lunch the next day)  Before I get into the recipes may I strongly suggest the purchase of a bread machine.  There is nothing better than fresh bread with a bowl of soup and there is nothing like a bread machine for turning the bread making process into a walk in the park.  After thirty years of baking bread by hand I have learned to appreciate the convenience of my bread machine.

Sweet Potato Soup
 1/2 stick unsalted butter
 1 onion chopped
2 cloves garlic minced
16 ounces chicken broth
2 bay leaves
3 sweet potatoes peeled and chopped
1 c heavy cream

Heat butter in a heavy saucepan over med. heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until the onions are tender, stir occasionally.
Stir in the broth, bay leaves, black pepper, and potatoes and heat to a boil. Reduce the heat to low.
Cover and cook until the potatoes are tender.
Stir in the heavy cream and cook until the mixture is hot and bubbling. Remove and discard the bay leaves.
Puree with a blender or immersible blender until mixture is smooth. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a dollop of sour cream on top.

This can be made with squash instead of sweet potatoes. For a different flavor I often substitute bacon grease for the butter.  If a pressure cooker is available it can be used to speed up the process.  When I use the pressure cooker I still saute the onions and garlic on the stove top before putting all in the cooker.

Clam Chowder
2 can whole baby clams w/juice
2 can chopped clams w/juice
1 bottle clam juice
1 med. onion chopped
3 med. potatoes cubed (I don't peel mine)
3 carrots scrubbed and diced
1 can whole kernal corn
16 ounces chicken broth
1 c. heavy cream
1/2 stick butter
1 clove garlic minced

Heat butter in saucepan. Saute the onions and garlic until transparent.  Add carrots and potatoes and saute about 2 or 3 minutes until they start to soften.  Add chicken broth and clam juice, cover and let simmer until the potatoes are nearly cooked through.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Add corn, clams, and cream.  Heat through and adjust the seasoning. 

This chowder recipe is best if made the day before.  It can be "fancied up" by adding shrimp, chunks of white fish, crab meat, and scallops.  If it is made for any other day but Friday I use bacon fat instead of butter.

I have also had a request for a cake recipe which is one of the only 2 cakes I ever make. I am not a cake maker at all.  I'm good with doughs and cooking but cake batters elude me. 

Creme de Menthe Cake
1 boxed yellow cake mix
1 box pistachio pudding mix
5 eggs
8 ounces sour cream
1/4 c Creme de Menthe liquor
1/3 oil
1 bag mini chocolate chips

Add all to mixer bowl except the chips. Mix until fully incorporated.  Add the chips and mix only until they are mixed in.  Pour into a well greased bundt pan.  Bake at 350 for 55 minutes.  When it comes out let sit 10 minutes before inverting on a plate and removing the pan.

Chocolate Glaze
1 pkg. reg. chocolate chips
1/4 c butter flavor crisco
1/4 corn syrup

Melt all together in a double boiler.  Pour over the warm cake. 

Next week is Thanksgiving and the day that I get to cook up a storm as my dad used to say.  Pies, casseroles, and a turkey meant for a king.  More recipes to come.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Food glorious food!

It is 25 degrees out there, everything is rimed with frost, and the children walking by to school this morning were all bundled up to the tips of their little noses.  We are solidly into the soup/stew and most comforting of foods time of the year.  Spring time may make a young man's thought turn to love but late fall is definitely time for gustatory imaginings. 
I just recently broke out some of my go to recipes that are useful for warming cold old farmers after a long day at work. 

Pork and Mushroom stew is a long-time family favorite.  I've probably posted this one before but it bears repeating.  This one does well in the crock pot also.  Once the meat has been sauted I just put everything in the crock pot, turn it on low and let it fill the house with the scent of bay, garlic, and onions.  Don't forget to remove the bay leaves before thickening.  My guys like this served over mashed potatoes or rice.  Pair it with a green salad and finish with some homemade applesauce and you have a meal they will come back to over and over. It also freezes well!!!!

This is one of the most versatile soups that I have ever made.  Make it as is for filling Friday food, add cooked chicken, bacon, or ham for any other day of the week.  We've even been known to have it for breakfast as a warm way to start the day and send them out the door.  Unfortunately this soup does not freeze but it does do well in the crock pot.

Here is another favorite.  Try the recipe once as written then change it up by adding what veggies you have on had, sausage if you haven't any ham, how about meatballs or chicken instead.

When I stumbled on this recipe I knew it would be a keeper.  All my peoples are huge 'tater fans.  The addition of fennel seeds fooled them into thinking there was sausage in it the first time I made it! You can use any kind of green you want.  Beet greens stain the potatoes a pleasant pink color while spinach, chard, or collards leave those taters looking their own pretty white color.  I have been known to throw mushrooms and a can of beans in just to up the flavor and the protein factor. 

Finally, since I have made it so frequently the past couple of weeks and to please my son, Adam, the old family chili recipe is a perennial favorite.  This one is a tough one to write out since it lives only in my head but here goes.

1 lb. ground beef
1 lb bulk sausage
1 med onion
2 lg cans petite diced tomatoes
garlic powder
chili powder
1 can corn drained
1 can red beans drained
1 can white beans drained

Brown meat and chopped up onion until nearly all the pink is gone.  Add 1 tbl garlic powder, 1 tbl oregano, 1 tbl basil, a couple of generous pinches of salt and pepper, and 2 or 3 tbl chili powder. Stir until it is all incorporated.  Pour in the tomatoes, corn, and beans.  Stir it all together and let simmer until the beans are hot through and the flavors are blended.  This is best if you make it the day before you plan on eating it. 
Can be served over pasta, biscuits, corn bread, or with a big hunk of homemade bread to dip into it.

Monday, October 23, 2017

This week gone past

I guess we have had this little boy about a month and even I have to admit he has made a little doggy place in my heart. (If I had one)  It is sort of nice to come home to a little person who doesn't talk your ear off just hugs and kisses you and sits on your feet when they are cold.  Its just the accusatory looks I can't take when I go for walks and don't take him.

 Not a day has passed without little people on my porch chattering their little people news to each other.
I've been enjoying watching this not so little person growing into a big person learning new skills, and growing into the young woman that God means her to be.

A trip over to the farm Saturday reminded me that there is a lot of work still to be done before snow flies but not to worry as Christopher is on the job.  He and his dad spent the day prepping the combine and getting the beans off the fields.

Christopher is all about the machinery to the point where his dad has to hide the keys when he isn't using it.  

The past year has been spent excavating under the farmhouse in order to put a much needed basement under there.  Of course with two boys on the job Ian has all the help he can handle sometimes.

At the end of the day, when the work is set aside for family, the boys park their machinery too 'cause they learn from their daddy that if you don't care for your tools they won't be there next time you need them.

Sunday was spent building memories. Equally as important as a basement but a little more fun sometimes.  

Just as daddies have to slow down and watch their little people growing up, little boys learn to do the same by watching the world around them.

And so the road into the new week winds ahead.

Though we cannot see where it is leading I am sure that there are many more little people and memories around that next bend.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A few helpful hints in answer to some random questions.

When my kids were all home and we were homeschooling I was frequently asked about managing meals, laundry, housework, and school without losing my sanity.  Even now with all but one moved out and on their own I still get asked the same questions but usually in reference to the frequency of visits from grandkids.  

There is an old nursery rhyme that lists the days proper to the chores that happen at home that has somewhat governed my life since I was a young kid.  
Wash on Monday Nursery Rhyme lyrics, origins and history
Wash on Monday,
Iron on Tuesday,
Bake on Wednesday,
Brew on Thursday,
Churn on Friday,
Mend on Saturday,
Go to meeting on Sunday.

Now of course in this modern world brewing and churning aren't part of the list but basically my list goes like this:
Wash and clean on Monday
Iron and cook on Tuesday
Clean and errands on Wednesday
Mending and washing on Thursday
Shop on Friday
Family on Saturday
Church on Sunday

Now before I go further these aren't written in stone. Many weeks are quite fluid for me because my family and their needs always come first, but because I try to keep to the schedule and not let any one thing go there is always freedom to rearrange things to accommodate something else.

The best thing that has happened to the modern woman is all of the small appliances and conveniences in the kitchen and many women I know under use these conveniences.  They may be in possession of crock pots but they sit and gather dust.  The bread machine, rice cooker, steamer, and other small appliances were exciting when they were purchased but since may sit in a cupboard being forgotten and not saving the time that they promised to in their ads. Ladies I strongly suggest that all of these conveniences be taken out, dusted off, and take their place in your kitchen.  You will be surprised at the savings in your food budget if you start cooking at home rather than buying prepared or take out.  The health benefits cannot be over stated either.

I hope to be able to take a few blog posts to expand these ideas and perhaps help others save a little time, money, and, believe it or not, money in their own homes. I am not perfect by any stretch but I
do manage to do quite a lot with quite a little in the way of food budget.  I sew and sell what I make and manage to do that without guilt while keeping my home neat and clean and my family fed with homemade meals and not resorting to pre-packaged or take out meals.

Let's attack laundry first.  When the kids were little we used to call the laundry that accumulated Mt. Washmore.  Believe me with 6 kids in the house (5 of the boys!) and one farmer husband Mt. Washmore was no exaggeration.  My solution to the problem was to pair up the kids, big with little, assign them a day and teach them to use the washer and clothesline.  Each of the kids learned quickly that life was not a fashion show, lightly worn things could be re-worn the next day, and clean laundry needed to be put in the drawer right away thus preventing the re-washing of clean laundry.
Now I'm not saying that there weren't bumps but by and large this system worked very well until they all moved out.
Each one had a bath towel for the whole week ( after all when one showers the towel should get wet but not dirty afterward), sheets had to be done on laundry day, and if you missed your day you paid the penalty of having to wait until the next week for clean clothing. Sunday is not a wash day unless there were circumstances that dictated it and Saturday was for barn laundry and household laundry.

Even now with only MK here all the time and Matthew occasionally they both do their own laundry unless I am feeling nice and papa's work stuff only gets done on Saturday. The only change is that there is so little household laundry that I can do that with my sheets.

 Finally, though to some the clothesline may not seem like a convenience it really is.  Sure throwing stuff in the dryer, turning it on, and walking away may seem like the easiest thing in the world.  However there is the matter of forgetting and having to fold days later, stuff that has sat in the dryer and gotten too wrinkled to wear as is, and what about heavy towels and jeans that don't get completely dry on the first cycle? PU!!!!

Sheets dried on the line smell the best and make the room smell good too.  Jeans, sweaters, shirts, and towels hung on the line also smell better, shrink less in the drying, and show less wear then when they tumble in the dryer all of the time.  Sure the dryer is there if the weather is bad or you are in a hurry but I strongly recommend a clothesline.  Also the savings in either electricity or gas adds up quickly!!!

Next time my favorite topic, food and cooking! 

There is much to be said

This is October, the month of the Rosary hence the remembrance of Our Lady and the place that she has in our hearts and home.  Our Lady of Fatima please keep up all in your heart and prayers.
Recently #3 son and his family came to visit from the west coast.  It has been a year since I have seen Adam, Maryanne, and little Edmund in person and this visit was not only welcome but well timed as it came after weathering the death of my mother and a dear friend.

Of course during visits life still has to go on and Layn came over with homework while Uncle Adam was doing his. This kind of chore always goes better when you have some company. 

Homework isn't all that was accomplished though.  Many smiles were exchanged and enjoyed.

This picture of Maryanne going down the slide makes me think of the bible verse exhorting us to become like little children. 

Days were filled with Uncles being like little children. Playing basketball in army boots...

Hanging from the playground equipment...

trying to see who can do more..

sorry Uncle Adam but the young guy wins again.

Having little ones around day in and day out always helps to keep us from getting old and stuffy, even grandpa can't help but be silly.

Edmund's birthday party was a cowboy themed one and everyone got in on the act. Nate's plaid shirt fits right in with his blue jeans and bandanna. 

Of course getting all the cowboys and cowgirls to look at the camera, sit still, and smile all at the same time is never going to happen but we do the best we can. I love the cutie in the second row in the black and white dress. She sure is a camera pleaser.

Did I mention that not only was the house bursting with kids but kids on the way too?  Be fruitful and multiply that's us!

No caption for this goof except that he is the love of his grandma's life.

And curls, there can never be enough curls to nuzzle and snuggle with and generally enjoy.

Auntie's got in on the fun during the visit too in spite of having to be a responsible adult and go to work each day.  Did I mention that snuggles with kids keep you young and happy?

No birthday celebration is complete without presents...

plenty of cousin help in opening them...

and candles to blow out and dada's who are there to make it all happen for you.

Everyone got in on the silly slide action.

so much so that there were frequent pile ups at the bottom.

Monkey shines,

papa helps,

stubborn girls, 

Uncles to guard and guide,

and little monkeys to see and do were very much in evidence.

Smiles and swings are the best medicine for the vagaries of life.

And sometimes a guy just has to hang with his papa and lay low.

When all is said and done a ride in a wagon pulled by a strong Uncle 

and the hands of another are all you need to get you to the end of the day.