Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Ethics of Cooking Dinner

Happy Thanksgiving! It seems that the appropriate thing to write about for today is food. That is what I have been thinking about and planning for weeks. Though I do think about food most hours of everyday (except when my children are asleep and no one is asking me for a snack). It is one of those things essential to our survival, but there is also an element of ethics to preparing a nice meal.

When one gives a dinner in honor of something or someone, one is going to put care into the food preparations. Whether, they hire a caterer or do the food preparations themselves, there is value in what they are doing. And I have always thought that it makes a food more special if it is homemade. For example, my mom always made our birthday cakes. We never had store bought cake, or even frosting. Her act of making a cake for me had meaning, and I experienced her love for me through that act.

Thanksgiving is a day when many people come together and make a feast, and the time and the care put into these preparations is not without value. In the story of Martha and Mary, we have Mary sitting and talking and Martha in the kitchen cooking food. We never here if Martha is an amazing cook, but I imagine that Jesus could enjoy a good meal. When he calls Mary’s act of listening to him the “better part”, he implies that Martha’s act of preparing food is also a good.

When people share a meal, they are united together in a deeper relationship, and what the food is effects the relationship as well. I have noticed that when I get together with other moms and their kids, the shyest kid will always warm up to the other kids once they have eaten food together. I would say that there are different levels of relationship building food. The lowest is the simplest family meal, maybe mostly out of a box or the freezer, but the family is still together and eating and discussing. There is also the homemade meal, where a little bit more time has been put into it. The conversation may be the same, but homemade chicken soup is much more satisfying than the canned stuff.

Then there is the holiday feast. Cooking has been going on for days, and finally the turkey is being carved and the table is set. The planning, the labor, the love, they make this meal special, but also what is being honored. Today we are thankful for our many blessings in life. And the highest family meal is the Last Supper, where Jesus, Himself, took on the role of the servant, washing feet and transforming food into his Body and Blood. It is not a coincidence that good food unites people together.

Originally posted at Truth and Charity.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Seven Quick Takes--Saturday, November 23

1. And it is the weekend again already! The days just fly by with the kids and keeping house. I am really thankful for my Monday resolution, which I might need to alter to include email. I missed a few important emails during the day this week, so I think I need to allow myself a quick email check. Facebook, however, can wait until the kids are in bed.

2. G (4.5) picked out a book at the library last week about a little girl and her grandma. At the end of the book the grandma dies, and the girl discusses death and how she misses her grandma. Out of the stack of 13 books, this is her favorite to have read to her. She has not yet known anyone who has passed away, but she will someday. I don't really know if literature can prepare a little child for such a loss, but maybe it will help her understand what has happened better when she encounters it in her own life. Maybe I will follow up on the book by discussing praying for the souls of the dead.

3. I am cooking my own Thanksgiving turkey this year for the first time in my life! Our first three married Thanksgivings we were traveling, and last year our aunt and uncle cooked dinner for us in our home since I was three weeks post-partum at the time. This year my in-laws are coming to visit, and my mother-in-law and I planned the meal earlier this week. Everything but the turkey and L's birthday request of mac and cheese is going to be vegan for the benefit of M's youngest sister. However, this meal should be no problem compared to the Pate de Canard en Croute that I made Wednesday and Thursday.

4. We bought a treadmill last weekend, and it is a good thing we waited until we bought house to get something so huge and heavy! We got it safely down into the basement study with the help of M's colleague. Many thanks to him for his help! It is just in time for today's high of 18°F. If I was cool and had a smartphone I would post a screen shot of the weather forecast here. 

5. In case you are wondering, I am still working my way through Crime and Punishment. I am over halfway now. Maybe I should have a two week deadline for myself. I will try to have it done by St. Nicholas day. Speaking of St. Nicholas day, when one emphasizes that with kids instead of Santa, one hears things like this from one's 4.5 year old, upon seeing Christmas displays with candy:

"Look, Mom! They are getting ready for St. Nicholas day!" 
Photo by Brian Behrend. This is not the dog we saw.

6. The world from the perspective of a nearly three year old gets pretty interesting. Today I found L looking out the front window at a lady walking her dog. She said to me, "That dog broke his poor little body!" I took a closer look at the dog. He was wearing a sweater. I almost did not want to explain to her that he was not in a full body cast, because it was so cute that she thought this.

7. Please take a moment to pray for a friend's (from grad school) wife and newborn baby. She just had an emergency c-section and apparently the baby is not doing well. 

Linking up with Jen's Conversion Diary. Head on over for more quick takes.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Pate De Canard en Croute: Boned Stuffed Duck Baked in a Pastry Crust

I first really learned about Julia Child two years ago when we saw that recent movie about her, and I was intrigued. Cooking has always been a love of mine, and French cooking was a natural next step. I used some gift money to purchase her cookbook, and tried a few recipes. I try them from time to time, when I feel up to cooking for hours on end. M has been asking for me to try the "boned duck" recipe for awhile, and I have been viewing it as something I should try to test my abilities. I saw duck for sale at Aldi about a month ago and the need to fit a turkey in the freezer meant that it was time...
"The memory of a good French pate can haunt you for years." -Mastering the Art of French Cooking
 The poor five pound duck, did not know what was coming. I am not a huge fan of taking apart poultry raw or cooked. So, this step was not exactly the most pleasant for me. Julia Child said to count on it taking 45 minutes. This is where I was after 45 minutes...
 G started snapping photographs and caught me up to my wrists in duck goop...
 Here I am with the legs and wings left to bone about 90 minutes in. If this picture looks like it was taken by a child, that is because it was.
 The skin in all its glory. At this point I chopped up the meat and mixed it with cognac and spices and wrapped it in the filling to make the pate.
Here is the pate of ground pork, ground turkey (poor man's veal?), ground pork fat, spices, sauted onions, cooked down cognac, and diced duck sewn up in the duck skin. It reminds me a a slug.
Now it looks like a weird little alien browning in my massive cast iron skillet. I stopped for the night at this point, after five hours of labor. I made the pastry dough and we watched a Downton before calling it a night.

The next morning I discovered my true delight in all things baking related and it took me about 45 minutes to roll out the dough, wrap the pate and decorate it to this point:
  Then it went into the oven for 2 hours.

 F watched it closely a good amount of that time.
 Once it reached 180°F, it was finished. I took it out of the oven to cool.
Hot and fresh. It had to cool for hours before it was ready to be cracked open.
 This part made me extremely nervous. I was not sure how the shell would hold out. We removed the trussings and got it safely back into the crust.
 The main course is served.
 The inside view.

Some after thoughts: Pate is not my favorite. I was not exactly sure what to expect, but think a gourmet, large hot dog made with actually good meat and wrapped in bird skin. Plus, a fancy handmade bun. The taste-testers (dinner guests) all gave it high praise, and M even had seconds. I am not sure I would do it again. I think I would rather have a really nice steak...

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Monday Resolution

I can't believe this month is flying by so quickly. We are almost to Thanksgiving, and then Advent begins. I had thoughts about doing Christmas gift preparation before Thanksgiving to make Advent more prayerful, but I am still planning what meals to cook this week and trying to keep up on keeping house. I just feel like I am way behind on everything, but honestly almosy 10 minutes of every waking hour I am spending on the internet. That is over two hours a day I could be spending on something else. I need to figure out how to balance using the internet in a healthy, good way, as opposed to having it hinder my daily life.

I need to start with some major cutting back. I think social media and email need to be off-limits for me between 8:30am and 8pm. These are the hours I get the most done and spend the most time with the kids. I will make one exception to that, and that will be for blogging and blog sharing. So there's that...

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

From Market to Purée: How to Prepare Pumpkin

I purchased this pumpkin back in October, and the poor neglected squash sat on the back console table for nearly a month. Fortunately for me, winter squash have a great shelf life. I finally got to roasting it.

How to Roast a Winter Squash:
-Preheat oven to 400°F

-Cut squash into quarters and remove all strings, seeds, and hard stems

-Prick fleshy side all over with a fork
-Brush with olive oil

-Sprinkle with a little salt

-Place fleshy side down on rimmed cookie sheets 

-Roast in oven for 50 minutes or until fork pricks through easily (for me it got so soft that the squash lost all structural integrity)

-Set aside until cool

Making the Purée:

-Skin the cooled squash pieces and cut into small chunks

Chunks O Squash
-Purée in food processor (or blender if you are holding out to buy a food processor until you can splurge on the Kitchen Aid Brand)
The pureeing in this 5 year old blender took me an hour.
-Measure into 15 oz. portions and put into a freezer bag
15 oz is the amount you can buy canned to make one pumpkin pie.
 -Stack and freeze:
I spent $4.00 and 3 hours of labor on my pumpkin squash for 7 cans worth of potential pumpkin.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Seven Quick Takes, Friday, Nov. 8

1. With the basement finished (my post with pictures is here), I am not sure what else to look forward to, but then I have nothing to complain about either. I guess we can start living in our home unhindered by workmen, their schedules, and daytime drilling and hammering. I want to talk about a few things besides the basement and all of that.

2. M went to a philosophy conference last weekend, and there saw a lot of colleagues that he knows from graduate school, previous conferences, and even former professors. He saw one of my favorite philosophy professors from my undergraduate studies who asked about me and said that he remembered me fondly from being in his classes. That really made my day. For some reason I am always a bit surprised when people, who are not my closest friends and relatives, remember me or are even interested in how I am doing. I just don't really think of myself a a particularly memorable person. I am thankful to this professor for the beginnings of my formation in more serious, intellectual thought. While I am not doing it professionally, I do enjoy it an aside to the rest of my life.

3. I am also feeling thankful to my mother who came and stayed with us for eight days to help me with the kids while M was away (he was only gone two nights) and celebrate F's birthday. It is always nice to have house guests who help so much with dishes and cooking that they make it easier to run the house. My father was able to fit a visit in between his church music obligations, and it was great to see him. He took some beautiful shots of our family and of the baby, so if you are on our Christmas card list or a Facebook friend, you will get to see them!

4. After a week of having my mom around at lunch time, I went to make lunch for the kids and had no motivation to do so, especially because they were playing happily in the basement. Even my own empty stomach was ignored to peruse the internet for about 10 minutes before I reasoned to myself that if I just went through the hour process of making lunch, eating, and getting the kids down for naps/quiet time, I could have a quiet time of my own to do nothing (or blog).

5. Question about Minnesota life: If it snows before you rake all of your leaves, what are you supposed to do? Can we count on the snow melting before it really freezes up for the Winter? Further, I wasn't finished "Winterizing" my garden. Please tell me that there will be a thaw. I will be hiding in my warm, cozy soft basement until then.

6. I have been following a this blog called Blossoming Joy by a Catholic, homeschooling mom since August. There is something about it that I find sweet, and I really enjoy her thoughts and the way she raised her children. Further, I am pretty sure my husband was just like her teenage son when he was a teenager.

7. This is the obligatory comment on my blog about the World Series not turning out as I had hoped. A brilliant author once penned: "Baseball is a cruel, but beautiful game, played in the shape of a diamond." Let's all think about that for awhile...

Photo by Canadian Veggie.

For more Quick Takes head on over to Jen!

The Saga of the Leaky Pipe: A Blessing in Disguise

Back on June 29th this year, we came home from a lovely vacation on Lake Michigan to find that our finished basement had a lake of its own. Suspicious things were growing on the walls and unpleasant odors were wafting up the stairs. Thus, the Saga of the Leaky Pipe began. Four months later the basement has been made new again, and even better than it was before.

Before: Here are some pictures of what the basement looked like in August before the asbestos tile was removed:
There was one big family room with knotty pine paneling. That green tile is the bad stuff.
The other end of the room wear you can still see the berber carpet. Notice the un-carpeted stairs.
The laundry room wall that was ripped out.
Ugly floors.
This is the wall of the furnace room that let all the water pass through.
The back drywall, wall of the bathroom with water damage and mold. Yuck!
The bathroom floor was water logged.
A brief overview of what was done:

-The water was mitigated. Carpet was torn up, walls were ripped out, and a monster dehumidifier sat in the basement purring for 10 days
-Restoration contractors came and made estimates
-Waiting for them and insurance

-Removal of asbestos
-Cabinets and ceiling were ripped out
-Framing for our new room put in

-Electrical work
-Plumbing work
-Drywall: sheetrock and mudding

-Walls painted
-Ceiling put in

-Finishing touches

The wait is over! Since we did drywall instead of wood paneling, we were able to have a few extra things done to restore the basement to a matching, livable space. A lot of new estimates were made by the contractors in the name or matching. The pictures do have a bit of clutter that has not quite found its home.

M's Study. What was done: new carpet (replaced with extra money). This room had no damage, but the carpet was pretty old and a bit basement smelly.
The paneling in the study is not as nice as the paneling we had in the other room,
but it reminds M of his house that he lived in back in college.
Family Room. What was done: new walls, new ceiling, new cushy, soft carpet.
The kids got the toys out for the day before I took the pictures.
That dark hallway leads to the Spare Oom.
Other way. These built-in cabinets remained.
Laundry Room. What was done: new drywall, new floor tile, and new paint color.
It is nice having a ceiling!

I am loving the use of the laundry chute!
Spare Oom. What was done: the room was made! It is an L shape so a picture is hard to take. One day, if we stay in this house we will dig out an egress window.
The built in shelves were part of the original basement, and were redone to hide the water meter.

My parents were staying in this room. You can also, when you come and visit!
Full Bathroom. What was done: new back wall, new sink cabinet, new floor, new paint, and I picked out a new curtain.
I got my yellow room.
Fun new floor!

Stairs. What was done: wood paneling changed to drywall and the CARPET! We almost did the stair carpeting before we moved in, but decided to wait. It would have been ruined if we had by all the work that was done.
The left doorway leads to the hallway to the bathroom and furnace room.
The right doorway is the study.
That gate is for the top of the stairs for when I want the door open.

We feel truly blessed by this house. We were happy with the finished basement when we bought the house, and thought that maybe someday we would add an extra room, but to have it done just six months after moving in, was beyond what we hoped and prayed for in a house. God has provided abundantly for us, and we are full of gratitude!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

This Month in Girls--The Baby is One!

In theory, I should be writing these posts once a month, but so far that has not happened. I thought that F's birthday would be a good reason to give a look at all three girls.

F, the Birthday Baby: 
- My father is visiting and he sung a song to my girls that his mom sang when his little brother was a baby, Beautiful brown eyes, Beautiful brown, I will never again love blue eyes, Beautiful brown eyes. Even though she is the third child with beautiful, long-lashed brown eyes, I am still enamored with them.

-She still insists on getting around by crawling, pulling herself up only when in the most desperate need of attention, especially on my legs while I am cooking dinner. Standing up against her will is a chore.

-She is working on saying words and things that sound like words: "Ma!", "Da-da.", "Oooooooh!", "Ah-yay-yooo-ya!", and then the high pitched shriek.

-She is happy to play near her sisters and delights in their attention. But mostly prefers to do her own thing near them.

-She is still needing the two naps, but if she misses the morning nap, makes it up in the afternoon. Also, night time sleep has been wonderful with one or two wake ups, and easy to resettle; that is when she has her own room.

-She will look at her "church book" fairly quietly for a 30 minute Mass.

-Her favorite foods are meats, cheese, and clementine oranges.

L, the Acrobat:
-She has a birthday coming up in three weeks. It is hard to believe she is almost three!

-Yesterday, I overheard her say to my father, "You are my favorite!" And then insisted on him sitting next to her at lunch.

-Even after a concussion last month, she can still be found climbing on the back of just about any furniture that she can get on. She can also be found jumping from piece of furniture to piece of furniture.

-She is one of the cutest kids that I know. There is something about her cheeks, eyelashes, and way of expressing herself that makes her pull this off. Even when she is crying her big tears, she is adorable.

-She is thrilled with the snow season's arrival, but also keeps on asking to go swimming outside?

-At Mass she tries to "ride" the back of the pews like a pony or wants to be cuddled. Her little child's missal is usually just held.

-If you ask her what her favorite foods are she will say: "Pancakes, macaroni and cheese, lasagna, and peanut butter jelly and a baseball bat!"

G, the Imagination:
-With my mom and dad visiting, she is getting all the attention she could possibly want, but she is forgetting how to be alone in quiet time.

-I did not realize until this week that most of the games she and L play are play acting everything. G will narrate events and act them out and L will follow. The day is one long elaborate story.

-She is very excited when she makes connections between things she has learned in catechism, reading, and other lessons and her lived life. 

-She is on Lesson 20 in her 100 reading lessons and is doing very well. I knew she had it in her!

-She is trying very hard to sit still and follow her missal at Mass. 

-Said that her favorite dinner was cupcakes, but really will eat anything. Further, I am a bit in awe of how carefully and skillfully she is able to use her fork and spoon after many years struggling to figure them out.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

In the Nick of Time...

We woke up to this outside, and the kids are the only ones happy about another six months of Winter:
What is better? Snow in November or snow in April and May?
 But the new finished basement/lower level was also completed today! It was a long four months of waiting from the discovery of our leaky pipe and flooded basement until now. 

More pictures will come soon! I promise!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Dies Irae: The Feast of All Souls

Today is the Feast of All Souls. With M at a conference and my mom visiting, I went to an Extraordinary Form Missa Canta at St. Agnes this morning by myself. The music was Cristobal de Morales' Missa Pro Defunctis (Mass for the Dead).  It was beautiful and haunting in a way, but not as haunting as the Dies Irae chant:

The day of wrath, that day
Will dissolve the world in ashes
As foretold by David and the Sibyl!

How much tremor there will be,
when the Judge will come,
investigating everything strictly!

The trumpet, scattering a wondrous sound
through the sepulchres of the regions,
will summon all before the Throne.

Death and nature will marvel,
when the creature arises,
to respond to the Judge.

The written book will be brought forth,
in which all is contained,
from which the world shall be judged.

When therefore the Judge will sit,
whatever hides will appear:
nothing will remain unpunished.

What am I, miserable, then to say?
Which patron to ask,
when [even] the just may [only] hardly be sure?

King of tremendous majesty,
who freely savest those that have to be saved,
save me, Source of mercy.

Remember, merciful Jesus,
That I am the cause of Thy way:
Lest Thou lose me in that day.

Seeking me, Thou sat tired:
Thou redeemed [me] having suffered the Cross:
let not so much hardship be lost.

Just Judge of revenge,
give the gift of remission
before the day of reckoning.

I sigh, like the guilty one:
my face reddens in guilt:
Spare the supplicating one, God.

Thou who absolved Mary,
and heardest the Robber,
gavest hope to me, too.

My prayers are not worthy:
however, Thou, Good [Lord], do good,
lest I am burned up by eternal fire.

Grant me a place among the sheep,
and take me out from among the goats,
setting me on the right side.

Once the cursed have been rebuked,
sentenced to acrid flames:
Call Thou me with the blessed.

I meekly and humbly pray,
[my] heart is as crushed as the ashes:
perform the healing of mine end.

Tearful will be that day,
on which from the ash arises
the guilty man who is to be judged.
Spare him therefore, God.

Merciful Lord Jesus,
grant them rest. Amen. 

Our pastor, Fr. Moriarty, gave a very beautiful homily. He talked about how death is a mystery, and how we cannot really know where the dead are, whether they have been judged for eternal life or damnation. In fact, the Church does not ever say that specific people have been damned, but unless a person is a canonized Saint, then we should hope and pray for their soul. I always pray for the repose of the souls (when they leave purgatory and enter Heaven) my friends and relatives who have passed away, but especially on the Feast of All Souls. It also gives me hope for myself, when I pray stanzas that say: "Thou who absolved Mary, and heardest the Robber, gavest hope to me, too."

Eternal Rest give unto them, Oh Lord;
And let perpetual light shine upon them.
And may the souls of all the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Friday, November 1, 2013

When a Place Becomes Home

Late October evenings and afternoons (the times I normally write) are always taken up with costume sewing (my only sewing in two years) and playoff baseball. That is why I have been fairly silent on my blog these days. But we have been going full steam ahead with life and discovering that we are fairly busy. I have a lot of random things I am thinking about writing, but I a hoping to come up with something that is not random. 

When I wrote about traveling a lot the other week, I did not mention the idea that my husband and I have about "home places". A home place is a place that feels like home for some significant reason; most of my home places are places I have close family that I visit frequently or places I have lived. My first home place was St. Louis, which was followed closely by my grandparents town on the West side of Cleveland. Every time I drive into there neighborhood, I am flooded with the familiar feelings of being somewhere that I know and love. We have a lot of home places. In college, Steubenville became a home place. I did not plan on spending two summers there when I first arrived, but because I did I spent the bulk of four years living there. While I was in college my husband's (then boy friend and then fiance) home town in Michigan became a home place. Then together Buffalo, NY became our first married home place; going back again was like going home. But when we came back to St. Paul, approaching the city, and coming into our driveway, we found home again.

As a kid I never thought I would want to live anywhere, but St. Louis. When friends moved away, I always thought that I would never want to. Then I decided to go away to college, and now I live in Siberia Minnesota. Sometimes I get my life confused with the second sister in Fiddler on the Roof.
"And he asks you join him in that frozen wasteland?" 
"No, Papa, I want to go! I want to help him in his work."

I wonder what makes a place home? Is is being with the people there, or is it the actual place? Maybe it is both. The places that I think of as home are places where I have spent meaningful time. The places are only great places in my mind and meaningful to me, because they have been made meaningful. Buffalo is meaningful because it is where my first two children were born, where I was a newlywed, and where I made my first friends as an adult. We are body and soul, and when we live in places our whole person lives there. I love St. Louis, because of the physical place, but also because it is where I was formed as young girl. 

Sometimes when I think about Heaven, I have a hard time imagining being there, especially as a separated soul. We are meant to be both body and soul, and I think that our Earthly homes must prefigure our Heavenly Home to some extent. And then today is the Feast of All Saints, and at Mass there was a description of Heaven:
After this I had a vision of a great multitude,
which no one could count,
from every nation, race, people, and tongue.
They stood before the throne and before the Lamb,
wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.
They cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne,
and from the Lamb.” -From Revelations 7
 Heaven is being united in love to God and others, so places that are our homes are where we have experienced love. Does that sound right? I cannot exactly grasp what Heaven will be like, but if I God in His great mercy takes me to Heaven, it will be the best home place I have ever experienced.
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