What have you found enjoyable this month? Here are a few of my favorites:
Grandma sent the little girls dresses for Easter. Who doesn’t love Easter dresses? Of course they won’t be able to wear them to Mass for a few weeks, but here are two of them trying them on:
2. Favorite March book? Antonio Socci’s,The Fourth Secret of Fatima. It’s been awhile since I haven’t been able to put a book down. If you’re interested in the doings of the popes in the 20th century, as concerns Sr. Lucia and Fatima, then you won’t be disappointed. Socci, an Italian journalist and author, gives a thorough and fascinating and horrifying account of that mysterious 3rd Secret. Warning: he assumes you are already familiar with Fatima. (This is not a book for those reading about Fatima for the first time.)
3. Kids’ favorite book? Sydney Taylor’s All-of-a-Kind Family. My children–all of them–greatly enjoyed listening to this book on Audible. I, too, not only enjoyed it, but learned a bit about Jewish families living in New York City in the early 1900s. Very sweet.
4. Favorite fruit? While my children will eat any fruit, I’ve been finding those cheap pineapples very convenient. I’ve been buying them for $2.98. I’ve been restricting myself to one pineapple a week, because I don’t want the children to get sick of them. But really, I should up it to at least 2, as we eat the whole thing in one sitting.
5. Favorite Bread? Hands down, Renaissance Bread from Galesville, WI. Fortunately for us, this little bakery, owned and operated by 2 sisters, is not only organic, but delivers once a week to a grocery store in La Crosse. As I was buying them out every week, I decided to call them and ask if they’d put together a standing, weekly order of 6 loaves for me? Oh yes, of course! God bless those sisters!
6. And…what about wine? We’ve been enjoying J. Lohr Cabernet Sauvignon. It was on sale this month at Sam’s Club for $9.71, so I bought 6 bottles.
7. Lastly, Favorite YouTube Video? Aw, you knew it was going to be Dr. Taylor Marshall. He’s got some great ones this month. My kids really enjoyed watching this one on communion rails. Me? I found his interview with Timothy Flanders on Corona Virus very interesting.
8. My Husband’s Favorite Thing About March? His birthday. He turns 38 on the 16th.
Favorite New Parish:St. James the Less in La Crosse, WI. Seriously, we couldn’t have landed in a better place for kind families, beautiful Latin Masses, and heavenly scholas. I’ll telling you, this place has got it going on. They even have potlucks every Sunday after the 11am Mass. It’s all such a blessing.
Favorite Outdoor Activity: Hiking. The weather seems so much more mild here that it makes it easy to be out-of-doors.
I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t mention all the sledding going on. The boys drag their sleds almost every day to the park and sled down the steep sides into the baseball field.
Favorite Cocktail: The Copyright, which is a signature drink from the La Crosse Distilling Co. and consists of Barrel-aged Fieldnotes Potato Vodka, Orange Liqueur, Honey, Lemon, and Angostura Bitters. Here a picture of it:
This place was hopping last Saturday night. We can’t wait to go back and try more local drinks. Click HERE for their website and more pictures.
Family Game of the Month: Last month was Catan, and indeed, the children are still at it, but lately Chess has captured more attention. This is because the 4 older children played in a local Chess Tournament, wherein The Eldest actually took the championship. She claims it was all luck. My husband said it was all his doing with his careful and attentive teaching at home. Her brothers say that she owes it all to them for spending hours playing with her, and I say it was all due to her grandpa’s expertise and guidance.
Most Enjoyable February Book:Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I’m revisiting it again, probably for the 4th or 5th time. If you’ve never read it, you’re missing out. Mr. Rochester is my all-time favorite male character in a novel. Yes, he even beats Mr. Darcy from Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. HERE’S my favorite Audible version.
My Kids’ Favorite February Supper: Hot dogs. Yuck. Just yuck. But I was desperate the other day. We were in Survival Mode.
Today I’ll continue the minimalist discussion with a look at my kitchen.
I’ll say it again, always be careful about comparing yourself to other families. We are all different and are called to different stations in life. No two families will look alike! I am only offering one way that works for us. Maybe an idea or two will stick out for you in the following.
So here we go. The above is my kitchen, which you can see is one big room with the dining room to the east and the living room to the north. (You can’t see the living room, as I’m standing in it to take the photo.)
I probably don’t need to say that our kitchen is used for preparing food, (I do have 7 perpetually hungry children and 1 husband who is grateful to eat anything) and the dining room is for eating in. Except that I feel that I do have to mention it. Not all families cook and eat together. We do. So this space is important.
A Note on Beauty
Beauty matters. Beauty is objective, and it affects us. I learned this in grad school, studying art and reading what St. Thomas Aquinas and others had to say about it. But really, I didn’t need to study those great thinkers to know that I am influenced by my surroundings. Walking into a clean and simple room has a calming, peaceful effect on me. Walking into a dirty and chaotic room will instantly overwhelm me.
Since I am at home all day, with 7 loud children, I find it very important to live as neatly and simply as possible. And if I can, I add a touch of beauty. Maybe it’s a candle; maybe it’s a few flowers for the table. Wild flowers are readily available where I live in the warmer months, and during the rest of the 10 months of the year, my husband can pick them up from a florist very cheaply, if they’re bought by the stem. (It’s only arrangements that are expensive.)
I’ll say it again, beauty matters, especially in our culture of throw-away, plastic ugliness. We are not utilitarian communists after all. We are Catholics. Do you suppose Jesus ever picked a bouquet of wildflowers for his mother? I’ll bet he did.
Back to the Kitchen
So in the kitchen, I’ll point out 3 things I try to do.
I try to put very little on the countertops. In the above photo, you’ll notice that only the items that get used daily get a place there. This is for both practical and aesthetic reasons, for it allows for more space to cook, and it makes the space seem cleaner and bigger.
Everything in the kitchen has a place. If it doesn’t have a place, then it doesn’t belong. And I try to put things in a logical spot. For example, since my husband and I drink a bottle or so of wine per week, these items need to be easily accessible. (See the photo below.) Of course if wine isn’t your thing, then get rid of all those wine glasses taking up space!
And lastly, #3. If I haven’t used something in a year, then I get rid of it. I’ll highlight that for you again.
If you haven’t used it in a year, get rid of it!
Seriously, if you haven’t used that egg separator in over a year, get rid of it. If you’ve never used that brand new juicer, get rid of it. If you have two ice cream scoops, get rid of one. For that matter, how many large, cooking spoons do you have? Or when’s the last time you used all those cook books crammed in your cabinet? Or how about those 52 water bottles?
It’s freeing, living with less. And who knows? Maybe someone will be overjoyed at finding your mini-muffin tins and champagne flutes at the secondhand store.
Lastly, I’ll point out a few other practical things that I do in my kitchen.
Here’s a shot of the island.
Like the countertops, I keep this as clear as possible too, so that it is a space that can be used throughout the day. Children will do homework here, work on a puzzle, or just sit and watch me chop vegetables.
The other notable thing about the island is that I put all the plates, cups, and bowls in the lower righthand cabinet. I did this so that the little children need not climb the cabinets to set the table.
The other thing I’ll point out is a shelf by the dining room table. (See photo below.)
We keep our laptop here, so that we can listen to audio books during lunch. (The speakers are on the middle shelf.) My husband I also enjoy listening to jazz music in the evenings too, so it’s nice to have it readily available.
Next to the laptop are our prayer books for meal times. This includes the Magnificat for the Mass readings and Butler’s Lives of the Saints. I also keep the children’s current poetry there too, since we review them at breakfast.
And next to the speakers, you’ll notice a white basket. This is where we keep our cloth napkins during the day. After supper, Child #5 empties it into the laundry.
That’s all for today. If you have any questions, be sure to ask in the Comments Section below. Others may have the same question! Or if you have any great ideas to live more simply in the kitchen, post them for us to see.
*Two notes here. 1. We enjoy drinking wine out of proper wine glasses. Hence all the different stemware. 2. Did you notice all the glass bowls? It also may seem ridiculous that I own that many. And I agree with you. I think I’ll give away one or two. But I’ll also have you know that I’ve made progress in this department. I used to own about 25 beautiful glass bowls. Not kidding. People were very generous to us at our wedding.
Awhile back a friend gave me a great recipe for Lentil Stew, which we loved, but had to modify a little to feed everybody. As it’s one of our favorites, I offer it to you today.
Here’s how I made it. (See the bottom of the post for the actual recipe.)
Step 1: Chop up your vegetables and sauté them for a few minutes in olive oil.
Step 2: Start dumping stuff in your crockpot while the vegetables cook.
Step 3: Add 5 cloves of garlic to the vegetables and sauté for just a minute or two longer. (Don’t burn the garlic!)
By the way, do you have a garlic press? No? You need one.
Step 4: Add the vegetables and everything else to the crockpot.
Step 5: Bring it all to a boil, and then let it simmer for about thirty minutes. Then turn your crockpot down to warm until you’re ready to eat it.
And what to serve with the stew?
Most days I make my own salad dressing, but if I’m in a hurry or feeling lazy, I go for this because it comes with dressing.
But I have to dress it up and add more so that it feeds my family. I usually add spinach, dried cranberries, and unsalted cashews. If I’m not feeling so very lazy, and if I have it on hand, I especially love to add green onion.
Now the children generally set the table, and I always fill the salad bowls at the last minute, before we pray and sit down to eat. I’ve found this to be much less chaotic, than attempting to pass around the salad bowl with everyone making a mess. It’s just better to have the salad waiting in everyone’s bowls.
And here we are, after the salads, eating our soup.
A Note About the Wine
This evening we drank a Petite Sirah, which is not my favorite, but it paired well with this soup, because of its strong, spicy flavors.
And because I wanted to know the difference, I’ll share this with you too.
A Petite Sirah is not a Shiraz or Syrah. A Petite Sirah is the American name for the French Durif grape, which is a cross between the Sirah and Peloursin grape. It is not a lighter version of Syrah. In fact, from what I’ve read, it’s higher in tannin, making for a bolder taste.
Shiraz and Syrah are also full-bodied red wines, but these are made from the Syrah grape. Shiraz is made exclusively in Australia.
Shiraz and Syrah wines pair well with barbecue and barbecue sauce, especially spareribs. Petite Sirahs need rich or fatty foods with exotic spices. (Hence, the Lentil Stew did do nicely.)
Recipe for Lentil Stew
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
5 stalks of celery, chopped
5 cloves of garlic, minced
6 cups of broth
3 cans petite tomatoes
2 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (16 oz.) package of lentils
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne
3/4 tsp salt
Sauté vegetables in olive oil for a few minutes. Add garlic for a minute or two more. Combine everything else in a crockpot and bring it to a boil. Let it simmer for about thirty minutes or until the lentils are fully cooked.
Note: This is a great recipe for meatless Fridays. I will, however, frequently add meat, if I’ve got some on hand. For example, today I added a few cups of chopped ham. I’ve also done sausage and bacon too.
*No wine, of course! (I hadn’t poured it yet.) And the silverware does not match, but that cannot be helped.
A few weeks ago, here’s how I worked on my Christmas cards:
And here is how I scrubbed onesies full of poop. (Laundry doesn’t go away during the holidays.) It just so happens that a dear friend stopped by and gave me the coffee. May God bless her thoughtfulness!
Here is my son traveling to his doctor appointment wherein we didn’t discover much of anything.
Here is our sweet Christmas tree. It has a gaping hole in the back. But that’s what you get when you wait until two days before Christmas Eve to buy one. (As of last year, we decided to wait until the last possible moment to get one. Oh the excitement!) Then we decorate it on Christmas Eve. Click HERE for last year’s Sweet Thang.
And, here are the rest of the children helping with the cookies.
In any case, I pray that your Christmas may be holy and jolly! Come, Lord Jesus!
As this is summer, I am wondering what you all are enjoying in the evenings? I like a glass of wine* or two, but every now and then, I like a cocktail too.
The other night, my husband and I enjoyed a Lemon Martini (on the left) and a Rob Roy (on the right).
Some of you have asked how we make our Lemon Martinis? (By we, I mean my husband. Who are kidding? I don’t make the drinks around here. I just drink ’em.) My husband pours equal parts freshly squeezed lemon, dry vermouth, and vodka into a shaker with ice. Then he shakes it violently and pours it into my martini glass.
So of course, it isn’t a true martini, as it has no gin.
And what’s around that rim? It’s sugar. He does this by wetting the rim with the lemon wedge and then tipping the glass upside down onto a plate of sugar. It’s worth the extra minute of two waiting.
The second drink, my husband’s drink, is a Rob Roy. This is two parts Scotch, one part dry vermouth, and two dashes of Angostura bitters. Rob Roys can also be made with sweet vermouth or even with equal parts of both, but my husband prefers dry.
This is also poured into a shaker with ice and shaken. Then it’s poured into a martini glass and enjoyed.
When making cocktails, it’s helpful to have a cocktail shaker and something to measure shots with. A simple shot glass will do, or if you have a nifty tool like the one above, you’re good to go. You’ll notice that on this tool, on the left, is a little measuring cup while on the right are other useful things – most notably the extended stick used as a juicer. This juicer gets a lot of use in our house for drinks requiring lemons or limes.
What are you all drinking this summer? Drop a line in the comment box!
*One of my favorite scripture verses involve wine. The following one comes from Psalm 104:14-15.
“You cause the grass to grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth, and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread to strengthen man’s heart.”
Notice that? Wine to gladden the hearts of men and bread to strengthen us. Two of the best things ever. God is good!
Tonight we had a lettuce salad, Italian Minestrone, and bread.
Now I know that my Minestrone may not be true Italian Minestrone because it’s lacking cabbage and Italian sausage. The fact is, I didn’t have any Italian sausage because I’m not Italian. But I did have venison sausage because I’m a North Dakotan, and my husband hunts. Every fall he shoots a deer, hangs it, guts it, cuts it up, and then has his butcher process it for us. Hence venison sausage.
So maybe, I ought to call it North Dakotan Minestrone?
Now what to drink with this soup? I understand soup is difficult to pair with wine. I looked it up and came across two suggestions. The first was a sparkling red. Well, I didn’t have any sparkling red. Next, I read that a Sangiovese will do, with the most popular Sangiovese around here being Chianti. Alas, but I was fresh out of Chianti.
What to do?
Some of you may be wondering what I did have in the wine rack? Only a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. And when all else fails and one only has a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, one drinks Cabernet Sauvignon.
Notice the bread in the picture? I bought it from our local bakery, Bread Poets. They buy wheat from the farmers around here and grind (or should I say mill?) it themselves. It’s the best. This particular loaf is stuffed with tomato sauce and pepperonis. Who wouldn’t like that?
Recipe for “Italian” Sausage Minestrone
1 lb. “Italian” Sausage
2 large carrots, chopped
3 celery ribs, chopped
1 onion, chopped
6 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
7 cups chicken broth
2 cans cannellini beans, rinsed & drained
2 cans fire-roasted tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning
1 cup small pasta
shredded Parmesan for serving
In a Dutch oven, cook sausage over medium heat until no longer pink; drain.
In the same pan, saute the carrots, celery, onion, and garlic in oil until tender. Stir in everything else, except pasta and Parmesan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. Put the pasta in the last 5 or 6 minutes. Serve with Parmesan.
I can’t help but spread a little cheer. My brother has just announced his engagement to the lovely lady in the photo below. They both have suffered a lot through previous “marriages,” which have been annulled. God is giving them a second chance to do things rightly.
All I can say is, congratulations! And welcome to the family!
And then I have two bits of advice for all Engaged Couples.
Advice for Engaged Couples
Start praying together now, if you aren’t already. (This goes for you married couples too.) This is so important. Not only will it help you when things get tough, but just think of the example you are setting for your children.
Go to confession. We are all sinners, and we all need to frequent this sacrament. (Married couples included.) So, go to confession!
By the way, I understand that my brother’s fiancé is 100% Italian. This is exciting for our family because we are mostly German and Norwegian, with a little Dutch sprinkled on top.
But the Dutch part is very important, as I will never forget my Grandfather explaining his heritage and last name. “You see, Kim, our last name used to be ‘Van Dubbelden’ in the Old Country, but now it’s Dubbelde, which is a little more American. But don’t you ever forget,” and here he stopped, looked me straight in the eye, pointed his finger at me, and said, “If ya ain’t Dutch, ya ain’t much!”
Well, I’m glad I’m Dutch. But, I look forward to having an Italian in the family. I love their wine. (After all who ever heard of a Dutch wine? Or a Norwegian wine?)
*Answer: St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans. Not built by the Dutch or the Italians, but by the French of course.
The night before our open house a few days ago, Child #3 chucked a chair down the stairwell and this is what happened:
Now, I’d like to say that I handled this situation well, but that would be a lie. We were frantically trying to clean for this open house, and it was stressful. So I cried, but I didn’t yell. And that’s an improvement for me. This particular child felt badly enough. I didn’t need to make him feel worse.
What was one to do? There was clearly a visible hole in my wall. Well, I did three things:
I called my adept father-in-law, as my husband was at work, and asked if he might want to fix a hole in the wall? Of course he did. He came right over.
I was making supper, so I stopped all necessary prep-work and popped a bottle of wine. All situations improve with a glass of wine.
After all, God is going to sell this house in His own good time, with or without holes in the walls. I might as well relax a little bit.
3. I blasted out Louis Armstrong. My absolute favorite song of his is When You’re Smiling. Click HERE for it. Just listen to that trumpet solo! It’s at 2:20 in the video. Now if that doesn’t put a gal in a better mood, I’m not sure what will.
My husband and I decided we needed to get outta Dodge, as the saying goes. (Where did that saying come from? Anyone know?) And of course, we wanted to go south, where it’s warmer. So naturally, we went to South Dakota.
The Black Hills
We stayed in a beautiful cabin at Newton Fork Ranch. Long ago we gave up on hotels, because with our big family hotels are impractical. Cabins, on the other hand, are great because they can provide multiple bedrooms, a bathroom, and a kitchen. Kitchens are a must, as one does not want to take 7 children out to eat very often.
This cabin was the highlight of our trip for the children because it sat right on the side of forested “mountain” complete with a trickling stream. They all insisted that their favorite part of the whole trip was throwing sticks and rocks into that stream and climbing that mountain. In fact, they made both my husband and I do just that – throw sticks and rocks and hike the hill, which I found rather difficult and somewhat frightening.
Prairie Berry Winery
My favorite part of the trip was stopping at Prairie Berry Winery and drinking wine. This place, thankfully, is kid friendly. It even has a table set up for checkers, which my children played. And we only had a few gaping stares from others as we traipsed in and sat down. One bold woman remarked, “Looks like you got your hands full!” To which I promptly laughed and replied, “Yes, which is why we’re here!” And I lifted my half empty bottle of wine up for her to see.
I’m not really sure that these wines should be called wine, however. Many of them are made from anything but grapes. The Lawrence Elk, for example, is made from currants. It tastes like sparkling Kool-Aid. It was very refreshing after hiking a few miles though. (My husband condescended to drink a glass of it. He gave the rest of the bottle to me.)
Chapel in the Hills
My second favorite part of the trip was the tour my aunt and uncle gave us of the Norwegian Chapel in the Hills. My aunt and uncle were once the caretakers of this place for many years, but they came out of retirement just for us. They’re the best.
This chapel is an exact replica of the Borgund Stave Church in Norway built in 1050 and still standing. So, if you can’t get to Norway, go the Black Hills and tour this one built in 1969. Of course my children liked the sliding partition for the lepers to receive Holy Communion the best.
I asked my eldest daughter what she learned from the tour, and she exclaimed, “Your aunt said that there’s no such thing as white hair. She said that she has blonde hair, not white hair, and I’m not supposed to let anyone tell me differently. Mom, you’ll always have blonde hair too, I suspect.”
As an aside, my aunt is also wearing bright red lipstick. (She is my grandmother’s daughter after all.) She kissed every one of my boys on the cheek. She laughed and laughed, as they all ran to the van, desperately looking for baby wipes to get that lipstick off saying, “Ewwww, gross!”
And finally, we all greatly enjoyed the Michelson Trail. This was once an old railway that ran through the Black Hills. Now it’s a multipurpose, gravel hiking trail. My husband and I have biked on it before, so we thought we’d take the children and explore a different section. We found a five-mile stretch that began a few miles out of Hills City and was all downhill. So my husband dropped me and the four older children off and met us at the end.
At first it was glorious. The sun was shining. The trees were glistening. A stream ran alongside us. Then, it was terrifying. Gentle mountainside gave way to steep, scary cliffs. There were no guard rails. My children squealed in glee at the enormous canyons below. They pointed out distant deer while the wind whipped through their hair, and we flew at a fearful pace. Visions of wipe outs and falling children splattering on rocks below absolutely terrorized me. I prayed to their guardian angels. I asked St. Michael to protect them. I begged Holy Mary to wrap her mantle around them.
And we made it.
I do not, let me repeat, do not recommend that section of the trail for children! Nope. If you have children, stick closer to Hill City.
But boy, oh boy was that ride breathtaking! It even ran through the mountain in two places. Those tunnels were awesome.
I was asked the other day if I suffer from insomnia? Uh, yes. From time-to-time anyway, and it’s terrible. I’d say that it sucks, but that’s not proper language for a sophisticated blog. So I’ll just say that it’s terrible.
I never used to have a problem sleeping. Anybody remember those college days of setting the alarm clock for 10am? And sleeping all the way through the night, until 10am? Yeah, that’s a little pathetic, but you get the idea.
Then I got married and started having children. Like a lot of children. And the older I get, the less sleep I get, and not just because the baby wants to nurse and the 5-year-old wet the bed and the 2-year-old just feels like screaming. Nope, with this last pregnancy especially, I was just plain wide awake at all hours of the dark, dark night.
There is nothing more frustrating than getting all the children asleep and realizing that one has only a few precious hours wherein to sleep and then not being able to sleep. Oh, the agony!
If any of you find yourself in this situation, I’ll give you a few ideas that seem to work for me. But remember, everyone is different, so these tips may or may not work for you. (Shoot, they don’t always work for me either.)
4 Tips for Surviving Insomnia
1. Watch what you’re doing those two hours before bedtime.
If I’m stressed out, running around, or worrying about everything I didn’t get done, you bet I’m going to be wide awake at night. This is why it’s very important for me to relax in the evening. I need to forget about the load of laundry sitting in the dryer and the sticky mess on my kitchen floor. Rather, it’s time for me to sit down, have a glass of wine, and play a hand of Gin Rummy with my husband.
2. Eat well.
I always feel better when I’ve attempted to eat well during the day. You know, like pass on the potato chips and have a bowl of plain yogurt with blueberries instead.
Every day I try to get outside and go for a walk or a run. It’s amazing what just 20 minutes will do for a gal. And yes I said outside, even in the cold, cold North. Bundle up! The reason I prefer outside to a machine indoors is because of the quiet. Some of my best ideas come to me when I’m walking down the road outside by myself. And I always feel better at the end of the day knowing my body moved around a bit.
4. Just get out of bed and go pray or read.
This one is so difficult for me, but when I do it, I almost always come back to bed and fall asleep. Instead of lying in bed, staring at the clock, and thinking Oh, I just need to sleep! The baby’s going to wake up in 45 minutes, and I have so much to do tomorrow. Why, oh why can’t I just fall asleep! I just get up and go tell Jesus about it. I grab my robe, stumble out to the living room, and sit before our icon of the Sacred Heart and pray a Divine Mercy Chaplet. I don’t turn any lights on either.
I also have a couple favorite Psalms that I like to pray, which come from the Office of Compline. (Click HERE for it on Amazon.) From Psalm 134, “In the silent hours of the night, bless the Lord!” And from Psalm 91, “Night holds no terrors for me sleeping under God’s wings.”
In the end though, Jesus knows, and he cares. Really. And this too shall pass, or so I tell myself.