Monday, November 30, 2009

As we wait in joyful hope...

December 1 Make and bless the family Advent wreath.
December 2 Start a Family Rosary Night. Pray at least one decade of the rosary before dinner or before bedtime.
December 3 Memorial of St. Francis Xavier, priest. Pray for missionaries and all who spread the Gospel.
December 4 Make plans to receive the Sacrament of Penance prior to Christmas.
December 5 Kids make dinner tonight! Older children do the cooking; younger children set the table.
December 6 St. Nicholas Day. (St. Nicholas was a fourth century bishop in Asia Minor). Leave small treats in the children’s shoes. At dinner, say a special prayer for all bishops.
December 7 Write Christmas cards to loved ones. The whole family can be involved. Older children can write notes and address envelopes; younger children can seal envelopes and affix
stamps and stickers. Make sure to tell stories about the cards’ recipients.
December 8 Family Movie Night: Make some hot chocolate and popcorn and settle in to watch a Christmas classic, especially The First Christmas.
December 9 Family Rosary Night.
December 10 Make Christmas decorations, such as clay or ceramic ornaments or paper or popcorn chains.
December 11 Family Forgiveness Night. Apologize to a member of the family that you have hurt during the past year. Forgive those who have apologized to you. End the evening by sharing a sweet dessert.
December 12 Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe: Share a special breakfast of hot
chocolate and pan dulce. Place some flowers (roses are traditional, but any flower is fine) before the family’s statue of Mary.
December 13 Finish Christmas shopping. Select at least one or two purchases for donation.
December 14 Deliver gifts to a local shelter, refugee center, or crisis pregnancy center. Rather
than just dropping the package off, spend some time learning about the work of the facility.
December 15 Bake Christmas cookies. Share some with neighbors or shut-ins.
December 16 Family Rosary Night.
December 17 Begin including the “O Antiphons” as part of your table or bedtime prayers.
December 18 Read a Christmas card at the dinner table. Pray for the sender and, during dinner, recall stories about the person. Continue this practice each night through Epiphany.
December 19 Put up and decorate the Christmas tree.
December 20 Bless and light the Christmas tree.
December 21 Wrap Christmas presents.
December 22 Put up and bless the crèche.
December 23 Family Rosary Night.
December 24 Begin the Novena for Peace (to end on January 1st)
December 25 Celebrate the Birth of Christ by attending the Eucharistic Liturgy and spending time with family and friends.

Wishing all a Blessed Advent and Happy Christmas.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Meatless Fridays

This week's Meatless Friday meal is:
It's a simple crustless quiche that can be thrown together with things you probably already have on hand and is a great use for left over vegetables. It's been my "go to" meal on a number of occasions. The one pictured below was made with broccoli because that's what we had harvested from the garden that day.

2 cups milk
6 eggs
3/4 cup biscuit baking mix (or 3/4 cup flour with 1 tsp. baking powder)
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
8 oz. of shredded cheddar cheese
1 heaping cup of cooked/blanched vegetable: chopped spinach, broccoli, asparagus, sun dried tomato, caramelized onions, peppers are just a few options. You can add anything at all that goes with eggs!

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 10 inch baking dish. In a large bowl, beat together milk, eggs, baking mix, butter and parmesan cheese. Batter will be lumpy. Stir in vegetables and cheddar cheese. Pour into prepared baking dish. Bake in preheated oven for 50 minutes, until eggs are set and top is golden brown.
Serve with a salad or fresh fruit.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Have a Blessed Thanksgiving!

Last Thanksgiving I got an inexpensive table cloth and turned it into a sweet holiday keepsake. With the addition of some fabric pens, each family member traced his/her hand and wrote what they were thankful for...
It made me smile reading the things the boys wrote from last year and I can't wait to see what they add this year!

I'm the one who is truly thankful for each one of these precious hand prints...

Have a very Blessed Thanksgiving everyone!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The boots

The boots go everywhere:
out to play, to Mass, to walk the dog, working in the garden...

...even to bed.

Doesn't matter where you're going or what you're doing,
boots are the answer!
They don't even have to be on the right feet.

A friend of mine said that boots, shorts, a t-shirt, and a cowboy hat was the "uniform" for all little Texan boys.

I'm thinking she was right!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

This is why I should have had little girls...

A precious pink knitted hat and matching leggings to go with it!
Sewing and knitting for little girls is so much fun!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thrift store finds

It was a pretty hard week last week so I decided to treat myself to a little thrift store shopping. It was just the right medicine for me! It was a cool Fall day and it got me in the mood for the upcoming holidays...truth be told, I've been ready to decorate for Christmas since Halloween!

I found these sweet vintage containers for .75 a piece!

I've had a fetish for those old glass ornaments for years. They just don't make them like that anymore and they remind me of childhood Christmases! I found two boxes of gorgeous ones.... for less than a buck!

Somebody squeeeel with me!

I also snagged this pretty handmade quilt.
It's the perfect picnic size, and soooo soft!

You won't believe what I paid for it:

I know!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Meatless Fridays

This week's Meatless Friday meal is
These are so good and flavorful that you won't miss the meat at all! Plus, this is a great budget buster meal. A large bag of lentils is less than a dollar and by making your own tortillas you'd save even more! Definitely give this a try!

1 cup finely chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup dried lentils, rinsed
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 1/2 cups vegetable stock or water
1 cup salsa
12 taco shells or make your own homemade tortillas
shredded lettuce
chopped fresh tomato
shredded cheddar cheese
sour cream

In a large nonstick skillet, saute the onion and garlic in oil until tender. Add the lentils, chili powder, cumin and oregano; cook and stir for 1 minute. Add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes or until the lentils are tender. Uncover, cook for 6-8 minutes or until mixture is thickened. Mash lentils slightly. Stir in salsa.
Fill taco shells or tortillas and top with your favorite toppings!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Please excuse JoAnn...

Please excuse JoAnn from blogging this week.
She burned her hand cooking this weekend and it makes typing very painful. She spent the weekend lying around and milking her injury for all it was worth. She is now back at work and not quite sure how she is going to manage once this "crispy fried tater-tot" begins to blister and peel.

Nasty, right?
See you all next week...

Friday, November 13, 2009

Meatless Fridays

I thought it would be nice to add a Meatless Friday feature to the blog. We have meatless meals a few times a week, but always on Fridays. Not only is it good for the pocketbook, but it's good for the soul!
This week's meatless meal is perfect for crisp, cool Fall evenings.
It's broccoli cheese soup and french bread!
(Recipe serves four so you may want to double it-
it also freezes beautifully!)

1 tablespoon butter, melted

1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups half-and-half
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 lb. fresh broccoli
1 cup carrots, julienned
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
8 ozs. grated sharp cheddar

Saute onion in butter. Set aside. Cook melted butter and flour using a whisk over medium heat for 3-5 minutes. Stir constantly and slowly add the half-and-half. Add the chicken stock whisking all the time. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Add the broccoli, carrots and onions. Cook over low heat until the veggies are tender for 20-25 minutes. Add salt and pepper. The soup should be thickened by now. Pour in batches into food processor and puree.
Return to pot over low heat and add the grated cheese; stir until well blended. Stir in the nutmeg and serve.

To make the easiest french bread, see my blog post on
Food Processor French Bread

With 10 broccoli plants in the garden, I have a feeling we'll be making plenty of this soup for the freezer!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Danny says...

"I'm the Boss, applesauce!"
"Understand rubber band?"
"Don't get wise, beady-eyes..."
"Or I'll cut you down to peanut size!"
I'm thinking of adopting it as my new catch phrase.
Should go over real well at work, right?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Apparently, I can't tell the difference between a pecan and a pear!

We've been in our home for a little over three years. All that time I thought we had four pecan trees in our backyard. Apparently, I can't tell the difference in two totally different species of trees!
This year, one of our 'pecan' trees sprouted some small pears!

And just for the record, it wasn't just me!
Doug also thought it was a pecan tree!
He even thought about cutting it down because we thought it was dead when the other trees were in full foliage and that lone little tree was not. Little did we know that it was just dormant until all pear trees!

Yeah, we're special that way.

So now I'm all giddy with excitement about this new, fully mature tree we have! It only produced a handfull of really hard yucky fruit. Once I figure out what type of pear it is and how to properly feed and care for it, I expect to harvest baskets full of lovely pears for preserves, deserts, and eating right off the tree!

Until then, the boys are enjoying them as projectiles (along with pecans)
in their daily war games in the backyard.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

CRAP! I just realized that Christmas is next month!

Pretty darn smart, 'ain't I?
Christmas is always such a rushed time of year for me. Between working, gifting, decorating, and cooking, it seems like I never really enjoy the holidays.

I'm changing that this year - I have a plan!

I am NOT running around like a mad woman this year shopping for gifts! It's going to be a handmade/homemade Christmas this year. I have several things on my agenda like:

Tote bags
Crayon rolls
Knitted hats and socks
Market bags with accompanying produce and bread bags
Picnic blankets

...and lots of treats from the kitchen like pretty bottled vanilla and apple pumpkin butter.

I know all of this seems a little ambitious and like even more work than holiday shopping, but sewing and crafting is like therapy to me. I have wonderful visions of setting up the sewing machine in the den by the Christmas tree, brewing a pot of hot tea, putting on a little Christmas music or Gregorian chant, and making useful things for the ones I love.

Even the boys are getting into the spirit of our handmade holidays. We'll brainstorm and they'll make and bake gifts for our family, friends, and neighbors as well.

Yep, simple is best...I'm really hoping to keep it nice and simple this year and avoid all the stress of holidays past. It's time to really focus on the real 'Reason for the Season!"

Monday, November 9, 2009

A lovely night out...

Every year Doug donates his photography services to a wonderful organization, the Houston area Foundation for Life. Once a year they host a huge gala to raise money to help mothers and their unborn children. Their services range from emergency aid like food, shelter, and clothing to ongoing support like educational classes, legal aid, and spiritual/emotional counseling.
For the past 26 years FFL has worked faithfully in the Houston community to educate the public about the humanity and value of life from conception to natural death. The Foundation has also sought to reach out to others with truth and the life-changing message that God loves them, that there can be changes to destructive lifestyle choices, healing for psychological and spiritual effects of abortion, and answers to problem pregnancies when there seems no way out.

The gala was wonderful! Not only did it allow a lovely evening out with my husband, but we got to see and meet some incredible people. Michelle Malkin was the keynote speaker this year and her speech was inspirational and uplifting. We came out of that place feeling like real Americans...not right wing "extremists" as the so-called media likes to label us!

But at the end of the evening I was still left with one question...

What level of hell were these shoes invented in?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Cooking collards

The collard greens in our garden are ready to harvest!
I planted 10 plants to keep us fed through the winter. By harvesting just the outer leaves, the plant will keep producing all winter long. They even say that a good frost improves their flavor!
Here's my recipe for cooking collard greens.
You just can't get any more "Southern" than this!

1 bunch collard greens - rinsed, stems trimmed, and chopped
1 smoked ham hock (could substitute a smoked turkey neck OR 4-5 pieces of bacon chopped.)
half an onion
1 box of organic chicken stock
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Place meat and chopped onion in a large stock pot. Heat on medium/high to render fat and cook onion until just translucent. Pour in stock and bring to a boil. Put in collards and reduce heat. Stir in vinegar and brown sugar and cook for one hour. Salt and pepper to taste.
Serve with hot cornbread!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A beautiful Fall morning!

I had the unexpected, but nice, surprise of being called off from work today! Doug let me sleep in, but when I woke up, I found that it was a beautiful Fall morning outside. I brewed a pot of tea and went out to the back porch to take in the crisp fresh air. I was soon joined by my two little monkeys who kept me entertained!

Very grateful for these moments of peace and laughter to start my day!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Thinking about next growing season

I have so many plans running around in my brain for landscaping the backyard. I would love to have pretty beds surrounding the property filled with lush plants...who wouldn't, right? But tilling, weeding, and bedding all take money, time, money, sweat, and did I mention money?
I found a cheap and easy way to get the flower beds you want with little of all the above mentioned!
We've been saving old news papers for quite some time. Using those papers, we layed them out pretty thick where we wanted our garden beds to be. Spray the paper with the water hose to make it adhere to the grass and dirt. You want the grass to be suffocated. You could also use cardboard from old boxes, really anything that will decompose.
Cover your wet papers/cardboard with 6-8 inches of hay or straw and wet that down as well. Leave it to decompose and kill off grass over the winter. Come spring time you'll have a nice, soft, rich soil to work with!

Garden stores have most plants marked off half or more during this time of year. Stock up on what you can and winter them in your garage...just don't forget to water them every once in a while!

I've used this method several times on the most hardened soil and it never fails! For about 24 bucks we were able to make a bed the length of the back of our house!