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Friday, December 19, 2008

7 Quick Takes: Dec 19th

Join the fun at Jen's blog, Conversion Diary.

This past weekend I traveled to my mom's home in Virginia Beach and helped her move out. She and my dad are divorcing after over 40 years. That is weird, I must tell you. Without going into the details, I will say that life's hardships have taken a serious toll on their relationship. My Dad came over and helped with the move. They were more than cordial - friendly, actually. That is weird, too. But good. Many of my mom's friends came to help and quite a few of them mentioned how much happier she's been in the last few weeks (when the house sold and she found her new place)...happier than she's been over the past 4 years that this divorce has been coming.

My house is STILL not decorated. I've got my St. Nick decorations up from that celebration, and some advent calendars...and an under-used Advent wreath...but nothing else. We won't be here for Christmas, so we aren't putting up a tree this year (not my choice). Usually I do lots of decorating on Gaudete Sunday - but I wasn't here, so it didn't get done. It wasn't really bugging me until now. I think I have to decorate...which seems silly when we won't even be here to enjoy it. What do you think - should I or shouldn't I?

I've started some new crochet projects (a scarf to go with a cute hat I rediscovered and a hat/scarf set for my 6 year old daughter). I've still got some to finish, of course, but new is always so much fun. I love crocheting because it gives me something relaxing and productive to do during those "in between moments": when you have too much time to waste, but not enough to get a big job done.

Today we met our Dear Neighbors (formerly neighbors, still dear) at the MALL for an "annual" Christmas trip. My friend, Dear Neighbor, informed me a couple of weeks ago, that we did not go last year (so this would be our first annual, when I thought it was our second annual at least)...I could swear we did, so either I'm losing it or she is. Do you think it is strange that our kids view a trip to the Mall as a wonderful event? Dear Neighbor and I do, but we are so glad they are "unplugged" enough that this is still a fascinating day for them. We had a nice lunch and saw Santa...this is where it gets really good...but wait, that is number five...

You may remember that Dear Neighbor has a daughter, now 2 1/2, who was adopted from China about 18 months ago. Well, the Santa at the mall started speaking in Mandarin to her...and SHE UNDERSTOOD. She didn't reply (she's still a babbling toddler after all), but she responded directly to his request to "Come here" in Mandarin. So often Dear Neighbor laughs about people asking, "Does she speak Chinese?" Because, of course, she's growing up in America with an English-speaking family, so she speaks English. However, it seems her 9 months of life in China has cemented some Mandarin in her brain. It was almost eerie how clearly she responded to him. Amazing.

So, are you wondering like we were - How does a "Santa's Helper" guy know Mandarin? Turns out he was missionary kid who grew up in Guangdong Province, China and lived in Hong King for years as an adult. I told Dear Neighbor that she should let her friends in the local China adoption community know about him - their kids might really enjoy meeting him. Her daughter seemed to really warm up to him after he spoke to her in Mandarin.

Not one to pass up a bookstore, before leaving the mall we made a trip through the Barnes and Noble. My two little Webkins addicts found another new crochet project for me...amigurumi. Have you heard of these? They are pretty darn cute...but thinking about making them kind of makes my head hurt. We bought the book, but I'm wondering about other patterns for these little creatures. If you have a good link, let me know!

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Friday, December 12, 2008

St. Lucia Bread

We enjoy celebrating the Swedish custom of St. Lucia (or St. Lucy) Day. One of my favorite parts is baking the delicious saffron buns that are traditionally served on St. Lucia's Day. I make mine using my breadmaker and then handshape and bake. They really aren't hard, want to give it a try?

The following recipe comes from The All New Ultimate Bread Machine Cookbook:

Add the ingredients in the order specified in your bread machine's manual. (Mine is wet first, then dry, then yeast)

3/4 c. plus 2 T milk
1 lg. egg

3 c. all-purpose flour
1 pinch salt
1/3 c. granulated white sugar
1/4 tsp powdered saffron (if you can only find saffron in "threads", just pulverize these as best you can then measure out 1/4 tsp. A trick I just learned is to use a bit of sugar as you pulverize with your mortar and pestle.)
3 T unsalted butter

2 1/4 fast-rise yeast

Place all in a 2-cup capacity breadmaker and set on "dough". At the end of the rise, punch down the dough and let rest 5 minutes before hand-shaping.

To handshape:
Lightly sprinkle work surface with flour. Divide dough into equal peices: 2 for 2 large breads, 4 for small breads, 6 to 8 for smaller buns. Lightly sprinkle with flour. Dampen hands and roll each piece into a rope. (18 inches for the 2 large pieces, 9 inches for the 4 pieces, etc.)

Lay a rope on a lightly-greased baking sheet. Curl each end, toward the center, into a coil. Cover and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush bread with egg wash (1 egg, beaten with 1 tsp. water). Bake for approx. 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on a rack.

This bread freezes well and is excellent served toasted with orange marmalade. (We serve small buns on St. Lucy's Day and freeze a larger bread for Christmas morning.)

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7 Quick Takes - Dec. 12th

Read other bloggers' "Quick Takes" at Jen's blog.

A glimpse of life this past week...

1. Yesterday, we spent the day rearranging my daughter's room to accommodate her new sister. We don't have the crib in yet (it's coming on loan from a friend), so instead we slipped a pack&play in it's spot. Cleared out half the closet and drawers (some of the clothes are being given away and some were moved to an under-the-bed bin), too. Moved a desk in to act as a "bedside table" for both girls...and as a desk.

2. Do you love moving furniture around like I do? My daughter is her mother's daughter...she said, "It just makes everything seem new!" My husband isn't so enthusiastic. Once I start in one room, I tend to keep moving rooms around until I've changed up the whole house. I do have my eye on some changes for the kitchen, study, and our bedroom.

3. Could this be nesting? I wondered yesterday if nesting is more an instinct based on situation than hormones. There is a certain satisfaction in seeing the closet fill up a bit with clothes, blankets, bottles, etc. It certainly helps as an adoptive mom when I can't see other evidence of our pending addition.

4. My cat is two-timing us - I think she has a second home! Yesterday, I saw a cat sitting in the window of a neighbor's house that looked exactly like her...and our cat was mysteriously missing ALL DAY. She's also getting fat (which will happen when you eat double your daily meals). But, she's back home this morning.... very interesting.

5. One of my favorite things to do to keep the kids occupied during the weeks before Christmas is to create a "craft box". My kids love to do crafts and all I have to do is keep the box handy and they'll go to town. After a quick trip to the Arts & Crafts store, I am armed and ready with glitter, foamies, felt, pipe cleaners, pom-poms, and such! Bring on the "I'm bored" comments!

6. Our Wednesday co-op (Classical Conversations) is over for the semester. It is tempting to just ditch school for the next few weeks and do fun Christmas stuff. But I'm trying not to entirely give in to that temptation. While I do want to do fun Christmas stuff, I also want to get some math and phonics/grammar done...and some history reading we are a bit behind in. I also have next semester's History and Science plans to complete.

7. Made croutons for Christmas gifts this year. I wasn't sure if it was odd to give croutons, what do you think? Would you think it odd to get a jar of homemade croutons? Well, anyway - the first batch was received with enthusiasm, so I guess if it is weird, it is also appreciated.

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Russian Tea Mix

Looking for "Mix-in-a-jar" recipe for Christmas gifts? This one is always loved: Russian Tea Mix. The spicy-orangey flavor is delicious! My kids helped mix this and everyone who received it begged for more.

3 c sugar
2 c Tang (or other orange-flavored drink mix)
1 c unsweetened instant tea mix
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 envelope unsweetened lemonade mix

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Store in an airtight container. Mason jars work well and make for nice gift-giving. To serve: put 1 1/2 to 2 rounded spoonfuls of mix into a cup and fill with boiling water. Stir well. (Don't forget to include the serving instructions on your gift jar!)

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Swedish Glogg - and a Recipe Swap!

Looking for a good recipe for mulled wine or Swedish Glogg? Here it is!

This is not the "secret" family recipe which I've been forbidden to divulge (but I think you can guess from the ingredients I listed that we left out). This is good recipe (it is the one we used last year) - not as "knock you over" as the original, but less alcohol is good.

I submitted this recipe to Randi's Holiday Recipe Swapbox - go check it out for some tried and true recipes!

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Monday, December 8, 2008

Erikson's Glogg

Svenska Glogg (or Swedish Mulled Wine) is a traditional Swedish drink for the Christmas season and no wonder - boy, will it chase away the chilly weather! It is a very potent spiced wine - served warm.

There are many different recipes for Glogg. Hubby's family's version takes two types of port wine, brandy, and vodka - and of course lots of spices. This one (the one we used last year and decided we liked equally as well) is a bit less alcoholic, but every bit as wonderful! I'm calling it "Erikson's Glogg" - because my kids are Erik's sons...and someday perhaps this will be their family recipe for Glogg.

Erikson's Glogg
1 large bottle red wine
1 reg. bottle port wine
10 cardamom pods, gently cracked
small handful of cloves (10 or so)
2-3 cinnamon sticks
1 T whole allspice
1/2 c (or more) of sugar (more or less to taste - depending on your wine)
Handfuls of almonds and raisins.
1 orange cut in half

Place the spices (cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, allspice) in a loosely-tied cheesecloth bundle. Combine the wine and the spice bundle in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer. Stir in 1/2 c of the sugar, carefully tasting to determine if it needs more. Continue adding by 1/4 cup fulls until it the wine tannins are smoothed out, but not too sweet. Toss in almonds and raisins (one or two handfuls of each). Float the orange halves in the glogg. Continue simmering the mixture slowly for 15 minutes.

At this point you can cool it off and store it, or go ahead and serve.

Before serving it is traditional to put a splash of Aquavit in the pot (or vodka) (or more - depending on your perferences) and light the glogg. Be VERY CAREFUL doing this...we've never had a problem, but it is fire, people! The floating almonds will sizzle and the flamed glogg mellows. (It also reduces the alcohol content a bit.) We turn down the lights and everyone gathers around when the pot is lit. The kids think it is wonderful!

Serve this in mugs - and be sure each glass gets a few of the almonds and raisins. (We serve with a spoon so we can dig these out of the bottom of the glass.) This is perfect to enjoy after the kids are in bed on Christmas a darkened room with just the Christmas tree lights on. Very relaxing!

Interested in more Christmas recipes? Come back tomorrow, I'll post more of my favorites! Also, check out Randi's Holiday Recipe Swapbox!

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Celebrating Saint Lucia Day

In the days of early Christian persecution, St. Lucia is said to have carried food to Christians hiding in dark underground tunnels. To light the way she wore a wreath of candles on her head. Spurning marriage and worldly goods, she vowed to remain a virgin in the tradition of St. Agatha. An angry suitor reported her to the local Roman authorities, she was sentenced to death, and subsequently she became a martyr.

St. Lucia Day is celebrated on December 13th. In Scandinavia, a young girl in each family is awakened early in the morning, dressed in a white robe with a red ribbon around the waist and crowned with a circle of candles. Her duty is to bring breakfast to her family. Special sweet buns flavored with saffron are served.

Because her name means “light”, she is a special saint to the Swedes who have a very long, dark winter. She is often called the “Queen of Light”.

We choose to honor her since she represents two of the heritages in our family: Italian and Swedish. (Since she is an Italian saint who is especially celebrated by the Swedes.) And she also represents how living a sacrificial life allows Christ’s light to shine through us.

Last year was the first FULL celebration of St. Lucy's Day with my daughter acting as St. Lucy by delivering goodies in the wee hours of the morning to her brothers and father.

Have you considered celebrating St. Lucy's day on December 13th? Last year I posted my favorite recipe for St. Lucy's is a repost of that:

St. Lucy's Buns: saffron-scented buns in the shape of an "S".

Swedish Saffron bread (or Saint Lucy's Bread) is one of my favorite Christmas treats. I love the smell of the saffron and the gorgeous golden color! In fact, I've got this year's first batch in the breadmaker right now! So, I thought while I wait, I'd post the recipe I use. The dough is made in the breadmaker and then shaped and risen a second time on cookie sheets.

The following recipe comes from The Ultimate Bread Machine Cookbook :

Add the ingredients in the order specified in your bread machine's manual. (Mine is wet first, then dry, then yeast)

3/4 c. plus 2 T milk
1 lg. egg

3 c. all-purpose flour
1 pinch salt
1/3 c. granulated white sugar
1/4 tsp powdered saffron (if you can only find saffron in "threads", just pulverize these as best you can then measure out 1/4 tsp. A trick I just learned is to use a bit of sugar as you pulverize with your mortar and pestle.)
3 T unsalted butter

2 1/4 fast-rise yeast

Place all in a 2-cup capacity breadmaker and set on "dough". At the end of the rise, punch down the dough and let rest 5 minutes before hand-shaping.

To handshape:
Lightly sprinkle work surface with flour. Divide dough into equal peices: 2 for 2 large breads, 4 for small breads, 6 to 8 for smaller buns. Lightly sprinkle with flour. Dampen hands and roll each piece into a rope. (18 inches for the 2 large pieces, 9 inches for the 4 pieces, etc.)

Lay a rope on a lightly-greased baking sheet. Curl each end, toward the center, into a coil. Cover and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush bread with egg wash (1 egg, beaten with 1 tsp. water). Bake for approx. 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on a rack.

This bread freezes well and is excellent served toasted with orange marmalade. (We serve small buns on St. Lucy's Day and freeze a larger bread for Christmas morning.)

Instead of using a wreath with real candles (or investing in an electric one), you may wish to substitute a lovely paper St. Lucy crown. No time to make the saffron buns? Subsitute muffins or another favorite breakfast bread.

Want to do more to celebrate St. Lucy's day? Consider an Italian feast for dinner (she was a Roman martyr). Traditional straw ornaments (St. Lucy is often associated with wheat and Scandinavians love to decorate with straw at Christmas) make a lovely addition to your tree - or on their own small tree. Here are some other ideas from various countries. A nice book to share more about these traditions is Kirsten's Surprise in the American Girls series.

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Sunday, December 7, 2008

Rethinking the Christimas Craze

Sometimes I get irritated with the mad push for Christmas.

The local Christian radio station started playing Christmas music last week. The stores have pulled out all the holiday merchandise and the city decorations have begun to appear. Why can’t we wait for the holiday to arrive before we celebrate it?

This is a bit of a cliché gripe, I know. Everyone loves complaining about how early the Christmas rush begins. I love complaining about it, too. It is an easy shot to take and does make us feel a bit "superior". But there is something truly symptomatic in it, isn't there?

All this craziness seems to me to reflect the spiritual state of our culture. Despite what we may hear and read, I believe the Christmas Craze is evidence of the desire for spiritual fulfillment for believer and non-believer alike: the coming of the Savior. We are anxious for the future: both near (Christmas) and distant (Second Coming). It is so tempting to begin the celebrations early! This is not an altogether bad desire – it reveals the Christian's hope. However, it does become a distraction when it overshadows the work that must be done before both those long-awaited days of the Savior's appearance. Both of these events require seasons of preparation – Advent. To skip these might leave us unready to fully welcome the Savior.

In the past, I’ve found myself trying so hard to avoid all Christmas celebrations until Christmas was really here. I was determined to observe a good Advent season. Our culture makes this almost impossible – and in fact it was for me. But, now I’m not sure this is really necessary or preferable. I still maintain that a thoughtful Advent observance heightens the celebration of Christmas; however, Advent can be enhanced by appreciating a taste of the joy awaiting us. It awakens our hearts a bit and makes them yearn even more for the end of Advent, both the seasonal and the eternal!

My family will continue our usual Advent traditions, maintaining our focus on this season of preparation. However, we’ll also enjoy those moments of festivity knowing that the full celebration is yet to come and allowing the yearning for that celebration to grow! And instead of griping about the premature and over-the-top Christmas celebrations, I’m going to focus on being thankful for this proof of the desires deep in the hearts of us all.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Peter Piper's Picks - Dec 6th

Blessed St. Nicholas Day to you!

Why is Advent important? How can keeping a good Advent help your family celebrations retain the "meaning of the season"? Joseph Bottum of my favorite magazine First Things has some thoughts about this in his article "The End of Advent":

"What Advent is, really, is a discipline: a way of forming anticipation and channeling it toward its goal. There’s a flicker of rose on the third Sunday—Gaudete!, that day’s Mass begins: Rejoice!—but then it’s back to the dark purple that is the mark of the season in liturgical churches. And what those somber vestments symbolize is the deeply penitential design of Advent. Nothing we can do earns us the gift of Christmas, any more than Lent earns us Easter. But a season of contrition and sacrifice prepares us to understand and feel something about just how great the gift is when at last the day itself arrives.

More than any other holiday, Christmas seems to need its setting in the church year, for without it we have a diminishment of language, a diminishment of culture, and a diminishment of imagination. The Jesse trees and the Advent calendars, St. Martin’s Fast and St. Nicholas’ Feast, Gaudete Sunday, the childless crèches, the candle wreaths, the vigil of Christmas Eve: They give a shape to the anticipation of the season. They discipline the ideas and emotions that otherwise would shake themselves to pieces, like a flywheel wobbling wilder and wilder till it finally snaps off its axle."
Read the whole thing.

A really wonderful collection of traditional prayers and family devotions for Advent (and Christmas, the New Year, and Epiphany).

And I want to encourage you again, to go check out Lent and Beyond. Karen has put together a true treasure trove of online Advent resources for liturgical Christians.

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Friday, December 5, 2008

7 Quick Takes

Jen at Et Tu? (Or Conversion Diary) has started a Friday Meme called "7 Quick Takes". I love the simplicity...the no-themed nature of it...the freedom!

1. My hubbie has quit drinking coffee. We used to share a nice pot of french-pressed coffee each morning and I miss that. However, he has started making a pot of 1/2 caf. on Friday mornings to share with me. Isn't that sweet?

2. Most days (now that we aren't sharing that pot of coffee - it is too big to make just one cup) I drink tea -Chai and Constant Comment are my favorite. I'm not sure which I love more coffee or tea.

3. Adoption is a funny thing. People you don't know tell you to fill out forms you don't understand. And you do it. And you give them money to go with those forms. And waiting becomes a way of life - even if you don't do it gracefully.

4. My morning habits have gotten ridiculously slack. I've determined that I am going to get my mornings in order. No more starting school at 9 or 10 nor starting it in my robe. No more reading emails and blogs until the kids wake and force me to feed them. Yes, I am making some changes, but probably not today.

5. I am starting to consider all those "new mommy" decision: which formula is best?, should I make baby food myself?, cloth or disposable? It is kind of odd making some of these, for example, I never had to choose a forumula before and boy, are there a LOT of choices. I think I'm going with Nature's Own brand called "Baby's Own". Last night I spent about an hour on Amazon looking at different baby food-making books my choices: Mommy Made and Daddy, too (I've used this one before) and Super Baby Food. Still haven't decided about cloth or disposable. I used a cloth diaper service with my first and then ditched them for disposable when I had my other two babies. I'm really not sure which I'll chose there - anyone have any words of advice?

6. Have you heard the news about the new Anglican Communion in North America? Wow! Amazing - I can hardly believe it is true. Can't wait to "get the skinny" from our priest (who attended the meeting and worship service).

7. Tomorrow is St. Nicholas Day. I can't wait to surprise my family with some fun gifts and a lovely breakfast. I have a few last little things to pick up - groceries to buy - decorations to put out. I'm so thankful that we have instituted this day of celebration...we get Santa out of the way early and that is a good thing. And it takes a bit of the edge off the excitement to have these little mini-celebrations during Advent. Are you celebrating St. Nick's day?

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Monday, December 1, 2008

Simple Woman's Daybook - December 1st

For today, December 1st, 2008:

Outside my Window... Still damp from weekend rain and very, very cold (for NC - in the 30s)

I am thinking... about whether or not to sign my eldest up for Drama. He loves it, but with my soon-to-be-adopted daughter coming home soon I'm not sure how that will all work.

From the learning rooms... I need to spend some time today and tomorrow working on my Advent lesson plans.

I am thankful for... a second photo of my daughter in Africa

From the kitchen... a large, large pot of Turkey-Barley Soup

I am wearing... still my robe!

I am reading... "Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child" and "The Secret Thoughts of an Adoptive Mother". I'm feeling a little obsessed about taking in all the info I can!

I am hoping... that my family (especially my hubby) will feel better today (colds!)

I am hearing... my cat purring loudly on my lap

Around the house... pulling out some Advent items and moving the Christmas boxes out to the garage so I can get to them easily as I need them during Advent.

One of my favorite things... Chai - think I'll have a second cup!

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week...

  • Getting ready for our St. Nick's Day celebration on Saturday, Dec 6th.

  • Picking up a borrowed crib.

  • Arranging some playdates for the kids.

You can read more posts (and more about the Daybook) here.

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Celebrating St. Nicholas Day!

Do you celebrate St. Nicholas Day? Wonder how or why someone celebrates St. Nicholas Day? Would you like to? It's not too late to put together a nice celebration - St. Nicholas Day is on Dec. 6th. (See some excellent book recommendations at the bottom of this post.)

We've begun celebrating St. Nicholas instead of mingling Santa and Jesus on Christmas day. This allows us the fun of "Santa" without it getting confused with the Birth of Christ. Not that you can't enjoy "Santa" on Christmas, but for us it was getting hard to keep our kids focused on Christ on Christmas. And the whole Santa kneeling at the manger - bleh, no, not for me.

Here is how we celebrated last year:

On St. Nicholas Eve, the children excitedly and carefully laid out their shoes by the fireplace for St. Nick to fill. And they left out a small plate of cookies and crackers, also. In the morning they found their shoes filled with a couple small gifts, sweet treats, and a chocolate santa (a tradition at our house). Even DH and I found our shoes had been laid out for us (by an elf, I presume) and filled with goodies and gifts! St. Nicholas left a few "family" gifts: MadLibs "Christmas", Angela and the Baby Jesus (a lovely, sweet book by Frank McCourt), and some much needed tempera paint.

Our favorite tradition is a true "feast" breakfast! We eat in the dining room with silver and Christmas china. The kids especially love the hot cocoa with a peppermint stick! Who wouldn't love that?

I do some special decorating, too. (We don't have any other Christmas decorations up at this point, so this is really special for the kids.) There are also some extra goodies from Mom and Dad waiting for the kids on the table. A small craft set, chocolate coins, and a fun pencil.

The kids enjoyed breakfast while I read from a little pamphlet about St. Nicholas. I highly recommend these little pamphlets entitled, "St. Nicholas, a Saint for Advent and Christmas" from Creative Communications for the Parish. They are written by Amy Wellbourn and are very inexpensive. I'd love to to buy loads of these and give them out early in Advent. Even if people opt to continue a Christmas eve visit from Santa, they could still celebrate his feast day!

At each place, there is also a nice little postcard with a vintage Santa image. These are our "secret santa" good deed cards. A good deed is done and the postcard left behind. The card recipient then does a good deed for someone else and leaves a card behind. We have 5 cards roaming around the house right now, which may be a bit much. I think 1 or 2 cards might suffice. You could use any card - homemade or otherwise. And, it wouldn't even have to be a Santa postcard - anything seasonal you like would do well!

The rest of the morning was spent enjoying the new books/toys and trying to do secret good deeds!

We ended the day watching a special from ETWN that was a better introduction to St. Nicholas, than most of the clay-mation "St. Nick" shows (even though I love these). They were a little over-dramatic, but the kids liked it and got the message - that Santa was a real man, a kind and brave bishop who loved Jesus.

Do you celebrate St. Nicholas Day? I'd love to hear about it! If you blog it, let me know and I'll link to your post.

Here are some book recommendations (see more at HERE):

(My favorite)

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Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Reviewed

As promised, here is my review of the recipes I used for Thanksgiving dinner:

Brined Roast Turkey - THE best way to fix a turkey. The saltiness of the brine soaks into the flesh of the bird. The light herbs give it a perfect scent. And the sugar of the brine gives a perfectly crisped and browned skin.

Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes - Oh, my gosh these were so good! I was a little unsure when I pulled them out of the fridge yesterday, but after they warmed up and the butter was added they fluffed right up. They were really, really delicious. I will use this recipe again!! Oh, by the way, I warmed mine covered in a 400 degree oven (with other dishes cooking). Just took them out a few times to stir them up a bit.

Pepperidge Farm Stuffing - how can you go wrong? :)

Holiday Waldorf Salad - Very, very good. I would recommend doubling the dressing recipe, though. I thought my salad needed more dressing, but I hadn't made enough. (It might have also been because I made a slightly larger salad than called for in the recipe.) The sweet with the crunchy, slightly bitter romaine was delicious.

Lighter Green Bean Casserole - Ok - this was WAY better than the stuff made with canned soup! I doubled my recipe, but I think I didn't double the mine needed a bit more salt on the plate. I also used a short cut and just purchased the French's Fried Onions rather than making them. (Although, the recipe for making them didn't seem too hard.) I found that I needed to keep this in the oven longer than it called for and then the onion-topping needed to be covered as it was browning up a bit. So, keep that in mind if you try this recipe.

Sweet Potatoes with Mini-marshmallows. - Delicious, of course. How can you mess this up? We mashed the sweet potatoes the day before and had them all ready to go in the baking dish, so that cut down on the time in the kitchen.

Orange-Cranberry Relish - Wonderful, Yummy, Scrumptious! This recipe calls for "grinding" - I used my CuisineArt and really chopped them up finely. This made for an almost paste like consistency, which became wonderfully jelly-like when I added the sugar and macerated. This dish was beautiful on the table, too - bright, ruby red!

Now, about the pies (Pecan-topped Pumpkin Pie and Black Walnut Custard Pie)...I didn't get to make them. My mom-in-law had offered to bring pies, but hubby forgot to tell me that before I planned out my dinner. So, instead we had MIL's homemade Apple-Cranberry, Pumpkin, and Black Walnut pies. (She even makes homemade crust.) They were wonderful!

But I still want to try these pies out. We are going to her house for Christmas, so I will see if I can make them for her and then I'll let you know how they are!

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Anglican Advent Traditions Carnival - 2008

UPDATE: Enjoy the links below and then come on over to this year's Carnival!

Welcome! I'm so glad you've found our Advent carnival. (A special "Hello" to our visitors from Stand Firm and Anglicans Online!)

Are you interested in learning how to keep Advent - or maybe you want some new ideas for keeping Advent? Grab a cup of coffee and join us!

First, a little history:

"What is Advent?
Advent marks the beginning of the Christmas season and the Church year for most Western churches. The word "Advent" means "arrival" or "coming" in Latin and represents the approach of Christ's birth (and fulfillment of the prophecies about that event) and the awaiting of Christ's second coming. It is composed of the four Sundays before Christmas day, starting on the Sunday closest to November 30th, which is the feast day of St. Andrew the Apostle, and ending on Christmas. Because Christmas is on a different day from year to year, Advent may last anywhere from 22 to 28 days.

In the 4th and 5th centuries, Advent was the preparation for the "Epiphany" rather than Christmas. (Epiphany is celebrated in early January and focuses on various events in Jesus' life such as the visits of the magi, His baptism and miracles.) It was also a time for new Christians to be baptized and welcomed into the church, while members of the church examined their hearts and focused on penance. Religious leaders exhorted the people to prepare for the feast of Christmas by fasting. Some say that early documents show that those leaders treated Advent as a second Lent.

Sometime in 6th century Rome, the focus of Advent shifted to the second coming of Christ. In the 9th century, Pope St. Nicholas reduced the duration of Advent from six weeks to the four weeks we currently observe. And finally, sometime in the middle ages--approximately the 1500's--an additional focus on the anticipation before Christ's birth was added to that of His second coming. "
From The Teaching Mom: History of Advent

Advent continues today to be a season of preparation, of our hearts and homes, for the celebration of the Birth of Christ. It can also be a perfect antidote to the hustle and bustle of society's "Holiday Season".

So, are you interested to see how some of my Anglican friends are celebrating Advent this year? Me, too! Let's read on...

Jessica, from Homemaking Through the Church Year, has posted a lovely post with so many wonderful ideas for Advent (with a great list for fun activities) and some food for thought, too.

Two Square Meals - is waiting on two births: that of Christ and that of her next child. I've always thought it was very special to be at the end of a pregnancy during Advent and Christmas. She's enjoying a number of Advent traditions as she counts down the days to both these births.

Jamie at Oh, Be Careful! - has two posts: one about the Advent Wreath and one about the Jesse Tree. With her usual wonderful sense of humor and a little seriousness, she shares these two family traditions.

Karen at Lent & Beyond is really the "go-to-girl" for all things Anglican Prayer. She has a fantastic page devoted entirely to Anglican Advent links for 2008. A wonderful resource!

Amy has posted an Advent message from the Archbishop of Canterbury on her blog On a Joyful Journey.

And my own reflections on the Advent That Almost Wasn't...and some simple ideas for celebrating Advent during busy or stressful times.

Want more? Me, too! Last year's Carnival had a number of excellent posts and resources, so don't miss that...but I've got an idea that might make this Carnival grow over Advent.

Below is a Mr. Linky. I encourage anyone to post their Advent links over the course of Advent. You can submit as many links as you like - just keep to the theme: Advent.

Have a blessed Advent!

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Advent that almost wasn't

Advent almost got put by the wayside this year for my family. Me, a die-hard devotee of all things liturgical, almost said, "Advent is just too much for me this year."

I almost let it slip away....

It has been a very wild year for our family - but especially so this Fall. The thought of pulling out all the Advent items, thoughtfully planning our Advent activities, and keeping up with our various Advent celebrations...well, it all just seemed too much. We needed low-key, we needed normalcy, we needed quiet. Advent was too much work - or so I thought.

What our December would look like - would it be devoid of all things Christmas, sort of a non-Advent Advent? Or would it, as so often happens when something is removed, just fill up with what our pop-culture considers an appropriate pre-Christams hysteria? That doesn't sound too low-key, or normal, or quiet.

Then, it hit me...Advent is low-key, it is normal, and it is quiet. It is exactly what we need.

That is one thing I adore about the Liturgical year - when it becomes a part of your family culture, it can have a stabilizing affect. As life swirls around us, we have the familiarity of the same activities, traditions, smells, sounds, words to keep us anchored. And what better to be anchored to than the Church - the Bride of Christ and, as the Bride of Christ, Christ himself?

We will have a beautiful, low-key, normal and quiet Advent this year - with it's bright spots of St. Nicholas Day, St. Lucia Day, Gaudete Sunday, and other pre-Christmas planning. It will probably be a little less planned out than previous Advents in our family, but that is one of the joys of the liturgical year in the home - the more you do it, the less pre-planning it takes!

I encourage you - if you think Advent is just too much, reconsider! If you've never celebrated or kept Advent before, start simply. If you've done it for many years, scale down if you must. But don't miss it. It is a season of quiet joy and expectation. You'll find that it properly places Christmas at the pinnacle of the season, rather than on a precipice.

Need some ideas for keeping a simple Advent (whether it is your first or fortieth?) Read on.

How do you plan a simple Advent? What are the essentials? Well, there are as many different traditions of Christian worship as there are "essentials" of Advent. But, since you are here, I'll share my family's essentials.

  • Using an Advent Wreath - Some families are diligent to use their Advent Wreath every day, we are not so diligent...and to be honest, even some Sundays we find ourselves a bit worn out from a full day with our Church family. But pick a night of the week, Wednesdays or Fridays might be logical, to do your Advent Wreath lighting and devotional. There are many suggested devotionals online.

  • Celebrating St. Nicholas Day - If you have children, I highly encourage you to celebrate St. Nicholas Day. Even if you still have "Santa" on Christmas Eve, you can have a celebration on his feast day and let St. Nick come fill up stockings or shoes with some little treats. Come back on Monday and I'll share our celebration ideas for this upcoming feast day (Dec 6th).

  • Limiting Christmas decorations - There are many schools of thought about decorating for Christmas, but if you are going to truly put Christmas at the absolute pinnacle of the season rather than the precipice, I recommend finding some way to limit your decorations. The goal being to save the most flamboyant decorations for Christmas Eve, Day, and the Twelve Days. Some people hold off on any decorations until Christmas Eve, while others bring out certain items on certain days slowly decorating the home over the Advent Season. (We bring out St. Nick decorations, the Scandinavian ones on St. Lucia Day, we light the tree on St. Lucia Day - but no ornaments, and then on Christmas Eve we decorate the tree and put out the rest of our fun decorations.)

  • Special Advent Family Reading - Find a lovely story or devotional that you might read together as a family during Advent. There are some nice devotional stories that you might use...or even something classic like "A Christmas Carol", "The Gift of the Magi", or books with wonderful Christmas scenes in them like "Little House on the Prairie", "Wind in the Willows", "The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew", or "Little Women". What I love about these types of books is that the story can be timed to reach the Christmas scene just before Christmas arrives - or just after.

However you choose to celebrate or keep Advent, I pray it will be a truly blessed one for you and your family! Come back in the following days, for more ideas - including St. Thomas Day, St. Nick's Day, St. Lucia, and more.

Be sure to read more of this year's Anglican Advent Traditions Carnival ! Want more, check out my series of posts from last year's carnival!

Still want more? See my book suggestions for Advent reading and ideas.

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Repost: Transracial adoption and the Christian Family

Looking over the archives of posts tonight and saw this one posted way back in May...funny, never thought we'd be doing a transracial adoption. So, here it is:

My blogger friend at Two Square Meals pointed me to this fantastic article on adoption from Touchstone Magazine's blog. Here's a little snippet:

I'm not surprised that a group of secular social workers believe racial identity is more important than familial love. The Scripture tells us we always, if left to ourselves, want to categorize ourselves "according to the flesh." Whether it is the Athenians clinging to their myth of superior origins or Judaizers insisting on circumcision or Peter refusing to eat with pig-devouring Gentiles, we love to see ourselves first and foremost in fleshly categories -- because it keeps us from seeing ourselves in Christ.

The gospel, though, drives us away from our identity in the flesh, and toward a new identity, indeed a new family, defined by the Spirit. This new family solidarity is much less visibly obvious; it's not based on marks in the flesh or skin color or carefully kept genealogies. It's based on a Spirit that blows invisibly where he wills, showing up in less visible characteristics such as peace, joy, love, righteousness, gentleness, kindness, self-control.

That's why my heart is broken about the transracial adoption debate. It's not just because some white kids could miss out on some godly black parents, or vice-versa. It's because we're, in part, to blame.

The family, after all, is constructed around another, deeper reality. It points to the church -- that household of God in which Jesus is the firstborn among many brothers. I wonder what kind of witness we could have in this kind of racially polarized culture if our churches demonstrated the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace?

Read the whole thing here.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thanksgiving Meal Plans

So, has Thanksgiving sneaked up on you like it has me?

I was at the grocery store yesterday marveling at how early they had the turkeys out for sale...then I did some quick mental calendar work and realized - it isn't early at all!!! I went ahead and bought my frozen turkey, because I don't want to take a chance with the slimpickings that will be left by Saturday - my usual shopping day.

Brought home a 14-pound Butterball. I debated over the nice organic turkeys and almost bought one...but I just couldn't justify the extra expense. The Butterball is a great turkey and it was on sale...and that price was about 1/3 the cost of the organic bird. I hate not to support the organic farmer, but this year it just is what it is.

Then when I got home I was DELIGHTED to find that my local newspaper had a very useful "Guide to Thanksgiving". Usually, I eschew these mass-produced meal plans, but with speed of life around here recently (adoption is really in full steam!) I'm taking full advantage of someone else doing some of the hard "thinking" work for me. Of course, I can't use it entirely as, let the tweaking begin! (Interested in this menu plan with day-by-day plan ahead countdown?) Of course, I'm already behind because I didn't clean out my freezer, fridge or pantry today...but I'll catch up tomorrow!

Here is my Thanksgiving Menu plan - as adapted from the Charlotte Observer:

Brined Roast Turkey
(A brine recipe I've been using for about a year and a half now and love it!)

Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes
(Not the same recipe listed in the newspaper)

Pepperidge Farm Stuffing
(I'm sure homemade is better, but I grew up on this stuff and I just LOVE it. Somethings you just can't change. And they way we make this is so - anti-gourmet. I'll have to take a picture - you'll laugh! We make big "balls" of stuffing and cook them on a cookie sheet. They get crunchy on the outside, but soft and bread-like inside.)

Holiday Waldorf Salad
(From the paper: A bit lighter and crunchier than a traditional Waldorf Salad)

Lighter Green Bean Casserole
(From the paper: Doesn't use canned soup - thank goodness!)

Sweet Potatoes with Mini-marshmallows.
(Oh, why do I give in to this? My kids just love those mini-marshmallows and it just isn't thanksgiving for them without that!)

Orange-Cranberry Relish
(My Mother-in-Law introduced me to this fresh cranberry relish and it is now an absolute must-have. I also keep the canned jellied cranberries around for sandwiches after.)

Pecan-topped Pumpkin Pie
(From the paper: This is the same recipe as listed in the paper, but I hated the name, so I changed it. The idea is that you need not choose between pecan or pumpkin pie...well, you'll see that this still doesn't get me out of making two pies...and I'm Ok with that!)

Black Walnut Custard Pie
(I've used a pecan pie and just substituted Black Walnuts with good results, but this pie recipe sounds just delicious! Hubby is a big black walnut fan, so I try to make a black walnut pie or cake for him every holiday season. Never had black walnuts? They are amazingly different than regular walnuts-very strongly scented, almost like a liquer. Don't try to substitute one for the other. If you can't find black walnuts at your grocery store, skip this recipe!)

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Pecan-topped Pumpkin Pie

Wow - love it. If this tastes as good as it looks, this will be a new tradition around here.

As listed in the Charlotte Observer:
We struggle every year to decide between pecan or pumpkin pie. Author Dorie Greenspan came up with an ingenious solution in “Baking: From My Home to Yours” (Houghton Mifflin, 2006). It's got pumpkin on the bottom and pecans on top. It's so easy to put together, it's as simple as just making a pumpkin pie.

1 (9-inch) single pie crust, partially baked and cooled

Pumpkin filling:
1 cup canned unsweetened pumpkin puree
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons dark rum (or rum flavoring)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt

Pecan filling:
1/2 cup light or dark corn syrup
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups (about 7 ounces) pecan halves or pieces

POSITION rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 450 degrees. Put the pie plate with the prepared crust on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicon baking mat.

COMBINE all the pumpkin filling ingredients in a food processor and process, stopping to scrape down sides as needed, for 2 minutes. Leave the filling in the processor for a minute.

PLACE all the pecan filling ingredients except pecans in a mixing bowl and whisk until smooth.

GIVE the pumpkin filling a final pulse in the food processor, then rap the bowl on the counter a few times to release any bubbles. Pour into the crust. Spread the nuts evenly over the pumpkin layer. Pour the pecan filling over the top, pushing any nuts that float back down.

BAKE 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees and bake 35 to 40 minutes longer, until top is puffy and a thin knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Transfer pie to a cooling rack and let stand until it is just warm. Serve chilled or warm.

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Lighter Green Bean Casserole

We've never had the "green bean casserole" tradition at our Thanksgiving - I often fix broccoli or something. I've thought about fixing lima beans (this will sound crazy, but my kids adore limas...adore them). But this recipe has me taking a second look - mostly because it doesn't use canned soup.

As listed in the Charlotte Observer:
This is almost as easy as the can-opener classic, and much tastier. Adapted from “Eating Well: Comfort Food Made Healthy,” by Jessie Price and the editors of Eating Well magazine (Countryman Press, 2009).

3 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1 medium sweet onion, half diced and half thinly sliced, divided
8 ounces sliced fresh mushrooms, chopped
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2/3 cup all-purpose flour, divided
1 cup low-fat or fat-free milk
3 tablespoons dry sherry
1 (16-ounce) bag frozen French-cut green beans (about 4 cups)
1/3 cup reduced-fat sour cream
3 tablespoons buttermilk powder (see note)
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

COAT a 2 1/2-quart baking dish with cooking spray.

HEAT 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add diced onion and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 4 minutes. Stir in mushrooms, onion powder, 1 teaspoon salt, thyme and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms have released their juices and the juice has mostly evaporated, 3 to 5 minutes.

SPRINKLE 1/3 cup flour over the vegetables, stirring to coat. Stir in milk and sherry and bring to a simmer, stirring often, until sauce starts to thicken. Stir in frozen green beans and cook until heated through, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in sour cream and buttermilk powder. Transfer to the prepared baking dish. (Can be made to this point about 3 hours ahead and refrigerated.)

WHISK remaining 1/3 cup flour, paprika, garlic powder and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt in a shallow dish. Add sliced onion, breaking it apart into strands, and toss to completely coat with flour.

HEAT remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and any remaining flour mixture and cook, stirring often, until golden and flour bits are crispy, 4 to 5 minutes. Spread over the casserole.

BAKE in a 400-degree oven until bubbling, about 15 minutes.

NOTE: Look for buttermilk powder, such as Saco brand, in the supermarket with the canned milk. After opening the canister, store it in the refrigerator. It will keep indefinitely.

Yield: 6 servings.

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Holiday Waldorf Salad

I love waldorf salad, but sometimes find it a bit to heavy (it tends to be too creamy for me - I need more crunch). This looks like a recipe we'll all love, so I'll let you know if it passed "muster" after Thanksgiving.

As listed in the Charlotte Observer
From “The Healthiest Meals On Earth,” by Jonny Bowden (Fairwinds, 2008)

1/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1 teaspoon honey
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger
2 small crisp apples, cored and diced
4 stalks celery, diced
1/2 cup seedless grapes, preferably purple, halved
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup lightly toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
8 cups romaine lettuce, chopped into bite-size pieces

WHISK together yogurt, honey, orange juice and ginger in a small bowl.

COMBINE apples, celery, grapes, cranberries, walnuts and romaine in a salad bowl or large serving bowl. Just before serving, pour the yogurt dressing over the salad and toss to combine well.

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Carrot and Potato Soup

Been on a bit of a blogging break. Didn't announce it here, but did at my other blog: While I haven't been posting menus and recipes, we have been eating! HAHA! Trying to get back to blogging a bit more, probably a bit more casually on this blog. I still am trying some great seasonal fact I've got a great one I'm going to share now:

Carrot and Potato Soup - really, really good! Hearty with a touch of sweetness from the carrots...creamy with just enough chunks. Tastes like you cooked it all day - excellent flavor!

2 T butter
2 large shallots or a medium onion (I used the shallots)
3 C chopped carrots
6 C diced potatoes
8 cups broth
salt & pepper
1-2 T Herbes de Provence (or any of your favorite herb blends)
2 bay leaves

Melt butter in soup pot. Saute shallots or onions until transluscent. Add carrots and saute for a few minutes - season with some salt and pepper. Add potatoes, broth, and herbs. Bring to a boil and cook for 20 minutes or until potatoes are soft. Fish out the bay leaves and puree with a wand mixer just to give some creaminess to the broth, but leaving some small chunks (or scoop out about 2/3 of the vegetables and mash by hand then return to the pot and stir well). Adjust salt and pepper as needed.

Serve with a nice caraway-seeded pumpernickel or cheddar cheese bread.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Art Resources for Homeschoolers - November 2008

While the Newark Museum does not have the entire collection online for this exhibit (Paths to Impressionism), they still have some good examples and they have a series of short essays on the themes of Impressionism in America, particularly the precursor, The Barbizon School of painting.

Museum of Modern Art offers an online, searchable database of their collection. An excellent resource when you are looking for examples of modern era artworks.

J. Paul Getty Museum is presenting an exhibition of Les Belles Heures of the Duke of Berry, a fantanstic medieval illuminated manuscript. Online you can find nine images from Les Belles Heures with enlargements, zoom capability, and audio discussion, as well as 2 educational videos. If you are in the area (Los Angelos) there are a number of lectures, talks and performances that you can attend (oh how I wish I was there!). Want to learn more? Check out the suggested booklist.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Why we are doing all this...

among the many personal reasons...there is also the biblical mandate to care for orphans. While this can be accomplished in many people's lives by providing care and donations to orphanages and orphan-care ministries, some of us are called to a deeper level of care - taking the orphan into our homes and lives and thus making her no longer an orphan. Because they need more than just better staffed and supplied orphanages...they need mommies and daddies.

"Adopting children, regarding and treating them as one’s own children, means recognizing that the relationship between parents and children is not measured only by genetic standards. Procreative love is first and foremost a gift of self. There is a form of ‘procreation’ which occurs through acceptance, concern and devotion. The resulting relationship is so intimate and enduring that it is in no way inferior to one based on a biological connection. When this is also juridically protected, as it is in adoption, in a family united by the stable bond of marriage, it assures the child that peaceful atmosphere and that paternal and maternal love which he needs for his full human development.” - John Paul II, Letter to Adoptive Families (Sept 5, 2000)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

He Gives and Takes Away

Whew - what a whirlwind week. My blogging break came at just the right time...but as you can see, I can't seem to keep away. :)

Last Saturday, a dear Christian sister passed away after a two-year battle with lung cancer (never a smoker - not that that makes lung cancer ok). She was originally given 6 months to live, but kept on kicking on sheer humor and hope for an extra 18 months! She leaves behind a loving husband and two children: 10 and 13. I was able to make it to Hospice before she passed away - unfortunately she was not conscious, but we hope she was able to hear us. She passed into the arms of her Savior peacefully and surrounded by family and friends - literally. Sunday's church service was so emotional and heart-wrenching. But today we had a wonderful funeral service and reception to celebrate her life...and while we grieve her loss in our lives, we are joyous for her passage into eternal life!

Then as we were making plans for the reception fast and furious yesterday, we got a phone call from our adoption agency - WE HAVE A DAUGHTER! She is a baby and that is about all we know right now. We are waiting on further info (medical info, birth info, etc), but she looks really plump and healthy! Her Ghanaian name would be Adjoa (they base names on the birth day of the week - she was born on a Monday), so that is what I'll call her on the blog. I wish I could post photos, but I can't do that until the adoption is final. Trust me when I say she is really, really says her proud Forever Mama.

My Dear Neighbor noted earlier this week (Sunday was it?) that she wouldn't be at all surprised if in the midst of this grief of losing our friend, we'd get our referral...the Lord takes away with one hand and gives with the other. And so He has.

By the way - Peter Piper's Picks will probably be taking a break this week, too. With the busy-ness of preparing for the funeral and getting the paperwork together and in the mail yesterday for this referral...just haven't been keeping up with much blog reading.

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What is your Ghanaian name?

Yesterday, I mentioned that Ghanaian traditional names are based on the day of the week on which the baby is born. Would you like to know your Ghanaian name? You'll need to know on what day of the week you were born.

This website is a little funky, but it will calculate your birth day of the week.

From Wikipedia, here is a good list of names and variants:

Male - Kwadwo (variants: Kodjo, Kojo, Jojo)
Female - Adwoa (variants: Adjua, Adjoa, Ajwoba)

Male - Kwabena (var: Komla, Kobby, Ebo, Kobi, Kobina)
Female - Abenaa (var: Araba, Abla, Ablena, Abrema)

Male - Kwaku (var: Koku, Kweko, Kaku, Kuuku)
Female - Akua, Akuba (var: Aku, Ekua)

Male- Yaw (var: Yao, Yaba, Yawo, Ekow, Kow, Kwaw)
Female -Yaa (var: Ayawa, Baaba, Yaaba, Aba)

Male - Kofi (var: Koffi, Fiifi, Yoofi)
Female - Afua (var: Afi, Afia, Efia, Efua)

Male - Kwame, Kwamena (var: Ato, Kwami, Komi)
Female - Amma (var: Ame, Ama, Amba, Ameyo)

Male -Kwasi (var: Kwesi, Siisi, Akwasi, Kosi)
Female - Akosua (Var: Akosi, Akosiwa, Asi, Esi, Kwasiba)

So, what are your Ghanaian names? Ours are: Erik- Kofi, Kerry- Akua, S-: Kwabena, H- Kwaku, E- Aku

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Peter Piper's Picks - Nov 8th

While I'm not really blogging, I am still reading blogs and online magazines/newspapers. Here are some interesting bits I've come across this week...

Has the American church - specifically Protestantism been sold a "bill of goods" in the form of theological support for contraception? Have we unwittingly ushered in a culture that is hostile to marriage and children? Have we erred by giving in to zeitgeist rather than holding the line on traditional morals? Since I was a young girl, the only position on contraception that seemed true and rational to me was the Roman Catholic one - it only took me over 30 years to accept it. I do believe they have bravely held the line that the Protestantism should never have crossed.

I love reading the StandFirm blog. It is mostly concerned with issues concerning the Anglican Church in America, but often there are great essays about Anglicanism in general and Christianity in general. Earlier this week, Matt Kennedy posted a wonderful "apology" (as in apologetics) for the use of incense in the liturgical service...but he goes on to examine the use of beauty in the church also. Not beauty for beauty's sake, but beauty to draw us into the beauty of God. It's a really good and quick read.

From the article, Technology, Culture, and Virtue:
"By disconnecting culture from nature and regarding nature as an enemy to be conquered, we have, above all, disconnected ourselves from the most important aspect of culture: the inexorable lessons of the limits of human power and the pitfalls of human efforts at mastery. Every culture in some way teaches this same fundamental lesson: to respect what we did not create, to revere the mysterious and unknown, to be bound by the limits of nature and to be cognizant of the perpetual flaws of the human creature."

Life in the Not-So-Big-House.

So, are we in for a more humorless White House? Would you believe that conservatives tend to be more jovial than liberals? George Bush certainly knew how to laugh, especially at himself.

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Thursday, November 6, 2008

Upcoming Advent Carnival

Last year, a group of Anglican "family" bloggers got together for the first Anglican Advent Traditions Carnival and it was a huge hit! What a wonderful way to find other Anglican and liturgical-minded bloggers - and I think we all enjoyed swapping ideas.

I'm ready to do it again! Want to join in?

Here's what you need to know...time is short (Advent starts on Nov 30th!), so let's get ready...

* All posts will need to be submitted by Sunday, November 23rd via email to - include name (yours), post link, and a synopsis of your post(s).

*If you are considering submitting a post, please leave me a comment. This will help me gauge the participation.

* The Carnival will open on Friday, November 28th. Please be sure to spread the word on your blog that day and include a direct link to the Carnival.

* While this carnival has an "Anglican" heart, it is not limited to Anglicans. If you are of the liturgical mind, please participate! Just remember - this is not about is about Advent. :)

* Whether you are participating or not - will you help me spread the word? Feel free to grab the graphic and post on your blog - please use it only to advertise this event. Would you post about it now (with a link to this page) and also on the day the Carnival opens? Thanks!!!

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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Today's Daily Office Reading

I love it when the Daily Office readings coincide amazingly well with what is going on in the world. Today's reading seems awfully prophetic on election day:

Luke 13:1-9 (NRSV)

At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2He asked them, 'Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? 3No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. 4Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them-do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.'

6 Then he told this parable: 'A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. 7So he said to the gardener, "See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?" 8He replied, "Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. 9If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down."'

The other readings are from Revelations and Ecclesiasticus.

Back to my blog break....

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Saturday, November 1, 2008

Peter Piper's Picks - Nov 1 - All Saints' Day

Well, although I'm taking a blogging-semi-break, I can't pass up passing along some good reading. So, for this week atleast, Peter Piper's Picks is up and running....

Wendell Berry has long been on my list of "must-read" and yet, I've only read about him, not his actual words. As I've suspected, he's got a lot to offer our culture in our current situation.

I've been thinking recently about the value of human life in this culture. John Piper hit it on the head when he commented on the value of an unborn human's life being worth atleast as much as a dog's life - and yet our culture doesn't see that. HT: HalfPint House.

The always insightful Headmistress reminds us that our quest for good government is nothing new, but it would be nice if we all had this for our common goal. Perhaps we do have the same goal, just not the same way of getting there. Since it is such a short quote, I'll post it here, but please don't let this keep you from checking out this awesome blog!

"The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance."Marcus Tullius Cicero - 55 BC

Do go spend some time in The Common Room, you won't be disappointed.

Crazy is good.

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Broadcast that spooked America

I know, I know - I say I am going on a blogging break and then follow that with a flurry of posts. I swear I really am...but this has been sitting in my drafts folder for months. Perfect for Halloween!

Enjoy this orginal broadcast by Orson Wells of "War of the Worlds" (written by HG Wells) from October 30th, 1938.

Change, Quiet Blog and Advent Carnival

Wow - I missed my Monday Daybook entry here and my Meal Plan at the food blog...and at the adoption blog things haven't been updated in weeks...what's up? Change that's what.

I was reviewing the change our family has experienced in the past year or so - wow, we are like in a mode of uber-change. Let's see... church split and left the Episcopal Church starting a new church under the Anglican Archbishop of West Africa; hubby started working from home full-time; decided on adoption and began the process; began a new missionary support corporation; best-friends and neighbors moved away; and (time to spill the beans) my parents are getting a divorce (after 40 years - very long and sad story). (That is where I was this past weekend - divorce is final and parents sold the house, so I was helping Mom look for a new place. She found a nice one!)

We are also seriously contemplating a change in adoption country (which would include a transracial adoption)...and we are looking at moving ourselves. The move is something we almost did about 2 years ago and then decided to set aside for the time being. Now, with our neighbors gone, there is really no reason to continue to stay here when we REALLY want something different (more space - outside the house not in) - and have for a few years.

So, with all that blogging is going to be taking a backseat for a while. Now, Advent is right around the corner and last year we had a very successful Advent Carnival - I'd like to do it again. My goal is to let the blog go quiet for the next few weeks as we work around the house and I gather interested parties for the carnival and then get back to active blogging when Advent begins.

Keep checking in - I'll have a post or two about the carnival shortly. I hope all my blogging friends will participate! Subscribe by email or RSS (see below) so you won't miss that!

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Peter Piper's Picks

Peter Piper's Picks is taking the weekend off.

If you have something that you read this week that was particularly interesting, leave a link in the comments. I look forward to see what you've been reading this week!

Have a lovely weekend!

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Thursday, October 23, 2008


Jangley - that is a new word a made up to describe how I felt yesterday. To describe it further, it feels like I am a little jingle ball that someone has just taken hold of and shaken like crazy - I'm JANGLEY. It's just been that way lately - good and not-so-good reasons.

I'll give you a quick run down, because, honestly I do't have the energy for more than that. *sigh*.
  • helping hubbie with his new business (a ministry, really to offer financial/donation reporting support to missionaries)
  • getting used to Jr High work with eldest son
  • working on our Women's Retreat (can't wait!!)
  • preparing for our neighbors and dear friends to move (not far, but another part of town) - while we are SO EXCITED for them, it is a major change in the way our days look. I'm so used to slipping over for a little "gab" or when I need an ingredient. LOL!
  • taping a cable TV show on educational choices (group conversation on homeschooling)
  • looking at a potential new home - a late 1950's ranch on some acreage (lots of updates have been done, but some were not great and need to be re-addressed - original fixtures in bathrooms). I hope we get this place just so I can show you some really interesting wall treatments. *heh*
  • a number of issues in my extended family - (I'm not ready to talk about all this on the blog yet - it isn't entirely my story to tell and I don't feel it is right to share about that while we are all still in the middle of it)
  • a major change in the direction of our adoption - we are still in the preliminary stage of this change, but I will share all the details when we make the final decision.
  • and I'm planning on traveling this weekend to give some assistance in the family situation.

I came home from a good, but long day at Classical Conversations (a bunch of us went out for ice cream afterwards) and just felt "jangley". I was just tired and overwhelmed by it all. Sweet hubby let me hide out in bed the rest of the evening. Feeling better now. I'll try to fill in some details soon...

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Scalloped Potatoes

These are deliciously creamy!

1 cup chopped onion (1 large onion)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 1/2 cups milk
8 cups thinkly sliced potatoes (red, white, or yellow) - about 2 1/2 lbs

For the sauce, in a med. saucepan cook onion in hot butter until tender. Stir in flour, salt, and pepper. Add milk all at once. Cook and stir over med heat until thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat; set aside. Place half the sliced potatoes in a greasted 3-qt rectangular baking dish. Top with half the sauce. Repeat the layers.

Bake, uncovered, in a 350* oven for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for 40-50 more minutes or until potatoes are tender. Let stand, uncovered, for 10 minutes before serving.

You can add 1 1/2 cups grated cheese (chedder, gruyere, swiss) to the thickened sauce, stirring until the cheese melts if you'd like cheese scalloped potatoes.

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Simple Woman's Daybook - Oct 20th

For today, October 20th, 2008:

Outside my Window... IT'S HERE! Really and truly Autumn has arrived in the Piedmont of NC. Crisp and wonderfully cool! The leaves are just starting to turn faintly yellow with a touch of orange here and there and the sky is that saturated blue lovingly known here as "Carolina Blue".

I am thinking... so many things today: My mom's visit this weekend, a house that we looked at that has SO MUCH POTENTIAL, and a possible change to our adoption plans (still adopting, but maybe a change in country).

From the learning rooms... Oh, my, last week was a bust. Between me being sick and the kids being sick, neighbors packing up their house to move, and my mom coming for a visit...we just didn't get much of our planned work done. So, this week we are catching up - slowly. We missed some this morning helping my mom pack up her car and Thursday we have a Children's Theatre we won't be able to entirely catch up. But by next week, we should be back on track.

I am thankful for... a praying church community

From the kitchen... another week of the "Sunday Roast Weekly Menu".

I am wearing... very casual today: gray and white yoga pants, white top, pink hoodie - and SOCKS!

I am reading... The Family Cloister and Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid and Real Food Revival.

I am hoping... for some positive information to come in concerning a "new" house we are considering.

I am creating... a huge batch of homemade croutons for my freezer (and eventually Christmas gifts).

I am hearing... my kids' enjoying lunch and one of their favorite TV shows, "Phineas and Ferb" - the "Squirrels in my pants" episode. Sound ridiculous? Well, it is, but it even makes me laugh. It qualifies as "brain candy" around here - you get to enjoy it in small doses.

Around the house... this week is the week to change out my clothes. I'm also going to do a very thorough culling of those clothes (both the Summer ones I'm putting away and the Autumn ones I'm bringing out). I just have too many things that I don't wear because they don't fit, or I don't really like them.

One of my favorite things... my new jeans from Chico's!!! They fit so well and are very flattering. I hate the thought of paying nearly $70 for jeans, but that is why I wait until I have a gift card AND a discount coupon. :)

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week...
  • Tuesday night I've got a work meeting for our Women's Retreat.

  • Thursday I'm taking the children to a Children's Theatre performance of "The 1,000 Cranes"

  • I might possibly drive to my mom's home in VA over the weekend so that I can help her look at a couple new houses.

You can read more posts (and more about the Daybook) here.

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