Friday, April 26, 2013

Quick Takes

Welcoming Jen back on this beautiful Friday morning!


Things are a bit chaotic this morning....and are probably going to stay that way all day!  I need to clean up from breakfast and get myself ready for the day, finish some laundry and eventually pack, get to the post office and mail a stack of bills and thank you cards, run to the store to pick up some last-minute things for the weekend, get the dogs to the doggie hotel, and maybe get the boys to gymnastics practice....and then we're heading out of town.


Why out of town?   Heading to our state's youth convention for the weekend.  I'm giving a workshop - pray for me!   I'm slightly nervous - the topic I am speaking on can become controversial, and I don't want to spend the entire 45 minutes in a debate....I merely want to explain the Church's teaching on something.   Pray for me!


I'm super excited to be going though - the whole family is going, and we're looking at it as a mini vacation.  It's at an oceanside resort about 2 hours away, and we could definitely all use a weekend away right now.  Mike's been working like crazy (it's vacation time for everyone, so they've all been taking turns working extra shifts so everyone gets their vacation), and we've all been a bit stir crazy at home.     Add in poor Rascal #2's seasonal allergies making him a regular old GRUMP, and well.....we could use a break from the routine.


Yesterday was a good day though - it was Mike's birthday, and we had a friend/landscaper-by-trade come by the house and talk through projects with us.  I think we have a plan to start increasing the value of our house via our yard, and I'm super duper excited.  One thing that's *always* bothered us about our house was that was just didn't have the money to really do anything to our yard.  We'd mow it and keep it "clean cut" but that was about it.  Whenever friends were splitting bulbs in their yard, I'd go take whatever they could give me and transplant them to our yard, but, really....what you see now is pretty much what it looked like when it was built.   Our goal this summer is to start projects so that over the next five years, we can work into having the yard that this house deserves.  It's a GREAT house - it deserves a GREAT yard.   (not fancy, country-living kind of yard....just classic family house kind of yard).


The chickens are growing into their new home.  They're hilarious.  I'm totally turning into the crazy chicken lady.  You can pretty much find me every evening after dinner...enjoying a beer on our back lawn....watching the chickens eat up all of the bugs in the yard.   They're so funny.   I love them.   Best birthday gift EVER.


I need to get moving and packing a lunch to go meet up with our friends.  Does anyone else out there hate packing lunches, or is it just me?   This may or may not have a direct influence on our decision to homeschool.   Just sayin'.


How about a picture to end the day?  Our littlest doggie is also completely fascinated by the chickens.  He hasn't tried to chase them or attack them or anything - I think he's just utterly confused as to WHAT they are.  He managed to get into the coop one day - which resulted in some pecking that he did not enjoy - and that only seems to have fostered his love of our new feathered family members.   The other night, the boys were outside with the chickens while the girls were free-ranging....and I came around the corner to see this:

sorry it's blurry.  I was trying to be quick so he didn't notice me....

Hahaha.  I still can't stop laughing about it.   He needed help to get down, but that hasn't stopped him from climbing back up there every time he's inside and they're out and about.   Silly dog.

Alright - that's all from our neck of the woods today!   Please pray for me tomorrow - and all of the teens and other presenters.   See you next week!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Thankful Thursdays

Don't forget to join in!

Today's Mike's birthday, so first off, I'm thankful for the gift of Mike.  Thankful for the family who helped him become the man he is today, and thankful that God brought him into my life.  I couldn't ask for a better best friend, husband, or father to our boys!

It's a good day - lots to feel grateful for.   In no particular is my Thankful Thursday list!

- the sun shining in the through the windows
- the windows that are OPEN because it's finally warm enough to open all of the windows!  Woot!
- The random sudden motivation the boys found today that helped them to finish their schoolwork AND clean the first floor of the house (you should see the playroom!  I feel like I've died and gone to Heaven) with me before lunch this morning!
- the laundry hanging on the clothesline and blowing in the breeze.  It just makes me happy.
- anticipation of a playdate tomorrow at the local wildlife park
- finally having the financial ability to make landscaping plans for our house
- a bank that caught the fact that my card had been compromised, and acted immediately
- the ability to attend the state youth convention this year with my entire family - at an oceanside resort this weekend.  It's a mini-vacation with some of my favourite people in the world!  :)

How about you?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Cooking post: Homemade Nutella

We eat A LOT of Nutella in this house.  It's kind of a weakness of mine and Mike's, and Rascal #3 is slightly addicted to it.  I was flying through jars of store-bought Nutella when I had a random thought.  

"Self,  you like to make everything from scratch.  The kids have fun making things.  We have a new juicer that can grind nut butters.   I wonder if we can make homemade Nutella?"

A quick Google search revealed that yes, you can make homemade Nutella!   It's not really that cost-effective (I haven't done the math, but considering homemade Nutella uses A LOT of more hazelnuts than jarred stuff, where the first ingredient is "sugar," I'm pretty sure it's not any cheaper than the store bought stuff).  

A jar of Nutella boasts that it contains "over 50 hazelnuts in one jar!"   Homemade stuff uses, well, about 3-4 cups of hazelnuts.....quite a difference.  I should have counted them, but I'd guess I used at least 150 hazelnuts for one batch, which yielded just under 16 oz of yummy goodness.

I use this recipe for my base, and adjust it slightly to decrease sugar and increase hazelnuts and hazelnut oil.   The boys still gobble it up quickly, and I enjoy the freshness and the smell that lingers in the house after making a batch.  

I've been asked to post more pictures and recipes from our daily menus, so we'll start with yummy, nutty, chocolately goodness:  homemade Nutella!

I forgot to take a picture of the hazelnuts BEFORE roasting them - they look like this, but a bit lighter.  haha.  I use about 4 cups of hazelnuts, which I find in the bulk section of our local Whole Foods.   Preheat your oven to 375ยบ, and while your oven is heating, layer them on a cookie sheet (that has a lip - you don't want these rolling away!).   Once the oven is hot enough, roast the nuts for about 12-15 minutes.  Keep checking them, though - you don't want to burn them.  I've found that in our oven, 12 minutes is just about right.

Once roasted, transfer them into a bowl and let them cool until you can touch them.   I've read all kinds of methods for getting the skins off of the hazelnuts, and honestly, I haven't found one that works any better (or quicker) than just rubbing a handful of them at a time.  The skins flake right off, there's not that much of a mess, and it leaves your skin all super-soft.   I'm sure other people will disagree that this isn't the most efficient way to remove the skins, but I've found that it's the best for me.   All the other tricks seem to have to be repeated over and over again to get the skins off, so time-wise, it ends up taking just as long as rubbing them off, a handful at a time.    Experiment with it to see what works best for you!

Once you have all of your skins removed, go ahead and toss them.   You won't need them anymore.  ;) I use our juicer to grind the nuts into a smooth butter, but you can also use a food processor.  We bought this specific juicer because of the capability it had to do things like nut butters, so I feel obligated to use it for Nutella.  (It works pretty good too!)

loading up the juicer!

Once you get your nuts all processed into a smooth butter, pull out your other ingredients.   You'll need salt, hazelnut oil, vanilla, cocoa, and powdered sugar.

I cheat and put everything into my stand mixer to put it all together, but you can also keep it all in your food processor and just add the ingredients, or try to do it all by hand (if you have enough muscles!!).    Add the following to your hazelnut butter:

1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
3-4 tablespoons of hazelnut oil (I found mine at Whole Foods, and I usually use 4 tbsp so that it's a really good spreading consistency)
3/4 to 1 cup of powdered sugar (I use the smaller amount)
1/3 cup cooking cocoa  (I use Dutch-processed cocoa powder, but I've read that whatever cooking cocoa you can get your hands on will work)

And that's it!   This will give you about 16 oz of "Nutella," and it will last a couple of weeks (if you don't eat it first, haha).   We keep ours out a room temperature, since we go through it so quickly, but it can be refrigerated, too.   If it dries out, just add a bit more oil until it's just right again.

So, there you go!   Homemade Nutella.  Super easy, super fun, and super yummy!  Enjoy!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Thankful Thursdays

I kind of forgot it was Thursday, whoops!   That's the one real downside I've found of homeschooling so far - it lends itself so well to having a flexible schedule that I often forget what day of the week it is! I am thankful for:

- a hardworking husband who is currently teaching the boys how to build something for the yard

- healthy children

- hot coffee that I get to drink WHILE IT IS HOT

- getting in a workout FOUR days this week already!

- spring weather to enjoy

How about you?   Share your blessings today!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

An adoption update

**Cross-posting with our adoption blog today***

I finally get to update the blog with actual progress!    Do you guys realize just how *good* it feels to do that?    I've been avoiding this blog for weeks, just because I had nothing of substance to tell you guys, and I didn't want to bore you with just another account of "We're still waiting."

But today is different!  Today, I have news!

Remember that delay we hit a few months ago?  It's been resolved.  The paperwork we were waiting on has been approved by Peter's country.   This is a BIG step forward - finally, we can get on with the regular adoption process and *hopefully* will hear something about what is called "matching approval" soon.   MA will take Peter off of the open adoption list and officially match him to our family.   This can't happen soon enough, in my opinion!  

While we're extremely excited about finally hearing good news - we're also holding our breath.   All this time we've been working toward bringing Peter home (so, about 15 months now), he's been available for adoption by other families.    He could already be matched with another family and on his way home - or already in a home.   We just don't know exactly what his status is.

Our agency is trying to find out that information - trying to see if he is still available for us to adopt him.    Please join us in praying for God's will to be done in this situation.   While we are obviously emotionally attached to Peter already, if it is God's will that he be in another family, please help us to accept that.    My biggest prayer for this little boy is that he have a place to call home and a family who will love him for the rest of his life.   I'd like it to be our family, but if it is not to be, please pray that we can be grateful that he is in a family and has a home.   

If, by some chance, Peter has already been matched or adopted, please pray for our discernment in moving forward with another child.   I don't want to think of that possibility at this point, but it might be something that we will have to decide in the near future.   Please pray that we are able to faithfully carry out God's will for our family, no matter what that looks like.

Thank you so much for your support!!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Quick Takes

Joining Jen today, as always.

1 - I'm afraid these quick takes aren't going to be quite as humourous and light-hearted as they usually are.  I can't do it today.  I'd planned on using them to showcase our trip to Florida last week, but, well.....I can't.   I can't stop crying today.

2 - Why can't I stop crying?   Because of this:  what's being called the "House of Horrors" in Philadelphia.  Kermit Gosnell is on trial for killing at least one woman and seven infants in his abortion mill in West Philadelphia.  The local NBC affiliate is covering it  - but you'll be hard-pressed to find information about it on other major news outlets.   Pro-lifers are trying to bring the horrible story to light for many, many reasons.   I wanted to use this blog today to link you to some of those attempts.

3 - First off:  Jill Stanek's reasoning to why the media is largely ignoring the trial.  (Warning:  pictures.  Pictures that might make you puke or cry.  They made me do both).

4 - This website is posting daily excerpts from the trial.   Please go read them and see for yourself what happened in that hellhole (warning:  graphic).   From today's post:

Q. And what happened to those ten babies that came out from their mother, that were big enough that you could put clothes on and take home and take care of, that moved around, what did you see happen to them?
A. He killed them.
Q. Who killed them?
A. Doc.
Q. How did he kill them?
A. He cut the back of the neck.
She later goes on to testify that Gosnell joked - while cutting the neck of a baby that was writhing in his hands:  “that’s what you call a chicken with its head cut off.”

5 - From Brianna (and I agree, wholeheartedly):  

It's interesting because while the doctor himself exhibits particularly disturbing (and psychopathic) behavior, the only real difference (as far as abortion goes) between him at his nightmarish clinic, and the abortionist at Planned Parenthood, is a mere technicality.  Because life is life.  Abortion is abortion.  Earthly justice is only being pursued on behalf of vulnerable children in this instance because Gosnell has broken some arbitrarily-decided-upon rules--had he succeeded in killing the babies before they exited the womb, that would somehow have been okay.  It makes little sense to those of us who hold firmly to the belief that life begins at the moment of conception.

And that is part of why this trial is so very important, and why we must not ignore it--especially in the face of predictably-limited media coverage.  These heinous acts are, ultimately, being exposed for what they are.  And I hope that this spectacle, in addition to shutting his horrible clinic down, makes people think--really think--about what makes this fellow so very different from his legally-practicing and lauded-by-society colleagues.

6 - From an editorial on USA Today:

Let me state the obvious. This should be front page news. When Rush Limbaugh attacked Sandra Fluke, there was non-stop media hysteria. The venerable NBC Nightly News' Brian Williams intoned, "A firestorm of outrage from women after a crude tirade from Rush Limbaugh," as he teased a segment on the brouhaha. Yet, accusations of babies having their heads severed — a major human rights story if there ever was one — doesn't make the cut.

7 - Now, just over the pond, it seems that our British brothers and sisters are covering the story.   The Daily Mail has quite a few detailed stories (warning: graphic descriptions.  It's excepts from the testimony, but it's hard to read).  You can find some of them here, here, here, and here.  It's absolutely heart-wrenching.  

As someone who is still grieving the loss of her own child, I am horrified and absolutely disgusted that this has happened in our country.......and no one seems to care.    Other than the pro-life advocates and our pro-life friends on FB, it's been...well......crickets.   A good percentage of these babies were way past the age of viability.   How can ANYONE claim that they weren't real human beings?  How can ANYONE claim that these babies - these living, breathing, CRYING babies - were not real people?   How can anyone, ANYONE, sleep at night after reading these accounts?

I don't think it's possible.  We are - at our core - good people.  All of us are made in the image and likeness of our Creator.   I don't think that it is truly possible to read - or see - this kind of thing happen and not feel, somewhere deep inside you, completely and utterly horrified and sickened.   Innocent children - who had so much potential and absolutely no guilt - murdered with a pair of dirty scissors.   

It is not possible to be unaffected by the horrors that happened in Gosnell's "clinic."

It is exactly for that is being ignored.   If we stop to listen to our consciences, it makes it harder and harder to ignore the fact that these babies were no different than the other babies that are sacrificed daily to abortion.   

And that scares us.

It should.  The House of Horrors should scare us.   It should shake us to our very core.   We should be terrified of such evil......

.....and we should rise up against it, until our last breath.

Saint Michael the Archangel,

defend us in battle.
Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host -
by the Divine Power of God -
cast into hell, satan and all the evil spirits,
who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.


Thankful Thursdays, vol 1

Yay!  Let's get started with spreading the joy!  Steal the graphic above, then blog about what YOU are thankful for....and link it up in the comments below.   Eventually, I'll host it it with one of those cool link-ups, but well...I have to figure out which one I want to use first (leave suggestions below!).

Anywho - just a few quick observations from my life - finding blessings in the everyday chaos.   Today, I am grateful for:

Yes, I'm thankful for my messy stove.  Haha, not really.  I mean, I am, but well...that's not why I took the picture.

I'm thankful for the ability to homeschool.  Why?   Because this, my friends, is the time we got up this morning.  8-glorious-20 am.  I love our mornings!

How about you?   What are you grateful for today?  Big or or a couple......let the world know!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Why I Love My Husband....

Hanging out with Kaitlin and her beautiful family again today!

So, Saturday's my birthday.   Mike is definitely one of the best gift-givers I know.   He's always got something up his sleeve and it's extravagant and marvelous and always makes me feel like he's doting on me a bit too much.   Even when we have no money, he finds a way to spoil me.   He's good like that.  

This year is no different.   I've been bugging him to let us get chickens for YEARS now (I was pretty much sold on the idea once I learned how much they like to eat ticks, my arch-nemisis here in Maine), and he finally agreed to take the plunge this year.  I guess me introducing him to another family with chickens.....or strategically leaving library books about raising chickens laying around the house.....or dropping another hint about ticks finally worked.  ;)  

Anywho, for my birthday this year, he's decided to get us totally set up with chickens for the year.   I thought he was just going out yesterday to go make arrangements for a coop, or go pick up some of the supplies we'd need, or whatever.....instead, well, in typical Mike fashion (for those of you who know him, you know what I mean by this!).....

He came home with these gorgeous girls!

3 Barred Rock and 3 Black Sex-Link girls.   :)  They're 8 weeks old

The boys are already completely in love

And I kinda am, too......please no comments on my 13 year old hoodie and almost-as-old jeans.  ;)  It's a rainy day - we're not going anywhere!  Photo credit:  the 8 year old Rascal #1

Now, his next plan of action is to find us a coop so these girls can get outside in a few weeks.  They're currently in a pen in our basement and well....the dogs are very interested, to say the least.   Keep tuning in for regular updates!  If all of these girls make it, we'll be swimming in eggs this fall.  Yay!