Saturday, October 6, 2012

Gadget of the Week: Kitchen Shears

I know it's not a great picture, but this is what comes of having a camera phone that takes pictures that I can text to my email and a camera that, well, doesn't text. I'm Amish at heart, remember?

To the point (no pun intended) I wouldn't be half the mom I am without my kitchen shears. Do they have to be this brand? No. I don't even know what brand they are - Henkel maybe?

What do I do with them? E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G! Well, everything that requires cutting (or bottle opening).

Sandwiches, fresh herbs, veggies, chicken nuggets, pancakes, raw meat, cooked meat, I've even pruned with them.

Come to think of it, perhaps these awesome wonders of the gadget drawer (or knife block) should remain shrouded in a bit of mystery. Did I really just admit to cutting sandwiches, raw meat and pruning all with one item? Yes. Yes I did. Fortunately for all of us, they are also dishwasher safe. I love my kitchen shears!

What's your can't-live-without kitchen gadget?

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Intentional Cook: Iain-friendly cookies

This is the first of what may be a new series called The Intentional Cook. (Don't you love how non-commital I am?) In an attempt to make tasty food that accommodates our family's multiple food allergies and sensitivities, I have been forced into a creative and intentional method of cooking. Gone are the days of opening this, snacking on that... Here to stay are the days of planning, preparing and savoring healthy, "friendly" food.

Today's feature is egg/dairy allergen-free Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies that taste good. 

There are many recipes for allergen-free cookies, but before you send any links, check the ingredients. There are two key ingredients that create the flavor, texture and appeal of delicious baked goods: butter and eggs. Think about it. You know I'm right. When it comes to cookies you could throw vanilla in there for a 3rd, brown sugar for a 4th, etc. but really, butter and eggs are the foundation for tasty success. So you see, when I attempt to bake while accommodating allergies to these very ingredients the result is, well, disappointing - not for the 1 and 4 year old allergic recipients who are thrilled to have a tasteless hockey puck of sugar, but for their mother who knows exactly what they're missing. After a bit of experimenting and some divine inspiration, I think I have solved this problem!

Without further adieu, here's the recipe, adapted from Cook's Illustrated cookbook.

Heat oven to 325 and line cookie sheets with parchment

Combine and set aside:
2 cups + 2 Tbs flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

In a separate bowl beat together:
12 Tbs melted coconut oil*
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Mix in:
3/4 tsp egg-replacer powder
1 Tbs water
2 egg yolks (thoroughly separated from whites!)**
2 tsp vanilla

Gently combine wet and dry ingredients. 
Stir in 1.5 c Trader Joe's brand chocolate chips***

Place 1/4 c size blobs of dough onto cookie sheet. Bake for 15-18 minutes (my oven required about 17 minutes). Cool cookies on the sheet. Obviously these are large cookies.

*Coconut oil is the butter substitute. Some people are allergic this, so do be careful. Yes, this will lend a tasty hint of coconut to your recipe. 

**The white of the egg contains the protein that causes the allergic reactions in *most* individuals with egg allergies. The egg yolk contains the flavor and fats of the egg. If the egg is well-seperated, the yolk is safe *for most people* to bake with. (I save the white and add it to my breakfast omelette for an extra shot of protein. I'm not allergic.)

***Most brands of chocolate chips contain milk products. Trader Joe's does not and is only about $.50 more expensive than regular chocolate chips. Hurray!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Cathedrals of Death

What breaks your heart? What makes you weep like Rachel and causes blood to cry out like Abel's? What are you called to do about it, and when you hear that call, what is your response?

I ask myself these questions. My excuses are endless: I'm so busy, My children are young and keep my hands full, I pray, I donate. Perhaps that is enough. Maybe it is, for this season. Maybe it's not and if not, how will I answer for myself? If not, what example am I setting for my children and how does this example call them towards obedience...and courage. Isn't that it? Isn't it really that I'm afraid?

They have been called many things. I call them Cathedrals of Death.

Planned Parenthood has built these large centers in cities around the country:
Aurora, IL
Sarasota, FL
Portland, OR 
Denver, CO
Houston, TX
St Paul, MN
Michigan has stifled one, praise God!

Evil is the great imitator. It can not create, it can only distortedly mimic, disfigure and corrupt. Area clinics and regional mega-clinics. Did it just occur to someone at Planned Parenthood that this organizational structure was a good business idea? There's nothing new under the sun.

The Church gives life in its parishes and Cathedrals.
Abortion destroys life in its clinics and mega-clinics.

I pray that even now we might see glimpses of the future when "death has been swallowed up in victory." Come, Lord Jesus!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Techno Rant

I used to love computers. I was 5 years old. I remember sitting in the bedroom office, typing away at the computer. My dad worked - still works - with computers, so we had a home computer as far back as I can remember. I was confident and computer-literate. Yep, I was great with the spacebar. I wrote long stories and used the spacebar to navigate to the next line. I also used the spacebar to play the best game of all time: Space Invaders (our version had color, I don't know what's up with that one). I excelled at all that computer stuff. There she is, the same model that we had. (pic from here)

Jump forward a decade or less. I was sure I was a genius when I took that same computer, now sitting in (complete) parts in a corner of the basement, plugged everything together and...wait for it...turned it ON! Yes, that was a moment. I thought I had succeeded in something truly momentous, certainly far beyond my years. I guess that speaks for itself, doesn't it.

You would think having been raised with dinner conversations about gigabytes, software and hard drives, not to mention frequent "field trips" to visit Dad's office and the ridiculously noisy computer room -1980s air conditioning at its finest - I would be a natural with all this technology stuff.

The easiest A I ever got was my high school typing class. It was an elective and I needed an elective. That was what all that exposure got me. One A. In Typing. The rest was - and is - far beyond me.

Why am I on this rant, you ask? This evening I wanted to write a blog post about all the fun we've had during the past month or so. I wanted to include some great pictures that my in-laws took from our family vacation to the North Shore. But could I? Could I? Well, I could look at them in photo stream on my Macbook. I finally figured out something and got them somewhere. I'm sure I'm going to get the evil eye from Mark when he gets home. Quite frankly between super-important things like sorting through our finances and not-so-important but perhaps more urgent things like changing a zillion poopy diapers a day, do I have time or energy to try to understand what I haven't understood for 25 years despite a full-immersion lifestyle? I don't think I need to answer that for you.

Oh, and don't get me started on this new blogger configuration. I'm going to stop writing this now so I can find a pen, paper, bottle and cork. If you find my SOS, I'm lost somewhere in the land of Utter Frustration.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

NFP, my new favorite topic?

Wow. I wrote a whole post and with one misplaced keystroke, I erased the whole thing. grr. Well, here are the highlights, since I don't have the time or energy to rewrite the whole thing:

- Instead of constantly posting addendums, I am hereby warn you that NFP will probably be a regular topic and that I retain the right to correct  or expound on my thoughts.

- Thank you to all who have given me feedback on my previous posts. I am happy to hear from you and if you prefer the privacy of a Facebook message, I will certainly respect your privacy.

- One of the helpful criticisms that I received re my addendum was that perhaps its tone was too apologetic (er, not in the doctrinal sense). Ah, the pendulum. I suggest "blurring" my two posts together to reach a happy medium. 'Nuff said.

- For the sake of clarity, I want to revisit my statement that NFP is not intrinsically good for marriage. What I meant was that it is not meant to be used as an end in itself but as a tool for the rightly-discerned spacing of children. I have heard delighted exclamations from good-hearted-but-misinformed single women about the beauty of NFP and how they can't wait to get married so they too can use it! To which I say, uh, you're missing the point, sister.

Note: A la St Paul, a couple may feel called to abstain as a form of fasting. I would differentiate this abstinence from NFP in the same way that dieting is different from fasting. (Clearly they can be combined, but are not necessarily).

-- Does NFP demand and aid in the development of marital selflessness, communication and prayerful discernement? YES!

-- Do you know what else does that (dare I say, better)? Children.

Note: The knowledge that NFP provides can help in achieving pregnancy. However, these women were clearly taken with the idea of NFPs selflessness, communication and prayerful discernment, and at least momentarily overlooked the Church's beautiful understanding of the sacramentality of the marital union.

For further reading, here's a great blog post:

Truth in Advertising: How We Talk About NFP

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Addendum to NFP and Average Me

I'm not entirely clear on what my purpose in writing that post was - I think perhaps it was to get myself out there; to put myself in the conversation. I know this area (sexuality, ethics and human dignity) is my mission field, but for whatever reason I've been relatively quiet about it. I felt it was time to get on with it.

I chose the approach I did because I've been struck by the quantity of two opposing voices among NFP users. There are those who struggle (and I in no way wish to diminish the reality of their cross), and then there's the chorus of couples who probably also poop rainbows and write poetry about the wonders of NFP.

I find myself to be neither. I'm distinctly average: the person the textbook was written about, but I don't love NFP. I'd rather not have to use it ever at all. I'd rather God just give us the exact number of children that we can handle, as we can handle them, but that's not reality. I moderately dislike NFP. I despise [the idea of] contraception. I don't think I'm called to have 16 kids. That leaves NFP as the least worst option and, for me, a manageable if undesirable one. 

I wanted my voice to be somewhere in the mix between the rainbow-poopers and the people with very real burdens. I was hopeful that someone looking into NFP might read my post and see that for some of us it does "work." People need to hear this because our culture doesn't believe it. 

But me saying it works isn't me singing its high praises, or announcing that couples should use NFP [periodic abstinence] believing it's intrinsically good for marriages (eye-roll, head-shake).  For most of us, I think it's just a heck of a big step up from contraception.* ...and some struggle to believe that but they do it anyway. God bless them.

Friday, April 13, 2012

NFP and Average Me

NFP Buttons

NFP from my totally average perspective, by which I mean:

- non-ecological breastfeeding (sleeping-thru-the-night, pacifier-using) delays fertility by an average of 10 months
- cyclic mucus changes are obvious
- easy-to-read biphasic temperature shift

I have mixed feelings towards NFP. Why? One the one hand, it's opened a window making me an active observer as my body works to offer, bring forth and nurture new life.  On the other hand, gosh darn it, I can't unlearn it. I know, in a culture of control-freaks, this sounds weird, doesn't it? In fact, most women I know with large families or closely-spaced children make a point of letting you know that these children were "planned," as though to prove that NFP works, but they're open to life. But isn't there something beautiful about the idea that God's plan is better than ours? As I write this, I can feel my heart rate go up: What am I signing myself up for?!

Does this mean I'm a providentialist? I don't know. Maybe. Maybe not. Regardless, I think the 50% unplanned pregnancy rate found in our contraceptive culture seems unlikely for the average NFP-user. I guess it depends on what "unplanned" means. Particularly at this point in my ife, I'm not at all opposed to having an "unplanned" pregnancy, but considering my textbook averageness, I doubt I'll ever get pregnant by surprise. The closest I'll probably get is leaving it up to a God who has a better plan that I, knowing all the while when we're offering Him the right of first refusal. For the completely average woman, deciphering fertility is about as challenging as being toilet-trained. 

What you do with that information, well, that's up to you...but don't call the result an accident.

Here are some links for more information, but I gotta warn you, once you know your fertility signs, they're hard to ignore.

 - has awesome detailed explanations of the hormone cycle and the mucus they produce, just click on the various links for an education unlike any found elsewhere.

- teaches the basic "sympto-thermal" aka, mucus and temperature NFP method
- free charting website stores and interprets fertility data. 

- teaches a detailed mucus-only NFP method. 

- uses the Creighton method to decipher and solve women's health issues such as abnormal cycles, recurrent miscarriage, infertility, etc. in a way that works *with* a woman's body rather than circumventing the problem via birth control pills, ivf, etc.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Works of Mercy

The corporal works of mercy:
  • To feed the hungry;
  • To give drink to the thirsty;
  • To clothe the naked;
  • To harbour the harbourless;
  • To visit the sick;
  • To ransom the captive;
  • To bury the dead.
The spiritual works of mercy are:
  • To instruct the ignorant;
  • To counsel the doubtful;
  • To admonish sinners;
  • To bear wrongs patiently;
  • To forgive offences willingly;
  • To comfort the afflicted;
  • To pray for the living and the dead.
Taken from New Advent

I'm not very good at these. Fortunately, my vocation gives me ample opportunities to try, fail, and try again.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Feelin' Dangerously Snarky

Dear HHS,

I've got a couple preventative measures to add to your agenda:

1) Block the sun! Everyone knows it causes cancer. I propose you issue a mandate to construct a transcontinental shade-structure that blocks all sunlight. If people *REALLY* want sunshine, they could of course pull back a bit of the structure for *limited* amount of time, maybe once or twice in their life.

2) Stomach bags. You know I really can't control myself, and why should I?! Everyone knows how good chocolate is, but I don't want to get fat and risk diabetes. It would be awesome if you could mandate free stomach bags, [to swallow and remove later] so I could eat whatever I want, whenever I want, for as long as I want. After all, it's my right to be free from obesity and related diseases!

Thank you for considering these freedom-enhancing measures. I can't wait to live life the way I have a right to live it - free from cancer and obesity. Oh Yeah! No one can say "No" to that!

(...except those freaks who think everyone should practice self control be forced to be 800 pounds and covered in melanoma. They don't know what free-livin' is!)


A Concerned Citizen

Friday, January 27, 2012

Happy Birthday, Iain!

Four years ago, today I was lying in a hospital bed, waiting, worrying and wondering. Iain was born the next day, January 28th at 11:11 am.  My water broke a month before my due date and we didn't know what to expect when Iain was born. We were prepared for the worst (NICU time), praying for the best and ended up with a combination of the two. In the end, after we were discharged home, on schedule, he became hypothermic, his temp dropping to 94.7 degrees. Thank you Jesus for homecare nurses who discovered it and helped this first-time-mother get her baby off to the hospital when I didn't know better (I knew his feet felt cold, but assumed that was normal).

Iain, about a week old:

First time motherhood was overwhelming and I dare say traumatic. But, four years later, Iain is the picture of health - minor allergies aside - and I feel like I can safely call myself a seasoned mother (of small children).
  1st birthday:

 2nd birthday:

3rd birthday (was that really already a year ago?!)

Happy 4th Birthday, Iain! I am so very very blessed to be your mother. These 4 years have flown past, and I'm afraid they will only continue to fly by faster. I hope and pray that your coming year is full of growth in joy, wisdom, strengthening of character, deepening of love for God and others, and lots of wonderful experiences. I am so proud of you, my big boy!

Iain (not quite 4 - this was taken a few months ago)

And, just for fun, Mark's 4th birthday:

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Thoughts and Visions of Heaven

This is one of my favorite paintings. You can find it at the Cathedral of Saint Paul.  Every time we go to Mass there, I try to catch a glimpse of it before I leave.  A couple years ago, an artistic friend who was off to discern Religious Life (now returned), gifted us with a painting she had done of the Crucifixion, from below - from Mary's perspective as seen in the previous painting. I got chills - it was like I was inside the painting at the Cathedral. It now hangs in our bedroom, and it's the first thing I see every morning and the last thing I see at night. I am blessed.

That's my preface to the following - I had reason to contemplate the reason for the prominence of the crucifix in Catholic churches. I publicly thank the anonymous person who prompted this. Not surprisingly, this has brought me to a greater understanding of my faith - as these things often do.

First, God plopped this article in my lap, this morning: The Cross, Altar and the Right Way of Praying by Fr. Stefan Heid. Here are some exerpts:

The cross is the focal point of salvation and of liturgical action...
...the altar is the place of prayer: the cross belongs there, and, indeed, even more so, on the main altar. It is the place of raising one’s hands, mind and eyes to “look upon the one whom they have pierced.” Here, heaven opened up at the moment when darkness covered the earth: the Sun of Righteousness on the cross was raised up at the center of the earth, making our darkness light.

After reading the article, I had the following reflections (please correct me if any of this is incorrect!):

I read somewhere that the snake-on-the-pole that Moses made (so that everyone who looked on it would live) was a "type/foreshadowing" of our crucifix, today.

I suppose also, as Catholics since we believe the Mass is uniting time and space and making us present to, and presenting to us, the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross (rather than simply a memorial), it makes sense that we would have a visual reminder of where we are - present at Calvary. 

On a lighter note, while I was reading/thinking/writing about all that, followed by a shower, apparently Iain had an apparition imagination. He announced to me very excitedly, when I got out of the shower that...

Iain: I saw Mary on top of my bunkbed, so I was throwing a lot presents up there for the little Lord Jesus. ...and Joseph was there and all of Jesus's disciples.
Me: What did Mary look like?
Iain: like a queen and a princess...wearing a was blue. ...and I tried to climb up there to get to the floor of Heaven, but I couldn't reach it.
Me: yes, you're not allowed on top of your bunkbed.

Friday, January 13, 2012

7 quick takes sm1 Your 7 Quick Takes Toolkit!

1. The Way I Tidy

I'm sure this isn't a novel idea, but it has really helped me... I pick one side of a particular room and start my tidying there. I move towards the other side, tidying as I go. 

Leaving a wake of tidiness behind me is very motivating, as is having a room completely tidied before moving on to the next. I usually start in the living room and move from there to the dining room, then to the kitchen. By the time I get to the overwhelming pile of mail on the kitchen counter, there are plenty of tidy areas on which to rest my eyes. 

2. Hats

Does anyone remember the Amy Grant song Hats from her Heart in Motion album, circa early '90s? I was never a fan of the song, at least in part because I actually thought it was about hats and the lyrics seemed so random. You gotta cut me some slack, the early '90s was an era of hats and I was only 10 years old!

I had a good laugh about that when the song randomly popped to mind the other day and my adult-self realized what it was about. I'm still not an Amy Grant fan, but at least now I can understand and relate to what she was singing about. ...definitely wearing a lot of hats around here!

3. No Water

We have no water right now. That's why I'm sitting in my recliner, still in my pajamas, writing a blog post. Not having running water is so unmotivating! 

Apparently there was a "water emergency" on the corner of our block that necessitated the water shut-off. It should be turned on again in the next few hours. Going without running water is rather eye-opening. I can't: drink, wash dishes or clothes, use the toilet, shower, wash my hands after a diaper change (blech!), make cereal for my baby... Certainly, it's no hardship (yet). Like I said, it's just eye-opening.

4. Blog-a-holic

Hi. My name is Betsy. I'm a blog-a-holic. What are some of your favorite blogs or websites? I know, answering this after I've told you I'm a blog-a-holic is like pouring gasoline on a fire, but hey, sometimes that's ok. (Sure, neither you nor I can think of an instance where that would actually be ok, but let's just go with it.)

5. Bosnia and Other Residential War Zones

"Whaaaa? Huh?" Is probably what you're thinking. Let me explain: I think I may have mentioned in the past that my bedroom closet is a catch-all for everything that hasn't been put in its proper place. - Tangent: I have discovered just how important it is to have a place for everything! - Not surprisingly, the act of throwing all sorts of odds and ends into my closet has produced something akin to a rubble pile. Mark started calling it "Bosnia" because it looks like a war zone. He now joins in the fun, throwing things into "Bosnia" with wild abandon. Clearly he doesn't look in there when he does this, or he would notice that I actually cleaned my closet the other day. I'm too kind to mention that he's single-handedly recreating a war zone during peace I just mention it on my blog instead.

Iain just asked to color which reminded me that our craft drawer is in desperate need of attention. I just don't know if I can justify spending time and energy on something that hopeless. Where are those UN peace-keeping forces when you need them?

6. Lydia's Songs

Iain and Lydia love to sing. I love listening to them. I'm especially enjoying Lydia's current repertoire. She sings songs to Jesus, which usually sound something like (yelled to some familiar tune such as bah-bah-black-sheep) "This is for Jesus, hamsters down the drain..."

7. That's all for now

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

In [some] Nutshell[s]

Has anyone on the North American continent not had the stomach flu in the last two weeks? When Lydia started throwing up exactly a day and a half after our visit to the Mall of America, I kicked myself long and hard for thinking it was a wonderful idea to let the kids play at the Lego stations. I soon found out that every family I know has had it run through their house. Shut-in though I may normally be, I don't think this one could've been avoided. At least I can stop imagining my children innocently playing with hot-viral Duplos.

Stomach bugs aside, we had an exciting Christmas season. Just before Christmas, one of my close friends got engaged! Then, on New Year's Day, my sister Kate got engaged! (And speaking of hot viruses, my brother-in-law-to-be's brother works at the CDC! I'd clean stairwells all day too just to be inside that building!) Back to weddings...clearly I have recovered from the trauma of planning my own wedding because I am loving every second of this! Two Minnesota weddings to help with; I don't think I could be happier! It's just like 7 Brides for 7 Brothers...only it's 2 brides and the grooms aren't related. So, nothing like it at all.

During this season of wretching and rejoicing (I'm sorry, I couldn't resist) I've become acutely aware of the Tim Tebow "phenomenon." I'm not sure what else to call it. I gotta say, I'm worried for the guy. Has no one else read a Greek tragedy? May God's grace protect him from the world, the flesh and devil!

So, how 'bout them Republican candidates? I have no idea when the Minnesotans get their turn at voting...I'm assuming we do at some point, yes? Mark is straddling the fence between the Gingrich and Santorum camps (not that he can vote, but he still has opinions). I naturally lean towards Santorum - knowing next to nothing about him except that he strikes me as a good husband and father. But I have to say, I'm always impressed by Gingrich's vocal presence, and how can I not like his defense of Christianity/Catholicism? Sorry Ron Paul fans, I've always thought the guy is too creepy to look at or listen to, so needless to say, I don't know much about him other than that he leans Libertarian - and I don't. Shallow? Of course, but I think there are better candidates, so I'm not losing sleep over it.

I hope your 2012 is kicking off nicely and that you're not spending it like the rest of the country (see first paragraph).