Thursday, October 23, 2014

Autumn in the Country

Means more to us this year than ever before, this beautiful country autumn, the cool crisp air, the smell of the wood smoke from the chimney, the leaves drifting down.  Less than two months ago, we were living in the middle of suburban Las Vegas, no trees, no yard to speak of -- and no real prospect of moving anywhere else any time soon.  But, look where God has brought us!  He is so good.  And we are so thankful!

We memorize poems regularly as part of our schooling -- partly because it's a good discipline, partly for literature appreciation, but mostly because this musical group of children gets a charge out of the rhythm and meter -- and I love the words.  Here's the autumn poem the children just memorized, from a Catholic 5th grade  Prose and Poetry text book from the 1950s...

Brave Piper October
by Sr. Mary Madeleva

Brave piper, October, what tune do you blow,
That the leaves are bewitched, and wherever you go
They flutter and follow, agleam and aglow?
From oak tree and bramble, from high tree and low,
They come to the sound of the piping they know,
And down from the tall trees of heaven -- Oh Ho!
Come dancing and glancing white leaves of snow.

Hopefully no white leaves of snow for a while yet, though!  We're enjoying the pleasant autumn weather, anticipating raking the leaves and having an autumn leaf bonfire before the snow flies.  Check out the new fluffy leaf shawl our little house is wearing.  Tre chic!

And here's Jack, looking more and more autumn stylish, with the carpet of leaves beneath him and his pumpkin accessories.  We plan to do some pumpkin carving this weekend...  Will maybe actually even post pictures of the results...

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

She wouldn't let me take a picture of it...

Not Cathy.  Her rag curls didn't
look anywhere near this elegant...
Cathy, in what must have been a last minute decision to put her hair up in rag curls last night, used a couple pairs of multi-colored socks, instead of "rags," then came down to breakfast this morning with the wild arrangement still on top of her head.

 We all smirked, but Gabe took a long look at her over his oatmeal and observed (in a perfectly executed throw-away line), "Looks like someone didn't get up on the wrong side of the bed, but on the wrong side of the dresser."

Heehee!  Just had to share that.  For posterity.

But, seriously...

I find myself more and more grateful for the quiet times we spend together as a family, slow mornings over the breakfast table, long afternoons working together in the yard, cozy evenings watching movies or reading together.  As our children grow up and move out into lives of their own, I miss how each of them adds their own spin to the atmosphere.  And how those spins tip to the side and interact with all the other spins in constantly changing choreographies.  Nobody can fling a quip quite the way Kevvy (25) does -- though Gabey (9) comes close; nobody can hold a candle to Paul in a debate -- though everyone tries;  and there's no matching the individual sillinesses of Anna vs.  Frater Philip vs. well...  any of the rest of them.  They're all peculiarly peculiar and perfectly wonderful and lovable.  And they all grow up so fast. I can almost feel the air being stirred by time flying by these days.

Not only is my time limited with each of them, but their time together as siblings is so short and precious. They may not know it now, but they're going to feel the loss of one another as time goes by, too.   Cathy doesn't know it now, but the day will come when she misses her little brother's annoying comments.  Gabe will look back some day and long for the chance to tease his big sister. Instead of looking for a peaceful corner away from each other, they'll look for any chance they can just to be together again.   And I'll hold all the memories of them together as they are now -- even bickering like they tend to do -- in my heart forever.  They drive me crazy sometimes, underfoot like they are and chattering constantly -- but I'm going to miss tripping over them, I know.  And I'm really going to miss my daily kid comedy show. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Raspberries! (Pblfff!)

Here are the kids, still in their good clothes from Wed., 11:15
Mass.  It was a spur of the minute decision to stop at the orchard.
(It was a sunny day, too, btw.  Only my phone camera was foggy...)
Right around the corner from our house a most wonderful orchard scales the top and nestles into the folds of a long graceful hill. It's so tucked into the landscape, you wouldn't know it was there, if you didn't know it was there, but it's popular all around these parts as thee go-to spot for autumn harvest.  How cool is that, right? We feel like the luckiest people in the world to have found such a wonderful orchard so close by!  Every kind of apple you can imagine is represented, as well as every kind of pear. I imagine there are peaches and cherries and the like, as well, though we didn't manage to explore to all the corners, so I'm not positive.  But, every row is clearly marked with the variety of fruit, and in a lovely little kitchen garden area, the owners have
Hobbes blowing a
planted all kinds of unusual varieties of herbs and flowers, as well as climbing varieties of gourds and vines of all kinds, growing up tall pole tepees and covered archways and tunnels that the children scramble through in delight.  In the maze of growing things, we found a jungle gym tucked away, as well as a tricycle race track and a tire swing, and throughout the property wound a "discovery trail," with strategically placed signs detailing all sorts of interesting facts about nature and plants.  And the best thing?  It was all free to enjoy!

Except one thing:  the fruit you pick, and it was reasonably priced.

Anna and raspberries. Raspberries and Anna.
When we were there the other day, the apples were just about "played out," but the pumpkins and gourds were at their peak, and the raspberry patch was brimming with berries to pick.  Though the pumpkin patch was very tempting, everyone wanted to wait for Daddy to be with us for something as important as choosing pumpkins!  So that pretty much left us the raspberries.  And raspberries we got!   Eight pounds of them in three gallon buckets, picked by Cathy, Anna, Gabe, William, and me. (not Theresa, as she's in N.C. right now, visiting relatives with Aunt Nina.)

 We'd never gone on a berry picking spree before, but everyone took to it like naturals. Before the middle of the first row, everyone was hunting and picking like a well-trained crew of miners -- thrilling to the find of a "good berry branch" as if we were picking diamonds. Or rubies.  Juicy sweet rubies!  It was all I could do to make sure they weren't all eaten before they made it to the buckets!

Here's what we've turned the raspberries into so far.

Scrumptious!!  Highly recommend the following recipe.  Can also be made without the raspberries.

  • Heavenly Raspberry Mocha Brownies

  • 1 cup sugar 
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil (we used coconut oil)
  • 1/4 cup coffee low-fat yogurt (doesn't have to be coffee flavored)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • large egg whites, lightly beaten (can also be made with the whole egg, yolk and all)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour 
  • 1/3 cup Dutch process cocoa (we used regular ol' Cocoa)
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso or 2 teaspoons instant coffee granules 
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Cooking spray 
  • 3 cups fresh (or frozen) raspberries, divided (can be omitted)


  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Combine flour and next 4 ingredients (flour through salt) in a medium bowl, and add flour mixture to sugar mixture, stirring just until moist. Gently stir in 1 cup of fresh raspberries Pour mixture into a 9-inch square baking pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375° for 25 minutes. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Serve with raspberries on top. (And vanilla bean icecream!)

World's Easiest and Most Healthful Raspberry Jam

(We made this as a refrigerator jam, and didn't prepare it for canning)

1.5 cups raspberries
3 Tbs chia seeds
2 tbs honey (or a little more, to taste)
3 Tbs water


Cook raspberries on low for app. 5 minutes, then crush with a fork (or potato masher).
Add chia seeds, honey, and water; stir.
Pour into jar, let cool, add lid, and refrigerate to cool (about an hour).
That's it!

Here's how we did it, though:

12 cups raspberries
1 1/3 chia seeds
1 cup honey

(We eliminated the water because our berries were so juicy, but you'd add app. 1 1/3 cups to follow the recipe exactly)

Then, proceed with the above directions, but have someone stand guard over the cooling jam so that it's not all eaten before it has a chance to cool... This made about 6 1/2 pints.

(DIdn't get a picture of the pretty little jars of jam...  Gave away half of it and ate the rest before I had a chance!  Delicious on toast, on peanut butter sandwiches, and in Quinoa!)

Blowing a raspberrystrawberry or making a Bronx cheer is to make a noise that may signify derision, real or feigned. It may also be used in childhood phonemic play either solely by the child or by adults towards a child to encourage imitation to the delight of both parties. It is made by placing the tongue between the lips and blowing to produce a sound similar to . In the terminology of phonetics, this sound can be described as an unvoiced linguolabial trill [r̼̊]. It is never used in human language phonemically (e.g., to be used as a building block of words), but the sound is widely used across human cultures.
The nomenclature varies by country. In the United States, Bronx cheer is sometimes used; otherwise, in the U.S. and in other English-speaking countries, it is known as a raspberry, rasp, or razz  

Monday, October 20, 2014

Monday. Ugh.

(This is totally me, right down to the hairdo this morning...)

Anybody else out there wonder about the coincidence of the onset of insomnia with the absence of infants in the house?  Now that I could sleep if I wanted to, I can't sleep.  Heaven's idea that more rosaries need to be said, I reckon... ?

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Stink Bugs: Top of the Food Chain

Can you stand another kid story?  (I have a million of 'em and they just keep coming...)

Pretty much every morning, bright and early, after Dan leaves for work and before everyone else is stirring, William climbs into bed with me for a snuggle and some conversation.  This is a habit that his older siblings sneer at a little, but I grab hold of it and hold it close with with both hands.  This little guy is my last baby and he's growing fast; too soon he'll be too grown up to snuggle with Mommy. (=sigh= I miss all my *littles* when they're big...)

Anyway, this morning after a good tickle, William and I somehow landed on the topic of predators and prey.  (I'm not sure how we got there; we started out talking about how we didn't remember our dreams last night.)

"So mice are pretty much the bottom of the food chain," William deduced after we discussed how many critters out there depend on them for sustenance (or at least appetizers).  "So, what's at the top of the food chain?"

"I'd say lions were up there," I said.

"But people shoot lions,"  William added.

Stink but:  top of the food chain
"And lions eat people, too, though,"  I had to mention, "so I guess they share top spot."

"Yep," he agreed, "lions and people -- and stink bugs."

"What?  Stink bugs? How do you figure that, William?"

"Well, nothing eats stink bugs.  They might even be at the top of the food chain, the way I'm thinking."

So, mark it down, folks.  Top of the food chain:  Stink bugs, followed by Lion and Man, sharing second place.

Friday, October 17, 2014

A Gallon of Salt?

That's it? No wonder they lost the battle!

Gabriel's astonished response to the following paragraph:

Little by little, the Continental Congress realized that concilation with England was impossible. In the fall, a force under the command of Benedict Arnold was ordered off through the Maine woods toward Canada, with instructions to take Quebec.  Not a word was heard for weeks, until finally a message arrived in Philadelphia that Arnold was besieging Quebec.  Then word came of the outcome.  The Americans had launched a gallant assault on the city through the driving snow on the last day of the year.  Arnold had been wounded and the attack had failed, the first great American military disaster of the war. (Christ and the Americas by Anne W. Americas)

Maybe need to clean out your ears, Gabey?
The Battle of Quebec 
 Wherein the fellow in front is apparently carrying a bag of...  salt?

Filed under: How did these people get so weird? 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


This kid.
8 going on 38.
William and I were having an amicable debate this morning.  He wanted to know how to spell Sigaro.

"Sigaro?  Don't you mean Figaro?" I asked.

"No, It's Sigaro, " he said.  And you have to know this about William; he is always absolutely sure about everything.  "Sigaro, " he repeated, looking me dead in the eye, lips pressed together. "Like in the cartoon."

"Well, you know, William, " I answered, equally 100% sure of myself (because he got that from me,...)  it is actually Figaro."  He lifted an eyebrow at me, so I added, "And I'll prove it to you."

I got on my trusty old laptop and searched out the Figaro cartoon. No sense in explaining and searching out the real-life opera, right?  I could prove him wrong using his own resources. So, here ya go.

Check it out. Remember this one?

( Hang in to the end, with the shrinking head bit... )


"HA!"  I said  in triumph with motherly dignity.  "I haven't been watching Bugs Bunny Cartoons for 45 years for nothin'!"


"Whatever, William.  Old age comes with wisdom.  Just accept it."

"But, Mommy," he said, and he looked at me with a certain long-lashed smile of his that warns of approaching sarcasm.  "I wouldn't call you old.  Flattery works better.  And as for wisdom..." He paused for effect here. .. "Let me just say this.  The cartoon I'm thinking about has Sylvester in it."

Hm.  Sylvester?  I couldn't pull that one up in my memory, so we looked it up:


Sigh...  Yeah. Very obvious that lisped S, isn't it? ("lithped eth?")

So now I'm eating crow, having been bested by an eight-year old...  who knows cartoons better after only eight years than I do after 45  --  and who challenges his mother's wisdom in debating cartoons with an eight-year-old, to begin with.

But, my son, he's a gracious winner.  "It's OK," he told me, after being proven right.  "Don't feel bad.  It's not wisdom, just memory that you're losing."

Thanks, William.  I'll get you next time; you'd better watch your back...