Thursday, September 30, 2010


We are in the middle of a deluge of rain from two different systems which came one right after another. It was warm, weird and very wet out today. I snapped these two pics last night before I snapped up a plateful of goodness, so here they are.

Sweet red peppers with Italian bread and anchovy stuffing

The typical salad served at my house several times a week.

I hope everyone is safe and dry this evening, as we say good-bye to September - already!! I can scarcely believe it.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Tiny crab apples against the background of the dying garden
Some things have begun their inevitable decay as we now find ourselves in the dying of the year. The garden, tired and overgrown, yet produces some tomatoes, peppers, green beans and herbs, for which I am most thankful. Is it a metaphor to say that we, who have left youth behind and are steadily on our own inexorable march have still yet something to offer, some fruit to produce? I like to think of life being like that. Some of these garden offerings didn't even begin to take off until the intense heat of summer was over. Now that's an analogy to ponder!
Roses from my flower beds

As you might guess from reading any of this blog, I am a person quite in tune with the seasons and the mysteries of the natural world. I like to decorate the house seasonally, change out furnishings, and eat what is in season. I think it is very healthy and rewarding to live according to the natural rhythms of life. There is a time and a place to do everything, and this especially is good for children and for those whose emotions have been strained, or are otherwise under some kind of pressure. Wouldn't people and society in general be more well-adjusted if they got up with the sun and went to bed at a reasonable hour, so that their bodies could repair themselves at the optimum time for doing so? For more information on this topic and many related to it, click here

I also think this would improve our shared life, since people would feel better and thus be more productive and less anti-social. Couples would be in bed together instead of one surfing the web while the other falls asleep in front of the TV. There would just be a lot less trouble for folks to get into, and a lot less money spent on foolishness.

The season we are now in lends itself to settling down earlier anyways. Fall is the time that the outward turns inward. We gather the harvest in, we bring the lawn furniture and trappings of summer in for the winter, we ourselves settle in due to shorter days and cooler temperatures. I happen to love this. Today is a dark and rainy day, so I've got my electric candles on in the windows and a Yankee candle burning in here. The fragrance is called Farmers Market and its pretty yummy. I made my hubby his good Irish oatmeal, and I know what I am making for supper tonight. 

This is when I start using my oven again and I have an old recipe that I will be making.It is an Italian dish that my mother used to make in the fall when the big, red sweet peppers are at their finest. I stuff them and bake them with a stuffing that has a bit of anchovy in it - you cannot really tell what it is but it makes it delicious. (Please do not mention this to the kids, OK? In all these years, they haven't found out about the anchovies or the chicken feet I use when I make up some serious chicken broth). It is baked with a bit of red sauce covering it, then we add a little more along with some grated Parmesan, at the table. I will probably just serve this with a really crisp Romaine salad.
Tomorrow perhaps I can update this post with a picture of the stuffed peppers. I definitely should have taken a pic of the golumpki from Bob's birthday supper last week. Another oven dish that turned out so nicely.

Here are some other things going on in my home this week:

The roses pictured here are cut from my beds - I went out early yesterday morning and dead-headed several, and picked these beauties to grace my counter. I love the way they smell - there is just nothing quite so special as fresh roses, in my view.

We finally got our youngest over to the eye doc for a check up and new contacts. That is a load off my mind. His eyes have not changed - another good thing! We don't have to replace his glasses which he uses when he is at home, and just need to buy contacts. We went to a new place that opened, called America's Best Eyeglasses and Contacts; they charge 99 dollars, which covers a yearly eye exam for three years, with additional exams (say, for an eye infection) as necessary. Then they give you a discount on the contacts/glasses. We also paid an extra 15 dollars so that our son could get the exam where they look behind the eyes without having to dilate them (a new process, I guess). Awesome!

I am trying to set up the same son for his SAT test. He doesn't want to take this, so we are having a little back and forth about it. He is wonderful student, taking college preparatory courses but he hasn't sold himself on the idea of actually going to college. So this needs prayer and discernment for all involved.

My friend JoAnn is going on a woman's retreat at our church this weekend and so I am involved with doing something on her behalf which I am not at liberty to discuss right now, just in case she reads this post!
I reorganized my freezer and shelves of canned goods (out in the garage), and inventoried these along with the pantry so I knew exactly where I stood before going to the commissary yesterday and bringing back tons of supplies. It had been awhile since I was able to do this, and it was just such a blessing to be able to finally get there and restock.  Now I can bake and do everything I have been planning on. In the process of going through stuff, I also was able to put together several bags of  food for the food bank. From what I read in our paper, it is in dire need of donations right now, with even folks who used to donate to it having to line up to ask for food from it!!

So I gathered some cans of things I had bought in case we had that hurricane, and also took one of everything that we had two of, and put those in the bags. I felt that the Lord was specifically instructing me to do that, so it felt good to be obedient to His call.

As well as food, I have a large bag of clothing to donate, probably across the street at the Salvation Army. Some things that are too big (yay), and some stuff of the boys'. I will do this today, as yesterday I had the pleasure of going shopping with my grown daughter and son, and she drove her car, so my errands are waiting till today.

I also applied for a couple of jobs - a time consuming experience, for sure. 

Monday night I picked beans, basil and hot peppers from the garden and made a wonderful, hot and spicy vegetable soup with chicken broth, the aforementioned veggies, onions, fresh parsley, garlic, crushed tomatoes, chunks of chicken, sea salt, and acine de pepe pasta. I have been having allergy problems which affect my sinuses, and boy does that kind of soup (especially spiced up with those fresh off the vine, little red peppers) minister to my condition!

Yesterday, upon taking inventory, I saw that for some reason I had two opened boxes of whole wheat rotini pasta, and I knew I had some chicken breast meat left over from the night before, so I made a pasta and chicken salad with shredded cheddar cheese, onions, broccoli, carrot, green and red pepper, parsley, and my homemade mayonnaise. I served the leftover soup alongside this, with Italian bread.

See, this is why none of them can stay mad at me for long. They get hungry, and that's when I get them, ha, ha!

I am going to a young college lady today in math and also help her with her report which she has to present in front of her English class. I am actually looking forward to that, more so than I  am in doing some more weekly housecleaning chores. But once I get going in them, I tend to not want to stop, so its all good!

Now I am off to start those chores, so I will end this tale of a happy housewife here. Lord willing, to be continued..................
View from the front porch

Thursday, September 23, 2010


At breakfast this morning, putting on that little smile for the camera

Oh Bob, I really appreciate the fact that I have you in my life and that you eat (mostly) whatever I put in front of you with no complaints (99% of the time). I finally have gotten you to eat oatmeal in the morning and so I try to serve you the finest Irish oatmeal with real maple syrup because the king of the castle should have his kingly gruel. Also, it lowers cholesterol and maple syrup has hardly any fructose in it, which is also helpful in avoiding diabetes.

So yes, I have known you lo these many years and you just keep getting better and better. This is easy for you, considering the first time I laid eyes on you I was a little girl and you and your brother were dropping ice balls on my father's car as we passed under the bridge near my house. I watched you running away as my father and brother set off on foot to try to catch you, and knew you were a bad boy, but little did I know you would someday become my bad boy!

You don't look like such a bad boy now, do you?

I could say that time has tamed you, but I'd rather think that love has. Thank you for being my true love, and thank you for given me five beautiful children - four wild boys, and one wild girl. Now let's go get that chuck roast that is on sale at the store and have them grind it up so I can make you your favorite - galumpkis - not sure if that's how it's spelled but it means stuffed cabbage rolls. And after that, we'll do your favorite thing, which is to wander through the aisles at the Home Depot. You deserve a speed boat, a new Camaro and so many other things, but thanks for settling for Home Depot and me.

Friday, September 17, 2010


So often the gifts we get come wrapped up in a shoddy disguise, so that a careless person might not recognize them for what they are.

In the past few weeks, while I have gone through the doctor visits, the surgery on my face wherein the kindly surgeon removed a basal skin cancer tumor and a goodly chunk of tissue, and my self-imposed sequestering due to my funny looking face, I have been marveling at the gifts I have been given.

Have you ever gone through a period of time when you just didn't want to have to do anything outside your front door? I mean, even things that you enjoy and signed up for? You don't want to quit them entirely, but you just wish you could have a guilt-free break? Well, I am taking a guilt-free (well, as guilt-free as an Italian Catholic can ever be) break. From my little part-time job of cleaning the church, from the choir, from the other ministry meetings, and from running the roads altogether. And last Sunday, still with a monstrous bandage, I stayed home from mass and a dear friend brought Communion to me at home.

Ah, peace and tranquility. And naps, including the option of going back to bed in the morning after my son leaves for school. I am seven days post-op and hoping to milk this for seven more. Am I terrible? Maybe so, but I have dutifully refrained from my generation's mantra of "if it feels good, do it", for lo some forty-plus years. Now I am finally taking a sip of  the nectar of self-indulgence. Yummy. But also very interesting when you consider that we all have projects and interests that usually we neglect because we don't have time to do them.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the great crab apple escapade. I had washed them up really well due to this gray stuff that gets all over rooftops, sides of houses and tree fruit. Its just a film of dark patches, but it was on the crab apples. So I washed and rubbed them in water, vinegar, peroxide and more water and sealed them up in gallon bag and refrigerated them. Well, I didn't have time to process them before my surgery but a few days ago I did. See?

The Ball Blue Book was my mom's (from about the time I was in high school).
It is as delicious as it is pretty.

I also picked about two dozen granny smith apples off my little tree in the back yard, and baked a pie with some of them. And yesterday, we took on the onerous job of cutting out all the coupons that have been piling up all summer from the Sunday papers. That job was a natural offshoot of the primary job of going through things that had built up in the bookcase I keep in the kitchen.

Other good things have happened in the kitchen this past week. I straightened and organized my pantry closet and my freezer. We have had the big freezer unplugged all summer and have been disciplining ourselves to only buy and keep what would fit into the one that is part of the refrigerator.

Where I live, they raise the electricity rates in the summer to capitalize on people using their air conditioning, so therefore it makes sense not to keep a freezer running out in the hot garage during this time. When they lower the rates on October 1st, I will probably stock up some meats from the farm. They are from organically raised, free-range, pasture-fed stock. More expensive than the supermarket stuff, but, hey I don't gamble, smoke, go to the beauty salon or spend much on my wardrobe, so I think it's OK.

Now with staying out of the stores and having the food organized, I have been putting together lots of good meals and treats with what's on hand. Its good to use up your stuff a couple of times a year.

Yesterday, for example, there were five people here around lunchtime, so I whipped up a smoothie from this mix/frozen fruit pack I had gotten on sale awhile back. I mixed a raw farm egg in with that and some almond milk. They didn't know about the egg, so don't say anything. Then I pulled out a container of chili that I had frozen last July, made with my garden tomatoes and peppers. I heated that up, and made a green salad, and that was lunch.

I had been saving this frozen package of homemade pasta that I had bought from the mom and pop Italian store when I visited back home last month. So last night I boiled that up and served it with a "sauce" I made from diced bacon pieces, olive oil, onions, garlic, some pieces of fresh broccoli and carrots all sauteed together, to which I added basil, oregano, parsley, hot pepper flakes, shredded mozzarella and grated locatelli cheese. Another tossed salad accompanied that, and we called it supper.

Now today after blogging, I plan to start filling up some giveaway bags. Ever since watching a couple shows on TV about people hoarding so much stuff in their homes that they become unable to function, I have become more motivated to really look around this place and see the clutter that I've become used to "not seeing". The beginning of fall is a great time to take stock of everything, isn't it? The weather is turning cooler, we make the transition to warmer clothes, we want to change the decor and clean things up outside, and prepare the garden beds for winter. It is the perfect time now to purge everything that needs it, and then clean and polish up the house and furnishings for our wonderful holidays and cozy time indoors.

So, in conclusion, I do not wish a patch of skin cancer on you, but I do hope you will make the most of everything that comes your way, realizing that "... we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to [his] purpose." I hope that is you, my friend.

The best thing to come out of all of this, I have saved for last. I have never been one to bask in the sun, but I am fair skinned and have had a couple of bad sunburns in the past. That's all it takes, apparently. The sun is wonderful and what we need to do is to build up our exposure to it in small increments day by day, allowing ourselves to have a light tan. No extremes, no "baking" out there, and judiciously using protective hats and clothing, which in itself is another reason for modest dressing!

I say all this to explain that skin cancer was not on my radar. Once this happened, it caused me to laser focus on someone very precious to me who does sunbathe, has spent a fair amount of time in tanning booths, and very little time at the doctor's since she does not have health insurance. Well, I insisted she go to the dermatologist because she also has a lot of moles. He didn't charge much and I was happy to pay for it for her. Well, it turns out she has a mole on the side of her breast which the doctor says has to come off. He stared at that thing for the longest time and said, "I don't think it's malignant, but when I have to scrutinize something that long to convince myself that it's not, then it needs to come off". This is really scary because he had just finished telling us about a girl he is treating whose melanoma has spread into her lymph nodes. She is 16 years old! May Jesus have mercy!

So it's off to the plastic surgeon. Please pray with me that this is something that will also turn out for the good, that it will not be malignant, but will make this dear person wake up to a lot of things in her own life that need to be purged or that need to be spruced up!

Here ends the tale of the basal skin cancer cells with silver linings, but I urge you to go for the gold and take care of yourself and your skin!

Thursday, September 02, 2010


I am trying to think of everything that I might possibly need to do before tomorrow night when Hurricane Earl passes by. Right now, he is indicating that he'll keep his distance like a gentleman, but you never know what might happen in the next 24 hours. So I have gone into full battle mode with my preparations. We are stocked up on non-perishable food, alternate lighting supplies, a generator, extra gas for it, a full can of propane for the grill, batteries, water storage and my Berkey light (a water filter so effective that you could put pond water in it and come out with absolutely pristine drinking water), paper plates, cups, towels, flatware, plastic bags, cars all gassed up, supplies for the pets, first-aid and meds. I always go way overboard and you might ask yourself why.

Why, indeed! I assure you, the most compelling reasons are that I am rather obsessive-compulsive, eccentric, and always up for a little drama, and that is the plain truth.  And you just never know if and when the real deal may befall us. And then we'll be ready to shelter and care for the seven of us, and maybe even be a benefit to our neighbors. You see, at the end of our little nub of a neighborhood sit we on a little mound that is 18 feet above sea level. Not impressive in the least until you consider that pretty much everything else in town is either at sea level or below (for real). So that means that unless we are directly hit by a catastrophic hurricane, we will not flood; however, it also means that we become an island. Nobody in, nobody out. Unless we float. 

Is it mere coincidence that we also have a canoe and two little rubber boats? Well, what do you think? But what we would most likely do is stay put for awhile, and carry on till things normalize or the Lord comes back. And I wouldn't be surprised to see either of those two things occur within about a week.

Now, tomorrow, I plan to scrub the bathtubs really well and before bed, I will fill them with water, which is standard practice whenever we are facing one of these storms. That way, you at least have some washing up water you can access if the power fails long enough for us to lose water pressure in the faucets. I also need to run a bunch of canning jars through the dishwasher so that they can be accessed in the unfortunate even of needing to cook up and can a bunch of food before it spoils.  Also, I will want to vacuum everywhere and make sure everything else that can and should be laundered is done and dried before the storm hits. And of course dishes done and kitchen cleaned for the night, early. 
I made this little rule up because about ten years ago, I had made an enormous turkey dinner the night that a hurricane hit us, and was forced to greet the newly imposed stone age with a kitchen full of dirty dishes, and a washer and dryer full of wet and mostly wet clothes, respectively. I also had a wallet that was, lets just say, below sea level itself, and a houseful of highly spirited children, five of my own and two that were left in my care for about ten days. Needless to say, the day after the hurricane was hot, sweaty, exhausting and seemed to last for about two years! I was very discouraged, but out of that dark pit, vowed like Scarlet O'Hara digging through the dirt for that spare potato, that ah would nevah be in that position again!!

So yeah, kids grow up and so did I, but just a bit. I now know enough to get things in order ahead of time, keep the menu a bit more tame tomorrow, and just simply give myself permission to relax for the duration. But I do hope we get a bit of a show from Mother Nature and Mr. Earl, though I hope everyone on the east coast is kept under God's protection, no matter what.

After that, I hope we can get down to business and break out the fall decorations without breaking into a sweat. Happy September!