Welcome back to another Family Friday. It has been a week of Daddy not being at work, for the most part, although he still has to go to the jail. The patients there are kind of a captive audience, so someone has to provide them with healthcare.

Since he has had nothing to do but lounge around like a lazy bum, Daddy was planning on writing a blog all about our Easter Friday (a.k.a. Friday of the Octave of Easter, a.k.a. Bacon Friday) breakfast. We see how well that panned out. Too much lounging around, I guess.

So here’s the cliff notes version. Most Fridays of the year Catholics are obligated (or in the U.S. “encouraged”) to abstain from meat as an act of sacrifice, in commemoration of the day that Our Lord offered up His sacred Flesh on the cross. However, since the solemnity of Easter extends across 8 days, from Easter Sunday to Divine Mercy Sunday, every day within that octave is a solemnity, and Catholics are obligated to feast, fest or otherwise rejoice on solemnities (In the Church calendar, when a solemnity and a fast coincide on the same day, the solemnity always trumps the fast).

So, this is the one Friday of the year we are allowed, nay, even encouraged, even obligated, to celebrate rather than fast. This one Friday of all Fridays of the year looks forward to the resurrection, when God will wipe every tear from the eye, and fill every longing of every heart. To symbolize this, we do our best to fulfill our longings for bacon. To that end, I give you…

St. Peter’s Latkas!

You will need:

3-4 slices of bacon, diced.

one half medium onion, minced.

1 cup leftover mashed potatoes.

2 eggs.

A bag of shredded cheese.

A can of bacon grease,

And a WELL seasoned cast-iron griddle.

Heat a cast iron skillet and melt a generous lump of bacon grease. Fry bacon, potatoes and onions together with the eggs, until the whole thing has a sticky, dough consistency.

Season the cast-iron griddle for at least six months with a variety of oils, primarily butter and bacon grease. Then heat to medium high and drop 2 – 3 pairs of golf ball sized piles of shredded cheese onto the griddle. Fry until they melt into gooey flat puddles, and start to brown on the bottom. Take some of the fried potato and squish that into a patty about the size of the puddle of fried cheese. Drop this patty on one of the cheese puddles as soon the puddle has started to brown on the bottom, flip a second cheese puddle on top of the potato patty, and then flip the whole thing a couple more times until the cheese has melted into the potato.

I call them St. Peter’s Latkas in reference to the latkes eaten by many Ashkenazi Jews (not too dissimilar from potato pancakes of many different kinds the world over) and the dream of Peter recorded in Acts 10:9-16.

Just as this is a completely non-Kosher dish, (dairy and meat mixed, not to mention the bacon) and therefore “breaks” the Jewish dietary laws, it also contains meat which we eat on a Friday, “breaking” the obligation to abstain from meat on Fridays.

Of course it does not really break any laws. It reminds us that just as the Jewish dietary laws have been fulfilled in the New Covenant and so are no longer binding, someday our fasts and abstinence will be fulfilled in the wedding feast of the Lamb, and so will know longer be binding on us. It will then be our duty and our joy to feast on the goodness of the Lord, and St. Peter’s Latkas are a little reminder of that in the here and now.

But now, enough about that. Let’s get to the real “meat” of the blog.

Last Friday we spent most of the day in the garden, trying to get it to grow some darn veggies. The soil was so impoverished that I ended up making the decision to break the bank. The compost bank, that is.

Of course I had help.

Two wheelbarrows of black gold later, and the garden soil is not quite so dry and dusty.

Everyone was too dirty to come inside for lunch, but Mommy provided us a delicious picnic lunch outside on the picnic table.

Oh yeah, that’s right. Friday was the day we got the pool down and filled it up. Ellie has been waiting for this for ever!

So much so that she couldn’t even wait to put her suit on when the pool was full.

And now it’s 9:00, and we are about to turn into parental pumpkins, so time for the short and sweet version…

And I am literally nodding off as I type this, so good night, sleep tight, and preemptively bite the bed bugs back.

God Bless.

There is a Chinese proverb I heard once, from an Army buddy who studied Chinese once upon a time (so take that for what it’s worth). It went:

May you live to see interesting times.

(Alleged) Chinese Proverb, quoted in “Things I heard in the Army.”

Well, we’re certainly seeing some interesting times around here. However, here’s the thing about that proverb, as it was explained to me, is that it is not a blessing. It is actually a curse.

But more on that later.

Last weekend was a drill weekend which means Daddy was MIA, and Mommy was home with the Girls.

Shenanigans quickly ensued.

We still managed to get some work done. Real work that is, not Army work.

We had some of the guys and from Daddy’s team over for pizza, along with their gals, and we had a good time chatting with them.

On Sunday we had to go to separate Masses due to scheduling. Daddy went to Saint Andrew in Sumner and saw this little gem.

It was quite a welcome sight, since we are running low on Holy Water at our house, and the rest of the Archdiocese has apparently banned Holy Water because it was spreading coronavirus or something. I appreciated that St. Andrew managed to find a sanitary solution.

Drill ended reasonably early on Sunday, so Daddy came home to enjoy the last few hours of the weekend with his girls before the crazy started over again.

He came home to find toenail painting in progress, much to everyone’s delight.

This week, as everyone is already undoubtedly aware, the COVID-19 has gone from being a mildly entertaining new topic of controversy on the internet, to being a media hype fest, to being a real threat to lives and well-being. As it continues to spread across Europe, it has already crushed Italy’s entire medical and economic infrastructure, is well on its way to overwhelm much of the rest of Europe, and is turning America upside down as well.

We just so happen to live at the epicenter of the American COVID-19 pandemic. People are being told to stay home from work, schools are closed, the resulting economic and child-care crunch is not even close to being solved for most people. This will have a huge impact on the ability of healthcare workers to deliver healthcare, since they will also have to scramble to find childcare options for their kids. In a society of dual-income households (the vast majority of healthcare workers) this will inevitably mean congregating kids together into childcare centers, the very thing the school closure was meant to avoid.

Daddy and Mommy are both health care workers, so it is very unlikely that we will be getting sent home from work. Indeed, the possibility for Ryan, at least, is for increased work hours as this thing ramps up.

Still we try to maintain what normalcy we can.

And also we pray. Seriously, prayer should not just be your response to a crisis. Prayer should be your life breath, the backdrop of the daily rhythm of your life. Prayer should be your first action upon waking, and your last before falling asleep.

Not a day should go by without entrusting our cares and worries and responsibilities to God. This must be practiced in the little trials and tribulations of life, down to the tiniest, (e.g. not being able to find the right color paint, review at work, what our friends think about us, whether there will be enough pizza to feed everyone, etc.) This MUST be practiced, every day, and every moment of every day, until it becomes second nature. There is no trial or frustration so small that it cannot be offered up and entrusted to God’s care.

In this way, “Jesus, I trust in you,” becomes as natural and as life-giving as breathing. When a real trial comes your way, like a deadly virus, financial collapse, a deployment, losing a business, or even the death of a loved one, you can say it and mean it smoothly and easily.

The 500 Lb deadlift that breaks and flies off the ground as smoothly as if it were 225, is built by countless 225 Lb deadlifts practiced as seriously as if they were each 500 Lbs. At competition time, it is too late. You must either perform, or break.

In the same way, the act of surrendering our lives, our families, our livelihood, into God’s hands, is build in countless acts of surrendering our annoyances, our scheduling conflicts, and our peevishness into His hands as seriously and whole heartedly as if our lives depended on it. More than our lives depend upon it. Our souls depend upon it.

This way, when you see this sign on the door of your parish church…

And go back to the horrible place during deployment when you could not go to Mass or confession for months at a time, you can respond, “Jesus, I trust in you.”

If you live in a diocese with the sacraments available, I urge you to let this spur you to treat them as the priceless treasures they are. Receive them on behalf of those countless millions around the world who can’t, and the millions more who could receive them, but choose not to out of carelessness, indifference, malice or ignorance.

At any rate, Rosary Ruck will continue as usual, and Daddy and Uncle Adam will be making extra holy hours.

So there you have it. Interesting times.

Y’all have a great weekend. Pray for us. God Bless!

Last Friday, when Mommy got home from work, the girls were insistent that they needed to make supper. So Mommy let them, while she went and put her feet up with a good book and a nice glass of Martinelli’s sparkling white…


Right! Because those two can totally be trusted in the kitchen, cooking, by themselves. Nothing could possibly go wrong with that plan. As always, when kids decide to help it’s actually more work for the grown-up involved.

I suppose it’s rather the same when we decide to “help” God. He shakes His head and thinks, “more work for me,” but He never discourages us from trying.

It was an outdoors kind of weekend, last weekend. The weather was nice long enough for Mommy and Daddy to get our taxes done (I know, boring grown-up stuff, right?) and then get home and get some things done outside.

It was a Saturday, of course, so that means all hands on deck.

Moving straw bales for our straw bale garden.

It’s never too early to begin building muscles. Big Sissie hauled the straw bales across the rough lawn in her little read wagon all by herself! Not bad for a scrawny little five year old!

Big Sis’s other job was picking up the residue of the green manure after Daddy mowed it down.

(Don’t worry, it’s not actually manure. Green manure is the term for a cover crop that is grown only to be chopped down and composted or mulched in place. This did not make her like the job any better.

Little Sis is only minimal help in the pushing department, as of yet. She is much better at picking up twigs.

In fact, she spent almost an hour trotting back and forth with little fistfuls of twigs until she had cleaned almost all the sticks up off the lawn and built a pile in the fire pit.

Big Sissy helped, but she only likes moving the big sticks. She gets distracted with the little ones and leaves them scattered all over the yard.

See Daddy?! I’m using my muscles!

Mommy also got in on the outside working action, insisting upon climbing up and taking the covers off the rain gutters, since, now that we have the patio cover, the rain that rushes down over the gutter cover is a bit of a nuisance.

Yes, I did let my pregnant wife get up on a ladder. Get over it. She’s pregnant, not an invalid.

Afterwards she went in and made some delicious breads. While Daddy and Uncle Adam got to work on the two main projects of the afternoon. One was building a planting box around one of the pillars of the patio cover.

Edmund is a budding young “soil relocation engineer.”

They got the footer dug out quite nicely, while Daddy worked on cutting the boards.

Borrowed the guide-clamp and the saw table from Papa, who has all the best tools. They worked great, except we still couldn’t manage to cut the corner posts to precise 45 degree angles with just the clamps and a skil saw.

The other project of the day was the straw bale garden. Daddy already had the bales out and in position, and the posts driven. Then Uncle Adam put up the trellis.

This is an experiment for us, this year, as we have never done a straw bale garden before, so we are not sure how it will go. Stay tuned. Don’t bale on us now. We’ll keep you…


The other exciting happening was the discovery that the neighbors across the back fence bought a pair of goats to mow their back yard for them. When Ellie first caught sight of them she came running across the lawn:
Ellie: Daddy! Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!
Me: What is it, Ellie?
Ellie: I so scared of that! (pointing at the goat on the other side of the fence.)
Me: Ellie, do you know what that is?
Ellie, fearfully: No I don’t.
Me: Those are goats.
Ellie: Oh! I hate goats!
Me: No, you can’t hate goats. They’re delicious!
Ellie, cheerfully: Oh! I love goats!

I guess it’s true, we fear what we do not understand. An hour later all four of the cousins were ripping up our brand new tiger lily shoots and trying to feed them to the goats through the fence.

Sunday was a very quiet, stay-at-home kind of day. So quiet, in fact, that we even watched “The Quiet Man” (our favorite RomCom, as the kids call them these days).

Daddy also fried up a mess of butter-beets… and ate them all. Turned out Mommy wanted some too, but was busy playing Pretty Pretty Princess with the two exceptionally good looking Royal Girl-Children.

When Daddy makes a snack he doesn’t…

beet around the bush! 😀

Then we had more beets for supper, along with chicken, beans and bacon (not to be confused with bacon-n-beans), and risotto.

It wasn’t until Wednesday that Daddy and Little Sis were able to get up to Deedee and Papa’s house again to cut the corner pieces for the planting box. What Daddy and Uncle Adam couldn’t accomplish with hours of puttering with skil saw and a clamp, Papa was able to show Daddy how to do in twenty minutes on his table saw.

Right tool for the right job.

And then Wednesday night Daddy and Mommy got it put together after work, just in time to rush out to Ash Wednesday Mass.

And that’s all for this week, folks. Have a great weekend. Keep us in your prayers. Have a wonderful lent. God Bless!

Last week may not have been a great week to skip Family Friday. A lot happened that week, and a lot happened this week, so this is going to be a long FF.

Grandma Ann Strikes Again! This time with matching “Madeline” dresses.

Holy Double Trouble, Batman!

The week was busy. In fact, it was a blur. We managed to catch a few photos, however.

AS the girls grow older, surprising personality traits start to emerge. Big Sister still can’t sit still to save her life, unless she is painting or drawing. That will reliably keep her stationary and (relatively) quiet for 15 – 30 minutes. Perhaps that’s why Little Sis likes to paint together. She gets to make all the noise for once.

Also, Big Sis has no idea where anything is at any given time, anywhere in the house. Things she uses all the time, like her back pack, her water bottle, etc. just get left wherever she happens to drop them, and she can never remember where that was. So far not unusual for a four-year-old. But suddenly she has decided that this particular drawer must be neat and organized.

This is where the tooth cleaning and hair doing supplies live.

One night she just started organizing it, putting everything in rows and lines, and she became quite upset when Mommy and Daddy put things back in the drawer somewhere other than where she had them.

As they grow older, they also, occasionally, have birthdays. One such birthday occurred last week. That’s right, Little Sis is now officially two-ified.

Probably her favorite birthday present was her very own brand new rucksack! She refuses to go anywhere outside the house without it, and even carries it around inside the house for fun.

Now she’s just like Sissie!

She doesn’t take the “terrible two’s” as seriously as Big Sis did, having a much more laid back personality (thanks be to God!)

Daddy had one day off in the middle of the week which was not taken up with shopping and catching up on errands and online training. So he and Little Sis took the next step in the great sheet mulch experiment. That is, they seeded the lawn with night crawlers.

Unfortunately, in the days since then, or rather in the nights since then, the temp has been dropping pretty drastically down to the low thirties. We’ve had some solid frosts, and are expecting even colder temps this weekend. Hopefully those worms were able to burrow deep enough, fast enough to survive. Otherwise, that was some expensive soil amendment. But it was still fun.

We had the cousins over on Saturday so Uncle Adam and Aunt Maryanne could go on a date. Despite the chill in the air we made them play outside most of the afternoon,

While Mommy made and canned carrot soup…

and cranberry sauce (not pictured). Both turned out quite well, and we have to say, the carrot soup is probably one of the most colorful things we put away on our shelves.

Then, after it got cold and dark we let the kids come inside for supper, and to watch a movie. They weren’t very interested in the movie, however, and spent most of the time playing “ring-around-a-rosie” and all falling down on the living room carpet.

Sunday was a quiet day, and we purposely kept it that way instead of trying to schedule any get-togethers or anything like that. Instead we hung out inside and outside all day, read books, played games, talked, and ate food and drank tea.

Big Sis did amazingly well at learning how to play “Ticket to Ride!”

The week leading up to Thanksgiving was busy as well, even though it was a short week. We always end up trying to shove as much of the errands and extra work into it as possible, and then there is the added planning for the big Thanksgiving meal. Fortunately, we decided to keep it simple, this year, and that turned out to be a great call. It meant that we had time to do things like go to the park in the middle of the week.

And climb trees to sing princess songs.

Yes, she is climbing trees in crocs.

We had a bit of a scare early in the week when Great-Grandma Betty had some trouble with her heart failure and had to go into the hospital. However, they got it under control very quickly, so quickly that she was able to have visitors the next day.

And she was getting up and moving around easily, and even was able to pick up Little Sis.

So we keep praying for her, but we think she is going to do all right for now.

Every once in a while, Daddy likes to try something new for breakfast on his days off.

Banana Oatmeal Breakfast Bars.

Banana Oatmeal bars were quite popular, and quite easy to prep. The only downside is the 45 minute back time, which means getting up early. Oh well. Sleep when you’re dead, right?

The most beautiful late fall weather, these days.

We are having a special guest over for the weekend. Uncle Matthew flew in the night before Thanksgiving. (Let me tell you, picking him up from SeaTac was a disaster!) Here is rare photographic evidence of him helping out in the kitchen. It is also a rare photograph of Mommy with some spare thyme on her hands.

It was a simple, quiet Thanksgiving meal, featuring crockpot turkey breast and oven roasted duck, home canned green beans, and some corn, with squash bake, pie and garlic bread from Deedee, and cookies from Dude.

Papa had to be late because he was driving Great Grandma Betty home from the hospital.

Oh, and shrimp dip.

Lots and lots of shrimp dip. This was Little Sis’ first time trying it.

And that’s about it. Thanks for tuning in. Thank God for all His marvelous blessings, spiritual and physical, big and small, noticed and unnoticed.

Have a great weekend! God Bless.

Welcome to Family Friday! Fall time is in full swing around here. It has frosted a couple of mornings this week, which was nice and autumnal. And boy have we been harvesting!

The crown of the year is harvest time, and if you cannot enjoy that, you are unlikely to enjoy anything.

John Seymour, “The Self -Sufficient Life, and how to live it.” Pg. 148.
Baby Girl enjoys harvesting apples.

We harvest most of the crop from our two dwarf braeburns.

It did not take long, and for three-year-old trees they produced pretty well.

She picked four apples all her own, and then walked around with them in her bucket taking alternate bites from each one of them.

As I said, that was the easy part. Then we were left with about a hundred apples and an already busy weekend ahead of us… I mean really busy, with thrift shopping and call for Mommy.

It’s also baby sale season again, which means cleaning, sorting and tagging old baby clothes.

And yard work and job searching social events (which turned out to be a waste of time) for Daddy.

All those apples were cored and quartered in a single nap period!

Thankfully it was Squeezo to the rescue! It turns out it is super easy to make applesauce with the squeezo. You simply quarter the apples, boil them until soft, and then run them through the squeezo. Apparently you don’t even have to remove the seeds, although Daddy didn’t know that, and removed all the seeds. Waste of time, that. The squeezo removes them all.

Apples boiling at 5 AM on a Saturday.

We decided not to post a picture of the kids operating the squeezo. Partly because of child labor laws, and partly because we were too busy supervising to take pictures.

The other bit of providential coincidence was that during her thrift shopping, Mommy found another pressure canner that was under $20! Best part is that the bottom platform that the jars rest on is shaped a little differently than the old one so it holds more jars at a time, 8 quarts vs. 5 quarts.

So Mommy and Daddy sprinted through the canning, alternating canners so that at least one was going at all times.

E1 got to help by spreading the table with towels to receive the hot jars.

In less than two hours…

A dozen pints of sweetened, six pints of spiced, and four quarts and a pint of all natural.

Yep, that was some teamwork, right there. That’s the sort of thing that will help your marriage grow.

Sunday we visited Deedee and Papa. I also happened to be Grandma Dolly’s birthday so we went to put flowers on her grave.

However, someone had already put flowers there, and there was only one flower holder, so we put them on Grandma Shirley’s and Grandpa Joe’s grave instead.

Then we went over to Dude’s house and scrounged the last of her beets, and admired her empty garden. The girls ran around and colored with chalk, and even Deedee got in on the chalk coloring action.

The new hip is really working out for her.

During the week we picked up some new bulbs for some renunculus to add to our flower mix, as well as a passiflora incarnata (passionflower var. “Maypop”) vine.

So out we went on a cold and rainy evening to plant more plants. I swear there are more plants than people at this house!

But we don’t mind the rain!

They say in the cold countries, there is no such thing as inclement weather, only insufficient clothing.

Our Maypop went against the back fence between the hammock and the apple trees. Daddy is excited to see how that does next year, since it supposed to grow up to 20 feet in a single season, blossom in May, produce edible fruits in late summer, and die back to almost nothing in winter.

No pressure, little guy.

Well, we shall see.

That fence gets half sun in early spring, but once the maple tree leaves out, forget about. The tiger lilies do really well, but so far everything else has fizzled.

The gladioli did not bloom, and only three of the sunflowers even sprouted, and they are pathetic little things.
Although the one that blossomed is quite pretty.

We’ve had a couple decent frosts this week as well, so we’ve been beginning to prepare our garden to winter. Mostly this means mulching, so Daddy and Baby Girl went to pick up some straw bales.

One of the issues we’ve been having this year with our garden is that it is on a bit of a slope (as is all of our property). The rain or the sprinkler wets the dirt and some of it washes down the hill. Then the sun bakes the top layer to dust during the hot summer days, and the dust blows away. This depletes soil really quickly. You can see the difference in the rockyness of the soil after the growing season compared to before. There are more rocks in the fall than there are in the spring because so much dirt washes and blows away during the summer.

Of course some of the mulch is doing temp duty as decoration.

To mitigate this we are going to cover crop the vegetable portion (more on that later), and are gradually working to build up the ground layer of our flower portion. But in the meantime…


While we were at it, though, we discovered that our huckleberry is coming into berry like that’s its job!

Which is very popular among the younger set.

Snack time!

Last night we ripped out all the bean vines and our few straggly corn stalks. We mulched them up with the lawnmower and threw them in the compost. The beans will provide some excellent nitrogen to balance out the carbon from all that shredded paper we’ve been dumping in recently.

The only vegetables remaining are four ambitious rutabagas, and one heroic acorn squash.

And we chopped up the remainder with hoes, preparatory to sowing our green manure ground cover.

She informed us she “Is going to do all the works you tell me to do so I can get a horse!”
We responded neither yay nor neigh. 😀

Oh, there are also the tomatoes. Yep, here it is, October, and the ginormous heirloom is loaded! It finally seems to have kicked the blossom rot, as did the bigger of the two San Marzano’s, and even our two scrawny heirlooms are all of a sudden like “I’m ’bout to do something!”

If Charlie Brown had a tomato plant, it would look like this.

So, with the frosty mornings, we have taken to covering our tomatoes with trash bags before the sun goes down.

It’s like a New York growing season. Many and many’s the time growing up Daddy had to cover a few dozen tomato pushes with black plastic every night as they set in their last fruit right before Fall started flirting with Winter.

It is great weather for homemade bread with butter, and hot mugs of cider or tea outside on the deck, and porter or stout in the evening.

Not that we very often have the time, but we try to enjoy it when we do.

And that’s all for this week. Have a great weekend, and God Bless! Keep us and Aunty Mate who is recovering from surgery in your prayers.

No, we are not bringing back the Mantilla. She is just experimenting with wearing Sissie’s skirt on her head.
Still, she does look “rahthah mahvelous, dahling.”

There are times I wonder how the human race ever survived past toddlerhood. I don’t expect toddlers have ever been other than they are, possessing more energy than judgment, and unreasonably confident of their own opinions. The fact that we all survived it is a testament to the hardihood of the species, if not necessarily to the genius and tact of parents. Indeed, I am more and more convinced every day that a great deal of maturing occurs in spite of, rather than because of, any given parenting strategy.

Ignore the basket of clean laundry on the table. It is a different basket of clean laundry than the one in Family Friday.

Everything in the picture above should be the sort of food that a human could not be picky about. We were cleaning out leftovers and we had leftover sausage, cheese, apple, and homemade pie crust. Some weeks are like that. So Ryan diced up the apple and sausage, fried it in butter, and topped it with cheese. He also wrapped apple slices in piecrust with cheese and cinnamon and baked them.

How could anyone refuse this? And yet, E1 picked out the apple and left everything else, and E2 picked out the sausage and left everything else.

All toddlers go through a picky eating stage I suppose. I sometimes muse on the possible reasons for that. Do baby monkeys do the same thing? Did our prehistoric forebears scream and throw their mammoth burgers on the cave floor when they were two and demand pterodactyl nuggets? What evolutionary or developmental purpose could it possibly serve?

Or, here is an interesting question. Did it serve an evolutionary or developmental purpose? Given that, most likely, during the vast majority of human history much of our species simply lacked the ability to provide much of a variety in the diet, particularly in agricultural societies. Most non-hunter-gatherer societies originally started out farming one or two staple crops that rotated on a seasonal basis. The majority of the diet of all but the wealthy members of urban centers likely ate the same thing, or variations on a theme, every day for most of their lives.

Also, most likely, there was a good deal less of it, not to mention the kids probably spent the bulk of their time out doors in the weather, moving and shaking with their peers in the larger social unit. Perhaps getting toddlers to clean their plate (or wooden spoon, or banana leaf, or fingers) did not present as much of a challenge to former generations of parents. The kids were hungrier, there was not an unlimited supply of choices for them to prefer (it’s hard to demand kraft mac-&-cheese when it hasn’t been invented yet) and the threat of “Eat fast or there won’t be any left” was not idle.

Also, I think it likely that parents prior to the relative prosperity of the 20th century simply didn’t concern themselves about it too much. The kids might like what was on offer, or he might not, but they weren’t going to starve themselves. They probably had fewer scruples about kids going to bed hungry.

In fact, I wonder if the “clean your plate” mantra isn’t rather a modern phenomenon, perhaps since the depression. I can see parents in the ’40’s and ’50’s who grew up with real hunger and deprivation priding themselves on their ability to put full plates in front of their kids, and subtly or not so subtly, insisting that all food be cleaned up at every meal. I can also see the arguments of those who blame our obesity epidemic (or their own obesity) in part on having been forced to clean their plates as kids. In other words, they were trained to stop eating based on an external signal (an empty plate or table) rather than an internal one (satiety).

All of this is empty speculation, which really has nothing to do with the problem at hand, i.e. how or whether to get the girls to eat when they don’t like what’s for supper.

Now mind you, we don’t go out of our way to cook things they won’t like. In fact, most of the time we take their last known likes into consideration, since that makes mealtime simpler and more pleasant for everyone. We do, however, object to having our menu dictated by a pair of pint-sized gourmands who can’t even agree to like the same things. We also object to cooking a separate menu for each person at the table. And finally, we do insist that they eat a somewhat balanced diet.

So usually we require them to eat some part of everything at the table. We serve what we consider a reasonable amount of each item, and they have a “get down pile” and a “dessert pile.” The “get down pile” is the bare minimum amount they need to eat in order to be allowed to say all-done-prayers and go about their business. It is what experience has taught us they need to eat in order to avoid the complaint of “Hungry! Meat!” (from E2) strategically at bed time. The bedtime routine is already involved enough without complicating it unnecessarily with low blood sugar and snacks, not to mention eating right before bed is not a great habit to get into.

The dessert pile is what they have to eat if they want dessert (assuming a dessert is on offer). This is based upon the theory that if you are hungry enough to want a bowl of sherbet, then you probably have room for a few more vegetables and some meat that will stay with you longer and nourish you more. And if they decide they don’t have room for that, they are welcome to do without the dessert. No hurt feelings.

It is really hard to teach most toddlers to say no to food that they really want but it is very possible to teach them how to eat food they do not want to eat. After several years of working on it, E1 can eat anything we put in front of her with only a little complaining. In this case E2 is so much easier to teach than E1 was. She doesn’t scream at the top of her lungs, at least, and she has her older sister’s example to follow most evenings. This, alas, is the burden of being the oldest. Your parents make you do it first, and then your siblings get to learn from your mistakes, if they are of the persuasion to do so.

It may seem like a lot of hassle and unnecessary thought, but there is a profound connection between how we handle ourselves in relation to food, and the whole rest of our mental and emotional and even spiritual health. The ability to say no to more food than is good for us is of obvious importance, but the ability to eat things we don’t like, cheerfully and without letting on that we don’t like them is hugely beneficial in life. For starters, it is the best way to learn to like new things. It opens up whole worlds of “acquired tastes” that are every bit worth the acquiring. It opens doors in every human culture. I cannot even count the number of times I have built bridges with people from other cultures and earned their welcome by doing absolutely nothing more than eating the food they offered me and thanking them for it. This is a very basic, but very meaningful form of courtesy, which begins the work that all courtesy is oriented towards. It takes us out of ourselves, and teaches us that we are not the center of our own little universes, but rather welcome guests in a universe that is greater, grander and more beautiful than anything we could possibly have imagined on our own.

Happy Family Friday, everyone. It has been a good week, with a good deal of Family time.

Modeling the latest in cookware (or… cook-wear?!)

Of course it wasn’t all fun and games. Poor Ellie was sick over night, throwing up all her supper and then waking up to throw up twice in the night.

Even Mommy’s new earrings can’t cheer her up 😦
But Jello really helps. (Also, ignore the basket of laundry on the end of the table. At least it’s clean laundry.)

But she was better enough by Friday night to hang out with Evie in their “special secret spot!”

And “Horse around” upstairs. We were thinking of doing a caption contest for this picture, but honestly, no one will ever make up a caption better than the real one, so we’ll just tell you what was being said:

Evie: “No, Ellie! You can’t come with me! You don’t speak Danish!”

Ellie (Indignantly!): “Come too! Speak Danish!”

So now you know. Apparently they speak Danish.

We got the time on Saturday for some wonderful time outdoors working on our yard. We bought a whole bunch of flower bulbs and planted them so that our yard will have many beautiful colors next spring and summer.

Of course the nasty chestnut is in full swing, so there were many “pokies” to pick up all over the yard. We filled half the blue bin with them, and they aren’t even half way done.

Evie and Daddy ran a few weeks’ worth of paper recycling and junk mail through the shredder. That gray bin Evie is draggin in the picture above is the paper shreds to “feed to the worms” a.k.a. put in the composter.

We also noticed that our smaller apple tree has been leaning a bit to the left under the weight of its apples. A quick test confirmed that its roots have become quite loose with the recent rainfall.

This became a job for Daddy and the girls. They helped dig a post hole with the straight bar, and then, armed with only his trusty k-bar…

This looks like a shot from a survival show. Evie took it.

Daddy made a stake, and managed to plant it a few feet into the clay and rocky fill beneath the apple tree’s roots. Voila!

The tree looks much straighter now. We might experiment with spike irrigation next summer to encourage the trees to shoot deeper roots, because eventually that stake will rot out. But for now, it works.

While we were up there we also removed the last of the old glass from the hot box (the main pane broke in a wind storm a few months back). The odd thing is the peppers are finally starting to do really well. Hopefully the black plastic lining is enough to keep the frost damage off them until Ryan can get some clear plastic over the top.

Unfortunately, Mommy started feeling yucky Saturday night, and by Sunday morning had a fever of 102, even with ibuprofen. Of course, being a pair of medical folks, we tend to be pretty conservative about our visits to the doctor, so she stayed home Sunday morning and slept while Daddy took the girls to Mass.

The girls rushed in to help Mommy feel better as soon as we got back…

But she still slept most of the day Sunday, and spent the awake parts wrapped up on the couch, drinking tea and watching the girls color.

She had to call in sick on Monday and go to Urgent Care. Turns out she had strep throat, and so did one of her co-workers. So some antibiotics and some motrin/tylenol, and she was back on the mend, and (so far) no one else has gotten it in the house.

Unfortunately that meant that we had to cancel our dinner plans to have Adam and Co over on Sunday. The problem was we had already planned a menu for braised pork roast out of the Vatican Cookbook, and purchased the ingredients (or harvested them, in the case of the carrots) and thawed two pork loins. No one felt like eating them on Sunday so they stayed in the fridge, but by Monday it was imperative we get things cooking so as not to waste the meat.

We’re not sure what that face is, but the meat looked great.

All in all, it was a tasty dish, but we will do it better next time. We will not cook it as long, and we will start the tomatoes in the pan a little earlier, and also probably saute the veggies a little less. I must say, though, the red wine and Madeira vegetable sauce was hearty and heartwarming.

Let’s see, what else…

Wednesday was a Daddy and Ellie day, and we did not manage to accomplish much, except for enjoying some silliness:

And some time outdoors.

On Wednesday night we joined some friends of ours on Facebook live to say the Glorious mysteries of the Rosary in honor of October (which, as you should know, is dedicated to Our Lady, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary.) Of course, it is hard to get two little girls to sit quietly for the whole Rosary, but thank God (literally) for the Rosary coloring books we found. The art isn’t the greatest, but they are still fantastic for the girls every night when we say our family decade, and even for a whole five-decades they kept them engaged and involved at an age appropriate level.

This was Evie’s product after five decades.

There need to be more great Catholic resources like that. Maybe we will make some if we ever find the time.

And that’s all for this week, folks.

Have a great weekend, and don’t forget to say your Rosary, or learn how if you don’t know how.

God Bless!

Saturday mornings are my favorite.

Usually, Ellie helps Daddy make breakfast. This particular Saturday we made breakfast biscuits, which are super easy.

Start by rendering about 8 oz of Bacon cut small

  • Mix 2 cups of bisquick
  • 1 Teaspoon of baking powder
  • Milk until it is slightly runny
  • The rendered bacon
  • About a cup of shredded Mexican blend cheese

Spray a muffin tin well. Pour the mix in, gently place a slice of Havarti on top of eachand back for about 12 minutes at 450.

Quick, easy, delicious. Then we sat around and relaxed and told puns:

Q: What do you get when you boil a funny bone?

A: A laughing stock!


Evie has developed quite a taste for coloring these days, and she is really quite good at it. It’s one of the few things she will sit still for.

This is the story of St. Valentinus. She likes the wedding picture best.

Sunday evening we went to Aunty Celyn’s annual 4US fundraising dinner. This is always a great time, and the food is always amazing! Auntie Celyn’s mom, Auntie Lynn, is a phenomenal Filipino cook.

On Monday Daddy had the day off so we drove up to Enumclaw to Dude’s house to pick 6 quarts of blueberries.

The week since then has been a whirlwind. Daddy has been working at the armory, trying to organize all the medical supplies. Mommy has been working at her office, and the traffic going past the base has been nightmarish every night.

We are going to do our best to enjoy a very short weekend before Daddy has to take off again. You all have a great weekend. God Bless, and pray for us.

Happy Friday, Y’all. Summer is finally in full swing around here after all the rain and cold. It’s still fairly cool, and even when it gets into the 80’s and everyone complains about the heat, Ryan still laughs at them.

I survived Fort Bragg in the summer, for years! Washington holds no terrors for me.

Saturdays are the day that Mommy and Daddy are both off, but that doesn’t mean it’s all partying and frolicking and whimsical nonesuch. It is a serious work day, with all manner of noble tasks to be undertaken.


For instance, we harvested some of our compost.

And placed it around our kiwis to slow down the desiccation of the soil around it.

Mommy was also working very hard to make a pink champagne cake for the Moergeli picnic which was on Sunday. It took all day, and she only finished it right before bedtime prayers, but isn’t it pretty?!

But she still had time to have a toenail party (that’s what it’s called, right) with the girls.

Our Japanese plum is starting to come into season!

It is loaded with fruit, compared to last year when we only got about three tiny little plums off it. It’s hard to tell when they are ripe, because they don’t turn purple, they just go from yellow to a slightly more translucent shade of yellow. And we have been having trouble keeping the small ones away, since they ate three of the unripe plums off the lower branches a few nights ago. Silly childs! Yeah, they’ll pucker up your mouth, but it’s probably good for the intestinal health so whatever.

Also, a note about that picture, Kathleen is carrying an empty champagne bottle not because that’s how we party after the girls go to sleep, but because neither of us like champagne, so we dumped what was left from the cake in the compost. Judging by the whooping and hollering and carrying on, the worms seem to have enjoyed it.

Sunday was the Moergeli picnic. We drove up to Enumclaw to get our Moergel on for a few hours. Kathleen has been discovering handwritten recipes tucked in the pages of her 1908 cookbook, and brought it up in the hopes that some of the older folks might be able to identify the handwriting and maybe decipher the ingredients, since some of the abbreviations are unfamiliar.

The consensus was that most of it belonged to Great-Grandma Gerald, and at least one of the abbreviations probably stands for “sweet” milk, by which the Aunts believe she meant condensed milk.

Dude knows how to throw a party for the Ellie! Just bring fresh picked berries. Which reminds me. Dude’s blueberries are coming on, which means we’ll need to find a day to get up and pick them in the next couple weeks.

Kathleen found Evie some new workbooks with a dry erase pen so that she can use them over and over again. She has a math workbook, a penmanship (cursive) workbook, and a phonics workbook.

She loves the Math one, kind of enjoys the cursive one, and has no interest in the phonics at all.

In that respect she is her mother’s daughter.

Let’s see, what else…

Oh, Evie and Ellie are both convinced that the food on Mommy’s plate is definitely more delicious than the food on their own plates, even when it is patently clear that it is the same kind of food.

Little Vultures.

Ellie likes to try on Daddy’s sandals:

And Ryan finally got the fence fixed, with a gate and everything!

If you are wondering why the diagonal bracing is not a perfect “X” it’s because the 2×4 was two inches too short, and Ryan was not willing to run to the store and buy another one. It works and doesn’t looke terrible. The only problem is that the new post that Ryan set is plumb, or pretty darn close thereto, but the old post that the hinges are set on is NOT! Not even close. You can see how this makes the whole fence sag into the neighbor’s yard, and makes the bottom of the gate not flush with the pole.

It hurts Ryan’s soul, but not enough to dig out the old post, chip away the cement and reset it. It’s going to stay as it is.

And that’s all for this week, folks. We hope you have a great weekend, don’t forget to pray everyday for us and for your own families.

God Bless!

Look closely at these two cast iron skillets.

The one on the right is a Texas skillet Ryan has bought probably about six or seven years ago, which he has used and abused until last summer. After a couple failed attempts to strip it and cure it, we ended up putting it on the shelf until we would have time to strip it again. This summer, Kathleen found a recipe for curing a cast-iron skillet in her 1908 cookbook, By boiling potato skins in it for an afternoon, then heating it over the stove top and coating it with a very very light coat of oil. It has since worked quite well, and between uses we scour it out with coarse salt, heat it over the stove and coat it with a light coat of oil.

A pan on the left belonged to to Kathleen’s great grandma Agatha who immigrated to the area from Switzerland in 1910. We don’t know when she bought this particular cast-iron pan, but we do know that she must have used it for a good portion of her life. Compared to the new cast-iron the difference is quite remarkable.

The old cast-iron pan is thinner than the new one, but it’s unevenly thinner as if it once was thicker and has been worn down in areas. The very bottom of the pan is slightly warped from being heated and cooled repeatedly for a few decades.

The inner surface is where the magic really is, it is as smooth as glass From decades of being scoured out with ash or sand or salt or some other grit and then re-weld reheated and used over and over again. Eggs and even cheese slide off this thing like butter.

It reminds me of a place I saw in Louisiana about seven years ago when I went down to give a talk at a Catholic school there. The school was built on an old manor house, and the drive up to the old building was flanked on either side by giant oak trees that have been planted there prior to the turn of the 20th century. About 15 years later they were transplanted further out to make a wider lane to accommodate the new motor cars that were just coming into Vogue at the time. Now close to a century after they were first planted, Hey for me truly magnificent tunnel of green over this old gravel drive up to a giant brick building that now houses a content in Catholic school.

In both cases, the cast-iron and the oak trees on the drive, the foundation was laid by somebody who would never see the final result. We in our generation are benefiting from their diligence and foresight a century or more ago. My own cast iron has a long way to go before it reaches anything like that level of smoothness and perfect finish, but if we keep at it and work very hard, maybe our great grandchildren will get the chance to enjoy this Texas skillet the way we enjoy a great grandma Agatha’s frypan.