Happy Family Friday, folks! Yes, I know, it’s a week late. We’ll be doing a double header, I promise. We’ve been busy.

That’s right. Mommy has been organizing! Watch out or you’ll get organized!

We will get to Family Friday, but I want to do something a little different first.

Early this week I had a dream. I was falling asleep saying the Rosary, as I almost always do, and suddenly, without warning I was standing in the middle of a street in Aleppo. I have never been to Aleppo, I just knew it was Aleppo the way you know things in dreams. A bomb had just gone off on a crowded street. To my right there was a pile of rubble from a collapsed wall, with about a dozen bodies in it. To my left was a tent where some first responders were just starting to set up a triage point.

I saw all this in no time, because my attention was immediately focused on one woman lying among the rubble to my right. She looked about middle-aged, in a black hijab, and she was alive, and not wounded at all, but she lay among the dead, not moving, because she was cradling her dead baby.

She did not cry, or move, or look around, or give any sign that she saw any of the commotion around her. She just held her baby close and stared at her baby’s lifeless face with blank, empty eyes.

Again, this took less than a second to take in. I must have started to wake up, because I had a horrible moment of confusion where I thought the woman was either Kathleen or I, and the baby was either Evie or Ellie. Then I was awake with my heart going about 180 BPM, and Kathleen breathing softly beside me, and my rosary in my hand. The real strange part is that I felt a sudden reassurance that it was a dream, and that the girls were safe and well in their beds in their room. This assurance was so strong and complete that I didn’t feel the need to get up and go check on them, which is completely out of character for me.

There was more to it as I drifted back off to sleep, before I completely passed out, but that doesn’t really matter. I was left with two strong impressions. One was of the Blessed Mother weeping for her children: “And a sword of sorrow shall pierce your soul.” The other was the certainty that I was being asked to pray and fast and offer sacrifices for the children of poverty and war: “Blessed are they who mourn.

I don’t want you to think this is some kind of PTSD thing, or anything silly like that. It isn’t. It was a completely fictitious, though plausible dream, not based on any real experience of mine. Nor would I consider it a spiritual experience, except in the way that every experience is spiritual, since we are spiritual beings.

It may seem like a strange thing to share in a Family Friday, and it is, but there is a point to it, which is really the reason we do Family Friday at all. That is, we hope to show that Family is the great adventure of our time; that it is good, it is beautiful, it is meaningful, and it is worth it.

Planting flowers!

It is also fragile and vulnerable. Our relatively happy, stable and peaceful family life coexists in a world where children are murdered, families are torn apart, lives are ended too soon, souls are lost to hatred, violence, addiction. These things happen in Syria, in Cambodia, in Nigeria, in Tacoma, in your home town. We are at war. We are in a spiritual war against demons of unimaginable power, cunning and malice, and their all too real human allies and minions. We are supported by beings of light, and incomprehensible strength, intelligence and burning charity, and by the saints, known and unknown.

But we are at war. Our happy family exists on a battlefield, and is a target in the war spiritually, if not also physically. It is never far from my mind, eternal vigilance is the price of freedom. (There is a difference between eternal vigilance and paranoia. The key difference is a sense of humor.)

But more to the point, I think, is that I want you, the readers, to remember that there are children who deserve a stable happy family no less than Evie and Ellie and your children do. Do not feel guilty because you have some happiness and stability, and they do not. This is not a privilege that we were given and they were not, it is a human right that they have been horrifically denied.

Do something to give it back to them. Pray and Fast. Give to worthy charities. Adopt. Join an NGO. Whoever has two tunics should share with the one who has none. Whoever has peace and security and financial stability should share with those who do not. You don’t need to look in Aleppo. They are not far from your door.

And enjoy the gifts you have been given with gratitude. Do not take them for granted. Hug your children and your spouse, be there for them, love them with every fiber of your being.

And that’s all for this week, or rather for the last two weeks. It has been a very busy, and I hope not too depressing, post. Please do pray and fast. It can move mountains.

And live with a grateful heart.

God Bless you all!

Happy Family Friday, Y’all! This is an especially good Friday because Evie and Ellie woke up to a surprise!

Daddy was home!

That’s right he got home late last night. Kathleen picked him up at SeaTac around 9:00, on a work night, but it could have been worse. The original flight was supposed to get him in at 11:00.

But let’s back up to the beginning of the week. Ryan missed Papa’s birthday party, because he was training. But they had a good time anyway.

Evie took this picture of Papa and Great Grandma.

Kathleen was trying to find some cheap flights that would bring her and the girls out to meet Ryan, but she could not find any that would get her back in time for work on Monday. So Ryan drove down to South Carolina to hang out with Uncle Chris and Aunt Sharon and their family.

14 Mile Hike with Uncle Chris and Joseph. Lovely view of the fog from the top of Table Rock.

Ryan used to visit them once or twice a month when he was in the Special forces Q Course at Fort Bragg. That was a long time ago, of course, and a lot has changed. Some loved ones are no longer here…

And some new loved ones have shown up since those days (mostly of the small and energetic variety).

Yes, they are trying to pop balloons with their butts.

The girls spent most of Saturday at home. They relaxed and slept in, and even let Mommy sleep in a little bit. Ellie woke up first but was nice enough to just hang out in her crib with Baby Music and let Mommy sleep.

Mommy was trying to make pies for Papa’s birthday. Evie helped a whole lot,

And there was enough filling left over for her to make some little key lime pies.

I think the big one turned out beautifully.

They had been thinking about going up to Enumclaw Saturday night, but the girls also require a lot of playing with, so some of the pie didn’t get made until fairly late in the evening.

So they went up on Sunday instead.

And that’s all for this week. Y’all have a great weekend, keep us in your prayers.

God Bless!

Happy Friday, Y’all! Hope you are having a good one. Right now our family is a bit spread out as Daddy is away doing training. :-/

But he should be back soon. Mommy and Evie and Ellie are making do as best they can right now.

Last Friday night (after Family Friday) was pretty busy as we raced to get all the garden and yard tasks done before Daddy left. We mowed the lawn, took out the garbage and the compost, turned the compost, and then got a couple of wheelbarrow loads of black gold to plant some flowers in.

Everybody does work around here!

We spread it at the base of the rock wall in the back yard. We got some Sweet William seeds from Aunt Dude and Aunt Susie, and since they are a weed that grows pretty much anywhere, we are hoping they will thrive in the dry, bare strip along the rocks.

Then on Saturday morning we let Mommy sleep in for an hour (she’s going to need it) while Daddy and the girls went and picked blackberries for breakfast, and made blackberry pancakes.

Then on Saturday after evening Mass we drove up to SeaTac and dropped Daddy off at the airport, which was sad for everyone.

On days like that, it’s nice to have Mommy home all day, and to spend the day in Jammies.

Evie taught Ellie how to mix pancakes, so Ellie could teach piggy.

And they watched movies and snuggled with Mommy and played legos. And Mommy tried a new hair style for Evie and it turned out beautifully.

Meanwhile, Daddy arrived at his destination and found a very lovely surprise in his backpack!

Letters from Mommy and Evie!

Those are always the best!

So a week of training, working, and learning has crawled by as the summer winds to a close. Evie’s new school year is just around the corner, Ryan is still job hunting (not very successfully. It seems no one wants to hire a PA who hasn’t been a PA for at least a couple of years.)

Keep us in your prayers. Have a great weekend, and 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!

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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.

Last weekend was fun. We are starting to get into the hot, late summer period. August is when things start getting really hot and dry around here. Hot, that is, for western Washington, which means that the strawberries are starting to come in again.

Ellie likes strawberries, because she can reach them.

The girls stayed overnight with Deedee and Papa on Saturday night so Mommy and Daddy good go to a game night with some friends.

While we were getting ready to go to Mass the next morning a hot air balloon floated by! The girls thought that was the coolest thing ever. When it was time to go the girls went out to get into the car. Evie jumped in her car seat and buckled up. Ellie climbed into the driver’s seat and started “driving.”

After Mass and brunch we went home and got ready to have Adam and the gang over. Since Grandma was in town visiting with them for the weekend, she tagged along too.

Evie helped Daddy pick blackberries for a a cobbler.
Evie was the invalid so the other kids could play doctor.

Our menu was leg of lamb in coffee and port wine sauce, cooked in the dutch oven, with sweet potatoes and green beans.

Mommy making the sauce.

The more we get into dutch oven cooking, the more we like it. It takes some finesse, but we are slowly getting the hang of it.

And of course a picture of Grandma with her West coast grandkids.

The garden continues to come in, such as it is. The Japanese plums are about picked bare. The girls completely picked all the lower branches, and Mommy picked all the higher ones this week. They have been delicious!

That is what’s left of a plum in her mouth.

We cleaned out the beans too, although they still have some flowers and small beans left to come in.

The wheelbarrow we bought the girls last week has been coming in handy as well.

Only Daddy seems to be the only one doing any work with it.

Ryan has been in uniform all week, getting his army medic on, training on JBLM.

Kathleen got to hang out with her old coworker that she used to work with all those years ago when she was just starting out in ultrasound. They got to catch up on all the changes in the last ten years or so.

Now Ryan has to get back to work so that’s all for now. Have a great weekend, God Bless.

Happy Friday, Y’all! This is a great Family Friday because Mommy has the day off today!

She asked for the day off months ago when we had plans to go camping this weekend. However, most of the people who were going to go camping with us had other things come up, so we ended up cancelling our camping plans.

Just as well because we have a good deal of work to do this weekend. Just like last weekend.

It was great last week. The girls stayed over at Deedee and Papa’s house on Thursday night so Ryan and Kathleen could have a date. Then when Ryan went up to pick them up on Friday he got the chance to do some man work for a change. He turned this…

Into this…

It was also the weekend of Kids Camp at the Swiss park.

So we went and met Mommy there after supper. Our kids are too young for Kids Camp yet, but Kathleen has been going there for 22 years with only one miss, and old habits die hard. (We missed last year because we were at the beach, watching Evie meet the ocean for the first time).

But the girls like playing on the old school play ground (all metal and wood, because Swiss people don’t replace anything until it has fallen apart three times).

It’s a great place to get them all… “tired” out!

They also like seeing the decorations for the play that the kids do on Sunday,

and Evie is fascinated by the Schwingen Pit.

“Daddy! Come wrestle with me!”

Kathleen comes from a long line of Fondue serving ladies.

Get it? A long line? Cause there’s a long line of ladies in the picture?

We have begun harvesting beets this week. They have not been doing so well, but we got enough for one good meal of butter beets and carrots.

It is one of Ryan’s favorite summer dishes. Super easy, you just cut up some fresh raw beets and carrots, and either steam them and then fry it in butter, or just fry it in butter without steaming until it is tender and delicious.

The weather has been fairly hot and dry, which is perfect for homemade popsicles and playing in the pool.

We have transitioned from “time outs” to planking for Evie as a disciplinary measure, since she listens better while planking than while sitting. The better she listens, the faster she gets to recover. This will probably not work for Ellie, however. She thinks planking is a great game, and she is actually really good at it (comes of being shorter and more compact than her sister).

Look at that form!

We have been having a great time outside, but sometimes it’s too hot to play out there for little girls born and bred in the Pacific Northwest. Then legos inside is a great option.

Then on to the main event for the week. Daddy and the girls went up to Deedee and Papa’s house to strip their bean plants of the last of the beans (Deedee already canned all she wants for this year). Ellie loves working in the garden and is actually pretty good at picking, for not being two years old.

Evie does not like working in the garden, but she thought the Velcro effect of the leaves was fun.

We picked a lot of beans.

A LOT!

And Mommy bought another 25 Lbs from the Greek produce store near her work.

Fortunately she got off work a little bit early on Wednesday so she had about 10 Lbs of it snipped by the time the rest of the family got home, and was able to get started canning while Daddy and Evie snipped more beans.

Evie does not like being made to work, as we have said, but she agreed that if she lives in this house and eats food with everyone else, it is only fair that she do her share of the beans.

And boy is she proud of herself when she finishes her pan of beans!

And that’s what we are still up to today, canning beans. Kathleen had one batch going before the girls got up, then Ellie helped wash more beans…

Ellie always wants to help.

While Evie and Daddy made muffins for breakfast.

Looks like we will have 31 quarts when they are all canned.

That’s all for this week, folks. Have a great weekend, and pray for us.

God Bless!

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.

Serious!

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!

Happy Family Friday, Y’all!

Nothing like a quiet Saturday morning at home for some Family Breakfast time.

Lots of jelly making going on last week. We picked a gallon or so of raspberries at Dude’s house on Sunday.

Ellie is really good at picking raspberries. She even puts some of them in the bucket!

Evie and Ellie love hanging out with Dude and Susie.

Then we went to Deedee and Papa’s house, where we picked more berries

And ate some delicious berry pie.

Of course then we had to turn the berries into something, jelly, or jam, or pie filling or something. You would think you could just freeze them and put them in the freezer until you needed them, but that is actually more work than canning them. They have to be carefully laid out in pans and then frozen (which means clearing out a space in the freezer, the real bottleneck of the process) and frozen, then have the frost knocked off before they are bagged. Otherwise they freezer burn.

Fortunately, the squeezo is so easy to use that a couple of two little girls can reduce a gallon of raspberries to juice in about ten minutes. Raspberry lemonade concentrate anyone?

Daddy found two ripe blackberries on one of his ruckmarches….

So it begins!

They will be coming in hard in a couple weeks.

Our garden is coming along somewhat fitfully these days. It is an unusually cold and wet July around here. One of our San Marzano tomatoes has blossom rot, but the other one is doing nicely.

The rest of the tomatoes are only blossoming so far.

Something has been eating our pepper plants alive, something we haven’t been able to find yet, but we suspect it is aphids. Fortunately, some ladybugs have moved in and have set up housekeeping on the beans…

And on the chamomile.

We will see if they are able to get the aphids in check once they all hatch.

Then comes the weekend and packing for our camping trip!

Think two pounds of butter will be enough for three days, two nights?

Especially when we are bringing all kinds of other food? You bet! Butter makes Mommy’s world go round!

Meanwhile, Daddy does not understand Evie and Ellie’s fascination with Mommy’s fancy shoes.

So there we were, Friday afternoon after Mommy got home from work, we all piled into the old rattlebang and drove out to Scenic Beach State Park. We arrived a little after 7:00 PM, well past the girls’ supper time (actually past their bedtime too) so they we were super rambunctious and over-excited.

While Daddy set up the tent with the girls’ help, Mommy got the Dutch oven going and heated up some of her home-made coconut shrimp. Ronny and Amanda and RJ joined us while we were getting this set up, and we had a lovely meal together.

Of course it was a late night, almost 10:30 when we went to bed, and the girls were super tired. Ellie was almost beside herself. She did not want to lay down anywhere out of arms reach of Mommy and Daddy.

But sleep conquers even the tiredest of babies eventually, and all the kids passed out before midnight.

Which was perfect, since they all woke up again at 5:30 on Saturday morning. Yay! Camping!

Mommy got the breakfast started in style with a raspberry cream cheese breakfast bake.

Evie tided herself over by licking the remaining filling out of the empty bowl.

The cast iron certainly got a workout over the weekend.

Saturday after breakfast we hiked along the trail down to the beach. Turns out Ellie is a great hiker. She handled half a mile hike along a very rough trail full of roots and rocks,

not to mention running around on the rocky beach and climbing up the barnacle encrusted logs.

Yes, the beaches in Washington are rocky. Yes the water is cold and dirty. Still a great time for a family with young kids. Daddy even made a sling and threw some zingers 100+ meters out into the Hood Canal.

As might be expected, the small people were all over-tired cranky butts by lunchtime, so we put them down for a nap. They were out in about half a decade of the Rosary or less. While they were sleeping Uncle Adam and Aunt Maryanne came with Edmund and Annarose, so after naps all the kids went down to the playground to shake their sillies out, and wiggle their waggles away. Except RJ, who was still resisting a rest and consequently could not be happy.

But he rocks a great chin beard, just like his dad.

Cousins!

Uncle Adam brought his backpack weighted with 60+ Lbs of peat gravel to carry around for exercise, since he hadn’t gotten a run in that morning. Not content with that, we decided to up the ante with a little Dad-ruck action.

Saturday was an even later night. The kids had all gotten enough of a nap (even RJ) that excitement was stronger than sleepiness, so we were up past 11. Oh well.

Ryan was up at 5:30 tending the fire all by himself until first Ronny and then Ellie joined him.

She rocks a great bedhead.

Eventually, everyone meandered out for breakfast and packing up the campsite, before heading in to Gig Harbor for 11:00 Mass.

Good weekend. Ryan and Ronny cracked this open Friday night, and with Adam’s help managed to finish it before bed on Saturday.

Consequently we didn’t touch any of the beer we had brought but this was so smooth and fiery that no one missed it.

Now here we are, on the home again, doing our regular home thing. Ryan is job searching, so far unsuccessfully. Everyone keeps saying, “We’d love to hire you for this job… after you have a couple years of experience doing the job.” No, experience in the military as a medic doesn’t seem to carry any weight on a resume. Oh well, we’ll keep searching and praying.

We had a minor setback in the garden, with the unusually blustery summer weather. It blew the lid on the planter box shut and shattered one of the windows.

We will probably end up replacing it with plexi glass, lighter, cheaper and more durable.

But mostly it’s just the usual work, school and family stuff, aka:

Reading books,

Drinking bubble tea

Daddy got the matcha milk tea expecting the girls to leave it alone. Evie wasn’t impressed by it, but Ellie refused to let go of it.

And growing up way too fast (and also reading more books).

And that’s all for this week, folks. God Bless, have a great weekend, and God Bless.

Hello all!

Daddy came home on Sunday! He and his buddies started driving as soon as they were done with work on Saturday and drove through until midnight with only one major mishap involving a flat tire in the middle of nowhere and a (probably) shady tire dealership. We crushed some miles and got in a little after midnight so Daddy was able to be home when Mommy woke up on Sunday morning. And then a little later when the little girls woke up. Ellie was holding up her hands and saying “Hug! Hug!” about every five minutes for the first two or three hours. So it was good to be home.

After Mass and lunch we drove up to Uncle Adam and Aunt Maryanne’s house for burgers and dogs.

Aunty Kathleen figured out that all you need to do to be the center of attention for a bunch of Kraeger kids is to hold the food. All except Evie. She is strange and gets so excited she forgets to eat.

Ellie loves her Grandma Ann dresses, because they have pockets. Real pockets. Useful pockets for putting useful things in, like grapes and rocks and pinecones.

Tri-tip with bacon/veggie stirfry. Daddy is still in Team cooking mode, as you can see by the prominent lack of carbs.

Wednesday we made bread. Ellie helped.

We also made the dough for the doughnuts Mommy was planning on making for the Fourth, so that it could sit in the refrigerator and chill. Ellie is going to be a great cook someday, or baker, or both. She pays attention and has patience, and she loves dumping things and mixing things.

Evie is more of a “free spirit!”

We got a shredder from amazon, and Daddy shredded about a bushel and a half of newspaper shreddings. Evie and Ellie helped Daddy put it in the composter, which, we are happy to say is doing really well.

We have a few thousand worms, it looks like, with a beautiful bottom layer of well broken-down compost. It should be perfect to muck the garden with by the time winter comes.

Not much else to report until Thursday, which was the Fourth of July, obviously.

Naturally, we took the opportunity of a free day off in the middle of the week for everything it was worth. The girls drove, just to change things up a bit, and Daddy and Mommy rode in luxury in the back seat.

We went to a local orchard and purchased three flats of currants. Why three flats? Because Ryan has a poor eye for how far a given volume of fruit will go when transformed into jelly, and Kathleen has a taste for biting off more than she can chew.

Ellie helping herself to a container of currants. Sorry, Kiddo, those are already picked and cleaned. You get the ones in clusters and pick them yourself.

That was a lot of picking and cleaning, but then it was time to set up the SQUEEZO!

Everyone loves the squeezo. It’s been a hit since it was first introduced in the early 20th century. A four-year-old can mill eight pounds of currants in 10 minutes,

And maintain her attention almost the whole way through with only one short break.

It’s pure magic. Then of, course, comes the real art of mixing the sugar and pectin in the right quantities and boiling at the right temperature for the right length of time.

Careful! Hot Stuff!
And some boiling jelly.

Evie can’t help with that part yet, so she contented herself with cleaning up every last trace of spilled juice.

I have to say, I think it is one of the prettiest looking jellies Kathleen has turned out so far.

We spread the seeds and mash along the back fence behind the tiger lillies, the fence line that the neighbor’s weeds keep creeping under. Maybe in a few years the next owners of this house will have a private hedge/weed barrier of currant bushes.

More likely our friendly neighborhood possum family will have a delicious free snack.

After nap snack break.

Then it was time for Daddy to get some coals going and set a dutch oven of oil on to heat,

Waiting for the pot to boil.

while Mommy shaped the dough into nuts.

Doughsnuts!

Note to selves, it takes about an hour and a half for that DO to get up to 250+ degrees with 20 coals under it. This might be because down in the firepit it doesn’t get great air flow. If we do this for a party or something we’ll have to take that into account.

Of course the heat doesn’t have to be very precise, so we would probably just hang it over an open fire. But then again there might be issues with flair ups whenever the oil dripped or splashed. Coals are a good option, they just require a little extra lead time.

Today, Mommy had to go back to work so it was just Daddy and the girls. We ended up going up to Deedee and Papa’s house. Ellie helped pick strawberries.

Chipmunk Cheeks!

And Daddy split some more of Papa’s firewood and the girls had their first lesson in stacking wood.

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

Another week of Daddy being gone has passed. Everyone has been very busy.

But it’s still important to take the time to stop and smell the Daisies.

Last Sunday Mommy took Evie and Ellie up to Deedee and Papa’s house to visit.

Ellie is still not sure why she should smile at the phones that people are constantly pointing at her.

This was also the week of Emma’s birthday party next door. Since the fence is still broken, it was relatively easy for an invitation to make its way over to our side, and for our kids to make their way over to their side.

Meanwhile, Mommy kept herself busy by pulling out Daddy’s old Texas Skillet, the one he has owned for more than a decade, the one that has sizzled a metric ton of bacon in its time and has never been washed, and which also has been living on top of the cupboard in the kitchen for a couple years because it started burning on and Ryan never made the time to strip and cure it, where it has been collecting dust and grease from the old broken oven vent before Ryan fixed it…

You know the one.

A few weeks ago Kathleen read in her 1930’s homemaker manual that the way to strip cast iron is to boil potato skins in it. It worked on her smaller Texas skillet (it’s more of an Oklahoma skillet, really) so now she tried it on the far nastier big skillet. It worked quite well actually, and she was able to heat treat it and cure it with vegetable oil. We’ll see if Ryan can remember to maintain the seasoning when he gets back.

Ryan has been busy also, long days of training,

It may seem like a lot of effort, but the National Guard is called upon to perform the same missions that Active Duty is called on to perform, but we have only about 40 training days per year to prepare for them, compared to at least 250 training days on Active Duty. When you think about that it makes sense for us to go out in the middle of nowhere and really knuckle down to getting after it for the few weeks of AT we get.

Evie is doing her own training, these days. Without being prompted she accurately pointed out the spot on the lake that we visited when we were in Glacier three weeks ago.

We assume that she remembered it from the big wall map Kathleen showed her when she was there, since she can’t read yet.

She is one smart cookie!

Our peas have started producing too!

Between our peas and the neighbor’s peas (they are on vacation and asked us to pick their peas while they were gone) we are pulling in about half a colander at a time. Not bad for two tiny little plots.

And that’s about all the happenings this week.

Daddy drew a picture of a bunny in the letter he wrote to Ellie, so she decided to play bunny.

We hope you have had a good week and continue to have a wonderful weekend. God Bless. Pray for us.