And we are still working to fine-tune our New Year's Resolutions so we will post those later.
Monday, December 31, 2007
And we are still working to fine-tune our New Year's Resolutions so we will post those later.
With all of the memories and conversations, it seemed a great idea to make some "traditional" New England (or Northern) seafood (not deep fried southern style seafood) for our New Year's Eve dinner. After some serious hunting we were finally able to find FRESH shrimp and clams, and some good pre-picked REAL crabmeat.
2 slices bread, crusts removed
1 tablespoon parsley flakes
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon OLD BAY SEASONING
1 pound crab meat
Break bread into small pieces and moisten with milk. Add remaining ingredients; shape into cakes.
Clams Casino Recipe
• 2 dozen cherrystone clams OR mussels or oysters
• rock salt
• 6 strips bacon
• 6 tablespoons butter
• 1/2 cup shallots or green onions-- finely chopped
• 1/2 cup fresh herbs* -- chopped
• 1/2 cup green pepper -- finely chopped
• few drops Tabasco sauce
• 2 tablespoons lemon juice
• 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
• fresh ground black pepper
Open the clams (or oysters or mussels) and set aside the best 2 dozen shells. Spread a layer of rock salt in pie pans, and nestle the selected shells in the salt. Fry the bacon gently until it has rendered all its fat, then drain on paper towels. Mix the butter with the shallots, parsley and herbs, green pepper, Tabasco, lemon juice, and Worcestershire. Put a clam in each shell and top with a dollop of the butter mixture. Grind a little pepper over each. Break up the bacon into 24 pieces, and set a piece on top of each shell.
Broil under a hot broiler for 6 - 8 minutes, until the herb butter is sizzling and the bacon is crisp.
*Use three-quarters parsley, one-quarter fresh dill, tarragon, or chervil.
2 TBSP Old Bay® Seasoning
1 pound shrimp
Combine first 3 ingredients in bottom of steamer pot. Bring to a boil.
Add shrimp in layers, sprinkling generously with Old Bay on top of each layer.
Drain, remove shells and devein.
Sunday, December 30, 2007
So we are really hunting today to see if we can find some FRESH SHRIMP ... and maybe some other fresh seafood too. We will post recipes IF we can find what we are looking for ....
In the mean while, try OLD BAY ... it is a great seasoning for many many uses (beyond seafood).
Saturday, December 29, 2007
Space Weather News for Dec. 29, 2007
After a 13.6 year absence, Comet 8P/Tuttle is once again traveling through the inner solar system. On Jan. 1 and 2, 2008, it makes its closest approach to Earth--only 24 million miles away. The emerald-colored comet will brighten to a predicted magnitude of 5.8, visible to the unaided eye from dark-sky sites and a fine target for backyard telescopes anywhere.
Two nights before closest approach, on Dec. 30th and 31st, something extraordinary will happen: Comet 8P/Tuttle has a beautiful close encounter with spiral galaxy M33. The comet and the galaxy may even overlap! This is a can't-miss opportunity for astrophotographers around the world.
Visit http://spaceweather.com for sky maps, photos and more information.
Friday, December 28, 2007
Then for the next few days following Christmas we had lots of turkey or ham sandwiches, or various plates of leftovers. But eventually we ran low on leftovers -- the ham was finally finished last night, most of the veggies and sides were finished, as was nearly all of the turkey. Actually, after dinner last night we had mashed potatoes, a bit of gravy, and a huge turkey carcass left with a tiny bit of turkey on it.
So early this morning the children and I made a GIANT batch of turkey stock. Then we gathered the remaining turkey ... there is actually a whole bowl of it after the broth-making. We gathered some pre-purchased bags of frozen veggies plus the leftover mashed potatoes and gravy, herbs and spices, onions, celery, garlic ... and TA DA !! Another feast in the making ....
THREE HUGE BATCHES OF TURKEY SOUP:
The house smells wonderful !! Our older 3 children learned to make broth FROM SCRATCH, and then to make a variety of nutritious simple soups from it with a variety of ingredients and seasonings. And HOORAY nothing went to waste from our enormous Feast. We have NO leftovers anymore (except cookies, but that is another story).
We will be eating these delicious soups and stews for the next few days while we enjoy the last of this holiday season and also when we begin to UN-decorate, so meals will be simple and healthy.
We all highly recommend making homemade soup -- it is very easy, and if there is a crockpot to be used these soups can be made while you are not home. Another benefit of homemade soups --- if there seem to be a lot of colds and flus going around, it is my personal opinion that homemade soups help keep immune systems up and strong.
All we need now is some freshly baked biscuits and maybe a small side salad tonight ... this soup will be WONDERFUL with the cloudy rainy dreary day that has persisted all day (NOT that we are complaining abotu rain - we are thankful for the rain !!).
An hour later, he went to the door, and I let him out.The next day he was back, resumed his position in the hall, and slept for an hour. This continued for several weeks.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
More photos to be posted later.
Cherub 4, Cherub 5, and Cherub 6 dressed as Joseph, Mary, and the Archangel Gabriel. Cherub 3 and Cherub 2 are dressed as Angels.
Father Vick reading to the gathered children at the Christmas Eve Mass.
The Archangel Gabriel heading back to sit with Mom and Dad - he was soooo pleased to participate in this Christmas Pageant.
Cherub 2 and Cherub 3 after "Bringing The Gifts"
Our friends (the P family) came to visit, and Grandpa came too. We shared a wonderful Christmas "Feast" (as the children call it) .... turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce -- with all the "fixin's" (to use the southern term). Then we had all sorts of pies and cookies for dessert. We had a wonderful time visiting and playing together.
Then on Christmas Eve "eve" we went to Mass, where most of our children were part of the Christmas Pageant. Cherub 2 and Cherub 3 were Angels (part of the Heavenly Host), and Cherub 4 was Joseph. Cherub 5 was Mary (thanks to Mrs. H for the making of her veil which received many compliments), and Cherub 6 was the Archangel Gabriel. Each of the children was truly honored to have been invited to participate. Everyone performed beautifully ! Then during the Mass, following the Homily, Father Vick called all of the children to the front of the church to sit for a story -- the Story of the Christ Child. He did an amazing job as the storyteller - the children were MOST engaged, and our children took turns "narrating" the whole drive home. I have to say that we have been so blessed with wonderful priest's since our return to the Catholic Church more than a year ago -- Father Cummins had a wonderful relationship with the children that deeply touched their hearts, and now Father Vick truly goes "the extra mile" time and time again to reach the younger ones and to engage them in their faith while encouraging them to strengthen their relationships with God.
After Mass and our arrival home, we did a quick "clean up" here at home, and then got into our brand new Christmas PJs. Everyone was so excited !! We settled together in the living room with warm mugs of herbal tea (blueberry for some, peppermint for others) to watch the OLD version of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (the one with Burl Ives voice). Eyes were getting heavy near the end of the movie, but we were not quite ready for bed.
After the movie ended, we had two read alouds while we were all settled. First we had a dramatic reading of Twas The Night Before Christmas - which brought many giggles. Next we read from our Bibles, taking turns, the story of the Birth of Our Saviour. After our readings, we prepared a snack - a few cookies for Santa with a cold Coke (Cherub 5 said that Santa might need a bit more UMPH with such a long night of work ahead - HA !), and some apples were placed on the front porch for the reindeer.
Finally, we checked NORADs website, which tracks Santa's visit to the United States --- he was in Cape Canavreal, Florida --- then he was in Atlanta, Georgia. OH MY !!! Cherub 6 nearly fell apart with excitement when Santa was spotted in Atlanta .... he was practically pushing everyone into their beds, including our elderly Golden Retriever (Daisy). Since Atlanta is three hours away and has a HUGE population, we decided that we still had a few minutes to get everyones teeth brushed, to say our prayers together, and to climb into bed .... and everyone settled very quickly into their snug beds for a much-needed winter's rest.
Monday, December 24, 2007
Sunday, December 23, 2007
There is also a cute parody of the Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer song in this article -- fun and a good astronomy lesson.
I love homeschooling !!
Even as our cloudy fancies take
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Cherub 5 turned 8yo in November. And I just realized that we never did her Blog Entry ... until now. Oops !!
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
It hardly seems possible that our BABY is F-I-V-E years old.
Monday, December 17, 2007
There is only one more week until Christmas Eve ... can you believe it ??
Our Annual Newsletters are mailed, complete with photographs (and have even been reported as received by some). We are completely finished shopping for gifts - YIPPEEEE !! We have sent our gifts to Maryland, and will be mailing two boxes to Connecticut tomorrow morning. Hooray !! We delivered gifts to the children's Sunday School teachers, and also to some friends. I even managed to buy our turkey (a 25+ pound Butterball turkey is usually a bit tougher to find !!) and have it thawing in the refrigerator.
We finished making our annual ornaments two weeks ago - 80 of them !! We give these to family and friends. I do have to mention that the children were an enormous help with this project this year, most especially Cherub 2. They would not have gotten finished without her hard work !! Two weekends ago, I went shopping and finished getting all of our "out of town" gifts. And then I went shopping in Knoxville again this week on Friday and Saturday evening - and I finished all of the shopping for our family. I even remembered to get the wrapping paper, ribbon, bows, and tape. (Although I DO still have to wrap the gifts for the children, maybe late this evening after everyone is in bed asleep ?!?!)
The Christmas Crazies can have it all now .... they can fight and bicker, race and run, demolish stores isles, and act in a positively horrid manner to one another and especially to store clerks .... and we will not have to witness it with our own eyes. Every year I am amazed at just what the Christmas Spirit brings out in many people at this time of the year .... it seems to get worse and worse every year. Whatever happened to Good Will To Men, and Peace On Earth ?!?!? And I am always happy to be "finished" with stores, so that I do not have to witness this behavior. It is shameful, but apprently people do not realize their impact. And every year our children vow "I WILL NEVER LET MYSELF BEHAVE LIKE THAT."
I do have a bit of grocery shopping to do, but that should be fairly safe .... I will still probably go during "workday" hours just to be on the safe side. HA !
With all of the "fussing" finished, we are looking foward to a very nice week here at home. We will focus on the true meaning of Christmas, and on the traditions of our family. After school each day we are going to do some special things together. We are going to read the Bible stories about the birth of Christ, and we will also read some other family-favorite stories as well. The children have each been working all month to memorize the scripture that "tells" of the birth of Christ. They also have been working to memorize some poetry and other pieces (individually) that are seasonal as well. Our plan is to have a special "presentation night" here at home - an evening when each child will recite their memory work. Of course this week we are going to sing some carols and bake some cookies too. We will be busy making new memories together in this new house, and most importantly giving Glory to God together.
So, here is the tentative plan:
Today (Monday) is a school day. And then I have to go for an MRI of my back (nothing too serious). After my MRI, I am going to finish my grocery shopping (cookie ingredients, the last of our Holiday Meal ingredients and supplies, a few staples for the week, etc). And this evening after dinner we are going to bake some cookies. I am also going to mix up the sugarcookie dough and gingerbread dough so that it can cool in the refrigerator overnight.
Tomorrow (Tuesday) we will have a traditional NO SCHOOL day because tomorrow is Cherub 6's birthday. (I will post more on that later.) Since we will have a "free" day, we will be making our sugar cookies and gingerbread people tomorrow because we will have plenty of time.
Wednesday is a school day. And then on Wednesday evening the Beck Cherubs will be going to church to practice for their parts in the Christmas Pageant, which is to be held at our church during Christmas Eve Mass (this Mass is to be celebrated on Christmas Eve evening). Cherub 1 is helping with organization and costumes. Cherub 2 and Cherub 3 are to be Angels. Cherub 6 is going to be the Archangel Gabriel - he is VERY pleased. And Cherub 4 is to be Joseph and Cherub 5 is to be Mary. All of the cherubs were quite honored to have been asked to participate and are really looking foward to the Pageant.
We will have our normal school day on Thursday. And then on Thursday afternoon our friends the "H" family are coming to play with us for the afternoon - this is always such a special time, when we get to visit and play with dear friends. I think we might cut some snowflakes together --- maybe we can create our own personal blizzard since we did not get any snow from the storms that did not quite make it this far south. HA !!
Saturday will be spent cooking as we will start assembling our holiday meal - baking our pies, baking bread for the stuffing, and getting things in order. We also might make a few last batches of cookies. On Saturday evening we will go to Mass, and then come home to have a nice quiet dinner together. And after dinner we will have our Presentation Night (described above).
On Sunday, we might take a nice drive to a Holiday Spot --- we have always wanted to go to Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg to see the lights, because the whole mountain is lit and decorated. We have never been up there before, so we might do this on Sunday if things are still going "as planned" here at home.
Then NEXT Monday will be Christmas Eve. We will have our big Holiday meal (actually it will be served at lunchtime so we have time to get ready for church) . We have invited Grandpa and some friends to join us, and we are looking forawrd to visiting with them. Then we will will go to Mass in the evening, during which the children will participate in the Christmas Pageant. After Mass we will come home to settle in for the night. Bedtime usually does not run very smoothly on Christmas Eve because the children are sooo excited, so we read a few extra stories and have some nice calming herbal tea. But eventually the children DO actually fall asleep.
NEXT Tuesday will be Christmas Day !! We will have an early breakfast (breakfast casserole is our tradition - YUMMY !!) and then we will get ready to go to Mass. After Mass, the children will open their gifts. Then we will spend the remainder of the day playing together (and probably assembling toys too - yikes !). Christmas Day is a nice "family" day here at home - no rushing or fussing. This is another Christmas tradition we have - we do not go out (except to Mass) or rush and fuss on Christmas Day. We spend it together here at home, having FUN together. Company is welcome, but there is nothing "fancy" about the visits. For lunch and dinner we will simply reheat the leftovers from our Christmas Eve "Feast" . Christmas Day is always wonderful -- time for family, love, and giving Glory to God.
And then NEXT Wednesday, things will be back to normal .... we will get back to our usual school schedule and normal activities. The "holidays" will have officially ended at bedtime on Christmas Day.
What a nice calm week this "should" be. Some years Christmas is extrememly hectic to the very last second, and sometimes even afterwards too .... but this year, our hearts have been so focused on what is truly important (the Lord, family, friends, and home) that the stress just could not sneak in.
We hope everyone enjoys this holiday season, and that stress does not sneak in. Keep your eyes on the Lord, and all will be well.
Friday, December 14, 2007
The oldest began .... "There is apparently quite a snowstorm coming to New England, with forcasts of 12" of snow in some areas. Can you imagine that, Mom ?" (and it DID come indeed http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/weather/12/13/winter.storm.ap/index.html according to the news THIS morning.)
"Why don't we pack up some warm clothes and go to play in the snow ?" they began to chime, one by one. "We could stay with Aunt Chris, and play in the snow. Please ?"
I said "I do not think Maryland is supposed to get the full 12" of snow, and we have school to think of."
They had another idea. "We could stay with Auntie Iddgy in Pennsylvania to play in the snow. And we could leave on Friday afternoon and come home Sunday so we wouldn't miss any school days. Please ? "
I said "Auntie Iddgy's house is just an hour north of Aunt Chris, and I do not think she is supposed to get the 12" of snow either. And DadToCherubs has to work."
Not to be dismissed, they continued with "Well, we could go to Connecticut and stay with GranAnnie and GranDan or Uncle Brian - surely THEY will get the 12" of snow. We wouldn't miss school because it will be a weekend, and DadToCherubs can work from ANYWHERE with highspeed internet and all of the family in Connecticut probably has that by now. PRETTY PLEASEEEEEEEEEEE ?? "
So, after this plan I was running low on "reasons", except for logic. I said "well, we have to get our Christmas shopping finished."
They paused and looked at each other, and said "Let's just send everyone a giftcard in the mail - and then go to Connecticut to play in the snow." And two children followed that with "I will even give my birthday money that I have saved to pay for the gas for the trip."
After all of this "pressure" ..... I did have to VETO the trip, which was a very unpopular decision to say the least. I would say the children REALLY want to see some snow this year .... and that they are becoming quite desparate about it. HA !! None the less, we are staying put here at home to finish our Christmas preparations, not to mention that we have not driven in significant snow in YEARS and do not want to try during a near Blizzard. But we will continue to hope for snow here ... and will maybeeee go to find some later this winter when we go to NewEngland for our planned visit.
Sunday, December 09, 2007
Saturday, December 08, 2007
Friday, December 07, 2007
DadToCherubs and I both served our country in the Navy (we were both in the Hospital Corps), and then DadToCherubs continued to serve in the National Guard as a Medic until just a few short years ago when he had some serious health issues.
We know all too well the sacrifices that are made by soldiers for our freedoms -- and we support them fully. There are so many stories we have heard through the years that the average citizen has no idea about -- all in the name of Freedom -- stories from the mouths of soldiers who served in WW2, Pearl Harbor, Korea, Vietnam, Iwo Jima, Somalia, Desert Storm, and conflicts that the general population has forgotten or perhaps never realized had happened at all.
We hope you enjoy this poem - and may we NEVER forget !!
The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,
I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
My daughter beside me, angelic in rest.
Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
Transforming the yard to a winter delight.
The sparkling lights in the tree I believe,
Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.
My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep.
In perfect contentment, or so it would seem,
So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.
The sound wasn't loud, and it wasn't too near,
But I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear.
Perhaps just a cough, I didn't quite know,
Then the sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.
My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
And I crept to the door just to see who was near.
Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,
A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.
A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old,
Perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.
"What are you doing?", I asked without fear,
"Come in this moment, it's freezing out here.
Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,
You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve.
For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,
Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts,
To the window that danced with a warm fire's light.
Then he sighed and he said "Its really all right,
I'm out here by choice. I'm here every night."
"It's my duty to stand at the front of the line,
That separates you from the darkest of times.
No one had to ask or beg or implore me."
"I'm proud to stand here like my fathers before me.
My Gramps died at ' Pearl on a day in December,'
Then he sighed, "That's a Christmas 'Gram always remembers."
"My dad stood his watch in the jungles of ' Nam ',
And now it is my turn and so, here I am.
I've not seen my own son in more than a while,
But my wife sends me pictures, he's sure got her smile."
Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,
The red, white, and blue... an American flag.
"I can live through the cold and the being alone,
Away from my family, my house and my home."
"I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat.
I can carry the weight of killing another,
Or lay down my life with my sister and brother."
Who stand at the front against any and all,
To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall."
"So go back inside," he said, "harbor no fright,
Your family is waiting and I'll be all right."
"But isn't there something I can do, at the least,
"Give you money," I asked, "or prepare you a feast?
It seems all too little for all that you've done,
For being away from your wife and your son."
Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
"Just tell us you love us, and never forget.
To fight for our rights back at home while we're gone,
To stand your own watch, no matter how long."
"For when we come home, either standing or dead,
To know you remember we fought and we bled.
Is payment enough, and with that we will trust,
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us."
Thursday, December 06, 2007
Last week we each wore one piece from our new Santa-hat collection, and went to the Annual Christmas Parade in town. We always look forward to this parade, and had a great time.
Cherub 6 was VERY impressed with the Marching Bands and with the Firetrucks (with lights glowing of course). He wants very much to be IN the parade next year.
And all of the children were excited to see that the parade began with a few National Guard soldiers (only those who are not in Iraq for Tour #2 right now). They were marching with Old Glory raised high while the National Anthem was played. (We are a VERY patriotic family, obviously.)