Thursday, February 25, 2010

8th Birthday Cake

Making this cake brought out the inner Star Wars geek in me. I've always secretly loved Star Wars. Can you tell it is for my son's Birthday? It is a bit more masculine than the other cakes I usually am asked to make.
I've been experimenting with different frostings and this one was a mix of royal icing (The yoda face and light saber), an older chocolate butter cream, and a vanilla butter cream recipe I just discovered. I think all my cakes from now on will be frosted with this new frosting. The kids and I love it! Here it is if anyone cares to try it.

Vanilla Butter Cream Frosting
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup softened unsalted butter
1 tsp. clear vanilla extract
4 cups powdered sugar
2 1/2 Tbs milk
a pinch of salt

Warm February Day and Playing Footsie

We were pleasantly surprised this past weekend with some nice weather. The kids were overjoyed to be out of the house and able to play on the swing set (in short sleeves, no less!). It was much muddier than I originally thought, but was worth the mess. The swing set was bursting at the seams with all six of the kids merrily swinging and climbing. It was a very happy sight to behold.

Little E is betting better at sitting up on his own and has recently discovered his feet or "footsies", as we call them. He was having quite the time the other night sucking on them. He was just so cute, I couldn't help but get some pictures of him. I have a feeling that these are the days I will remember when I am old. I thought I might as well share them, so you could enjoy them too.

Friday, February 19, 2010

National Weather Service Field Trip

We took a field trip to the National Weather Service on Thurs. The kids learned a few things about the weather, forcasting, local storm history, and government agencies. They got to experience a simulated tornado, touch a weather balloon, and see snow core samples taken. It was a pretty cool experience to see what they do and how they do it.
I've also included some pictures of baby Eli, who is now five months old. He is getting cuter by the day. All the kids are still fighting over who gets to hold him and play with him. It must be rough being so loved. :)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Bible Quote to Ponder This Lent

"If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and forgive their sin and heal their land." -- 2 Chronicles 7:14

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Lenten Reflection by Father Euteneuer

I really wanted to share this with everyone so that they, too, may better prepare for the upcoming season of Lent. May God bless you as you journey closer to Him.

Spirit & Life®
"The words I spoke to you are spirit and life." (Jn 6:63)Human Life International e-NewsletterVolume 05, Number 06 Friday, February 12, 2010
Don't Waste LentNext Wednesday is Ash Wednesday - hard to believe that Lent is here already! Join with me, friends, in making a firm intention not to waste the phenomenally-rich season of grace that is Lent. How will we derive maximum benefit out of this season of preparation? Let me count the ways:First, begin with the end in mind; that is, remember for what it is that we prepare! The historical events of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of our blessed Lord Jesus were anticipated by the People of Israel wandering forty years in the desert and by Jesus' own forty days of prayer and fasting in the desert. We can surely spend a little time in a "desert" of self-renunciation, fasting and prayer to prepare our souls to enter into the Paschal Mystery, the greatest of all gifts that touch our lives. Acts of self-abnegation are not ends in themselves; they are means to the end of becoming more pure in our relationship with God and man.Second, stay simple; that is, don't load yourself down with too many spiritual exercises or intentions that may discourage you if you run too fast out into the desert. While I am all for heroism in religious practices, I am also realistic about the power of the world, the flesh and the devil to undermine our best efforts. This is why the Church gives us very minimal and, quite frankly, rather easy "penitential" practices in Lent: required fasting is only on two days (Ash Wednesday and Good Friday; guaranteed, these won't kill anyone!), abstinence from meat is only on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent (a modest inconvenience for any active person) and our "Easter duty" (Communion at Eastertime and sacramental confession as needed before that). Despite its minimal rigor, though, the Church makes sure that the penitential dimension of this season remains intact. Each person can invest himself in penitential practices beyond this, but make sure you are diligent about the very basics that the Church requires, for obedience is the first of the virtues in religion.Finally, go for high spiritual impact. That is, identify and practice faithfully just one really magnificent goal for your personal conversion this Lent. I say conversion and not "personal improvement" lest anyone interpret the call to spiritual discipline as a chance to lose weight or quit smoking! What Lent demands of us is to look into our vicious, slothful and petty nature and challenge it with the full prophetic force of the Gospel. A well-intentioned person who stacks up a dozen goals for personal change but accomplishes few or none of them is not a better person at the end of Lent. He is more scattered, less disciplined and under a the illusion of false piety thinking that he is doing something holy by multiplying activities without transforming his heart. In contrast, the one who targets his habit of petty backbiting with a shock-and-awe campaign of generosity toward those he finds disagreeable is the one who receives a blessing from the Lord because he acts like John the Baptist who Jesus said "took the Kingdom by storm." Any mature person will know that a single, firm and effective intention to convert one's heart is worth more than a thousand acts of superficial piety.Focus on the goal, remain simple and obedient, go for true conversion of heart - those who resolve to walk through Lent with these intentions will reap the benefit of conformity to Christ when we finally arrive at the High Holy Days of our blessed Faith.Blessings for the journey and be assured of my prayers!Sincerely,Rev. Thomas J. Euteneuer,President, Human Life International

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

When God gives you Snow...

When God gives you snow, make snow ice cream!

The kids were in seventh heaven today as they tried snow ice cream for the first time. We are getting an actual snow storm, instead of the usual light dusting. This is the first time I have felt confident that there was enough fresh snow to make one of my childhood favorites. I made a batch of vanilla first and then experimented with peppermint, chocolate chip mint, almond, and lemon. Yummy!

I am sure that some would think it dangerous to use raw eggs, but hey I am sure that kids ingest far worse things than raw eggs. Besides, when I was growing up in Northern Indiana, (where we got real snow storms about every other week) we ate snow ice cream all the time. I am still here to tell the tale, so it can't be all that bad.

If you feel daring enough to try some snow ice cream, here is the recipe:

Snow Ice Cream

Cream together these first two ingredients:
2 eggs
1 tsp. salt

Stir in the following:
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup milk
1 Tbs. vanilla (if using another extract like peppermint, almond, coconut, lemon, etc. use a little less than 1 tsp.)

Fold in:
12-14 cups of FRESH, clean snow

Eat immediately. Enjoy!

My kids sure did. They said it is the second best ice cream they've ever tasted. They still like Dairy Queen's ice cream sundaes with Creme 'D Mint better than mine. Oh, well. You can't be the best at everything.

Monday, February 8, 2010

February First Friday Activities

On Friday, another Mom and I led the First Friday activities at the nursing home. We discussed the topic of Lent with the kids. We used the book, "Celebrating Lent" by Rev. Jude Winkler O.F.M. Conv. It is one of the St. Joseph Picture Books that my kids own. They are published by Catholic Book Publishing Corp. (I just love that series of books. I think you could teach nearly the whole catechism if you read through the whole series. ) We used the book as an outline to give a brief overview of the history and purpose of Lent.

When we got to the part about doing good deeds (or service projects) for others, we stopped and did a service project. We had the kids decorate Kleenex boxes that had been wrapped in white paper. This was a fun craft that the kids look forward to doing almost as much as the residents look forward to receiving them. After they were decorated, the kid delivered them to the nursing home residents who were very grateful.

Rachel, the other leader of the activities that day, had made a game for the kids to do which would help them review. The group was divided into two teams---blue and orange. Each team received a laminated paper and 20 phrases. The object of the game was to find the 10 phrases that related to Lent and stick them to the paper. The first team done would win. It was really neat to see how well the older kids jumped right in and helped the little ones. I am so grateful for such well-behaved teenagers. They were a real blessing in helping the game go smoothly.

Another big help to me was my mother who was in town for a visit. She accompanied me and most of the kids to the First Friday activities while my Dad stayed home with R. It was nice having my mom there to hold the baby and help clean up. I know the kids really loved having her there, too.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Cute Misunderstanding

Today, February 3rd, was the feast of St. Blase. He is the patron saint of diseases of the throat. We attended Mass this morning to celebrate his feast day. After Mass, Father stood at the front of church, blessed candles in hand, waiting to bless throats. I quietly whispered to my 6 year old, "Let's go up and get our throats blessed." She gave me a very puzzled look and asked, "Why do we need our coats blessed?"

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Candlemas Day 2010

Here are the few little activities we did today to celebrate Candlemas Day, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (which is also the fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary). We started last night making our royal icing "flames" for our edible candles. Here is the royal icing recipe I used:
2 egg whites
2 tsp. lemon juice
3 cups powdered sugar
food coloring
When the "flames" were hardened and dry this morning, we assembled our "candles" using Little Debbie's Strawberry shortcake rolls (yummy!). We cut the snack cakes in half because they were too tall to stand up by themselves. Using the remaining royal icing, I made the snack cakes look like they were dripping wax and then inserted the frosting "flame". The kids seemed to enjoy these "candles" better than last year's treats. We will probably do this one again next year.

Our home school group was invited to attend a neighboring parish's celebration of Candlemas. First, Father blessed the candles, then we processed to the church. Along the way, the kids held candles. We stopped to pray and recite a psalm response at each corner of the church. The older kids did great. However, things went terribly wrong with the little ones. R singed her eye brows and dripped hot wax on herself repeatedly, while B started to burn the pew in front of us once we got into the church. At that moment, the baby started to cry, needing to nurse, and my cell phone rang! Note to self: Do NOT let anyone under age 6 hold their own candle next year and remember to turn off the cell phone!

Despite the difficulties initially, the rest of Mass went much better (once the candles were extinguished). Father's homily was great. He did a wonderful job speaking to the kids about the importance of this feast and the reasons for the use of candles throughout the Christmas season and as a powerful symbol for Christ. Father also spoke about other culture's traditions related to Candlemas. Though, it didn't go as smoothly as I'd like, we probably will do it again next year. After all, I am a glutton for punishment. Only during times of trial, do we fully rely on God . I know that I never would have made it through that Mass without some Divine Assistance.

When we arrived home, we prayed our Chaplet of Divine Mercy and then made more edible candles. This time out of Starburst candies. Once you get the candies warm enough, they become similar to play dough. It was a very good lesson in following directions and sculpting. Overall they did very well at listening to my instructions. This was the one time I didn't mind them playing with their food.

I hope you enjoyed our pictures. God bless.