Dec 2, 2016

Friday Feasting: Easy Chicken



"This is our go-to meal when we are hungry, and nothing is ready.  With four teenage boys at my house, this became a favorite—so much that they learned to cook this meal.  YES, it is that easy! 

We’ve done variations on this.  We’ve used chicken thighs instead of breasts.  Simply reduce the simmering to 7-8 minutes per side.  We have also used this sauce for pork chops and steak.  It works well.  Just adjust cooking/simmering time so the meat does not dry out.  I highly recommend using Bragg Liquid Aminos all purpose seasoning in place of the soy sauce.  It is gluten free!  Sugar can be used instead of honey, but we found raw honey and fresh lemon juice really perk up the flavors.  I do use my own homemade ketchup, but any ketchup is fine."



Ingredients:
2 Tbs olive oil or coconut oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
3 Tbs ketchup
2 Tbs soy sauce
2-3 Tbs honey
2 Tbs lemon juice
1 tsp ground black pepper

Directions:

1.  In a big frying pan, saute chopped onion in oil just until the onion becomes soft and tender.

2.  While onions cook, combine ketchup, soy sauce, honey, lemon juice and pepper.  In a mixing bowl.   I use a whisk, but a spoon will do.  The sauce can be done before cooking the onions if desired.



3.  Add chicken and sear.  It takes just a few minutes on each side.  I move the onions to the side to accomplish quickly.  The onions continue to cook, but on the side.  Once chicken is seared on both sides, add the sauce.  Make sure it is well mixed with onions and coat the chicken on both sides.  Bring to a boil.  As soon as sauce starts to bubble, reduce heat immediately and cover the pan.  Simmer for 15 minutes and then turn chicken over.  Simmer for another 10-15, depending on the thickness of the chicken.



Garnish with fresh basil if desired.  Enjoy!!


Nov 30, 2016

How to Become an Expert Apologizer



Step 1: mess up a lot.

Not a problem.

I am currently on the outs with my beloved husband.  Nothing major, just one of those weird sudden shifts in mood where we are both tired and don’t really understand what’s going on with each other, and we expect a different reaction than the one we get, and then we say stuff we kind of mean, but mostly don’t.

They say not to go to bed angry, but we both kind of passed out in the middle of the argument, from sheer exhaustion. “Oh yeah? Well this is what I think of YOU! zZZzzzzzz.”

Husband (we will call him Thurl for the purposes of anonymity). Thurl has to leave very early for work so I woke up just as he was leaving, with no time to do any repair work, I hate that.  He rides in a van with several other people so we can’t even talk by phone.

So I just watched him leave, obviously still hurt, or upset, though he rejected both those adjectives along with the nuanced “mad” that I offer, as in, “You still mad?”  “I’m not mad.” Oh good.

A little context: we have a really lovely marriage. I think he’s adorable and he thinks I’m hilarious; he calls me “Beauty” despite all evidence to the contrary and I call him “Love”- please feel free to be nauseous.

 We have learned how to get along pretty well over the course of 25 years, despite a couple of important differences that must have had God chuckling as we stood at the altar.  When things are stressful, I NEED to talk. He HATES to talk when he is stressed.  Note: the past several years have been fraught with illness, death, and financial strain for us, as they have for so many I know.  So, stress. So, more opportunities to learn how to bring our different selves into some kind of harmony.

So right now he is on the stupid Michivan, we are hosting 35 people for Thanksgiving tomorrow and did I mention we are just getting over influenza? What to do, what to do.

In my younger days, I was a fan of the Big Gesture. I would have been in my car driving to his work to apologize.  I still like that approach- it has the virtue of showing the person that you have set aside your life to make sure everything is ok between you. It tends to smash the little ice walls before they get very big.  Sadly, that won’t work today: sick kids, house needs cleaning and food needs preparing.  Other options.

Get to confession and call him after. I was going to go this morning anyway and I need some grace and clarity, which may be redundant.  This has possibilities, though I hate apologizing on the phone. A really good apology involves some form of touch if possible.

I could wait till he gets home, but I hate to let things fester, so phone call it is, and I’ll smooch him later.

I need to remember what I said and try to put myself in his shoes. Right in the middle of an argument, that is so hard to do- you just want to win, or break through, or accomplish some personal goal.  Arguments are about agendas- be they emotional, practical, whatever- the idea of just setting the agenda aside during a fight is heroic. I think I have managed it fewer than ten times in the course of our 30 year relationship, and it has always been incredibly healing and lovely.  I love the shock on his face when I suddenly pull up, calm down, and say, “I see your point. I do. I am sorry I am not really listening right now. Can we start over and just talk about this?” It’s so Dr. Phil.

The problem is I can never remember to try this in the heat of the moment. I am a hothead from Hotheadsville, USA.  Like the Heatmiser from The Year Without a Santa Claus. For that matter, Thurl is the Snowmeiser.  He gets chilly fast, and I get frozen right out the minute my fahrenheit increases.  It’s a defense mechanism, part temperament, and part born of our family cultures.

No one ever, ever yelled in Thurl’s family growing up. No one ever talked about anything important, either. If by some accident, something important came up, and somebody felt hurt or angry, there followed a lockdown where everyone fell silent and watched the game.  Then, later, when everyone was ready, they just calmly and rationally ignored the whole thing for life.

In my family, we had two approaches: one parent was quicker to anger and quicker to forgive. The other was slow to anger, but Katie-bar-the-door once the anger arrived. And forgiveness was, let’s just say, longer in happening. “Dad? I’m sorry I stepped on the freshly poured driveway concrete when you expressly said not to and left my footprints in in for all time. Am I still grounded for two weeks? (cry).”  “Oh, it’s ok. I know you’re sorry. (Hug.)”  vs. Mom being patient for months until we are finally such jerks that she lets loose on us, quite deservedly. “Mom? I am sorry I didn’t clean up the playroom for three years even though you asked me to one thousand times. Am I still grounded? Mom? Mom??”

So I have lifelong experience with the Snowmeiser Way- and I respect it. It has it’s upsides- but it makes apologizing rather a strenuous affair. You’ve got to be really good at it.

Being a Hothead, I have said and done a lot of junk in the HOTM (heat of the moment) that I regretted, sometimes even while I was saying or doing it. So I have had decades of practice at apologizing, and I have gotten pretty darn good at it.  I remember reading somewhere in a story that an older gentleman was reminiscing over his apologies, and how they had made his relationships with people better, so much so that sometimes he would commit a small offense just for the pleasure of making a good apology.  So that’s probably a little mentally ill, but it has its points.

A good apology, a really sincere, warm apology from the heart, is very endearing.  First of all, it’s humble.  To do it, you really have to swallow a giant helping of ego and self-will, and that is hard, and everyone knows it. Second, it shows more concern for the other person than for self, or for carrying the point. This is genuinely sweet, and hard to resist. It’s taking the Lemon of your fight, and making the Lemonade of Love with it. What a tortured, saccharine metaphor.

Once your stomach has settled from that last paragraph, consider this: give the other person a chance to be ready to receive your apology. I am by nature a speedboat: I want to zip in, apologize warmly, and be done with it already. My husband the Ocean Liner takes longer to turn. I had to learn to respect that, and give him a little space to be angry in. If he’s really mad, he takes a nap. Afterwards he is much more amenable to a reconciliation. I used to get my little feelings all hurt because I would say something like, “You are such a big jerk, you understand nothing and I am really sorry I said those hurtful things and I don’t mean it, will you forgive me?” Okay, it probably wasn’t EXACTLY like that, but close enough where he would look at me like, I am not ready to make up yet, and I would have more stuff to be angry about. Lose, lose.

And then sometimes the other person is so egregiously and singlehandedly wrong that a good apology seems like a lie. “Sorry, but Clive is just one hundred percent wrong, and the children’s welfare is at stake. If I apologize, he takes that as confirmation that he is right, and nothing changes.” Sometimes this is true, or almost true (few of us achieve perfection in a disagreement and have nothing whatsoever to concede).

But most often, it’s not. We moms tend to get all dramatic about our kids’ emotional well-being and feel we need to defend them from their hard-hearted daddies, when often what they really NEED is a dose of tough love (please do not read “abuse”) and we are just too empathetic to see it.

Or if it’s just between us, it is rare that the other person has just acted completely unprovoked, unless they are a total creep, in which case you’ve got bigger problems.

In any event, even if the other person IS mostly wrong, there is always something to apologize for if you are interested in finding it.

Nan’s Argument Examination of Conscience:
Was my tone respectful?
Did I slip immediately into a pattern of talking that has never been helpful (“You always.. You never... the problem with your family is that…)?
Did I try, really try, to see it from his point of view?  
Did I bring up all kinds of other things because they are distantly related, and fog the issue? (“I remember back in high school, when you…”)
Did I make it about him personally rather than about the topic (“Why are you so unable to see this?”)?
Did I do something I know he hates during the argument, out of spite? (For us it’s the word “simply.” He hates that word. And I do use it, God forgive me.)
Was I emotionally manipulative (can’t think of what to say = time to cry or withdraw into a stony silence to compel instant guilt and contrition)?

So now that I am writing this, I am thinking of several things I might have done better. I won’t beat myself over the head with it- I was exhausted, he said/did some upsetting stuff too- ok, he was mostly silent, but I find that very upsetting and he knows it.

But I will think clearly and specifically about what I can honestly apologize for. (Dangle away, preposition.)

Then, I will make the actual apology. A couple of rules: no passive aggressive apologies like, “I’m sorry you got so upset.” Um, better to say nothing than that little firestarter.

Really mean it. You have to really BE sorry- this isn’t a formulaic thing: “I did x and x is wrong therefore I apologize. Beeeeep.” If you don’t feel it, even just a little, it is insincere, or just from the Brain. Nobody wants an apology from the Brain. You don’t say, “I love you with all my brain.” When someone hurts you, you don’t say they have broken your brain. You have to apologize from the heart. It takes generosity- you are giving something of yourself away. It is an act of love.

I can’t drive to Lansing today, but I can meet him at his Michivan stop tonight. With the highway under construction, this is an act of True Love. Now, off to confession. Prayers appreciated.



*Incidentally, Thurl Ravenscroft was the voice of Tony the Tiger. Why his name popped into my head I shall never know. Maybe I want Frosted Flakes...

**Thurl called (my husband, not Tony) and apologized while I was on the way to confession. Love wins!




Nov 28, 2016

Monday Meme: The Power of Women



Because this is my “safe” place, I’m going to go ahead and speak what’s been eating at my heart since the election of our new president.

I have friends and acquaintances who voted for the Democratic nominee, and I am saddened and perplexed at the level of their devastation on the election of the Republican nominee. Do you think we were overjoyed at the person we had to vote for? Do you think we – and our party – looked to the personal lifestyle of our nominee and voted him in for those reasons? I was as shocked as the next person as it seemed more assured that he would be our nominee. I could not believe it. That being said, when the chips fell, he was the one on the ticket for the Republican Party. He was the one I HAD to vote for.

“Why?” You say. “You could have voted for the Democratic nominee. Don’t you want a woman president? Let’s break that proverbial ‘glass ceiling’!!”

Yes! I would like to see a woman become president of these United States one day. Yes! There are many attributes of the Democratic party that I support: care of our earth, welcoming the immigrant, and helping those who need a helping hand.

BUT (ah, c’mon you knew it was coming)…

As a Catholic, I am led by my Faith (notice that capital “F”) that is written in that beautiful book, the Catechism, to believe that without LIFE, no amount of environmental protection or immigration reform or welfare is going to amount to a hill of beans. If I am not standing with THE MOST INNOCENT, MOST VULNERABLE among us FIRST, then I cannot stand for anything else.

Historically, the party that has been on the side of the unborn child has been the Republican party. You know this, I know this. Our priests and bishops know this. They spoke about it from the pulpit. (Well, at least ONE priest did. I’m sure you saw this circulating on Facebook, as I did. Best 20 minutes of the election. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=9&v=881aDDE5qFY). 

Our bishops wrote on the USCCB website about prioritizing issues, and the Right to Life was at the T-O-P. The priest in the above video went so far as to say you put your soul in imminent danger by voting for the party that upholds the right to an abortion. “Can he say that???” Yup, and he did.

I’m sorry. Can you just IGNORE that??? Can you really just say to the people sent by GOD to shepherd you to Heaven, “Excuse me. I know better than you. Thank you, and God bless.” This is what has bothered me the most: the blatant disregard for the counsel of our priests and bishops.

The other topic about this election that has bothered me goes back to my original meme. We women are powerful, and we know it. As God made us different physically, he made
the source of our strength different, too. I have listened to panels of women trying to analyze the reasons why the Democratic nominee did not get elected. Why the white women of the country couldn’t vote for another white woman to lead them. They mused that we just “weren’t ready” to have a woman in as powerful a role as the President of the United States, that the ones who came out to vote were “uneducated,” or that maybe we’re still fighting with some subconscious interior racism.

Puh-lease.

The majority of my Christian Catholic friends voted for Trump because of the party he represented and the values that party represents, MAINLY the right to life. Yes, I recognize the faults of my party. It does most certainly have them. Again, however, under the guidance of my Faith and my bishops, I turn to which party is going to stand up for the unborn, and that is the Republican party.

For my friends who think we’re going to Hell in a hand basket now that Donald Trump will become our president, I beg you not to despair. I double beg you to stop posting articles analyzing how this happened. I triple beg you to discontinue labeling those of us who voted Republican as the heartless people you are making us out to be.

You know me. I know you. Not only do I not think you’re baby-killing, liar-loving tree hugger; I completely LOVE you for the compassionate, patriotic, hopeful person you are.

All women should follow the example of our Blessed Mother, the most powerful woman ever created was the most humble of servants. 




Nov 25, 2016

Friday Feasting: Apple Cranberry Casserole

photo source... http://cdn1.tmbi.com/TOH/Images/Photos/37/300x300/exps4010_RM2003C47B.jpg


Everyone likes dessert. Especially on Thanksgiving. Especially when it’s actually served with the regular meal like it’s a healthy side.

Growing up I always wondered how my Aunt Trudy could slide this “casserole” in beside the turkey - NOT on the dessert table - and get away with it. But then again, Aunt Trudy got away with a lot…just because of who she was.

Enjoy!


Apple Cranberry Casserole

Ingredients:
3 cups chopped apples
2 cups fresh cranberries
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 ½ cups sugar
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup brown sugar
½ cup melted butter
1 1/3 cups oatmeal

Directions:
Place apples and cranberries in greased 2 qt. baking dish. Sprinkle with lemon juice. Cover with sugar; set aside. Combine oats, walnuts, brown sugar and butter in a small bowl to moisten. Place over fruit. Bake uncovered in 375 degree oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Great with chicken or turkey.



Nov 23, 2016

Advent Traditions in the Large Family


photo credit ... https://marthaspong.com

Here we are, the day before Thanksgiving, and just a few days away from the first Sunday in Advent! Are you ready? Do you have traditions that you do with your family each year? Or are you looking for ways to live the season that keep the focus on preparing a place for Christ, both in the form of the Baby Jesus and Christ the King whose return we await?

Advent in our home has evolved over the years. As a child, we had an Advent wreath but that was it. I don't remember a real emphasis on celebrating Advent as opposed to preparing for Christmas. So, the Advent wreath is where we started, with a little booklet of prayers and Scripture my mom put together for her religious education class of Kindergarten
ers.

When my older kids were very young and we were just starting out with homeschooling, I went to an Advent Seminar, led by exciting, faith-filled women. I still have many of the handouts they put in the purple folder, almost twenty years later!!! There were crafty talks (not my thing!) and spiritual talks. There was a husband and wife, parents of a large family, talking about praying together, just the two of them. My husband wasn't Catholic yet and the idea was so foreign but so appealing!

I left the seminar with a dozen ideas, and knew I had to pare it down. We bought a book about the Jesse Tree, with symbols to cut out. We bought a book with prayers and activities for children, which we still use today. A few years later, we learned about the O Antiphons and the Christmas novena.

Probably my biggest source of Advent inspiration is Elizabeth Foss , who blogs at In the Heart of My Home. Really, you should go there now! :-) Elizabeth prepared Advent lesson plans centered mostly around Tomie dePaola books, with lots of reading and crafting. Those books have become an integral part of our Advent traditions. And now, she has a lovely devotional ebook for moms, because in the busyness of trying to make sure our kids "get" the meaning and beauty of Advent, we moms can miss the opportunity, actually the need, to prepare our own hearts. So, when you are done here, make haste to Elizabeth's blog and search for "Comfort and Joy"!

So, here's is what our Advent looks like with kids aged twenty to three in the house:

Advent Wreath

We light and pray after dinner every night. We still read the simple devotions my mother wrote, and a little prayer from Advent for Children (not sure if it is still in print, but there are many good prayer books for Advent. We also have The Essential Advent and Christmas Handbook, with prayers a little deeper for the older people at the table.

Jesse Tree

I still use our Jesse Tree paper ornaments from the Jesse Tree Kit. Again, I've had my resources for decades and they are harder to find, but several other good resources are out there. This one looks good: Jesse Tree Ornaments. We used to have a little fake tree to hang our ornaments on, but in recent years I have just drawn a big tree on butcher paper and hung it on the wall. The kids then tape the ornament for each day after reading the Scripture verse. We just go in order of age, each child getting a couple of chances each year to hang an ornament. 

Advent Calendar

We have a nice wooden Advent Calendar that has held up for years from Catholic Child. It has little compartments, each with a piece of a Nativity scene and they are magnetic.  Again, we take turns taking the piece out and putting it on the Nativity scene background. The littles enjoy moving the pieces around so it is not uncommon to see sheep floating in the sky! 

Nativity sets

We have several sets, a couple for the kids, including a Little People one that they just love and a peg doll set my daughter painted last year. I have "my" set that goes on the mantle and we have a huge Bethlehem village set that we put on the entertainment center. It's a little hard to see, but it's very tempting to little people and not sturdy enough to be played with. Someday, we will put it somewhere more visible!

Reading

During Advent, "schoolwork" takes a backseat and we just read and read. We have built up a library of both religious and some not so religious books, for many age levels. I've drawn heavily from Elizabeth Foss' recommendations. Each year, we read either Jotham's Journey, Tabitha's Travels, or Bartholemew's Passage. They are set in the days leading up to Christ's birth and are adventure stories that lead all the way to Bethlehem. There is a reading for each day. It keeps the children excited and interested, even after years of reading them!

Straw for the Baby Jesus

My favorite Advent activity! Way back, my oldest covered a shoe box with construction paper to be a crib for the Baby Jesus. We keep a ball of straw colored yarn next to the crib. When a child does a good deed (extra chore, helping a sibling, making a sacrifice), he or she puts a piece of straw in the manger. The goal is a comfy, warm bed for Baby Jesus! Such a great visual to encourage preparing our hearts!

St. Andrew Novena 

This is a prayer tradition that begins on Saint Andrew's feast November 30th and goes until Christmas Eve. It consists of praying the prayer fifteen times throughout the day. I have the prayer printed out and placed on the refrigerator. I also make it the wallpaper on my iPad, and I have a lovely chaplet with a St. Anthony medal on it from Loreto Rosaries.

Christmas Novena

This is a little more of a commitment, especially if you have all little children but we have managed it for sixteen years. We originally found it on a Knights of Columbus website, but you can find it here at Catholic Culture.  My husband typed it up assigning different sections to different children so everyone has a part. It begins on December 16th and incorporates the O Antiphons which start on the 17th.

O Antiphons

We have never made an O Antiphons house or ornaments, but we celebrate them through the novena and by singing the corresponding verse of O, Come Emmanuel each day, and on Christmas Eve we sing the whole song. Here is an article by Jennifer Miller explaining the significance of the Antiphons better than I can.

Advent is full of great feast days, too! But I will save those for another post just about the saints!

Lastly, here are some books I've enjoyed for myself over the years:
Advent and Christmas with Pope John Paul II
Behold, He Comes
Joy to the World, How Christ's Coming Changed Everything (and Still Does)

Wishing you all a blessed Advent!