Monday, February 28, 2011

Lent and Food

Here we go again... I've been thinking a lot about how to make the most of the Lenten season this year.  Every year since we moved to Chicago, Archbishop Job would begin Lent by telling us "The school of repentance is open."  On Palm Sunday, he would declare it closed, and I would think, "I've failed again."  In my defense I was too sick during two of them to do much more than pray, "Lord, please make this feeling stop."  On the other hand, that's no excuse since I blew five other opportunities.

This year I get to try again. Yippee!  And I hope to use the time fruitfully.  I plan to read the Bible everyday -- at the very least the prescribed daily readings.  I have not been faithful enough in the past to keep up with daily Bible reading.  I pray I can do better.  The Lenten project for the Sunday school kids was sent home yesterday, so the girls and I will be doing that, too.  Then, we will be attending most, though probably not all, of the extra church services.  So, I have a plan for the spiritual journey, and I'll be trying my best to stick to the road map.

Then, there is the worst part of Lent... the FOOD!  I thought it was hard to be a Catholic at an Episcopal university on Fridays in Lent when the only thing served in the dining hall seemed to be chicken sandwiches.  I didn't think fasting could get any harder until I became Orthodox.  I have found some pretty good recipes over the years, and we've managed to get through.  However, we're usually dragging by the middle.  Ironically, this week which should be the easiest has often been the hardest for me to cook in because I try to clear the cabinets and don't want to buy dairy during my weekly grocery shopping for fear it will be wasted.  So, I end up cooking spaghetti and soyballs with Parmesan cheese, or bean soup with the extra cheddar cheese in the fridge.  And DH complains that I'm simply cooking Lenten meals and adding cheese.

Well, this year I'm fixing that.  Starting with tonight's dinner, I'll periodically post some of the more successful Cheesefare and Lenten recipes.

So, tonight's dinner was spinach lasagna.  Before we moved to Chicago, I had the best ever lasagna recipe.  Sadly, it was lost in the move, and I have been trying to recreate it ever since.  This is not that lasagna, but I'm pretty pleased with this easy version.

1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced (or to taste -- we love garlic)
3 cups fresh baby spinach
1 small carrot, shredded
1 jar/can of your favorite spaghetti sauce (I used Hunt's Traditional 26 oz)
2 cups water (use a little less if you have more sauce)
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
1 cup cottage cheese
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
3 handfuls (1/4 - 1/2 cup) fresh parsley
1 egg
2 cups mozzarella cheese or Italian blend
8 lasagna noodles

1. In a large pan, saute onion and garlic in EVOO.  Add spaghetti sauce, water, spinach, and carrots.  Simmer about 10 minutes until spinach starts to wilt.
2. In a large bowl, mix salt, pepper, ricotta, cottage cheese, Parmesan cheese, parsley, and egg.
3. Layer in a 13x9 pan: sauce, noodles, cheese mix, mozzarella, sauce, noodles, cheese mix, sauce mozzarella.
4. Cover with foil and bake 50 minutes in a 350 degree oven.  Remove foil and bake another 10 minutes.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Backwards Day

I am of the opinion that most children today are coddled too much.  By the time my children started walking, I was having them help clean up by bringing me books to put away, or throwing toys into boxes.  Rather than feeding them jars of baby food, I used a method to teach them to feed themselves the food that I was cooking anyway.  And when it comes to clothes I give them full choice on what to wear (six days a week and as appropriate for the weather).  Yaya always wanted to pick her clothes, but she didn't start dressing herself until she was 3 years old.  Bumble Baby has recently decided it's time to spread her wings and dress herself.  She's been waking up about an hour before me this week.  Each day she has come to my room around six in the morning asking for help with a snap or a sleeve, and I've groggily helped her before rolling over to get a little more rest.  Largely she's been very successful at this endeavor.  Today when she came running to me after I awoke, I had to laugh (and then praise her efforts). She managed to get everything on the same way, but it was all backwards.  That did not bother her, though, and she refused to change a thing!  She has a strong sense of independence, and I do want to encourage that, so today is now Backwards Day.

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Little Validation

As I march through life trying to take care of the many needs of a family, I often feel that I'm falling short of my goals.  The struggle lately to get Bumble Baby to go to sleep has really been making me feel like a failure.  Just today, though, I had a glimmer of hope that I'm doing something right.

I put her in her bed and positioned myself outside the door.  She came to the door and tried to escape.  Then, she yelled and cried a bit.  Then, she returned to her bed for a few moments of quiet.  This happened a few times.  I heard her get out of bed once more and walk towards the door.  Instead of yelling, though, I heard chanting this time.  "Glory, O God! Glory, O God!" followed by more unintelligible chanting.  It wasn't exactly what I wanted her to be doing at that moment, but let's face it praying in her icon corner when she should be sleeping is not such a bad thing.  It feels good to know I've laid a foundation, at least.  And who knows maybe God will speak to her and encourage her to sleep for me...

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Doll House Rug

While we were visiting grandparents in Georgia at Christmas, we took Yaya to the History Museum.  She had a few dollars that she was dying to spend on a souvenir, but there wasn't much in her price range for kids.  After refusing to let her buy a few items, she found a package of Spool Doodles hidden on the bottom shelf covered with dust.  It had no price on it, but she was begging me to let her buy it anyway.  I told her she would have to ask the docent what the price was before I would agree.  When he came back into the room, she pounced with her question.  He thought a second before saying, "Well, that's been there for years now.  How about $2?"  She eagerly handed over her money.

I thought she might be able to keep busy with this on our long drive home.  However, when we started out days later, she had already lost the main instructions, and I couldn't figure it out from the particular project instructions.  I found the instructions about a week after we got home, but we had other things to do and the Spool Doodles were momentarily forgotten.  I found them again earlier this week and decided to use some of my yarn to figure it out, so I could show Yaya how to do it later.  I started working last night while guarding the bedroom door to keep the girls from getting up at bedtime (we've been having a great struggle with this lately when Bumble discovered how to climb out of the crib).

So, I worked for 30 minutes in front of the door and continued while watching TV later in the evening.  After about 4 hours of labor, I managed to make a small dollhouse rug.  I imagine it beside a bed for cold winter mornings in the dollhouse.  Well, this is a pretty time consuming task and sometimes tricky to hook the loops, so I'm not sure how long Yaya will do this craft.  I guess we'll see.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day

Some people, even in my own household, suggest that Valentine's Day was created by greeting card companies to make money off of us romantic saps.  I beg to differ and then ask even if that were true so what?  I say it's not a greeting card holiday.  Certainly, St. Valentine's Day can be traced back to Chaucer's Parliament of Foules.  And while it's true none of the Saints Valentine recorded by the Catholic or Orthodox Church have this feast day or were patrons of romantic love, this is still a day worth celebrating.

 It is a great idea to set aside a day to tell those we love how important they are to us.  Although it is often argued that one can do that on any day of the year, it is rare that those making the argument live up to it.  I think it's also important not to see this day as a day for romantic love alone.  Even for married couples romantic love can be fleeting.  There is a more powerful love that remains and grows, and it is even greater to celebrate.  It is the love that says "I choose to be with you and I will stick with you through whatever comes our way, be it good or bad."  The great thing about this love, too, is that it is inclusive, not limited to two people.  This love can expand to include children, and those who support us in our struggles, and the Holy Trinity who is it's model.

This is the love we celebrated for Valentine's Day.  We did it a little early though.  On Saturday morning we had a family date.  The four of us had brunch at the American Girl Place.  Getting there tested our love as we waited for a long-in-coming train, only to discover we missed the train we actually wanted.  We had a spat, and stood silent on the train for a bit.  When we arrived for our brunch, however, all was already forgiven and forgotten.  We had a delightful time all around.  Yaya had us reading and answering conversation questions, such as "If you owned a store, what would you sell?"  The food was delicious and abundant (enough for two meals), and Daddy even tolerated us wandering around the store for a bit after we ate.

Tonight we'll probably try to have a quiet couple's evening -- a movie, a nice dinner, a glass of wine -- if the girls stay in bed.   Whether we succeed or not, though, I do want to say to my husband "I love you!"  And to my daughters and everyone else I love, "Happy Valentine's Day!"

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Child's Logic

Yesterday (and today) Chicago was in the single digits with wind chills dropping us 15-30 degrees below zero.  Bumble and I stayed home most of the day, but we had to venture out in the early evening to pick Yaya up from drama club.  As we were getting ready to go, she asked if she could bring Pinky Bear with her.  I agreed that would be okay.  Then she asked to bring her baby with her, too.  I told her she should leave the baby home because she would be too cold.  I was trying to keep us as unencumbered and nimble as possible to minimize our time in the freezing and then some weather.  Her response, however, was "I get hat?"  Of course, a hat would keep her warm!  I couldn't resist her logic, so I let her bring the baby, too.  And not only did the baby get a hat, but Pinky got one, too.

When we picked Yaya up, I got another taste of children's winter logic.  She had been picked up by a friend, and I was picking her up from there.  When the front door opened, I saw her standing there in a light jacket with her backpack already on.  "Where is your coat?"  "It's in my backpack."  "Why?" I asked dumbfounded.  "Because I wore this jacket to drama club."  As if that were explanation enough and I should certainly understand...  I think this child may grow up to be a member of the Polar Bear Club and go "swimming" in Lake Michigan in the winter!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Aftermath

Okay, so my title is a little tongue in cheek, and I lied about the previous post being the last blizzard post.  These have been an easy few days, and we haven't had any trouble.  We were smart enough to stay off of Lakeshore Drive and not try to take our cars down unplowed streets; so, we've been having a grand ole time.  Last night I took a walk to the alley for a few more photographs.  The end of the alley was largely cleared by someone, but the snow drifts on the uncleared area were nearly to the top of the garbage and recycling cans.  Our garage (the cream colored one by the light pole) looks downright buried.  When I opened the garage door this morning, it was much less impressive... I really thought it would be a significantly higher drift than it is.  Oh well!
As I returned to our apartment one last time for the evening, I paused to notice the landing of our downstairs neighbors.  We were in and out many times yesterday, and each time I noticed their boots sitting on the landing unmoved.  There were also wonderful food smells wafting under their door.  They apparently spent a cozy day in, enjoying some good food and conversation (I could hear them talking, too).

 That brings us to today.  CPS got a second snow day, but Daddy went to work, and my part-time ward came to me today.  So, Yaya is the only one with another vacation day.  This is the last, though.  The principle just emailed that CPS announced school will be open tomorrow.  Skinner North, located in the heart of the former Cabrini Green, is as yet unplowed and sitting amidst 3 foot snow drifts.  School bus service won't be running until Monday, so it looks like I have to dig my car out before morning.  Before I would let the girls out to play today, I made them work.  Their room was a mess, so they had to clean before playing.  Just before lunch we went out to the backyard.  Last night Daddy shoveled a path up to the garage, but the rest of the yard was untouched.  We fixed that!

Conquering the snow wall
Everyone needs a large chunk of snow.
"Don't come any closer, Bumble.  I'm sinking."
It's tough to climb a snow mountain when you're small.
"Here, Mama, for you."
The girls were willing to climb on the part that had been shoveled up. However, they were less sure about going over it at first. I really wanted Yaya to make a snow angel for me, but she refused for fear of sinking and being stuck forever. So, I had to make the first angel, and then both of them were eager to follow!  Yaya managed to make a small angel next to mine (the photo is from the second floor balcony), but Bumble couldn't do more than climb through it.  When they finished, I had to climb in and lift both of them out and back to solid ground.
 One last photo comparison:

Our messy, but still pretty deep fire hydrant

A pristine hydrant at the end of our block

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Final Blizzard Post

9:30 AM
 The first pictures here will be from 9:30 AM this morning.  Shortly after declaring she no longer likes snow, Yaya decided she did indeed want to go outside.  So, we bundled up and headed out to play in the heavily falling snow.  We couldn't build a snowman because there was really no space to do it -- not to mention that after many years of trying, I've never managed to roll snow into a ball bigger than my fist.
Our hydrant being shoveled

The girls made many a snowball to throw at each other and me.  Bumble was chasing me down in the picture on the left, and Yaya was gathering her ammo to do the same.  I climbed over mounds of snow to take the street view below.  In fact, while taking the picture I was actually straddling one mound because I got stuck!   By the time we decided to go back inside the girls looked like snowmen.
After coming inside at about 10:00, we called Mat. Joanna to check up on her and learned that morning liturgy had not been canceled -- no one let us know that...  So, after wavering as to whether we should venture out for the end of church, we decided to go.  Since we would be missing most of liturgy, I tried to get the girls out of the house quickly and left my camera at home.  We did make it for the last 10 minutes of church -- how very Orthodox of us!  That made for a grand total of 6 attendees!

 We stopped to have a bite to eat at the corner coffee shop, which is open, before heading home.  I put Bumble down for a nap and settled everyone in before heading out again to get what I think are some pretty cool pictures, including a warning of why you shouldn't drive the day after a blizzard.  Chicago is a city that just won't give up.  It's a city of walkers, so even if they can't get their car out, people are still out and about.  And if you can walk to a major street, you can even catch a bus!  The buses and trains are running!

This is also a very friendly city. As I was walking around taking pictures, many passersby said hello.  One man even stopped me to ask if I had seen the van... "No, what van?"  "There's a burnt out van on the corner a block south of here.  It got stuck in the intersection and while revving the engine to get out of the snow. It caught fire."  Someone in the crowd, whom I think lives on the corner, said that the two passengers did get out safely and were even able to save the tools in the back.  The area reeks of burnt rubber, but the fire department was able to do its job and put it out rather quickly.  Fortunately, there is a fire house only a few blocks away.  I probably even hear the sirens this morning.

Finally, a couple of pictures of Holy Trinity Cathedral...

In the morning...

Our snow drift...
I slept a little late today. It was 7:30 AM before the girls woke me up.  I gave them some food, and went out to take some pictures.  It wasn't snowing when I first woke up, but about 5 minutes after I got outside it started to snow lightly.  It's getting a little heavier now (8:25 AM).
 It is certainly impressive.  I've put some pictures of the front yard/street first.  I had to shovel the steps before I could get out to take more pictures.  The next two pictures are the north and south views of the street.  Our neighbor to the north has already used the snow blower on most of the sidewalk.  He stopped about halfway down the block in the southern direction.
Here are a couple of shots of my favorite fire hydrant.  Now it looks like we really had a blizzard.  The first image looks deep because of the snow pushed up by the snow blower.  The second one is the image I had been hoping for.

Some crazy soul tried to drive even though our street is still unplowed.  He apparently made it off of the street because I saw no cars stuck in the middle, but I can't imagine where he is trying to go.  Finally, here's a shot of my shoveling job.  So much snow is actually quite heavy even though this is supposedly the "fluffy" stuff.  I only did a small path to get down.
Next I ventured out to the backyard.  Just before bedtime last night, DH performed his nightly perimeter check and told me about the snow that snuck inside through the first floor porch wall.  So, here's a picture of our back stairwell/porch.  When I opened the back door, the sight was quite impressive.  The backyard has been untouched... The snow drift at that door was even higher than the front.  Sadly, it got a little messed up when I opened the door as some of the snow stuck to the door.  The garage is raised some from ground level.  To give you an idea of how much snow is there, it takes two good sized steps to get up to that door.   It's now 9:03 AM, and I'm going to publish this in a second.  But first, Yaya looked out the window a minute ago and said, "Look! The blizzard's back!"  It's really coming down now.  She doesn't want to go play in it, though.  She says she doesn't like snow anymore.  It's cold!

Last Update of the Night

The snow is drifting so much now that my fire hydrant doesn't seem noticeably more covered.  The snow is certainly getting higher, though.  We're officially at a foot.  I haven't heard a snow plow since the 9:00 hour, and it is quite noticeable on our street. Judging by the current state of things, I'm betting no plow 'til morning...

Lots of pictures here, though.  The wind is blowing so hard now that my camera got quite a bit wet despite the umbrella I've been using to protect it. 
South view of street


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Blizzard Update #5

 At 10:09 PM we heard some thunder, and some more a bit later.  Nothing since, though.  When I opened the front door at 10:30 PM to take another picture of the fire hydrant this is what greeted me.  That's some impressive drift.  The stairs were quite snowy, and not easily navigable.  I don't feel like shoveling again tonight, though.  Our neighbor in the garden unit did shovel recently, however.  The wind is picking up, and the snow does seem heavier.

10:30 PM