Thursday, April 30, 2015

From The Kitchen: Fudgey Brownies

Let's pretend I'm not keeping track of my calories and trying really hard to eat healthy this pregnancy. Weekends tend to be a little less 'off the grid' and I don't keep track as hard. That doesn't mean that on Saturday and Sunday I'm eating everything in sight or horribly awful foods in ridiculous proportions. Oh no, I still have limitations, but I do give in to the sweet tooth just a bit.

Last weekend I felt ambitious in the kitchen and did a Pinterest search for quick and simple brownies. After a few clicks I found one for Fudgy Brownies. Based on the fact that the pan was 2/3 eaten  right after lunch, I was pretty sure it was a keeper recipe and worthy of sharing. You are just eight ingredients away from fudgy goodness!

Fudgy Brownies

1 cup Butter, melted

3 cups White Sugar

1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract

4 Eggs

1 1/2 cups Flour

1 cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

1 teaspoon Salt

1 cup Semisweet Chocolate Chips


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a 9 x 13 pan and set aside.

In a bowl mix the melted butter, sugar, and vanilla together.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Set aside.

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt.

Gradually stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. 

Stir in the chocolate chips.

Spread the brownie batter evenly into your greased pan and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Allow to cool before cutting. (I know, it's so tempting smelling that chocolate goodness)

I'm mixing this recipe up again today and we'll take it to our diocesan seminarians at the seminary when we visit tomorrow. I figure we can work our way even further into their hearts through their stomachs.

Happy Thursday!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Weekend Scenes: Spring Play, A Birthday & Weekend With Boys

I'm tired, my friends. How about you? It was one of those good weekends with family time, crazy time, but at home time. Semi-busy, but it still feels wearing. These are the type of weekends that begin to fill the calendar as the snow melts and the sunshine lingers. The memory maker weekends.

As I mentioned last week, we had planned that the weekend would be for celebrating Jonah's tenth birthday. While I had plans to be intentional about making a big deal over his turning double digits, he ended up just wanting to keep it simple. He wanted to have two of my brother's boys over for the weekend, so that's what we did. 

Which, if you are a mom with three girls and one boy, turns out to be a revealing weekend. One in which I thought many times "I get it now why I'm a 'girl mom' and wasn't blessed with a treasure trove of boys." Not that ya don't love 'em, but they are busy. And loud. And slightly destructive.

The boys came on Friday afternoon so they were able to join us for the kids' spring musical play that evening. Both sets of grandparents were also able to venture out to join us in watching the kids' first ever performance. It was a musical timeline portraying parts of American history. It had nearly 30 kids from our home school group that played historical figures from Christopher Columbus to a 9/11 survivor. Each of the characters lines were actual words they spoke or those wrote in their journals. Sprinkled within the musical were catchy short songs that even my toddlers and myself can now sing after hearing them practiced so many times in rehearsals. It ended up lasting only 30 minutes, but the cast did amazing performing and the historical costumes were great. I wish I could post more photos for you all to see. After the musical, several of the home school students also participated in a variety show/musical performances for us. So much fun.

A quick photo with my nephews before casting call:

Lily as Clara Barton (she was so excited since that's who she was hoping to get cast as) and Jonah as William Bradford (the first governor of the Plymouth colony):

After all the hard work and two weeks of rehearsals, we all enjoyed the final production:

While the work was grueling and the drives to rehearsals 20-50 minutes away, in the end we were happy with the outcome. With this being the kids' first debut in acting and working with other cast members, I'm pleased to say it was a wonderful experience. We are already looking forward to more theater opportunities in the near future.

Saturday turned out to be at-home day. The weather was misty and gray in the morning, but thankfully cleared up enough for the kids to head outside. Thank you, Mother Nature. While our plans had been to take all the kids out for pizza in the afternoon, turned out that wasn't their plan. They just wanted to hang out, run around like hooligans and play like crazy people. 

We gave in and scrapped our plans.

I needed to run to town for groceries and ended up also picking up pizza for supper. Gianna joined me on the outing and it turned out to be a good time away for the two of us. It's rare that I have just one kid along for an errand and she seemed to really enjoy herself as well. I labeled her my new 'errand girl' and she called herself 'a good reminder girl' since she kept track of the things we needed that I didn't have on my list. I look forward to more outings like this now that I know it turned out to be kind of a big deal to her.

Thankfully, Reed is a trooper and held down the fort with all the other kids. They ended up staying outside burning up energy at the park next door and walking in the woods. Everyone survived despite several mishaps and boyisms that seem to happen with more males around. 

Finally, on Sunday we went to Mass in the morning, had my parents join us for brunch and then both sets of grandparents celebrated Jonah's birthday along with us. The kids took advantage of every moment they could to be outside running around. It was glorious outdoors. 

My parents drove my nephews to meet up with my brother and go back home. I think I managed to get the house back in order and now this week we'll be back on track with schoolwork. My mom will join me for my 20 week ultrasound on Tuesday since she's never seen an ultrasound in person as it happens. That should be kind of fun and a chance for grandma to experience some of that same excitement we get each time we see our babies.

May your spring week be beautiful, the sunshine bright and life in full bloom wherever you are. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Easter Is A Season

We just love our liturgical seasons, don't we? Some of us who are super behind on photos that felt like they were cute like say, two weeks ago, still feel the need to post. But heck, we've got our liturgical seasons and it's still EASTER. Catholic seasons for the score!

Truthfully, I don't even know if anyone cares or wants to see the billionth post with photos of my kids...move on if not. In case you do, I'm wrapping up our Easter weekend that followed the Seven Churches Visitation from Holy Thursday.

Good Friday was a bit more quiet, somber and at home, besides going to Good Friday service. We did make pretzels again, which were delicious. Perhaps too much so for Good Friday?

Holy Saturday it was a bit chilly, but we still had our annual family Easter egg hunt with some of Reed's family. Another successful one that resulted in sweet treats and many smiles.

In the afternoon we did some baking and food preparations for Easter Sunday at our house. This year I didn't forget and the big kids helped make the Empty Tomb Rolls. Last year I forgot, all Easter season long, and had some disappointed kids. Mom fail. It's funny how they remember seemingly 'small' things that are a really big deal to kids. Interestingly enough, I find that a lot of those things are food related. That's SO my family!

Speaking of, my grandma used to make and create so many homemade goodies when I was a kid. Since her passing, I find myself longing to keep those tradition and recreating her recipes. I hope to keep on recalling those special moments and holidays where she poured so much love into creating a feast for her family. Slowly, I am trying to continue on with those things for my kids.

One of her goodies was a soft molasses cut out cookie with a marshmallow pastel colored frosting at Easter. It might sound funny, but even recreating it so that it's the same shape (a simple rectangle cut out from a Spam or coffee creamer tin) is essential to complete the memory. It's just one of those things. The recipe for these cookies is in my recipe box and handwritten by my grandma the Easter after I was married. I've used the recipe each year for Christmas molasses cut outs, but this was only the second time making them for Easter. Thankfully, Reed was willing to help out so the frosting, which is a little tricky, could be made just right.

They were perfect and left my family asking for them sometime again soon.

Following a (seemingly) sometimes long-ish Lent, good eats and treats taste even better. 

Easter morning came with early risers prepared for the Easter basket hunt. As always, this has to be done quickly before dressing up and heading to morning Mass. Mission accomplished and happy morning bed-head kiddos.

For posterity....the four kids after Mass in their Easter finery.

The whole crew. No matchy-matchy like some of you amazingly talented fashionista moms, but something that worked just right for each of us. Hello, maxi dress that works with pregnant belly (For now).

How's that for an Easter wrap? 

I've enjoyed seeing all of you in your Easter pastels and reading your springy posts. 

Keep on celebrating the season and enjoy the sunshine whenever it comes your way.

Monday, April 20, 2015

April Days {Spring Daybook}

Outside my window... the perennials are uncovered and the flowerbeds show promise of a blooming season ahead. Now if we could just get more rain, that would help the buds pop out on the trees as well.

Thinking about... summer plans. With baby due to arrive just as we've finished summer and started school up again, I'm trying to figure out how much we can pack into the summer months. I don't want to overdue it, but I do want to make some plans for small special day trips/projects/fun things together and separately with the kids. I'd like to get in a little retreat/getaway for myself, perhaps a day or two away with Reed, some time with Lily (she'll turn 13 later in September, just after baby arrives), plus Jonah time (being he's the only boy stuck with all the girls), in addition to the other family outings and little things with the little girls too. With half a pregnancy left to fit it in and the usual summer busyness, I'll really need to be intentional about my planning and start getting things penciled in on the calendar.

I am hearing... Reed in the kitchen making pizza for supper (I'm writing this Sunday evening) and the little girls skittering about gathering up items to head outside.

Praying for...  moms and their families who need prayers: Annie and her family; Ann Coakley and her new baby Blaze; the Rogan Family; healthy baby and pregnancy; those who have asked for my prayers.

What I'm reading... following Sarah's recommendation and review, I picked up this book heading into Holy Week. I haven't had near enough time to pick it up and read, but I'm nearing the end. I wasn't sure if I'd be a good candidate for the Biblical historical fiction, but thought I'd give it a try. I'm glad I did. I'm really enjoying the author's writing and look forward to checking into the other books in the series.

From the kitchen... I'll be winging it again this week since I neglected to menu plan. The pantry and cupboards are well stocked, so I should be able to pull together a few meals. The crock pot may be my best ally again this week with a heavier schedule and cooler outdoor weather temps.

From the schoolroom...we're heading into the homestretch and our last six weeks of the school year. We'll be doing the CAT testing mid-May and I'm hoping that will help us best assess how to proceed with curricula for Lily as she heads to seventh grade in the fall.

Around the house... the windows were open last week to send out the winter air and bring in the springtime freshness. In a fit of crazy, nesting pregnant frenzy, I cleaned out/sorted and organized some of the girls' toys. I may need to do some more in the coming months, but at least for now I feel like there's less 'stuff' where I don't need so much stuff. Reed is working hard and plugging away at that basement bathroom each weekend he can. With the help of the resident interior designers, a paint color was chosen and we should be able to get it on the walls soon. The next tough part for Reed will be tiling the shower and putting down the faux tile linoleum squares. We're hopeful that the project won't hit a complete standstill once the weather turns really nice and outdoor work demands more of our time.

Baby belly... we've made it to Week 19. I'm able to feel more baby movements now and the little girls are eager to feel baby move too. Margaret seems to be most fascinated by my growing belly and pokes at it while asking me baby related questions. Gianna is also full of questions, but mostly wide eyed at the size of my belly, especially after suppertime. Jonah just keeps on mentioning that he really hopes baby is a boy and Lily is mostly concerned with logistics like arrival date, baby names, Godparents, etc.

Coming up this week... Lily and Jonah are in a short historical spring play/musical with our homeschool group which means another three days with two hour long rehearsals. Jonah turns double digits (10 already!!) on Tuesday and we'll have my older two nephews overnight on the weekend. Play performance is on Friday evening, so that will kick off our weekend.

Photo to share... My brother's family welcomed another little boy just before Easter. We were happy to join them and share in little Lewis John's Baptism last weekend.

Have a wonderful Spring week!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Spare A Few Prayers? {Prayer Request}

I know everyone's prayer lists are long if they are anything like mine. I just couldn't neglect to ask even more moms to pray for another mama who could use some extra prayer warriors.

We are a community of faithful, prayerful friends whom may never meet, but we are always bound in prayer. Last year, many of us prayed for Sarah and were drawn to help her family after her passing. Back when everyone was praying for Paul, he and his wife touched my heart and I couldn't stop praying. I didn't even know Paul, but it didn't matter. He and his family needed us and we rose to the occasion.

On Palm Sunday, I was alerted by an old NET teammate via Facebook that another teammate's wife needed our prayers. She was diagnosed with large B-cell non-Hodgkins lymphoma. More tests found out it was a more aggressive "triple hit" lymphomia, isolated in her abdominal area, consisting of a few tumors, with one of them being almost 10 cm.

Again, my heart is heavy and praying continually as Annie begins the long road ahead. She will need many treatments in the coming months that will include 6-8 days in the hospital every few weeks. She just began her first round of treatment last Friday. While Annie and Curt are not a part of my daily inner circle of friends and we mostly keep in touch at Christmas time, my heart will always be bound to my NET team. My heart cannot help but ache when one of them is in need and I must respond.

Curt and Annie are a wonderful couple with a young family of five children. They need their mom and Curt needs his wife. They are a beautiful faith-filled family who are bound to stay positive and will need to lean on the prayers of many to get them through this.

Will you please pray with me for Annie and her family? I'd appreciate it.

If you feel called to financially help out Annie's family, you can go to her GoFundMe site. If you'd like to follow Annie's journey, you can do so over at her Caring Bridge site.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Seven Churches Visitation {Holy Thursday}

Remember when I talked about our perhaps overly ambitious  humble Holy Week plans? Well, we did most of that. Minus the feet washing. We ran out of time before Holy Thursday Mass and I was ex.hau.sted. from the church visitations that afternoon.

Would you like to see a few quick photos I put together? Excuse the collages where I mixed the churches together. It seemed like it caught their beauty a bit better than individual photos.

First, we successfully did Spy Wednesday, which the kids got into and seemed to enjoy. Some of them may or may not have been in it totally for the coins. 
We're all Judas in disguise sometimes, aren't we?

We headed out of the house promptly after an early lunch on Holy Thursday to visit our Seven Churches. Which, started off a bit rough as we found two locked churches. 

We pressed on to the next town knowing that their two churches would certainly be unlocked. 

Our Lady of the Angels, Sauk Centre 

St. Paul's, Sauk Centre

We then headed down the road and met up with my dad who joined us in the next four churches.

St. Rose of Lima, St. Rosa 

(click the collages for closer viewing)

A few more miles down the road we drove to the next small town.

Sacred Heart, Freeport

Again, several more country miles led us to a Catholic church that I don't think I've ever been inside. 

Immaculate Conception, New Munich

Last, but not least, probably one of the largest old time churches in our diocese. 

St. Mary's, Melrose

The last church we hit was our own parish. Conveniently, due to our rush at that point, I neglected to take photos. 

Aren't those some beautiful churches? I am blessed to have grown up near many of those old, spacious, altar filled churches that we visited so often in my childhood. I was happy to share them with my children, especially a couple that they'd never set foot in until last week.

In the end, our afternoon amounted to:

: Stopping at nine churches

: Praying the Stations of the Cross (2 stations at each open church)

: Ran into one priest friend and visited

: Drove in gusty 40 mph wind x at least 75 miles

: Climbed in and out of the van nine times x 5 people 

: Returned home 5 hours later

We arrived home with just enough time to have a simple Lord's Supper meal. I had prepared homegrown herb chicken in the crock pot along with herb roasted potatoes in the oven. We rounded out the meal with a loaf of sourdough bread and sparkling red grape juice to complete the simplicity. 

I have a few more photos to share from our other Triduum and Easter days, 
but those will have to wait. 

I hope that your Easter season has been a blessed and joyful one this week. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Beginning Of The End Has Come


It's Here! We're coming on the Triduum, those holiest days of the liturgical calendar. 
Based on how my Monday was going, I was pretty sure this was not the holiest week of the year or maybe it was and that's why it was so stinkin' *blah*.

But then, the sun came out and the weather turned beautiful.

What a foreshadowing of the upcoming days, right? 
The gloom, the dark, before the sunshine, the celebration.

I'm trying to add an atmosphere of prayerfulness and meaning to our Holy Week. The kids are older and even some of it the little girls will be able to remember as well. Making traditions and significance is so meaningful, however simple they are. Like on Palm Sunday, we go out for brunch as a family. We recently started that one and it's a treat being that we rarely eat out.

Thanks to Kendra's helpful post last week, I was able to actually do some planning in advance. Don't worry if you haven't or it's not elaborate, but do what you can, if you can, in your domestic church.

Today we're taking Kendra's suggestion and doing Spy Wednesday, but the kids don't know it yet. I'll hide 30 pieces of silver (quarters) for the kids to find and play the part of little Judases. They'll totally get into the money part, but I'll be sure to throw in the significance of Judas' betrayal. 

For tomorrow, Holy Thursday, we'll still continue on with school in the morning. After lunch I plan to take the kids on a 'field trip' and follow the tradition of The Seven Churches Visitation. Living in rural central Minnesota means there are many beautiful Catholic churches within (relatively) close driving distance. We'll pray two stations of the cross at each and you better bet I'll take photos to post next week.

Prior to heading to Mass that evening, we're planning a small scale, realistic, seder type meal with our family. I found this in my online searching so as to find real foods that my family will still eat, but hold significance. 

Reed and I are also planning on washing the kids' feet before Mass. It should help hold a bit more meaning and I think even the girls will catch on when they again see it being done later at Mass. 

Good Friday we try to keep simple and Reed takes the day off from work. We'll make pretzels together for lunch and later in the afternoon attend Good Friday service at our parish.

Holy Saturday will be busy with Easter preparations both at home (we're hosting this year) and decorating at church as well.  Again, I'm sure there will be photos to post next week. 

May the coming days be blessed and fruitful for you and your family.

I'll see you on the other side. 

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