Small Success: Fleeting Seasons

I looked out the front window Tuesday morning and saw the lilacs beginning to bloom. I’ll enjoy their sight and scent, for about a week. And then they’ll be gone.

It’s important to appreciate the fleeting things while you have them. So I opened the window and savored the lilacs, and got work done while I listened to a mockingbird’s serenade.

File Apr 19, 7 46 48 AMLilac season lasts about as long as Tech Week at the high school (10 days or so). It’s Tech Week right now, and I’m volunteering at the Tech Week Dinners, bringing chicken tacos or salad and croutons, pouring drinks, wiping tables, and marveling at the great kids who participate in the musical. People who think all high-school kids are self-centered need to show up at a Tech Week Dinner. They will see students carrying plates and drinks for someone who has full hands or an arm in a sling. They’ll see students making sure to tell the Dinner Moms that their friend has a track meet and will be arriving late for dinner, and asking if we’d save a plate or two. They’ll watch a student walk through the line with the shyest girl of all and invite her to sit at a table full of friends. They’ll hear students thanking us for the dinner from the second they walk into the cafeteria, as they pass through the line, after they say grace before the meal and again before they head to their 4-hour rehearsal.

leaning tower of beveragesI’ve gotten through the two Tech Week Dinners so far without any panic attacks, so that’s definitely an improvement over previous years. And it’s been nice; I remember quite a few people who ask about my Big Kids and wonder if I missed being the one who organized two weeks of food for 100 people. (No, I don’t miss running it, but I have missed being there.)

This week I also made a small tweak in my work “schedule” (such as it is; I don’t have an assigned schedule. As long as each article at CatholicMom.com is posted at its scheduled time, no one cares what time I work or in what order I do things.) Reworking a few things in my workflow has allowed me to be more efficient, which is a good thing! Yesterday I had to pick up some medical supplies for TheKid yesterday and bundled in a trip (first ever!) to Trader Joe’s where I did not buy everything in sight, so I guess that can count as a success.

Giant sugar cookies with sprinkles (8)cT

And my giant sugar cookies with sprinkles were a huge hit at the school bake sale. I sent in 2 dozen and TheKid reported that only one cookie was left after first lunch.

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Thursdays at CatholicMom.com begin with a look at the past week’s Small Successes! Share your Small Successes at CatholicMom.com by joining the linkup in the bottom of today’s post. No blog? List yours in the comments box!

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Monday Tuesday Recap 6/23/2015

Monday Recap-What I've been writing

 

“Summer vacation” may just be the death of my schedule–and it’s just gotten started!

Here’s what I’ve been writing this past week:

At CatholicMom.com

Eat, Drink and Evangelize: A Review of the Catholic Drinkie’s New Book

Sunday Brunch Specials for June 21

At Cook and Count

Spent-Grain Bread: a companion recipe for the Catholic Drinkie’s book

spent grain bread (5) CM FI

Eat, Drink and Evangelize: A Book Review and a Recipe

catholic drinkie bookIn just one book, you’ll get Church history, Gospel stories, patron saints, prayers, quotes from G.K. Chesterton, social-media advice and recipes for beer. Sarah Vabulas has managed to blend all of this–and more–together to create The Catholic Drinkie’s Guide to Homebrewed Evangelism. And she puts it together in an entertaining manner, with plenty of good humor and common-sense advice.

I definitely get where Sarah is coming from in section 3 of this book (Responsibly and Successfully Building Community.) My own love language is food. I love to cook and bake for people. But while I love recipes, I love her message about evangelization even more (and I think a lot of it applies to food as well as what Jeopardy refers to as “potent potables”).

Sarah is honest and real about the pitfalls of social-media use and all-the-time evangelization that isn’t backed up enough by personal prayer. As an introvert, I am in awe of her ability to

“go out to dinner and strike up a conversation with a neighboring patron, acknowledging his dignity and allowing the Holy Spirit to guide my words and actions. This is the call of the New Evangelization. This is how we say ‘yes’ to the Lord in our everyday lives.” (p. 99)

Sarah describes her hobby of homebrewing beer as another way to build community. It can be a group process, which makes the job more fun–and she also finds opportunities to share her faith with her friends during the process. It’s also an opportunity to make gifts for others, sharing one’s own talents and interests while paying attention to what our loved ones enjoy so that we can craft the perfect gift.

spent grain 2 cRegarding the section of the book that includes recipes for homebrewed beer, I do disagree with Sarah’s assertion that you can’t brew 5-gallon batches of beer in an apartment. My older son does this–and he’s the reason I had a container of dried spent grain at the ready to experiment with bread recipes. Spent grain is a by-product of the beer-brewing process, and frugal brewers have discovered that you can use it in cooking. My own experiments in baking with spent grain affirm what I’ve read online–you can’t make the spent grain much more than 10% of your recipe’s total grain content.

Brewing beer actually has quite a bit in common with baking bread, and not just because both of them involve yeast and grain. They also both involve what Sarah refers to as “hurry-up-and-wait activity,” but when you brew beer, you have to wait a couple of weeks to sample your finished product!

spent grain bread (5) CM FII created this recipe for spent-grain bread as an homage to Sarah’s work. If she lived closer, I’d share a loaf with her. There’s a reason many of my bread recipes make 2 loaves: one for the family, one to share!

Spent-Grain Bread

makes 2 loaves

1 3/4 cups warm water
2 TBL butter
3 TBL honey
2 tsp salt
4 1/2 cups bread flour
1/2 cup dried spent grain
1 TBL active dry yeast

Add all ingredients to your bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Use the dough cycle. When cycle is complete, remove dough to a floured surface. Divide in half and shape into loaves. Place loaves in prepared bread pans. Cut 2 or 3 diagonal slashes in the top of each loaf. Allow to rise 1 hour. Preheat oven to 375 and bake 35 minutes. Remove to wire rack to cool completely before slicing.

spent grain bread (6)c

Order your copy of The Catholic Drinkie’s Guide to Homebrewed Evangelism using my affiliate link and you’ll support my reading and cooking habit with your purchase–but you pay nothing extra!

Top 10 Tuesday: Measuring Up

Top 10 TUESDAY measuring stuffIt’s #Top10Tuesday, and I’d like to share the top 10 pieces of kitchen equipment that get me through life with a diabetic child.

May I present my measuring devices:

measuring devices (1)cWhy yes, I *do* have 3 sets of measuring cups, plus one slider measuring cup, and a whole big bunch of Pyrex.

No, I’m not a professional baker. But I do like to cook and bake, and I’m always looking for the equipment that works best for me.

In the kitchen, I measure. A lot. That’s how I find out how many carbs are in the things I feed my family. Not because I think carbs are evil, but because my son needs to count them up with each meal, then take enough insulin to compensate.

So my little measuring-device problem has turned into an asset around here. Here are the ones I like the best!

For dry ingredients:

I have two sets of regular dry measuring cups. One set is mine to use for baking. The other one, with cups in different colors, stays out on the table and is used daily to measure portions at meals.

collapsible measuring cupsA set of collapsible measuring cups is great when you’re serving something like ice cream; you just turn the cup over and push the bottom to dump the ice cream into the dish. Sometimes, though, my son will just eat straight out of the measuring cup instead of grabbing another dish. He’s been known to have a couple of measuring cups sitting on his dinner plate, one filled with broccoli, another with rice. Whatever works…

Measuring spoons are another item you can’t have enough of. We have 3 sets. I love the look and feel of my metal measuring spoons, but I usually grab the plastic ones that aren’t all attached; this way I only have to wash the ones I use.

For liquids:

Emsa perfect beakerThe Emsa Perfect Beaker is fun to use. It makes you feel like a scientist in the kitchen. It’s great when you are mixing several liquids with several different types of measures (say, 1/4 cup of this and 1/3 cup of that) because you can just use this one cup, adding each one in–it’s easy to see how much of everything you have. Turn the cup around to see the different types of measures. UNfortunately, it’s plastic, so don’t use it for hot stuff.

Pyrex cupsPyrex measuring cups. I have 3 of them, in 1, 2, and 4-cup sizes. These are my workhorses, and they’re dishwasher-friendly. Barely a day goes by that I don’t use at least one of these. Since they’re glass, you can measure hot liquids in Pyrex cups, as well as melting butter in the microwave.

oxo mini beakersFor even more scientific-measuring fun, I like these Oxo Mini Beakers. It’s much easier to measure a teaspoon of liquid, such as vanilla extract, into a beaker rather than a measuring spoon.  And when kids are helping to cook or bake, these are just a lot of fun to use. I also get mileage of these when I’m setting up a mise-en-place.

pampered chef batter bowlNow let’s go to the other extreme: my 8-cup Big Batter Bowl. I got this from Pampered Chef. It’s a great bowl, comes with a lid, and is nice and heavy. It’s great for measuring or just for mixing. I’ve been known to pour an entire pot of soup, stew or sauce into this bowl to see exactly how much I get–then subtract the amount from a single serving and figure out how many servings will be in the whole batch.

Weights and Measures:

eatsmart digital scaleI use this Eat Smart Precision Pro food scale multiple times a day. It’s small enough (about the size of a paperback book) that we can even pack it in a small padded envelope and take it with us if we’re going somewhere. It is very simple to place a dish on this scale, automatically subtract the weight of the dish, then weigh the food. From the chips that go in the Kid’s lunchbox to the bowl of cantaloupe he’s having for snack, we can measure anything with this.

taylor digital scaleA little trickier to use, but still handy, is the Taylor Digital Measuring Cup and Scale. You can’t get the whole thing wet or it will kill the digital scale, so it’s hard to wash. Don’t delegate that job to the kids!

For the Sticky Stuff:

wonder cup metricI have 3 sizes of Wonder Cup measuring cups. When I need to measure solid or sticky ingredients like peanut butter, vegetable shortening, honey or molasses, these are my go-to cups! If you’re only going to get one, I recommend the 2-cup size.

Note: Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, which means that if you purchase something through one of my links, it doesn’t cost YOU any extra, and it gives ME a little something I can put toward my next purchase of measuring devices.