Sunday, March 29, 2009


As I have mentioned previously here, I do share some aspects of the liturgical year with my children. The season of Lent is one of those times that we observe. Observance of Lent is a wonderful way to prepare the heart for what should be the greatest event in the Christian calendar...the rememberance of Christ's death and resurrection on our behalf. I've come across a few resources to help share this time as a family.

Beyond The Tomb is a free study by Amy Blevins. This is a very full study that includes daily bible verses, activities, and two other readings for two age groups of children. This study starts today and my family is planning on using at least some aspects of Amy's study.

Behold The Lamb is a wonderful 17 day study by one of my favorite authors, Ann Voskamp. Just visiting her blog, Holy Experience can bring a time of worship, reflection and refreshment. This study is free and started 5 days ago. We were planning to use it this year, but got a late start, so we will try again next year. I love this study because it incorporates scripture reading, reflection, prayer and a work of art representing the daily reading. The idea is to create an Easter Tree with the works of art. You must see it.
I've posted other ideas for Lent in the past which you can see here. One of my favorite and very easy ideas comes from my friend Rachel (check out all her blogs). She creates an Easter Garden with her children. I stole this idea from her a few years ago and it's something my children really enjoy. They ready the tomb and on Good Friday we roll the stone in front. In the past they have rolled a flower or a picture representing Jesus in a piece of cloth and placed it in the tomb. Then on Easter morning I go out and roll away the tomb leaving the empty cloth inside. It's a fun tradition.
I hope that you will share this time with your children by teaching them about Christ's life, death and resurrection. We have so much to be thankful for.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Patrick, lover of God and the people of Ireland

We always celebrated St. Patrick's day in my family. I have Irish ancestors on both sides of my family and my parents loved Ireland. So it was natural for me to do the same with my children. What we celebrate on this day is the fact that God so loved the Irish (and us all) that he sent his obedient servant Patrick to go back to the people who had enslaved him in order that they might be saved. The story of Patrick's obedience is really inspiring. I only hope that I would be so willing to forgive a people who had stolen me from my home and made me a slave for 6 years.

This is an excellent video for understanding the early history of the Irish people. There is a whole series, but I've only watched this one. Patrick is discussed at the end.

Also this year I've previewed a video for children that teaches about the Irish and specifically Irish Americans. It's part of the American Cultures for Children series by Schlessinger Media. Titled Irish-American Heritage it shares information about the geography, history and customs of Ireland including the story of Irish immigration to America. There is video of a dance rehearsal of traditional Irish dance, a folktale, instructions to make a harp and lessons in Gaelic. The video ends with a traditional Irish folk song in Gaelic.

I've shared other favorite books and recipes in the past here, here and my all time favorite recipe for Irish Soda Bread here. My recipe isn't really all that authentic. More of a glorified Soda Bread which I think is appropriate for a special day.

A new recipe I tried last year was for Guinness Chocolate Layer Cake. It was so incredibly delicious. I am a huge chocolate fan and this was hands down the best chocolate cake I've ever had. I'm not sure this is any sort of traditional Irish recipe, but it includes an Irish product and with the state of their economy I'm sure they will be quite pleased if we make it. This is from Cookie Madness which is a really terrific blog for all things sweet.

I hope that in some way you'll take this day to teach your children about Patrick. Perhaps just remember Patrick and the love that God has for us and the way he is able to use anyone...even a achieve his plan.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Free Audio Book! is becoming one of my favorite sites. They have offered a lot of good audio for free the last few months. Right now they are offering a book I've been wanting to read, Ten P's In A Pod. I've heard this book recommended so many times on other blogs I trust. So I'm thrilled that Behemoth has chosen to offer this. It's only good through March 31st so hurry!

Monday, March 09, 2009

Almond Milk from Scratch

About a year ago I switched from milk to almond milk. I've slowly removed most dairy from my diet except the occasionally piece of cheese or ice cream. What I've noticed is that when I eat dairy now I feel lethargic and have sinus trouble. So I've decided the switch is permanent.

Almond milk is more expensive then cow's milk. But I've found a way, with the help of raw almonds from Costco, to make it a little less expensive. I make my own. The taste is much fresher and I can change it to suit my taste.

Basic almond milk is quite simple...with the right blender. For my last birthday my husband bought me a Blendtec blender. It was so worth it. I use it almost daily to make smoothies, soups, fruit mash for a bread recipe, applesauce or almond milk. If you do any of these on a regular basis I suggest you try to get a Blendtec or Vita Mix.

To make the almond milk you need to soak 1 cup of raw almonds in water for at least 4 hours. After 4 hours, drain the water and add 4 cups of fresh water. I pulse a few times to chop up the almonds and then run the blender on speed 10 for one cycle (about 1 minute). Next you need to strain it. I place a feed sack towel (cheese cloth would work fine) inside a mesh strainer placed over a large measuring cup. Then I pour the blended almonds and water into the towel in the strainer. Do it slowly! Next pull up the corners of the towel carefully so you don't spill the mixture. Do this over the strainer! Start twisting the ends of the towel until you have a ball shape with the mixture inside. Still over the strainer carefully squeeze the ball twisting the towel until no liquid comes out. Now you have almond meal inside the towel and about 1 quart of almond milk in the measuring cup!

Store the almond milk in a pitcher in your refrigerator. It will last for about 3 maybe 4 days. But I usually use it up before that! This milk is good in things like cereal, hot chocolate, chai tea and I've even used it to make macaroni and cheese. You may not like to drink it on it's own though. It doesn't taste as sweet as milk. For variation you can sweeten it buy blending it with 2 dates or a sweetener of your choice. I use the dates. You can also add some vanilla and a pinch of salt. This makes a milk that is better to drink plain.

Now back to that towel. Inside the towel you have almond meal. I really despise throwing things away so I've found a few uses for it. First I've used it in many recipes that call for almond meal. I also use it to replace part of the flour in some recipes. This is particularly good in things like oatmeal cookies, brownies, banana bread and muffins. One of my favorite things to do with it is make suet for birds.

So how do you make bird suet? For my family I boil ground beef and freeze it to use in recipes. I let the water I use to boil it in cool and remove the fat from the top. I mix this fat with the almond meal and a cup of bird seed. I put it in a square tupperware container and place it in the refrigerator. In a few hours it's cool and I slice it in half and place in our suet feeders outdoors. Very easy and your using up what would normally be a waste product (the beef fat). Our birds, especially woodpeckers, love it!

So there you go. I started out telling you how to make almond milk and ended up telling you how to make bird suet! Try it yourself and tell me how it goes for you. I'd really love to hear any other uses you come up with for almond meal. So leave me a note!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Depression Era Cooking

A post on Motherload, one of my favorite blogs, led me to this Youtube channel starring Clara in Upstate New York. Clara is in her nineties and shares her wisdom and experience about the Depression through lessons in cooking. History, cooking and old ladies...three of my very favorite things!!!

There is a blog too!

Oh how I wish I could have captured the wisdom of the Elders in my family in such a manner. If you have people in your life like this I urge you to capture their wisdom and experience in some way for future generations. Then share it with all of us on Youtube!