Tuesday, May 31, 2011

100th post

Last night Fred saw Mary chatting in the mirror while she brushed her teeth. 

He quietly went to the door and peeked his head in. 

"Who are you talking to Mary?" 

Catching her by surprise she waited a moment before answering. 


"Oh, and what were you speaking to yourself about?" 


Almost exactly what you'd expect from a four year old little girl.

"What about princesses Mary?"

"They're good to eat." she replied giggling.

Can you tell yet-she has 7 older brothers? 

Sunday, May 29, 2011

I Can Make Jam, Canoe?

Ok, Karen asked me to post this next recipe for Pineapple, rhubarb,strawberry jam. So- here it is. Rhubarb is a vegetable that behaves like a fruit. ( kind of like tomatoes). This makes it really ideal for jam and jellies. Its also simply smashing in strawberry/rhubarb pie. (Maybe tomorrow).This jam has a lot of body and flavor to it.Its also remarkably easy. The only bad thing about it- it doesn't yield great quantities. It reminds me a good deal of the mango chutney I make.

First take 4 cups of rhubarb and dice them into 1/2 in. pieces. Pour 2 cups of sugar over them and let it marinade overnight.

Pour the mixture into a big pot and bring it to a rolling boil.

Add about 8 ounces of pineapple ( crushed or diced) and about the same amount of strawberries
( also crushed).

Let this boil for about 12 minutes. ( time it)

When the timer goes off, turn off the heat and pour in a box of strawberry Jello. (I know this almost sounds like it's about to ruin this recipe doesn't it? Let me help you mentally redeem it- Jello is the same sort of stuff pectin is, it just allows 'stuff' to gel -or jel. This just has a little strawberry flavor. I suppose since it has so much flavor already you could probably do unflavored gelatin and it would still be wonderful.)

Now pour the mixture into jars, and tighten the lids well ( clean the threads so you get a good seal). Turn the jars over and set the timer again for 5 minutes. Voila.

So that's what I did today after Mass. Later this afternoon, Fred took the 5 older boys out canoeing on the Monocacy. They had a blast and brought home a tree frog and a box turtle for the little ones to see.The kids put the frog on the turtles back and made it carry it around. We let them go before they were tucked in bed, but I have to mention Sophie was beside herself looking at the turtle. She yipped and hooted in happiness!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

We're Jammin'

OK, so surprise, surprise I made strawberry jam today!
I know this can seem like an amazingly complex undertaking, so I am here to assure you -its not. If I can do it with my children hangin' around and make a few mistakes along the way, you are capable too!
Look, I'll even show you how:

First have your husband cut up all the strawberries - just kidding, but he did volunteer to help once he saw me trying to cook, measure and stir all at once.(There is also the rhubarb for tomorrow in this photo, so you kind of get a sneak peek)

You need about 2 cups of crushed strawberries, which is about 3 and a half whole strawberries sliced up.

At the same time measure out 4 cups of sugar.

Cook the berries over a relatively high heat while mashing them up at the same time. I am not a huge fan of chunks of fruit, so I mash them a lot. At about the same time- add a box of pectin.

  Pectin by the way  is  essentially an acidic substance found in citrus fruit that helps the gelling process. ( some fruits are already high in pectin- apples, apricots, cherries, and oranges- and don't absolutely need the additive to make jams and jellies, others always need it. Strawberries are always in need of a little help.)

Let it come to a rolling boil. This is a boil that you cannot stir down. What that means to all of you who aren't kitchen savvy is that if you are not wearing oven mitts when this process of boiling begins, your hands will soon be blistered.

Add the 4 cups of sugar and once again return to a rolling boil. Hopefully by now you've found the oven mitts.

Let it boil like this stirring constantly for a whole minute ( time it).

When its done, pour it into clean hot jars -almost to the top ( about 1/8 in. off).I generally try to pour it from the pot into a huge measuring cup so I can pour it from there neatly.

Immediately after pouring tighten lids real good and turn upside down.

Set the timer for 5 minutes. When it beeps, turn them back over.

Add labels and date. (I call mine Ellie's Jellies- I don't know if you'll be able to rhyme your label)

I use an inversion method for canning which is the lazy mans way of doing things ( or the incredibly efficient mother of ten children way of doing things). It is not as perfect a method for canning as say a boiling water bath, but I am far past looking for perfection. In earnest I have never had any problem with the inversion method. I can always hear the vaccuum seal on my jars as they cool  ( its such a neat popping sound). It has not failed me yet. Of course it helps to listen to good music while you work.
Have fun!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Strawberry Fields Forever

Paige and I went strawberry picking with the kids today. What a wonderful thing for children to do. I have to say I think Sarah was the best picker in our group. She was also the best eater! I am planning on doing strawberry jam  tomorrow or Sunday and also some strawberry/pineapple/rhubarb jam as well. I love to make jam. Its so much easier than it looks. I have been faithfully making it since we first were married and its always a highlight of summer for me. So we spent a few hours at Baughers farm picking this morning then came home and swam for the afternoon. 

This evening we took all our kids and Isabelle to the town fair! Isabelle is the daughter of my lovely friend Elizabeth. What can I tell you about Elizabeth? Hmmm. Its hard to know where to begin. She is truly wonderful. I don't know if I have ever met someone as naturally insightful as she is in my life, or giving. I always leave a conversation with a better insight into myself or some life situation. She called yesterday and told me she was working but did not want her daughter to miss the fair- would we happen to be going? Now if you know Fred and me, you know we love fairs. They never get old to me. I am transported to wonderland as soon I enter. So Isabelle 'needing' a ride was pretty much the best news of my day! We picked her up after track this evening. Of course no sooner did we pay for all our tickets than a MAJOR storm came rolling in and the fair shut down. Fred and I looked at each other and nodded "Lets wait it out in the car." So, while everyone else was leaving by the droves, we all packed inside the van with cotton candy and a game of  "Grandmothers Trunk". After a while the storm passed, along with the rain - lo and behold we had the fair grounds virtually to ourselves. YES! We rode every ride, played lots of games, and ate lots of fair food. The kids will probably not wake up for 2 days. What a perfectly fun day. 

Thursday, May 26, 2011


Michael and Mary are about the fiercest enemies I have ever seen. Michael was our long awaited seventh son. There could not have been more hooting or hollering when he was finally born.

Until of course, the little pink bundle came along. All those older boys had literally been praying for a little sister and were incredibly happy at her arrival. Finally a little sister! Finally a girl! They thought she was cute, and sweet, and cuddly, and special. All except Michael. Michael had no idea what a girl was and didn't really care. He just knew that no matter what she did to him, it wasn't OK to hit girls and boy does he resent it. The male pecking order stops at Michael and he has no one to pass the aggression along to. But he does find other ways.

Here is a sampling of todays conversation:

Mary: Mommy? Am I pretty? ( a frequent preoccupation.)

Thomas:(interrupting before I got a chance to answer) No Mary, you're not pretty, you're super pretty!

Michael: Yeah,Mary you're pretty- but you're also dumb.

Mary: God doesn't like it when you say dumb Michael.

Michael: Be quiet Mary!

Mary: Mommy, I am never, ever,ever, going to say the word dumb again, ever! ( smiling sweetly)

Michael: MARY!!!!(followed by a lunge)

You can feel his frustration. I hope one day they can be friends. I don't think either of them could get any cuter. But they sure do fight a lot. I told them today if they're not careful they'll wind up in the slammer. It seemed to help. At least for a little while.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Pool Time

The most difficult question I was asked today was: "Can we eat out by the pool tonight Mom?"
"Hmmmm.Let me think about that for a minute."

I could get used to this.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

As Seen on T.V.

I am an absolute sucker for the as seen on TV products. I don't buy them all mind you, but I am a firm believer in the idea of making tedious chores easier (a.k.a. building a better mousetrap). If Fred let me have my way we'd be broke on products that are supposed to deliver a little bit of magic into our living rooms. I  only have a few of these products and I simply long for the others. I mean,WHO wouldn't want the pajama jeans? The Magic Bullet- I dream about it. Don't even try to tell me you aren't interested in the Robo-Stir. 

The slap and chop is one of the sweetest inventions I ever purchased. Mine broke. Although to be honest after Fred saw how much I liked it and actually used it, he splurged and bought me the more expensive and sturdier version. I also love the ped-egg. It delivers what it promises. Probably my absolute favorite is the perfect brownie pan. The inventor of this product deserves every dime he/she gets. Every brownie is the right size, the pan is an easy clean-up, and you get way more corners due to the ingenious design. Unfortunately, Fred thinks most of these ideas are a waste of time and is forever steering me away from the things like the Windshield Wonder which only increases my curiosity over whether any of them really work.It is a desperate situation.

When Fred asked me what I wanted for our 18th anniversary it didn't take me more than 2 seconds to spit out "The Pasta Boat!" He looked at me like I had my head screwed on wrong. "Elle, I said for our ANNIVERSARY...I was thinking of something a little more romantic than that." I said "yeah I know but I have really been wanting that  pasta boat and every time I go to pick it up at CVS you say its junk and guilt me into putting it back." ( grimace) So he bought me an emerald ring and on the way home stopped at CVS  for the pasta boat to make everything perfect. Gotta love Fred. 

Unfortunately I wouldn't encourage any of you to purchase the pasta boat. It stinks. You can in fact make pasta in it, in the microwave- but it takes 18 minutes!18 minutes in the microwave? Look if the microwave needs that much time to cook it- have you really done anything good for the world with this invention?  It also only cooks one pound at a time. Not exactly a good fit for my crew. What a bummer. Half the pasta in twice the amount of time. You'd be better off missing this boat (pun intended). 

So we got to talking about this at the dinner table.The boys want to come up with an as seen on TV product.  I say the next best idea is just around the corner for anyone who has the time and energy, Fred laughs and says good luck. 

After many discussions they finally  settled on a product. They even have their infomercial worked out. They call it:

"The Rapid Rosary"

Billy Mays here coming to you from the after life! Have I got a product for you!  These little beads will release souls from purgatory at three times the normal rate! Its handy dandy design  is easy to use. It comes with a friendly user manual. AND- If you're not completely satisfied return it to us at no cost. All the souls you've saved will stay saved- thats right folks Once saved Always saved! BUT WAIT there's more- if you act now, we'll send you 2 rapid rosary's and throw in a get out of purgatory free holy card! Don't wait, ACT NOW! You never know when the next Rapture will take place! The phone lines are open.

(They are working on submitting it to the Papal Nuncio for an imprimatur.) 

Monday, May 23, 2011

Brace Yourself

About 6 weeks ago we strolled into the orthodontists office with Andrew and Matthew. We knew both of them needed braces and finally are making time for that to be accomplished. Andrew's bite is fine, but his teeth need some straightening, Matthew... ugh. Like all things with Matthew when he has a problem it's in spades. We were told 2 years ago he needed braces since his lower jaw was bigger than his upper jaw, but at the time he was struggling with his speech and we decided to wait until he was more confident in his ability to yell talk to us before we put him through what was described as surgery that was nothing less than barbaric.

Essentially the doctor would have to cut his jaw into pieces in order to make it smaller and then put it back together. This would be done in stages with his mouth being wired shut at times. Now don't get me wrong, the idea of Matty's mouth being wired shut isn't completely unappealing, BUT the thought of Matty being in pain- I couldn't handle that too well. I think I have mentioned before Matt has always had different problems and struggles and has really grown remarkably ( and has forced us to do the same). He is simply the kid in this house who has a different set of rules for all sorts of reasons. It's the only way we get things to work many days. 

At this point however we realized that the work on his teeth would actually benefit his speech as well so we decided to make the time and do both boys mouths at once. I went into the orthodontists office thinking of this long awaited day nauseous at the prospect of having to prepare Matty for surgery. You can imagine how pleasantly surprised I was to hear this wonderful man say he too felt the surgery was barbaric and was willing to try a different approach to reach the same goals. I was so relieved!

This morning Fred took Andy and Matt in for the dental molds about 10am and also to fit Matty with springs ( which will prepare his teeth for a palate expander). I stayed home with the little ones who spent four blissful hours in the pool.

Around 12 noon I got the phone call...

Matty went in for the molds first. He sat in the chair and leaned back. The wonderful nurse got the epoxy glue mold ready and calmly explained the process to 11 year old Matthew. She asked him to open up his mouth for the mold to be placed. I am not sure what happened from here but apparently Matthew's gag reflex was triggered. He proceeded to toss his cookies all over the kind nurse. After cleaning herself and the room up, she decided to call for reinforcements. Fred was located in the waiting room and told Matt had been sick ( don't worry this is normal!) and they'd have to try it again. Fred trying to rise to the occasion headed in while putting on his most sympathetic face. They began to try again. Matthew then proceeded to upchuck on his father. (Fred described it as 'projectile vomiting'- which implies it spanned several feet- but I doubt he is correct. His clamoring about the receptionist not even being close by fails to account for the small office space in general) The third time not only the hygienist but also the receptionist was hit pretty badly while passing by . In all he got about 4 people, not including himself. Fred said the whole office reeked. 

I imagine they went very gingerly with Andrew hoping it was not a family trait. (Thankfully, Andrew's was less traumatic in every way!) Something tells me just like everyone who meets Matthew, they won't easily forget him. The flip side is he is pretty charming  ( especially when he is not puking)  and likely to have them all cracking up soon with his sense of humor. The next visit isn't for about 4 weeks,( and it turns out I unfortunately am once again unable to bring him- shucks!) I hope it will give everyone a chance to recover. 

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Fred and I have been married 18 years today. Here are some reflections on that:

As a Catholic, I believe God placed us in each others lives to help us to find our way to heaven together. Some of those years have brought sadness and pain, because lets face it folks, suffering is part of life.There have been days we disappointed one another, or failed to be what we ought. We have had 4 miscarriages together as well as many days when health was simply sub-optimal. There have been financially tight times and work related stress-ors. There have been sleepless nights as we worried over our children. For us suffering serves another purpose as well, it keeps us mindful that we haven't reached our destination yet and that we were made for something bigger than anything this earthly life has to offer us. We continually look forward.

Most of those years have been filled with happiness. Goodness know how many nights we still stay up chit-chatting with one another over the days events and the meaning of life. Fred's sense of humor has only gotten better with age.We know how to simply be with one another after all this time. We have had 10 children together, bought and sold a few houses, watched proudly as our kids hit wonderful milestones,improved our lives in various ways. 

When I was younger and before we were married I would say to Fred "I need you." and I meant it- sort of. I was pretty independent and didn't really want to 'need' anyone. I didn't even realize it was normal to 'need' anyone other than myself most days, as I was too self absorbed.

Once we were actually married and we disagreed with one another, I would say after a fight "I need you." and I meant it, but I resented that I needed him in order to help me know myself, and grow, and support me.It was troubling to be 'in need' but it was my lot in life.

After many years of being married I would say to him "I need you." and I meant it because I had realized and had come to appreciate how much he did for me and our children through his work,and his presence in the household, and his example to the boys, and his commitment, and his fidelity and I could see that as a family, this is how it worked. I needed Fred because he was very useful.

Today when I say to Fred "I need you." I say it because I do need him. We have become one living organism in 2 bodies, One heart that beats in two chests. Living without him by my side is the worst possible chastisement I can imagine ever having to endure.  After 18 years of marriage the love I feel for him  is so beautiful at times it is almost painful. He is the greatest gift I have ever been given and the surest proof to me of not only God's existence, but even more so of His genuine goodness. 

When I say to Fred I need you, I mean I need him for my survival. (And I don't mean for the food or clothing or shelter he provides to me and the kids either-that is only the exterior form of survival). I need him more for the survival of my heart and soul, which is so intimately linked to his now I could scarcely tell you where he ends and I begin any longer. My happiness and sadness, my good times and bad, my sorrows and joys are all caught up in him. I am acutely  aware of my need for him now and so grateful to know what it is I am in need of. I need him.

After 18 years, I finally do.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Left Behind

Well, I'm still here. To make matters worse, I was pretty sure I was on the A list. Talk about disappointment. I am not even sure how to proceed. Is it worth still going forward? I'm pretty certain there are no second chances for the rapture. Are we all just totally dissed now? Does it mean a Zombie invasion is imminent? 

I am also really alarmed by how few people were actually taken. I mean honestly folks NO ONE I know is even missing! ( well except for Joe, but it turns out he was in the downstairs bathroom and couldn't hear me calling.) Gosh we must really be a bunch of heathens. Realistically, I knew most of you were  pagans, but still, I had hope. I wonder where the folks who made it were actually 'taken' from? Maybe Georgia. Dang, I bet Tammy is gone.Or -GASP- maybe New York! Oh no!  I am sure most of my siblings made first cut.Oh my gosh I'm probably an orphan!  Ang, are you still out there? Paul? Anyone? Please phone home!

Please if anyone else was left behind PLEASE contact me so we can set up a check point meeting place! 

I would also like to begin compiling data on those who were taken so please send me the names of anyone you know who is gone and I will begin the arduous task of collating a comprehensive list of saved souls for documentation. (So far I have only one name listed as actually missing-a French fellow by the name of Strauss Kahn, but I am getting conflicting reports on his whereabouts,so stay tuned.)