living small

Living small . . . because there isn’t enough time to do it all.

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I have a category here on the blog that I call living small. I’ve used this term to mean living simply and living with less, but I’ve never been satisfied that those two ideas are “exactly” what I mean. It is a word that often comes to my mind when I read about people living big lives — doing big things, writing big books, having a big following on their blog or on social media.

Maybe it is the way I’m wired (INFJ, 5w4), maybe it’s my family situation (adult son with autism), maybe it is my health (auto-immune disorder), maybe I just don’t have ambition . . .

Maybe. Or maybe it is because I am not called to live a big life. Maybe I am called to living a small life— but living a small life really well.

I think it is what was stirring when I decided to blog about my family’s journey. I think it is what I was reaching for when I decided to long-form journal and blog. I think it is what I was sensing when I decided to stop living life so “quantified.” I feel like exploring this idea and seeing where it takes me.

I’ve chosen a few areas where I want more, where I want depth, where I want to focus. And I’ve chosen a few areas where I want less — less distraction, less luring me away from mindfulness, and less novelty of the new.

I want more:
* wellness
* simple-ness
* language
* favorites

I want less:
* confusion
* stuff
* social media
* novelty

 

**Photo taken by me in New Orleans, right outside the aquarium.**

 

Epiphany 2018

6 January 2018
Holy Day:  Epiphany
Chalking the Door
A traditional way of doing this is to use chalk to write above the home’s entrance, 20 + C + M + B + 18.
  • The letters C, M, B have two meanings. They are the initials of the traditional names of the three magi: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar.
  • They also abbreviate the Latin words Christus mansionem benedicat, “May Christ bless the house.”
  • The “+” signs represent the cross and 2018 is the year.
 Dreikönigskuchen–3 Kings Cake
Ingredients
  • 4-4 1/4cups flour
  • 2 tsp dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 tsp orange zest, thinly stripped
  • 1 1/2 tsp lemon zest, thinly stripped
  • 1/2 cup raisins, cherries, cranberries (whichever your family likes best)
  • 1 whole almond
Egg wash
  • 1 egg, beaten with 1Tbsp water
Coating
  • 1/8 cup apricot jam
  • 1 Tbsp hot water
Instructions
  1. In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat together all ingredients except for the almond, egg wash, and coating.
  2. Once a soft, smooth ball forms, set it aside to rise until doubled in bulk. About 2 1/2 hours. Be sure to cover it and place in a warm spot.
  3. Divide the dough into 8 Pieces, one a little larger than the rest.
  4. Roll each piece into a ball and arrange the 7 smaller balls around the slightly larger one on a sheet pan, forming a flower.
  5. Let rise another 30 minutes, then brush with the egg wash.
  6. Preheat the oven to 375F.
  7. Prepare the glaze by mixing the apricot jelly with a tablespoon of hot water.
  8. Bake the rolls for 30-40 minutes, or until deep golden brown.
  9. Brush with several coats of apricot glaze and sprinkle with the coarse sugar
  10. Once the bread is cool enough to handle, poke an almond into the bottom of one of the rolls.

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Morning Office:  Psalm 46, Psalm 97, Matt 12:14-21
Vespers: Psalm 96, Psalm 100

Weather: 14-23 degrees F, sunny, waning gibbous moon. Sunrise-Sunset = 8:00-5:35

Reading, Watching, Listening . . .
Celtic Book of Days, Commonwealth, Every Earthly Blessing
Star Trek: Voyager (rest time) and Fringe (family time)
Harry Potter 6 (as I fall asleep)

 

Christmas 2017

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O God, you have caused this holy night to shine with the brightness of the true Light: Grant that we, who have known the mystery of that Light on earth, may also enjoy him perfectly in heaven; where with you and the Holy Spirit he lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.  Collect for the Nativity of our Lord, The Book of Common Prayer, 1979.

Our family has been enjoying a smaller, slower paced Christmas season since adopting the church calendar.  Instead of a monthly run-up to Christmas, we have the waiting and preparing season of Advent.

All our baking, shopping, and cooking are done during the weeks of Advent. This year we did sugar cookies for neighbors and the post office/UPS drivers during week 2. Biscotti and brownies for us during week 3.  Chili, turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing were all prepared on the 23rd.

Our plan for Christmas is:  on Christmas Eve day, we clean the house and finish putting up the decorations.  We don’t put up much, but it seems just right to us.  Chili is prepared and put in the crockpot to be eaten after Christmas Eve service at church. When we return home, we eat our chili and open gifts.  Christmas Day is usually very slow, very quiet, and everybody just does their own quiet thing. Breakfast is waffles and turkey sausage, lunch and dinner are leftovers. We usually watch a movie.

Another of our traditions is to put 12 candy canes on the tree for each person.  Each day of Christmas a candy cane is taken off  — sometimes eaten, sometimes just saved for a later day.  I think this might be Michael’s favorite part of our traditions.

Hannah’s work means that every other year she works on Christmas. This year her schedule had her working a 12 hour shift on Christmas Eve so we opened gifts on the evening of the 23rd and had our chili for Christmas lunch.  Unfortunately that also meant we missed Christmas Eve service.

During the 12 Days of Christmas we will light the white Christ candle during Vespers, eat foods a bit richer than normal, and prepare for Epiphany (which is also Kelly’s birthday).

 

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Some of our favorite recipes —

Chili

  • 5 pounds ground beef or ground turkey, browned
  • 5 cans chili beans, mild
  • 3 green peppers, diced and sautéed
  • 3 onions, diced and sautéed
  • 2 – 28 oz diced tomatoes
  • Place all ingredients in crock pot, on high for 4 hours, then low for 4 hours.
  • We put the chili powder in each bowl (to account for some of us liking it super spicy and others preferring a milder bowl).
  • We serve this with Fritos, crackers, rolls, cheese . . .

Katharine Hepburn Brownies

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 stick butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup broken up walnut or pecan pieces (for better flavor, toast the nuts at 350 F for about 5 minutes)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt
  • Bake 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes

 

Biscotti

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon almond extract
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.
  • In a medium bowl, beat together the oil, eggs, sugar and anise flavoring until well blended. Combine the flour and baking powder, stir into the egg mixture to form a heavy dough. Divide dough into two pieces. Form each piece into a roll as long as your cookie sheet. Place roll onto the prepared cookie sheet, and press down to 1/2 inch thickness.
  • Bake for 25 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, until golden brown. Remove from the baking sheet to cool on a wire rack. When The cookies are cool enough to handle, slice each one crosswise into 1/2 inch slices. Place the slices cut side up back onto the baking sheet. Bake for an additional 6 to 10 minutes on each side. Slices should be lightly toasted

Punishments

1 1/4 sticks (5 oz; 140 g) salted European butter

Slightly rounded 1/2 cup (125 g) sugar

1 large egg, at room temperature

2 cups (280 g) all-purpose flour

1. Put the butter in the work bowl of a food processor* fitted with the metal blade and process, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until the butter is smooth. Add the sugar and process and scrape until thoroughly blended into the butter. Add the egg and continue to process, scraping the bowl as needed, until the mixture is smooth and satiny. Add the flour all at once, then pulse 10 to 15 times, until the dough forms clumps and curds and looks like streusel.

2. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and gather it into a ball. Divide the ball in half, shape each half into a disk, and wrap the disks in plastic. If you have the time, chill the disks until they are firm, about 4 hours. If you’re in a hurry, you can roll the dough out immediately; it will be a little stickier, but fine. (The dough can be wrapped airtight and refrigerated for up to 4 days or frozen for up to 1 month.)

3. Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

4. Working with one disk at a time, roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface until it is between 1/8 and 1/4 inch (4 and 7 mm) thick. Using a 1 1/2-inch (4-cm) round cookie cutter, cut out as many cookies as you can and place them on the lined sheets, leaving about 1 inch (2.5 cm) space between them. (You can gather the scraps into a disk and chill them, then roll, cut, and bake them later.)

5. Bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes, or until they are set but pale. (If some of the cookies are thinner than the others, the thin ones may brown around the edges. M. Poilâne would approve. He’d tell you the spots of color here and there show they are made by hand.) Transfer the cookies to cooling racks to cool to room temperature.

Do ahead: The cookies can be kept in a tin at room temperature for about 5 days or wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 1 month.

You can skip softening your butter. Whether you make cookie dough in a stand mixer, with a hand-mixer or (my favorite) in a food processor, you can save time by cutting your cold butter into chunks and letting the machine bang it together with the sugar until soft. It will be bumpy at first and you’ll need to scrape a few times to make sure no nubby cold bits remain but within a minute or two, the butter just right for the rest of the ingredients. It doesn’t just save time, it makes for a cooler, firmer dough that’s going to take less time to chill.

You can skip the refrigerator chill. And…

You can skip flouring your counter. As soon as my cookie dough is made, I roll it out between two large sheets of parchment paper to the desired thickness and it’s a total breeze. No flouring (which can toughen the dough). No pre-chilling (which takes so much more time). No fighting the cold dough flat (which makes us grumpy). Then, I slide this onto a baking sheet and pop it in the freezer for 15 minutes (or a day, or a week, or months until needed), until firm and cut the cookies in clean, sharp shapes from this. I then use these parchment sheets to line my baking sheets. (No waste!) Extra dough scraps can be easily rerolled and re-chilled the same way, with no erosion in dough quality because it doesn’t absorb extra flour. Bonus: No floury mess to clean up.

A couple extra tips: As you roll your dough between parchment sheets, some creases will form; pull the sheet loose so they don’t etch into the dough. When you remove your “board” of dough from the freezer, gently loosen/peel the sheet that will be the underside of the dough before placing the dough back on it. This bit of air ensures that your cookies, once cut, will come right off with no “peeling” needed. (Although even if peeling is needed, it too is a cinch with cold dough on parchment.)

BookNotes: Our Celtic Heritage

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Our Celtic Heritage: Looking at Our Faith in the Light of Celtic Christianity
A Study Guide for Christian Groups
By Chris King

Read Dec 2017

Session 1: The Caim and the High Cross
Session 2: God the Creator
Session 3: Never too Busy to Pray
Session 4: The Trinity
Session 5: St. Patrick’s Breastplate

 

An everyday religion that permeates all.

Caim — circle, circle of protection. Starts small, just round you, and then ripples outward as you pray for those both near and far.

High Cross — the victor’s cross, sun circle as crown of victory and wholeness, this life is a challenge, struggle, battle, but Christ goes before.

They did not take Christianity to the people so much as reveal the God who was already there.

Parting — God be with you

Celtic = God is present in creation and in our lives.

Advent

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Advent marks the beginning of the church year.  It comes at the darkest time of the year, surrounding us with hope, peace, joy, and love.  It invites us to anticipate the arrival of Jesus and the light he brings into the world.

Advent gives us a chance to step back from the cultural norm of gift lists, shopping, a frantic pace, decorations that overtake the house, and an expectation of “more.”  Advent, for me, is not just a time to count down to Christmas, it is a time to prepare my heart and my home for a deeper connection to the Christ.

Our Advent traditions are pretty basic because I like to keep it simple.  My first step is always to clean the house and look for things to donate.  While I’m cleaning, I put away all the knick-knacks that normally sit around our house. I usually buy new cloth napkins (white and blue, see a thread?) The advent wreath is given a place of honor.  I really like to use blue candles and I’ve contemplated using all white candles.  This year I’m using 3 purple, 1 pink, and a white Christ candle that were part of an Advent activity at my church.

Each night during my Vesper devotions, I light the appropriate candles, say the Vesper service, and read the scriptures (I use the Book of Common Prayer for my daily reading) and finally I conclude with the week’s collect from the BCP.  This adds less than a minute to my normal Vespers routine.

 

 

Germany; 1992-1993

Germany: June 1992-April 1993

Our move to Germany happened very quickly. Shortly after Christmas 1991, I told Kelly that I wanted to get away. Family visits over Christmas had been emotionally charged and difficult.  I wanted a fresh start where our little family didn’t have to fit into anyone else’s pattern. So in late February, Kelly put in the paperwork for an “accompanied, overseas, extended long” tour of duty. We left the location open so that we’d be at the top of the list for “send them anywhere as long as they go as a family.”

In late April, Kelly called home at lunch and asked how I felt about Germany. I loved the idea.  “When?”  Six weeks!  By the time he got home, I had the bathroom and part of the bedroom ready.  We sat down and talked about the base. It was a base closure assignment: short-term and then you can choose your next base.  He signed the paper the next morning and the merry-go-round started immediately.

Passports (on rush), shots, medical clearance — all in the first week. Spouse counseling, international driver’s licenses, and loads of paperwork — week 2.  Movers for bulk shipment (by boat) — week 3.  More paperwork, more shots, and finish up all stateside business — week 4.  International bank account and movers for express shipment (by plane), pick up passports and exchange some dollars for DM, and say goodbye to Ohio. — week 5.  Visit Kelly’s family to say goodbye, fly to Atlanta to say goodbye to my family, and finally board the international flight from Atlanta to Frankfurt Germany — week 6.

We got to Germany and stayed in a hotel for a week and then we moved into a base apartment. Germany was an amazing experience. We spent our weekends exploring the country around us. We found our favorite places (Trier, for one) and picnics on the Moselle River (which was quite near our base). We traveled rain or shine and even in the snow.  We knew our time there was short and we made use of every free moment.

Germany was also the place where my kids got chicken pox, ate from street vendors, climbed over ruins, and learned that friends don’t always speak the same language.  We went to church where German, Croatian, Russian, English, and Sudanese were all spoken.  We had earpieces for the Sundays when the sermon language wasn’t English.

One Monday in early April 1993, the movers came again and packed up our express shipment (which went by air from Germany to the US and then on another plane from US to Turkey).  On Wednesday and Thursday they picked up our bulk shipment (which had to go from Germany to the US by boat before going by boat to Turkey).  Friday we took a shuttle from our base to the airport.  We spent the night in a hotel, and early Saturday flew to Turkey on a C-130.

When we left Germany there were piles of snow and it was cool (45-50 degrees).  When we landed in Turkey it was green and brown and 85 degrees. We knew we were in for a huge change.

 

Ohio, June 1990-June 1992

June 1990 brought a second addition to our family. A little girl with some trouble breathing entered this world on Fathers’Day. She came with nothing but her beautiful blue eyes. We spent the first four days in the NICU and several weeks after carefully watching her chest rise and fall.

Two kids in 18 months will tax any system put in place in a home. My home was no different. Suddenly there was at least twice as much of everything a kid needs. Or rather, what our society says a kid needs. We had beds, a walker, an indoor swing, an outdoor swing, push toys, pull toys, dolls, blocks, strollers, carrying slings, diaper bags, etc. You name it and we were probably given it.

What we weren’t given was twice as much “mom energy” and I realize how much of my energy had to go into maintaining our home and constantly putting things away. They helped from the time they were old enough, but still most of the “doings” fell to me.

Looking back, I would do things much differently. I would follow the Montessori principles much more closely.

By June 1992, a major move was on the horizon. I had no way of knowing how completely it would change our family.

faith journeys

Our co-priests are on sabbatical (May 14-Sep 3) and our parish is having all sorts of fun, educational, and just plain cool forums and presentations. Thankfully most of them do not involve “stuff” that I would have to bring home.

This project did. However, it has a lot of meaning wrapped up in one simple stained glass cross.  It’s small enough to tuck into any corner of a suitcase. Every time I look at it hanging in my window I am reminded of the lessons I am learning during this journey with my beloved parish.

The Art of the Overhaul, week 10-13

It’s been a very quiet few weeks.  We reached that point where everything we’re doing to prepare for our journey is little steps.  Each of us has a few areas of our personal stuff where we just aren’t willing to let go until the time is nearer.

The yard work is now taking enough time that we aren’t getting house repair projects started, completed, or even thought about.  Although I must say, the outside looks amazing! The garden is mostly planted and we’ve had some great salads and tasty strawberries.  The blackberries are really flowering, so we should have an abundance of fruit soon.

We’ve signed our home up for 100% wind energy.  To help lower the bill and be better keepers of the planet, we’ve been working on making some changes.  These changes will also help us when we take the next step of our journey.

Here’s our week 10-13 list:

  • solar chargers for iPhones, iPads, Kindles, and other “microUSB” type things.
  • solar lights (two so far, adding a couple each month) for each person and room.
  • analyzing our water consumption and attempting to get it within sustainable levels for our primary goal
  • We had a bit of a financial set-back, so our numbers look about the same as the last check-in.
  • Trying new natural personal care products.  Akamai so far is the winner!  They have a 3-in-1 bar (soap, shampoo, shaving), a toothpaste, and a skin fuel (mix of oils) that are amazing, priced well, and minimal packaging.  My lip balm is from Hurraw.  That leaves me only using regular mascara, SPF tinted lip balm, and contact solution.
  • Making plans to travel a bit:  Scotland and Eastern Africa are my goals. If we sell the house and have enough saved, I’d like to see both places before settling into a new life. So now our “A Family’s Journey . . . will include some bit-time dreaming about traveling.

The Art of the Overhaul, week 9

 

Family

  • paint deck
  • fix under deck access
  • MA iTunes card with some tax refund money
  • Medical bill 2: 70% paid off
  • Truck repair bill: 25% paid off

Kim

  • repot plants, toss out plastic garden pots

Kelly

  • garden work and help with yard work
  • general tidying of room, initial inventory but no purging

Michael

  • Room: trophies, closet, more books, more movies, took apart platform bed, put down new floor (tax refund money), continue sorting.
  • Yard work:  grass, garden

Hannah

  • Extra work hours