Patina

Posted: under Homemaking, Travel.
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Oia, Santorini

Oia, Santorini

Patina –  (noun) – color and texture of the surface produced by wear.

Is it any wonder that I am attracted to furniture with patina?  Immediately even new furniture in my home takes on “patina”.  Certainly  you can purchase mechanically pre-worn furniture, but honestly, no factory can reproduce the impassioned fork marks on the top of my dining room table made by my toddler.  Or the teeth marks on the bed post. Or the tire tracks on the coffee table.

I am comfortable with having love-worn furnishings instead of those that are shiny and new.  I gave up superficial perfection long ago.  My priority is child rearing, not House Beautiful.

But there is a tension between “vintage” and “neglected” and between mature, refined furnishing and those that are dilapidated.  It is hard to verbalize, but I know it when I see it.  And I have never seen age and antiquity harmonize with beauty  so well as it does in the Greek island of Santorini.

Fira, Santorini

Fira, Santorini

In all of my travels I have never seen a civilized place so beautiful as Santorini.  Perched on the caldera of a dormant volcano, it basks in the Mediterranean sunlight in glorious shades of blue and white.

Sun drenched Santorini

Sun drenched Santorini

I suppose if I had to name a “perfect day”, it was the day my husband and I hiked from Fira to Oia.

Doug and Cyndi

An attempt to revive the memories of that day inspired the color-scheme of my homeschool room.

Blue and white church

I spend most of my waking hours in my school room.  We built it as an addition to our home the year after our trip to Greece.  I knew exactly how I wanted it !  Abundant sunlight.  Geometric patterns.  Vivid blues and creamy whites.

My schoolroom

My schoolroom

Three chairs in my much-used schoolroom crossed the barrier from “well-worn” into “spent”.  They are antique chairs but are not valuable.  I frequently have to re-glue and clamp them.  No chair can withstand the mechanical leverage of a child leaning back.  Every one of my nine children seems determined to assault my chairs.

Looking not-so-charming

Looking not-so-charming

I was contemplating the replacement of these chairs when I stumbled upon a number of wood refinishing Do-It-Yourself sites while unwinding before bedtime.  (I know.  I should have been knocking out that summer reading list. )  But I was inspired!  I rarely embark on DIY projects, but I rocketed into this one with a sense of determination.

Four steps would take me through the project.

1.  Paint furniture with a vibrant-colored base coat.

"Oh no, what have I done?"

“Oh no, what have I done?”

That moment when you wonder if you should stop.

That moment when you wonder if you should stop.

2.  Apply lightly a neutral-colored top coat using a “dry brush” technique.

white1

 

white2

 

white3

 

It is desirable for the base coat to peek through the top coat.

 

3.  Roughen edges and vulnerable areas with 80 grit sandpaper.

rough1

rough2

4.  Apply a tinted glaze, then promptly wipe it off with a damp paper towel.

Waiting to dry

Waiting to dry

The final effect

The final effect

 

My children were critical of my project.  “Mom, why did you make that chair ugly?”

My tough critic

My toughest critic

I am pleased with the result.  The colors are warm; the chairs are visually interesting.

Basking in light

Basking in light

In no time, I am sure, this paint job will be dinged up, peeled off, and worn out.

At home in the schoolroom

At home in the schoolroom

My faux painting will have achieved “patina”.

And AUTHENTICITY.

 

Comments (1) Sep 17 2013

Learning Something New

Posted: under Homemaking.
Tags: ,

peach bishop1

 

Boy,

girl,

boy,

boy,

boy,

boy,

boy,

boy…

 

I remember looking at the adorable girls at church in their hand-smocked dresses and saying, “If only God would give me another little girl, I will learn how to smock…”

He did, so I did.

peach bishop2

 

Some older women from church came to my home and walked me through the process.  I am not very good at sewing or smocking, but I really enjoy the creative process

teal bishop1teal bishop2

  harmonizing the designs with color and fabric.

A real pleasure in the doing.

blue bishop

One of my greatest hindrances to completing my dresses is that I spend little time off of my feet.  If I am sitting down, there is usually someone sitting on my lap.

Or maybe three someones.

purple bishop

For a while my most productive time to smock was while waiting in airports UNTIL my favorite tiny embroidery scissors were confiscated in Grand Cayman.

Threatening and dangerous?  Really?!

Threatening and dangerous? Really?!

Pretty threatening, huh?

If there were an award for “Worst Application of a Placket in a Smocked Bishop”, I would OWN that award.  My consolation is that my daughter is rarely still; my dresses will not be closely scrutinized.

red bishop

My smocked dresses take so long to complete, that my daughter soon outgrows them.

purple bishop

I display them in her bedroom as little “works of art”.

bedroom

While I may not be the best seamstress, it is my hope that with lots of practice, I will one day be an awesome grandmother…

And there is encouragement in knowing that sometimes you can “teach an old dog new tricks”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments (3) Aug 29 2013

Catherine’s Incredible Hulk Beans

Posted: under Cooking with children, Family favorites, Homemaking, Large family.
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Catherine’s Incredible Hulk Beans

No one ever accused my mother of being a great cook.  No one.  But she did keep an immaculate house.  I don’t think I ever even saw a dust bunny until I went to college.  (Imagine my surprise.)  But she had a good excuse.  When my mother was a young girl, her own mother became bed-ridden, and my mother assumed all the responsibilities of the housework and the care of her father and older brothers while her younger sisters cooked the meals.  She honed her housekeeping skills into an art form.  (Alas, she did not teach me.)

My mother never complained about cooking (and my father never complained about her cooking), but she never aspired to improve her dishes or learn new things.  A typical meal went like this:

a meat, well-done

two canned vegetables, which were always flavored with bacon grease  (that is, until the heart disease connection was made)

store-bought white rolls

an iceberg lettuce salad with radishes, chunks of apple, cubed cheddar cheese, and carrots

That was the template for dinner pretty much every night.

One of the dishes my mother made with frequency, and in great quantity on special occasions, was green beans.  Ew, I can smell them in my brain.

She started with one large can of green beans, which she flavored with bacon grease, then cooked, and cooked, and cooked until every bit of cellular structure was broken down and the “green” beans were gray.  You probably didn’t even need teeth to eat those green beans.  You probably could have slurped them down with a straw.  In fact, I think having teeth only complicated matters  for me because the more I chewed them, the bigger they got.  And then I had to swallow them.  Oh dear, the memory is invoking a gag response.

So that is what green beans were to me:  gray, amorphous blobs robbed of all nutrition and flavor.

When on occasion I encountered green beans that were actually green in color, such as at a cover-dish dinner or company picnic, my mother would announce, with disdain, that “So-and-so cooks her beans like a Yankee.”  (That was a bad thing.)  So it was many, many years before I actually ate a green bean that was green in color.

I still remember the day:  July 19, 1991, at an elegant restaurant near Williamsburg, Virginia, called Indian Fields Tavern.  I even remember what I ordered:  Pork Medallions with Peach Sauce.  Oh, yum.  And when the plate arrived, there they were – green beans!  I eyed them suspiciously. Long and slender.  Bright in color.  No wider than the tines on my fork.  I was emboldened to taste them.  A little sweet with a bit of crunch.  They bore no resemblance to the water-sogged blobs of my childhood.  I was converted.

So I am going to share with you a recipe my older daughter, Catherine, created  for green beans.  She developed this one time when I left town (actually, left the country), leaving her and my mother-in-law in charge of running the household and feeding the whole crew.  One of her tasks was to creatively foist vegetables on her younger siblings.  Now frankly, my children eat lots and lots of vegetables, but we had been given pounds and pounds of green beans and okra that had to be consumed.  The okra was a bit of a challenge.  How much gumbo can one family eat?  She creatively buried the  extra okra in chocolate muffins, winning accolades from her siblings.  A resounding success.  The green beans she transformed into a kind of finger food.  She called them “Hulk Fries”.  They ate every bite.

So easy, even a male teenager can help.

 

Catherine’s Incredible Hulk Fries

2# fresh green beans, trimmed

1/4  cup canola oil

Kosher salt

fresh ground pepper

1.  Preheat the oven broiler and raise the rack.

2.  Toss green beans with oil.  They should all be slick and shiny.

Shiny, oiled beans, ready for the broiler. Please note the color.

3.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

4.  Put under broiler, but don’t walk away!

Into the oven on broil.

5.  After 2 – 3 minutes,  stir the beans.  You want to see areas of brown.

Time to stir. Note the brown parts. That is a good thing.

6. After another 2-3 minutes, stir the beans again and remove from oven.

Ready to serve. Please note, they are still green, with patches of brown. We say, “That’s Hulk’s hair.”

 

The beans are bright, crisp, and tasty!  It may sound uncultured, but I let the little ones eat them with their fingers because, after all, they are “fries”.

 

Green beans.  Bright green.  Tasty and nutritious.  And definitely not made by a Yankee. Who’d have thought it?

(For the record:  When I uploaded the snapshots, my four-year-old pointed to the raw beans and said, “Green beans.  I hate green beans.”  Then he pointed to the “after” photo and announced, “Those are Hulk Fries.  Yum.  I eat Hulk Fries.”  Enough said.)

 

Comments (2) Nov 16 2012

Large Family FAQ: Grocery Store Interrogation

Posted: under Homemaking, Housework, Large family.
Tags: , ,

My brood. Perhaps the hardest thing about raising a large family is getting everyone to look at the camera.

Imagine if you will a typical grocery store visit for me.  I am one of those “perimeter” shoppers.  Because  I don’t buy many processed foods, and fresh ingredients have a bigger volume than boxed snacks, my cart is ALWAYS heaped up on top and fully loaded on the bottom rack. When I head to the check out, I typically have to pull my cart, because I am usually carrying a couple bunches of bananas in my arms, and maybe a few bags of ripe peaches, too.  I rarely take my younger children to the grocery store with me, primarily because I don’t have enough room in the cart, but also because they assault the groceries and thwart the other shoppers.  Last week I had to take both of my youngest.  Big mistake.  My four-year-old kept jumping in front of other carts, spread eagle, and demanding, “What’s the pass word?”  Later, back at home, I discovered teeth marks in the tube of goat cheese.  Beautiful, lovely teeth marks.  Like a dentist’s impression.

Tag-team troublemakers

Once I get to the check out, the interrogation begins.  Sometimes questions come from the cashier, but usually they are from another customer, like the unhappy soul in line behind me.  Now mind you, I go through a form of these same questions every time I go to the grocery store.  Everytime.  EV-ER-Y TIME.

“Are you having a party?”

No.  (Sometimes I say, “No, we are our own party.” But I digress.)

“How many children do you have?”

Nine.  Seven boys, two girls.  Ages 21-2, no twins.   (Right there I just pre-empted the next three questions.)

Then it comes:

“Are you Catholic?

Are you Mormon?

Are you Orthodox Jew?”

No, I’m Presbyterian.  (That last question might throw you, but it might help you to know that we are one of the only Gentile families in the entire neighborhood.  We live within walking distance of a synagogue.  Or maybe it’s because they saw the Kosher chicken; yeah, right there in the cart next to the pork tenderloin…)

I BRACE MYSELF BECAUSE I KNOW WHAT COMES NEXT:

“Do you know the Duggars?”

No. I don’t even own a TV.

THEN THEY ALWAYS SAY:

“I hope you figure out what causes it!” and of course, they laugh at their own joke because, after all, it is so clever, so witty, so original.  I just smile.

Now there are variations of the Frequently Asked Questions that my older children have to endure, especially if they are on outings with the youngest siblings.  My nineteen-year-old daughter has to deal with a whole different realm of questions and assumptions.  Like this summer when the lifeguard helped her coaxed the little ones out of the pool by telling them to “Listen to your mother!”

Then there is a question that REALLY shocked me.  That is, really shocked me  when I heard it the first time.  It occurs when I am on an errand with my oldest son and one of the youngest children.  Complete strangers will look at us and ask me if I am on my second marriage!  Excuse me?  I don’t have a clever response.  I just reply, “No, there are seven in between” and smile. Frankly, I am not sure whether they are baffled by the age difference of my children or think my son is my second husband.

Oldest and youngest – Easter 2011

Oldest son, youngest son

 Then there is a final realm of questions that is related to those people, like the health department nurse or the census bureau, who are reluctant to believe that all of my children have the same last name. Sigh.

I suppose if I were enterprising, I would market a line of products to cater to the questions endured by extra-large families.  Perhaps I could sell t-shirts with the following slogans:

“Not a daycare.”

“Yes, they’re mine.”

“Same father.”

“My hands are full.  Full of blessings from Christ.”

But let’s face it.  Who would buy these products?  As my little guy one day realized – being a seventh child is a very rare thing.

Indeed, people notice my large family and my overflowing shopping cart, whom I do not myself notice.  One day while shopping unaccompanied, I headed in to the grocery store with an empty cart. The door opened and out came an elderly woman pushing her groceries.  She looked at me and said bluntly, “Going to buy out the store again, huh?”  What?! I had never seen this woman before in my  life, but she had seen me.  So while part of me would love to be armed with witty and cutting responses to the weekly FAQ, I realize that I can instead have a positive effect.  I have said it before and I will say it again:  One of the strongest pro-life statements I can make is to go to the grocery store with my hair combed and a smile on my face.

Now do you want to know about questions endured by a “grand multiparous woman” when pregnant? That would be another post altogether.

 

Comments (0) Nov 15 2012

No Brainer Homemade Peanut Butter

Posted: under Family favorites, Homemade, Homemaking, Large family.
Tags: ,

Wholesome food for growing boys!

It was a memorable day.  My husband arrived at our home for lunch and I was assembling peanut butter sandwiches for our children.  I was three pounds down into a five pound container of Peter Pan peanut butter.  My husband walked in, saw what I was doing, and asked, “Are you trying to poison our children?”  What?!  “Haven’t you heard?  Peter Pan peanut butter has launched a massive recall for salmonella contamination!”  We whisked the container away to the office and pulled up the recall numbers on the computer.  Yep.  We had consumed most of a container of contaminated peanut butter.  Now we knew why, a week earlier, we all had , shall I say, “digestive distress”.

“We are not buying peanut butter anymore.  I want you to start making peanut butter again.”

Again.  That was the operative word.  I already knew how to make peanut butter.  When my husband was in medical school, I learned how to be a homemaker and how to make, basically, EVERYTHING from scratch.  I gardened extensively, made gallons and gallons of pickles, salsa, jams and jellies, ground wheat, baked all of our bread, bagels, pretzels, crackers, made yogurt and yogurt cheese, mayonnaise, you name it.  But my homemaking endeavors have been squeezed by the time pressures of homeschooling our rapidly expanding family.  Somethings I no longer have time to do.

But homemade peanut butter is a “no brainer”.  It requires little thought, little effort, and the reward is delicious peanut butter that actually TASTES like peanuts!

 

No Brainer Homemade Peanut Butter

1 food processor

1 large can of roasted cocktail peanuts  (avoid dry roasted, or else you will have to add oil)

Sugar or honey to taste

1.  Fit chopping blade into food processor.

2.  Fill 1/2 to 2/3 full with peanuts.

3.  Turn processor on, then cover your ears!  It will sound like a jet engine, or like teeth being sheared off of a gear.

4.  After 3 minutes, turn off the processor and let it cool for  a few minutes.

5.  Turn processor back on, and blend to desired consistency.

6.  Add sugar to taste.  For a 52 oz. can of peanuts, I use about 4 teaspoons.  I actually think it doesn’t require sugar, but adding sugar increased that “stick to the roof of your mouth” quality that my children prefer.

As you grind up the peanuts, the transformation is fascinating.  Big nuts become small chunks, which fracture into peanut dust.  Then, beginning at the bottom of the food processor, the dust seams to liquify.  There is a moment when you fear the contents will never blend, but then the friction of the chunks with the liquid causes this wave of peanut-butter-yumminess to blend the contents into peanut butter perfection.  It is hard to explain, but you will know it when you see it.  The point is this:  don’t give up when all the “butter” is on the bottom and the “chunks” are on the top.  Give the machine a rest, then let it finish the work.

I store the peanut butter in a plastic container in the refrigerator.  It improves the texture.  I do not worry about refrigerating it when I travel.  I have never had peanut butter turn rancid and I have never had the oil rise to the top (like you see with store-bought, fresh-ground peanut butter).

The salmonella/peanut butter contamination was five years ago.  I have been making homemade peanut butter ever since.  Once my family transitioned to fresh made, they grew to dislike the flavor of manufactured peanut butter, which is little more than peanut-flavored shortening.

Now isn’t that easy?

 

Comments (4) Nov 01 2012