Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Homemade Long Island Bagels

With the rising price of bread, why not let some dough rise yourself and bake it? My family raves about Long Island Bagels everytime they visit, and claim it is the Long Island water responsible for its distinguishing flavor. There is a chain in the South-Eastern states called New York Bagels. I have heard they import water from Long Island to try to replicate them there. I have tasted them. They are not the same! With my daughter home from school today, I decided we would give them a try.

I modified my recipe from an old book my mother gave me from a Better Homes and Gardens series. I highly doubt the 1973 “Homemade Bread Cook Book” is still in print. I show the cover here, as well as the pictures from the bagel section. One of the greatest things about making bagels yourself is that you can top them with any ingredient your heart desires!

I offer some caveats here.

The dough is supposed to be divided up into a dozen equal pieces. I told my daughter to keep halving until she had twelve. She wound up with sixteen somehow.

For the first eight, the water was not quite boiling when I lowered the bagels into the water. They came out of the water looking much messier than the second eight, which were lowered into already-boiling water.

I also forgot to drain the first seven on a towel before baking. They came out looking more like bialies (so my husband said) and, expecting this to happen, I decided to use these for my chocolate chip experiment. As soon as the other children arrived home from school, they were all gone, so I did not actually get to taste one.

The plain bagels tasted outrageous. My daughter said they were the best bagels she ever tasted in her life!

4 ½ cups flour
2 packages active dry yeast
1 ½ cups warm water
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt

In large mixer bowl combine 1 ½ cups of flour and yeast. Combine water, sugar, and salt. Add to dry mixture in mixer bowl. Beat at low speed with electric mixer, gradually adding the remaining flour. Turn out onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes. Cover; let dough rest 15 minutes.
Cut into 12 portions.

Shape into smooth balls. Punch a hold in center of each with a floured finger. Pull gently to enlarge hole, working each bagel into uniform shape. Cover; let rise 20 minutes. (I covered with a towel and put it out in the sun to rise.)

In large kettle combine 1 gallon water and 1 tbsp. Sugar; bring to boiling. Reduce heat to simmering; cook 4 of 5 bagels at a time for 7 minutes, turning once.

Drain on a towel.

Place on greased baking sheet.

Bake at 375 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes, until brown on outside and done in the middle.

Any extra ingredients should be added 15 minutes into the baking.

My first eight look like bialies but the second eight looked and tasted like real bagels.

I thought they were not done enough so I put them in for another five minutes.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

FREE Childproofing Retrofit Kits for Window Blinds

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or call 1-800-506-4636

The Woes of Dial-Up Internet

Happily, I now have DSL!

I wrote this paragraph during the week before the primaries. . .

Normally, I try to do all my internet work after-hours. That is, after telephone calls are normally received. Today I was doing make-up work with my fourth grader, who missed school due to a cold on Friday. I discovered she had to do an online project, which was due on Monday. So I went online at 4:00 in the afternoon on a Friday. This was an extremely bad time to be using the telephone line, as election calls were coming in quite frequently. Every time I was in the middle of downloading the Power Point template, a little box would pop up saying my connection was being interrupted by a telephone call. Thinking it could be a family member, I would pick up. After repeated election calls, I ignored the telephone interruptions and clicked to resume the connection.

Now, I can blog any time during the day that I am able to get away to the computer. I no longer have to stretch a fifty-foot telephone cord from my computer to my bedroom. I no longer have to be afraid of missing an important telephone call, or be annoyed at a caller for interrupting my internet connection. I am so thankful for this little luxury!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Irksome Questions and Comments for the Write-at-Home Mom

Q: What do you plan on doing when the kids grow up?
A: More of the same.

More writing.
More cooking.
More gardening.
More home improvement projects.
More pro-life work.
More involvement in my husband’s home business.

All of the above are worthwhile occupations that I currently fill. Sometimes I fail to take credit for all of the roles that I fill because (a) I feel it is immodest and (b) that it should be recognized that “just being a mom” is enough. But on the flip side, socially I sometimes feel pressured to justify my existence as being more than that.

Q: Do you ever feel like your college education has gone to waste?
A: No.

Being better-educated makes one a better citizen, and aids in molding young minds. But this question hurts deeper than that because it implies that one’s own mind is not worth spending time and money to develop. Even if I never wrote for the public, never performed community service, never educated any children, if I chose to use all my spare time on personal endeavors I do not feel it is ever a waste to be well-educated and not be out in the work force.

Comment: Writing is such a nice thing to do in your spare time.
A: Thank you.

This statement is well-meaning maybe, but it comes across as patronizing.
First, I have virtually no spare time.
I write in my head while juggling multi-tasks. I write in notebooks while at baseball games or supervising bathtime. I am lucky if I get ten minutes to turn on the computer once a day, check my emails, and type up an essay to post on my blog.
Second, it implies that my writing is a casual hobby, when a writer is something at the core of my being. It is something I feel compelled to do, an activity as necessary as eating three square meals per day.

I was reminded by a good friend that the religious education classes typically do not teach to “pray for your enemies” as a good coping strategy. I take that to heart not to dwell on the speaker of irksome comments in a negative light but to pray for them. And not in a selfish way (as in “Lord please let them see me in a more respectful manner”), but a selfless and GIVING way (as in “Please bless her today”). Notice I do not say FORgiving for I truly believe they mean no harm.

It is I who am touchy and need to see my work in a way that is glorifying of God and not self. And then it certainly should not irk me no matter what others may think or say.

“If I did despise the cause of my manservant or of my maidservant, when they contended with me, What then shall I do when God riseth up? And when he visiteth, what shall I answer him? Did not he that made me in the womb make him? And did not one fashion us in the womb?”
Job 31:13-15

Ilya Repin. Job and His Friends. 1869. Oil on canvas. The Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Dandelions and Milk Weeds

“Can we water the flowers?” asked my ten-year-old daughter this morning.

“Sure!” I replied.

A few minutes later, my toddler and I watched from the couch as my two older daughters walked around the front yard with pitchers of water.

I looked bemusedly at my nine-year-old, who stopped to water the dandelions on the front lawn. My first impulse was to open the window and yell, “Don’t water the dandelions!”

Then I remembered what dandelions were to a child.

In their baby stage, dandelions are temptingly soft, white heads of seeds that you can pick and blow into the air as you make a wish. Adults cringe at this because they know the seeds will make more dandelions.

In their advanced stage, dandelions are pretty, yellow, hardy flowers that brighten up an otherwise boring expanse of green. If you pick them and make your mother a bouquet, the reception might not be as exultant as you might expect.

“Why are dandelions weeds?” every child wants to know.

They just are. Somebody somewhere, maybe the people who sell lawn weed control, decided that dandelions are undesirables.

What a great name they have been given! Dandy Lions. They seem so happy, dandy, and innocent, but those roots are real lions. I worked at some this afternoon with my handy scratcher. If my more desirable flowers were so stubborn and hardy, I would be so pleased!

I remembered an experience my mother once had with her garden. She found a beautiful flower of unknown origin growing in her garden. She split up the clumps and planted them in even groupings across the front garden.

A friend drove up and exclaimed, “What beautiful milk weeds you have grown!”

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Garden of Childhood

We really sprung into spring quickly here on Long Island. I hate to be indoors on a beautiful day. So I have been shirking my housekeeping duties in favor of more the tangible and rewarding delights of planting flowers, seeds, and bulbs.

I know it may be a little early for some of the seeds, but I hope they will survive. I do this every year, and I am lucky if a quarter of them make it. I think of the parable of the sower and the seeds. When I was a child, I thought: Was it not foolish of the sower not to properly prepare the ground before sowing his seeds?

Yet I am like that sower. Not caring to test the soil, I rake in my seeds, water, and hope for the best. A few weeks into the season, I grow lazy and neglect to weed and water. And I wonder why I even bothered, yet another season.

But then something beautiful comes up, or we bear a few delicious baby carrots, maybe a serving’s worth, as a reward for all of our hard work. And we vow to try again next year.

I think parenting takes many of the same virtues as the gardener. If we waited until we had the perfectly ideal environment (enough money, patience, etc.) we would never bear children. We deal with what resources we have, put in all our effort and energy, say our prayers, and hope for the best. Some disappointments along the way are inevitable, but we are bound to be happy we started the project.

“But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold. Whoever has ears ought to hear.”
Mathhew 13:8-9

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Things My Kids Need - and Things They Don't

I was astounded when, passing through an aisle of baby sneakers, my 20-month-old looked down at her old, dirty, worn sneakers and said, “Bleah!”

We all want stuff, but how much of it is truly necessary for a child to grow up feeling nurtured? My kids know what sorts of things I will or will not buy for them, and even self-edit their Christmas and Birthday wish lists accordingly.

This is my top ten list of Things My Kids Need:
1. Good Food
2. Fresh Air
3. Exercise
4. Good Books
5. Paper
6. Writing and Art Instruments of all kinds
7. Balls of all shapes and sizes
8. Blocks of all shapes and sizes
9. Dolls and/or stuffed animals
10. Wheels (bikes, skates, etc., that are non-motorized)

Now, in my opinion, this is my top ten list of things my kids don’t need. I am not saying it is bad to have any of these things, or that my kids don’t have any of these things – just that they are not necessary for proper growth and development.

1. Designer Labels
2. Video Games
3. Motorized toys
4. More than one organized activity or sport
5. Television
6. Internet
7. Junk Food
8. Large House
9. Large Car
10. Jewelry

Today I accidentally uncovered a rabbit burrow while raking leaves. At first I thought they were mice, but the children quickly pointed out that they were bunnies. Four quickly scampered away. It appeared to have been their first time out, and they did not know what to do. Neither did I.

Were they supposed to be away from the nest? Would the mother rabbit be upset that I had disturbed her burrow? Was Mommy even around anymore? I took the plastic rake and gently scooped up the four bunnies, put them back in the burrow, and recovered the hole. My oldest daughter is still upset that we would not let her keep the wild bunnies.

It was great excitement for all, something that we might have missed, had we been too busy with things on my second list. Kids need time to be creative and use their imaginations, and silence to take in the wonder of nature.

Painting above:
"La maison de l'Artiste à Argenteuil"
1873 Claude Monet

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Baby Stuff I Never Needed

I read an editorial today that resonated well with me. “The way we figure it, one day our children will be grateful for what we didn’t give them – and what we did for them instead,” writes Pamela Paul, the author of “Parenting Inc.: How We Are Sold on $800 Strollers, Fetal Education, Baby Sign Language, Sleeping Coaches, Toddler Couture, and Diaper Wipe Warmers – and What it Means for our Children”.

I always read with a quizzing eyebrow estimates of how much it costs to bring up one child. And increasingly people comment on how much it must cost to raise more than two children. Recently I have read several editorials stating that having three or more children is a sign of wealth. I laugh at that, because I am middle class all the way.

But I also do not believe we need all the stuff that people seem to think is so necessary. $6,700 is now the estimated cost of all the baby equipment needed for the first year. I never spent that on all my babies in total. I had one modest baby shower, which I was extremely thankful for. (The current average is three for the first baby, with “Sprinkles” thrown for later babies.) The basic equipment was expected to last for all of my children, no matter how many I might have. Gifts and hand-me-downs supplied more than what I needed, other than food and diapers.

There is a church called St. Mary’s in Port Jefferson that picks up used clothes, primarily for the support of single mothers. About once a month, I put out several large bags of stuff, wondering, “Where on earth did all of this come from?”

I am thankful to all the friends who gave me their gently used hand-me-downs, freeing me from the burden of buying clothing for four children. Yet I am just as happy to see them go out the door. You would not believe the amount of square footage it takes to store clothes for boys and girls, sizes 0 through 14!

I cleared out the entire top shelf of the baby’s closet this morning in preparation for the next St. Mary’s pickup. They were soft goods I rarely, if ever used, and would not need if I ever had another child. Among them were:

Round padded play mat: hard to wash, and a blanket serves the same purpose.

Crib bumpers: no longer recommended; can be a suffocation hazard after the baby can roll over, and babies can climb on them.

Boppy pillow: I found this inconvenient to use for nursing, and never knew you were supposed to use it to help the baby learn to sit. All my kids learned without it.

Some other equipment I have given away in the past and never plan to use again:

Exer-saucer: a big waste of space

Bouncy baby seats: I’ll stick with my swing, one real necessity
Walkers: No longer sold in most reputable stores, abhorred by pediatric associations for risk of injuries.

I could write a whole other post on things my older kids do not need and will never have, even if I win a million dollars. Maybe I will. Yes, I definitely will. Please check in for my next post: “Things My Kids Don’t Need”.

“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin. And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?”
Matth 6:28-30

Painting above by Claude Monet:
“Poplars near Argenteuil or Meadow with Poplars”

Monday, April 7, 2008

Pictorial Again!

I have finally fixed the problem I had with uploading pictures! Please look back at the last several entries for new photographs and paintings that complement my posts. I love my pictures and think it makes my blog so much happier!

Painting above:
The Origin of the Milky Way
Tintoretto, 1570

Sunday, April 6, 2008

An Amusing Day of Rest

We got an early start to the day but still had to rush out the door for church.

“Get your coats on and get in the car!” I commanded.

I put the baby’s and my coats on. I heard the doorbell ring. I assumed it was my seven-year-old son playing around.

“Mommy! There are two ugly people at the door!” my nine-year-old yelled.

I assumed she was joking again, and opened the door, toddler in arms, ready to walk to the car.

Two female Jehovah’s Witnesses were at the door.

“Oh!” one said in surprise, “I’m sorry, were you on your way out?”

“Yes, we are on our way out to church.”

“Can we leave you some literature?”

“No, thank you,” I said with a sweet smile.

“Cute,” the other said about the baby, and they both walked down my driveway.

Perhaps rudely, I let the car alarm chirp as they passed my car on one side and I got the baby into the other.

Later, my nine-year-old told me that she had dutifully gone out to the car, then saw the strangers coming and ran into the house.

Meanwhile, my ten-year-old opened the door to go out to the car and saw them standing there. One said “hello”, and she promptly slammed the door in their faces!

They had all followed the proper protocol for strangers, and I was proud of them, I said.

My toddler climbed all over me in church. The older lady next to us was very understanding. When the baby wanted the kneeler down, she let it down so she could stand on it. When she wanted to walk the length of it, she stepped back and told me to let her pass her by.

Those around us were quite prompt about picking up the blue and green crayons (“crons”) that flew past them.

The kind old lady behind us must have looked like the type that would have bagels. “Gagels?” the baby asked her, “Apples? Cookies?” loud enough for the entire quadrant of church to hear.

We decided to stop at the bagel store on the way home, but they were fresh out. They had another batch coming in twenty minutes. I put the baby to bed and went back. It sure was worth it for the fresh, warm bagels, to be perfectly topped with Neufchatel cheese. They were so good that I had two, and laid down on the couch for a nice nap.

I woke up refreshed, finally ready to do some work. I made dinner, did a load of laundry, and went food shopping (again- I just went two days ago). When I got back, the girls were still talking about the ladies at the door. They found the whole story so hysterical, and could not wait to tell their friends on the bus and in school tomorrow!

“So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work he had done in creation.”
Genesis 2:3

Above: The Creation, Matthaeus Merian the Elder, 1625-30

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Cleanliness, Inside and Out

We accomplished so many things in the past week that it feels like a whole month has gone by! I hardly noticed that the kids had started school again, because I was still working on a spur-of-the-moment weekend home improvement project.

My Mom arrived for her visit last Wednesday night. I had spent all day straightening out the house. My brother had also helped me to get the kids’ rooms in order, so everything appeared to be clean and organized.

On Thursday we prepared for my son’s seventh birthday party, a Whiz Bang! Science Experiment Party. I was a little nervous about the experiments, because I had never gotten around to trying them out myself. Here on Long Island, most class parties are held at a professional party place, so kids are used to being entertained. I always feel like I have to meet a certain standard to keep their attention. But everything went smoothly, and the kids had a blast. We even got a little whiffle-ball in. I was very relieved to have it over with.

During the party, we grew some crystals. I got out some food dye to color the crystals and asked each child what his or her favorite color was. When my nine-year-old said GREEN my Mom carefully noted the change from her long-standing old favorite color, PINK.

“Why is her room still pink? Let’s paint it green!”

I agreed, not knowing what I was getting myself into.

On Friday, Mom took my nine- and ten- year-old girls out for a day of beauty. They got hair and nails done. They stopped at Walmart for color chips. We picked out a shade we could all concur on, and Mom went back to pick up two gallons.

“We’re not going to start today though?” I half stated, half asked, “They have their dress rehearsal at 5:00.”

“I’ll just do a little cutting in,” said Mom, “It’ll be a cinch.”

I dropped the girls off at the church and returned. Before I knew it, Mom had all the furniture moved away from the wall. I cringed because I knew what was lurking there.

Bags and boxes full of miscellaneous girly stuff. Doll clothes, hair thingies, game pieces, play jewelry, markers, old cards and papers, all in a jumble. She started to put things in bags.

“Just clear out behind the headboard and we’re done,” she said.

I was overwhelmed by all the stuff. I needed time to sort through everything. I misplaced a bag that had her precious American Girl Kirsten’s Noah’s Ark set in it. I went to inspect the garbage in the street but could not find it. I burst into tears. I left Mom with the gargantuous chore and went to catch the end of the girls’ dress rehearsal.

Mom painted all day Saturday, and we went to the see my daughters perform in The Sound of Music that night. It was absolutely beautiful.

On Sunday, we went to Mass, came back home, had lunch, and put the baby to bed. I brought the girls back to the parish hall, saved our seats, went to Home Depot for new blinds and Stop ‘n’ Shop for flowers, and back to the church to meet my in-laws for the matinee performance. My husband and son met us there. Mom stayed home with the baby. She did the white trim and put everything back in place.

My daughter was absolutely delighted with her new room. Mind you, I still had all of her STUFF in my study and could not even get to my computer until I sorted through it all and carted out the unneeded boxes.

So Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday morning after the kids went off to school, Mom worked on an academic article, I worked on sorting through the stuff, and together we took care of my toddler. The time flew! And then she flew away.

An hour ago, I got through the last shoebox full of stuff and put the sorted under-the-bed boxes where they belonged. We decided which pictures to keep, and they went up on the wall. It’s the cleanest room in the house. I have always thought the best way to clean out a room is to paint it!

It got me thinking about how our secret thoughts can be like all the dusty stuff lurking behind my daughter’s furniture. We might look and act like “nice people”, but we know all the prejudicial, judgmental, complaining, non-loving thoughts that we might harbor in our hearts. The only way to get rid of those spiritual dust mites are through prayer, confession, reading God’s Word, and filling our minds with Godly thoughts. Then we can look clean and actually BE clean.

“How good God is to the upright, the Lord, to those who are clean of heart!”
Psalm 73:1

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

U.S. News and World Report's Articles by Jay Tolson

Part of this story is three months old.

I was in the dentist’s office – alone! – while my houseguest watched the baby so I could get my teeth cleaned. My last visit was seventeen months ago, so I was only eleven months late for my regular checkup. The previous checkup had been seven years prior.

It was quite a challenge to get in for any kind of doctor appointment during my homeschooling years. During a dental exam, if you need any kinds of x-rays, no children can be in the room. Neither can you leave them in the waiting room unattended. So a babysitter is needed. Not wanting to impose on my other homeschooling friends during school hours, I would just have to wait until an out-of-town relative came for a visit, and schedule all my appointments accordingly.

While waiting, I was able to catch up on back issues of U.S. News and World Report. My eye was immediately caught by two front cover stories, both devoted to the Catholic Church! When I noted the author, Jay Tolson, I wondered if he was Catholic, and decided to do an internet search on him when I got home.

In the December 24, 2007 issue, Jay Tolson wrote “A Return to Tradition: A New Interest in Old Ways Takes Root in Catholicism and Many Other Faiths”. Highlighting Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism, and Islam, he noted the most remarkable traditions that are currently being embraced within each religion.

Most notable within the Catholic Church is the return to the Tridentine Latin Mass, the pre-Vatican II rite which has been brough back by Pope Benedict XVI. There also has been a renewed interest in personal confession, the recitation of the Rosary, and the wearing of habits. The latter has been brought to the public eye by the traditionalist and habit wearing Nashville’s Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia.

Mary Bendyna, Executive Director of the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, was quoted as planning to launch a large study on sacramental life in January. Mary Bendyna’s vitae can be found at the Georgetown University website. She has been widely published and I would watch out for the publication of the pending study.

In the April 7-14, 2008 issue, Jay Tolson writes “Catholics at a Crossroads: The Pope Reaches Out to a Troubled American Flock”. The article revisits the return to Latin Mass, explains principles of Vatican II and Pope Benedict XVI’s mission of renewal of the core of Catholic values – again mentioning the Sisters of St. Cecilia. He delves a bit into the problem of today’s relativistic culture, and wonders if America is ready for the Pope’s fundamentalist values. He poses the thought that a return to fundamental values may be the solution to the Church’s present problems.

On the website for Templton-Cambridge Journalism: Fellowships in Science & Religion I found the following biography:
“Jay Tolson is a senior writer at U.S. News & World Report, covering culture, ideas, and religion. Previously the editor of the Wilson Quarterly, he has written for the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the New Republic, the Times Literary Supplement, Civilization, Slate, The Sciences, DoubleTake, and other publications. A graduate of Princeton University, he is the author of Pilgrim in the Ruins: A Life of Walker Percy (1992), which won the Southern Book Award, selected by critics of the Southern Book Association, and the Hugh Holman Prize for Outstanding Scholarship in Southern Literary Studies, and he edited The Correspondence of Shelby Foote and Walker Percy (1996). “

I could not find what his religious background is, but it is good to know there is an excellent journalist out there who is portraying the Catholic Church in an intelligent and positive light.

Allelujah! He is risen!