31 August 2007

staying focused...

i like lists to help me stay organized & keep my scattered thoughts from wandering too far in any one direction. i would not consider myself a slave to my lists (though i do feel satisfied to cross off accomplishments)...rather i feel as though i need their guidance in keeping my overall direction. i prefer to let a part of me remain open to the serendipitous, wonderful, unexpected too, sometimes putting the list aside for a bit.

when i was planning the school year (*BIG* lists involved here!) over the summer, i began to wonder (in a bit of a panic, i confess) just how much we were living what we really believed. or were we just concerned about the "must do" stuff (state & college requirements). hmmmm... not that these things aren't important, but what about the concept of truly embracing life & living joyously?

then i stumbled across a homeschool blogger i enjoy and her post about the Rule of 6.
i read & pondered.

this wasn't someone's list for me to live by...it was a list i would thoughtfully compile, based on our own unique family life...to keep the focus, especially as it relates to nurturing & homeschooling my children. i see it as a generic "what must we incorporate into our lives here at chez piacere everyday, just for us" guide. & it has turned out to be a very good tool as i have prepared the new school year.

(disclaimer...i realize that not everyone who reads this is Catholic/Christian. this is not meant to be a judgment on another; it is simply my sharing of what holds meaning for us.)

Our Rule of 6...
include in each day...

*Attention to our faith...privately & as a family

*Caring for others...compassionate awareness of those around us

*Choices based on...whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious, excellent, & worthy of praise

*Personal care...mind, body & soul

*Time in nature...fresh air, rain or shine

*Meaningful work that provides growth & enrichment...mental, physical,cultural/beautiful, movement, & silence/stillness

as i worked on this, it amazed me that it is so possible for a day to slip by without *ever* touching on something elemental & deep-seated if i don't make a conscious choice to include it. i want my children to grow in thoughtfulness regarding who they are & what is important to them.

& so another school year has begun, in hopeful joy...

29 August 2007

worth its (rock) salt...

as a final ode to summer & for what's cooking wednesday...today's special is one of the faves from the ice cream season. it combines several of my favorite food concepts: coffee (specifically espresso), chocolate & a good shot of Kahlua! i cannot keep my spoon out of it when it is around...mmmmmmmm...

Kahlua Espresso Ice Cream with Chocolate Bits
*Brew espresso to measure 1/2 c., add 1 T sugar to espresso & reduce by 1/3 volume over medium heat- cool.

*Using a potato peeler, shave 50 grams Valrhona dark (61%) chocolate - set aside.

*Beat 5 egg yolks until thick & pale yellow - set aside.

*Combine 1/2 c. heavy cream, 1 + 1/8 c. milk & 1 c. sugar in a saucepan - heat over medium to dissolve the sugar.

*Pour a small bit of the heated milk mix into the eggs, beating well...when mix is warmed, add the rest of the milk mix in a slow stream...pour entire mix back into saucepan.

*Heat egg/milk mix until custard will coat the back of a wooden spoon.

*Strain into metal bowl placed over a dish of ice...allow to cool.

*When cool add espresso & 1/4 c. Kahlua & chocolate shavings.

*Whip 1/2 + 1/8 c. whipping cream, then fold into custard.

*Freeze in ice cream machine & enjoy!!

28 August 2007

glorious summer days...

...oh, yeah...the toes know!
as the day wears on and the mercury climbs...you want to be here...

and if you are a crazy teen boy...your perfect summer day just might look like this...

but watch out! if your mom has the camera...things may get ugly...

like this... (sure i may be cruel with camera in hand, but no, i will never divulge the identity of this guy!)

27 August 2007

action & adventure

be careful! when you tell your boys, "you need a break from school work - go outside & be active," you never know just what might happen...
ummmm, guys...bring it back on land...
well, i guess they *did* follow my directions...
P.E....by the bay style!

26 August 2007

Back to School...At Home!

we (the boys & i) have just arrived at the end of our first week of homeschooling for their 8th & 10th grade years. our start this year was a gentle one...i had managed, by some major quirk - or hopefully a new habit!- to be ready to roll a month ago & over that time the boys & i discussed how we hoped the school year would be.

2 opinions instead of 3 or 4.

it is so very odd...in just 2 short years we have lost half of our school! i am tempted to feel very sad about this - i miss my girls very much! sometimes i give in to that sadness (you must lean into grief or it will overwhelm you eventually). & then i shift into new focus & gratitude...

i am so grateful that the girls have moved successfully into college & transitional jobs.

i am so grateful that i had the time with them through all those years (we started homeschooling after a move out of state when they were in 1st & 3rd grade).

i am so grateful when i hear the girls tell me that something we did has helped them in their new ventures (one of my biggest fears when we began homeschooling was that i would somehow "damage" their academic progress).

& i am so grateful for this new time with just my boys! the are amazing young men (where did the time go?) filled with brilliant ideas & lots of energy & humor. i appreciate the unique views they have of so many things - points of view i would miss without them.

our gentle start to the new school year included...

math - it has always taken the children a week or so, after a summer off, to get the math gears moving efficiently.

literature - i *love* sharing this with my children...there are so many great books that can take us away - it is pure magic (more on this topic next week!). Big Bro started out with the first book of the Aeneid & Little Man is into Tom Sawyer.

Latin - Little Man gets off easy with this one...he begins formal Latin next year...but Big Bro is ready to start his second year of Latin. this week was a much needed review of conjugations, declensions & vocabulary...for both of us!

& finally...weather & experiments - believe it or not, this was not on the agenda...it just happened! while D. & i were away for the weekend, science was happening!! of course, there was serious storm tracking with Hurricane Dean - maps, internet searches, a visit with our neighbor who is retired from the National Weather Service/NOAA. there were experiments using food dye & ice (convection currents), paper cups, cotton swabs & corks (homemade anemometer), & 2 liter bottles with water & dye (tornado in a bottle)!

i can hardly wait to see what adventures await in week 2!

24 August 2007

K-Bug goes to college...

...nearby & so we did not have the road trip for her venture. she is still contemplating the final destination for a degree, but for now K-Bug is popping in between classes (which she adores) & her job - busy girl!!
i remember that confusion & the shear weight of "what shall i do with my life" - how can we *really* know the answer to that at the tender age of 17 (soon to be 18)?most of us have things that pull our heart strings, deep-seated loves that we cannot explain to another but we know we must follow.in homeschooling our children i have tried so very hard to reassure each of them that they have a path uniquely & joyously theirs. *i* could not discern that for them. oh, i could identify their strengths & be a springboard & lead them to other things that could help them. BUT...i could not tell them what their own hearts had to say. K-Bug is in that sweet place of exploring her heart & mind...and she is doing it so very well!
Go K-Bug!!! we are proud of you!!!

23 August 2007

Baby Girl...settling in

after a 2 week whirlwind (fun visits, Baby Girl back to college, K-Bug *starting* college, a weekend trip, & the boys & i beginning homeschooling), we are finally catching our breath! i had NO IDEA just how many photos i took during this time, but wow!!

the word from the college front is thus...orientation went well (Baby Girl was an orientation leader), her apartment-mates are settled in (hey, girls!!! see you next week!!), & Hedge is doing just fine.

over the next few days, i will give the scoop on K-Bug, some art exhibits, travels, & the boys...but for now...Baby Girl's moving day:
off we go...
first apartment!
how will i arrange this?
my daddy...my hero!
my decorating team...
Sea Turtle...medium: wine corks...2007...by Little Man & me

we miss you Baby Girl!!! lots of love from the coast...

22 August 2007

what's cooking wednesday

last year i attempted to play around a bit with my tired ol' lasagna recipe. it's not that the dinner table crowd didn't like it, but it just didn't have the same "zing" as it did back in the day.
so after some thought & reading of cookbooks & internet recipes, i went out on a limb with this little number. the silence as our dinner crowd dug in was overwhelming...barely a word was spoken throughout the entire meal! plates were clean without the help of the hound patrol! & they wanted more!!!
before Baby Girl left for a semester of college cafeteria food...we had to do this one more time:
Black Bean Lasagna
*Cook 8 oz. lasagna noodles & drain (i am wishing i knew how to do homemade pasta here, but that will come in time...i use whole wheat noodles).
*Saute in olive oil: 1/2 c. chopped red onion, 1/4 c. chopped green pepper, 1/4 c. chopped red pepper, 3 cloves minced garlic until soft.
*Drain & rinse 2 - 15 oz. cans black beans. Mash one can's worth of the beans.
*When the sauteed veggies are soft, add all the black beans, 1 - 14 or 15 oz. can diced tomatoes (i love the Del Monte diced with garlic & olive oil), & 1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro - heat through.
*In a large bowl combine 12 oz. cottage cheese, 8 oz. softened cream cheese & 1/4 c. sour cream.
*Use olive oil to coat the bottom of a 3 qt. rectangular baking dish...arrange 3 noodles on the bottom...top with 1/3 bean mixture...spread with 1/3 cheese mixture.
*Repeat until all ingredients are layered.
*Bake at 350 for 45 minutes...let stand 10 minutes before serving

21 August 2007

meme o'rama

In order to get back on track from ALL the activitiy of the past 2 weeks (2 college starts, a 2 week visit with D.'s parents, & a 4 day mini vaca - hey, 2+2 does = 4!!), I am keeping it light this week...
Time to catch up on some Memes...

Debi tagged me for "Middle Name" meme....
1. You have to post these rules before you give the facts.
2. Players, you must list one fact that is somehow relevant to your life for each letter of their middle name. If you don’t have a middle name, use the middle name you would have liked to have had.
3. When you are tagged you need to write your own blog-post containing your own middle name game facts.
4. At the end of your blog-post, you need to choose one person for each letter of your middle name to tag. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

A- Abroad...where I want to be...as in travel abroad - as often as possible!

N- Not lonely...ever - 4 kids + 2 hounds + 1 husband = never lonely.

N- (I asked Little Man for help here...he said "nice" - thank you, but you know, he better say that as I do see to his food, clothing, shelter, & schooling! Then with a sly smile he said "naughty" - huh?? After some guilt - & my very best hairy eyeball stare - he said "new" - well thank you very much, but not quite! He's too absorbed in the weather online to really be of help right now.) But I think I (on my own) will go with Nasturtiums...
they are the prettiest flowers on my deck right now. I love their orangy hues & the way they spill out of their containers with wild abandon. They are also fab in a salad or frozen in ice for pretty presentation. (Little Man had no idea!)

And...Callista also tagged with this little adventure...Google Search Meme

The rules of this meme are simple:
1) Go to http://www.google.com/
2) Click on Google images
3) Type in your name and search
4) Repost (w/ a link) the picture of the oddest, craziest, strangest, coolest, oldest, etc. person that shares your name. Post multiples if you find a few you like.
5) Pass it on to at least 5 other people.

Well, plenty of "qalcosa di bello" ("something beautiful"- but I googled it in Italian) photos that came up in the search. No persons, but WOW!...some great pictures. Here are a few of my favorites...

If you would like to play along with either of these memes, consider yourself tagged! Have fun!

17 August 2007

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...piacere is taking a bit of a siesta while D. whisks the blogmistress away to her favorite city in the US for some much-needed R&R. Baby Girl & K-Bug are settling in well at their respective colleges. Big Bro & Little Man are holding down the fort with their Grandparents & the hound patrol! & Little Man is tracking all the tropical action - please keep the folks in the path of Hurricane Dean in your prayers!

Have a peaceful, joyous weekend...see you next week!

16 August 2007

creo in teo...

that's right! teodoro, of course we still believe in you, just like back in the day...do you remember...

when you had to sit on top of the kindergarten cabinet (& i had to watch from the "house")
when you were my only witness to the great gerbil tail debacle in 2nd grade

when we had recess chalkboard duty in 4th grade that had the pleasant side effect of allowing us to terrorize daniel

band practices during the HOTTEST days of august (did we *really* throw down the instruments in protest one night??), the endless frustrations with "bird legs," never-ending jokes about the "penguin," spanish classes with exam results that included secret korean codes on the matching answers a la "carrot head," ZAPPERS that chemistry-proofed us for life, I WANT MY MTV!! (& only YOU had it!), biology teachers that could actually bench-press frustrating sophomores!!!, Granny Grey & her CB radio (breaker, breaker!), the Great Grey Machine (seats 9 in a pinch! jumps railroad tracks until the universal joint breaks!), coasting from the top of Peter's Mountain to the winning mailbox, pulling Curtis's sorry self back inside the window at the red light of danger while trying to control 6 other unruly underclassmen, classes at HACC that occasionally included an ER visit, after-prom parties that did *NOT* involve police raids (& we didn't even need road signs or public service announcements!), gassing up at 4 am at your dad's pump so we could go to the beach post-graduation!!!

(did i forget anything??)

weddings, test tube shots (pretty, pretty colors!), babies, & a beach houseful of fun with W.'s guitar & a boat!!!???

well, i sure do remember!!! & i also remember just what today is...

Happy Birthday to you, you crazy fool - my friend since age 5!!!!! Now go mix some chemicals (try very, very hard not to blow up your lab!) & have a great day...!

15 August 2007


today is one of the major feasts on our Church calendar - the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus - a feast day celebrated, according to historical documents, before the year 500 AD.

before Mass at noon i was pondering just why i was there at that very moment, stepping out of my ordinary life & into the quiet, stained-glassed hush that i tend to drink in like a perfect glass of ice water on the hottest day.

be still.

gladly. oh so gladly.

i let my mind wander over the concept of being the Mother of Jesus - what is known of her life. this young girl, a teen, was in the midst of her everyday life when she was told that she would become, literally, the Mother of God. she was humble & accepting. she was trusting.

during her own pregnancy, one that was no doubt fraught with concerns given its beginnings, she "made haste" to a cousin in need in a distant town where she stayed to help for 3 months. she was kind & charitable, even in the midst of her own concerns.

nearing the end of her pregnancy the law required a journey with her spouse, Joseph, from her own home to another town for a census. who would want to travel when the nesting urges at the end of pregnancy are so very strong? yet she was obedient.

in the midst of the journey no typical lodging was available to her & Joseph, and so her birthing was in a manger. far from perfect. but she was willing to do what she must do.

shepherds heard the news of the birth of Jesus; excitedly (& likely with no thought to how a new mother must feel) they made their way to this Baby. likewise, the astrologer kings also sought to pay homage to the Christ. Mary was hospitable.

she "treasured these things & pondered them in her heart." (Luke 2:19) she took these events as they came. she did not seek out more. she did not turn away from what was hers. she was grateful & meditative.

she followed the religious customs of her time & people, presenting her Baby in the Temple at the appointed time. she was faithful.

she fled into a foreign land when her Baby Boy's life was threatened by a jealous king, to keep him safe. she was courageous in the face of adversity.

she searched for her Son for 3 whole days in a pilgrimage caravan & did not lose her cool when she & Joseph finally found him in the Temple. she merely stated the concern to her nearly-teenage Boy.

and she continued to ponder.

she stood by the side of her Son, popular or not in his words of love & peace. she did not prop him up. she did not push for publicity. she was quietly supportive. she had perspective.

she stood by the side of her Son at his cruel execution. right up to the end. she received his lifeless body into her arms.

she was present for those who mourned, though she herself no doubt was deeply pierced.

and so today i considered how this humble, faithful woman quietly followed her path of life - not a path of glamour or popularity. not a path of perfectly coiffed beauty. but rather a path paved in stones of a deep & humble love, graceful & kind service to those around her. a path that started with a simple "yes"...an example to me in my own motherhood, quietly, humbly & with love - to just say "yes" with gratitude & joy.

14 August 2007

Weather Bloggin' with Little Man

ok, so we always knew it would come to this.

i have spent the entire summer ignoring the atlantic basin - thinking that if i didn't pay attention, it would just behave itself.

now, this morning - a beautiful, calm, perfect summer morning...Little Man brings on this piece of news...

5 day forcast on Wunderground

stay tuned...

my hurricane season prayer...Psalm 107:29:
"He hushed the storm to a gentle breeze, and the billows of the sea were stilled."

10 August 2007

bon voyage Baby Girl part 2...casual craziness

this week at chez piacere we are packing in a full week of love & fun & laughter. Baby Girl is so happy that for her college sophomore send-off, her grandparents (D.'s mom & dad) have been able to visit & even join the caravan to campus this weekend. earlier in the week, before they arrived we had a lovely night on the town. to qualify for this spectacular evening, you had to be a high school graduate - which meant Big Bro & Little Man had to deal with pizza delivery & the house to themselves - not they they complained... (see previous "bon voyage Baby Girl" post for more on that evening.)
since the arrival of D.'s parents, we have had a whirlwind of yummy food (Baby Girl's last chance for home cooking!), gelato (to help deal with the heat!), lots of photos (evidence on the blog!), last minute laundry (the last free load for a few weeks), & packing. did i say packing? that is probably the hardest part for me - it is just a bit too tangible a sign of her immanent departure.
of course, packing leads to another obvious activity...shopping - you know, for all those things you suddenly realize you need but don't have. so, the girls (all 4 of us!!) were off to the big city for a restocking of the wardrobe & to gather every possibly thing that might be needed for an entire semester. (did we miss anything??)

now, ask yourself...what happens when you spend the better part of the heat (i mean HEAT!!) of the day shopping? you do *not* want to return to the kitchen & slave over a hot stove. no, you call the guys & meet up for dinner! and you are especially grateful that the entire family is actually off work that evening & able to do this!

join us on at the table, won't you...
get your own italian cream soda!...
exactly how *do* we get mom to stop taking pictures?...
catching memories...

09 August 2007

bon voyage Baby Girl...night on the town...

how can i let this sweet face go?
aaawwwww, dad...
baby sister...
lots of laughter...
sisters, over coffee...
mom's little helper...
i see you...

08 August 2007

Just Beet It!!

Feeding the masses is lots of fun. It gives me a chance to go a little crazy with my large stack of recipes-to-try. For some odd reason, entertaining is like a swift kick in the adventurous pants.

What's Cooking this Wednesday? Well, lots & lots of things, but a side dish won the coveted post position for today. (Why do side dishes always seem to be ignored over desserts & main courses, anyway?)

This particular side has become quite popular here. For some reason, certain family members were under the misguided notion that they did not like beets. So, I slyly smuggled them into the repertoire cleverly served with something they *will* eat...green beans. In the end I am actually hearing requests for this recipe...

Sauteed Baby Beets with Haricots Verts & Lemon

*Toss 1 1/2 pounds red or golden baby beets, trimmed & scrubbed (thinly slice regular red beets if baby beets unavailable) with 2 + T. olive oil in roasting pan.
*Sprinkle with sea salt
*Cover with foil & bake until tender - ~30 minutes
*Let beets stand at room temperature ~20 minutes

While the beets are roasting & cooling...
*Trim 1 1/2 pounds haricots verts (or regular fresh green beans)
*Cook haricots verts in boiling salted water until crisp-tender (~4 minutes)
*Drain & transfer to a bowl of ice water, then drain again & pat dry
*Melt 1/4 c. butter in large pan over medium heat
*Add 2 T. fresh lemon juice & 1 1/2 t. grated lemon peel to butter
*Add roasted beets & haricots verts to butter mix
*Add 1/2 c. minced Italian parsley leaves & season with sea salt & fresh ground pepper to taste
*Toss well & saute until well heated, ~3 minutes
*Serve hot or at room temperature - 6 generous servings

Part 2 of this recipe will follow on another What's Cooking Wednesday...the beets are just awesome used in panini!

07 August 2007

summer's bounty

here by the bay we are busy-crazy (as K-Bug has taken to calling it)...D.'s parents are on their way from the Coal Region bearing pierogies (some of you are now salivating heavily!). i do not envy that drive today!

the Queen of the Kitchen (a.k.a. me) is furiously trying to prepare things in an attempt to avoid adding any heat to the day's expected high of 96 degrees with a lovely heat index of 109. (watch out for blogging Little Man & a weather update with Thursday's forcasted high (actual) of 98 degrees & heat index over 110)

i'm melting...please pass the gelato!

the hound patrol is in full dog days mode. they are sleeping it off in the shadiest, coolest parts they can find.

and...Baby Girl is packing. Saturday, a caravan (because that is what it takes to move this child into her apartment) is pulling out of the driveway & trekking across our state. it is back to college time & this momma is a bit weepy. Baby Girl will be so very missed. but what a paradox, because this momma is also so very proud! that child is an excellent student, hard worker, happy at her school, & she has lots of sweet friends. what more could i want for her?!?!

so if Piacere seems a bit quiet some days over the next week or two...now you know why! but on the other hand, blogging my just be the thing that keeps me smiling!

04 August 2007

a walk in the clouds...

cross over the dunes with me...
i could not resist pulling over at the beach access...

the storm clouds were all around but bright blue sky was overhead...
the sun was trying valiantly to break through...
just a bit more shifting...
and everything was again aglow...
clouds on the northern horizon were the perfect backdrop to the sailboat...
but from the west, a storm was moving in...time to cross over the access & back to reality...