Special Valentine’s FREE Episode: 20 things we hated about FIREPROOF

We promised we’d have a podcast review of Kirk Cameron’s life-changing movie FIREPROOF for Valentine’s Day. And we lied! But we do have it just before midnight on the day after Valentine’s Day, and that’s, you know, fine. The good news is, we said twenty, but it’s actually twenty-seven.

This here is a special free podcast in honor of all men everywhere who struggle with trying to get their salt and pepper shakers separated when some asshole has glued them together.

Most weeks, our podcasts and archives are only available to patrons who pledge $1 or more through Patreon. These pledges keep this site going, and we appreciate them very much! How much? CONEY BONES MUCH!

I hope you enjoy it more than I enjoyed making this terrible graphic.

How to spark joy with the stuff that no longer sparks joy

Kondo encourages you to shed the things that you can easily do without; but you’re not everyone. Maybe some poor person would love to have what you can’t wait to get rid of.

Or would they? If they don’t spark joy for you, does that mean they won’t spark joy for anyone? Do poor people who live off donations even really need joy, or what?

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly. 

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

St. Elizabeth the Unspecified, pray for us

One of my regrets (and man, I have a million) is that I’m not doing a great job introducing my kids to the saints. We have made a few stabs and this and that, but I’m not hugely devoted to any particular saint myself, so it just doesn’t come naturally.

We had a few saint biography collections when I was growing up, and I did read them repeatedly; but I think they ended up doing more harm than good, and I ended up with a bunch of ideas that were hard to shed. Namely: (a) saints were born that way (“before she even learned to talk, tiny Wiffletrude used to weep at her mother’s breast because it made her think of how Jesus thirsted on the cross.” That kind of thing) and (b) if I did become a saint, it was only a matter of time before the demonic attacks would begin, with bed shaking and foot clawing and stuff, and that did not sound great.

I also worried a lot about how poorly I would do when the Romans gave me one more chance to renounce Christ before cutting my skin off. I did figure that, if, because of my great beauty, I became unwilling but gentle queen of the land, I would definitely be the one who distributed bread to the peasants, like, 24/7.

I ended up with two patron saints: Unspecified Elizabeth and Michael the Archangel. And also a guardian angel. Do I remember that I have these holy ones watching over me? No, I do not. I’m just a lonely loner on a lonely road. Alone.

Terrible religious art also had a lot to answer for. Only very weird kids think, “Oh yeah, I can picture myself holding a palm branch with three fingers, with my eyeballs rolled up and a bunch of wispy roses framing my person at all times. Yep, that’s me. ” The state of religious art is definitely improving, and it’s also immensely helpful to learn about saints who are recent enough to appear in photos. Hagiographies have also gotten much better in recent years. Saints come across much more like actual, specific people, rather than goopy spirituality dolls.

Anyway, this gap in our family’s spirituality always comes into focus when one of my kids is preparing for confirmation. (In our area, they’re transitioning to restored order of sacraments, so confirmation happens when a kid is in his early teens.) They have to choose a confirmation patron saint and write a short essay. IS CATASTROPHE. I make some feeble suggestions which are met with floppiness. I point them toward some books which promptly slither into the couch crack. Wishing to appear hip and cyber, I suggest Jen Fulwiler’s Saint Name Generator; then I get distracted by Facebook and forget about the whole thing until the emails from the DRE get really insistent. And that’s what they mean when they say parents are a child’s primary educators.

However! They always end up choosing a bona fide saint with an actual biography attached to them, and no one has chosen a patron who clearly just got called up for the cool name. Not a St. Désirée or St. Gaspar de Bufalo or St. Lawdog in the bunch. Whether any of my kids have formed any kind of meaningful devotion to their patrons, I do not know.

But it occurs to me that, even if they never learned a single real fact about their saint, or said a single prayer to them, much less formed some kind of genuine spiritual friendship or devotion, the patron saint is still devoted to the confirmandi. And the same would be true even if some kid chose a saint purely to annoy their parents or solely so their new initials would spell out F.U.N.K or something. Right? You choose a patron, and they’re in, and that means they’re praying for you for the rest of your life, whether you think about it or not.

I don’t think it’s necessary to believe that you have been somehow spiritually nudged without your knowledge in the direction of the saint that’s just right for you. It’s possible, and I’ve heard plenty of stories where someone chooses something randomly, and it ends up being devastatingly relevant. But in either case, a spiritual friendship is a real thing, even if it comes about by chance and only goes one way; and a saint is, among other things, someone who’s always willing to try to bring someone closer to God.

That’s all I got. Like so many other things in Catholicism, it’s far less about our own efforts and merits than we realize, and it works out to be a pretty good deal for us. Salut! I mean, ora pro nobis.

Pro-life spotlight #1: China Little Flower

As I mentioned last week, I’ll be regularly featuring groups who do the work the president described in his SOTU speech: groups that “work together to build a culture that cherishes innocent life“and that “reaffirm a fundamental truth [that] — all children — born and unborn— are made in the holy image of God.”

One of my favorites for many years: China Little Flower. This charity started out with a couple who had met as exchange students in China. They started out simply helping a few orphaned babies, but soon realized there was a great need for a more organized effort. Because China’s culture and legal system is hostile toward children with disabilities, many families simply don’t have the money, the education, or the cultural support to raise a child with complex medical needs.

According to the BBC’s blog on disability:

The most widely used word for disability in Mandarin is canji, which literally means deficient/deformed and diseased.  … [M]any traditional, pejorative terms for disabled people are still in common currency: canfei (crippled and useless), yaba(mute), shazi (idiot) and xiazi (a derogatory term for blind people) can still be heard on the lips of many ordinary citizens of the People’s Republic.

The Chinese government may have relaxed its strict one-child policy, but the culture is not now more welcoming of disabled children. Instead, state propaganda encourages parents to produce healthy children for the good of the country. Women and girls and those considered “useless” are still treated as less than human. According to Leta Hong Fincher in a NYT opinion piece, when China relaxed its brutal one-child policy,

the government was only embarking on another grand experiment in population engineering: This time it was urging women — though only the right sort — to reproduce for China.

[…]

The government has unleashed in recent years a propaganda blitz on women it considers to be gao suzhi, or of “high quality.” “Make sure you don’t miss out on women’s best years for getting pregnant!” warn some headlines in state media. Those years supposedly are between the ages of 24 and 29, according to the government; beyond that, it says, beware birth defects.

Parents who are willing to raise their disabled kids have little cultural or financial support, and little education on how to care for them.

This important clarification from Kelly Mayfield, author of Mine In China: Your comprehensive guide to adopting from China:

“In many cases these parents have made a heartbreaking decision because they can’t afford the medical care the child needs. You can see some images of parents leaving their children at the Guangzhou baby hatch at this link. You have to have cash up front for heart surgery, cancer treatment, etc. There is no legal way to relinquish children in China, so they abandon them in hopes that the child will receive the necessary care when they’re in an orphanage or if they are adopted by another family. Some of the children are left with notes that say ‘Please don’t let my child die. We are poor and can’t afford the surgery.'”

China Little Flower’s mission:

Recognizing the beauty and dignity of each and every individual person, China Little Flower works to build a culture of life by reaching out to those who are rejected, abandoned, deemed as useless, and who have no voice. Whether by direct care, support, or education, we seek to show the value of each human life and build a culture that respects, protects, loves and serves life!

They provide hospice care for orphans, group educational foster care, special care for infants, and long-term care for severely disabled children.

Dew Drops will provide both a long term, enriching home environment for abandoned children, and also  a temporary home for families in need of support and specialized care, while they navigate the health care system. These families will benefit from financial, emotional and medical support in caring for their child during treatment, as well as ongoing support after they return home.  Our primary focus is on children born with complex heart defects.

Our Orphan Care Unit will provide specialized medical care as well as foster healthy emotional development for abandoned children:

  • Children ages 6 month to 5 years old born with complex congenital heart defects
    • Capacity of 30 beds
    • Every child will stay with us until (s)he is adopted
    • Employ full time ‘moms’ who are trained in trauma-informed care practices and who will provide continuous, 24 hour care. This helps abandoned children learn to form attachments and heal from the past trauma they have experienced.

In our Family Care Unit, in addition to specialized care, we also focus on educating families and advocating with them as they seek the best medical treatment for their child:

  • Children from disadvantaged families (targeting rural areas) born with complex heart defects
    • Capacity of up to 5 children/families at a time
    • Children will be accompanied by at least one parent/family member during their stay
You can make a one-time or recurring donation to support their work, and you can also support them through their donor-advised fund.
The founders, Brent and Serena Johnson, live in Beijing with their six children, and they donate their time and efforts to the organization. China Little Flower is a registered non-profit in the USA and received 501(c)(3) status in 2000. You can contact them at info@chinalittleflower.org or

China Little Flower
4388 Steinbeck Way
Ave Maria, FL 34142

Sign up for their monthly newsletter and follow them on Facebook, where they share photos of some the beautiful babies in their care.

chinalittleflower.org
littleflowerprojects.org
dewdropslittleflower.org

***

If you know or have worked with an organization that works to build a culture that cherishes human life, please drop me a line at simchafisher at gmail dot com with “prolife spotlight” in the title.

I’m also looking for a name for this feature! Pro-life Spotlight is okay, but it could be better. Suggestions welcome.

What’s for supper? Vol. 160: Fleischschande and You

Hey, it’s still Friday! Here’s a food post!

SATURDAY
Caprese salami sandwiches

A simple favorite. Ciabatta rolls with Genoa salami, tomato, basil, and mozzarella, with olive oil and vinegar, salt and pepper. I couldn’t figure out why I didn’t have pictures, and then I remembered Damien and I went out! We went to Chili’s and spent a lot of the time talking about why it’s so much better than Applebee’s. It really is, but you wouldn’t understand.

SUNDAY
Hot wings, brats, Italian sausage, guacamole, chips, homemade hot pretzels, jalapeño cheese dip, and king cake

Of course that warr the Super Bowl. The best part of the night was when what’s his name took off his shirt and all my kids spontaneously booed and laughed at him.

The friendly and mellow Fr. Matt from Louisiana came by on the way to visit family, and he’d had two king cakes from Rouses delivered. He made the mistake of listing the possible fillings, so my inauthentic children chose apple, Bavarian cream, caramel, and chocolate. Nobody ate the babies!

Damien made the wings by frying them in oil, then rolling them around in a combination of bottled hot sauce (one bottle) and melted butter (one stick). You can add a squirt of Sriracha sauce if you can find the bottle, which you can’t because some lunatic has stuffed your fridge to the gills.

He also made a quick dipping sauce with sour cream and crumbled blue cheese, and we had celery just like in a fancy restaurant like Applebee’s or Chili’s or something.

I made this jalapeño popper dip, easy and yummy, but it turns out that I was correct in my concern that I was the only one who likes it. Diced jalapeños, sour cream, cream cheese, garlic, cheddar, and parmesan, all heated up with bread crumbs on top. Mmm.

For the beer brats, he poured about four pints of Narragansett beer and a few chopped onions, garlic powder, salt and pepper, and red pepper flakes into a bot, brought it to a boil, the simmered the brats in that for about fifteen minutes. Then he grilled them on the stovetop. Then he put them in the oven lest we all die of brats that have only been cooked two ways instead of three.

He also made a marinara sauce for the Italian sausage with some olive oil and chili pepper flakes, get that hot, throw in a diced onion and a bunch of diced garlic, and cook that up. Then throw in a can of tomato paste, stir, and add a can of tomatoes and about 6 ounces of red wine and a teaspoon of sugar. I read this paragraph over and have decided it’s in the diminished pluperfect mood, warmed over a hot past pretense.

I got it into my head to make homemade hot pretzels, which I adore. Even though my baking never, ever gets better, and guess what? This time I didn’t get any better. I used this Alton Brown recipe and ended up adding so, so, so SO so so much more flour than it said it would need, and then it was just a mess from then on. I’l spare you the details because I can’t remember them. Against all odds, a few of the pretzels turned out good:

But many more of the were pretty grisly looking.

They have a sort of Laocoön look to them, don’t they? A few of the kids liked them, but mostly they just hung around the house in a bag, getting flabbier and flabbier. The pretzels, I mean, ho ho ho ho ho ho ho.

MONDAY
Superleftovers

I mean really. Also Damien bought oysters which we forgot to eat, so we had those, and I also got frozen pirogies that I forgot to cook. Those are still in the freezer because I was experiencing fleischschande (meat shame) and couldn’t bear to make even more food.

It was also Monday that I took this picture in my car:

You know what, February is not my favorite month.

TUESDAY
Carnitas with rice and salsa verde

I took a big hunk of pork and put it in the slow cooker. Seized with ennui, I poured in a bunch of lime juice, sprinkled it with chili pepper flakes, and called it good. It cooked for eight hours, then I shredded it, spread it in a shallow pan, and sprinkled it with salt, pepper, garlic powder, chili powder, and cumin, and browned it up under the broiler.

I made salsa verde in my food processor.

My recipe called for 3/4 tsp of sugar, and that seemed like it couldn’t possibly be enough, so I used 3/4 cup. Allow me to state for the record that that is to much frickin sugar. Pbbbttt. I mean, I ate it, but still.

WEDNESDAY
Chicken burgers, fries, blueberries

Nothing to report.

THURSDAY
Meatball subs, salad

I make serviceable meatballs.

I cook them in the oven in a pan with drainage, then put them in a slow cooker with sauce, lest we die of meatballs cooked only one way.

FRIDAY
Quesadillas, guacamole and chips

I also make really good guacamole

and I only burned one quesadilla, and one of my kids likes them burnt! Ha!

Welp, here are some recipe cards. Onward and upward.

5 from 1 vote
Print

Slow cooker carnitas

Serve on tortillas with sour cream, guacamole, beans and rice, salsa, cilantro, or whatever you like.

Ingredients

  • 1 pork shoulder
  • 1 can beer (or soda)
  • cumin
  • chili powder
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Put pork shoulder in slow cooker with beer. Cook on low for five hours or more, until pork falls apart when poked. 

  2. Preheat broiler. 

  3. Shred meat, mix together with spices, and spread in a thin layer on a shallow pan. Broil for a few minutes until meat is slightly crisped.  

  4. Serve on tortillas with whatever additions you like. 

5 from 1 vote
Print

Salsa verde

Ingredients

  • 10-12 tomatillos
  • 3 jalapeno peppers
  • 10 cloves garlic with wrappers on
  • 1-2 medium onions, peeled and quartered
  • 3/4 tsp sugar
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • olive oil for cooking

Instructions

  1. Preheat the broiler. 

  2. Put unwrapped tomatillos, whole jalapenos, garlic cloves with wrappers on, and peeled, quartered onions in a shallow pan, and broil until slightly blackened - about 5 minutes. 

  3. Let the vegetables cool. Pull the wrappers off the garlic, cut the tops off the jalapenos (but leave the seeds and insides), and trim the ends off the onions.   

  4. Put all vegetables inside a food processor, and add a big handful of cilantro and 3/4 tsp sugar. Blend until it's pulpy. It will be runny.

  5. Heat a little olive oil in a saute pan and add the vegetable mixture. Heat, stirring, until it thickens up a bit. 

  6. Add 3/4 cup chicken broth and 1/4 cup lime juice and continue heating, stirring from time to time, until it thickens up again. 

 

5 from 1 vote
Print

Meatballs for a crowd

Make about 100 golf ball-sized meatballs. 

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs ground meat (I like to use mostly beef with some ground chicken or turkey or pork)
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • 8 oz grated parmesan cheese (about 2 cups)
  • salt, pepper, garlic powder, oregano, basil, etc.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400.

  2. Mix all ingredients together with your hands until it's fully blended.

  3. Form meatballs and put them in a single layer on a pan with drainage. Cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes or more until they're cooked all the way through.

  4. Add meatballs to sauce and keep warm until you're ready to serve. 

 

5 from 1 vote
Print

White Lady From NH's Guacamole

Ingredients

  • 4 avocados
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1 medium jalapeno, minced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped roughly
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 limes juiced
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 red onion, diced

Instructions

  1. Peel avocados. Mash two and dice two. 

  2. Mix together with rest of ingredients and add seasonings.

  3. Cover tightly, as it becomes discolored quickly. 

Must be nice!

There’s not some finite bin of pleasure in the world, and there’s no reason to feel guilty for enjoying whatever measure of it comes our way for as long as it lasts. On the contrary, when I’m happy, I’m much more apt to be generous and patient; and one cheerful person can lift the mood of an entire household. And even if my happiness didn’t do anyone else any good: I matter, too! It’s a good thing to be happy. Why wouldn’t it be?

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly.

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I’m done letting anger separate me from pro-life work.

I made a mistake.

When I realized the GOP was going to nominate and elect Trump, I became so disgusted by that conspiracy of gullibility and corruption, I allowed myself to become distanced from pro-life work.

I still donated to pro-life organizations; I still prayed every night for the protection of unborn babies; and I still agonized over my moral responsibility at each and every election. But, while I still challenged readers not to accept the horror of abortion, I wrote less frequently about explicitly pro-life causes. Because of my anger, I stopped engaging with and promoting explicitly pro-life work.

I’m still angry, and justifiably so. I’m angry that there is abortion in the world. I’m angry that it feels necessary to so many people. I’m angry that born and unborn babies, pregnant mothers, and all women aren’t cherished and protected. There is no bond like the bond between mother and child, and it tears me apart when they are dehumanized and brutalized by anyone. Sometimes I’m so angry, I can hardly breathe.

But that was my mistake. Moloch doesn’t care who you’re angry at, as long as your anger keeps you from fighting for innocent lives. So I’m taking a breath. If you’re as angry as I am, I’m inviting you to take a fresh start with me, and see what good we can do.

Last night, at the State of the Union speech, President Trump said some good words:

Let us work together to build a culture that cherishes innocent life.

And let us reaffirm a fundamental truth — all children — born and unborn— are made in the holy image of God.

His speechwriter is absolutely correct. This is what we must work for.

How? For a quick and easy way to push back against laws that would allow for late-term abortions and infanticide, you can use this form to urge your senators to co-sponsor and vote for the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. This is a good and possibly even a useful thing to do, and I’ll do it today. But it’s not enough, especially when I know the pro-life politicians are only pro-some-lives. Voting for them feels like planting a victory flag in quicksand.

Not everyone feels this way. If you think the Trump presidency has been good for the pro-life movement and has made the world better and safer for babies and their mothers, this post isn’t for you. I know I won’t change your mind, and I’m no longer trying to. I can’t seem talk about it without getting angry and losing focus. So right now, I just want to write about groups doing genuine pro-life work.

One such organization is Immigrant Families Together.

Who do they help? They help innocent life made in the holy image of God. One example (a real person, whose name is protected for her privacy):

A seventeen-year-old girl in Guatemala who was sold to a gang leader. He raped her and got her pregnant, then beat her so badly, the baby died. Then she got pregnant again.

This time, she decided to get out. So she began to walk, with her innocent unborn child inside of her. She crossed a thousand miles to present herself and her unborn baby at a legal port of entry at the U.S. She broke no laws; she followed the protocol. She just wanted to live, and she wanted her baby to live.

But you know what happens when people present themselves at our borders. They are not cherished. They are not treated as if they are made in the holy image of God. They are caught up in our political wrangling, and they suffer, and their children suffer.

Families are still being separated as a matter of course; children are being thrust into foster care and lost track of permanently. Pregnant mothers are miscarrying while they languish in custody. Mothers who wanted life for their children are having their children taken away. They have not done anything immoral by looking for help. They simply want to live, and they want their children to live. Helping them find each other again and live together in peace is pro-life work.

Immigrant Families Together goes right to the people caught in that tangle and helps them in immediate, tangible ways. They are currently helping that Guatemalan woman through her complex legal process so she doesn’t lose another child.

The first woman they helped was Yeni Gonzalez Garcia, whose story is here.  Through the work of IFT, Gonzalez-Garcia has been reunited with her children.

Here is a summary of their work:

  • Raising of bond funds through coordinated crowdfunding and individual giving in order to post bond for parents separated from their children at the US/Mexico Border.
  • Paying bonds and providing pro bono legal representation to fulfill all legal responsibilities while awaiting trial so that they may be with their children.
  • Arranging safe transportation from state of detention to the city where children are currently in foster care.
  • When needed, finding longterm housing in the destination city while they await trial.
  • Connecting parents in cities with resources in order to sustain them during the process of being unified with their children.
  • Working with local organizations and government to expedite the process of achieving full custody of their children while they await trial.
  • We have expanded our services to also include a legal referral services,  AYUDAS and have rapid response response teams to assist recently released detainees and families.

You can donate through their site, or find a Facebook page that’s more local, such as Immigrant Families Together MidwestImmigrant Families Together – CaliforniaImmigrant Families Together East Coast, Immigrant Families Together South.

I would like to routinely highlight the work of organizations doing pro-life work like this. If you work with or know of a group doing this kind of work, drop me a line at simchafisher at gmail dot com.

Anger is only good when it propels you to do good works. Let’s take a breath and start again.

What’s for supper? Vol.159: Bisquey business

How’s it hanging? Straight down? Yeah.

Here’s what we had for supper this week:

SATURDAY
Chicken marinara sandwiches; broccoli and dip

We had lots of wonderful sauce left over from the chicken cutlets last week, so Damien roasted some chicken breasts in the oven and we had them on toasted rolls with sauce and slices of provolone.

Feeble picture, excellent sandwich. I looked for basil, but the stores were completely out, for some reason. Probably all those people whipped up into hysteria by the weather forecasters. You best go out and pick up some basil, Travis!

SUNDAY
Chicken with chickpeas, pita and yogurt sauce; fried eggplant

Old reliable. You marinate the chicken (thighs or wings are best, and you MUST leave the skin on) in a cumin yogurt sauce for several hours, and the skin takes on the most amazing texture when you cook it.

I usually make two pans, with the chickpeas spread in among the chicken, which results in some crisp chickpeas on the edges and some rather soggy ones. So this time, tapping my finger cleverly against my temple, I put all the chicken in one pan and all the chickpeas in the other, on a lower oven rack. It worked! The chickpeas came out crisp and wonderful, with nice layers of crunch and a little soft center.

 

Then the kids told me they prefer them soggy. Tra la la.

I usually serve this with lemony red onion slices and fresh cilantro, but I forgot to buy onions, lemons, and cilantro, so it was a struggle.

I bought the eggplants purely out of a magpie impulse. So shiny, so pneumatic, so purply purple.

 

Such a lot of work to make them taste like anything. It actually wasn’t that hard, though. In the morning, I sliced the eggplant (leaving the skin on) and sprinkled both sides of the slices generously with salt, then laid them on napkins on a tray.

This draws out the moisture, and you can do it way, way ahead of time.

Before dinner, I made up a batter of flour, baking powder, water, and seasonings, and just dredged the eggplant through it before frying them in a few inches of hot oil.

This recipe turned out to be enough for about 1.5 large eggplants, so I will make a double recipe next time.  I had to skimp a bit on the batter, which is sad.

Very good. The texture was perfect, crisp and knobbly outside and tender inside.

 

The spices in the batter did a kind of slow burn rather than packing a punch, so I may up the seasoning next time, but I may not. In any case, now I know I can make fried eggplant! About half the kids ate it. Hey, it’s hot, batter fried food with salt on top that you can dip in stuff. They kept saying it was good zucchini, just to drive me crazy. I really don’t like zucchini.

The kids also made a lemon cake from a mix and topped it with strawberries. Pretty!

MONDAY
Pork ramen with pickled carrots

I forgot to make soft boiled eggs for this, but it was still a good, filling meal. I cooked up the boneless pork ribs in oil until they were almost done, then sliced them thinly, doused them with soy sauce, and finished cooking.

We also had pickled carrots (recipe card at end), fresh snow peas, scallions, sautéed mushrooms, and sesame seeds, soy sauce, wasabi sauce, and crunchy noodles of some kind.

Boy, those snow peas were great. Little sriracha sauce on top, yum yum.

TUESDAY
Meatloaf; roasted brussels sprouts and carrots

Nothing spectacular, but everyone is always happy on meatloaf day. I make my meatloaf with salt, pepper, fresh garlic, oregano, and plenty of Worcestershire sauce, mostly beef with some ground turkey, one egg and and half a cup of breadcrumb per pound of meat, and ketchup on the outside. Ghastly but tasty.

I made the vegetables with a sauce of balsamic vinegar, honey, and olive oil and some basic seasonings, and spread them in a shallow pan to roast.

Oh man, those little charred outside leaves of the Brussels sprouts.

The carrots were underdone and it looks like I didn’t do a great job of combining the binder with the meat, but we were too hungry to care.

WEDNESDAY
Bacon tomato bisque; grilled cheese

I was thrilled with this soup. I’ll make it again in the summer when there are decent fresh tomatoes, but it was delicious with canned, and very easy. Fry up bacon, then cook up onions and garlic in the bacon grease. Add tomatoes and tomato juice and bay leaf, and simmer for a while. Then take the tomatoes out and puree them with cream cheese, and put that back into the soup. I threw in some fresh rosemary we had from last week’s porchetta.

I had some cream to add, but it didn’t end up needing it. Tons of flavor and texture.

We had grilled cheese with muenster on sourdough, and it was an immensely satisfying winter meal.

I briefly considered putting out salad, but fought past that impulse.

THURSDAY
Omelettes; home fries

Choice of ham, cheddar cheese, sautéed mushrooms, and scallions.

All ten omelettes I made tasted fine, but were very unsightly. It’s time for me to admit that I am just too jumpy to make good-looking omelettes.

Oh well. We started on a high note because Corrie made her very own omelette (all I did was the folding part)

and she was so extremely proud of herself, it lit up the whole house.

We also had home fries. Potatoes cut in wedges, mixed up with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika, and cooked in a hot oven for forty minutes or so.

I cooked them in the morning and heated them up in the evening. I had mine with hot sauce, and now I shall do this for the rest of my life.

FRIDAY
Mac and cheese

I think we’re kind of tired of the Instant Pot kind, so I’ll go back to the old style, which I learned from the WIC cookbook, where you make the cheese sauce separately and then add it to the cooked macaroni.

This is actually a really good marker of how my standards have changed. It used to seem like SO MUCH TROUBLE to make a sauce from scratch, cook pasta separately, and combine them in a dish. You end up making two pots AND a casserole dish dirty, and that’s not counting the pan for buttering the bread crumbs; and that felt intolerable. I’ve gotten much more used to the idea of putting time and effort into dinner.

But my life is also much, much easier now, with the kids being older, me sleeping most nights, life being calmer and more predictable in general, and Damien being home so much. And never underestimate how stressful and exhausting it is to be always about to run out of money, and to know that, if you fall in a hole, there won’t be any foreseeable way out. It colors everything you do.

Which is to say: If you cook mainly easy things, and more complex dishes seem out of your grasp, chances are good you’re not lazy or terrible. Your life is just hard right now, and your mental and physical energy needs to go elsewhere. If nobody is starving, you’re doing fine. I just wanted you to know that.

Here are this week’s recipe cards:

quick-pickled carrots and/or cucumbers for banh mi, bibimbap, ramen, tacos, etc.

An easy way to add tons of bright flavor and crunch to a meal. We pickle carrots and cucumbers most often, but you can also use radishes, red onions, daikon, or any firm vegetable. 

Ingredients

  • 6-7 medium carrots, peeled
  • 1 lb mini cucumbers (or 1 lg cucumber)

For the brine (make double if pickling both carrots and cukes)

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar (other vinegars will also work; you'll just get a slightly different flavor)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp sale, preferably kosher

Instructions

  1. Mix brine ingredients together until salt and sugar are dissolved. 

  2. Slice or julienne the vegetables. The thinner they are, the more flavor they pick up, but the more quickly they will go soft, so decide how soon you are going to eat them and cut accordingly!

    Add them to the brine so they are submerged.

  3. Cover and let sit for a few hours or overnight or longer. Refrigerate if you're going to leave them overnight or longer.

Fried eggplant

You can salt the eggplant slices many hours ahead of time, even overnight, to dry them before frying.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium eggplants
  • salt for drying out the eggplant

1/2 cup veg oil for frying

2 cups flour

  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 1 tsp veg oil
  • optional: kosher salt for sprinkling

Instructions

  1. Cut the ends off the eggplant and slice it into one-inch slices.
    Salt them thoroughly on both sides and lay on paper towels on a tray (layering if necessary). Let sit for half an hour (or as long as overnight) to draw out some of the moisture. 

  2. Mix flour and seasonings in a bowl, add the water and teaspoon of oil, and beat into a batter. Preheat oven for warming. 

  3. Put oil in heavy pan and heat until it's hot but not smoking. Prepare a tray with paper towels.

  4. Dredge the eggplant slices through the batter on both sides, and carefully lay them in the hot oil, and fry until crisp, turning once. Fry in batches, giving them plenty of room to fry.

  5. Remove eggplant slices to tray with paper towels and sprinkle with kosher salt if you like.. You can keep them warm in the oven for a short time.  

  6. Serve with yogurt sauce or marinara sauce.

Cumin chicken thighs with chickpeas in yogurt sauce

A one-pan dish, but you won't want to skip the sides. Make with onions and cilantro in lemon juice, pita bread and yogurt sauce, and pomegranates. 

Tomato bisque with bacon


Calories 6 kcal

Ingredients

  • 1/2 - 1 lb bacon
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 35 oz can of whole tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 46 oz tomato juice
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Fry the bacon. Remove from pan, chop it up, and drain out all but a a few teaspoons of grease.

    Add the diced onion and minced garlic to the grease and sauté until soft.

    Add tomatoes (including juices), bay leaves, and tomato juice, and simmer for 20 minutes.

    With a slotted spoon, fish out tomatoes.Puree them in a food processor with the 8 oz of cream cheese.

    Return pureed tomatoes and cream cheese to pot.

    Add chopped bacon. Add rosemary if desired.

    Heat through. 

    Salt and pepper to taste

In which I answer anything, Vol. 3!

January got me down. So I did an “ask me anything” on Facebook. I skipped a few hard ones, but here’s most of my answers:

Are you pregnant?!

I am pregnant with ennui and will soon give birth to a red-faced, squalling bundle of . . . I dunno, more ennui or whatever.

Are you sick of people asking if you’re pregnant?

Only if they’re asking because I’m fat. If they’re asking because they can’t bear the thought of going through 2019 with only the twelve extant Fishers, we can talk. Bring tacos.

What did you do about your teens and phones?

We yell at the older ones for not reading more books, and have decided not to let the younger ones have them until they get much older. Also we have family screen-free time from 7-9, if we haven’t fallen off the wagon (which we currently have). We talk to them about pornography and why it wrecks lives. We take them to confession whenever they ask to go, no questions asked. It’s not great, but we’re patching things together as we go. I hate it, and I’m the worst offender for phone overuse.

 

What did Corrie put up her nose today?

Nothing, thanks be to Proboscitron, minor god of nostril-sized objects, mucus membranes, and mothers who can’t even.

What’s your philosophy about home decor? I mean, you have one, right?

There needs to be a crucifix somewhere public. You should have some clue that this is a Catholic house. And everything that’s hanging up should be there for a reason, even if that reason is “I want this kid to know I’m thinking about him.” I’m pretty vehemently opposed to decor that looks like displays, rather than decoration. Everyone lives laughs and loves, so shut up about that. Light is more important than anything else. Paint walls colors that will help you through the gray winter. Clutter has no moral significance unless it’s unhygienic or dangerous. Someone needs to do something about that cup of milk. Just go ahead and buy a new rug sometimes.

 

How do you broach sexuality with your children and continue to teach them the church’s position as they encounter the world’s message?

With the youngest kids, we talk about how babies are made, framed in terms of “God wants us to do it this way when we are married, because if we do it when we’re not married, you can still make a baby and babies are good, but it makes life much harder for everyone.” As they get older, we have frank but awkward (and too infrequent) conversations as they seem relevant, about contraception, love, marriage, homosexuality, transgender issues, etc. It’s a mess. I’m really hoping the example of a respectful and affectionate marriage carries a lot of weight.

What’s the most disappointing internet exchange you’ve had? And what’s the best?

Most disappointing? When a bunch of people I thought of as friends stood by and let another women who used to be my friend tell outrageous lies about me. It was really hard to recover from that. It was personally hurtful, and also very discouraging to realize how acceptable it’s become to viciously oust someone based purely on your desire to feel . . . something.

The best, most interesting, challenging, and fruitful internet exchanges I have these days are in small, private groups. I can’t remember the last time I participated in a fruitful public conversation. Everyone is just too much of an asshole, including me. The irony is that I wouldn’t have met any of these friends if it weren’t for the internet. The internet giveth and the internet mucketh everything up.

How does one go about potty training when there’s a baby who has to be sequestered in a quiet, dark room in order to take a nap at least once, usually twice per day, with usually only one person over the age of 5 and that person is putting the baby to sleep because that person has the milk (and also has hit the age of reason, unlike everyone else in the house)?

We just don’t count on naps. It’s horrible and unjust, but naps just aren’t something I ever counted on. It’s a hard, hard season, but it does pass. I’m sorry.

Whats the temperature outside?

2. Just regular winter. It’s not our turn to have frozen hell right now. Although I did leave a seltzer can in the car overnight like a freaking rookie, and now I have blobs of frozen foam all over the dashboard.

Will you write an endorsement for my book? 😀 (I was just about to send you an email, lol.)

I will email you, but I pre-recommend that everyone read JoAnna Wahlund’s book! She’s good.

Shawarma recipe please

ABSOSHAWARMALUTELY!

Will you be my valentine

ABSOSHAWARMALUTELY!!!!!!

For Catholics with bits of Jewish genes but without much context, where would you recommend looking for resources on Jewish practices, prayers, story, etc to better understand?

I would start at the Association of Hebrew Catholics, which was formed exactly for this purpose. They also have a Facebook group which is fairly quiet but full of neat people.

What are your favorite boots for winter warmth and comfort.

Keens. They are pricey, but they are on sale at this time of year.

What makes you roll your eyes every time you read/hear it?

Everything. Just everything, right now. I’m looking more to music and art, because everything everyone says is terrible.

What’s the story behind your Jewish roots and becoming Catholic?

As Corrie said when Clara asked her how she got candy up her nose, “It’s a long story, man.” My mother wrote up some of her/our story in Honey From the Rock.

what was the poem you read 2 podcasts ago? (not the last one but the one before) Thanks!

“The Snow Is Deep On the Ground” by Kenneth Patchen

Underwire or wire-free?

Peasant ancestry says: Underwire every day! By the way, I highly recommend using the bra fitting technique in this reddit thread.

What would you say to one of your children if they told you they were gay?

It would depend which kid, I guess, and how old. It’s hard to imagine I’d be surprised, so mostly I would thank the kid for entrusting me with the information, and I would assure them we loved them and would always be their parents, and then we’d go from there.

When does it get cold outside enough to freeze a dragon’s breath?

Is this an Excalibur question? Because I won’t answer Excalibur questions.

What do people most often wrongly assume about you?

That I hate the Latin Mass. I actually love and miss it. Now that the St. Benedict Center isn’t having Mass, I believe the Bishop has arranged for a TLM once a month at St. Stanislaus in Winchester, so I’m hoping to get there sometime soon.

What is your secret to…

You lay a knife flat against the clove and smash it before trying to peel.

Have you ever been to an Eastern Christian Holy Week service?

No! But I want to!

Have you ever been to Mass/Divine Liturgy/Holy Mysteries in another rite? Which one, and did it “do” anything for you or was it just Mass is Mass is Mass?

My mother used to go to Divine Liturgy at the Russian Orthodox church in town, and eventually had to stop, because it was too hard to go back to the regular novus ordo-My Little Pony-in communion with Rome-Mass on Sunday. I suspect it would have the same effect on me to visit another rite. We went to the Museum of Icons in Clinton, MA, and I just about turned into soup. We sometimes talk about going to the Melkite church in Manchester, but we haven’t managed it yet.

how are your parents doing?

Okay, thanks. My mother isn’t consumed with nervous anxiety and has put on some weight. My father is getting by, and visits her every day.

How do you examine your conscience before confession? Like, is there a good way to do this? I always do a bad job in the car on the way there, which isn’t exactly helpful.

Mostly, I do a quickie run-through on the way in the car, usually based on the seven deadly sins, and then we almost always have to wait in line, so I ask the Holy Spirit to show me the one big thing He wants me to know about myself, and sometime He obliges.

Who is your favourite saint and which saint do you find it hardest to warm to?

I feel really bad about how much I don’t know about saints. St. Clare always strikes a chord with me. She was so practical and fearless.

Which child is your favorite child

The one who doesn’t make barfing sounds when I say what’s for supper.

When/why did you get comfortable calling yourself a feminist? Or wait, do you?

I grew up thinking that women had already made all the gains that were necessary, and anyone who still pushed for feminist principles just wanted women to be like men. Then I got some real-life experiences that showed me how complicated life can be, how sad and useless are so many gender stereotypes, and how much of my world view was predicated on sort of quietly accepting that women are stupid, emotional, feeble, and untrustworthy. So I saw that we still have plenty of work to do. It’s especially egregious when misogyny is presented as part of Catholicism, so that’s the kind of misogyny I most often argue against. Because Catholics ought to know better.

How do you feed and raise 10 kids and a husband and some animals, maintain a house, write amazing beautiful things, perform some self-care activities, and not poop out? And (I ask as someone who also suffers with anxiety and has imposter syndrome) how do you forgive yourself when you do not do those things to your own standards?

I dunno. I’m not doing so great right now, probably mostly because it’s January and I haven’t been running in six weeks. My life isn’t harder than other people’s lives. In a lot of ways, it’s easier. The best thing I can say is that everyone makes compromises, and the best policy is to choose your compromises deliberately, and to make a conscious effort to listen to and believe people who say you’re doing all right.

Have any of your children decided they don’t believe/don’t want to go to Mass? How did/would you deal with it? (Assuming the child was under 18)
This is not something we’ve had to deal with. I didn’t want to go when I was a teenager, and my parents did require me to go, so I just stood in back alone. I’m glad they made me do it, although I hated it at the time. I wish they had gotten me help with mental health and been less confrontational, but other than that, it seemed like a reasonable way to manage it. I know they prayed for me and still do.
What would you say to encourage other Catholics dealing with mental illness and discerning starting (or growing) a family?
I don’t think I’m qualified to answer this. I do know that people with mental illnesses can be good parents and have strong families, and also that mental illness is real illness, and shouldn’t be shunted aside as something that you can just muscle through. God wants you to be whole and well, so someone struggling with mental illness should work with a therapist and, if possible, a spiritual director to help work through these choices.
What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?

What are your favorite dishes to cook or bake?

I really enjoy making soup. It’s just so satisfying to start with the oil and spices, add vegetables, build it up little by little. Love it.

How many angels can fit on the head of a pin?
Hmm. Do they all need their own carseats, or what?
HOW DO YOU LIVE WITH YOURSELF, WOMAN???
I’m locked into a long-term lease, but as soon as it’s up, I’m outa here.
What brand hair dye would you recommend for a kid under 12 who wants purple hair (from dark blonde) but a mom who prefers not to bleach first?
I haven’t found one product that works well for all kids. My kids have very different hair, and how well the color adheres is unpredictable. We had pretty good luck with  Ion Color Brilliance, which we got at Sally.  Don’t wash too often, and if you do, mix some dye in with the conditioner.
Who will play you (and the rest of your family) in the sure-to-be-a-blockbuster hit, The Simcha Fisher Story?
Abe Vigoda in all the parts, including the cat.
Who are you?
Public, like a frog.
Which character on the masked singer is Donnie Wahlberg?
I don’t know what this is. I don’t say this in an elitist, braggy way. I just don’t, just like I don’t know what the Korean War was about and I don’t understand how magnetic eyelashes work.
How can I get on the Soros payroll and get a duct tape ottoman? 
Enrollment closed in mid-January. If you would like to get on the waiting list before the next period, simply submit your twelve-point plan for infiltrating the Church written in the blood of a gentile, obvs with a self addressed stamped envelope and you should receive your duct tape within 6-8 weeks.
How do you raise middle schoolers?
Notice everything, ignore most, remedy a little.
You alluded to a long-term goal of removing carbs-as-a-side from family dinners. How has having a child with type 1 diabetes changed your view of carbs?
A little? I guess I had to reorganize some categories of what was healthy food and what was less healthy. I just get tired of potatoes, that’s all.
 Do you have secret cancer?
Always and everywhere.
Paper, plastic, or?
I like to bring a crumpled Aldi bags with sour milk stuck in the creases and some random spoons, peanuts, and legos and whatnot in the bottom. I enjoy it.
Is intersectional critical theory satanic?
I read this as “interclitoral,” so possibly you don’t want any further of my thoughts on the matter.

Speaking of going from Judaism to Catholicism. Were you the only one to convert, or was it a family thing, or are you the second generation? How do you decide which traditions are… acceptable? … to continue and which ones belong to actual practicing Jews? Is Damien a convert from Judaism too? What was it like for him to begin incorporating Jewish traditions if he doesn’t have a Jewish background? 

Oh gosh, I was like four when I was baptized. My parents were raised as cultural Jews, and went through a series of other religions before they became Christian, and it was then that their Jewish heritage took on religious significance. We are still working on ways of integrating Jewish practice with our Catholic faith. Damien is Scots Irish Catholic with a shot of Cherokee, but he has always been enthusiastic about our kids’ Jewish heritage, so we work through it together.
Jeet jet?
No, jew?