Friday, November 20, 2015

Frosting Friday: Rustic Vanilla


Hello friends!  My blog is not really a cooking blog.  It is really has no theme at all, actually!  But since I enjoy writing about things I love, I thought I should post about my favorite food: Frosting!

Now before I begin, I am going to talk a little about my ingredients and why I use what I do, and one ingredient you will never find in my recipes.

FIRST  Butter.  Never the fake stuff.  I use Kerrygold because it is the healthiest you can get while also being the most readily available, yet cheaper than organic.  More on butter here.  And also, because, you know - Ireland.

SECOND  Homemade vanilla extract.  Yes, the store bought stuff is stronger so you don't have to use as much, but the store vanilla also has a strong alcohol taste and smell that can alter the final product if it is not cooked.  I use the store stuff too, from time to time, but prefer my own.

THIRD  I am going to insist on C&H powdered sugar.  Powdered sugar has an aftertaste I do not care for, but when used properly, this brand's aftertaste is almost undetectable.

FOURTH  Heavy whipping cream instead of milk.  The heavy whipping cream has a creamy taste which helps tone down any other aftertastes you may get from my frostings.  My husband finds it rather amusing that I whip the frosting so much the butter loses its buttery texture yet beat it so much that the whipping cream turns to butter.  Yeah - I see his point but when you feel the texture (if done right) you will understand.  It is a well coordinated dance.

FIFTH  Pink Himalayan salt instead of regular salt.  Pink Himalayan salt does not dissolve the same way as regular salt, and with so much sugar and the fact that you will be eating these frostings straight out of the bowl, it is kind of nice to get a subtle 'zap' of salt every once and awhile.  Besides, apparently this salt is super healthy for you.  I am told is so healthy, in fact, that it practically negates anything unhealthy that may find its way into my recipes.  Really.

SIXTH  Corn syrup.  Just no.  Never.  Ever.  And while some swear by the 'wonderful' things it does to frosting, there will never be enough pink Himalayan salt you have to add to your frosting to counteract the harmful effects of that nasty goop.

1/2 C softened butter
2 C powdered sugar
1 vanilla bean
1tsp vanilla plus more if needed
4 T heavy whipping cream
3/4 tsp pink Himalayan salt

The jar on the left is my homemade vanilla extract.  Remember - mine has a little weaker vanilla taste so I have to use more.  My recipes assume you do not have homemade extract.

 Cut the vanilla bean into quarters, then slice the quarters lengthwise.
 Use a knife to scrape out the vanilla pulp

 and measure out 1 tsp vanilla extract.
 Combine softened butter, 1 C powdered sugar and vanillas and 1 T heavy whipping cream.  Beat until fairly combined, then add the second cup of sugar and 2 T heavy whipping cream.  Beat for 3 minutes.  Add last T whipping cream

 and the pink salt.

Beat on medium for at least 10 minutes.  I am not kidding.  AT LEAST!  Minimum.  No less.  You will be amazed at the final product - trust me. 
The final look you are shooting for is a pearlized sheen which is hard to photograph but as you get used to my frostings and have achieved it, you will know what to look for.  Add more vanilla extract if it is not strong enough. And beat again.
Please be patient with my frostings.  They usually require a lot of beating but the final texture should be no texture at all.  This frosting, when put on the tongue, will feel cool and taste sweet.  It will melt quickly but feel so silky smooth it is almost like eating nothing at all.  A sweet, vanilla-y, high caloric spoonful of nothing!  (As always, first day freshness is the yummiest - store in the refrigerator, rewhip and add a touch of fresh vanilla extract if you have to use it a day after you make it)
Now I have heard people say they like frosting on cupcakes as pictured above, and while I am always ready to try something new, I prefer to eat my frosting with a spoon!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Why Must We Continually Keep Our Heads in the Sand?


Our world, in many ways, has begun to crumble.  Even the most level headed of my friends are beginning to question the sort of future our children may have.  ISIS is on everyone’s mind these days, as are their numerous atrocities.  Confusion among matters of the faith among Catholics. Escalating number of natural disasters.  Trouble in our own government.  And sometimes people closest to us seem to be turning on each other like vicious dogs, ready to devour anyone who dares express different opinions.

Unfortunately, with all of this happening in the outside world, it is hard to keep the stress of it all from seeping into our own hearts and homes. “I wake up in the morning, and all I can think about is ‘What will happen today?” one friend confided in me. “It is enough to make one want to hide one’s head in the sand.”

Which is exactly what we as Catholic mothers must do.

For quite some time, the ostrich has gotten a rather bad reputation for sticking its head in the sand as trouble looms.  And on the surface, that seems like a bad thing to do.  It reeks of denial and purposeful ignorance and to be accused of such behavior has always been viewed as a sign of stupidity or weakness.  But do you know why the ostrich does what she does?  Let’s take a closer look.

An ostrich nest is actually built just beneath the ground’s surface.  Her eggs are safely nestled below ground level, and require frequent turning with her beak to keep the eggs viable.  Her nest, full of her most priceless treasures, is almost impossible for predators to see from afar.  But should a predator start sniffing around, the mother ostrich lowers her head and quickly buries her precious eggs beneath the sand before running away, distracting the predator and leading it away from her home.

I can’t help but think God has been trying to teach us a lesson through these magnificent birds.  But we have been too proud or too blind to hear Him.  You see, while most seem to think that being up to date and fully informed of the terrifying events taking place in our world is a good thing, it is not necessarily our role to do so.  In fact it may be harmful.  Horrific images come to our minds throughout the day.  Fear, worry and undo stresses fill our hearts, distracting us from what really matters: home. 

We cannot properly tend to our God given duties when we are trying to solve the world’s problems by debating others online.  Or shushing a 4-year-old’s joy over a newly painted picture because we are engrossed in a news article.  As we fill our time with researching these disturbing world events, anxiety crowds out faith, hope and charity at an alarming rate.  We grow tense, short tempered and depressed.  We suddenly realize how out of control we really are.  And how vulnerable.  We get scared.  And our family suffers.

But I now ask you - could it be that for all the terrible things that seem to be unfolding, much grace is also given?  Could it be that Our Lord is trying to tell us something through these natural and man made disasters?  What is He asking of us today?  To worry?  To involve ourselves in heated debates about matters of which we have no control?  To exercise our 'right to be right' at all costs?  Or are we simply called to trust in Him and know that our ultimate sanctification is what He desires above all things?  And pass our love and trust of God along to our children?

"In our ignorance of what the future holds, how can we be so bold as to question what comes about by God's permission? Surely it is reasonable to think that our complaints are groundless and that instead of complaining we ought to be thanking Providence."
St. Claude de la Colombiere

Yes, there are many scary things out there in the world.  But they are not for us to worry about.  In fact, the scarier things get, the more important it is that we keep our heads in the sand.  Not to deny the harsh realities of life.  But to tenderly care for our loved ones as Our Lord wishes.  Surround them with love.  Shield them from as much harm as possible.  And when it feels as though the predators are at your door, draw the negative influences far from your nest, that your children may continue to look to your home as a safe harbor to continue to grow in their faith, unhindered by fear and distrust of God.

As mothers, we are truly the heart of the home.  And as such, we have been blessed with this loving, nurturing ability to keep our homes a happy and safe refuge from the rest of the world.  Bring your children up in the love of God through your example.  Teach your children to trust in Him in all things by remaining unruffled and unworried.  And no matter how terrifying the world may become, may your children rest easy knowing that you, without fail and for their sakes, will always have your head deep in the sand.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

All Saints Day. Or Not.


I do not have the energy to coordinate a full-scale All Saints Day party this year.  So instead, I have decided that the kids will simply dress as Saints and attend a local Catholic church's Trunk-Or-Treat party.  Sure, it is not nearly as exciting or fortifying as an All saints Day celebration, but the kids still get to dress up and Mom will still get a few bites of chocolate!

Meanwhile, here is a link to an article I wrote about All Saints Day, describing a time when I was a better Catholic mother....

Lets Celebrate the Saints!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Catholic Virtue Training for Children Using the Rosary


For years now, I have been helping families and the occasional Catholic school and parish teach children a few of the treasures hidden in the Rosary: The virtues!  St. Louis de Montfort has shown us in his book, The Secret of the Rosary, that each Mystery of the Rosary has within it a virtue or grace to be prayed for.  Our Lady emulates each virtue and grace perfectly within the Mysteries, teaching us how to imitate her.  She is a perfect example of who we should strive to become.  Don't we want to show our children her example as well?

To celebrate October - the month dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary - I am giving you the complete lesson plans and workbook pages for the first Joyful Mystery, which we pray for humility.  I never claimed to be an artist but humility calls me to post my pictures of the Mysteries online anyway LOL Anyway, below is a sample of my Rosary Quilt program, along with some extra files to enhance your family rosary time.  Couldn't we all benefit from a lesson or two in humility?  (Be careful how you answer that one!  LOL)  Enjoy these pages!


1.    The Annunciation: For the Love of Humility Activities

Read Isaiah 10:15. Talk about what kinds of jobs can be accomplished by using such tools. Lay out a few tools your child may use for her own talents. For instance, a pianist needs a piano; a painter needs a brush, a writer needs a pencil, a carpenter needs sandpaper and a saw. Explain that your child is the piano, paintbrush, saw, etc. and God is the pianist, artist, carpenter, etc. Your child is simply the tool for the things God wants done. Just as it is silly for a paintbrush to take credit for a painting, it is also foolish for us to take credit for the work God does through us.

Practice responding to compliments. When someone compliments you on one of your talents, respond with something that directs all glory to God instead of to yourself: “Thank you! I have been very blessed.” If pride/boasting is a temptation to your child, make sure he/she receives a petal for responding appropriately to compliments.

**(WB pg 4) Help your child make a list of her God given talents. Have her write God a thank you note, thanking Him for these talents and noting how she might use them to bring Him glory.

Have your child look in the mirror and pretend to be “snooty”. It should not be long before he closes his eyes and sticks his nose up in the air. When he does, say, “Freeze! This is what a prideful heart looks like.” Explain that turning one’s nose “up” at someone else shows pride. It tells other people that you think you are better than they are. Now ask him what he is looking at when his eyes are closed. (“Nothing” or “My eyelids”) Ask him where his nose is pointed. (“Up” or “Towards the sky”) Explain that when one is not humble, one is sticking his nose up towards God. When children’s eyes are closed, they are not looking for God’s will, nor are they able to see God’s hand in whatever success they are being “snooty” about. They are, in essence, snubbing God and denying God’s hand in their successes.

Have your child look humble. This usually looks like a shy look: head cocked to the side (listening for God’s will); chin down (and not vain or prideful), eyes looking upwards (towards God above). Tell him that a humble heart looks like this. Which heart did Mary have? Which heart should we have? Take pictures of your child “acting” out these two traits. Put them in your scrapbook and label each feature and what they are saying to others.

Discuss the fall of Adam and Eve – Satan tempted them with the idea that they too could be like God. What a thought! One of the effects of Original Sin is a temptation to make ourselves into our own gods! The Catechism tells us that the meaning of life is: To know, love and serve God in this world so that we may be happy with Him in the next. Original Sin makes us want to make others know, love and serve US in this world so that we may be happy in this world. Make your children more aware of how we all make ourselves into gods during the day. Discuss how this makes others feel. What happens when our entire household is filled with people trying to make themselves into gods?

Discuss with your children the trend our society has to build and protect self-esteem at all costs: schools adjusting test scores or passing students who may need to be held back, bombarding children with over exaggerated compliments, etc. How is this harmful to souls? How can this be harmful to society? How does this affect a person’s earthly life? What will happen to these children when they grow up and live “in the real world”?

Discuss Proverbs 15:33.

Examples of humility

The fall of Lucifer: Aside from being pure spirits, angels also have a perfectly informed intellect. Because of this, the angels knew God’s plan for humans and for our salvation. They knew of God’s power, too. He gave the angels a chance to serve Him and two thirds of the angels joyfully announced that indeed they would serve Him! Unfortunately, Lucifer, who was the brightest and most beautiful angel, dared to say that he would not serve God. A third of the angels also made this decision. Why would they do such a thing? They knew of God’s power and His love, yet they would not serve Him! Lucifer was full of pride. He was bright, powerful, and beautiful, but he was created to serve God. He thought he was better than a servant – he wanted to be a god. And not just any god, but he wanted to take over God’s throne in Heaven and be God Himself!

Matthew 8:5 – 10: In this story, the Roman Officer, though pagan, acknowledges Christ as an important person. He admits he is not worthy to receive Him in his home, but has faith that all his servant needs to be healed is Jesus’ word. Recall the words we speak before receiving Communion at Mass, as the priest holds the Blessed Sacrament up: “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.” Both this story and the words we speak during the Mass represent the degree of humility we need to strive for.

Philippians 2:1-11: Paul challenges us to imitate Christ in His humility. The verses also show us how great Christ is because of His humility.

The Cure’ of Ars: This Saint performed many miracles in his life. When each miracle occurred, he humbly, and appropriately, directed all eyes to God instead of to himself. He shied away from praise from the villagers and always credited other Saints’ intercessions and God for the miracles for which he himself prayed. His humility did not even allow himself to believe that it was his own prayers that God was responding to – he always believed that it was another Saint’s intercession on his behalf that the miracles occurred.

Verses for memorization

Proverbs 30:32

Proverbs 16:5  

Proverbs 22:4

Luke 18:14

WORKBOOK PAGES  (Pages correspond to activities above)

BEADS PAGES  Family members suggest their intentions for each Hail Mary.  Who suffers from pride?  Who needs to accept God's will instead of forcing their own will?  etc.  Read the prayer at the top to announce the Mystery.  Announce each intention before each Hail Mary. Recite the prayer at the bottom of the prayer to end the Mystery.

Here is the page with the Annunciation bead.  Print and laminate it for your younger children to hold as you pray this Mystery.  It can also be used along with the Rosary Quilt itself.  (The activity blanket which is explained in the manual)  The blank beads may be copied and used to help young children keep track of their prayers.  (There are actually 10 blank beads in the file, not 2)

What is NOT pictured here is the Virtue Chart which goes with the set.  All I could get was a portion of it, pictured below so you can't really use it, but I wanted to at least show you what it is.  Its purpose is to help keep track of your child's progress, whenever you catch your child being good.  The manual explains this concept in a little more detail, but you get the idea.

I hope you enjoy using these prayer aids!  I would love to hear how you like these pages. 
If you are interested in obtaining the 4 digital file set (Manual, instructions and workbook plus virtue chart) for $17 and the color painting Beads files which supplement the program for $5,  please contact me at
poppe clan at gmail dot com 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Rosary Behavior Poster


3 year olds are at that "special" stage of discipline where they understand much but can control very little.   Since we were having so much trouble with our daughter's newfound self-awareness and pride, I have decided to dust off the Yes Ma'am chart I created when Fulton was 3 to give him positive reinforcement for the times he cooperated with my requests.  It has become clear that I need to start using these again, for both Marialina and Fulton!

It is a simple reward system to keep track of the times my children have been good and cheerful helpers around the house.

We start each day at the Cross and say a little prayer, such as:  "Dear Mary, help me to be more like you every day and help me to say 'yes' when Mommy or Daddy ask me to do something, just like you said 'yes' to God.  Amen"

Once the prayer is done, have your child color in the Cross.  Whenever your child responds to a request with a 'Yes Ma'am', your child gets a sticker on the bead or gets to color it in. Every Our Father bead equals a reward (a Smartie candy is nice to use.  It is small, but tasty, and it is always smart to obey, right?)  If the rosary is completed, or a designated level within the rosary is complete for the day, give your child a bigger reward, like a game, extra story or a movie.  What fun to watch the rosary of good intentions fill up!  And how excited they are to show Daddy their progress when he gets home!

I created this using graphics I found online and combined them.  Just save it as a JPEG file (important!) and you can print it out for your own children!  If you don't want to print out new sheets each day, laminate a page and use erasable markers to color in the beads.  Or you may use the same sheet over the course of a few days to reach a big goal at the end of the week.  Whatever works for you!