The Professor Goes West//Day 12//Setting Up Camp

Day 12—Thursday, May 31, 2018

We woke up early to say goodbye to our friends. We then headed north stopping at missions along the way.

We arrived first at Santa Barbara Mission. It was packed with tourists, so we just slipped into the back of the church behind the barrier to pray. We renewed our Marian consecration in the back of the dark church to the sound of the tour guide in the front. The chapel for adoration was locked, though there was a beautiful view of the California landscape out the front door.

Our second mission of the day was Santa Inès—Saint Agnes—where my friend Gina met us with her two little boys. We prayed for our home parish, and the kids enjoyed the cemetery and the fountain. There was a remnant of the first seminary of the missions there as well.

We then drove quickly north to get to our campsite before dark. We slowed down to see the San Miguel Mission and then stopped to get gas and ice in the town. It was an old crumbly looking mission from the outside and was situated in the middle of a dry, golden valley. We headed further into the wilderness of central California. The San Antonio de Padua Mission was situated beside Ft. Hunter Liggett in the middle of a dry field. We drove up and took a quick look at the mission which was closed. From there we took a 13-mile winding road over a mountain. The road was narrow and super curvy going first through a dry savanna and then into a forest. It was 6 miles up and then the landscape suddenly changed from forest to dry, wavy grass with the endless sea at the base of the mountains. The drive down was terrifyingly beautiful as we navigated around sharp rocky curves with oncoming traffic. At the bottom we found the Big Sur Coast of steep cliffs ending in a cerulean blue ocean.

At last we arrived at Limekiln State Park where we drove into our campsite beneath the timeless Redwoods. The professor put up the tent while I made a supper of macaroni and cheese with summer sausage and salad. When we had things washed up, we walked down to the beach for the sunset. The repetition of the waves on the jagged rocks was peaceful and lovely. After a roaring campfire, we all when to sleep to the sound of a bubbling brook.

By the end of our trip, the professor had the campsite set up down to a science. The first order of business was planning where the tent would go. Some campsites had a designated tent spot, raised with fine rocks underneath—others left us up to our own judgment. When we picked a large enough, level enough spot the children would clear away any sticks, pinecones, and/or rocks. We then gave them the job of setting up chairs around the fire pit and staying out of the way. We usually had one of the girls keeping the toddler boy out of trouble while we worked.

We always stored the tent at the bottom of the trunk with suitcases above them and the lighter bedding on top. He would throw all of the pillows and sleeping bags into the back seat, stick suitcases on the picnic table. Then he would lay the tarp on the tent site and begin to set up the tent. When the tent was up, he asked a child or two to help him carry sleeping bags, pillows, and pads into the tent and lay them out in the right spots. We also brought our suitcases into the tent since we had a lot of space. He then used his Eagle Scout knot skills to hang a rope line between trees for wet towels and rags.

If we were eating a meal at the campsite, we would get out the materials I needed and I would work on the table and dinner while the professor pitched the tent. For the table I always clipped on our vinyl tablecloth on the whole table except for about 18 inches at the end where we used the propane stove. If it was buggy out, we would light a citronella candle to keep the bugs away from our meal prep. I often had the girls help me set the table, heat up food, and fetch water for dinner. After we ate, we would boil water on the stove and wash the dishes in soapy water in one tub and rinse them in the next. We put the kids in charge of the rinsing and drying. Then we could relax and and enjoy the campgrounds!

The Professor Goes West//Day 11//theprofessorsdinner

Day Eleven—Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Today is our errand day. We got an oil change and groceries for the cooler. The car said that the vintage Vavoline oil was delicious. Then we spent a quiet hour at the San Buenventura Mission where the professor and I took turns praying. The professor talked to St. Bonaventure about philosophy while the kids romped in the garden. I prayed with the intense, bloody crucifix about our recent loss and received new courage to carry it with joy. We lit a candle for our family and writing before the crucifix.

We lunched at the car by the Ventura pier which used to be wharf. Walking out on the thick wood boards was exciting, yet scary when we peered through the cracks to the ocean below. Several fishermen were standing at the end with their fishing rods. Two of them had lowered a jug leaking blood into the water—they said that it was to attract sharks. The professor may have seen a dolphin out in the ocean. All I saw were dozens of surfers out at the point. We stood there digging them from afar and hoped the sharks would stay away. I liked watching the waves from the side. We could stand on the pier right where the waves crashed before they hit the shore.

In the afternoon we met our friends we are staying with at a playground in Libby Park. Back at the house, we got ready to go on a date. The kids got to have delicious organic hotdogs and play with our friends’ chickens. The professor and I went to the Nest in Ojai with a chef from LA as its founder. The professor drank “The Ventura Fog,” an Earl Grey infused gin with egg whites and rosemary and lavender sprinkled on top. I had “The Cuban,” which was plantation rum with coconut, lime, pineapple juice, and garnished with mint. He ate fancy anchovy pizza and a giant salad with bleu cheese while I had a brisket on a baguette with cheese and chimichurri sauce with a side salad with fresh berries. After dinner we walked through the downtown to a cute little bookstore. We found a children’s book by Graham Greene, several books on art, and a paperback by Nathaniel Hawthorne. For dessert we went to a vegan restaurant and got wine and vegan “cheese” cake. It was a nice way to celebrate our anniversary a few weeks early.

We tried to make the dinners on our camping trip easy, but more interesting than the lunches. Our goal was foods that were portable with non-perishable storage (meaning no raw meats) and easy to cook.

Here is a list of things we did at the campsites:

  • Canned chili topped with cheese and yogurt and served with tortilla chips and bagged kale and brussel sprouts salad
  • Hot dogs over the fire, chips, and bagged salad
  • Boxed macaroni and cheese and summer sausage (from the ¼ cow we purchase every year) and bagged salad
  • A just add water Indian lentil dish from Trader Joe’s and bagged salad
  • Tortilla pizzas with a tortilla on top and bottom, canned pizza sauce, mozzerella, and pepperoni plus bagged salad

When we stayed at hotels we tried to have food that required no cooking:

  • Chicken salad wraps with grapes, mayo, and dill
  • Our last night we ordered pizza

Other nights we just grabbed food on the road for dinner. We often did this on nights we were coming into campsites close to dark or after dinner time. We did not want to have to deal with washing up. Though there were a few campsites where we arrived and the professor pitched the tent while I made dinner. Having a quick and easy meal option made things a lot simpler and saved us money since we did not have to eat out a lot.

The Professor Goes West//Day 10//You Gotta Eat (Lunch)

Day Ten—Tuesday, May 29, 2018

We woke up in Ojai and prepared to spend the day at the beach in Capistrano. We ate lunch and played on the beach in the sand and waves. It was cloudy and cool, but the kids still enjoyed the water. L found a long strand of kelp and wrapped herself in it making herself look like a mermaid. We collected sea shells and T finally found that he likes the ocean. He said that with each wave the ocean said, “Hello, Mr. T!”

After we left the beach we got ice cream from a shop in the cute little “downtown.” In the afternoon we showered and got ready for 5:20 PM Mass at the chapel at Thomas Aquinas College. The chapel was reminiscent of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine in Lacrosse, Wisconsin, but simpler. Both were designed by the architect Duncan Stroik. The Mass was quick and in Latin. Campus was lovely and serene with well-manicured gardens. Our hostess made us delicious Mexican style rice and lettuce bowl buffet. We ate on the patio, and the kids enjoyed playing outside with their new friend and the chickens.

On our trip out west, our plan for lunches was to have an easy plan ready to make whenever we needed to have lunch whether on the road or at a campsite. We kept our cooler in the car with all of our lunch food. We decided that we would not bring bread but make all of our sandwiches out of tortillas, and the kids complained when I made them eat whole wheat ones. We had options of lunch meat, cheese, with leafy greens or peanut butter and jelly. I made sure to have mustard and mayonnaise in bottles with and squirt lid to make the process faster. For the peanut butter and jelly we just used a plastic knife. On Fridays we opened cans of tuna, drained them and mixed mayo into each person’s wrap without dirtying a bowl.

When we wanted lunch we would simple find a park or rest area, open up the sliding door and made everyone sandwiches on plastic plates we kept handy. We had a paring knife readily available to cut up apples—our fruit of choice on the trip—and one adult would slice fruit while the other made sandwiches. Often we just made everyone eat in the car so we would not take too long on our stops.

Sometimes we did this for dinner if we had a different lunch to make things easier. Everyone got fed, but most of us were tired of meat and cheese wraps or pb&j tortillas by the end of the trip!

Tomorrow? Campsite and hotel dinner foods!

The Professor Goes West//Day 9//Camping Breakfasts

Day Nine—Monday, May 28, 2018

We left San Diego for the first leg of our mission touring pilgrimage through the city of Ojai about 9 AM. Our plan was to go into four missions with a stop at Burrito La Palma for lunch in Los Angelos.

We arrived first at the “King of the Missions” San Luis Rey de Francia near Oceanside. It as founded in 1798 and Franciscans live there today. We particularly liked the painting of the Last Judgment with its incredible detail and a lovely painting of the Assumption. The white walled cemetery was also quite beautiful with a skull and cross bones over the entrance and a cemetery plot for babies.

The second missions was San Juan Capistrano—it was a busy, well-ordered mission. Fourth graders in California have to do a project on this mission. It had extensive grounds. The first church had fallen down in the 1812 earthquake. My favorite part here was the Serra Chapel where St. Junipero Serra had celebrated Mass with a beautiful gold altarpiece. T. really liked the gold chair in the mission treasure museum and noted the tabernacle and vestments also in the museum.

We had a delicious lunch at Burrito La Palma at the recommendation of Jacqui. We had burritos, la plata especial, and a torte sandwich with Mexican Coke. Her uncle, who owns the restaurant was very generous with our bill. It was nice to feel taken care of so far from home.

We then drove to the San Gabriel Mission. It had a neat little baptistry with a painting of the Baptism of Our Lord. I was especially moved by the painting of Our Lady of Sorrows from Mexico. The gardens had a giant trunked grape vine that was planted in 1774—the vine extended up and over the walkways all along the plaza.

Our next stop was the crowded park around Griffith’s Observatory to look out over hazy Los Angelos. We could barely read the HOLLYWOOD sign. We made a last stop at the San Fernando Rey Mission, but it was already closed so we only saw it from the outside.

Then we drove up through the sunny, hazy evening back into the mountains. Our road lead us into the Ojai Valley to the home of friends who lived in St. Paul our first semester in Minnesota. They welcomed us with wine, chocolate, and clean beds.


Let’s talk about camping/road trip food.

We traveled with an 18-gallon tub full of dry food and a large cooler full of cold food. We refilled the plastic storage containers with ice from the gas station or hotel every two or three days. This worked to keep everything very cold—even milk!

For camping breakfasts our goal was simple and easy clean up. When we have camped in Minnesota I have done things like pre-made pancake mix, but this leaves you with a pile of dishes and an hour of cleanup before you can get out and have fun. So for our three week trip we decided on simple foods. We brought granola and granola bars—I actually made enough for the whole trip. The kids drank milk out of disposable cups. If you have yogurt eaters, individual yogurt cups would work well here as well. On mornings at the campsite the professor and I would percolate coffee. On days we were breaking camp and leaving we would buy coffee on the road to save time on dishes.

Tomorrow I will talk about lunch and dinners!

NCRegister: 10 Delicious and Simple Lenten Dinners for Fridays

Stewed Pinto Beans and Collard Greens with Ezekiel Bread

 After eight and a half years straight of have a child dependent on me for nutrition through pregnancy and/or breastfeeding, I have window of time where I can practice a stricter form of fasting. I am learning firsthand how my soul is affected by my voluntary bodily Lenten practices so much so that I related to the collect in the Extraordinary Form Mass for Monday of the Third Week in Lent:

Pour Forth in Thy Mercy, O Lord,
we beseech Thee, Thy grace into our hearts:
that as we abstain from bodily food,
so we may also restrain our senses from hurtful excesses.

Scripture tells us that our fasting should be accompanied by an increase in almsgiving, but also that the discipline of our bodies, so inclined to concupiscence, leads to greater discipline in our souls. In the same way bodily excesses make it harder for us to live a life of virtue…

Read the rest at the NCRegister…

Seven Quick Takes: Blogger Conference, Gluten, and more Gluten

1. In case you have not heard, or just forgot, or are still thinking about it, registration for the Midwest Catholic Women’s Blogger Network conference is still open until March 11. The conference is in St. Paul, MN on March 25 with awesome bloggers speaking, such as Haley Stewart of Carrots for Michaelmas, Nell Alt of Whole Parenting Family, and Laura Kelly Fanucci, published author and blogger at Mothering Spirit. The link will take you to the conference Facebook page, on which you can find information about registration!

2. It has been a couple of months since I wrote quick takes. The family has all been well, just living life, enjoying an extended Christmas season. We make a point to celebrate all the way until Candlemas/The Presentation of Our Lord. This year I have really been able to relax with the season, as I wrote about for the Register yesterday. We *only* traveled to see family for 12 days over Christmas this year, and it was just the right amount of time to visit with family and friends back at our homes and not go too crazy being on the road. Because of that we had over three full weeks to get back into the swing of things before the professor started the spring semester. We also managed to get our winter stomach flu after the New Year instead of before Christmas this year, which was kind of the flu if one can call the flu kind.

3. One of my Christmas gifts this year was a pasta roller from my mother-in-law. At the beginning o my marriage, when I was homesick for St. Louis, I endeavored to make homemade toasted ravioli, and it took FOREVER to roll out that pasta dough. Now, it is easy peasy. We have been having a lot of homemade pasta. I really need to not push myself, and be okay with using the dried store-bought stuff when time is tight or it is supposed to be a “quick” dinner prep. Anyway, the fresh pasta is really good. The professor gave me the best compliment the day after my first attempt saying, “It is just like eating leftover restaurant pasta!”

4. We have been joking lately that we are anti-trendy-diets, because last weekend we actually bought GLUTEN by itself. We made our first attempt at Ezekiel Bread, and one of the ingredients was plain old gluten. The reason for needing it was that whole wheat flour has a low gluten content, so you have to ADD SOME to help the bread hold itself together. Plus, for those of us who can eat gluten, it really tastes incredible when prepared well. I have gluten-ridden pizza dough rising right now as I type.

wheat, barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt in a single vessel…

5. Ezekiel Bread is based on the bread that God had the prophet Ezekiel make and eat in the Old Testament:
And you, take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt, and put them into a single vessel, and make bread of them. During the number of days that you lie upon your side, three hundred and ninety days, you shall eat it.-Ezekiel 4:9

We went for the first time to our local co-op grocery (we take awhile to try new things) with all of the kids, and found all of our grains and the gluten in the bulk section. The professor and I worked on the bread all day, though most of it was waiting for things to rise and what not. This was my second attempt at homemade (not bread-machine) sandwhich bread. While it was really delicious, I think that I did not let it rise enough in the pans, because my bread was not nearly as tall as that of the blogger’s whose recipe I used.  So, we are going to try it again.  

6. I have a really picky eater in the house these days. Mr. T will only eat what he likes and will gag if you put anything he does not want to eat into his mouth. But he also likes the strangest things. His current obsession is with GrapeNuts. He eats (small) two bowls for breakfast everyday, and sometimes again after nap. However, since that cereal is packed with gluten and vitamins, I feel quite happy to give him however much he wants.

7. I leave you with a book recommendation: Silas Marner by George Eliot. I have read her Middlemarch and quite liked it, but I really loved Silas Marner. Maybe I just liked the simplicity of the main character, but I also really liked how Eliot demonstrated through her characters how to love one really is to will and act for their good. It is short as far as novels go. So, check it out, if you like a good novel. *links are Amazon affiliate links*

I am linking up with Kelly at This Ain’t the Lyceum for Seven Quick Takes!

Seven Quick Takes: Advent Times

My stock Advent wreath photo.. this is a few years old…but looks the same this year!

1. One of the goals I have in setting family traditions is for them seamlessly be apart of our days, weeks, and years. I think that our Advent ones are pretty well established. We have not changed anything from last year or the year before. It took me about 20 minutes to set up our Advent in the home: wreath, Jesse tree, wreath on door. We fit the Jesse Tree into our night time prayer time. We sing O Come, O Come, Emmanuel with the lights out a dinner. We pray for Jesus to help us prepare to receive Him in our hearts at Christmas.

2. I was just talking to some other moms at our home school co-op this morning about how easy the internet has made Christmas shopping. You can do it in a few hours plus you get the excitement of packages almost every day!

3. The main laborious part of Advent for us is Christmas cards. We still write them all by hand, even the addresses. We purchase our cards from the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priests, and the recipients of each card is enrolled in their novena of Christmas Masses, which I think is so cool. It is worth the card writing tradition to give this gift to all our family and friends. We like to spread out the card writing. The professor and I each do ten a night until we are finished.

4. The weekend before Thanksgiving I took the advice of a few Facebook friends and let my garden Brussel Sprouts brave a cold front. I harvested them on Tuesday in my last harvest of the Spencer Garden 2016 season. They were nearly frozen when I brought them in, so we blanched and froze them immediately for use on the Immaculate Conception. I am going to try them again next year, but plant them earlier and actually space them out so they get more sun. We had a small forest of plants, that only yielded 1.3 lbs of marble sized sprouts.

5. Yesterday, for the Solemnity, I made the Professor’s favorite pie, steak, stout, and mushroom, accompanied by the garden brussel sprouts braised in cream and served with bacon from our “happy” half hog. The “happy” beef is from the Professor’s aunt and uncle’s hobby farm; G even got to pick which of the beeves she wanted for our freezer. It was all delicious. My dear toddler son has yet to discover that Good Food is worth eating, so we had a leftover pie to freeze and eat at a later date. Maybe on the octave?

A little blurry, but perhaps that captures the mischievous glee he takes in all he does…

6. Speaking of toddler sons, I am pretty sure that God made toddler boys for the purpose of having cute haircuts. The hair cutting process itself it not cute: fussing on his part and my fear of cutting my own fingers off as he flops about. But the result is adorable. I am a little obsessed with his hair and eyes these days. But also so thankful that he naps and has an early bedtime as his favorite things to do are drag chairs around, turn lights on and off, and try to get at everything on the kitchen counters.

7. I had heard that there will be a new Rite of Marriage in the Roman Catholic Church soon, but I did not realize that it was so simple. According to my girls to get married a bride has to walk down the aisle to the singing of “Alleluia” and then “Kiss Lips” with the intended groom. When one daughter announced that she had married her balloon I informed her that she had the wrong matter to have the Sacrament of Matrimony and probably the wrong form as well…

Linking up with Kelly at This Ain’t the Lyceum for Seven Quick Takes. Please pray for the repose of the soul of a friend of hers, a husband and father, who passed away suddenly this week.

listening, eating, reading, making-vol. 1

I am joining in Anna’s linkup, because she is awesome.


Bach’s unaccompanied Cello suites have been my favorite music for de-stressing these days. And if I want to help the kids be calm, we listen to Audrey Assad’s new album Inheritance.


I think I have finally found a good dinner planning rhythm in which I get to make nice new recipes, but also have easy ones throughout the week as well. I plan longer, harder recipes for less busy days, and especially weekend dinners that I know the professor will be able to help. And do simple, but good most other nights. Like today we are having oven baked cheese “quesadillas: cheese and tortillas baked at 375 for 8 minutes on cookie sheets and served with salsa, sour cream, salad, and a frozen veggie.

This past Sunday I made steak tips with mushroom and onion gravy from our Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook. The fun thing about having 1/4 beef in the deep freeze is that I get to work with cuts of beef that I don’t normally use.


The Master of Hestvikin by Sigrid Undset. I am in volume two. What is it about Undset that makes her make all of her main characters make so many bad decisions? Her novels really are a study of sin, how it builds upon itself, how it affects marriages. I have to read this one in small doses because there is so much packed in there. She totally understood human failure and weakness, but also redemption and grace.


I made (washed and changed the sheets) all the beds on Monday. I should be making lunch. The kids have been making messes. Not much creatively, except for writing these days.

(The book links are through my Amazon affiliate. I will receive a small percentage of what is purchased through the links.)

Candlemas Day, Pancakes, and Baby Picture

Candlemas day is one of my favorites, especially this year. I am really glad I live in a part of the world (Northern Hemisphere) where Christmas and Lent happen in the winter. Winter would be really strange without the special seasons of the liturgical year to carry us through it.

Our Lady of Lourdes found the infant Jesus.    

The main way we mark Candlemas is to enjoy our last day of Christmas things, like the few decorations we still have up (the tree came down on Sunday) and all of our favorite Christmas songs.

I love our cute little red crabapples.

Mother nature decided to celebrate in Minnesota this year with a blizzard, which makes me feel all Laura Ingalls Wilder-y. I mean I can’t experience a snowfall in the Northern Midwest without thinking about all the winters I read about in her books. So, it even looks like Christmas outside.

We did the traditional food thing with pancakes, and I decided that from now on chocolate chips in pancakes is a part of the Catholic St. Paul, Minnesota tradition. So, if you live here, make chocolate chip pancakes. We could make it a nationwide thing even. Everyone make chocolate chip pancakes for Candlemas next year. It will be awesome.

The girls and I spent lunch eating pancakes and singing “Go Tell it on the Mountain” as loud as we could. It was fun. I am not normally like that at lunch lest you think that I am some sort of cool mom. Candlemas just made me a little giddy.

And to top it all off, this guy turns eight months in two days. How did we get 2/3 to one year already?!?!?!?!?!

And Lent starts next week. If you are interested, here is the link to my Lenten Wreath and Stational churches.

Applicious: Canning Weekend!!

We canned all weekend, which is kind of tiring when your baby is waking up from 4ish-6ish every morning and you have to wake up by 6 to get to Mass on time. I love the 7:30 Low Mass on Sunday, but you do need to drink coffee all day when you get up at 4am. 

We started with three times this. 1/2 bushel of Cortland and 1 bushel of Regent.

On the plus side, things might be looking up, because baby slept 8:20pm-2:30am last night. Nursed. Would not go back to sleep. So we stuck him swaddled and awake in his bassinet and dozed ourselves. I peeked at him an hour later and he was asleep. I am not getting my hopes up, because he had shots yesterday and probably is sleepier because of them, but, but, maybe?

Speaking of shots. I have been reading the letters of Bl. Zelie Martin (A Call to a Deeper Love), and her life was full of heartbreak and worry over her children’s illnesses. I am so thankful for vaccines and antibiotics that keep me from worrying about my babies dying with every illness. They had two babies die 18 months apart from infections.

It is heartbreaking to read her tell about it to her sister-in-law. But she also took it all so gracefully with such faith in God. She is truly an inspiration to me in my struggles with homeschooling and house keeping and baby sleep.

You have to stir continuously or the applesauce will burn. My arms are still sore. M’s are not apparently.

Back to canning. We washed, cut, blanched and strained our apples to make sauce on Saturday. I used some of the peelings boiled in water to make apple juice for jelly.

Stirring three canner loads of applesauce for hours is hard work!

And on Sunday, we brought the applesauce to a boil and canned it. And we made the jelly with sugar and pectin.

Totals: 16 quarts of sauce canned (including 4 pints), 6 half and 1 pint of jelly.

This combination of apples is less exciting in flavor than last years’, but it makes a pleasant mild sauce.

And the jelly is soooo applely. I am going to give some jelly and sauce to the St. Agnes Fall Festival in a few weeks, so head on over there for your chance to buy some!