St. Finnian of Clonard

Today is my son’s Name Day! What I mean by that is today is the day that the Church commemorates St. Finnian, my son’s namesake. As mentioned in an earlier post, it is customary in the Orthodox Church for the newly baptized to take on the name of one whose life is worthy of emulation and to whom we can go for intercession. When I was pregnant, we were drawn to the early Church in Great Britain because of our love of the British culture and, let’s face it, we are about as white as they come! Finn’s due date was February 17th, which is the feast day for St. Finan of Lindesfarne. We thought the name was very unique, and that led us to St. Finnian of Clonard. We chose him because of his vocation as a teacher (which is what my husband and I were both doing for a living), and his work for the Irish people.

May God Grant You Many Years, Finnan James!! Mama loves you!

Saint Finnian or Finan

Bishop in Ireland

(† 552)

Among the primitive teachers of the Irish church the name of Saint Finnian is one of the most famous, after that of Saint Patrick. He was a native of Leinster and was instructed in the elements of Christian virtue by the disciples of Saint Patrick. Having an ardent desire to make greater progress, he went over into Wales, where he met and conversed with Saint David, Saint Gildas and Saint Cathmael, three eminent British Saints. After remaining thirty years in Britain, he returned to Ireland in about the year 520, excellently qualified by his sanctity and sacred learning to restore the spirit of religion among his countrymen. Like a loud trumpet sounding from heaven, he roused the insensibility and inactivity of the lukewarm, and softened the most hardened hearts, long immersed in worldly business and pleasures.
To propagate the work of God, Saint Finnian established several monasteries and schools, chief among which was the monastery of Clonard, which he built and which was his ordinary residence. From this school came several of the principal Saints and Doctors of Ireland: Kiaran the Younger, Columkille, Columba son of Crimthain, the two Brendans, Laserian, Canicus or Kenny, Ruadan, and others. The great monastery of Clonard was a famous seminary of sacred learning.
Saint Finnian was chosen and consecrated Bishop of Clonard. Out of love for his flock and by his zeal for their salvation, he became infirm with the infirm and wept with those that wept. He healed souls as well as the physical infirmities of those who came to him for assistance. His food was bread and herbs, his drink, water, and his bed, the ground, with a stone for his pillow. He departed to Our Lord on the 12th of December in 552.

The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs and Principal Saints, by Rev. Alban Butler (Metropolitan Press: Baltimore, 1845), Vol. IV, October-December

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Best Green Bean Casserole Ever!!

This year, we had the best Thanksgiving meal yet! My hubby’s dad and step-mom were here for a visit so I decided to do almost everything from scratch! I’m beginning to get a *little* more confident in my cooking, so why not do a huge meal from scratch with all completely new recipes… right??! Luckily, I had help from hubby’s step-mom and a whole day of prep while the guys were hunting.

The recipe I am most excited about is the green bean casserole. I have obviously had the casserole in the past, but it has never been my favorite. I don’t love canned green beans, and it seemed to always be more of a mushy mess by the time it was done. This recipe (from Pinterest) calls for NO cans whatsoever, and even includes home-made fried onion topping!! There are many steps, and it takes a bit of prep… but I will never go back to the canned casserole. The flavors of this recipe are so rich and fresh!

The original recipe comes from Creative Culinary
(http://www.creative-culinary.com/homemade-green-bean-and-mushroom-casserole-with-fried-onion-strings/), but I have re-posted it here for you with my own pictures. Give it a try and you won’t regret it!!

Homemade Green Bean and Mushroom Casserole with Fried Onion Strings
For the Onion Strings:
  • 1 whole Large Onion
  • 2 cups Buttermilk
  • 2 cups All-purpose Flour
  • 1 Tablespoon (scant) Salt
  • ¼ teaspoons (to 1/2 Teaspoon) Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 quart (to 2 Quarts) Peanut or Canola Oil
  • Black Pepper To Taste
  • For the Green Beans:
  • 2 pounds green beans, ends removed and beans snapped in half
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 pound button mushrooms, cleaned and diced
  • 1 & 1/2 cup sliced shallots
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon ground mustard powder
  • Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup freshly grated sharp cheddar 

      To make the Onions:

  1. Slice onion in half; place the flat half down on your cutting board and slice each half into thin rounds.
  2. Place in a baking dish and cover with buttermilk and soak for at least an hour.
  3. Combine dry ingredients and set aside.
  4. Heat oil in small fryer or large dutch oven to 375 degrees.
  5. Grab a handful of onions, throw into the flour mixture, tap to shake off excess, and PLUNGE into hot oil. Fry for a few minutes and remove as soon as golden brown.
  6. Repeat until onions are gone.
  7. Ree advises to eat them before your family sees them and then repeat the whole process with another onion, because they’ll be really mad they didn’t get any. She is so right…it was hard to not just ‘snack’ them gone before we even made the casserole!

    To make the casserole: 
  8. Preheat oven to 350°F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add beans and cook until deep green and tender, about 10 minutes (we like ours a bit crisp tender; cook longer if you prefer softer beans. (The beans do not continue to cook more in the casserole.) Drain and rinse with cool water.
  9. In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, melt 2 tablespoons of butter on medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and sauté until they start sweating liquid, about 4 minutes. Add the onion, garlic, and a pinch of salt. Continue cooking, stirring often, until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the wine and simmer until it evaporates, about 3 minutes. Remove the mushroom mixture to a separate bowl.
  10. Combine the milk, cream, and chicken stock in a large glass bowl and microwave until hot, about 2-3 minutes (or bring to a simmer in a saucepan).
  11. Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons butter in the Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the flour and whisk until creamy; about 2 minutes.
  12. Add the hot milk mixture and continue cooking, whisking frequently, until thickened, about 15 minutes. Whisk in Worcestershire sauce, mustard powder, and a generous amount of salt and pepper.
  13. Stir the mushroom mixture into the cream sauce and simmer, whisking frequently, for about 5 minutes for the flavors to marry. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper. (You want this to be on the salty side, because it will mellow once you add the green beans.)
  14. Stir the green beans into the mushroom sauce and toss to combine. Pour the green bean mixture into a large, buttered casserole dish (about 2 quarts). 

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    14. Bake uncovered for 15 minutes. Add the grated cheddar and crispy onion strings and  
          bake uncovered until cheese is melted, about 15 more minutes. Let stand for 10  
          minutes before serving.
   15. Dig in!
 Notes
We made this for Thanksgiving and it makes a lot; I would cut this in half if serving for a regular meal. Except the onion strings; make them all. You won’t regret it.

Simple Bill Tracker

The end of the year is approaching quickly! I have begun to think about next year and how I am going to keep myself organized. This year I am going to revamp my “home-making” binder a bit. I have found so many great printables this year (thank you Pinterest), that I want to do a combination of things that have inspired me. Some of these I have made, and some I have downloaded from other sites. I will post as I go- feel free to use anything that you think might work for you!!

The first sheet is a simple bill tracker. I have had too many instances of a sudden panic attack when I realize I may have forgotten to pay a bill… or two! This takes away the panic so we know exactly what has been and still needs to be paid for the month. There are two sheets, one for January through June, and the other July through December. Everything is in one place! This also allows you to see how your bills have changed throughout the year. If you would like the Excel file to enter your bills electronically, just let me know! This sheet will coordinate with my simple (yet amazing) budget spreadsheet, on which I am adding the final touches. It will be coming soon!

DOWNLOAD HERE

 **Update: I forgot to add the blank template so you can write in your own obligations… HERE it is!! 

Week at a Glance

In my years of attempting to be “Super-Homemaker,” a combination of Martha Stewart and Betty Crocker, I have figured something out about myself: I am a planner, but not much of a do-er. I can create the most detailed weekly schedule for myself, and never get everything accomplished. I have tried so many different types of planners and organizers that I should have bought stock in Franklin Covey! I have tried programs such as Flylady, and have downloaded so many printables from Pinterest, but spent way more time creating and beautifying my binder than I did using it.

Previous weekly schedules have broken down my chores per day, including a small list to accomplish before going to bed. Everything fit together perfectly to make a master plan for a perpetually beautiful home and amazing meals on the table every evening. However, I failed again. If I didn’t get my list done for one day, my perfectionism told me that the week was a bust. It was too much to try to catch up the next day, and there are always unexpected things to throw a wrench in the mix. The guilt grew each day because I wasn’t getting enough done for my home and family. Of course I was getting SOME things done, but not enough, and not on the right days (I feel like I am channeling Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory here). As I write this, I can see how crazy I sound and that it shouldn’t be this complicated. And it shouldn’t.

After a few months of being home with Little Man, I have decided to simplify my weekly schedule. Knowing that I won’t look at 3 different lists, no matter how cute they are, I created a one page list for my weekly housework and meal planning. This Week at a Glance has several elements, but most importantly everything is in ONE PLACE. The plan is to laminate the page and keep it on the fridge. Then as I accomplish things during the day I can cross them off with a dry-erase marker. My goal is to have everything done by the end of the week- however and whenever I can get it done. I have daily goals, but instead of breaking weekly chores down by each day, I will just have a list to work on as I can through the work week. Hopefully a little flexibility and freedom will get me out of my head more and actually doing things that benefit my family and my home.

I have attached my prototype, in case you want to try this along with me. I can change chores, fonts, and colors, so let me know if I can customize something for you! We’ll see how this goes! Happy cleaning!

Click HERE to Download

A New Beginning

I am excited to join the blogging world again! So many life changes have happened since my last blog, and I can’t wait to share our new adventure. The biggest change is that we have now realized our dream of me staying at home with our family! I am taking some time off from teaching (which I do love and miss) to be home with our little man. It has only been about six weeks, but the time has already been amazing and invaluable. He has a sibling on the way in February, so timing could not have been better!

We bought a house about a year and a half ago, and have been busy renovating and beginning the lifestyle we have always wanted! My hopes for this blog are to share our journey into homesteading and living the simple life. We have a little over an acre on a beautiful hill (thus the blog title), and we are getting things going!! Our first attempt at a garden was very successful this year, chickens will be arriving in the Spring, and we are working on making more food from scratch! I would love to share any great recipes I find!

I am hoping to sew and craft much more than I have been able to in the past, and maybe even be able to sell some for a little extra income. I have so many projects I want to share… time to get started! Join me!

St. Natalia of Nicomedia

When I became a Catechumen in the Orthodox Church, I chose a new name for myself. It is tradition to choose the name of a Saint to bear after entrance into the Church. I had a hard time with making my decision (its almost like naming a child!) but I decided on the name Natalia. I have always felt that my vocation is interlaced with Gideon’s vocation and that I am here to support him in his ministry and whatever God brings our way. The story of Natalia and Adrian reminded me of that vocation. Here is their story:
The Martyrs Adrian and Natalia were married in their youth for one year prior to their martyrdom, and lived in Nicomedia during the time of the emperor Maximian (305-311). The emperor promised a reward to whomever would inform on Christians to bring them to trial. Then the denunciations began, and twenty-three Christians were captured in a cave near Nicomedia.

They were tortured, urged to worship idols, and then brought before the Praetor, in order to record their names and responses. Adrian, the head of the praetorium, watched as these people suffered with such courage for their faith. Seeing how firmly and fearlessly they confessed Christ, asked: “What rewards do you expect from your God for your suffering?” The martyrs replied: “Such rewards as we are not able to describe, nor can your mind comprehend.” St Adrian told the scribes,”Write my name down also, for I am a Christian and I die gladly for Christ God.”

The scribes reported this to the emperor, who summoned St Adrian and asked: “Really, have you gone mad, that you want to die? Come, cross out your name from the lists and offer sacrifice to the gods, asking their forgiveness.”

St Adrian answered: “I have not lost my mind, but rather have I found it.” Maximian then ordered Adrian to be thrown into prison. His wife, St Natalia, knowing that her husband was to suffer for Christ, rejoiced, since she herself was secretly a Christian.

She hastened to the prison and encouraged her husband saying: “You are blessed, my lord, because you have believed in Christ. You have obtained a great treasure. Do not regret anything earthly, neither beauty, nor youth (Adrian was then 28 years of age), nor riches. Everything worldly is dust and ashes. Only faith and good deeds are pleasing to God.”

On the pledge of the other martyrs, they released St Adrian from prison to tell his wife about the day of his execution. At first St Natalia thought that he had renounced Christ and thus had been set free, and she did not want to let him into the house. The saint persuaded his wife that he had not fled from martyrdom, but rather had come to give her the news of the day of his execution.

They tortured St Adrian cruelly. The emperor advised the saint to have pity on himself and call on the gods, but the martyr answered: “Let your gods say what blessings they promise me, and then I shall worship them, but if they cannot do this, then why should I worship them?” St Natalia did not cease to encourage her husband. She asked him also to pray to God for her, that they would not force her into marriage with a pagan after his death.

The executioner ordered the hands and the legs of the saints to be broken on the anvil. St Natalia, fearing that her husband would hesitate on seeing the sufferings of the other martyrs, asked the executioner to begin with him, and permit her to put his hands and legs on the anvil herself.

They wanted to burn the bodies of the saints, but a storm arose and the fire went out. Many of the executioners even were struck by lightning. St Natalia took the hand of her husband and kept it at home. Soon an army commander asked the emperor’s approval to wed St Natalia, who was both young and rich. But she hid herself away in Byzantium. St Adrian appeared to her in a dream and said that she would soon be at rest in the Lord. The martyr, worn out by her former sufferings, in fact soon fell asleep in the Lord.

Your holy martyrs Adrian and Natalia, O Lord,
through their sufferings have received incorruptible crowns from You, our God.
For having Your strength, they laid low their adversaries,
and shattered the powerless boldness of demons.
Through their intercessions, save our souls!