Archives for February 2010

Pasta Carbonera

This recipe uses very little meat, but even die-hard carnivores love it.  When I make it, I double the amounts given here, and we rarely have any leftovers.  I sometimes add diced tomato or sweet pepper for more color and flavor.

Pasta Carbonera
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Serves 6



  • 1 pound spaghetti, cooked al dente.
  • 1/2 pound of bacon
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 T. fresh basil or sage leaves, chopped fine (or use 1-2 tsp dried)
  • 2 eggs
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Grated Parmesan (optional)

Cook spaghetti according to package directions, draining and setting it aside when done. While spaghetti cooks, chop bacon into 1/2 inch chunks and cook in a heavy skillet until nicely crispy. As you are waiting for the bacon to cook, mince the onion very finely, chop the sage or basil, and peel the garlic. Once bacon is crispy, remove it from the pan and set aside in a small bowl.

Do NOT dump out the bacon drippings, because that’s where this recipe gets its flavor. In the bacon drippings in the same pan, cook the minced onion, sage or basil, and garlic over medium heat until the onion is soft. By now your pasta is probably done. Pour the onion, garlic, and bacon drippings over the hot pasta and toss well.

Crack the two eggs into a small bowl and whisk well. Now you are going to pour those eggs over your still-hot pasta, stirring the pasta quickly so that the eggs coat the pasta as evenly as possible. It is important that the pasta still be steaming hot for this step, since it is the heat from the pasta that will cook the eggs. Season with salt and plenty of black pepper to taste.  Top with grated Parmesan cheese if you wish.

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I’m so far away
From the only place
I know I should be
So find me
And take me

Come and light the day
Come chase away this darkness
And I’ve been living here so long
And I give up
Come and wash away
Everything I’ve built between us
And I will sing unending songs of your love

I cannot find rest
I can’t catch my breath
From running away
So stop me
And take me

Your love has stolen my heart
Your love has set me apart
Your love is life in my veins
And all my mistakes fade away
So find me
And stop me
And take me
And save me

Books, books, books!

I’ve had a terrible time lately finding time to do book reviews!   In an attempt to catch up on months of neglect in one fell swoop, I’m going to tell you briefly about each of the books I’ve gotten recently.

E is For Ethics contains several dozen short stories about various ethical dilemmas and include discussions of virtues such as honesty, loyalty, and compassion. I’ve read several chapters out loud to my kids at lunch time. In each case the stories were interesting conversation starters. Since the book is not faith-based, I do think the book just begins the conversation. I can’t talk about ethics without talking about faith too. But I did like that the book has given us a reason to talk about a variety of topics.  Bonus: here’s a link for a free coloring book that goes with the book.

I got The Colors of Grief from Tapestry, an online bookstore that specializes in adoption-related books. It took me awhile to get around to picking up this book. Frankly, it is a tough topic, and not one that I tend to be ready to focus on at the end of a long day.   However, when I did pick this up, I was soon reminded of just how important this topic is to our adopted kids. They have experienced great loss–yes, even the ones who came to me as preverbal infants. And the more I understand and acknowledge that loss, the more compassionate I can be in my dealings with them.

Head First 2D Geometry is billed as a way to give a non-math-oriented kid a boost up in understanding geometry. The lively illustrations are reminiscent of a comic book— actually, if you own any of the Tightwad Gazette books, that’s the style of this book. Lots of stories, lots of pictures. It is definitely a livelier explanation of geometry than I’ve ever seen. This book looks to be a great boost to a kid who struggles with math but really needs to get through geometry.


I will be giving away a copy of each of these books. In comments, tell me which of these books sounds most interesting to you, and next week I will pick one winner for each.

Help Haiti Live

Help Haiti Live is an awesome concert sponsored by Compassion International.
It’s happening Feb 27th in Nashville and will be streamed live online.  Don’t miss it!

Help Haiti February 27th – from Compassion International on Vimeo.

Surfing the lava flow

Yesterday I was bemoaning all the drama that seems to happen in our house on a regular basis. Seems like we can’t make it an hour without someone losing their cool over something.

Later in the day I happened to chat with another mom who looked a bit frazzled. “It’s my first teenager,” she sighed in answer to my question.

I nodded understandingly. Then I stopped to think. I currently have SEVEN teen or almost-teen children, six of whom are in the house most of every day.

No wonder some days feel like I’m riding a lava flow.

Recipe: Greek-style yogurt

Ever since a friend taught me how to do it easily, I’ve been making my own yogurt at home. The procedure is simple.


1/2 gallon milk (2% or whole is best)

2 tablespoons plain yogurt with live cultures


2 quart-sized canning jars (or 4 pints)

heavy pot big enough for 1/2 gallon of milk

candy thermometer


Heat milk over medium heat until it reaches 170 degrees F.   For the
first 5 minutes or so, you can basically ignore it.  But as it begins to
heat up, keep an eye on the temperature and stir it frequently.  (This
is the most complicated part of the whole recipe, but don’t worry, it
only takes 15 minutes or so!)  You don’t want the milk so hot it boils–
all you want is for it to start to simmer around the edges and be
heated through.

2. Once temperature has reached 170 degrees,
remove from heat and let cool to 110-120 degrees F.  This part takes
20-40 minutes or so, depending on the temperature in the room.

When milk has cooled to the right temperature, it is time to add the
yogurt.  Whisk in 2 tablespoons of plain or vanilla flavored yogurt
until well combined.  You can use any store-bought yogurt, as long as
the container says, ‘contains live cultures’.

4. Turn on oven and
preheat to 200 degrees for 5 minutes or so. Pour the milk into the quart
jars and tighten on rings and lids. (It is perfectly fine to use other
glass jars, as long as they are clean and have metal lids.)

5.  Turn off oven
and place jars in warm oven to sit for 6-10 hours, or until milk is set
and looks like yogurt.  (I like to do this at bedtime and let it sit in
the oven overnight.) Once yogurt has set, place it in the  refrigerator
to cool and thicken a bit more.

6.  It is perfectly fine to sweeten as desired and eat the yogurt at this stage.  However, if you like your yogurt very thick and creamy, you may want to take one additional step.


7.  I discovered that this bag
lets me really step my yogurt up a notch.  The bag is a plain muslin
bag with a draw string.  Scoop the yogurt into the bag, close the bag
with the drawstring, and hang it up over a bowl.  (I hooked my bag over
the handle of my microwave.)  Let the bag hang up for half an hour or
so, allowing the watery whey will drip out into the bowl.  What remains
is ultra-rich, ultra-thick Greek-style yogurt. 

I made a batch
today using 1% milk, and was amazed at how rich and creamy the yogurt
tasted. And since I made it myself, I know my family’s not getting
preservatives or artificial thickening agents, just pure delicious
yogurt. Sweeten your yogurt with honey and fresh fruit.  Or– easiest
yet– just add a spoonful of jam to each serving.  Yum!!

Possibly the funniest commercial ever

The story goes that women were polled about the type of commercial that would catch their attention. Popular answers included a muscular guy, a guy on a sailboat, and a guy on a horse. Thus this commercial, which we played enough times at our house that several of us now have the thing memorized. For some reason, it seems to get funnier the second or third time you see it.

Or maybe I’m just weird.


One day when Heaven was filled with His praises
One day when sin was as black as could be
Jesus came forth to be born of a virgin
Dwelt among men, my example is He
Word became flesh and the light shined among us
His glory revealed

Living, He loved me
Dying, He saved me
Buried, He carried my sins far away
Rising, He justified freely forever
One day He’s coming
Oh glorious day, oh glorious day

One day they led Him up Calvary’s mountain
One day they nailed Him to die on a tree
Suffering anguish, despised and rejected
Bearing our sins, my Redeemer is He
Hands that healed nations, stretched out on a tree
And took the nails for me

One day the grave could conceal Him no longer
One day the stone rolled away from the door
Then He arose, over death He had conquered
Now He’s ascended, my Lord evermore
Death could not hold Him, the grave could not keep Him
From rising again

One day the trumpet will sound for His coming
One day the skies with His glories will shine
Wonderful day, my Beloved One, bringing
My Savior, Jesus, is mine.

Bits of my life

  • I joined a women’s community choir in January and am absolutely loving it.  It is taught by the awesome Linda Walker, who taught our kids choir for several years, and who also has an adult women’s group.  We are learning some gorgeous music, and I am learning lots more about singing, which makes me very happy.  That hour every Tuesday evening goes way too fast.  Even better: my oldest daughter is in the choir with me– very fun!
  • I am awash in vowels these days.  Along with learning how to sing words with proper sounding vowels in choir, I am also working hard on vowel pronunciation with our older Ethio daughters. You never notice how crazy the English language is til you struggle through it with someone who wasn’t born here.  The girls have been home 2.5 years.  For awhile we just waited, thinking that the sounds would come.  To a large degree that’s happening.  But a few sounds are soooo hard to say.  Short ‘e’, ‘er’, and the ‘oo’ sound in ‘book’ are all tough ones.  I am making up my own speech therapy.  First I have to figure out how I make the sounds, then I try to describe the mouth motions to the girls, and sometimes we even end up standing in front of the mirror comparing mouth movements.  Easy it is not, but it is really cool to hear the sounds getting easier for the girls, even ones that they didn’t think they could make.
  • The new math is working so well that I have more time to work on reading with kids.  Which also means I have more time to knit.  This month I finished a scarf in a variegated blue yarn that I began 2 years ago for my now 12 year old daughter, and knitted a small pink scarf for my 5 year old.  Love fitting knitting into my day.
  • TobyMac’s new CD Tonightrocks.  I’ve gotta be in the right mood to enjoy Toby Mac– he’s very energetic.   But today I cranked it up and it was just what I needed to help push through all that bedroom-cleaning.  I especially love Break Open the Sky.

Enough randomness for tonight.  I’m going to bed.  Have a great weekend!

Small houses

Our house isn’t especially small, but it is full of people!  That’s why I was so delighted by this series of small-house pictures on flickr.  This is a perfect example of beautiful functionality in a small space.


Updated to add:  The beautiful uncluttered-ness of the above pictures has inspired me to embark on a bedroom-cleaning project.  It’s either that or build a false floor in several kids’ rooms.  Kids this morning have been assigned to find 100 things to throw away and 27 things to give away.  Things given to siblings don’t count, since they remain in our house.   I WILL find more space. (Eldest, beware…the last items you’ve left here are hereby in danger of relocation.)