Friday, April 7, 2017

9 O'Clock Ketchup

So my husband was out of town and we were out of ketchup.  Gladly, I had a lot of cans of organic diced, canned tomatoes in the pantry and an instant pot pressure cooker.  Hey, why not make some ketchup, because running to the store with five kids (one who is a busy one year old) sounds like more work than cooking.

I looked up a recipe for ketchup online (this one) which said ketchup must cook for 10-12 hours in a slow cooker.  Forget that.  I'm not going to wait that long.  I have things to do and people to see, five kids to raise.

Someone gifted me an instant pot a 6 months ago.  I've used it mostly for cooking recipes with beans, which is helpful during fasting seasons.  I found a recipe (on the internet. I do not know how I would do anything without the internet) that said to cook the ketchup in the instant pot for 5 minutes and then saute to reduce the liquid by half.  I did not like the ingredients in the second, instant pot recipe.  It was less traditional.  I used the first recipe in the instant pot. Then I blended the heck out of it in my nutri-ninja blender.

The results were splendid.  The ketchup is so delicious and old fashioned.  I might have to start making my own ketchup regularly.  I might try a low sugar recipe next time.

I call it 9 o'clock ketchup, because that is the time I started cooking it, when I was lonely because my husband was gone.

I made a few subs in the recipe, because I almost always adapt recipes to my taste, or ingredients I have available.  Below is my recipe:

·       2 (28 ounce) cans diced organic tomatoes
·       1/2 cup water
·       2/3 cup brown sugar
·       3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
·       1/4 onion
·       1 clove garlic
·       1 3/4 teaspoons sea salt
·       1/8 teaspoon celery salt
·       1/8 teaspoon mustard powder
·       1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper


  1. Put all ingredients into a high power blender and blend for 1 minute on high.
  2. Pour the mixture into the pressure cooker.  Cook high for 6 minutes.  Let it depressurize afterward.   
  3. Then (saute simmer) in the instant pot until mixture is reduced by half and very thick. 10- 20 minutes.
  4. Smooth the texture of the ketchup using an immersion blender or in a high powered blended for 2-3 minutes.
  5. Transfer the ketchup to a clean glass container.
  6. This ketchup will last 6 months.  
May God grant you many years!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Just Simple

Like I have said before.  I would like to eliminate a lot of my children’s things, especially clothing.  I cannot bring myself to do it.  However, I did recently give away several church dresses.  I replaced them with one simple dress per daughter.

I have one child who marches to the beat of her own drum.  She often complains about going to church, saying that is boring.  She needs to have something she can do at church.  I am sure that once she learns more about how to participate in liturgy, she will like it all better.  

In the last six months, when I ask her to get ready for church, she puts on everyday play clothes.  I explain to her that she needs to look nice for church because, “It is a way of showing respect for God and show Him how important you think He is.  Also, it is less distracting to others when we are all clean, neat and tidy.” 

I do not want to get into an argument with a child on Sunday morning.  We usually make some sort of compromise.  She wears play clothes under a dress and then gets to take off the dress as soon as liturgy is over.  Clever kid.  But, she looks like a mess with the dress over play clothes.  It is not my idea of a win-win.  I still lose and I feel like she does too.

One thing she expressed to me is that she was finding the church dresses itchy and uncomfortable.  The girls used to like getting dressed up, but now it seems unappealing to them all. 

I splurged and bought them each a soft, pretty dress in a favorite color from  I am very happy with this solution.  I think the girls look nice.  I eliminated some stuff from our lives. The girls know exactly what they will wear on Sunday.  This is a relief not having to decide. They were also very happy with how comfortable the new dresses felt.  They thanked me for the new dresses.

Bonus! For Primary’s second anniversary they gave away free hoodies with a $50 purchase.  My oldest son scored a red hoodie.  He has not taken it off in three days.  He is very happy with the softness.  I like the jersey material a lot and the simple designs.  I can see our family buying a lot of the jersey products.

I previously tried out the flannel dresses.  I do not like the muted color and stiffness of the material.  The material is soft.  But, it does not have stretch in the seams, which one of my children dislikes.  It’s not a bad product.  It is just less desirable for my children.

 Hopefully, this is the beginning of helping my kids to live more simply.  I keep telling my kids that when I was a kid I had one pair of sneakers that I wore for every occasion.  I also had a pair of snow boots.  I did not have multiple pairs of shoes.  Every so often I would have a pair of dress shoes, but not always.  I had one week’s worth of clothing.  When summer came, we just cut the pants off and had shorts.  In times gone by people had even less.   I know life can be simpler.
I am trying to be brave enough to live simple with my family.  By no means am I succeeding at my goal.  But, I figure if I keep taking baby steps, eventually I will make some gains.

 May God grant you many years!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Half

Well, folks.  I ran a half-marathon today.  10 years ago I recall running a 5 K and I came home destroyed. My muscles were so sore, I had to ice them.  I have come such a long way.  Today I came home and was tired.  But I took a bath, had a good meal and took a little rest.  Then I was fine again; cleaned the garage, visited with neighbors, tidied and vacuumed the house before bed.  Wow.  I feel really good about my current physical fitness.

I did well--as well as I expected I would do.  My husband could not believe I finished in precisely the time I expected.  The hills were much harder than I expected, but I hung in there.  This is where my husband thought I would crash and burn.

At 12.75 miles I just about lost all stamina.  I started to feel like all the stores were depleted and everything ached. Then I mustered enough strength to jog to the finish.  Part of this may have had to do with poor hydration.  I really hated picking up water because drinking it messed up the rhythm of my breathing.

When I finished I felt a little emotional, because I needed some nourishment.  But my stomach was in too much of a knot to eat.  I drank a sport drink and felt better.

I don't have plans to run further distances.  I feel running is really hard on the joints and I figure my joints and I have a lot of years left together.  I want them in good condition.  I do appreciate running, though.

My neighbor on the other hand, is a top athlete.  She finish fourth out of everyone (1200+ runners).  I think she was number one female.  However, she was pretty disappointed.  She's injured and felt she could do better.  I'm sorry she could not take full pleasure in her victory.  I understand that.  She knew she could do better.  But on the other hand, wow, take some pleasure in the fact that on a bad day, "you're still a winner."  She's so fast.  I'm in awe.

I was able to enjoy my new running pants from Lorna Jane this race.  It was cool this morning and these were perfect.  They also compressed a little so they were great support.  I also did not suffer chafing (except for my arm, where my phone armband rubbed).

I always wear one of my Adam Towler race shirts to the race and I started wearing my pineapple bandanna in honor of my brother.  This also makes me feel a little emotional at the end of a race.  Another thing about running is that since it can bring physical pain, I try to channel this into penance, say my prayers and give it to the glory of God.

A post shared by Renée Clayton (@claytonopolis) on

May God grant you many blessed years!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

When Irish Eyes are Smiling

Growing up my mom always told us we were Irish heritage.  She even insisted upon a family trip to Ireland to basically see the nation of our heritage. forward 8 years, I remarked to my aunt that we were Irish, and she giggled and said on your Dad's side.  She said something about being German and I did not really comprehend what she was saying because my mom had said she was Irish and French (French Canadian). 

...Fast forward to a couple days ago.  My dad has been working steadily on our family tree for at least 2 years now.  He started with his own family: his mom and dad, their parents and so on.  He has come as nearly as far as he can with public records available (about the 1820's).  But only last week he began on my mom's heritage.  

I was shocked at what came out.  I mean I was in a tizzy. My mom's family is not a little bit German.  Her family is very German and Swedish on her dad's side.  No surprises on her mom's side.  They were all French Canadian like she said.  However, she had led me to believe her father's side was Irish.  We have documented four generations back (she confirmed the names and places) and they are only German and Swedish.  

I keep asking her who told her that she was Irish?  Her sister seems to know that they are of German heritage and yet, my mom still wanted to deny being German and claim the Irish.  She insists there are some Irish relatives in there.  My dad has not been able to find them. (Although, I have since managed to get her to claim her heritage, begrudgingly.)

I think this is a case of my mom grew up in a time when Germans were not the world's most favorite people, but the Kennedy's were famous Irish Catholics, and everyone loved them.  So why not be Irish.

I can still claim some Irish heritage.  My dad really does have enough Irish great grandparents in his tree to claim being Irish.  He is also very English.  But it turns out I was chasing the wrong ancestors. 

I am very grateful my dad is documenting the family tree.  At first I was a little apathetic, but, I have enjoyed knowing my heritage.  

My dad also sheepishly wanted to tell my mom, she may not have any Irishmen in her family tree, but at least she doesn't have and petty criminals in her family tree like he does. 

Here is my little German-Irish girl.  I love these pictures, because anytime I tell her I am going to take a picture of her, she strikes a pose.  The poses she comes out with!!!  So great.

May God grant you many years

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

2017 Peg Doll Saint Exchange

Every spring for the last three years I have participated in a peg doll saint exchange.  I love this practice for the same reason I paint and venerate icons.  As I paint the chosen saint, I meditate on the lives of saints, on the holiness of my family, or just my relationship with God.

Once I receive the other saints in the exchange, I divide them among my children and put them into their Easter baskets along with Easter treats.

For this year's saint I have chosen is St. Alexander of Jerusalem.  We have decided that this saint is our son's patron.  We decided upon Alexander's name based on many great Alexanders, as we did with our other son and many great, Thomas'.

I'm not quite done, but I am getting close.

May God grant you many years.

Monday, March 13, 2017

On Being Uniform

Sometimes I try to solve my problems with uniforms...

Homeschooling is a tough job for mom.  Not only do I spend most of the day directing the children in their studies, but I also keep house and cook, and serve as chief financial officer, among other responsibilities. I also play the part of every person employed at a school--principal, counselor, art teacher, computer teacher, librarian, and most importantly spiritual director.  This job is overwhelming.  It's worth it, but it is difficult.

Sometimes problems arise like, disobedient behavior, disrespectful behavior, slovenly behavior, messiness.  I think that requiring the children to wear uniforms helps them be a little more serious.  It also helps with the massive amounts of laundry.  The time saved on laundry and getting dressed is better used on discipline and leisure.  Therefore, all around uniforms take the pressure off me as the head mistress of this household. 

Our homeschool co-op instituted the wearing of uniforms at co-op 4 years ago.  The parents decided any uniform would do.  This gave parents the options of buying uniforms at secondhand stores or inexpensive bargain store uniforms.  This was the catalyst for our whole family.

I was not wanting to do this in the beginning.  I had my reasons.  Mainly, I just couldn't be bothered.  My husband has always wanted our homeschooling children to wear uniforms.  He wanted them to look nice and be serious.  I protested because I had one kindergartner, two toddlers, and a baby. I exclaimed, "To what effect is he being uniform if there are no other children in uniform?"  Fair enough.  But when the co-op started wearing uniforms, and now we have a whole troop of our own, it now makes sense.  

I should have just listened to my husband with our one kindergarten aged child.  Wearing the uniform does send the message to a child that it is business time.  It's not time for sleeping (pajamas).  It's not time for church.  It's not time for play (soft tees and shorts).  It's time for learning.  We do not wear something distracting.  The clothing is nice yet plain.  

Last spring, I took away all my girls cloths except for the uniform, because they constantly left clothing all over the floor.  It remained this way for three months.  With good behavior, they could earn a couple play outfits.  Then I gave them all back in the summer.

My kids have too many clothes and toys.  One of our problems and blessings is that people give us bags of hand-me-down clothing.  We so appreciate this blessing!  The children enjoy the clothing people give them, and the receive so much.  It’s just hard because they have a hard time then paring down to only what they need.  

I want to take it all away and start over with just a few important things.  At the moment, I have neither the time nor the fortitude to do this.  The idea lingers in my head though and I am very tempted to do this over the summer.

But uniforms…Yes, we are always happier when we choose uniforms.

I bought these things on  I thought this would be an expensive alternative to uniforms.  After I bought undershorts and sweaters, it was really about the same as more expensive uniforms.  I mainly just wanted to try out the brand.  I do like the brand, but it's not as cheap as the secondhand ones we get.  I will definitely try out a couple more styles from this brand.  I'm just not that into buying kids clothes considering we have been gifted so many wonderful second-hands.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

In Memory

We visited a Civil War reenactment. The families there told us all about life during those times.


I love this little baby piglet. These are glory days I want to remember.
Mno Hya Lyta!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Sister Fun Day in Fairy Land

It's Sister Fun Day today. Kristiana invented sister fun day back in January to cheer up Annie. Annie never thinks she is getting her due. Kristiana organized all sorts of events including a trip to Starbucks. 

Today Annie organized the day. But first mom dragged them to story time. This turned out to be a fun time because the Tooth Fairy came and handed out books and tooth brushes and cups.

Then off to the store for a toy, candy, chips and juice.  Then a movie at home. Sounds like fun to me.

Mno hya Lyta!

Sister Fun Day in Fairy Land

Monday, March 28, 2016

Christ is Risen 2016

We're on the road to go to Divine Liturgy at a Byzantine Catholic Church.

We've come to a point in life where our tastes are more defined. We cannot celebrate the Resurrection of Christ in any other manner than the Eastern way. It's too beautiful, it's too magnificent, it's too appropriate--fitting.

So we've packed up our village and our Easter baskets and we our on the road. We are pilgrims.

The children are digging into their Easter baskets and getting chocolate on their church clothes. (Gasp!) Before church! Normally we make them wait until after Liturgy, but we had some little ones who did not understand and they wouldn't have seen their baskets until 8 hours later. It was not a great parent move.  We will figure this one out for next year. 

And Confession - I may have forgotten one bar on the three bar cross I put on the Pascha bread. Life's a little messy right now.  But we're still in the game.

Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!
By death He conquered death and to those in the graves He granted life...(even to those who are messy and imperfect, so long as they LOVE God, and repent, and have hope.)

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Put on Christ

Our little man was Baptized, Chrismated and received first Holy Communion.  We are so happy for him.  We are also grateful for his Godparents.

It was the Sunday of Orthodoxy.  So it was an extra long liturgy with Baptism and Icon Procession.  Our priest spoke of how in a way when a person is Baptized he becomes an icon of Christ.  He is meant to act in the image of Christ and be full of His grace.  It was a beautiful homily.  I wish I had been calm enough to take in the homily better.  Further at this point I was busy huffing the chrism oils on my baby's head. He, he, he. It smells so good.