An Autumn Year

As August was coming to a close I began to update my planner for September. Typically, I will schedule events in the monthly overview and then once that month draws near I will write the events on their appropriate days in the daily spreads. I have a monthly sticker subscription (remember, if it’s pretty and took effort I’m more likely to use it) which I was also using to spruce things up for September. One of the larger stickers which serves as pure decoration and inspiration, no specific planning purpose in mind, had this quote:

Autumn shows us how beautiful it is to let things go

I was so struck by this simple observation. While winter in the plant world is usually looked upon as a season of death, cold, solitude, isolation and barrenness, autumn has very different qualities. Autumn, for many plants, is about the process of dying or at the very least, a time of loss. But how beautiful is that process! The fall colors, vibrant in so many places with golds, oranges, reds, even purples. Whole forests become riots of color everywhere you turn. Our tables are laden with the fruits and vegetables of the harvest, while the plants which bore them are becoming shriveled, leaves withering as their last ounces of energy are given up to their produce. We look lovingly upon them all the same, thankful for the gifts they have given us. Where before satisfaction was found in a field bursting with life, those feelings have shifted to empty fields, the fullness to be found in bales of hay or well stocked barns. Days are shortening and the rituals of warm pumpkin spiced lattes, fireside evenings, read alouds and pumpkin patches beckon us to slow down and savor the daylight.

In a way, 2020 has had an Autumn spirit about it. Much has been lost this year – school days, work days, schedules, vacations, a sense of certainty about tomorrow. We are still grappling with loss, so many of our world have lost loved ones to coronavirus. Others have lost jobs without assurances of where work will come from next. Others, while still maintaining job security, have lost their routines which have been replaced with juggling acts of work, child care, virtual learning and e-grocery shopping. There are still thousands of assisted living and nursing home residents who are not permitted to visit with their families, to leave their facilities or engage in regular activities. This Autumn year has affected everyone.

As we enter into actual autumn, I am hoping to use the changing season to investigate my own heart and perceptions of this year. This has been an extremely difficult year and it is not going to get any easier. But when we look at the seasons, every single year has a difficult autumn. While we see the autumn colors and think to ourselves, “Wow, how beautiful!” what is actually happening is those leaves are dying. We are marveling at death.

Perhaps it is because we already know that the beautiful death we are witnessing is not the end of the story for those trees. We are able to see the beauty, and even take joy, in death because we know that after a time, spring will come. Where there was once death, life will once more burst forth.

This is the hope I have for 2020. We are living within an Autumn, and from where we are sitting, it is difficult to see the colors. But the colors are there! Change is extremely difficult and painful, but change is one of the most beautiful things to witness. Voices are being heard where before they were absent. People are perceiving the world with new eyes and recognizing where their community has thrived and where it has failed.

Right now we may feel as the inhabitants of Narnia felt in C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, where it is “always winter, but it never gets to Christmas.” The hope I see, the hope I hope you all can see, is that Aslan is coming. Spring will come again. It may be a different sort of spring that we are used to. There may be different flowers about, new vegetables to try, new routines and ways of life. But spring will come.

There are things in 2020 that we have learned to let go of. There are things we are holding onto so tightly it is clouding our vision of how to move forward toward spring. Rather than responding in anger to what we cannot control, let’s use this autumn season to pause and see the colors that surround us. Let us appreciate this season for what it is, rather than wishing for what it isn’t.


  • What is something you have had to let go of this 2020 year? How did you feel in the moment you had to let it go? How do you feel about it now?
  • What is something positive that has happened this year? Can you connect this positive moment with a loss preceding it which made it possible?
  • What are you angry or upset about? Is it something beyond your control? What is one thing you can do, learn, or adjust that could help you soften your anger and think of a more constructive attitude toward the problem?
  • What are you nervous about as September and the fall season are upon us? What is one thing you can do, learn or adjust in your life which will help you come up with a plan to tackle the days ahead with positivity and purpose?
Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

Who is My Neighbor? – Catholicmom.com

In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus concretely defines who our neighbor is. Our neighbor is whoever needs our help, regardless of situation, status, skin color, or belief. Even more broadly, our neighbor is the Other, anyone who is outside of ourselves. Jesus’ ultimate example, which we are preparing to immerse ourselves in during this Lenten season, is His Passion, Death and Resurrection. Jesus’ sacrifice for us illuminates the essence of true love: willing the good of the other.

In these times of both intense closeness and intense separation due to COVID-19, I believe it would be helpful to pause and marvel at what we are achieving as a society.

Continue reading at Catholicmom.com

New Little Friends – Quarantine Kitchen

Happy St. Joseph’s Day! As COVID-19 continues to be our new best-not-best friend, I thought it might be good to talk about some other little friends that can live in your home who are much more fun to have around. I’m talking about wild yeast and yogurt cultures!

I’m not sure if I’ve ever mentioned it, but I make our sandwich bread and when I have time, french bread, biscuits, etc. also. I have a wild yeast starter which is almost a year old. Yeast is a little like a pet. It needs food, water, time and attention. Some people even name theirs! Thanks to COVID-19, we all now have ample time and attention for a simple side project like bread making.

This is a fantastic project for elementary aged kids. All you need is flour, water, and time. Yeast is alive and able to be collected right in your own kitchen. Here’s the basic steps as an overview, but check the link for the exact measurements if you think this is something you’re family wants to try out.

**Some notes on the linked recipe: If you do not have pumpernickel flour (who does?) or (whole wheat flour, some of us maybe, but probably not all) you can totally start with all purpose flour. You also do not have to keep such a large quantity of starter around if you do not want to. I keep at most 1/2 cup at any given time. When I know I’m going to make bread soon, I take about half of what I have and “beef it up” over the course of a few days to increase it to the quantity required for the recipe, typically 1 full cup. The other half I feed and reserve in the refrigerator (this way I don’t have to repeat the unfortunate experience of killing my starter by flooding it with hot water. If I mess up what I have on the counter, I can always go back to the refrigerator for more) =)

  • Day 1: In the morning combine flour and water in a clear plastic or glass container. I tend to use mason jars. Place mixture on the counter, preferably near some fruit but not necessary, and lightly cover with an unscrewed lid or clean dishcloth.
  • Day 2: Discard about 1/3 of the mixture and feed with flour and water. Re-cover. In the evening before bed, discard again and feed. Begin looking for bubbles within the mixture, but do not be disappointed if there aren’t any yet. If there aren’t any bubbles, you can skip the evening feeding if you wish.
  • Day 3: Repeat Day 2, looking throughout the day for any bubble action. Definitely feed in the evening. Bubbles = yeast presence
  • Day 4: Repeat Day 3. There should be bubbles by now, but give it one more day if there aren’t.
  • Day 5: It’s officially a starter! If you are seeing ample bubbling and are able to measure growth, you’re starter is ready for bread making.

Basic Sourdough Bread Making: All you need is flour, water, starter, a little salt, and time. Check out these simple loaves for your new bakers to try. Don’t be intimidated by the recipe. It is long, but the steps are simple and there’s some good science going on here. Plus, if you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed, wild yeast only does good things with a long, slow prove. You can totally leave this dough in the refrigerator overnight and come back to it in the morning, thus extending your science experiment and extending the life of the activity.

If you want to make sandwich bread, this is the recipe I use. An important note about this recipe: it requires a starter that has a 75% hydration. This means that instead of adding equal amounts of flour and water, the starter has 25% less water when fed. You can easily make this happen by splitting your starter into two jars – keep one at the 1:1 flour to water ratio, and the other adjust to a 1:.75 ratio. So, when I beef up a starter for bread, I feed it 3/4 cups of flour and 1/2 cup plus 2 T of water to make the whole cup of starter required for this recipe.

This bread is soft, so easy to slice and the recipe makes 2 loaves! I put one in the freezer until we are ready for it.

Moving on to yogurt! This one is newer for our family, we’ve only been making our own yogurt for about 4-6 months. While you can’t collect yogurt culture like you can wild yeast (at least, I haven’t tried to), after you have your first batch made you never have to buy yogurt again! Yogurt is created when bacteria ferments milk. The bacteria cause the lactose in milk to break down into lactic acid which gives the yogurt its characteristic texture and sour flavor. You can check out more here for your budding kitchen scientists.

The only special equipment you need for yogurt is a thermometer and a place to keep all the milk warm while the fermentation is happening. You also need one small carton of good quality yogurt. Check to make sure it has multiple kinds of cultures or bacteria so that you can give your yogurt a great start in life. After your first batch, always remember to reserve about 2 T to use as your starter culture for the next one. And time, of course, which we now have in abundance.

This recipe is exactly how I make our yogurt, minus one thing (incubation time. I’ll get to that), but you can also attempt it in a crock pot or instant pot with some simple googling. For the incubating, I store the milk in a large glass container, wrap it in a dish towel and then place it in one of our insulated lunch boxes. I happen to have a shelf above our water heater which also happens to be in the kitchen so I pop it up there and leave it, usually for a good 12-18 hours. I know this is longer than the recipe states, but I almost always prepare the yogurt in the afternoon and then don’t strain it until the following morning. Turns out fine every time. My kids like to eat it with honey and granola. We will also stir in jelly for a fruit-filled taste.

As I said in my last post, we have been asked to make some significant sacrifices. But just as necessity is the mother of invention, sacrifice provides the nourishment for growth. Or in this case, some deliciousness served with a side of science, togetherness, patience and purpose.

I can’t wait to hear what other kitchen creations you’re whipping up! If you need more ideas, here are a few other DIY recipes I use regularly.


Homemade Bisquick – This does make a lot. I halve the recipe if I know I don’t have room in the refrigerator or won’t be using it super often in the next few weeks.

Cheddar Biscuits – Using the homemade bisquick. If you don’t have buttermilk around, you can use the leftover whey from straining your brand new yogurt! Or if you didn’t strain the yogurt, or haven’t gotten around to it yet, you can pour 1 T less of milk and then add 1 T of white vinegar. Stir and let it sit for 5-7 minutes and viola! Buttermilk. Also, I usually skip the garlic butter on top because it’s kind of an excessive amount of butter, but every so often we indulge. It’s sooooo good.

Homemade Pie Crust – delicious for quiche, pie (of course!) or blind bake it and the fill it with pudding and fruit of your choice. The only thing about this recipe is that it will make 2 pie crusts. Which is great because if you’re doing an open faced pie you can freeze the other one! You can also use a pastry cutter or forks if you don’t have a food processor big enough to handle this amount of flour.

Homemade french bread – this one is great and bonus, you can tackle arm day without leaving your kitchen! See here for how to knead bread well.

Chicken Noodle Soup from Scratch – my Grandma’s recipe. Can’t be beat and cheap because it uses a whole chicken vs chicken pieces. Pair with the above french bread. You can also do this in the crock pot, 8 hours on low is ideal. The chicken should fall straight off the bone.

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com