Friday, November 21, 2014

Gingerbread Days

If you google "gingerbread" looking for a recipe, the first umpteen dozen hits will be recipes for gingerbread men or gingerbread houses, but I've had a hankering lately for good, old-fashioned, moist, and spicy ginger bread.  The girls are away with Dominic at choir practice this afternoon, so it's just me and the boys, and I wanted a simple recipe that the boys could help make. No cookie cutters, no piped frosting, thank-you.  Nothing that fancy -- or messy.We hunted the internet again, using the key words "gingerbread loaf," and this is what we found:

Simple Goodness Ginger Bread

What to Get...

Not this kind of gingerbread...
At least not this time around.

What to Do...

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9-inch square pan. (We used a traditional, 9" loaf pan)
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the sugar and butter. Beat in the egg, and mix in the molasses.
  3. In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. Blend into the creamed mixture. Stir in the hot water. Pour into the prepared pan.
  4. Bake 1 hour in the preheated oven, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan before serving.  
  5. Make a simple honey butter spread by whipping together one stick (1/4 lbs) softened butter and 1/4 cup 
  6. honey. Slather it on and enjoy!  

William gives it an enthusiastic thumbs-up!  
*  Recipe found here.

On the Feast of the Presentation of Mary

Friday, November 21st

Dedicating Our Children

It is traditional belief that St. Anne and St. Joachim dedicated their only daughter, Mary, to God in her earliest years, offering the great sacrifice of having her brought up in the Temple. Not in their own home. It's a difficult concept for loving parents to get their brains around.

Having done it myself, I can understand and sympathize with the difficult decision to send older children ~ teenagers ~ away to be educated. But toddlers? It's hard to imagine.

But Mary was no ordinary toddler.

We have to understand that Our Blessed Mother was singularly blessed, not only in her spotless person, but in her parents. They obviously heard God's Will and had the courage and faith to obey it. The place for their extraordinary little girl, the woman who was to be the Mother of God, was away from the world,in a place where she could be raised as close to the Father as it was possible. There were some of the saints who were dedicated in the same way as small children, and it was surely no easy decision for their parents to make, either. But, it's heart-rending, isn't it, to think of it in terms of our own families, our own small children?

Sure, we want our children to be saints. But, to dedicate them to God so completely that we give them up? In this day and age, the practical application doesn't even exist. Maybe that's a good thing. Who on Earth could we trust so completely?

But, we can dedicate our children to God without sending them away. In fact, in our times, one of the best ways to dedicate them to Heaven is to keep them centered in our homes, steeped in our Faith.

We can teach them service to God through our example in practicing the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.

The boys can learn to serve at the altar, the girls can learn to arrange the altar flowers and take care of the linens. (These are things young Mary undoubtedly learned to do!)

When we educate our children, we can be sure to teach them also the universal interrelationship with Divine Providence ~ in all that they learn, in math and the sciences, language, art, and music, even shop class, home ec and PE.

By our example, we teach them habits of goodness and respect for the discipline of faith.

We pray for them and teach them to pray.

It all comes round in a circle, back to God: cause, effect, and purpose. When our children laugh and play they can send their wholesome happiness heavenward, and it will be received as prayers. When they sleep, when they wake, when they celebrate, when they suffer, our children can be gaining merit. Every minute of the day. We dedicate them to God by teaching them to dedicate themselves to Him. Whether they are two or twenty-two, we, as their parents, can and should teach them that their identity is with and through Him. And that, whatever their eventual vocation is, saecular or religious, they will find no greater happiness on this earth than they will knowing, loving and serving God.

Teaching them these things, and living with Christ the King as the center of our family universe ~ this is how we dedicate our children to God.

In this day and age, it's not an easy thing to do. The world, the devil, and our own bad inclinations all conspire against us. It's not easy overcoming the message of the average American saecular humanist ~ who doesn't understand that goodness is happiness and worldliness is not. But, it's well worth the trouble; the rewards are eternal!

Saints Anne and Joachim are ideal patrons for parents whose goal is to raise their children above the world. And the Blessed Mother, herself, is the tenderest guide.

Prayer for Mothers

Father in heaven, grant me the grace to appreciate the dignity which you have conferred on me. Let me realize that not even the Angels have been blessed with such a priviledge - to share in your creative miracle and bring new Saints to heaven.
Make me a good mother to all my children after the example of Mary,the Mother of your Son. Through the intercession of Jesus and Mary I ask your continued blessings on my family. Let us all be dedicated to your service on earth and attain the eternal happiness of your kingdom in heaven. Amen.

Prayer to St. Joachim and St. Anne

Great and glorious patriarch, St Joachim, and good St Anne, what joy is mine when I consider that you were chosen among all God's holy ones to assist in the fulfillment of the mysteries of God, and to enrich our earth with the great Mother of God, Mary most holy. By this singular privilege, you have become most powerful with both the Mother and her Son, so as to be able to obtain for us the graces that are needful to us.

With great confidence I have recourse to your mighty protection, and I commend to you all my needs, both spiritual and temporal, and those of my family. Especially do I entrust to your keeping the particular favour that I desire and look for from your intercession.

And since you were a perfect pattern of the interior life, obtain for me the grace to pray earnestly, and never to set m heart on the passing goods of this life. Give me a lively and enduring love for Jesus and Mary. Obtain for me also a sincere devotion and obedience to Holy church and the sovereign pontiff who rules over her, in order that I may live an die in faith and hope and perfect charity. Let me ever invoke the holy Names of Jesus and Mary. And may I thus be saved.

* Repost from 2008

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Hi, again. It's me.

Over here with a mug of apple cider in my hand, and chilly toes because I'm sitting in the far corner of the living room, way too far from the wood stove.  It's cooold outside; twenty degrees or so, and this is a drafty house.  I need to have some child come sit on my feet to warm them up. Some small child.

Do you remember I was saying the other day how we'd had several of the seminarians over for dinner? Well, I forgot to tell you one of the 'funnies' of the evening.  Ever the (ahem) attentive host, William put in an excellent effort keeping conversation flowing while our guests waited for dinner.  Among other things (a lot of other things, because William is never at a loss for words), he told them about how he and Gabe are learning to serve -- about how they know the Suscipiat and almost the whole Confiteor --  and about how Dominic built them a really cool little outdoor altar to practice... (are you ready for this?)  to practice... their aerobics on...


Needless to say, the room exploded with laughter -- and Dominic raised his voice above the din to explain what most of them had already gathered: "He means rubrics!  It's for practicing the rubrics!"


(We're still laughing over this one.  Poor guy may never hear the end of it.)

William.  This guy.
(Wish I had a picture of the 'aerobics' altar -- not sure how I missed taking a picture of that!   It's on the to-do list to get out and take one...  and I'll try to get it posted, too, even!)

aerobics (n.)
any of various sustained exercises, as jogging, rowing, swimming, or cycling,that stimulate and strengthen the heart and lungs, thereby improving the body's utilization of oxygen

rubrics (n. pl.)
directions for the conduct of divine service or the administration of the sacraments, inserted in liturgical books.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Big Project is Finished!

I received two amazing and wonderful gifts for my 50th birthday, and I'm humbled by them both! I've wanted to share them for some time, but have saved unveiling them because they were both more in the form of "promises" than concrete, gift-wrapped objects I could show off with a picture on my blog.

Until now.  This gift, the one closer to home, is a reality!  Check it out!

When we arrived here at our new house, we used this little structure in the back of the main house as storage, stuffing in a lot of the overflow from the moving trucks.  It was unfinished, nothing but studs on the inside, with insulation, some pretty scary wiring, and a neat little "Hottentot" wood stove somewhat incongruously decorating the back wall.  The exterior walls were dirty and peeling, the attached dog pen was filthy and full of debris, inside and out, and a big dead tree limb hung precariously over the roof.  But at first glance we knew it had potential.

By my actual birth date, on the eleventh of September, the kids had cleaned everything up for me as a gift, moved out the flotsam and jetsam, and made a little study area with my desk and a few other items.  It was a lovely surprise...  but just a hint of things to come.  Dominic showed up after a bit, wanting to finish off the project properly. So, we all put our heads together, consulted Craigslist, and came up with the idea of using inexpensive recycled fence pickets for paneling the interior...  We found some at a great price, and got it delivered for free, and, with chop saw, hammers, and nails in hand, the kids were off and running, finishing in record time!  These guys don't fool around.  And, I have to say I was as accommodating and encouraging as a gift recipient could be, too...

 It ended up being a wonderful job!  We're all enjoying it already. Here are some of  the specs:

General Contractor:  Dominic 

He saw the vision, and was excited by it from day one. Taking the simplest materials on a shoestring budget, corralled his siblings, turned them into construction workers, and created the coziest little masterpiece of comfort and sweetness imaginable.  Better than any of us imagined in the beginning.  It was Dominic that worked out the chief method of how the paneling would be fit in and nailed, did all the trim work, and rebuilt and made beautiful a door that most would have junked.  He also trimmed the dead branches out of the tree overhanging the little house -- and accomplished numerous other feats of amazingness I can't begin to recount.

Construction Minions:  Cathy, Anna, and Theresa 

Though, Theresa was out of town through a good chunk of the project, she made it back in time for the finish work and painting, she and Cathy became proficient working with the chop saw, and, with Dominic's lead, helped cut and nail in a couple hundred pickets to form the paneling in the little house.  Anna did a lot of climbing around in the rafters, nailing boards into the apex of the ceiling - because nobody else fit up there as well as she did.  The girls also scraped the exterior of the building, helped paint the whole thing, and ably and enthusiastically assisted in working out the arrangement of the interior.

Go-fers and Clean-up Crew:  Gabriel and William

Without complaint (or, at least very little), the little guys toted and carried and passed wood, nails, hammers, and snacks throughout the whole process -- and always ended up being scrap-boys at the end of the day, cleaning up the construction site.  Gabe also learned how to wield a hammer and did an amazing job cleaning up the roof of the old dog pen and nailing in all the loose exterior nails.  And, when the big kids were outside working and Mom needed a hand indoors, these guys were Johnny-on-the-spot, washing dishes, helping with meals, etc.  They were just as invaluable in their role as all the big kids were in theirs!

Banker and Finisher:  Dan

A very very key player, Dan provided the funds for the whole project out of a meager bank account, and in the few hours he had at home in the evenings, rebuilt and trimmed the windows, cut tons of wood for the wood stove, and constructed the most important piece of "furniture" in the place: the bookshelves!

Design Team:  Mother and Daughters ...

The girls and I got to draw upon the resources of over 25 years of accumulated bits and pieces, moved from house to house to house over the years to decorate the finished product...  And now we know why we didn't get rid of all this stuff!  Everything fits perfectly and seems as if it were always meant to go in our little cottage. You can be sure we're not finished with it, yet, though...  We'd like a bigger rug, for instance, and I haven't made curtains for the windows yet, or finished the bulletin board we're fashioning out of an old red screen window.  We also want to "dress" the daybed with more pillows and a quilt, and I'm sure that, as time goes by, we'll think of other things to add... For instance, we're already dreaming ahead to the little garden we want to plant around the outside, with clematis or climbing roses and trellises...

The Cost
 Because we already owned practically everything we needed for this makeover, the outlay of money was minimal.  We had an electrician come in, inspect the wiring, and rework the old fuse box
Money?  What's money?  Who needs money?
How we did it with very little.
to make it safe; that cost $75. We got two pints of trim paint for less than $25, and a couple new paint brushes and rollers, for less than $10.  The paneling we created out of used cedar fence pickets, all of which were purchased for around $200.   Then there were nails -- a slew of them, but that didn't cost a lot,  less than $10, I'm sure -- and new lighting, which came to less than $30.  The  5 gallon drum of paint for the exterior, a nice muted taupe, we got for free from someone on Craigslist -- and all the other furniture and tchotchkies were already ours.  So, all told, with free labor (if you don't count feeding the crew and having hot apple cider always ready on the stove), the whole thing came to less than $350.

But, all the love and care that went it to it make it priceless! One of the two best birthday presents EVER!

Thanks again, Team.  I love you guys!

*Details coming on the second birthday present, I promise...  But, it's a sort of delayed gift that is still in rather the planning stages, and, to be honest, I'm still savoring it, myself -- holding it close to my heart for a little while...  But, no worries.  I never keep a secret for very long! I should be so secretive, huh?

Friday, November 7, 2014

Country Roads

The evening started at the piano with --
Christmas carols?  
We had the pleasure of hosting a handful of special visitors yesterday evening. :) We'd asked permission of the bishop to show our gratitude to the seminarians who helped us move by inviting them over to dinner, and he not only permitted it, but we got a couple extra young men from the seminary thrown in for good measure. Our good old friends, Fr. Carlos Borja and Tim Geckle, (recently ordained to the deaconate) got to come, as well as Frater Augustin, and Seminarians, Jeremy and Stephen our good old friend, Nathan -- and of course, our own Frater Philip.  

The girls and I served Hobbit Stew and freshly baked rolls, with a spinach salad and iced tea.  For dessert, we got the seminarians a selection of ice creams (because they don't get ice cream very often -- and who doesn't like ice cream, right?).  Watched a little Ollie and Stanley.  (Naturally.)  Then, as if the ice cream (and Cathy's homemade salted caramel) hadn't been enough sweets for one evening, we busted out the marshmallows, too, and Gabe lit us a campfire.  Somehow a guitar appeared and was handed to Tim...  and a campfire sing-along broke out.  So much fun! 

(The following video is very dark -- because, well, it was dark outside....  And, my Nikon is in the hospital, so this was filmed with the itty-bittiest little digital camera I borrowed from Theresa.  Not bad, considering... ?) 

Our thanks to our seminarian moving company once again!

And our great thanks to Fr. Borja for blessing our house for us!  We had such a great time, enjoying everyone's company so much, we feel like we should send each of the young men a thank-you card for coming.  Consider this a thank-you card!  Along with our continued prayers!

Hobbit Stew

about 2 Tbs olive oil
3 Tbs flour
salt and pepper
2 pounds beef chuck (or stew beef), cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
1 pound celery, cut into 1 inch chunks
1 pound whole mushrooms, cleaned and cut into quarters
6 large potatoes, peeled and cut into good-sized chunks
2 large white onions, cut into large chunks
2 cloves garlic, minced (more if you like garlic!)
2 cups beef broth
1/4 cup molasses (optional)
1 6oz can tomato paste
1 12oz bottle Irish stout (i.e., Guinness)
half a stick of butter (optional)
1 Tbs cold water
1 Tbs cornstarch

  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Toss beef cubes with flour, sprinkled with salt and pepper; coat, then fry in the hot oil until browned. 
  2. Veggie cooking option number one (how we did it): Saute the onions,garlic, and celery together in butter, until slightly soft.  Saute the carrots in butter until slightly soft, then toss with the molasses until glazed. Add onions, celery, and carrots, together with potatoes and mushrooms in a large slow cooker. 
  3. Veggie cooking option number two (quicker and easier):Dump all the sliced and diced vegetables into the bottom of the slow cooker, without sauteing at all. Place the meat on top of the vegetables. Mix together the beef broth and tomato paste and pour into the slow cooker along with the beer.
  4. Cover and cook on High for 6 hours or Low for 8 hours. If you like a thicker gravy, during the last hour before serving, dissolve the cornstarch in cold water and then stir into the broth. Simmer on the High setting for a few minutes to thicken.
  5. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

All Souls Day Devotions

Mass was too early for us on Monday morning to make it in for the special All Souls Day liturgies (seeing as we're an hour away), but we had plans for our own special devotions this year. Everyone was excited to take a lantern-light rosary walk down to our own little country cemetery to pray some souls to heaven.

The children made their own little tin can lanterns to take along.  (Gabe, William, Theresa -- with our little Jesus statue blessing the proceedings...)
Anna, Theresa, William, Cathy, and Gabe, lanterns lit and ready to pray the rosary on the way to the cemetery.  You can see which of our children tends to miss the "dress appropriate to the weather" memos, right?  
Down the dark driveway, the rosary for the suffering souls in  Purgatory begins...
You can see here that Penny (the St. Bernard) came along as security for the proceedings.  (She takes her "guarding" duties very seriously )  You can't tell by the pictures that the wind was blowing up a gale last night, but by the time we reached the cemetery -- about the 4th decade or so --  the wind had blown out everyone's lantern candle except mine, which was in an old glass  lantern and better protected -- but about the time we arrived at the cemetery gate, the wind blew mine out, too!  Thankfully, "Always-Prepared" Gabriel had brought along an emergency flashlight.
After we finished praying the TeDeum and sang the Dies Irae, we walked around a little bit through the cemetery.  Dan shone his flashlight on some of the tombstones so we knew who we were praying for.  You'd think we'd have been spooked -- but we really weren't at all.  I think going in praying, we were protected body, mind, and soul from even the worry of anything "untoward."  Two cars did go by down on the lane, though.  We wondered what they thought was going on.  ;)
Then back home where hot apple cider and oatmeal waited for dinner.  Warmed up and tummies filled, we watched For Greater Glory, and went to bed feeling like we'd accomplished more than usual!  I expect, weather cooperating, we'll try this devotional again before the week is out -- and happily add it to our All Souls traditions while we live in this house.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Feast of All Souls

Because All Souls Day has fallen on a Sunday  -- and, heaven knows, it rates its own unique dedicated day -- the official start of the feast this year is on Monday, November 3rd, all rules still applying.

Prayer of St. Gertrude to release 1000 souls from Purgatory: "Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen."

* More Traditional Prayers and Devotions for All Souls Day here.