Friday, October 31, 2014

Seven Quick Takes, Friday, October 31

1. I am going to rally my spirits and try not to get distracted or become lazy and give you all some quick takes. First trimester is rough, let me tell you. And I know I am not the only one having trouble blogging during it, because two ladies, Mary and Blythe, who write blogs that I follow have confessed to the same lack of writing motivation. Blythe has even gone to far to convince her husband to keep her blog up for her for the next 30 days.

2. While I am not quiet willing to give up the blog entirely while I am tired and nauseated all day, I did offer M an opportunity to guest post once a week. He refused in the same manner that he refuses to grow a beard. His colleague T and I have been encouraging him to try a beard again (he last had one in college), and he stands firm. In the same way, he resists blogging for me. No amount of pressure will work. In fact, the more pressure you put on him, the less likely it is that he will do it. So, there we go, M will not be blogging here and will not be growing a beard, much to all of our disappointment.

I am getting a new memory card in the mail next week, and then no more grainy iPad pictures...
3. I had been putting off buying a pumpkin all October, and yesterday I realized that we did not have one, and it has been a necessary tradition for M to carve a pumpkin with the girls. So, I ran out to nearby house that has a random urban farm in their side yard. It turns out that they also grow pumpkins up north. I found a nice pumpkin and brought it home. M did the carving with the girls and I took my Thursday shower. I would take a picture of the finished product, but that would require going outside in the cold, so I won't. Imagine two triangle shaped eyes, a diamond shape nose, and a toothless, crooked happy smile. That is our Jack O' Lantern. We don't get super creative, but we keep the tradition.

4. I have been delighted this month by my friend Anna's series on things she has learned from her parents. There are 31 of them over at her blog for the month of October. Today was the last one, and I am going to miss them. Is it weird that I have a sort of parent crush on them now?

5. Last week, I bought an extra blue hubbard at the farmers' market. On Monday I decided to roast and puree both the farmed one and our home grown one. It turns out that ours was not fully ripe. I really have no idea what we did wrong or if we did anything wrong. I really did not look into how long it takes squash to ripen or anything. Oh, well. I still scraped out the green stuff, but we only had four 15oz. bags of puree this year. I think next year I will just use the garden space for something else and by a bigger farmers' market squash.
6. This has been a daily requirement for my stomach. I am addicted to naturally flavored carbonated water.

7. This has been a fun last week of visitors. M was at another conference over the weekend and his mother came to town to help with the kids. My patience and endurance have decreased significantly since his last trip only two weeks before. Pregnancy hormones really mess you up emotionally, I tell you. (No more conferences until next Fall!!! HOORAY!) Then my brother came to visit. My baby, almost 25 year old, first day of work as an engineer today, brother came to visit by himself for the first time ever! He has come with my parents to St. Paul once as god father to F, and I think he came to Buffalo maybe 3 times total during our 4 year stint there. It was a real pleasure to have him here. I am pretty sure he came just for me to cook for him, because he brought a new cookbook of his made by the chefs on America's Test Kitchen, which is one of his favorite shows. However, since I have no pictures of his visit, I can not prove to you that he was here. (I suppose I could photograph his unmade bed, but that would require getting up...)

Bonus: Did you here about the Advent journal being sold at Blessed is She? Order your copy today!!

And lastly, I am linking up with Jen, the wonderful hostess of Quick Takes!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Four Ways You Can Help the Souls in Purgatory

Author's Hill, Concord, MA. Photo by M. Spencer. Used with permission.
It was the hottest week of the year in St. Louis, and we were making our summer visit to my parents’ house. We slept in the nice cool air-conditioned basement bedroom that was my bedroom when I lived at home. One night towards the end of the trip I woke up with a chill over my body from a dream. It reminded me of waking from nightmares as a small girl in the same bed, praying for comfort. But my dream had not been a nightmare; it had been a reminder. I don’t remember the bulk of the dream, but at the end I had been outside with various members of my family in a mowed hilly field. A silver four-door sedan pulled across the grass and stopped with the driver’s side next to me. My deceased great-grandmother rolled down the window and asked me with a solemn face, “When are you coming to see me?” She then rolled up the window and drove away.

I awoke, wondering how I was supposed to go back to sleep after that. When was I coming to see her? What did she mean? Was it actually her asking or was it just my imagination at work? I had not really thought about her for a while, so I am not sure why my subconsciousness would bring her to mind. But what I did realize was that we only had one day left in St. Louis, and during that last day, I could go see her. I could go to her grave, and pray for her soul. And in doing so, I could be granted a partial indulgence for her soul.* I do not know if she is still among the souls in purgatory, but I do know that I have a Christian duty to perform the spiritual work of mercy of praying for the dead. As I mulled and prayed about my dream, unwilling to go back to sleep, my alarm went off. We were going to an early daily Mass. After Mass we went to the cemetery and visited the gravesite of my deceased great-grandparents, grandparents, and great-aunt and uncle. My husband, three children, and I prayed for these souls, and I plan on visiting their grave again when we visit St. Louis next.

We are all called to pray for the dead.  With All Souls’ Day coming on Saturday we have an opportunity to earn indulgences for the souls in purgatory in several extra ways, in addition to the prayers we can pray all year round:
From the Manual of Indulgences (Fourth Edition, 1999)

A plenary indulgence (full remission of temporal punishment due to sin), applicable only to the souls in purgatory, is granted to the faithful who
1. on any and each day from November 1 to 8, devoutly visit a cemetery and pray, if only mentally, for the departed;
2. on All Souls’ Day (or, according to the judgement of the ordinary, on the Sunday preceding or following it, or on the solemnity of All Saints), devoutly visit a church or an oratory and recite an Our Father and the Creed.

A partial indulgence (partial remission of temporal punishment due to sin), applicable only to the souls in purgatory, is granted to the faithful who
1. devoutly visit a cemetery and at least mentally pray for the dead,
2. devoutly recite lauds or vespers from the Office of the Dead or the prayer Eternal rest.

Requiem aeternam
Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord, and let the perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. (Order of Christian Funerals)
Please also note (from Fr. Z's blog):
Requirements for Obtaining a Plenary Indulgence on All Souls Day (2 Nov)
  • Visit a church and pray for souls in Purgatory
  • Say one “Our Father” and the “Apostles Creed” in the visit to the church
  • Say one “Our Father” and one “Hail Mary” for the Holy Father’s intentions (that is, the intentions designated by the Holy Father each month)
  • Worthily receive Holy Communion (ideally on the same day if you can get to Mass)
  • Make a sacramental confession within 20 days of All Souls Day
  • For a plenary indulgence be  free from all attachment to sin, even venial sin (otherwise, the indulgence is partial, not plenary, “full”).
You can acquire one plenary indulgence a day.
So, this week of All Souls’, get thee to a cemetery, and say a few extra prayers for the dead at Mass on Sunday. Intercede for them, and they will intercede for you!
*From the Catechism of the Catholic Church on Indulgences:
1478    An indulgence is obtained through the Church who, by virtue of the power of binding and loosing granted her by Christ Jesus, intervenes in favor of individual Christians and opens for them the treasury of the merits of Christ and the saints to obtain from the Father of mercies the remission of the temporal punishments due for their sins. Thus the Church does not want simply to come to the aid of these Christians, but also to spur them to works of devotion, penance, and charity.
1479    Since the faithful departed now being purified are also members of the same communion of saints, one way we can help them is to obtain indulgences for them, so that the temporal punishments due for their sins may be remitted.”

Originally posted at Truth and Charity...

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Week Eats Link-Up: Meal Planning

I am going to do a quick link up with Nell and her new meal plan sharing link up, and share our meal plan for the week.

I plan Saturday through Friday, and always shop Saturday mornings.

Saturday: My awesom MIL is making it easy with my husband being away at a conference, and came to help with the girls and is taking us out for dinner tonight. The kids choice is Culver's. We normally do eating out once a month or so, so this is a big deal.

Sunday: We are going to a Confirmation party for a cousin in Wisconsin... I really have it easy this weekend!

Monday: Chicken Kiev (from Joy of Cooking 75th anniversary edition, using dill instead of parsley), Dill mashed potatoes, and roasted green beans.

Tuesday: Spaghetti Carbonara (mmmm...bacon). I use the Joy of Cooking recipe, but since my brother is visiting, I am going to look into trying some of the tips from America's Test Kitchen. And some veggie, whatever we are in the mood for.

Wednesday: Garden vegetable soup and french bread. The link it not to my exact recipe, but a similar one.

Thursday: Pot roast in the crock pot, potato "risotto" (when M gets an endowed chair I will start making the beef tenderloin that goes with this recipe), and some veggie.

Friday: Pizza at the All Saints day party at church! Easy peasy!

This is a strange meal planning week because we have three nights not eating at home, but next week there will be more serious planning.

Also, if you have any meal ideas, I know Nell would love some help!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Seven Quick Takes, Friday, October 24

1. I am mentally planning a post on our favorite Mass books for different ages, but today I just have a funny story to tell about one of them. F (23 months) has an illustrated Mass book that goes through the parts of the Mass. She really likes the page at the consecration of the Precious Blood where you can see the consecrated hosts in the ciborium, and always points to them saying, "Cookies!" I told this to M, and he suggested that maybe I should redirect her to understand that the hosts are not cookies. So, last Saturday at morning Mass I explained to her that the hosts were Jesus. During her second flipping through the book, she paused on that page, pointed to the hosts and proclaimed, "Jesus cookies!"

Jesus Cookies. From We Go to Mass.
2. Also, last Saturday, when I was busy in the morning, M winterized the vegetable garden. I am eternally grateful to him for doing this chore. I really am. It makes me really happy, thankful, and loved. He dug up all the dead plants and turned over all the soil, and trimmed back the lilac bush which tries to shade the garden. We plan on throwing some mulched leaves into the beds to add to the soil, and I am still planning on getting a compost bin for the garden stuff. We really should compost, I know, but the garbage disposal is soooooo nice.
The Empty Garden. Here you also see our crazy oregano plant and the hearty parsley.

3. My friend, Jacqui, mentioned to me that she loves my food/canning posts, but due to pregnancy I have been having a really hard time eating things that are not either made out of beef, are junk food, or are extremely bland. Maybe I should share my favorite whole wheat pancake recipe, which always works to settle a pregnant stomach. I can't really think of anything else worth sharing...

4. Speaking of food, I discovered that my yogurt recipe works even if you let the crock-pot go on low for an extra hour (solo bedtimes will do that to you). It went all the way up to 195°F, which seems to be the limit on other yogurt recipes. But I cooled it to 115°F and added my room temperature starter, and it worked. I was pretty nervous that I had wasted 8 cups of milk plus a brand new yogurt, but instead I ended up with super creamy yogurt. I think I might have to let it go to a higher temperature every time. Maybe after a little experimenting I will update my yogurt recipe.

5. We pray a litany of our family patron saints every night during family prayer time. Tonight, L (almost 4) decided to throw out a few suggestions, wanting to repeat her patron saint as well as her sister's. I explained to her that we do not need to do saints more than once because they are always listening when we pray to them. Her response, "I don't always listen." At least she is honest, right?

6. And now it is G's (5) turn. M has been doing some home school with her twice a week in the afternoon, and one of the topics they have been covering is geography. Lately, they have been working on states. However, M, as a native of Michigan seems to favor Michigan above all other states. You can take the man out of Michigan, but you can't take Michigan out of the man. The other morning at breakfast, G held up her hands to represent the Upper and Lower Peninsulas and said, "Mommy, this is Michigan. It is like two hands!"

7. In case you missed it, I am running a giveaway of a beautiful rosary book. The giveaway ends at Midnight at the end of the day Monday/beginning of Tuesday. Click on over to see the review and enter the giveaway!

And as always, I am linking up with the lovely hostess of Quick Takes, Jen at Conversion Diary.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Review and GIVEAWAY: Sacred Art Series Rosary Book

Welcome everyone coming over from Truth and Charity! For the giveaway, scroll to the bottom.

One of the most difficult parts of praying the rosary is keeping focused on the mysteries. Most of the time, I name the mystery and immediately get distracted. However, I have found that praying with beautiful images of the mysteries is a good way to focus. My cousin-in-law, Will Bloomfield, was inspired by a beautiful painting that he saw in the Metropolitan Museum of Art to put together a prayer book for individuals to use to pray the rosary.

I asked him several questions about the book, and will let him do the explaining.


Susanna: What inspired you to put together the rosary book?

Will: About a year ago, my sister, Emily Ortega, published her first book I'm Bernadette. [I, Susanna, reviewed the book here.] About the same time, my brother, Benjamin Bloomfield, edited his first book, A Collection of Christmas Carols. I soon was inspired to begin my own publishing project: a version of the Gospels for children, featuring a story-by-story format, large font, and beautiful images of sacred art. That project has evolved over the last year into The Sacred Art Series, the flagship product of which will be released this Advent, The Holy Gospels of St. Luke and St. John. This book will feature a leatherette cover, gilded pages, a sewn binding, and a ribbon.

In the midst of editing The Holy Gospels and discussing the project with printers, I happened to take a trip to New York City for a conference for work. While there with my wife and baby, we seized the opportunity to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I was thrilled to see some of the very paintings that I had already included in my early manuscript for The Holy Gospels. But while there, I also stumbled across The Fifteen Mysteries and the Virgin of the Rosary by Goswijn van der Weyden. The painting was created for devotional use for a member of the Habsburg royal family. I immediately thought that this beautiful public domain image, which was designed for royalty, would make an excellent devotional aid for families and individuals. And since I was already in the midst of a publishing project, it was quite easy to add another product to the Sacred Art Series. It was also about this time that I joined the Confraternity of the Rosary, and thus had been praying the rosary more both individually and with my family. And I had recently read St. Louis De Montfort's The Secret of the Rosary, and was impressed by St. Dominic's promotion of the rosary, described by De Montfort, as the most effective means of converting sinners. So the Rosary Book is really the convergence of many things that all came together at the right time. You might say that it was a perfect storm of grace.

What remains strange to me is that something like this did not already exist. But to my knowledge, the Sacred Art Series Rosary Book is the first of its kind. So your readers are on the cutting edge!

S: Would you tell me about the painting used? Are rosary panels common in sacred art?

W: The Metropolitan Museum of Art attributes the painting to Netherlandish Painter, possibly Goswijn van der Weyden (c. 1515). I like the painting because it includes an image of each of the traditional 15 mysteries of the rosary, and each image is the same size, includes figures that fill each scene, and thus provides a complete set of rosary images. I also like the image of Mary in the bottom panel because it shows her crowned with 55 roses, recalling that when we pray five decades of the rosary, we offer Mary a beautiful rose for each Hail Mary and for each Our Father.

In my searches, I have not found any other similar rosary paintings. It's, of course, easy to find beautiful images for individual mysteries, but I have yet to find any other complete sets of a similar quality. This is also strange to me, because one would think that rosary images would be readily available. Also, from my own personal experience, I know that the stained glass windows in many Catholic churches include the mysteries of the rosary; but for whatever reason, complete sets of rosary paintings seem to be rare. (And I will gladly be proven wrong if anyone can tell me otherwise.)

S: We usually pray our family rosary in the car (the children cannot get up and run around); do you have any tips for a peaceful family rosary with little ones?

W: Pray the rosary with a Sacred Art Series Rosary Book! Your children will enjoy the ability to have a picture to look at and to take turns flipping the page for the next mystery. Apart from that, I have also found the car to be a decent place to pray the rosary with the family. Every Sunday morning, during the 15 minute drive to Mass, we pray one decade of the rosary, followed by the Angelus. Our kids (ages 1, 2, 4, and 6) are so used to this routine that it never occurs to them to question it. The three older ones participate quite well. (Although getting the pacing of the words right has sometimes been a challenge for them--and consequently, for their parents!) So I think that consistency is important. Also, it's probably better to focus on one decade prayed well, than five decades prayed poorly. Once the kids have mastered one decade, it's easy to add more decades. And for families that are just beginning the rosary, it may help to begin the devotion during an appropriate liturgical season, such as Advent, or Lent, or during the Month of May for Mary, or during October, which includes the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary (October 7) and is the month of the rosary.


This book comes with a metal spiral binding on top and has a fold out cardboard easel. It is available in two sizes, 4x5 inches and 8x10 inches. We have the 4x5. The front page has the entirety of the panel while the inside pages feature each of the panels of the painting close up, showing the individual original 15 mysteries of the rosary.

As for the paintings themselves, just looking at them outside of praying the rosary leads to meditation on the mysteries. In each painting there are tiny details of the scene that give an opportunity for deeper meditation. As Will mentioned, all of the panels are the same size and the people are all to scale with each other. This being the case, the artist had to be very creative in fitting all the characters into the scenes. You can especially see this in the painting of the Ascension, where Our Lady and the apostles are painted in their entirety, but we only see the feet of the ascending Christ.

We have had the rosary book on the family altar for about a week now, and while I think the bigger size would be better for seeing detail, our family altar is pretty packed as it is. The children have been paging through it from time to time, and they seem to enjoy the images. My (almost) four year and I looked through it the other day, talking about each mystery, and while she was familiar with the events, she could not match the picture to them. That is perhaps one of the failings of the family car rosary, but I now see ways that our children’s catechesis can be improved.

I highly recommend the rosary book as something to display in the home or on a desk, and to pray with. You can purchase it through this website, and receive a discount of $3 off each book when you use the coupon code ROSARYBK through October 30.

Further, you can enter the below giveaway of a new 4x5 rosary book which ends Tuesday, October 28 at 12am CT.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, October 20, 2014

Dust if you Must, Because you Must

In the craziness of last Thursday, and my fatigue of the first trimester, I neglected to link to my newest article for Truth and Charity. I think it fits well with my house cleaning checklist, that Nell linked last week in her quick takes. I suppose the article is a spiritual defense of what motivates my cleaning...


I recently came across this poem:
Dust if you must, but wouldn’t it be better
To paint a picture or write a letter,
Bake a cake or plant a seed,
Ponder the difference between want and need?

Dust if you must, but there’s not much time,
With rivers to swim and mountains to climb,
Music to hear, and books to read,
Friends to cherish and life to lead.

Dust if you must, but the world’s out there,
With the sun in your eyes, the wind in your hair,
A flutter of snow, a shower of rain.
This day will not come round again.

Dust if you must, but bear in mind,
Old age will come and it’s not kind.
And when you go – and go you must -
You, yourself, will make more dust.

by Rose Milligan (The Lady, 1998)
While I appreciate the sentiment of realizing there are more important things than housework, and I even realize the futility of it (since things always get dirty again), I also think that there is something wrong about this attitude. I was affirmed in this by a homily at Mass the Sunday after I came across the poem, when Father talked about examining our consciences, and specifically mentioned not being thorough in the housework.

As Christians, we are called to become virtuous, and part of becoming virtuous is becoming moderate. We are to be moderate in our recreation, and moderate in our housework. Both are important to live a fully human life. To prove my point, one only has to look at monasteries of sisters or monks. I doubt that there has ever been an unkempt monastery. The manual labor of tending the garden, sweeping the hallway, straightening one’s cell, preparing meals, cleaning up after meals, scrubbing the floor, is all part of the vocation. It is part of human existence, and it is dull and tedious. However, for the contemplative, it is meant to be a place of prayer. And for us lay people, the tedious housework, when done with the right heart, can also be as fruitful in giving us a full human existence as swimming in rivers and climbing mountains. The tedium of scrubbing a floor and be united with a prayer for someone in need. The twenty minutes it takes me to dust my house, I can spend uniting my heart to God and His presence.

The fact is that by taking care of one’s home, one is following God’s commands. We are called to be good stewards of the Earth and of our possessions. Taking care of the regular maintenance of a home is simply being a good steward. When we first bought our house with its lovely wood floors, I did some research in how to best care for them. I discovered that the best thing for finished wood floors in good condition is to keep them free of dust and grime. The gathering of dust and dirt wears away at the finish. By cleaning my floors regularly, I am being a good steward of my house, for myself, my children, and for whoever owns this house after us.

When we maintain our possessions well, then fewer things are wasted. So, really, by cleaning my floors, I am saving the world’s resources by not needed to refinish them as often or replace them with other new materials. Taking care of our things keeps trash out of landfills.

And by cleaning my floors I am teaching my children to be good stewards of their possessions.
I have read another poem about how “babies do not keep” and heard things that proclaim that my children will not notice if the house is clean or not. But the truth is that they will. If my house is always in disarray, my children will notice and not learn to be good stewards of their own things. And taking time to do chores does not necessarily exclude the possibility of me being with my children. My children do many chores along side me, and when they are older I trust that we will get them done faster and have more time for painting pictures and writing letters. By each having our own duties we are closer to living a life of a family monastery, and hopefully learning to pray in our work.

I am not saying that we should be continually cleaning our homes so that they are spotless, but I am saying that we need to find a balance between being good stewards of our homes, having our leisure time, and having our work time. Doing these things will help us to live more fully human lives. So, dust because you must, and don’t forget to rest on the Sabbath.

Originally published in full at Truth and Charity...

Thursday, October 16, 2014

It's a BABY!

My philosopher mom friend suggested that I name this post, "It's an individual substance of a rational nature." I can't escape the philosophers!

I know that publicly announcing a pregnancy at seven weeks along with a due date that is not until the beginning of next June might make people feel a wee bit uncomfortable, but I really cannot keep blog silence about it anymore.

You may be aware that yesterday was Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. But you may not be aware that today is the feast of St. Gerard Majella, patron of expectant mothers. How beautiful that the days fall right next to each other. We have been praying especially to St. Gerard this pregnancy, from the very beginning of its possibility.

On Monday we had an ultrasound. I was in trepidation of this ultrasound for weeks, but also really thankful for all of the symptoms I have been having no matter how uncomfortable they have made me. For the record, they have not been that bad yet. Despite the lingering all day "morning" sickness, I have not once actually gotten sick. It is a struggle to eat certain all vegetables. I have been pregnant enough times to know how to not push my limit and figure out what I can get to my stomach without too much trouble (pizza, Chinese food, potato chips...there are some healthy things, I promise). I even have been eating salad (smothered in sweet raspberry vinaigrette). And the thought of cooking and eating dinner is wholly unappetizing. 

Back to the ultrasound. I could not face the 20 minute drive to our family clinic alone. The last time I drove in for an early ultrasound was the day we found out that JP was no longer alive. I did not want to see this baby alone. So, we dropped the kids off with a friend, and M drove.

After checking in a waiting about three minutes we headed back to the ultrasound room with the tech. After a little talk about dates and whatnot she turned out the light and began the scan.

The arrow is pointing to the baby.
I stared anxiously at the screen waiting to see something, and the tech immediately said, "Do you see the baby's heartbeat?" And there it was fluttering at 145 BPM in the tiny little body just beginning to have arms and legs and hands. The baby was alive and well. Tears filled my eyes as I gripped M's hand, and I felt so relieved that this baby was still with us, that this baby might be born in eight months time. Since the ultrasound my "morning" sickness has been in full force (still no physical evidence of it, thankfully), but this baby really is making itself know!

And now we wanted to share it with all of you, and ask your prayers for the health of our baby and my health. Your prayers carried us through the loss of JP, and I am so thankful that I can ask you once again to pray for a tiny little baby of ours.

I want to share with any expectant mothers and those hoping to have another baby a wonderful order of monks. The Transalpine Redemptorists in Scotland have a first class relic of St. Gerard, and if you send them an email or a letter they are more than happy to touch a small piece of fabric to the relic and send you in the mail a third class relic of St. Gerard. They do ask that you donate the cost of shipping, but are happy to mail it either way. It comes on a long enough ribbon to tie around your ribcage, and I have been in the habit of keeping it in my pillowcase (that is why it is wrinkly). The relic and sacramental serves as a good reminder to ask for the intercession of the patron of mothers and expectant mothers, as well as having physical contact with a holy saint in Heaven.

Monday, October 13, 2014

When the Husband Goes Away for the Weekend...

I hid it well from you social media places, so well, that my own mother called me Sunday night asking if M had been gone all weekend because the only thing I posted was a screen shot of M's flight minutes from landing. I think I did fairly well. But now that he is home, I will tell you all about my "girl's weekend."
The last time I stayed alone with my kids (I am pretty wimpy and usually ask a grandmother to come and help) was when M had five on campus interviews in one month. I had an almost 3 year old and a 1 year old at the time, and it got pretty tiring. I am pretty sure that I went over to my closest friends house everyday that he was gone (she had same aged children). But by the fifth interview (which was three nights and four whole days), I asked my generous mother-in-law to come help. I am very aware that many wives have husbands who travel far more than my own, and I am in awe of all of you. I really am. But I made a happy discovery this weekend, and that was that a 5 year old, an almost 4 year old, and an almost 2 year old are actually easier to take care of and more enjoyable to be with than a 3 and 1 year old. We had a lot of fun this weekend. Though I did some simple things to make it easier on myself.

1. I did all my weekly chores before M left town. The only housework left was putting some laundry away, three meals a day, dishes. This made things easy peasy. Plus, with my home school schedule I am in the habit of keeping up with the dishes throughout the day.

2. Our regular schedule. While our regular schedule has daily conveniences, I always appreciate it more when we are outside of the normal. M being gone is not normal, but that does not effect our morning routine, lunch time, afternoon nap/quiet time, dinner prep time, dinner time, dinner clean up, and bedtime routine. Things just fell into place, and the kids are so accustomed to them that F (1) practically gets herself ready for nap (well not really, but she switches from running away from me laughing to laying quietly falling asleep in about three minutes, so yeah, routine). Also, nap time for me was completely unproductive besides internet roaming. But I think that was acceptable given my low key plans for the weekend.

3. Getting out everyday, and knowing my limits. I made sure to see other adults everyday, but to not overdo the outings. While little kids are fairly entertaining if you just take time to be with them, seeing familiar adults helps with sanity. I am pretty sure it not natural for women to be alone all day with kids (and no one around until their husbands are done working), but it is not entirely foreign to the history of womankind either. Just look at the pioneer ladies alone on in the claim shanties for days on end. We had our co-op the first day, a playdate/lunch date with another conference-widow the second day, and went to Mass on Sunday. I am particularly impressed with my ability to get myself and the kids up and ready for our normal 7:30 AM EF Mass on time. It makes me think that I am getting used to this three-kid thing.

4. Easy food.
Our dinner's were so simple, which meant few dishes. I even asked G (5) to help me with the clean up and she happily filled in as she could. I was particularly impressed when she volunteered to finish the broccoli so that we did not have to save it. She looked just like her father finishing off the last few bites off the serving spoon.
I had such a good time with the girls that I found myself a bit lonely after they went to bed at night, though one night I spent on Skype with my sisters monitoring the Cardinal's loss in game one of the NLCS. I prepared myself to not stress out, and I did it! I don't really want to do it again any time soon, but I am glad to know that I can. Further, I think a weekend with just the girls was a good relationship building experience for us. I spent meals talking to them, listening to them, telling them stories. We went for walks together. We played games together. I think they had a good time as well, though having M home is much better.

(And just to put a funny image in your head, imagine 15 philosophers, after a four course dinner and multiple glasses of wine a piece, sightseeing around the Mall in D.C. at Midnight...and texting their spouses random shots of the monuments)

Friday, October 10, 2014

Seven Quick Takes, Friday, October 10

1. This week has been a lot about food. Saturday had a frost advisory, so we did a rapid harvest of the garden, and we got a pretty good load of stuff:

The frost never came, and did not until last night. However, we have accomplished so much with our garden stuff by now, that I am not really wanting to go back.

2. First, we pickled 10 pounds of cucumbers, using this tutorial. M and I canned 9 pounds in our boiling water canner after bedtime one night, and then the girls and I did the rest in the fridge for our science experiment of the week. Beforehand, I ran out to the store to find dill seed for the pickling as well as cider vinegar. The cashier, who was about 7 months pregnant, immediately asked if I was making pickles. I should have offered her a jar. I really should have.

I really hope that they taste better than they look. Here we have a quart of slices and nine pints of spears.
The lighting worked better for these ones. We have 11 half pints.
Another experiment we did was pickling green tomatoes. I have no idea if they will be good, but we did them in dill. I am thinking we will have a dinner of chicken Kiev, pickled tomatoes, and...

3. Red cabbage sauerkraut next month. I have never fermented vegetables before, but here we are giving it a try. I will let you know how it goes. We used this recipe. 

On the first day.

4. There were a lot of cute food rosary pictures online on Tuesday for Our Lady of the Rosary, including our cupcake one from a few years ago. This year we were a little more focused on the Battle of Lepanto in which a small Christian fleet defeated a larger Ottoman fleet through the intercession of Our Lady. The pope asked everyone to pray the rosary for victory. The traditional name of the feast is Our Lady of Victory (there is a beautiful basilica in Buffalo, NY named for the feast). We did not do a lot of rosary explaining, but did describe to the girls how a battle would take place between ships. I even made "Lepanto Pot Pie", inspired by the St. Francis Day Pot Pie Soup on Catholic Cuisine. I could not resist the imagery of floating things in liquid...

Here we have St. Michael interceding, the Christian fleet, and the parsley symbolizes the graces sprinkled on the Christians that day.
5. That is about it for food these quick takes. I am looking forward to listening to more baseball this weekend. I have been spending a lot of my normal writing time reading articles on the Cardinals and watching highlights. We only have October once a year, so why not savor it all. Go Cards!

6. We had another home school co-op today. F decided to be her clingy self, and I did not get to leave her alone in the nursery. As it was, she was quiet in the mom's discussion time, and then spent the rest of the time playing happily on the floor in the nursery (on my lap). It was still restful given that I sat around with her all morning instead of doing my normal morning chores and teaching. Next co-op is on All Hallow's Eve, and there is talk of a pizza party at co-op. However, we are planning on doing the All Saint's day pizza costume party at St. Agnes in the evening. Is pizza for lunch and dinner too much? Maybe if I only allow them to eat fruit and vegetables the rest of the day it will be okay. (How did I get back on food again?)

7. I decided to reread the first book of C.S. Lewis' space trilogy, Out of the Silent Planet, and it happened to be in conjunction with my listening to H.G. Well's War of the Worlds during my jogging/walking (I am still building up from my broken toe running hiatus). It was a little bit mind boggling to have humans bent on taking over the peaceful Mars (eventually, it is more like scouting out the planet in the book) contrasted with violent Martians bent on taking over not-so-peaceful Earth. In Lewis we had non-fallen rational animal Martians, and in Wells we have purely rational, survival absorbed, violent, blood drinking, rational animal Martians. It is quite a different view of the world. Lewis, however, uses the medieval understanding of space as his back drop for his story, and Wells is purely scientific. Anyway, if you want to make you mind a little crazy, try reading both at the same time...

Linking up once again with Jen at Conversion Diary!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


I once made this cupcake rosary (four years ago). It was pretty.
Today is one of our favorite feast days. We used to throw an Our Lady of Victories party back when we lived in Buffalo every year. One of our dear friends, now has an annual St. Francis Day party on Oct. 4, so we keep our festivities in the family now. I am going to attempt a symbolic dinner tonight, which you will have to wait for my quick takes to see.

Our main annual tradition is to read the poem Lepanto, which I leave here for your reading pleasure:
Lepanto by G. K. Chesterton
White founts falling in the courts of the sun,
And the Soldan of Byzantium is smiling as they run;
There is laughter like the fountains in that face of all men feared,
It stirs the forest darkness, the darkness of his beard,
It curls the blood-red crescent, the crescent of his lips,
For the inmost sea of all the earth is shaken with his ships.
They have dared the white republics up the capes of Italy,
They have dashed the Adriatic round the Lion of the Sea,
And the Pope has cast his arms abroad for agony and loss,
And called the kings of Christendom for swords about the Cross,
The cold queen of England is looking in the glass;
The shadow of the Valois is yawning at the Mass;
From evening isles fantastical rings faint the Spanish gun,
And the Lord upon the Golden Horn is laughing in the sun.

Dim drums throbbing, in the hills half heard,
Where only on a nameless throne a crownless prince has stirred,
Where, risen from a doubtful seat and half attainted stall,
The last knight of Europe takes weapons from the wall,
The last and lingering troubadour to whom the bird has sung,
That once went singing southward when all the world was young,
In that enormous silence, tiny and unafraid,
Comes up along a winding road the noise of the Crusade.
Strong gongs groaning as the guns boom far,
Don John of Austria is going to the war,
Stiff flags straining in the night-blasts cold
In the gloom black-purple, in the glint old-gold,
Torchlight crimson on the copper kettle-drums,
Then the tuckets, then the trumpets, then the cannon, and he comes.
Don John laughing in the brave beard curled,
Spurning of his stirrups like the thrones of all the world,
Holding his head up for a flag of all the free.
Love-light of Spain—hurrah!
Death-light of Africa!
Don John of Austria
Is riding to the sea.

Mahound is in his paradise above the evening star,
(Don John of Austria is going to the war.)
He moves a mighty turban on the timeless houri’s knees,
His turban that is woven of the sunset and the seas.
He shakes the peacock gardens as he rises from his ease,
And he strides among the tree-tops and is taller than the trees,
And his voice through all the garden is a thunder sent to bring
Black Azrael and Ariel and Ammon on the wing.
Giants and the Genii,
Multiplex of wing and eye,
Whose strong obedience broke the sky
When Solomon was king.

They rush in red and purple from the red clouds of the morn,
From temples where the yellow gods shut up their eyes in scorn;
They rise in green robes roaring from the green hells of the sea
Where fallen skies and evil hues and eyeless creatures be;
On them the sea-valves cluster and the grey sea-forests curl,
Splashed with a splendid sickness, the sickness of the pearl;
They swell in sapphire smoke out of the blue cracks of the ground,—
They gather and they wonder and give worship to Mahound.
And he saith, “Break up the mountains where the hermit-folk can hide,
And sift the red and silver sands lest bone of saint abide,
And chase the Giaours flying night and day, not giving rest,
For that which was our trouble comes again out of the west.
We have set the seal of Solomon on all things under sun,
Of knowledge and of sorrow and endurance of things done,
But a noise is in the mountains, in the mountains, and I know
The voice that shook our palaces—four hundred years ago:
It is he that saith not ‘Kismet’; it is he that knows not Fate ;
It is Richard, it is Raymond, it is Godfrey in the gate!
It is he whose loss is laughter when he counts the wager worth,
Put down your feet upon him, that our peace be on the earth.”
For he heard drums groaning and he heard guns jar,
(Don John of Austria is going to the war.)
Sudden and still—hurrah!
Bolt from Iberia!
Don John of Austria
Is gone by Alcalar.

St. Michael’s on his mountain in the sea-roads of the north
(Don John of Austria is girt and going forth.)
Where the grey seas glitter and the sharp tides shift
And the sea folk labour and the red sails lift.
He shakes his lance of iron and he claps his wings of stone;
The noise is gone through Normandy; the noise is gone alone;
The North is full of tangled things and texts and aching eyes
And dead is all the innocence of anger and surprise,
And Christian killeth Christian in a narrow dusty room,
And Christian dreadeth Christ that hath a newer face of doom,
And Christian hateth Mary that God kissed in Galilee,
But Don John of Austria is riding to the sea.
Don John calling through the blast and the eclipse
Crying with the trumpet, with the trumpet of his lips,
Trumpet that sayeth ha!
      Domino gloria!
Don John of Austria
Is shouting to the ships.

King Philip’s in his closet with the Fleece about his neck
(Don John of Austria is armed upon the deck.)
The walls are hung with velvet that, is black and soft as sin,
And little dwarfs creep out of it and little dwarfs creep in.
He holds a crystal phial that has colours like the moon,
He touches, and it tingles, and he trembles very soon,
And his face is as a fungus of a leprous white and grey
Like plants in the high houses that are shuttered from the day,
And death is in the phial, and the end of noble work,
But Don John of Austria has fired upon the Turk.
Don John’s hunting, and his hounds have bayed—
Booms away past Italy the rumour of his raid
Gun upon gun, ha! ha!
Gun upon gun, hurrah!
Don John of Austria
Has loosed the cannonade.

The Pope was in his chapel before day or battle broke,
(Don John of Austria is hidden in the smoke.)
The hidden room in man’s house where God sits all the year,
The secret window whence the world looks small and very dear.
He sees as in a mirror on the monstrous twilight sea
The crescent of his cruel ships whose name is mystery;
They fling great shadows foe-wards, making Cross and Castle dark,
They veil the plumèd lions on the galleys of St. Mark;
And above the ships are palaces of brown, black-bearded chiefs,
And below the ships are prisons, where with multitudinous griefs,
Christian captives sick and sunless, all a labouring race repines
Like a race in sunken cities, like a nation in the mines.
They are lost like slaves that sweat, and in the skies of morning hung
The stair-ways of the tallest gods when tyranny was young.
They are countless, voiceless, hopeless as those fallen or fleeing on
Before the high Kings’ horses in the granite of Babylon.
And many a one grows witless in his quiet room in hell
Where a yellow face looks inward through the lattice of his cell,
And he finds his God forgotten, and he seeks no more a sign—
(But Don John of Austria has burst the battle-line!)
Don John pounding from the slaughter-painted poop,
Purpling all the ocean like a bloody pirate’s sloop,
Scarlet running over on the silvers and the golds,
Breaking of the hatches up and bursting of the holds,
Thronging of the thousands up that labour under sea
White for bliss and blind for sun and stunned for liberty.
Vivat Hispania!
Domino Gloria!
Don John of Austria
Has set his people free!

Cervantes on his galley sets the sword back in the sheath
(Don John of Austria rides homeward with a wreath.)
And he sees across a weary land a straggling road in Spain,
Up which a lean and foolish knight forever rides in vain,
And he smiles, but not as Sultans smile, and settles back the blade....
(But Don John of Austria rides home from the Crusade.)
Source: The Collected Poems of G. K. Chesterton (1927)

Monday, October 6, 2014

Baseball and Writing

It dawned on me yesterday, as I reflected on the Cardinals being tied 1-1 with the Dodgers in the NLDS that, while I loved writing beforehand, when I read the daily column of the sports columnist Bernie Mikalsz in high school, I first had the desire to become a sports journalist. The practicability of doing this was definitely an issue for me since I knew it would involve mush travel and I was hoping then to have a family. Further, I was not really interested in writing about sports beyond baseball.

That dream was not meant to be, but it does not take away from the effect that Mikalsz's writing has had on me. It is articles like the one he wrote in the wee hours of Friday night/Saturday morning that increase my love of baseball and the St. Louis Cardinals:
"This is what the Cardinals take pride in. No matter how many times the power goes out, and this erratic offense crashes, the relentlessly upbeat manager and his bullheaded players still maintain hope. They keep yapping about stringing together quality at-bats and sticking with the process until success eventually clicks in. Game 1 was only the latest example.
“The guys stuck with it,” manager Mike Matheny said. “They believed in themselves, and each other. And even up until that seventh inning, you could still feel that guys were fighting.”
And on Friday night, the result was a berserk uprising that no one outside of the St. Louis dugout saw coming.
By the seventh inning the sun was fading, and the sky turned into an orange-pink canopy. With darkness on the edge of town, the Cardinals began lining base hits all over the yard, putting divots in the immaculate grass at Dodger Stadium, and trying to put a few more dents in Kershaw's postseason rep. This was almost surreal."
I mean, how could you not love the Cardinals or baseball when you read writing like that? Well, I suppose it is not the same for everyone. Mikalsz is clearly writing from his love of the team and sport, and has been doing so for years. He also freely criticizes the team and the managerial decisions when needed, which seems to be a couple of times a week.

I think a lot of my style comes from his style, but maybe that is just my imagining?

And if you have made it this far in my little Ode to Mikalsz, I definitely credit him as part of my inspiration in my latest reprint on Church POP, The Beautiful Liturgy of Baseball.

As for this week, I am going to listen on edge to the next two games of the NLDS. My traditionalism also permeates my baseball fandom. I much prefer the radio play by play to the televised game. I think it is a more beautiful art form to describe every detail of the game to the waiting imaginations than to comment on the outfit of whatever fan the camera man has picked out. Seriously, what a difference.  One thing that helps me stand true to these values is the lack of television in my house.

Anyway that is enough about baseball.

Here is a photo I once took of the Old Busch Stadium from the top of the Arch.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Seven Quick Takes, Friday, October 3

1. This week has been a fun week for Feast days. We had the Feast of the Archangels on Monday, St. Thérèse of Liseiux Wednesday in the new calendar and today in the old, the Guardian Angels yesterday, and St. Francis of Assisi tomorrow. We have not really done much to celebrate the specifically besides talking about the saints to the kids. I am making some French Onion soup tomorrow in honor of St. Thérèse. Maybe on Saturday we should go begging for food? Or maybe we should just give some food to the poor, hmmmm...

2. St. Francis will always be extra special for us, because devotion to him was pretty much ingrained after four years at Franciscan University and a school sponsored trip to Assisi when we were studying abroad. I also grew up watching the 70s version of his life, Brother Sun, Sister Moon.  Though there are two other movies of his life that are reportedly the best and worst movies about St. Francis which we will be watching in a couple of months. Besides movies though, St. Francis is pretty cool.

Blanched apples +Victorio Strainer = Apple Sauce + Peels
3. I am sure everyone is just dying to know how our apples canning went. Well, we made 19 quarts of sauce, canning 18.5 of them, and 5 half pints of jelly. The sauce canning went well. However, the jelly ended up needing pectin to be added. I suppose blanched and food milled apple peals and cores do not retain much natural pectin? The jelly is pretty delicious, but I am not sure I want to use it for PB&J. We will have to find some sort of delicacy to use it on. 

If we get snowed in this winter, we will at least have fruit.
4. We were pretty much homebodies this week. After a whole day of the applesauce canning last Saturday, we were pretty tuckered out on Sunday (we thankfully did not witness any cars hitting bicycles on the way to church this time...) and it just kind of rolled into Monday. M had a bad case of laryngitis and had to whisper all day on Tuesday. Then it rained all day Wednesday and Thursday, but we managed a library run today. Restocking on the library books is always nice to do, especially because the kids have a new stack of books to peruse. In fact, because of these books naptime has been especially quiet!

5. G (5) called me into her quiet time to tell me how delighted she was with the collection of fairy tales I had picked out. "It has lots of princesses in it! It even has Rapunzel, but I don't like this version because the evil witch cuts off all of her hair!" Now, I am pretty sure she did not read the story, but gathered this from pictures. Part of our early home schooling has been a complete immersion into fairy tales and nursery rhymes, so I usually find a different illustrators set of fairy tales to bring home from the library. One of the books I rejected today, however, had the story of Noah's Ark as a folk tale...while I may not think we need to interpret the incident literally, I am not going to teach it to my kids outside of Scripture as a folk tale...

6. A friend brought up to me that she found my old post about roasting my first blue hubbard, so I thought I would go ahead and link it again for newer readers or people who just want to make their own pumpkin purée. And by the way, the kitchen featured in the photo is that of T and his wife F. We rented from them our first year in St. Paul.

Someone had been trying to wear all pink everyday...
7. And finally I leave you with pictures of our giant carrot. It was peaking out of the ground, just asking to be harvested. We have some other carrots growing still, but they all did not do this well, mostly because our cucumber plant took over that part of the garden. This next week I am going to make an attempt at sauerkraut with our cabbages and pickles with our cucumbers.
Once again, I am linking up with Jen at Conversion Diary!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Doing Works of Mercy Everyday

My family and I were running just on time for the early Mass last Sunday. Well, actually, we were on track to be about 2 minutes late. We were going along, stuck behind some slow-going cars. Just as we were coming to an intersection ,we witnessed an SUV drift into the bike lane and hit a bicyclist from behind. He went flying forward and landed sprawled on the ground, legs tangled in his bike. The driver of the SUV stopped her car, and jumped out to see if he was okay. My husband pulled over, parked the car, and ran out dialing 911. I sat in the car in a bit of a shock as I explained to the children that we needed to pray for the man. I prayed out loud with the kids until the emotion of it all reduced me to sobbing and internal prayer.

Within seconds, people noticed the emergency situation and came over to lend a hand. One man led the group around the bicyclist in praying the Hail Mary. A nurse came over and did basic first aid for him while they waited for the ambulance. Another lady attempted to calm the woman who had hit the cyclist. A man brought a blanket out of his house to cover the injured man. An Episcopalian minister, on his way to church, stopped at the scene to see what he could do.

All around us, early on a Sunday morning, people were coming to help this injured man, and I could not help but feel that we were apart of a community of good people. The ambulance came and took the still-conscious bicyclist to the hospital, and only then did the crowd disperse. I went over to the police to give my account of the accident, and then we continued on to church to hang out until the next Mass and to pray for the cyclist. We never found out the extent of his injuries, but we are still praying daily for his recovery.

As I reflect on the incident, I see how we and all the people who stopped immediately acted out the works of mercy for this man and for the woman who struck him. I can think of at least seven of the fourteen that were exercised by all of those involved in that one incident. I give a complete list of both the corporeal and spiritual works of mercy.

The Corporeal Works of Mercy:
  • to feed the hungry
  • to give drink to the thirsty
  • to clothe the naked
  • to shelter the homeless
  • to visit the sick
  • to visit the imprisoned
  • to bury the dead
The Spiritual Works of Mercy:
  • to instruct the ignorant
  • to counsel the doubtful
  • to admonish sinners
  • to bear wrongs patiently
  • to forgive offenses willingly
  • to comfort the afflicted
  • to pray for the living and the dead
In extreme situations it is easy to see how we are to exercise the works of mercy, but the reality is that we are called to exercise them in small ways as well. (Two years ago Andrew Sciba wrote about a very sweet event that took place between his then two year old and then crawling baby, where the two year old was giving of his own food to the hungry baby. He realized that his son was doing one of the works of mercy.)

If I think about my own children, I see them doing the works of mercy for each other daily. When my one year old visits a sister who is being punished, she is visiting the imprisoned. When my eldest helps me put socks and shoes on the baby, she is clothing the naked. They help each other with food and drink. They are each others’ comfort when we are confined at home due to illness. They are only vaguely aware of what the works of mercy are, but they are already learning to show mercy. And they do so according to their own capacity.
Conversation in Black by Stefano Corso.Conversation in Black by Stefano Corso.
We are all called to do the works of mercy according to our state in life. And while it may seem like we need great moments to do works of mercy, in reality we are called to do them everyday. We show mercy in the daily dressing, feeding, and care of children. We show mercy as teachers. We show mercy as doctors and nurses. We show mercy when we are kind to the customer having a rough day. We show mercy when we take time to listen to the problems of our coworkers. We show mercy when we share some our lunch with the man holding the cardboard sign on the street. We show mercy when we make sacrifices so that we can afford our home and food. We show mercy by giving of our money to a family in need. We show mercy when we give of our excess and unneeded clothes to a society that gives to the poor. We are called to show mercy everyday.
And when we do these things, we do them for Christ.
Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee?And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’
And the King will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’
Matthew 25: 37-40

Originally posted at Truth and Charity...

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

What We Can Learn from the Family of the Little Flower

A slide depicting the Martin family at home.
For the Feast of St. Therésè of Liseux I was thinking about making a dish that called for "a little flour." However, since when I use flour I like to use a lot of flour, I am going to just go ahead and link over to an article that I wrote in April about St. Therésè and her family life, comparing it to that of the Bennett family in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.

St. Therésè, Jane Austen, and Raising Saints

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