Friday, March 30, 2007

Frugal Friday: free flowers

My front flower bed has about six lovely calla lily plants growing in it. And I didn't pay a dime for them. What's my secret? Dividing perennials.

My weird, boggy side yard looked like just a weedy jungle when we moved into this house. Nobody goes back there, and so it took me some months to realize that some of the weedy-looking things were actually valuable plants. Among them: roses, irises and calla lilies. The true nature of these plants dawned on me when they started blooming in the spring.

The problem? Like I said, no one sees my side yard. It's just a small, awkward walk-through on the side of the house, with barely any windows looking out on it. In other words, those gorgeous flowers were going completely unappreciated. So, I moved them.

Using methods similar to those described here, I dug up around the calla lilies, and found that they had indeed spread their bulbs (rhizomes?) underground. I dug up the likeliest looking ones (while leaving the mother plant where it was) and planted them in my front flower beds.

Now the plant that no one appreciated is being seen and enjoyed every time we go through our front door. Dividing perennials = free, frugal beauty.

peace of Christ to you,

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

I apologize in advance, but my mom told it to me

Descartes was once asked on a train if he would like some afternoon tea. He replied, "I think not." He was never seen again.

catechism of a two-year old

"Hey, Bess, what happens on Easter?"
"Um, yes. But what is Easter all about?"
Thoughtfully, remembering her Sunday school lesson: "It's about God's Son."
"Yes! And who is God's Son?"
"Yes! And what did Jesus do on Easter?"
Gleefully: "He made CHOCOLATE EGGS and JELLYBEANS!!!!!"

Well, we're getting there. :)

peace of Christ to you,

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

WFMW: outside flip-flops

Okay, this is one of those "oh-I'm-sure-everyone-already-knows-this" tips, but it really works for me!

Living in SoCal (and being married to my Indonesia guy, from whom I really picked up the habit), I go barefoot around the house most of the time (take that, Flylady!). That means that if I go outside and water the plants, I get my feet all goopy.

My solution? A pair of old flip-flops right outside my front door. I slip into them as I walk out, tromp all through the garden, and then slip out of them when I'm ready to go back inside. Those shoes never see the inside of the house, and my feet never see the mucky soil of the garden. Those flip-flops just stay outside in all their glorious muddiness. And by the time I'm ready to go outside again, the mud on the soles has dried, and can be easily sloughed off.

Keeping my bare feet nice and clean? Works for me!

peace of Christ to you,

p.s. I don't hate Flylady. I love how her ideas about timers. But the shoe thing? Ha!

Getting Ready for Easter: Holy Week Resources

Holy Week is almost here! So I thought I'd write a quick post about some resources for Holy Week, starting with something I noticed when I was reading Morning Prayer this morning: there are opening sentences for Holy Week! Yep! Somehow, I thought I just went straight from the Lenten ones ("If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves..." etc.) to the Easter ones ("Alleluia! Christ is risen!" etc.). But no! There are sentences for Holy Week ("Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by?" etc.).

There are also, I discovered, looking a little further, collects for each day in Holy Week - and each day in Easter week. Now, I'm not sure if reading those in place of the normal Morning Prayer collects is quite proper - they're probably actually to be read during Mass on those days - but I'm gonna pray them anyway. Partly because I can almost guarantee you I'll only be making it to Mass Thursday-Sunday, and not Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. :) Anyway, if you want to take a peek, you can find them starting on page 168 of the Book of Common Prayer.

Here's a sample of the prayers I'm talking about, to whet your appetite:

Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but
first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he
was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way
of the cross, may find it none other that the way of life and
peace; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who
liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God,
for ever and ever. Amen.

Doesn't that just give you shivers?

Next, it's always good to have good reading and music on hand to help you think about the events of Holy Week. Good reading for Good Friday and Holy Week would include, in my opinion, George Herbert's excellent The Sacrifice. Here's a short excerpt from a very long poem:

Now heal thy self, Physician; now come down.
Alas! I did so, when I left my crown
And fathers smile for you, to feel his frown:
Was ever grief like mine?

In healing not my self, there doth consist
All that salvation, which ye now resist;
Your safetie in my sicknesse doth subsist:
Was ever grief like mine?

Betwixt two theeves I spend my utmost breath,
As he that for some robberie suffereth.
Alas! what have I stollen from you? Death.
Was ever grief like mine?

Another good one is John Donne's "Good Friday, 1613, Riding Westward". It's a poem with a long argument, and an excellent payoff, but in addition to that, it is scattered throughout with heart-piercing observations, like this one:

But that Christ on His cross did rise and fall,
Sin had eternally benighted all.

If you've got some time on your hands, Dorothy Sayers' excellent play cycle, The Man Born to Be King, will well repay your reading of it. I personally had some trouble slogging through the first play, the Christmas play, but after that I was hooked, and I've never looked at the gospel the same way again. It's one of those works that convinces you that the author must have the gospels memorized, she writes with such a sure hand. It helped me think about how odd and terrifying Holy Week must have been for the disciples.

Well, my baby's waking up, so I must go! More later!

peace of Christ to you,

Monday, March 26, 2007

flee temptation

Over the past year or so, I've been working on having healthier choices in hand at home. Not that junk food never passes my lips (ha!), but so that it's easier to eat a banana than a cookie when hunger strikes. In other words, I've learned the important lesson that it's easier to say no to junk food once, at the grocery store, than three or four times a day, in front of my pantry.

It strikes me that this lesson has a lot to teach me about the epistle's command to "flee temptation". Even though it'd be great to have the strength to say no to sin to its face, there's nothing wrong with avoiding coming face to face with that chance to sin in the first place. Yeah, it'd be lovely to see a bag of Trader Joe's White Cheddar Popcorn (the most glorious treat that store has to offer) and be able to say, "No thanks," but if I know that I would say "yes please" every time, then it makes sense never to buy it and bring it home in the first place.

I can think of loads of places this lesson would apply. It's why my husband and I chose not to have a TV in our house. We know that if we did, it'd be on all the time. We figured, back when we were engaged, that that would probably be bad for our marriage, and that we ought to just avoid the temptation in the first place. I'm glad we did.

There's subtler ones, like avoiding situations where you'd be tempted to jealousy. Or to lust. Or to anger. And, of course, you can't get yourself out of the way of all temptation. But if you know something's tempting to you, and it's easy to avoid, then avoid it! I guess what I'm saying is that I've learned that there's no need to try to prove my virtue. Mostly because I don't have that much virtue to prove.

Note that I'm not saying you ought to avoid all difficult situations. God calls us to difficult situations, time and time again. And if He calls you, you go, and He'll help you with whatever you encounter. But if it's one of those situations where it's really your choice, choose whatever path will make it easier not to sin. Flee temptation.

And here's the funny, unexpected payoff: the longer you don't sin a particular sin, the less appealing that sin gets. Try eating drinking nothing but water and milk for a week, and then have a can of soda. It won't taste the same way it did when you had it every day. You'll be able to taste that it's too sweet, too fake, in a way that you never could when you were constantly exposed to it. It's the same way with familiar sins. The longer you avoid them, the more foreign they become. And that's not the whole battle, but it sure helps.

Ah, the things you learn when grocery shopping!

peace of Christ to you,

p.s. I'm not saying all junk food is bad either! Just using it for an analogy!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

weekend project: mei tai

I have wanted, for quite awhile now, a soft back carrier to put my infant son in during that magical hour after naps but before dinner. You know, the hour when babies MUST be held. Even though it is also the time when dinner MUST be made. A nice carrier that would let my son be held, and with me, but that would keep him out of the way of sharp knives and hot stovetops (something not possible with my otherwise lovely ring sling).

My wonderful husband thought this was a good idea too, liked the pattern I found here, and also liked the idea of making a carrier that would be adjustable to him. So, I cut and pinned, and he sewed, and several hours and about $10 worth of cotton denim later, we have this:

Isn't that cool? And, let me tell you, incredibly comfy. You can't see it in this picture, but along with the shoulder straps (which are super-wide) there's a waist strap, which makes all the difference in the world in how it feels on. You can put the kid on the front too, and my 2 1/2 year old fits in it also.

So, that's what we did this weekend. Any other fun weekend projects out there?

peace of Christ to you,

Friday, March 23, 2007

Gardening and the City

It seems I'm reading and hearing a lot these days about wanting to move out of the city and into the country, away from the people and into the wilderness, off the grid and away from the madding crowds.

I understand the urge, at least, I think I do. Everyone needs to be in the desert once in awhile. Needs to hear nothing but wind, see nothing but sand, feel nothing but the hot air that comes not off the baking concrete, but off the baking rock.

But I don't understand wanting to live there permanantly, not really, even if your particular desert is green as Oregon, or pretty as Colorado.

The past month has been a month of gardening for me. Every time I come inside after watering, weeding, digging and planting, I feel refreshed. I feel like the world is bigger and brighter and better than I thought it was before I went out and got my hands dirty. And it strikes me that this is why I like the city: I like the city because it is a place of gardens. Yes, there's too much concrete and smog, too much trash and too much suffering, too much crowding and too much crime. But it's also a setting for thousands of sunken green jewels, thousands of gardens.

From the carefully planted lawns surrounded by sculptured rocks, to the vast parks full of trees and ponds, to the college arboretums to the professional, botanical gardens, to the nurserys full of saplings and fountains, to the islands of carefully-tended roses in front of the gas stations, everywhere I go in the city I seem to run into slices of nature, carefully tended and grown into a beauty and orderliness that's never matched in the country.

Okay, that's not true. I know it. There are gorgeous gardens in the country, and there are farms that have an orderliness and beauty all their own, and the truth is that the country is almost as much a product of man's cultivation as the city is. But my point is that the city is not a complete abomination. If you open your eyes, what you see, over and over again, is man's attempt to live up to his Edenic duties. I like it here.

Some of my favorite bloggers disagree with me. And, truthfully? I like reading how God's called them to the country, and hearing about their adventures there. But me? Give me a garden in a city. At least for now, that makes me very happy.

peace of Christ to you,

Thursday, March 22, 2007

sleepy Jesus prayers

Sorry for the late post today. We're having sleep issues at our house . . . I didn't know how good I had it when I was a teenager. Sleeping all the way through the night, every night? Wow!

Anyway, in the wee hours, when your nursling is up again, saying "Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me" really is just about the only thing that makes sense.

Sleepy Jesus prayers. Praise God for them.

peace of Christ to you,

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

WFMW: plant stand

See what my clever husband made for me?

Most of those plants are perennials I've nursed through the winter, that are just now starting to bloom again. My problem was that they were hard to see; none of them (except the nutty verbena on the right) are very tall, so when I looked out my windows they were largely invisible. Now that they're flowering again, I really wanted to be able to see them.

So Adam took a couple cinder blocks and a couple boards ("I hope you appreciate that I'm giving up good scrap lumber for you." "Oh! Do you need it for something?" A grin and: "No, it's just always nice to have good scrap lumber around." "Oh! Then I'll appreciate it!") and made me a plant stand! Easy as laying boards across cinder blocks (like you would to build a bookcase) and it doesn't matter how it looks, because the plants will draw the eye away from it nicely.

So now I look out my window and think I'm seeing something from Better Homes and Gardens. A beautiful display of plants, the plants I've been eagerly checking in the morning for new bud clusters - now I'll actually see them bloom! Works for me!

peace of Christ to you,

p.s. Also working for me this week? My new blog: From Print to Plate. I'm enjoying writing about the new recipes I try. Check it out!

Tuesday of nothing in particular

Okay, that's not true. Today is the saint day of Cuthbert of Lindsfarne. And I know a bit about Lindsfarne, but nothing really of Cuthbert. In fact, here is a list of upcoming saints' days that I know little or nothing about:

March 21: Thomas Ken, Bishop of Bath and Wells
March 22: James De Koven, Priest
March 23: Gregory the Illuminator, Bishop and Missionary of Armenia

But then you hit March 25, and it's the Annunciation. Now that I have heard of. (And I hope you have too. If nothing else, count nine months forward and see what you find.)

Speaking of babies, I have to point out after my last post mentioning bringing a meal to a friend who just gave birth, that I would never have known to do such a thing if it weren't for the innumberable people who brought us meals after we had our babies. That's where I learned that good habit. I never would have thought of it on my own, but having so many people helping us out showed me what I ought to be doing for other people. In other words, I'm not so wonderful, I just hang around around contagiously wonderful people. I tell you, you have to be careful going to church these days. :D So thanks for the compliment, but it's not me. It's them. Or more, it's him. That's why any of us know how to be generous. 'Cause we're copying our big brother.

Is it just me, or does knowing it's three weeks till Easter make it hard not to be cheerful? I'm beginning to feel it. Even while I'm saying: "The Lord is full of compassion and mercy: O, come, let us adore him," it's hard not to let my eye skip forward to "Alleluia. The Lord is risen indeed: O come, let us adore him. Alleluia." My inner eye keeps filling with glorious, golden pictures of that Sunday morning three weeks from now, the sanctuary decked in flowers, all the purple veils pulled off and light flooding through the stained glass. Even on that most somber of days, Good Friday, I know we won't be able to keep the secret. We'll take communion, and we'll remember what it means, we'll remember that we don't seek the living among the dead, that Christ is risen, and he is risen indeed.

Oh well. I will try to be somber for the next three weeks. But I really can't keep the secret. No Christian is able to do so. :D

peace of Christ to you,

Monday, March 19, 2007

Menu Plan Monday

This week my menu plans changed a little unexpectedly - my friend had a baby! So I'm making extra meatballs today to bring her family a meal later this week. The baby's a cutie too - I got to meet her at the hospital yesterday. She has the TINIEST HANDS I've ever seen on any full-term chickie.

Monday: turkey-jasmine meatballs with sauce over soba noodles, with roasted cauliflower (I'm skipping the baby bok choy part of the recipe)

Tuesday: soup from the freezer, with canned fruit and oatmeal muffins (if you have the BHG red plaid cookbook, you can find these muffins at the beginning of the bread page. They're only slightly sweet, with a yummy, satisfying flavor and texture.)

Wednesday: terriyaki chicken with rice and canned fruit

Thursday: cinnamon rolls, scrambled eggs and canned fruit

Saturday: Indian Spiced Chicken casserole

Sunday picnic: bean and cheese burritos and fruit

I got my terriyaki chicken recipe at my bridal shower, and it's been a favorite ever since (though I typically make it with 1 lb. of boneless, skinless chicken meat):

Marion Lee's Terriyaki Chicken

-3-4 lb. chicken thighs or drumsticks
-3/4 c. soy sauce
-3/4 c. sugar
-1. tablespoon sherry
-1 clove garlic, minced
-1 1/2" ginger, crushed

Marinate chicken in sauce ingredients 4 hours or overnight. Bake in shallow pan (with marinade) at 375 degrees for 40-50 minutes (might be less with less chicken).

peace of Christ to you,

March 19: the feast of St. Joseph

Today is what the BCP calls a "major feast", the feast of St. Joseph.

When I think of St. Joseph, the first thing that comes to mind is the opening rhyme of "A Song for Joseph", an old Arch children's book by Mervin A. Marquardt:

"Sing me a song of a man named Joseph,
Sing me a song of a carpenter man
Husband of Mary, God's honorary
Father of Jesus; a heavenly plan!"

Amidst all the fights about Mary, it's good to take a day off and ponder her spouse, the good, faithful Joseph. He's less noticeable than his wife and child, but he's also the one from whom they draw their strength. (Yes, Mary and Jesus drew their strength from God, but Joseph was one of the conduits of God's love to them, I think.) Nursing moms can tell you how important a husband is - someone who takes over when you're too exhausted to think, too hormonal to anything but cry. Isn't it good of God to give someone to Mary to be her support as she carried His son? And when their family was in danger from Herod, God spoke to Joseph about what to do. Mary just had to take care of her baby, while Joseph took care of getting them to a safe place in Egypt.

I guess I see today as a day to be extra thankful for good men, men like Joseph who support their families, carry heavy loads, who lend strong back and patient ear to those they care for. I'm blessed to know lots of men like Joseph, faithful and obedient to God, righteous and kind. I think I'll try to spend today praying for them. I hope you know a few men like St. Joseph too.

peace of Christ to you,

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Friday, March 16, 2007

Book Review: A Mother's Rule of Life

I actually finished reading Holly Pierlot's "A Mother's Rule of Life" awhile ago, but I put off reviewing it till I'd actually tried some of the author's ideas in real life.

Holly Pierlot is a mother of five who felt like throwing in the towel when it came to housekeeping, homeschooling and generally caring for her large household of children. In praying through her frustration, she realized that "Jesus was asking for the dedication of my entire self to my vocation."

To continue:

I understood that this dedication went beyond just my housework and could not be limited to home management. What Jesus wanted from me was to pull together all I had learned from him and from my study of what it means to be a Christian and a woman, a wife and a mother, and a member of the Church and society. He wanted me to analyze my vocation, to see what he was calling me to, and then to implement it in my life. He was talking about a Rule of Life that goes far beyond a housekeeping schedule; nothing short of a complete and proper ordering of my life.

The book continues in a discussion of her research into monastic rules of life, and how the lessons found there might be applied to the vocation of a married woman. Unlike most "organize your life" books, A Mother's Rule of Life urges you to begin with an examination of your relationship to God and your duties, and to order your life around that vocation, instead of fitting your vocation in between your appointments. I cannot tell you how very much I appreciate this approach.

For example, Mrs. Pierlot begins with "prayer" as the first duty of any Christian, and asks the question, "What types of prayer practices do I think are reasonable for any Christian to do on a daily basis?" And that, friends, is what she recommends scheduling into your day first.

On a practical level, when she explains how she scheduled her day out, she does something brilliant I've never seen in any other organizational book: she schedules out her children's days too, in relation to her. How often have you wanted to say something along the lines of, "Yep, I'll just do chores for three hours straight and the house will look great!" but realized that if you do that your kids will go nutty? Pierlot wisely advises planning something for your children to do while you're busy, as well as considering what they need to do each day.

(If your kids are under five, like mine are, looking at her Rule might be discouraging. At my house, there's no twelve-year-old to load the dishwasher! Still, I found it helpful to have a column for each of my kids in the day's schedule. Even if most of the items in their column are labeled "play", "eat" and "nap", it's good to not have to wonder what they're going to be doing while I work.)

Holly Pierlot's actual Rule, which she only comes to at the very end of the book (most of the book is dedicated to working your own Rule out), is too long to quote here. But let me quote what she calls "The Spirit of My Mother's Rule of Life":

In seeking Christian perfection
within the married vocation, as I
repeat with the Blessed Mother:

"Behold the handmaid of the Lord.
Be it done to me according to thy word.

Isn't that great?

This book reminded me strongly of Brother Lawrence's Practicing the Presence of God. Especially Pierlot's suggestion of a short prayer, such as "Jesus, I do this for the love of thee", each time we turn from one activity of our day to start another. She talks about how praying through our vocation, and setting a pattern for our daily life provides a great freedom, because we know that at every moment of our day, we are doing what we ought to do. She says:

As I began to live my Rule, I became excited by the very fact that day by day, and moment by moment, I was trying to fulfill God's will in my life. As a nun vows obedience to her superiors, I was practicing obedience to the demands of my vocation as reflected in my daily duties. I was obeying God with each and every action I performed, right down to loading the dishwasher and feeding the cats.

It's been said that the unexamined life is not worth living. This is a book written specifically to help the Christian woman live an examined and holy life. I highly recommend it.

peace of Christ to you,

p.s. Seriously, getting to read good books might be the very best part of writing this blog. :D

This post contains Amazon affiliate links; if you purchase a book from this link, I receive a small percentage of the purchase price.  (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Thursday, March 15, 2007

p.s., again

The new blog doesn't mean I'm abandoning this one. It's more of a scrapbook for my hobby of recipe-sampling.

Also, wow, thanks, to those of you who replied to the post on Morning Prayer. I was really encouraged by your comments. Thanks so much.

peace of Christ to you,

from print to page

I love trying new recipes. So, like any sensible person, I've decided to blog about that adventure.

Go here to read I Made It: From Print to Page. I've got links to the recipes themselves and pictures of how they turned out in my kitchen, along with info about whether they tasted as good as they looked!

Let me know what you think.

peace of Christ to you,

Morning Prayer Again

I've been reading the Morning Prayer service regularly now for several weeks. As I keep up this habit, I'm finding more and more things to like about it.

I like that it's made getting ready to take communion easier. Before mass, you're supposed to examine yourself, and confess any sins you've committed since the last time you went to mass. I don't know about you, but for me, this often consists of running through the past week quickly in my head, and then apologizing to my husband in the car on the way to church. Not exactly ideal.

But since I've been reading Morning Prayer every day, it's felt like I'm keeping shorter accounts. One of the first prayers in the service is the Confession, preceded by a moment of silence to think of what you're confessing. Doing this every day leaves me feeling much more prepared to take communion, because Sunday morning on the way to church is not the first time in the week I've consciously repented of my sins!

(I also have to note that confessing my sins every day prompts me to sin less, either because daily confession reminds me of what my perpetual temptations are, or because the thought of confessing later what I'm about to do now is so distasteful that I avoid the sin in order to avoid the confession. :D Either way, it's a good deterrant, and I'm grateful.)

I also like that morning prayer provides a set time and place to pray for my friends and family, especially the ones who are undergoing some particular trial or suffering some particular sorrow, or who are taking a stab at some particularly hard duty. You always say you'll pray for people, but it's easy to forget, and I find that Morning Prayer gives me one more place in my day to remember to make the petitions I promised to make. (The set place in MP to make those petitions, btw, is towards the end, just before the General Thanksgiving, where it says "Authorized intercessions and thanksgivings may follow.")

There's a lot more I like about Morning Prayer, but those three things alone: coming to communion more prepared, being prompted to sin less, and being prompted to pray for my loved ones, make saying Morning Prayer worthwhile for me.

And, maybe most importantly, I like starting my day by praising God. Saying, "Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever" feels like the right way for a Christian to begin her work each day. It's starting the day with worship, with giving God his due. It just feels right. I'm sorry I've come to this habit so late, but I'm very grateful to have it now. It feels like a present from God. A "here, do this; it will serve me and help you." A very fatherly sort of a gift.

Which is to say, all this good stuff is not any virtue of mine. I think things like Morning Prayer, and all good traditions and words handed down to us by Christians who've gone before, are just more evidence of God's grace and love to us. I'm just glad that these resources exist to help us as we follow the Lord. He knows we need habits and help in order to be virtuous. I'm terribly afraid this post will sound snobby ("ooo, I read Morning Prayer"), but it's not meant that way. I just want to share something cool I've found. Please forgive me if it doesn't come across well! This post is meant as a thanksgiving. So . . .

Thanks be to God!

peace of Christ to you,

p.s. the picture is of an olive tree in my front yard. In honor of all the tree references in the Psalms, the Psalms being an integral part of Morning Prayer.

p.p.s. For those of you fellow moms reading, who wonder where in my day I have time for Morning Prayer: I read it while my daughter is in her room having her quiet time, and my son is nursing down for his first nap. (Bess' quiet time comes whenever Gamgee is ready to sleep. It's a moveable feast.)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

getting ready for St. Patrick's Day

Maybe you have Irish blood (I do!) and maybe you don't, but every Christian should be able to get excited about St. Patrick of Ireland. About a month ago, we celebrated the feast day of St. Brigid of Kildare, but even that wouldn't have been possible without the work of St. Patrick. Go here for a take on that excellent work of evangelism. I like especially this part:

Here is someone whose sufferings enlarged rather than degraded his soul, whose love for the Irish that had captured and enslaved him was one of the purest examples of Christ’s own, and whose simple, good-humored, faith-drenched manliness in the face of the multitude of serpents he indeed drove roaring and hissing from Ireland, should be held before the eyes of every Christian man, as his Breastplate—if not of Patrick’s composition, surely his own anyway--should be in every hymnal.

So what can you do to get ready to celebrate St. Patrick this Saturday? Well, among other things, you can learn the words to that Breastplate Hutchens mentions above. I love the hymn version of it. This is the song I sing whenever I am feeling afraid; it's reminder of the Trinity's might and power is always comforting, and the chorus that begins "Christ be with me/Christ within me" is a prayer I always want to pray. (The link includes a music file and lyrics, making it very easy to just start singing along.)

My other favorite thing to do in celebration of St. Patrick's day is eating corned beef and cabbage. Just buy a package of corned beef, stick it in your crockpot with chopped cabbage and enough water to cover meat and veg, then cook it all day on low. (Or follow the package directions.) It's delicious. (And if you go to the store right after the 17th, you should find corned beef brisket on sale at bargain prices. Buy some to stick in the freezer for later.)

Finally? Find a clover leaf and teach your kids about the Trinity. It's never too early to start learning good theology!

peace of Christ to you,

p.s. Today's picture is of our baby orange tree. It thinks it can bear two hundred and three oranges all by itself. I'm not so sure.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

WFMW: double French roll

Okay, so this is a slightly strange Works for me Wednesday, but this has worked for me all day long:

It's a double french roll. A real french roll is extremely elegant, and very hard to do. This, on the other hand, took less than five minutes, and it's stayed in all day. (And I don't know about you, but I always feel better when I don't have to fix my hair every five minutes, or push it out of my face every ten.) Now - you can see it's not perfect, but I still felt prettier than I do with just a ponytail. :)

To do it, put the top half of your hair up in a rubberband (loop your hair so that it's all up on top of your head, out of the way of the bottom half). Then, take the loose bottom half of your hair, twist it round a pen or a chopstick, and roll it all towards your head. You want to end up with the chopstick vertical, if that makes sense. Stick a couple of long bobby pins alongside the chopstick, pinning the rolled hair to the hair next to your scalp. Slide the chopstick out - your hair roll should stay put.

Take the top half of your hair out of the rubberband, and repeat the above rolling and pinning process with the top half of your hair. Pin any loose bits in. All done!

This works best with wet hair, btw. It's working for me - hope it works for you!

peace of Christ to you,

p.s. Some of you wanted to see how my wading pool cutting garden turned out. Here's a progress pic:

Book Review: What is Easter?

This could go under the "Preparing for Easter" series, because I think pre-ordering this (from store or library, whatever) would be a good thing to do if you've got little ones in the house, but I'll just stick with calling it a book review.

"What is Easter?" is a charming little board book, written by Michelle Medlock Adams and illustrated by Amy Wummer. It's probably a little too advanced for the one-year old crowd (though they might like the pictures), a stretch for the two-year olds (a good stretch) and just about right for someone who's three.

The first half of the book is full of questions. Questions like: "Is Easter about hunting eggs? I do that every year. Does it mean eating chocolate stuff? I ate my bunny's ear."

It answers those questions about halfway through with a definitive: "NO! That's not what Easter means . . ." and proceeds to explain about the crucifixion, the resurrection, and how Jesus came to save us from our sins.

One of the things I like about this book is that it explains the true meaning of the holiday ("holy day") but doesn't denigrate the traditions that have grown up around it. Take this last rhyme for example:

"Okay, now I get it.
The Easter Bunny is okay.
And Easter eggs are fun.
But Easter's not about that stuff ...
It's all about God's son."

Pretty cool, no? I like the reminder that cultural celebrations are okay, as long as they don't obscure the real, religious, true reason for the celebration. Pretty sophisticated concept for a kids' book, but well-presented, and easy enough for a toddler to get.

peace of Christ to you,

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Monday, March 12, 2007

birthdays: a part of the church year?

A year ago today, I was very, very, very pregnant. In fact, a year ago tomorrow, I was to wake up at about 2 am, not to go to sleep again till just before midnight. The intervening time I spent giving birth to our son.

In the church, we tend to celebrate death days, not birth days (Christmas being the notable exception). Why? Well, partly because those days often mark martyrdoms and partly because no one knows on a saint's birthday that that date is going to be worth remembering 20, 30 or 80 years later. But mostly because the day of a saint's death is the day of the fulfilment of that saint's hope: he is finally to be found in the full presence of his Lord.

Still, it's customary in our culture to celebrate birthdays, and I think it's a fine tradition. (Ever since becoming a mother, though, I've felt a little self-conscious on my own birthday, realizing that I wasn't the one doing the real work so many years ago!) Birthdays are a chance to thank God for the gift of a loved one, to really pay attention to the people you live and work with, to really appreciate the people who make your ordinary life such a good ordinary life.

In my church, people with birthdays upcoming in the week get to take up the Eucharistic gifts during the offertory. The priest accepts the gifts from them, and then prays God's blessing on them for the following year. So, at least in my experience, birthdays are a part of the church year. There's also a whole church service, "A Thanksgiving for the Birth or Adoption of a Child," in the Book of Common prayer, to celebrate the adding of new members to a family.

I think viewing birthdays as part of the church year makes sense. We're supposed to love our neighbors as ourselves, and that tells you, among other things, that you have to love specific people. In fact, the people right in front of you. And family, especially children, are people we have specific duties toward, especially the duty of loving them. Birthdays are a chance to remember God's grace, to pray for his future blessing, and to enjoy his current gifts.

so, my son, my beautiful one-year-old-tomorrow child: I thank God for you. May he always be your God and father, may you grow to love and obey him, and may he grant us the privilege of raising you to a healthy, happy adulthood in his grace, by his mercy, for the sake of his love. Amen.

peace of Christ to you,

Menu Monday

This week, our menu has two Irish nights on it, in honor of St. Patrick. Even if you're not Irish, you can get excited about St. Patrick; he was an amazing man, missionary, bishop and Christian.

Without further ado, here's what we're eating this week:

Monday: Corn-Sausage Chowder and fruit

Tuesday: My MIL is providing dinner, 'cause it's my son's first birthday!

Wednesday: Colcannon soup with Farmhouse Crackers (from the Irish food section of this month's Vegetarian Tiems)

Thursday: Orange Chicken with Rice Pilaf, and Broccoli with Red Pepper and Toasted Garlic

Friday: going to my parents' house (hmmm, this is quite a week for eating the grandparent's cooking)

Saturday: Corned Beef, Cabbage and Irish Soda Bread, what else? :D

Here's the recipe for the Corn-Sausage Chowder, which is pretty easy to make, and absolutely scrumptious:

-1 lb. sausage
-1 c. chopped onion
-3 c. chopped (1/2") potatoes
-2 c. water
-1 t. salt
-1/2 t. dried oregano
-1/8 t. black pepper
-1 15 1/4 oz. can corn, drained
-1 14 3/4 oz. can creamed corn, undrained
-1 12 oz. can evaporated milk

1) Cook and crumble sausage and onion till cooked an tender. Drain oil.
2) Stir in potatoes, water and spices. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook almost 10 minutes, or till potato is tender.
3) Add corn and evaporated milk. Cook and stir till heated through.

I got that recipe quite awhile ago out of American Baby magazine, of all places!

peace of Christ to you,

March 12: the feast day of Gregory the Great, Bishop of Rome

"Non Angli, sed Angeli."

Those, famously, are the words that Pope Gregory the Great said when he saw fair-skinned, blue-eyed English children for sale in a slave market. (Translation: "They are not Angles, but angels.") Why is this important? Well, it's said that seeing those children is what prompted him to send Augustine of Canterbury up to England to convert the Angles - Augustine of Canterbury was, of course, the first Archbishop of Canterbury; it's an important event in the founding of what came to be the Anglican church. (I'd heard the story before, but forgotten Gregory's involvement in it. It's also worth noting that there's some controversy over whether the Angles he saw were slaves, or visiting freemen.)

And, honestly, that's the most I got out of this long Wikipedia entry on Gregory the Great, partly because the man lived such a life! There's so much there, and so many preserved writings by and about Gregory, that it's hard to find one common theme emerging. He was bright, and charitable, but he was also a great diplomat, and took some actions in increasing the role of the papacy that doubtless contributed to the Great Schism some hundreds of years later. (How could he know?)

Perhaps a better resources is this article from the Catholic Encyclopedia. It is very, very long, but skimming it will give you an idea of just how complicated was an age we usually think of as "simple" and "dark".

Gregorian chant takes its name from this pope, so if nothing else, listen to some today as you wash the dishes, and think of all those millions of saints whose actions hundreds of years ago are still helping us to worship the Lord. Their music, their theology, and the results of their actions are still with us. Try to live today so that the Christians after you will have cause to be grateful for your life. But, looking at Gregory, know that what becomes of what you do is still in the Lord's hands, not yours, despite your best efforts. And pray for grace. :)

peace of Christ to you,

Friday, March 9, 2007

"went to the zoo, and I'm gettin' sleepy . . ."

My daughter now knows for sure that giraffes are real. She has seen them with her very own eyes.

I have no great spiritual insight to draw from that, even if it does remind me of the apostle's "what we have seen with our eyes, that which our hands have touched . . . concerning the word of truth."

Enough to say that there are days in the church year like this, where you get to go to somewhere glorious, full of beautiful, colorful, riotously imaginative examples of the Lord's creativity, and though your mind is filled to over-flowing with images, your fingers don't want to type another keystroke.

So, 'night, folks. May your near future contain glimpses of God's gorgeous creativity, and at least one day when you spend enough time tromping around through creation with people you love that you are happily exhausted by the end of it.

peace of Christ to you,

Monday, March 5, 2007

Book Review: The Catholic Home

Several times, while reading The Catholic Home by Meredith Gould, I've felt like hanging up my keyboard. Why does anyone, after all, need this blog I'm writing, when they could just go and read Dr. Gould's book?

I comforted myself with the thought that Dr. Gould is Roman Catholic, and I'm Anglican, and so at the very least that allows me to offer something different, but honest and truly folks, this is a book any liturgically-minded Christian homemaker ought to read. If for no other reason than that it's so much FUN. (Did you know that there's a tradition of mountain-climbing to celebrate the Ascension? There is! And did you know you maybe ought to lay off the Easter bunnies, but take up Easter lamb decorations in their place? Really!)

In the preface to her book, Gould talks about asking around her church, to find out "how fellow parishioners reinforce their Catholic identity and practice at home." She found that there was a dearth of knowledge on that score, and asserts that though "no one seems to want the return of empty ritual . . . there does seem to be a felt longing for ways to reflect the awe, delight, and gratitude of living in and for Christ at home among today's young Catholics."

So Gould spends a delightful 205 pages (plus generous appendices and index) talking about just how to go about doing that. The first half of the book follows the church year, talking about how to celebrate everything from Advent to Ordinary Time at home. The second half (okay, more like last third) is composed of two chapters: "Daily Devotions" and "Honoring the Sacraments."

Here's a sample of her writing, from the section on Pentecost:

Medieval churchgoers were treated to the spectacle of a dove figurine, flowers, water, and flaming straw raining down from the church ceiling during Mass. No, you do not have to unseal a skylight or carve a hole in your roof. It would be dramatic enough to reclaim the tradition of hanging carved wooden doves from the ceiling above your dining table for this feast day.

The best thing about this book is that while it could have turned easily into a book of trivia, it's not one. It's chockful of obscure and interesting facts, sure enough, but Gould manages to fit all the minutiae into an overarching narration about worshipping God in an orderly manner, so that it's a book you really do want to sit down and read straight through before setting it in an easy-to-reach spot on your reference shelf.

Disclaimer here: I disagree amazingly with some of her theology. But only for the reasons that make me Protestant and not Catholic. (Nonetheless, she quotes frequently from the Catholic Catechism, and I have to say that some of those quotations make me swoon with envy over the glory of their centuries of good theologians.)

So, my conclusion on the Catholic Home by Meredith Gould: buy it! It's good!

peace of Christ to you,

This post contains Amazon affiliate links; if you purchase a book from this link, I receive a small percentage of the purchase price.  (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Getting Ready For Easter, Part 1: flowers

Since I find myself often celebrating feast days the day after (because it takes me the day itself to realize what day it is, and another day to figure out how to celebrate it), I thought I'd start planning ahead and do a series on getting ready for Easter.

The first thing that springs to mind is rather frivilous, and that's flowers. I have trouble every buying cut flowers, because they're so expensive. But they are rather glorious, and glorious things are good to have around on Easter, because they remind us of the truly glorious: the ressurected Christ.

But if you plan now, you might still have enough time to get a bulb or two to sprout, or to water that dead-looking iris patch in the side yard enough to convince it to bloom, or to find someone with a calla lily patch who's willing to let you dig for calla lily tubers. In other words, peek around and find something that might flower by Easter, or someone who has a flowering tree you can plan on taking cuttings from, or even a good bunch of silk flowers on sale at the thrift store, and you can have your glorious Easter flowers in time to have them on your Easter table.

(And if not your Easter Sunday table, just sometime in Easter - it's fifty days long!)

I don't mean to say, by the way, that you must have flowers in order to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord. You certainly don't! But if that is something you'll want on April 8, and if you're a slow planner like me, it's something to start thinking about.

peace of Christ to you,


The part of housekeeping I look forward to least, but never actually hate once I'm doing it, is doing our finances. The math and the categorizing are actually kind of fun, but I always dread having to drag out notebook and pen and paper and checkbook and bills and filing folder and all that other stuff that seems to take over about a ten foot square area of floor whenever I do it.

My husband and I make a budget every year - and this last year we did it over a delicious dinner out - and then keep track of what we spend the rest of the year, and see how we do when the end of the year comes 'round again. Our fiscal year starts on our anniversary, because that's when we first started holding everything in our life in common. (Remember the old marriage vows? "With my body, I thee worship; with all my worldly goods, I thee endow"?)

Anyway, I was trying to think, last time I was about it, how this part of my housekeeping could possibly have anything to do with the church year, when I remembered how often the Bible talks about money. It talks about it A LOT. And I realized that taking care of the budget is what enables us to give money at church. If I didn't keep the checkbook in order, well, we couldn't write a check for the offering plate.

It's a simple connection, but it makes me a little bit happier about a chore I don't like.

And it makes me think that there's probably a connection between everything I do at home and the Christian life. Maybe some chores (like reading Bible stories to my babies) have obvious connections and some chores (like dusting. really, why?) have subtle ones, but they all have them.

And if there is something I'm doing that I find has no connection to my Christian life, maybe I should not be doing it.

:D and there's your homemaking reflection for the day.

peace of Christ to you,

Friday is always a fast day

Sunday is always a feast day
and Coffee Heath Bar Crunch is the best ice cream in the whole, wide world.

peace of Christ to you,

Thursday, March 1, 2007

fasting that sticks

Here's the other fasting thought that's been going through my head recently: sometimes fasting sticks.

Not fasting-fasting. Not the serious fasting the Eastern Orthodox do, for instance, where they basically go completely vegan, with one full meal a day and two other smaller meals that together don't add up to a second complete meal. (This is what I've read, if I'm wrong, I hope any EO readers will feel free to correct me.) Or the sort of fasting that means really truly going without any food at all. That sort of fasting could kill you if you continued it year-round. (Especially the second!)

No, what I'm talking about is the kind of fasting popular with my crowd. The "I'm fasting from TV", "I'm fasting from chocolate", "I'm fasting from video-games" kind. I've noticed that from time to time, these fasts stick. These fasts are the "I'm giving up something superfluous" fasts. And, from time to time, maybe even more often than not, in giving up something superfluous, something that you are allowed to have, but that is perhaps not the best of things in which to indulge, you realize that it really is, well, superfluous.

Take the video games example. If you give them up for forty days, however much you like them, you may begin to see that they were replacing other, better things in your life. Time for prayer, say, or friendships. (I'm using video games just 'cause it's something I've never given up, so it feels very "for example" to me - not 'cause I think they're particularly awful or anything.)

I don't know. Again, I have nowhere profound to go with my fasting musing. Just noting that you should be careful what vanity you give up. Because in forty days, you might very well learn how very well you can live without it.

peace of Christ to you,

p.s. I haven't mentioned before, but perhaps I should, given the audience a homemaking blog is likely to attract: if you're pregnant, nursing, under eighteen, have an eating disorder, or anything similar, food fasts are probably not for you. I'm not expert, and am not claiming to be, and would suggest you check with priest, doctor and/or parent, as is appropriate. Actually, that might apply to non-pregnant, non-lactating types too. :D

you're kidding, right?

That's what my brain told me right after Lent started, as I caught a glimpse of something from which I was fasting. I wanted it, it wasn't bad in and of itself, and when I reminded myself that I couldn't have any, to my shock, my response to myself was, "You're kidding, right?"

Myself than told myself that myself is rather entitled, and shut the fridge.

But seriously, does anyone else have this sort of response when you start a fast? That sort of weird feeling of disbelief that you're actually being denied (by yourself!) this thing that you want? And then the shocked realization that you're not used to being denied things that you want, and that you might (perhaps!) be a bit of a brat?

In my own, brief, defense, it's not that I'm totally unaccustomed to self-denial. But usually my self-denial is the reasonable kind. It's not as hard as it could be to deny myself that dream roadtrip across country when I look at my kids and realize that my indulgence would be their hurt. Toddlers need their mommies nearby, not five states away. Not to mention that my dream roadtrip would kill the family budget!

In other words, I think we get used to denying ourselves the things that we can't have anyway. At least most mature people do. I think those who don't are probably perpetually unhappy. (Which is to say, while this is a good skill to have, it's not exactly the rocket science of the spiritual realm. I'm used to self-denial in that I've reached adulthood, not in that I've reached sainthood.)

I get in trouble when I have to deny myself the things that I can have and may have, especially the things that come easily. Like candy. It's a small thing, but it's not until I tried going without, once upon a Lent, that I realized how often you run across candy in this country, how easy it is to get, and how often I did. And how much I wanted it. David Mills posted recently about his experience of giving up coffee for Lent and finding himself accidently taking on a Coca-Cola habit instead.

He points out (and I think that this is the point I'm trying to get to) that part of the point of Lenten fasting is to discover just how much of a hold the world has on you. How hard it is to give up the little pleasures. (He continues on to say that the second benefit is learning, when you get to breaking your fast, how good those pleasures really are - you learn a new appreciation for God's bounty after you've separated yourself from it for awhile.) This seems an apt place to recall C.S. Lewis' scary observation (via Screwtape) that our feeling as we get older that we're finally "finding our place in the world" is really because the world is finding it's place in us. Shiver.

Anyway, I feel weird blogging about fasting at all, given Jesus' instruction about going about life as if you weren't fasting while you fast, but I'm not sure I can spend all Lent avoiding the topic, given the nature of this blog. I'm hoping that a few "what I'm learning" posts aren't disobeying that command. Please forgive me if I do it badly. Mostly this is to say: wow, fasting makes me really aware of how childish I still am inside. That, and: go read David Mills' post. It's really good.

peace of Christ to you,