Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Holy Week: Spy Wednesday

Traditionally, this day of Holy Week is known as Spy Wednesday ... the day Judas Iscariot betrays Jesus by selling Him for 30 pieces of silver (the "going" price at the time for a slave). 
How often do I betray Jesus ... how often to I sell Him for an extra hour of sleep ... or by being too busy for the sacraments ... or by not living the life I know He wants me to live....

How often am I a Judas, betraying Jesus while seeming to love Him?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Knitting: wouldn't these be cute in Easter Baskets?

Here's one of my knitted designs in the Knit Picks' Independent Designers Program.  Elegant Eliza would look very cute in your daughter's Easter Basket, no?  But if you only have boys ... or aren't into pink ... there is no reason you couldn't knit an Edgar or Edward Bunny in "boy" colors (KP has lovely colors in their Comfy Worsted)  ... or you could do a bunny in au naturel in one of their Simply Cotton Organic Worsted.

Here's Eliza without her skirt so you can get an idea of how easy it would be to change her "look".

The pattern is downloadable at Knit Picks for $1.99.  Let me know what you come up with!  Enjoy the knitting and the season!

Nature: Vinca

Personally, I can't stand this ground-cover in the summer: it's creepy the way it takes over and strangles all in its path (which is why it's name means "to bind or fetter").

But in spring, with all its lovely little purple flowers dotting the greenery, it's beautiful and very seasonal!

An Amazon Anniversary ...

As many of you know, yesterday was my 12th wedding anniversary (in addition to being the Feast of the Annunciation, of course!).  The traditional and modern gifts for 12th anniversaries are silk and linen -- neither of which we're into ... we're much more the wool and denim type.  Dinner is always a possibility, but we're pretty low-key folks ... and we only have under-12s at home now ... I decided to keep it simple (especially since it was the tail-end of a tough school week for dh). 

Rather than getting dressed up all fancy ... going out to an expensive restaurant ... deciding to take the kids or hire a babysitter ... we stayed in.  I ordered everything from Amazon (and thus, the title of this post was born) and spent far less than we would have going out ... and it was better!

Here's what we did to make the 12th special and memorable:
  • Black and Decker waffle iron for homemade waffles -- this is the kind of waffle-maker we had as kids; I love this thing!  It folds flat and has smooth/bumpy plates so you can have a griddle, sandwich-maker or waffle iron.  And the waffles are the nice square ones that fit into a standard toaster -- perfect for making a huge batch and feeding the kids breakfast for a few days!
  • Bob's Red Mill buckwheat pancake and waffle mix -- Rick loves the taste of buckwheat and Bob's Red Mill has the best mixes with all natural ingredients.  Now you can buy direct from Bob or through grocery stores, but Amazon packs four bags of the mix into one sturdy box and it's much more economical.  And with the state the economy is in, economical is hip and groovy around here!
  • French-press coffee in a new, unbreakable carafe -- this is the only way to make coffee.  And since this carafe is truly unbreakable (well, for normal use) we can even bring it with us when we go camping this summer.  We had Peet's Coffee and enjoyed every drop of this elixir -- dh gave it up for Lent and I've been cutting way back, so it was a real treat to have real coffee (I know, I know .... we're just a couple of wild-and-crazy folks).
Well, I think you figure out that we had breakfast for dinner.  A big bowl of warmed cherries, blueberries and blackberries with a sweet syrup (just added powdered sugar and let the fruit sit in it all day -- makes a lovely syrup) for topping with a dollop of plain yogurt and gorgeous bacon ... and we were all set (and I never had to fight crowds or waste gas looking for stuff).  A dozen long-stem pink roses from dh decorated our table and Marian altar quite nicely.

After dinner we watched a family movie -- Saving Sarah Cain -- which had been recommended by Kotch (18yo college daughter). What a great movie!  The kids wanted to see Up! but we like "real people solving real problem" movies for family movie night ..... and the kids and adults were enthralled with this one.

Thank you to all our lovely readers who sent notes of love and prayers .... we appreciate each and every one of you.  The kids thought this was the best anniversary ever ... and we had to concur.

That is until next year's anniversary!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

FEAST DAY: Feast of the Annunciation of Our Lord to Mary

We love this feast ... not only is it a great solemnity honoring the fact that Mary said "YES!" to God and the Word was made Incarnate ... not only is it a beautiful gift to us honoring and reminding us of Mary's great faith and obedience ... not only is it a harbinger of Spring and the soon-to-come Easter season ...

it is also our wedding anniversary! 

12 years ago today, Rick and I stood before a couple of wonderful priests, with a church filled with family, friends, students, and faculty, with my sister cantoring and my dear FIL as best man and my dear friend Kris as matron of honor ... and we spoke our vows to love, honor and obey.  That day we placed roses before the icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa and placed our family under Mary's protective mantle.

We, too, said "YES!" to God that day ... and we continue everyday of our married life to say "YES!"

I love you Rick more today than I did 12 years ago ... may we continue to grow old and grey together, handsome!

BTW, the image at the top is a shrinky-dink plaque I made a few years ago ... it's the size of a postcard and I made a series of Marian plaques which we take out each feast to adorn our family altar.  The original picture was one from Waltzing Matilda -- but I added Mary knitting (how else did Jesus get a "seamless garment" that the Romans couldn't rip?)....

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Field Trip: James Madison's Montpelier

Today is James Madison's 259th birthday.  We know that because they celebrate at his home (and later retirement spot) with a special wreath-laying ceremony by representatives of the US Marine Corps (who knew that the USMC considers Madison their "father") at his grave and allow free admission to his home and gardens.  Which is great for us as it would cost $40 for the kids and I to go see this wonderful spot of American History!

Not only was James Madison our 4th president, he was the one who wrote the United States Constitution.  But he didn't just slap words on paper -- Mr. Madison spent the year before the conference, studying other past republics and non-monarchies to figure out WHY they failed and thus prevent our "great experiment" from failing .... and some two hundred twenty-three years later, we're still going strong!

It was a glorious Spring day down in Orange County, VA ... a strong breeze was slowly blowing the clouds away and you could see the Blue Ridge from the front porch of Montpelier ...
The original house (where the Madisons moved to when James was 13 or so) was smaller than what you'll see today.  Here, you can see the extensions that James Madison put onto Montpelier while he was President -- he and Dolley MUCH preferred entertaining down here than up in stuffy Washington at the new White House -- their guests concurred and there were always anywhere from 25-200 people "visiting".
The kids had a blast getting to know the Madisons ....

exploring the grounds ... including "Mr. Madison's Temple" -- 30 feet below this structure was the Madison "refrigerator" where ice from the nearby river kept food cold all summer long ...

we were also able to see the Archaeology Lab, where the kids could look at artifacts already tagged, bits and pieces still being identified and even practice at a "real" dig.  VERY cool!

We were sorry to end our tour ... although the kids were pretty hungry by then so willingly allowed mom one last look at the Kitchens before heading for lunch!

BTW, James Madison's mother, always called "Mother Madison" or "the old lady" .... always had by her side: her Bible, her prayer book, and her KNITTING!  (On top of that, she had 12 kids and homeschooled them all through what we would call middle school, if not beyond.)  I need to find out more about this woman!

On our way home (Montpelier is only 30 minutes from home ... pretty darn cool!), we stopped at our public library to drop off/pick up books and guess what -- I won a coffee/tea lovers basket for an adult reading program .... the end to a perfect outing!

Review: What's in a Word? Read it and find out!

I love words.

I love how the English language has so many words to describe a myriad of objects, thoughts and feelings.  I love how good authors can use the English language to create a "play on words", puns or subtle jokes that take the reader by surprise; I'm not talking highbrow academicians but folks like PG Wodehouse or GKChesterton.  I love to discover how words came to mean what they mean today ... often a very convoluted route that starts way back in ancient or medieval times.

Thus, I was delighted to see Webb Garrison's book, What's in a Word: Fascinating Stories of More than 350 Everyday Words and Phrases, republished this year by Thomas Nelson Publishers.   I wish the publishers had realized what a fun, oft-read book this will become -- they printed it on newsprint type pages that won't hold up to as much reading as we'll give this book.

Etymology, the study of word origins and meanings, is a fascinating topic.  Garrison says in the introduction that he was young when he first started his interest in and love of words and etymology; I was the same way -- it started when I was little (probably a result of my mom's interest in words).  One of my favorite professors in grad-school used to give us "cocktail tidbits" about words when he finished his econ lectures early.  I loved those tidbits and sought out more.  But the study of etymology can get a bit dry and boring; a bit more scientific than the tidbits shared by my prof.

Garrison's book succeeds in NOT being dry and boring; his book has wonderful one-or-two-paragraph explanations of words that we use everyday.  Words like "checkmate", "curfew", "lens" and "moccasin" are explained in a chatty, story-like format to ensure that the reader ENJOYS learning where these words originated.  Garrison also includes common phrases like "eleventh hour", "raising Cain", "on the spot" and "put on the dog", clearly and entertainingly elucidating their meanings and origins for the reader.

This would be a great book to give my 5th grade son as a break from his vocabulary work; or a high schooler when working on a paper; or even just to have lying about so that we can test each other's knowledge of words, learning a little bit in the process and enjoying the english language.

I love words. 

This book was received free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their Book Sneeze program.  I was not required to write a favorable review nor was I given any payment other than a free copy of the book. All the comments above are my honest reaction to this book.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Review: Wisdom for Everyday Life From the Book of Revelation

Confession time:  I've NEVER read the Book of Revelations, the last book of the Bible.  All that symbolism and end-of-times stuff is a bit over my head.  That is until I read Fr. Richard Veras' book, Wisdom for Everyday Life from the Book of Revelation.  Fr. Veras' book details all the symbolism and imagery throughout all 20 chapters of Revelation.
One thing that he is quick to point out is that Revelations is NOT just about the end-times; Revelations is "a catechesis that summarizes foundational truths of Christianity."  Father later explains that "the Church sets this book before us as inspired Scripture tells us that it has relevance for every Christian in every historical moment and circumstance.  The battle it speaks about is a universal battle, so it refers in some way to every battle, great and small, that is fought in the Church's pilgrimage through time."

How cool is that?  Who knew?

Here's another cool thought:  The book of Revelation seeks to underscore the infinite dimensions behind the encounter with Christ and the decision to follow him. ... (it) draws our attentin to the fact that following Jesus is a gesture of inestimable worth and incalulable proportion.

Father Veras goes through each chapter of Revelation, step by step, to explain the major themes (including that "Jesus Christ is truly present in the midst of His Church").  The symbolism and imagery in this last book of the Bible, as explained in Fr. Veras' book, is amazing!  There is such richness throughout this relatively small volume (only 130 pages long)!

The final chapter sums up Revelations:  the message is one of hope, hope and faith that Jesus will come again, but more importantly is that he is here with His Church ALL THE TIME and the faithful must rejoice in this fact. 

He who testifies to these things says,"Surely I am coming soon." Amen.  Come Lord Jesus!
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints.  Amen.  (Rev 22:20-21).

This is an amazing book by Fr. Richard Veras who is a pastor on Staten Island and has taught in parochial high schools.  He has a gift for ellucidating even the most cryptic of passages and applying each and every bit of the scripture to every day life.  I highly recommend this book for high schoolers and older, especially if you're like me, and have never read Revelations!

This review was written as part of the Catholic book Reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Wisdom for Everyday Life From the Book of Revelations and other great books and resources.

Veras, Fr. Richard -- Wisdom for Everyday Life from the Book of RevelationsServant Books (Cincinnati, OH).  2009.  isbn: 978-0-86716-905-8.  paperback (pgs 130).

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Knit Picks: Independent Designer's Program

My first, and hopefully not my last, pattern in the IDP at Knit Picks ... this is a great chance for small hand-knit designers like me to get their patterns published/out there to knitters everywhere.  Check it out and let me know what you think!  Looking doesn't cost a penny .... and downloading is $1.99.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Feast Day: St. Frances of Rome

This is definitely a saint I needed to read about today.  I'm always so sure that I know what should be happening, and God occasionally gives me little wake-up calls to the fact that He is truly in charge.  The kids will be writing out this prayer today .... and helping Mom to remember to pray, "help us to discern what comes from our will and what comes from God's desire."

Prayers today and every day ....

Monday, March 8, 2010

Feast Day: St. John of God


Saint John of God, help us to act out of love as soon as we feel the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Help us learn to fight the little voices in our heads and hearts that give us all sorts of practical reasons to wait or delay in our service of God.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Birthdays: thanks Aunt Steph and Uncle Tom!

... they are beautiful!  I love you! 
-- String Bean

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Review: Winston Churchill by John Perry

Part of a new series from Thomas Nelson called "Christian Encounters", John Perry's quick-read biography of the amazing Winston Churchill is fabulous!  Detailing the great-man's life from birth at Blenheim to death 91 years later, Perry awakens an interest in the reader to pursue further information about this British statesman.

Churchill, born to an upper-crust family (who lost all their money through various vices) in 1874, spent much of his growing up years away from home.  According to Perry, Churchill's closest "family member" was his nanny of many years, Elizabeth Everest, from whom Churchill learned about love and family and religion and loyalty.  Churchill went on to study at Sandhurst for a military career which he parlayed into a reporting job with first-hand accounts of Cuban conflicts, the Boer war and Indian insurrections.  Churchill had these accounts -- reportedly more fictionalized than fact -- published into books that were popularly successful, launching his now-famous political career.  They also netted him quite an income that allowed him to live a life-style that his family funds wouldn't have been able to afford.

Churchill's popularity led him to run for Parliament -- as a member of the House of Commons in 1900.  His political career, begun under the reign of Queen Victoria, spanned more than 60 years.  But his finest hour, for which he is most remembered, would be his drive and spirit and oratory during the dark years of World War 2.  Churchill consistently mentions in his letters, journals and public speeches, that God saved him through many childhood illnesses and accidents ... carried him through the time of being a prisoner of war during the Boer War ... kept bringing him back to Parliament for the express reason to have Churchill as Prime Minister of Britain during the war-torn years of  1940-45.

Throughout this book, Perry gives us peeks at Churchill's spirtituality, his understanding of religion, and his "take" on God.  Because of his upbringing -- basically raised by an Anglican, anti-Catholic nanny -- Churchill never felt pulled to any specific organized religion.  During his time spent fighting and reporting conflict in the early 1900s, Churchill began to study religion -- to understand his place in the greater scheme of things.  It was at this time that Churchill finally synthesized his own spirituality -- God is in His heaven, watching over us all, but man makes his own opportunities and responds accordingly.  In other words, Churchill would give God credit for the things he himself couldn't do (protecting Churchill from harm or disease) but also had a healthy (if not, egocentric) believe in his own greatness.

A quick-read at just 157 pages, this book gives a great introduction to a man who stood only five-foot-eight and yet comes down to us through history as a giant among men.  I would recommend this for upper highschool years and above.  A cool thing that Thomas Nelson Publishers has done is create an online reading-group guide to this book, as well as all the books in their Christian Encounter series.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Birthdays: she's getting older!

Today is StringBean's 10th birthday ... and she is becoming quite a little lady.  Curling her hair
or wearing it up in a bun
she is becoming quite the little lady and a far cry from previous years:
at 1
at 2 (and yes, I did knit this outfit and since we were in Austria ... it was PERFECT!)
at 3
at 6
at 2 months+ 6 days before 8
at 9!
Proof of her big-girlness is in the gifts she wanted this year.  Rather than a doll, or a toy, or a Wii game like Daring Game for Girls (which I would have LOVED at this age), she opted for a day spent with moi antiquing and eating lunch. 

We were SO excited to find the perfect piece for her room:
This 30s-40s style vanity is walnut-veneered with cubby-hole drawers!  It is so cool and she fell in love with it as soon as she saw it.  The really cool thing is the cloth in the center (just below the mirror) -- this is one of the hand-embroidered pieces Nanna sent StringBean.  StringBean's great-grandma did the embroidery!  It is gorgeous. 

The lamps on either side of the mirror carry out the old-style theme -- they were given to my parents 55 years ago for their wedding.  The lamps look so pretty lit --
Both top and bottom globes have bulbs, so if you want a night-light, you just light the bottom globe.  Beautiful!

To further this grown-up theme, StringBean's brother (now 11 and getting old himself), took her for a "date" to Subway for lunch.   N&P sent her a REAL sewing machine and even my sister, sensing StringBean's growing-up-ness, sent her a VERY special 10th bday present ... which we need to frame with Anne's note.

But, no matter how old you get, nothing can stop the joy of blowing out the candles on your very own chocolate-covered angel food cake with candles that equal 10 (7+1+1+1) ... which you have to eat all up since it's Lent:
God bless, you StringBean -- on this day and all year! 
You are a true joy and blessing to us all ... and we love you very, very much!