Sunday, February 13, 2011

Prayer, fasting and abstinence for a special intention ...

will mean this blog will be on hiatus for the next 14 days. 
We have seen a house that is available for sale ... an 1838 house that is in a perfect spot, cutting dh's commute 30 minutes EACH way, near all the friends we have down here, and more than 1.5 acres around the house (so LOTS of play area for the kids).  I SOOO want to move to this house ...


we'd need a major miracle to have all things come together.  In asking God's divine providence to "kick in", I am planning to fast (drinking only tea/water/coffee and not eating any sweets), to pray more (by going to daily Mass and carving an hour out of each day for prayer time), and to (and this is a BIGGIE for me) abstain from the Internet (by only checking email twice a day and not doing anything else online). 

We are asking for a clear sign from God whether or not to pursue this house ...

So I will update you all on this intention on March 1st (which is also String Bean's 11th birthday).  Will you please add your prayer to my self-imposed sacrifices while I'm away?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Gateau Basque for Our Lady of Lourdes!

Gateau Basque ala Hilltop Farm! 
I mentioned in my earlier post that we'd be making Gateau Basque for dessert.  Because it is just IMPOSSIBLE for me to follow directions, here's the recipe as I made it for the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes:

Gateau Basque 
8 servings; pan size: 9" springform
2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
8 oz butter, softened (2 sticks)
3 eggs
1-1/4 cup sugar
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup jam (I used Bonne Maman Wild Blueberry for the Blessed Mother!)
1 egg yolk for brushing the top
cinnamon-sugar (optional)

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Butter the spring-form pan (my pans are NOT non-stick and I highly recommend using these Kaiser ones!) and then set aside.

In a bowl, mix the flours, sugar and baking powder together.  Add eggs and butter, stirring until well-combined.

Take half the dough and spread it in the pan, lifting it up the sides about 1/2" or so.  Pour the jam into the center of the cake, spreading it evenly out to the sides (but leave about an inch or so border so the jam doesn't leak out).

Sprinkle a bit of flour on your work surface and roll the second half of the dough out into a circle that is the same size as the pan.  Place this on top of the jam/dough and ensure the jam is completely sealed within.

Mix the egg yolk with a few drops of water and "paint" the top crust with this mixture.  Optional: sprinkle cinnamon-sugar on top for an added bit of sweet!

Place in the preheated over for about 25 minutes or until the cake is golden and done.  Wait 10 mins and then run a knife round the edge of the pan.  Pop off the spring-form and voila! 



Feast Day: Our Lady of Lourdes

Our family is very tied-into the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes:  my husband and I met while we were teaching at Our Lady of Lourdes School .... we were married at Our Lady of Lourdes Church ... two of our children were baptized at Our Lady of Lourdes Church ... we've been very blessed to go to Lourdes as a family, twice -- once in 2000 and again in 2001.  My maternal great-grandfather came from the Basque village of  Oloron-Ste.Marie, about 20 miles west of Lourdes in the Pyrennes.

We have many connections.

This apparition of Our Lady to St. Bernadette in a grotto in the south of France 18 times in the 1850s is one of the most visited shrines in the world.  Catholics, Christians, Jews ... even pagans go to Lourdes to pray and become whole in mind, body and spirit.  Some are cured ... some are eased in their illness ... some are left with the crippling diseases which have brought them to this spot.  But all leave with a sense of peace and love and care that only the Blessed Mother and her Son can bring.

It is an amazing place like none other on earth ... a place of prayer ... a place of peace ... a place of love.  The candlelight prayer service everynight is amazing: singing and crying and praying in different languages, warmed by the glow of the thousands and thousands of candles that fill the area in front of the Cathedral.  There is a constant flow of penitents into and out of the Confessional Building, where the Sacrament of Reconciliation is offered all day every day in just about every language.  The Blessed Sacrament is available for adoration as is Holy Mass throughout the day.  The sick ... wheeled in on stretchers or wheel chairs, some even carried ... are all there for a special healing service in the afternoon, every afternoon. 

What a haven of peace and Divine love in the midst of our 21st Century.

Today, we'll read stories from The Wonders of Lourdes: 150 Miraculous Stories of the Power of Prayer ... we'll watch Bernadette and Song of Bernadette (we started last night by watching Loretta Young in Road to Lourdes).  We'll eat Tuna Lorenzo (tuna salad on homemade English muffins, broiled) and Gateau Basque (I'll post our version later) ... and of course, we'll pray for all those who are sick, suffering or dying as well as praying in thanksgiving for God's Love which allowed St. Bernadette to see Mary and God's Charity which continues the miraculous cures into the 21st century.


mater et magistra ... the ONLY Catholic homeschool magazine ....

... needs your help.  Margot, publisher of m-et-m, received word that the magazine has been selected by the readers of the Catholicism GuideSite as one of the five finalists for Best Catholic Magazine in the 2011 Catholicism Readers' Choice Awards! 
Starting at 12:00 A.M. EST on Friday, February 11, 2011, and running until 11:59 P.M. EST on March 8, 2011, Catholics from around the world will cast their votes in this category (and in nine more). The competition will be fierce; I encourage you to get the word out to your supporters as soon as you can after 12:00 A.M. EST on Friday, February 11, 2011.

Here's the form to vote for m-et-m (as well as other great Catholic sites) as the Best Catholic Magazine. 
The winner will be announced on March 15, 2011. Please help m-et-m and chose it as the Best Catholic Magazine, because it is!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Review: The Mountains Bow Down

Well, this was a disppointment!  I'd only give this one 2 stars, maybe 3 if I was feeling extra-generous.

The Mountains Bow Down: A Raleigh Harmon Novel is the first Raleigh Harmon book I've read (seems there are three before this one). So what I have to say may not be true if you've read the previous books.

Raleigh Harmon is an FBI agent who goes up to Alaska on a cruise with her mom, aunt and Claire the Clairvoyant on "vacation" only to get caught up in a suicide/murder and major gem theft. She is helped by Jack Stephanson, a man she worked with earlier when she was working in the Seattle FBI office. An added twist (or complication) is the fact that she is now back to working in the Richmond FBI office, newly engaged to a Southern aristocrat and her widowed mother is bordering on having a nervous breakdown.  This would probably make better sense if you'd read the earlier books ... but it SHOULD stand-alone and not be quite so confusing as this one is.

That's just the synopsis of the plot affecting Raleigh.  This doesn't include the sub-plots of ship-board crimes (including a rather graphic description of Turkish ship-workers who are also pornography-film makers), narcissistic Hollywood types and their issues and .... well, sex drugs and rock and roll pretty much sums it up. See what I think it's a bit convoluted?

That all said, the primary mystery is a very good mystery although I don't think the author, Sibella Giorello, plays fair in that the stolen rocks are a very rare, found-only-in-California, mineral that even Raleigh (who is supposed to be a geologist) has never seen before. The reader doesn't understand the point of the rocks as the key until right near the end ...

I also don't much care for Raleigh Harmon's character -- she is self-centered, a work-aholic, who says she loves her mentally ill mother but doesn't drop everything to help her, being caught up in the case instead. She lies to "protect" her mom but actually just makes it all worse.  She is engaged to an old sweetheart who she ignores when he repeatedly calls her and when she does finally talk to him is angry that he's partying with old school friends. She's supposed to be a "forensic geologist" and yet she spends more time being just a detective ... why have her constantly reminding other characters about her "geology education". A further irritating character-flaw with Raleigh is that she is supposed to be so smart and such a great agent and yet is very cynical and sarcastic and rude to people she's trying to get to help her.  Her former boss in the Seattle office is treated almost as a buffoon and yet he does everything he can to help her.

The other characters include Aunt Charlotte who is quite odd and hard to understand while her friend Claire the Clairvoyant is truly over-the-top weird but then she ends up helping Raleigh set up the bad guys. Very strange.  The character of special agent Stephanson is much better drawn and believable. And I love the character of the Dutch ship's captain, Geert! The victim's family and friends are not very sympathetic and the other cruise customers are ridiculed throughout the nove.

I also have to say that this particular book, although supposedly Christian fiction, is not that at all. The reference to Christianity and organized religion are all snide slurs including comments from the ship's chaplain of "well, it's ok that the Cross was ripped off the wall ... it's such a bummer for people" or Aunt Charlotte's new ageiness that has her saying that she used to be like Raleigh's mother until she stopped buying into the whole Episcopal thing. I don't know how the other Raleigh Harmon books read .. but this one is not a winner!

Disclaimer: I received this book at part of Thomas Nelson's Book Sneeze program. The critique above is my honest reaction to this work of fiction.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Yarn-along: February 9th edition ...

With this yarn-along, I can FINALLY say that I am FINALLY finished with "Victoria's Tee" (formerly named "Victoria's Tank" but String Bean and I are planning a tea party for her bday so tee/tea is on my mind)  ... all is done but the blocking, photographing in situ, and writing up the design.  I think it turned out nicely, don't you?
On my needles now is the cashmere vest ... I've got the pattern all charted out, casted-on and now the knitting begins.  This is similar to the Snow on the Mountains designs but since I can NEVER repeat, I've changed it slightly just for this design. 
On the reading front:  the kids and I are finishing up The Book of Story Beginnings ... a wonderful read-aloud and exciting story that proves the value of writing good beginnings for a great ending!  Waiting underneath is the classic The Pushcart War ... I remember really enjoying this when I was younger and someone's mention of it the other day reminded me that I hadn't yet read it to my kids.  We will remedy that as soon as The Book of Story Beginnings is done.

For my personal reading I've got two books just starting up:  The Mountains Bow Down is one I'm reading to review for Thomas Nelson Books and Sweater Quest: my year of knitting dangerously is just for me as I've heard great things about it (and it's about knitting so why not give it a shot!)

So how is your knitting/reading adventure evolving this week?  Head on over to Ginny's and check out the links to some wonderful folks' activities!

What happens when you have a sister home for Christmas break ...

after her first semester of culinary arts study?
Chef Boy-ar-dee, of course!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Fabulous Movie for Family Movie Night!

The recently re-issued movie, Saint John Baptist De La Salle: Patron Saint of Teachers, is a marvelous movie to watch for Family Movie Night. Starring Mel Ferrer as De La Salle and Fernando Rey as one of his young recruits, the movie is a wonderful overview of De La Salle's life from being named canon at the Cathedral in Rheims at the age of 28 to establishing the Brothers of Christian Schools at 41 and then dying at the age of 68, having established Christian Brother schools throughout France.

De La Salle (1651-1719) was from a wealthy French family, orphaned in the midst of attending seminary. As the eldest, De La Salle was made executor of his father's estate and guardian of his younger brothers and sisters. The movie opens with him and his family in their lavish home and a layman asking him to help set up a school for the poor in Rhiems. As De La Salle commits more and more of his own personal resources to helping educate the poor (as well as teaching teachers to be teachers), he begins to move from being a Courtier Churchman to being a helper of all, educating the poor and rich alike. Once he starts on this path, he never looks back!

The movie is not glitzy, glamorous or even very high tech. Done probably in the 1960s (although I couldn't find an actual date), this movie does its best to tell the story of this man who put others first ... this man who discerned God's will for himself and did it ... this man who ignored the criticism of family and friends to help all people learn! This is a cozy, "Sunday-afternoon family movie" type of movie. It tells a great story (some bit of truth-stretching for story-telling's sake) of a great man.
Mel Ferrer becomes this humble priest, with loving eyes and actions throughout. The viewer has a sense the Ferrer truly understood De La Salle's theology and philosophy -- not playing the role too high-brow or insipid. Fernando Rey starts the movie as a young, tough, street kid and ends up as one of De La Salle's most active brothers. The rest of the cast -- all European actors -- add wonderful support to the movie.

One thing you can always count on with Ignatius Press videos is the booklet that they package with the DVD. The booklet included in this movie includes a detailed biography, information about De La Salle's teaching philosophies (or "pedagogy") , and an overview of the Christian Brothers today (with website links for further information).

Thanks, Ignatius Press for republishing this wonderful look at a man many teachers, especially Catholic school teachers, should try to emulate!

You can purchase this DVD here.

Disclaimer:  I wrote this review of Saint John Baptist De La Salle for the Tiber River Blogger Review program, created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods, your source for Baptism Gifts and First Communion Gifts. For more information and to purchase, please visit Aquinas and More Catholic Goods.

Tiber River is the first Catholic book review site, started in 2000 to help you make informed decisions about Catholic book purchases.  I receive free product samples as compensation for writing reviews for Tiber River.


Monday, February 7, 2011

Review: Life Without Limits: Inspiration for a Ridiculously Good Life

Wow!  Here's a book to give to every teen with angst, to those who have lost their jobs, to those who feel they are less than perfect in body, mind or lifestyle.  Life Without Limits by Nick Vujicic is inspriational, motivational, humorous, sad and just a great read. 

This book challenges every reader to turn disabilities into abilities ... challenges into opportunities ... failures into new directions. Vujicic demands that the reader find the sugar for the lemonade that life's lemons require. And he does it with humor, personal anecdotes and lots of love for all.

Nick Vujicic, a now-28 year old man, was born without arms or legs (except for a little, two-toed flipper on his left side). He credits God's plan and his parents' love and family's optimism for getting him to where he is now -- an uber successful businessman, evangelist, inspirational speaker and writer. How did he get from contemplating suicide at the age of 10 to scuba-diving and surfing at the age of 27?

It's all here in this book.

But this book is much more than an interesting autobiography. This book is filled with the "wisdom of the ages" ... with the philosophy of living "a ridiculously good life". But it's not Pollyanna stuff here. This inspirational book tries to get the reader to see beyond the negative ... beyond the failed enterprise, the lost job, the less-than-perfect body. To get the reader to see that God has a plan for each and every one of us ... and once we find that path, we are good to go.

He talks about having a great attitude ... about getting the attitude by being grateful for what you do have, from acting on what works and ditching what doesn't, from empathizing with others who are worse off, and by forgiving those who may have hurt you or upset you (and in doing so, forgiving yourself!).  He talks about change for the good:  recognizing the need, envisioning what the "new" would look like/be like, forgetting about the past and moving forward, getting settled to make the "new" the "now", and to keep growing and not stagnate or say, "I'm where I should be ... doing what I should do ... and now I should never change this."  He talks about the "ridiculous rules" ... the rules necessary for dealing with the small and large risks of living on this Earth: 
  1. test the waters to ensure you know what you're jumping into
  2. understand and start from knowledge of what you're about to do
  3. make sure you're "jumping off" at the right time
  4. ask dear friends, mentors, even enemies their opinion of what you're about to do
  5. prepare for the seen and unforseen ... in other words, overestimate costs and underestimate revenue
Sprinkled throughout his motivational pep talks and autobiographical anecdotes are information about others whom Vujicic has met throughout his journey -- other quadriplegics/physically disabled, achingly poor and destitute, prisoners and materially-rich/spiritually poor folks.  He mentions kids, adults, famous people and not-so-famous people.  He shows that God has made us each differently ... and wonderfully ... and for a reason. 

No wonder Vujicic is such an in-demand speaker ... his love for God and all God's creatures emanates from the 200+ pages of this book. You can learn more about Nick by checking out his site:

Great book I'd recommend for teens and older (especially teens or young adults going thru angst of not fitting in or despairing).

Disclaimer: I rec'd this book as part of Blogging for Books review program. The review above is my honest opinion of Life Without Limits: Inspiration for a Ridiculously Good Life.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Feast Day: St. Blaise

Note the wool-carding comb in his right hand!
... invoked for sore throats/throat problems (and the traditional blessing-of-throats on his feast day) because of a story that he dislodged a fishbone from a choking boy's throat.  When I was little, invariably I would have a sore throat on St. Blaise's feast day (guess I wanted to prove his intercessions would heal my throat!). 

St. Blaise is also the patron of wool workers/combers. 

Why, you ask? 

Well it seems that during the reign of Emperor Licinius, there was a cruel and violent persecution of all Christians ... Bishop Blaise (in Sebaste, Armenia) was arrested, thrown in jail and after being sentenced to die, was tortured by being "combed" by metal wool combs.  After this particularly gruesome torture, St. Blaise was beheaded.

So if you go to get your throats blessed today, remember to wear wool in the good saint's honor!

St. Blaise, you kept the faith even under horrible tortures, even unto death ... may I be as steadfast in always defending my faith. 

St. Blaise, patron of throat disorders and wool carders, pray for us!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Feast: Presentation of the Lord (Candlemas)

Initially called the "festival of lights", inspired by the words of Simeon, this feast led to the custom of blessing candles, giving the feast its popular name of Candlemas.  This feast also concludes the birth cleebrations and begins the route toward Easter with the offering by the Virign Mother of her firstborn and the prophecy of Simeon. [excerpted from Rosa Giorgi's Saints: A Year in Faith and Art ... a book we used daily!]

May we always be "a light to the Gentiles", too!

Yarn Along: February 2nd edition

What's on my needles:  still haven't gotten the long circs for the cashmere vest design, so I'm continuing to plug away at my "Victoria's Tee"... it's slow going only because I great hair-brained ideas and drop this and whip up something else (this weekend, it was the nested Easter baskets for my handcrafts column in mater-et-magistra!).  But I'm loving the way the fabric feels and I think it will be quite a nice design ... though I'm still chomping at the bit to get cracking on the cashmere!

On my book table:  LOVING Life Without Limits: Inspiration for a Ridiculously Good Life by Nick Vujicic.  This is a GREAT book.  Here's a guy born without arms or legs who loves God and life and wants us all to love God and life, too.  It's an amazing read.

Read-aloud:  We started The Book of Story Beginnings by Kristin Kladstrup ... an odd but engaging book.  It's fitting in nicely with my wanting to get the kids writing more so that is all to the good.  As I mentioned ... a bit odd but we're enjoying it!

Head on over to Ginny's, where she has a linky-list of others who are also enjoying these yarn-alongs.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Feast Day: St. Brigid of Kildare and Anne's birthday ...

Today is one of String Bean's patronal feasts ... St. Brigid of Ireland ... we'll make BarmBrack and I've already made a confetti cake (for the weather-cancelled St. Agnes Fiber Club meeting) ... so we are good to go.

It is also my favorite sister's 55th birthday today!  God bless you, Aunt Anne ... we love you.  Thanks for helping the kids with the "snow dance" ... we have another snow-day today!
And may all your angels keep you warm ... and cozy ... and safe ... wherever you go today!