Saturday, December 31, 2011

Boys on a Winter Morning

Robert Louis Stevenson

Late lies the wintry sun a-bed,
A frosty, fiery sleepy-head;
Blinks but an hour or two; and then,
A blood-red orange, sets again.

Before the stars have left the skies,
At morning in the dark I rise;
And shivering in my nakedness,
By the cold candle, bathe and dress.

Close by the jolly fire I sit
To warm my frozen bones a bit;
Or with a reindeer-sled, explore
The colder countries round the door.

When to go out, my nurse doth wrap
Me in my comforter and cap;
The cold wind burns my face, and blows
Its frosty pepper up my nose.

Black are my steps on silver sod;
Thick blows my frosty breath abroad;
And tree and house, and hill and lake,
Are frosted like a wedding cake.


Friday, December 30, 2011

A Delicious, Healthy Breakfast

Might look weird, but they really tasted great!   
This morning I decided to start with my new plan for healthier eating in 2012.  One of my goals is to increase dramatically my vegetable intake, so this morning I scoured my refrigerator for likely vegetables to include in my breakfast.  I found some leftover broccoli, a few green onions, and a red pepper, along with a bunch of parsley.  So, this is what I made:
Scrambled Eggs and Vegies!!!
1.  First, cut up a few strips of bacon and begin to fry it up in your favorite cast iron pan.  I love my cast iron pan.  It heats evenly, washes up so easily (if I wash it right away), and even adds iron to my diet! I can use it on the stovetop and also in the oven.  If the power goes out, I can use it over a fire without destroying it.  I can turn on the burner and forget it for a few minutes without melting or ruining the pan.  It lasts forever.  I always put a dishrag under it when I wash it in my porcelain sink to keep it from leaving black marks all over.  My pan was a gift from a friend, but it is easy to find pre-treated pans.  I love the sloping sides on my pan.
I added a link over on the sidebar under "Things I Love" so you can see exactly which pan I have.
2.  While the bacon is sizzling up and getting oh-so-crispy-and-delicious smelling, chop up some vegetables.  I used the red pepper, green onion, and leftover broccoli I had on hand, but green peppers, regular or red onions, and spinach would all taste great, too.  When the bacon is crisp, add the vegetables and cook a few minutes.
3.  While the vegetables are cooking, stir together however many eggs you would like (I used 3), salt, pepper, and a few scoops of sour cream. When they are well mixed and the vegetables are starting to get just a little soft, pour the eggs into the pan.  Cook up just as if you were cooking scrambled  eggs.  When they are finished to your liking, scoop onto a plate and top with chopped fresh herbs (I used the parsley) or grated cheese.
Simple, quick, delicious, and vegie-laden!  That's just what I wanted for breakfast!
Wish you could join me!

The Holy Family

The Holy Family, Bartolome Esteban Murillo
     When we think of the Holy Family, we often visualize them as surrounded by a  semi-haloed golden-glow of light in the midst of a fragrant, snug, rather quaint little stable.  This is an endearing mental picture, but does not give us a true idea of the life of the most extraordinary family that ever lived. In truth, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus lived an ordinary life, filled with all manner of ordinary tasks and daily routines.  It was a three-meals a day, scrub the laundry, mend the shirts, spin the yarn,  knead the bread kind of existence.  Daily duty, daily labor. The extraordinary in the midst of the utterly ordinary.

     Our lives, too, reflect this truth. Struggling through another round of repetitive never-to-be-entirely-finished  daily chores, we find within ourselves the same extraordinary mystery that dwelt in the house in Nazareth:  Christ in us. 

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church,  of which I became a minister according to the divine office which was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now made manifest to his saints.  To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.~Colossians 1: 24-27, RSV

During this feast of the Holy Family, may we all seek and find within our own homes the Presence of the extraordinary in the midst of our daily ordinary duties.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel ~ God-With-Us.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Dare I Share????

I'm so happy to have found two of the Christmas 2011 photos I thought were gone for good! These were shots I took of my wonderful husband and our six younger children.  I had forgotten that I emailed them to my Mac so I could send them on to my eldest son who is in Afghanistan.  They are so ordinary, though, I hesitate to post them.  They aren't good photos, or lovely, or specially posed.  They are "the real McCoy"! You can see our white board "fireplace" down in the lower right hand corner, our improvised stockings hanging by the horizontal blinds with care, our son struggling to get loose, and the completely unmatched pajama situation that has truly gotten out of hand!  Our children above are in the midst of a game of Boggle with the felt Jesse tree on the wall behind them. 

Dear readers, I really struggled to find happiness this Christmas.  We were away from our home in Virginia for a second year and I was in a place that I don't like or feel at home in.  It was so hard to make it lovely, although it was a bit lovelier than these pictures show (I did take some great shots of our tree and our Christmas dinner spread...those are gone for good, though).  I had to confront some not-so-pleasant-to-see truths about what was important to me, what I value most.  And I found it was not the twinkly lights, though they are lovely.  It was not the flickering fire, though that is cheery and warming.  It was the people in my life, my dear loved ones, who saved Christmas for me and made it joyful.  

My delight was in snuggling those dear boys in their unmatched jammies and playing seriously competitive Boggle with my dear daughters.  My joy was in seeing the growth and maturity in my 20-something son's eyes and the warm feeling of being loved that came from thinking about the willingness of my college-aged son and daughter to drive 5 hours through horrible traffic just to spend Christmas day with us.  And although I didn't get a picture of them, I also was so blessed by my second oldest son and his wife, who drove several hours to spend Christmas Eve Day with us before heading off to her folk's home for Christmas Day.  We walked the beach together and played Pictionary (with me having to draw words like loitering and cartography, while others were given crayon and barn...I'm not usually suspicious, but....) My oldest son called many times before he finally was able to reach us and wish us Merry Christmas, and that was also a source of great joy, as was being able to talk to his sweet wife and our grandchildren on Christmas Day. But the greatest gift of all was looking at my husband of 31 years and knowing he loves me more this Christmas than he ever has, that he accepts me just as I am--not an easy thing!--and that he and I together with God's help have created this lovely family.

The heart of the joy of my Christmas this year was family.

And isn't that the true meaning of Christmas, after all?  Isn't that why Jesus came to us that first Christmas night?  Shivering in a cold cavern, lying in a crude manger of straw, He came to us in order to bring us home to our family, in order to bring us home to our Father. 

"Heavenly Father, you have given us a model of life in the Holy Family of Nazareth. Help us, O loving Father to make our family another Nazareth where love, peace and joy reign. May it be deeply contemplative, intensely Eucharistic and vibrant with joy. Help us to stay together in joy and sorrow through family prayer. Teach us to see Jesus in the members of our family especially in their distressing disguise. May the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus make our hearts meek and humble like His and help us to carry out our family duties in a holy way. May we love one another as God loves each one of us more and more each day, and forgive each other's faults as You forgive our sins. Help us, O loving Father to take whatever You give and to give whatever You take with a big smile. Immaculate Heart of Mary, cause of our joy, pray for us. St. Joseph, pray for us. Holy Guardian Angels be always with us, guide and protect us. Amen."~Blessed Theresa of Calcutta

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Adventures in the Cloud

This was supposed to be a Christmas blog post.  You might notice the lovely cloud above which rained down upon my Christmas tree today.  

This is a Christmas Tree:

Clearly, it is not MY Christmas Tree, all aglow with happy children opening presents beneath it.  And why not?  Because, in a disastrous encounter with technology,  I managed to delete all of my Christmas pictures.  

I decided to commit to iCloud before it was too late to backup my life, but I didn't backup my iPhone before I completely downloaded a new operating system, hence obliterating my most recent photos. Aaahh,  technology!  So many mysterious ins and outs!

In spite of my inability to post cute and ever-so-interesting pictures of my family and our lovely packages and delicious food, I hope you all are having a wonderful Octave of Christmas!  Oh, and here's a photo from last year---

Monday, December 26, 2011

St. Stephen Being Led to His Martyrdom,  Fra Angelico

     Today is the feast of St. Stephen, the Proto-Martyr (or first witness). His courage and conviction are clearly show to us in the Book of Acts, chapters  6 and 7.  His faithful witness ultimately won to Christ one of his own murderers, the great Apostle, St. Paul. 

Coronation of St. Stephen, Annibale Carracci

     Although it is not his feast day,  it was also on this day that, according to legend,  Saint Wenceslas I , Duke of Bohemia (in the area of the modern day Czech Republic) trudged out on a snowy night to feed the poor.  This charitable ruler was renowned for such acts of generosity, as the 12th-century author of the Cosmas of Prague recounts:

      But his deeds I think you know better than I could tell you; for, as is read in his Passion, no one doubts that, rising every night from his noble bed, with bare feet and only one chamberlain, he went around to God’s churches and gave alms generously to widows, orphans, those in prison and afflicted by every difficulty, so much so that he was considered, not a prince, but the father of all the wretched.

St. Stephen and St. Wenceslas, pray for me that I might, by the power of the Holy Spirit, grow in charity, generosity, and compassion.  Help me to give even when it is not easy or convenient; make me more aware of the needs of the people who surround me in my daily life.  May all of my giving be done as if I were giving to Jesus Himself.  In His service, you were willing to offer even your lives.  Pray for me that I may offer myself as completely to God as you did.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!


Wishing you and all of your loved ones a holy, blessed, and joyful Christmas!

Friday, December 23, 2011

O Antiphons: O Emmanuel

The Nativity, Schongauer

O Emmanuel: 

“O Emmanuel, 

king and lawgiver,

desire of the nations, 

Savior of all people, 

come and set us free, Lord our God.”

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Almost there!

The sink....

The laundry....

The cookies.....

The coffee....


Hope your Christmas chores aren't overwhelming you!  Take a break and have a cuppa'!

O Antiphons: O Rex Gentium

O Rex Gentium:

“O King of all the nations, 
the only joy of every human heart; 
O Keystone of the mighty arch of man,
come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust.”

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Deer in the Headlights

So, this is me this week.  Christmas is speeding toward me, its shimmering lights reflecting off of my stunned expression!  What to do first?  Wrap? Bake? Shop? Clean? Read a Christmas story? Hide under the covers?  It can be pretty overwhelming.

Now is the time to step back and take a moment to re-focus on the reality of the coming Emmanuel, God-with-us.  It is beyond our ability to conceive, to imagine, or to comprehend that the Infinite, the Almighty, the Great Creator, the Everlasting God became a baby.  And not only this, which in itself was a total abandonment of His privileges of Divinity, but He united Himself to a human body in order to suffer a horrific death--the death of the cross.

For let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man. He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross. For which cause God also hath exalted him, and hath given him a name which is above all names:  That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth: And that every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father.  Philippians 2:5-11

How can it be that He so desires to be with me, with you, intimately united to our daily lives that He would endure such suffering and abandonment?  Scripture tells us that "Jesus, the author and finisher of faith, who having joy set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and now sitteth on the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2" And what was the "joy set before him"?  It was US!  It was His union with you and with me,  the reality of His Presence in our lives.  As Christ is our joy at this Christmas season, so we are His joy.  We are His delight, His desire, His love.  I pray for you, my friend, that you may truly experience in a powerful and profound way His joy, His love, and His peace during the last few days of this holy Advent season.

      I salute you. I am your friend and my love for you goes deep. There is nothing I can give you which you have not got; but there is much, very much, that, while I cannot give it, you can take. No Heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in it today. Take Heaven! No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instant. Take peace!
     The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy. There is radiance and glory in the darkness, could we but see; and to see, we have only to look. I beseech you to look.
      Life is so generous a giver, but we, judging its gifts by their covering, cast them away as ugly or heavy or hard. Remove the covering, and you will find beneath it a living splendor, woven of love, by wisdom, with power. Welcome it, grasp it, and you touch the Angel’s hand that brings it to you. Everything we call a trial, a sorrow, or a duty: believe me, that angel’s hand is there; the gift is there, and the wonder of an overshadowing Presence. Our joys, too: be not content with them as joys, they too conceal diviner gifts.
     Life is so full of meaning and of purpose, so full of beauty—beneath its covering—that you will find that earth but cloaks your heaven. Courage, then to claim it: that is all! But courage you have; and the knowledge that we are pilgrims together, wending through unknown country, home.
And so, at this Christmas time, I greet you; not quite as the world sends greetings, but with profound esteem, and with the prayer that for you, now and forever, the day breaks and the shadows flee away."
– Fra Giovanni Giocondo

Nativity, Lorenzo Costa (1460-1535)

The wonder of this Love is the true wonder of Christmas.  May His Presence fill your heart and give you Peace in the midst of the activities and joys of this week as you meditate on the joy of His coming.

O Antiphons: O Oriens

The Resurrection, Veronese 

O Oriens: 

“O Radiant Dawn,
splendor of eternal light,  sun of justice: 
come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.”

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

O Antiphons: O Clavis David

Christ Freeing the Captives, The Chora Museum
O Clavis David: 

 O Key of David, 
O royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of Heaven:
Come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom.

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Cup of Tea....aaaaahhhhh!

My tea and some special flowers!

     Happily, I was reminded just a bit ago by Dawn that it is teatime!  What a relief!  After doing Christmas preparation tasks all day,  I was ready for a cup of warm, fragrant vanilla rooibos tea.
I don't have a fancy teacup, but I do have some beautiful flowers sent to me by my son and his wife.
Off to watch the sunset and sip my tea!

O Antiphons: O Radix Jesse

The Jesse Tree

O Radix Jesse: 

O Flower of Jesse’s stem,
you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples; 
kings stand silent in your presence;
the nations bow down in worship before you.
Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

O Antiphons: O Adonai

Christ Pantocrator
O Adonai

O sacred Lord of ancient Israel, 
who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, 
who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain: 
come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.

Friday, December 16, 2011

O Antiphons: O Sapientia

Christ the Wisdom of God Icon

O Sapientia:
O Wisdom, O holy Word of God, 
you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care.
Come and show your people the way to salvation.

     Today the Church begins to pray the Great "O" Antiphons at Evening Prayer.  Let us meditate on the glory and mercy of our soon-to-come Lord.  Prepare your hearts, the Bridegroom comes!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Seven Things About Myself

      Over at Family in Feast and Feria,  Jennifer posted seven things about herself and suggested her readers do likewise.  So, here are the seven things:

1)  I always have a pile...I mean A PILE... of books on my nightstand that I am reading simultaneously.  I love to have options!  Right now on my nightstand I have Primitive Christian Symbols (also available as a free ebook here), I Believe in LoveRobert the Bruce: King of Scots, Conferences to Children on Practical Virtue, The Way of the Storyteller, Christmastide, and, always, The Liturgy of the Hours.  I sometimes read novels, but not usually.  I just finished Mink River , a birthday gift from my sister, which I really enjoyed.

2)  I grew up in the lovely, wet state of Washington.
I still miss the salt water of Puget Sound,
the moderate climate, and my many family
members who live out there.  I visit for weeks
every summer and get my fill (almost!) of rock
throwing, motorboat riding, and sisterly chatting.
I just had to post this picture of my amazingly adorable
great-niece (YIKES!) standing in front of the beautiful blue Pacific...isn't she so cute? 

3)  I have lately gotten hooked on Lumosity, which is a brain training website.  As I get (lots!) older, I find my brain is not what it once was!  This site has lots of fun games to build attention, speed, problem solving, memory, and something else that I have now forgotten!  So there it is!

4)  I am dreaming of spring and expanding my little garden.  I have loved my herbs best of all: rosemary, thyme, chives, tarragon, basil, sorrel, summer savory, and oregano.  I keep losing my sage...maybe too much water???  I am currently enjoying reading books that help me dream:
In the French Kitchen Garden  and Taylor's Weekend Gardening Guide to Kitchen Gardens.  Oh, and The Glass Pantry. (Umm, these aren't on my nightstand...they are in the living room in ANOTHER stack of books by my embarassing!)

My Rosemary
And here's a favorite appetizer recipe I often make for holiday gatherings:

 Recipe for Rosemary Walnuts
from Nourishing Traditions

2 cups crispy (that's roasted) walnuts
2 T. butter
2 T. dried rosemary, or use a bunch of fresh (like 8 T.)
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

Melt butter with rosemary, salt, and cayenne pepper.  Toss with walnuts.  Bake at 350 for ten minutes.  Store in covered container in refrigerator.

5)  Because of the circumstances of my life right now, I am without many of my beloved Advent/Christmas liturgical year resources.  I am trying to learn to focus on the spiritual preparations that are appropriate to this time of year.  Detachment doesn't come easily to me, but the Lord keeps on putting me in situations where I am forced to let go.  I consider this a great grace on His part; He doesn't give up on pathetic me.  Each time I must let go, I learn a tiny bit more about His sufficiency and my own weaknesses.

St. John of the Cross

     In detachment the spirit finds quiet and repose, for coveting nothing, nothing wearies it by elation and nothing oppresses it by dejection, because it stands in the centre of its own humility...

St. John of the Cross, The Ascent of Mount Carmel

6)  I have a crockpot of split pea soup made with homemade stock simmering away for dinner tonight.  I'm the only one who will like it, but sometimes Mamma just has to be kind to herself!  I make it once a year, so I figure they will all survive having it for ONE meal.  I mean, it's a penitential season, right?  I think I'll read George and Martha to the kids (George hides his split pea soup in his shoe so he doesn't offend  his friend Martha, who made it).

      "Martha was very fond of making split pea soup. Sometimes she made it all day long.  Pots and pots of split pea soup.
     "If there was one thing George was not fond of, it was split pea soup.  As a matter of fact, George hated split pea soup more than anything else in the world. But it was so hard to tell Martha."
               from George and Martha: Split Pea Soup
               by James Marshall

7)  I am contemplating these days the nature of the proper balance between reading about living and actually participating in life.  It is good to read about holiness, but then we must live it.  It is fun to read about gardening, but then we must get out and dig.  Sometimes I read too much.  A few years ago at Lent I actually gave up reading for about a penance! (Obviously, that didn't include books I read to my children, just my own reading).  I am finding as I get older that there is so much to learn in this world and so little time to learn it that most of what I want to accomplish will surely be left undone.  I am working on making my days more about a steady pacing of living a holy life well and of experiencing nature, life, and the people around me.

Life is a balancing act.

So, there ya' go!  Everything you never wondered about me!