Thursday, April 29, 2010

Happy Name Day!

Anna was an American, although she did not know it.
She was born in Wisconsin, but her family spoke Polish,
as did most of the families that lived around her,
so she thought of herself as Polish,
even though she knew Poland was far, far away.

So begins the first book in the Latsch Valley Farm series by Anne Pellowski, First Farm in the Valley: Anna's Story. I was recently reminded of this series while searching for children's literature that reflects our Catholic heritage. I liked these because my own family shares a Polish heritage and geographic location with those in the story. The family is Catholic, and while that doesn't play a huge role in the books, you will find beautiful little surprises like this:

As they were getting up from the table, they heard the sound of faint singing coming from the direction of the road. It grew louder and louder.
"It sounds like a procession at church," laughed Mother nervously. "Has Father Snigourski decided to come all the way here to celebrate St. Anna's Day?"
"Let's go see," said Father with a smile.
They filed out of the house and waited in the yard. The singing grew louder. Soon the procession reached the top of the hill and they could see it as well as hear it. In front came Frances Cierzan, bearing the lovely wreath. The colored ribbons fluttered and danced in the breeze like a rainbow that had been separated into strips...

Laughing and singing, the procession moved up to where Mother was standing.
"Happy Name Day," said Frances as she placed the first wreath on Mother's head. Then Julia stepped up.
"Happy Name Day," she repeated as she put the second wreath on Anna's head. Anna was speechless. Of course, she had known it was her name day, too, but in the excitement of planning the surprise for Mother, she had forgotten all about herself...

"And now your surprise," laughed Mrs. Walski as she thrust a package into Anna's hands. "Careful! It could break, too." Mrs. and Mrs. Walski were Anna's godparents but this was the first name day present they had given her. With trembling fingers, she opened the package and when all the paper was lifted away, she saw a small statue in blue, white and gold. It was of a woman, holding a small girl in her arms.
"Why, it's St. Anna and her little daughter, Mary," cried Mother. "That will be a keepsake for the rest of your life." Everyone started to sing, and before long they were dancing in a circle and going in and out, first right and then left. They danced and danced, forgetting all about their work for the moment. At last, they could dance no more...

As Anna munched on the delicious honey cake, she thought she would explode from all the happy thoughts that were welling up inside her. She realized that she had done something unselfish, not for a minute thinking about herself, and her sisters had shared in that unselfishness. The good feeling spread through every bone and muscle in her body. She could almost feel it in her fingers and toes. "I wish it could be like this every day," thought Anna.

From Amazon:
In this new series, Anne Pellowski traces five generations of her family as they experience life in the upper Midwest. In Wisconsin in 1876, Anna lives on a farm and helps with the chores that keep the farm going. But she can't help but dream of someday visiting Poland, the romantic land of grand houses and castles.

They're being republished by Bethlehem Books and might be available at your public library.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A special Lego project

Check out Faith and Family for a letter and photos from a reader about a special gift for her son's First Holy Communion day. What a sweet and thoughtful idea for a Lego lover!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tea Party Food

Continuing yesterday's post about hosting a tea party for a large group, below you'll find what I served and how we did it.

Years ago when our parish started this event, we asked for donations of teacups and saucers, china dessert plates, and teapots. People very generously donated things and garage sale finds filled the rest of the need. After each year's Tea, volunteers carefully pack them all away in rubbermaid containers for the next year.

There are lots of appropriate choices for tea party food, but you'll want a good balance between sweets and savories, some fresh fruit is always nice, and, of course, tea is required. We also serve punch since only half of our audience is adults. I tend to choose recipes that can be at least partially prepared in advance, and things that don't require last minute baking. You can find good general information about hosting a tea party here and I have details about ours below.

Strawberries and Grapes
Lemon Poppyseed Bread and Strawberry Bread

Ginger Snaps
Cream Puffs

Deviled Eggs

And lots of notes:
  • I have a volunteer make the scones the day before (or if we're really lucky, the day of) the Tea.
  • The citrus curd and Devon cream can be made a week or two ahead of time. If you'd prefer not to make the citrus curd, I HIGHLY recommend this excellent product.
  • Fruit and nut breads (lemon, banana, strawberry, etc.) can all be made well in advance and frozen. Thaw the day before your event and slice just before serving.
  • I made the brownies the day before because I know the boxed ones get dry after freezing. If you want to use a moister homemade recipe, you might be able to make them in advance and freeze them in the pan. Do not freeze them with the frosting on.
  • The petit four "recipe" I use is sealed in icing. I've made them several days in advance with no adverse effects.
  • I like crisp gingersnaps for dipping in tea. These were purchased from Ikea (yes, Ikea) and I piped a flower on top. Personally, I think they're nicer to eat without the icing, but these were cute. These were crisp and thin and had a nice flavor.
  • Cream puffs are purchased from Sam's Club or Costco. They come frozen.
  • Mini cheesecakes can be made a month in advance if you're that organized. They freeze well; just top them after they're thawed.
  • The chicken salad can be made a few days in advance. Add the cashews the day they're served.
  • The breads are pretty moist, so don't make them too far in advance. I typically bake them on Saturday for my Sunday Tea. I think I've frozen them in the past, but don't remember for sure. If you test the theory, leave a comment.
  • Someone else made the roll-up sandwiches a day or two early and just dropped them off to be cut the day of the Tea.
  • I cooked the eggs on Tuesday, peeled them and mixed the filling Friday and filled them with a pastry bag and wide star tip the day of the Tea.
The key to being able to serve lots of different foods is to either divide the work between several helpers or to choose recipes that can be managed ahead of time.

Monday, April 26, 2010

A Mother Daughter Tea Party

Each year our parish hosts a tea party for girls aged 9-13 and their mothers as part of a larger program entitled All In God’s Plan. The goal of that three-part ministry is to inform parents of the Catholic view of human sexuality and to aid them as they communicate it to their children.

While our tea party, and it’s male counterpart, the Father/Son Barbecue, were last weekend, the events actually began several weeks ago with a required parent night where a speaker gave an overview of the very helpful document, The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality, experienced parents talked about practical ways they taught the topic in their own home, and a medical professional gave a brief overview of adolescent body changes, NFP and related issues. Parents were able to ask questions and evaluate the topics to be covered at the Tea and Barbecue events to see if it would be appropriate for their children to attend.

The outline of the Tea is always the same:

Guests arrive and are invited to have their photo taken in a cute little area all set up with Easter flowers and tea things. (The photos are developed right away as a souvenir of the special day together.)

A small group of mothers and daughters lead the others in 15 minutes of praise and worship time.

The first talk is given by a young woman from the parish, or someone recommended by the diocese. It’s Great to be a Girl! tells the girls about the blessings of being female and God’s unique love for us.

Next, we hear from a female Catholic doctor or nurse about nutrition and exercise for growing girls, and basic body changes a girl can expect.

Everyone moves into our social hall for the tea party to begin.

A teen girl from the parish gives a talk entitled When I Was Your Age. The girl chosen is always someone considered to be an excellent example for these younger girls. She talks about the importance of modest dress, choosing friends wisely, taking your faith life seriously, and developing a good relationship with your mom.

Next we hear from someone with a religious vocation about how she heard God’s call, and what her life is like as a religious.

The day ends with a very controlled Q & A session and a closing prayer.

We’ve been doing this for twelve or thirteen years and every year the evaluations are overwhelmingly positive. Parents appreciate the tools to do this job well and mother and daughters love the special day together. It’s not uncommon for people to attend 2 or even 3 years in a row, and often girls who are too old to attend as guests will return to help prepare food and serve the tables.

My role in the event is to manage the kitchen and tomorrow I’ll post a few notes about creating a tea party for 100 people.

This event was developed in our Archdiocese and you can contact the Office of Marriage, Family, and Life if you have questions. Several of the Church Ladies have experience with this program and we'd be glad to answer your questions also. Just email or leave them in the comment box.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Celebrating Sunday: Good Shepherd Sunday Edition

O save thy people, and bless thy heritage; be thou their shepherd, and carry them for ever.
[Ps 28, 9]

Tacos al Pastor
Shepherd's Pie

About Celebrating Sunday

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Earth Day!

CHICAGO – says it’s time to use Earth Day to celebrate nature’s greatest gift – human life.

With bus ads starting today in Chicago and next week in San Francisco and Seattle, is encouraging Americans to rethink how they celebrate Earth Day, and how we to go about building a culture that respects the environment.

“Our goal is to use Earth Day to get Americans to think more deeply about what it means to truly respect the Earth and creation. Prevailing environmental attitudes too often view humans as the enemy of nature. We believe the human person is God’s greatest creation, and the Earth’s greatest resource. Building up a culture of life is the single most important way to build a culture that respects the environment,” said Brian Burch, President of Education Fund.

(I'm pretty sure this is too wide to embed well here, so click on the link above to see it properly. Or perhaps one of my fellow Church Ladies can come to my rescue, technically speaking.)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

"The wonders of early human development"

"The Endowment for Human Development (EHD) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving health science education and public health. EHD equips educators, clinicians, and governments to help everyone appreciate, apply, and communicate the science of health and human development."

This group takes a "neutral" stand on public policy issues regarding bioethics, but the amazing videos and images speak for themselves.

WARNING - Visiting this site will cause an hour to pass very quickly. You will be entranced by the beauty of the 4D video. You will gain a better appreciation for the use of science at the defense of life. You will be pleasantly surprised by the life-friendly language. A pre-born baby is referred to as a "developing human," we are invited to "study the wonders of early human development," and perhaps the best place to start may be with the 44 second "Morph" video at the top right of
this page.

Cloche Tip: Erin Manning

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Celebrating Sunday

"Abbess Catherine did not answer that; instead, "What else did our Lord show us, Sister?" she asked, "in this Paschal time?" I expect, like you, after all the suffering, betrayal, desertion, intolerable disappointment, and being hurt, he would have liked to take refuge with his Father, but he stayed on earth, and what did he do? He didn't try to teach us things- that was left to the Holy Spirit. He did simple, ordinary things: loving things, Sister, like consoling Mary Magdalene, walking and talking with the disciples, breaking bread with them, cooking their breakfast."
[Rumer Godden, In this House of Brede]

Stuffed Peppers

6 bell peppers, top removed and discarded; seeded

6 1" cheese cubes

2 cups rice, cooked
1 8 oz can tomato sauce
8 oz ground beef, browned with onions (or any other precooked meat)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 t each dried oregano and parsley
dash worchestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste

Place a cheese cube in each pepper. Mix filling together and distribute equally among peppers. Put peppers, cut side up, into slow cooker and cook on low 4-5 hours, or until peppers reach desired tenderness. Like anything, this recipe cooks quicker in an oval pot than a round.

About Celebrating Sunday

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Nuns Go Places Where Few Dare to Go

Have any of our dear readers seen the Women and Spirit exhibition yet?

Nuns Go Places Where Few Dare to Go
by Father Eugene Hemrick
written for The Tablet

Inspiring and admirable best describe the exhibit “Women and Spirit: Catholic Sisters in America” at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington. A more awesome collage of the work, devotion and enormous impact women religious have had on our church and nation cannot be found!

I was amazed to learn that four Holy Cross sisters were among the U.S. Navy’s first nurses. During the Battle of Shiloh in 1862, there were more than 20,000 casualties. Sister Anthony O'Connell of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati lobbied and won to have nuns nurse the wounded. For her efforts, she was dubbed “the angel of the battlefield.”

The monument “Nuns of the Battlefield,” which is situated across the street from St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington, commemorates 600 nuns who were nurses during the Civil War. Stories of nuns fighting poverty, racism and illiteracy in squalid conditions dominate the exhibit. We are reminded that they not only served the downtrodden but marched side by side with them for equality and rights.

We seldom think of nuns as lawyers lobbying Congress, but there they are in the exhibit, doing just that.

The history of nuns who braved the rigors of travel and difficult living situations to teach and evangelize fills the exhibit. St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, also known as Mother Cabrini, foundress of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, came from Italy and founded hospitals, schools and orphanages throughout this country.

Mother Joseph of the Sisters of Providence, who was born in Canada, ended up in the state of Washington. Not only did she establish the same kind of institutions as Mother Cabrini, being a carpenter she built them with her own hands!

What particularly touched me was the promotion one religious order used to attract other members:
“We offer you no salary, no recompense, no holidays, no pensions. But much hard work, a poor dwelling, few consolations, many disappointments, frequent sickness, a violent or lonely death, an unknown grave.”

It was a call for complete commitment!

A video presentation shows one nun saying that suffering has the power to make us one with humanity.

As I exited the exhibit, I felt a deep sense of pride in the spirit of our nuns, which affirmed my belief that nuns are not only praying communities, but also down-to-earth, devoted women who bring God to places where few dare to venture.

Image Source:
Sr. Dolores Bundy (pictured) listens intently at a 1970’s religious vocation conference, showing support for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s nonviolent movement for change. (Photo courtesy of the Oblate Sisters of Providence.)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Changing the face of your parish

Every baptized person has a mandate from Jesus to proclaim the love of God, but this requires prayer and friendship with the Holy Spirit, according to a priest who directs a program for parish evangelization. Don Pigi Perini, parish priest at St. Eustorgio in Milan, is the president of the international organization dedicated to parish evangelization [teams]....Father Perini is convinced that "when a priest really mobilizes himself, the faithful gladly follow him." ZENIT spoke with Father Perini about the upcoming seminar and how this evangelization method works. Here are excerpts from the interview.

ZENIT: What is the upcoming seminar about?

Father Perini:
...Oikos evangelization consists in evangelizing those whom a person usually meets in his daily life: relatives, friends, coworkers, leisure colleagues, neighbors: They are the recipients of the proclamation of the love of God. This is why we can say that all are called to proclaim Jesus, not only consecrated, priests or missionaries, but all, animated by the strength of their baptism, they have received the great mandate of Jesus, to proclaim the love of God.

... Evangelization is first of all a commitment to prayer: that is why, in our community of St. Eustorgio, and I would say in almost all the communities in which the are present, there is Eucharistic adoration...The lay faithful must be educated, and perhaps also priests, to have close ties with the Holy Spirit, opening themselves to his action, at once discreet and powerful.

The cells of evangelization are geared to revitalizing the parish, which will then discover its true identity and foster the missionary vocation in all believers as Paul VI suggests in No. 14 of "Evangelii Nuntiandi": "Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize."...

Acknowledging this charge, the laity will be the ferment that will transform the face of the parish. But all this will not be possible if the priest, in turn, does not open himself definitively and firmly to what gives singularity to his priestly service, to what gives profound unity to the thousands of occupations to which he is called in the course of his life: to proclaim the Gospel of God and to form lay evangelizers. It is by being transformed into a living and evangelizing parish, that the parish's face will change.

ZENIT: In which countries do you find most followers of this different way of living parish life?

Father Perini: In France, Belgium, Ireland, Italy, Brazil, Venezuela, in the countries of Eastern Europe, etc. In a word, wherever the parish tends to fall asleep, the cells can represent an occasion to renew the priests and the lay faithful. Through perpetual adoration, the motivation of the pastor and this effort of evangelization, the exercise of evangelization by the members of the cell and the leader, the cells can produce this desired awakening that leads the parish to stop recognizing itself in the sleeping giant of which Cardinal Hume speaks.


ZENIT: In this seminar, will there be a day dedicated to the "priest of the new evangelization, I imagine in relation with the Year for Priests proclaimed by Benedict XVI. Please explain the importance of this day.

Father Perini: Indeed, during this 21st seminar, which will take place from May 26-30, the 27th will be dedicated to priests. This day owes its importance to the fact that the new evangelization will only be attained if, sustained by the Holy Spirit, it sees pastors commit themselves in the front line. It is a need that affects the whole world.

[Zenit article]

Belated pictures of Easter Handiwork

The lamb cake made his usual appearance!

The purple, pink, and yellow eggs were hot dyed with natural ingredients (red cabbage, beet juice, and onion skins, respectively). I boiled the cabbage leaves and onion skins with 1/4 cup vinegar for about half an hour before I added the eggs; the beet juice was drained from a can of beets. After cooking the eggs, I drained them and put them in the freezer for 10 minutes so their yolks would not turn green (I didn't want to undo all my hard work with the traditional ice water bath).

The red eggs were cold dyed, a great way to get intense color without a lot of food coloring. I added a little red food coloring to the cooled onion peel liquid and kept the hard-boiled eggs it for 2 days.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Spring Scarves

Long have I admired silk scarves and the women who wear them. My mother owns quite a collection that I always secretly admired as a little girl.

Today I own a couple scarves of my own, but always feel rather silly when I try to wear them - something like Lady when Jim Dear gave her to Darling for Christmas: a silly puppy with a bow bigger than my head.

Any fashion-savy lady will agree scarves are the perfect way to add color, pizazz, and style to an outfit. They are perfect for spring - a little bright color to match the excitement of the season, but also just a little warmth against the still-nippy air. Furthermore, scarves can be a delightful way to remedy the ever-so-slightly-immodest neckline of your favorite blouse.

Then there's the the scarf for your hair, your bag, or perhaps around your waist. So many options!

So how do you look like Grace Kelly and not like an over wrapped Christmas present?

My mother passed along this wonderful video from the clothing retailer and purveyor of fine scarves, Talbots. The fashion consultant in video demonstrates the basics of scarf wearing. She sure makes it look like a cinch.

Take a look and consider adding some classic, colorful scarves to your outfits this Eastertide!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Celebrating Sunday: Easter Edition

On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.”
[Jn 20, 1-2]

Not being much of a ham fan, I made this light pork entree for Easter dinner. It can cook while you are at church.

Lucy's Easter Pork
NB: 2 lbs untrimmed pork roast makes 4 servings

For every 2 lbs of pork roast
salt and pepper
1 T butter
1/2 cup diced spring onions
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup Marsala wine
1 bay leaf
1 cup frozen peas
1 T cornstarch dissolved in water
1 t fresh rosemary, thinly sliced

Trim excess fat from pork. Slice the pork thinly into strips 1" wide by 3" wide. Season with salt and pepper. Grease bottom of slow cooker with butter. Toss pork with onions; pour stock and marsala over meat. The pork should be partially but not completely submerged in liquid. Add more stock only if necessary. Insert bay leaf. Cook on low 2-3 hours for every 2 pounds of pork.

Switch to high setting. Add peas. Stir well and cook until peas are heated through. Add cornstarch, stirring well. Fold in rosemary. Cook until reaches desired thickness.

Friday, April 2, 2010

40 Meatless Meals: Hot Cross Buns & Lentil Salad

Way of the Cross

For today's prayer, the Church Ladies suggest these meditations from
Good Friday, 2003 by Pope John Paul II.

Image Credit: Crucifixion by Vecellio Tiziano

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April Calendar Desktops

Here are the April Calendar Desktops for your enjoyment. We hope your Spring is shaping up as nicely as the picture, and that you have a very blessed Holy Week and Easter!

40 Meatless Meals: Ligurian Pasta

Some Germanic countries have a tradition of green meals on Holy Thursday, reflecting the green vestments the priests originally wore on this day. Here's a modern take on that custom.

For every 4 people:

6 oz spaghetti (Bonus points if it's green!)

10 oz potatoes, peeled and diced
2 cups thin green beans (topped and tailed, if fresh)

1 cup of pesto sauce
Extra cheese and pine nuts to serve, if desired.

Bring two pots of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook the spaghetti in one pot and the potatoes in the other. Add the green beans to the potato pot when the potatoes are al dente. Drain both pots, and combine contents. Toss with remaining ingredients.

On Today's List ...


The Holy Father's Prayer Intentions for April

General Intention: Fundamentalism and Extremism
That every tendency to fundamentalism and extremism may be countered by constant respect, by tolerance and by dialogue among all believers.
Missionary Intention: Persecuted Christians
That Christians persecuted for the sake of the Gospel may persevere, sustained by the Holy Spirit, in faithfully witnessing to the love of God for the entire human race.

O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
I offer You all my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day
for all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart,
in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
throughout the world,
in reparation for my sins,
for the intentions of all our associates,
and in particular for the intentions
of the Holy Father for this month.