Monday, May 31, 2010

Lest we forget

Blow out, you bugles, over the rich Dead!
There's none of these so lonely and poor of old,
But, dying, has made us rarer gifts than gold.
These laid the world away; poured out the red
Sweet wine of youth; gave up the years to be
Of work and joy, and that unhoped serene,
That men call age; and those who would have been,
Their sons, they gave, their immortality.

Blow, bugles, blow! They brought us, for our dearth,
Holiness, lacked so long, and Love, and Pain.
Honour has come back, as a king, to earth,
And paid his subjects with a royal wage;
And Nobleness walks in our ways again;
And we have come into our heritage.

Rupert Brooke

Image source

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Talking Sewing Machines

Margaret Mary, Therese, and I had recently discussed the topic of what to look for in a basic sewing machine; a Ravelry group (log in required) is also exploring the topic.

Margaret Mary is the most experienced seamstress of all of us Church Ladies. Below follows her advice, which I am sharing in her (extremely busy) stead.

I've owned 2 machines; a Singer I bought in college (fairly basic, steel body, a few decorative stitches, all mechanical - no computerized features, automatic buttonhole attachment), and a Viking/Husqvarna I got about 15 years ago (more decorative stitches and auto buttonholes, computerized features, I can get tons of add-ons and bought a foot that does quilting through multiple layers).

I've sewn miles of fabric, literally, and would feel perfectly comfortable with a machine that had only the following features:
  • Stitches - straight stitch (obviously), zig-zag, and running zig-zag for knits. Everything else is extra. I use my decorative stitches on little girl dresses, etc. But none of them are on the essentials list.
  • Buttonholes - The most basic machines have buttonhole features that will make the stitches but not stop automatically at a certain length. This is workable, but not nearly as convenient as a machine that will automatically make ten identical 16 centimeter buttonholes on the front of your blouse. If there's a choice, go with something that does buttonholes automatically.
  • Construction - It is almost impossible to find a metal sewing machine anymore. This was a big surprise to me when I was shopping, but C' est la Vie. I used to like using my magnetic seam gauge and pincushion stuck on the machine, but I'm not so old that I can't adapt.
  • Computerized - again, not essential, but easy to use. When my old, mechanical one was not working quite right, my husband or I could take it apart to various degrees and make it better. That's not as possible with the new one.
  • Case - get a case for storage unless you have a dedicated table for the thing or never plan to use it away from home. It's likely the case will not be included in the price of your machine.
  • Find out where you can have it serviced. You'll want it to be someplace local and fairly convenient. Repairs on any model are outrageously priced, so look into a warranty of some kind, but don't overpay for one. Really, unless you get a lemon, machines need few repairs. I had to replace a presser foot on my Singer and the arm that lifts my Viking broke once. Those are the only repairs I've ever had in a lot of years, but the prices are ridiculous.
What about you? What do you like about your machine? Do you have a great story about how you acquired it?
Image source

Monday, May 24, 2010

Hint of the Day: Strawberries

Yes, my egg slicer actually does look like this....

If you work gently, you can use an egg slicer for large batches of perfectly sliced strawberries.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Celebrating Sunday: Pentecost

Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had everything in common.
[Acts 4, 32]

Today is the birthday of the Church!

Serving an entree that flew is a Pentecost tradition from medieval times. Depending on how many are at your table, a chicken, turkey breast, or Cornish hen would be a nice modern day substitute for the original dove or pigeon. For bonus points, decorate the table with red rose petals to symbolize the tongues of fire.

My favorite way to roast chicken is more work that the usual spirit of the Celebrating Sunday series, but it is very good... a Julia Child meets Nigella Lawson affair. I brine the chicken overnight in salt water with a sliced lemon. Before I cook it, I drain it and pat it dry. I heat some butter and oil in the roasting pan, and brown it on each side- more work, but it yields a beautiful color and crispy skin. With the bird breast side up, I scatter sliced potatoes, quartered onions, and whole, peeled garlic cloves around it and place a lemon quarter in the cavity. I bake it at 350 for 20-25 minutes per pound, or until the bird clocks 165 (if not for anyone pregnant or immuno-compromised) and 180 if serving the former. When the chicken is done, I mix a drained can of artichokes and some fresh tarragon in with the potatoes and onions, and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with fresh bread and a green salad.

If you didn't hear the Pentecost Sequence at Mass this morning, enjoy the one featured below.

About Celebrating Sunday

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Bounty List

I was intrigued by this conversation (login required) from a while back on the Ravelry forums, in which people were asked to post items for which they always purchased name brands. The Bounty List, so called because of the original posters preferred paper towels, ended up as ten pages of posters favorite products. For myself, high up on the list would be:
  • Hellman's Mayonnaise
  • Jacob's Cream Crackers (when I can get them)
  • Thomas English Muffins
  • Burt's Bees Chapstick
  • King Arthur Flour (for breads)
  • Method French Lavender Surface Cleaner
So, what are some of your favorite "accept no substitutes" products?

*Disclaimer: We are not being compensated, no affiliation, you know the drill....

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Hint of the Day

It's easy enough to drop down to fix a stitch that's knit instead of purled. And this technique is great for fixing cables that are crossed the wrong way, but when you have to drop down more than a few rows, and with a six or eight stitch cable, how do you make sure you pick up all the ladders in the right order?

Reach in your medicine cabinet for your comb. The wider the teeth, the better. Start unraveling the cable stitches one row at a time, placing the big loop on to the comb teeth, starting from the outside in. Voila! All your ladders are in order and not tangled. Now cross your cable in the right direction, and insert the first (and smallest) ladder into the stitches. Then pick up all the stitches as you would an individual using a crochet hook and the remaining ladders/loops.

This just in from Ravelry: another use for your slow cooker.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Celebrating Sunday: Feast of the Ascension

As therefore at the Easter commemoration, the Lord's Resurrection was the cause of our rejoicing; so the subject of our present gladness is His Ascension, as we commemorate and duly venerate that day on which the Nature of our humility in Christ was raised above all the host of heaven, over all the ranks of angels, beyond the height of all powers, to sit with God the Father. [St Leo the Great, Sermon 74, para. 1]

40 Clove Garlic Chicken

About Celebrating Sunday

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Ordination Sweaters

Ordination season is upon us. And while there are many options (see our "Gifts for Priests" posts), I'm currently exercising a preferential option for knitting sweaters.

I'm hard at work on the Twisted Pine Pullover for Deacon Pat, who will be Father Pat in a few short weeks. I had expected to fly through this sweater- after knitting a DK Aran sweater for my husband for Christmas, I thought a simple cabled worsted/bulky weight would be done in no time. The main thing that's slowing me down? The dark yarn.

Will I finish in time? I hope so! But as I knit to the finish line... er neckband, I have a few do's and don'ts to share.

1. Pick a pattern commensurate with your skill level and the time you have available.
Here are a list of some nice patterns that are free or available from your public library:
85-6 Pullover (a Tree of Life-esque motif)
Cobblestone Pullover
January Aran Sweater (EZ)
#17 Man's Cable Sweater

Also, substituting a simple knit and purl pattern can make a stockinette pattern look more elegant. Just make sure you get the same gauge.

2. Knit the front first. Push comes to shove, you can knit the back and sleeves in stockinette.

3. Consider a vest instead, especially if it's for a warm climate. Vests have less positive ease than a sweater, so it will knit up faster.

4. Pick a washing machine friendly yarn. Sensitive to wool, Berroco Comfort has been my go to yarn. I quote Therese, "This is acrylic?" The heather line is especially nice.

5. Use needles that contrast with the yarn for maximum visibility.

1. Knit in black, navy, dark green, etc unless you have a lot of sunny daylight knitting time. Burgundy, slate blue, oatmeal, and gray are all nice masculine colors that are much easier on the eyes and brain.

2. Start too late. It's better for a project to be gift wrapped in the closet for months than to be weaving in ends on the way to the cathedral.

3. Make it too hard on yourself. If you have a group of Church Ladies that knits similarly enough, farm out the pieces. Just make sure the yarn is all in the same dye-lot and matching parts are blocked to the same size.

Do you have any other tricks of the trade or patterns to share?

Image source

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Ascension Thursday

"Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven?"
[Acts 1, 11]

Image: Guariento d'Arpa, "Ascension of Christ," 1344

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Celebrating Sunday

One warm Sunday evening in the moon of goldenrod, we all, grown-ups and children, were sitting in the orchard beside the old Pulpit Stone, singing sweet old gospel hymns...That evening, after they tired of singing, our grown-ups began talking of their youthful days and doings...There was a little space of silence, then Uncle Alec began in a low, impressive voice, to repeat the words of the ninetieth psalm-verses which were thenceforth bound up for us with the beauty of that night and the memories of our kindred. Very reverently we listened to the majestic words. [L.M. Montgomery, The Story Girl]

Orange Apricot pork chops

About Celebrating Sunday

And the greatest of these is love

A heart-warming story from the New York Times:
"Open Adoption: Not So Simple Math"

In the months before I gave birth, when my boyfriend and I were just getting to know the couple we had chosen, I was able to comprehend the coming exchange only on the most theoretical of levels, but it seemed like gentle math: Girl with child she can’t keep plus woman who wants but can’t have child; balance the equation, and both parties become whole again.

During those months, my son’s mother, Holly, observed that birth mothers have to accomplish in one day the monumental task of letting go that most parents have 18 years to figure out. Days after his birth, when I struggled with letting go, Holly sat with me and cried — for the children she never got to have, for the fact the adoption would bring her joy while causing me pain, and out of fear that she had already grown to love a child I might not give her.

I signed the papers on a hot August day in 2000, sitting at a large conference table with my sister, my son’s adoptive parents and agents from Catholic Social Services. I’d sat there several times before but hadn’t yet been able to say the words to relinquish all rights to my son. Each time I was left alone to think and, hours later, was sent home with him.

My pen rested at the intersection of two vastly different futures, and I struggled to see into the distance of each. It did not seem that a gesture as small as scribbling my name had the power to set me down one path while turning the other, its entire landscape, to dust. It was such a small gesture, but it was the first sketch of my life without a son.

The comfort is seeing my son with his family, whom I can no longer imagine him or myself without. He is an earnest child who seems to kick hard to keep his chin above water in the world, but his mother has a certain lack of sympathy that is good for him. When he wants to retreat into his own head, she pulls him back into the refuge of his family and makes him smile. I am ever astounded that I was able to see in her something that would still feel so right so many years later. [full story]

Thursday, May 6, 2010

There are some things that only women understand. Take a minute and go sympathize with Seraphic on her recent losses.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Everyone should see Babies; or so says Steven Greydanus from

Even people who have cats instead of children should see Babies. There are a number of cats in this movie, and some feline moments that must be seen to be believed, especially for cat lovers.

Directed by documentary filmmaker Thomas Balmès, who lives in Paris with his wife and three children, Babies is pro-life in the best possible sense: It is a celebration of new life, of love, of family, of the wonder of the world.

Babies takes us to four corners of the world — from darkest San Francisco to the desert steppes of Mongolia, where nomadic shepherds dwell in yurts; from Tokyo, Japan to the desert of Namibia where stone-age life goes on — into four households welcoming four babies with love and joy.

This reflects a creative choice by the director: All babies are like these babies, but not all families are like these families. Not every child is loved, but every child needs and deserves love. “Happy families are all alike,” wrote Tolstoy in Anna Karenina; “each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” How alike are the four households in this movie? About as different as happy families can be.

Babies is rated PG for “cultural and maternal nudity throughout.” In other words, it is about families made up of people who have bodies. If your children have bodies, and are aware that other people do too, I see no real reason they can’t see this movie.

When 101 Dalmatians came out, everybody wanted a Dalmatian. AfterFinding Nemo, families headed to the pet shop in search of clown fish. Here is a movie that will leave viewers with babies on the brain. Babiesopens on Mother’s Day weekend. I predict new arrivals starting around February 2011.

Read the whole review at his site, and maybe take your mom to see it sometime next week.
And in case you haven't seen it yet, here is the trailer.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A peaceful break in your day...

This is too nice not to share. And if you can recommend a convent like this where she can spend a couple peaceful days, Cat would appreciate the tip.

Vintage Needlework Videos

I thought our viewers might enjoy these two 1930's short subjects, both involving ladies and their needlework.

The first is an instructional video on tunisian crochet (can you imagine running across something like that in the theatre today?), and the second features a stage actress, Miss Whybrew, and the copious amounts of knitting she does off- (and on-!) stage.

Monday, May 3, 2010

I keep forgetting to invite you!

If you are in Minnesota over Memorial Day weekend, please join us at the 12th annual Minnesota Catholic Home Education Conference and Curriculum Fair. Our keynote speaker is the ever-popular Dr. Ray Guarendi and we're featuring several other fun, inspirational, and informative speakers. You can learn more about some of them from their online presence, (Father Sam Medley, Maureen Wittmann, Margaret Berns, Cathie Baier, and Ana Braga-Henebry), or check out the Conference speaker page for everyone's bios.

In addition, we have over 100 tables of vendors selling new books, used books, fun things to make your school more entertaining, useful services, Catholic colleges, and the list goes on!

You can register through May 9th at the low pre-registration price (and there's no additional charge for registering online) but registrations will also be taken at the door during the event. It's a great weekend with a Catholic theme and we hope to see you there!

Tea Party Follow Up

I hated to let this get lost in the comments box, so will reply with more detail to Jemajo's questions about our Tea here:

Is there any chance that you have a link/notes/etc., to the agenda you had for these days, both for the girls and the boys? The topics discussed, any literature that you referred to, etc.? I would love to start this already this year. Such a "programme" (for want of a better word) would be a far better approach than that which is served up in the public schools. I also think that it is far more beneficial and appropriate to have sons and their fathers in one setting, while the daughters and mothers are in another. Excellent idea!!

Mother/Daughter Tea Schedule:
  • 2:00 - Arrival (photos are taken as guests arrive)
  • 2:15 - Praise and worship begins (We use our main church area)
  • 2:30 - Welcome and opening prayer by the day’s emcee
  • 2:40 - It’s Great to be a Girl (Given by a young woman, this talk covers the many ways in which God makes girls unique from boys, that he knew us each before we were born and created us to be girls.)
  • 2:55 - Music (As a short transition between speakers, we use this time to have someone sing a special song. Fingerprints of God by Steven Curtis Chapman works well.)
  • 3:05 - All in God’s Plan (This talk is given by a female doctor or other medical professional who is known to be a solid Catholic and will give advice from the perspective of the Church’s teaching. It covers the importance of exercise, good nutrition, and getting enough rest. She’ll also talk about basic body changes a girl can expect at the onset of puberty, and the unique blessings of being a girl.)
  • 3:30 - Everyone moves into our gathering area where the tea party is set up. They find their seat and get a glass of punch.
  • 3:40 - The History of Tea (A brief talk introducing the elements of a tea party and the foods being served today.)
  • 3:48 - Introductions (Guests are given instruction on how to make a proper introduction and practice by introducing themselves to the others at their table.
  • 3:50 - Prayer and Tea Party
  • 4:15 - When I Was Your Age (Given by a teen girl from the parish who is considered to be an excellent example for others. This talk covers the importance and practical tips for modest dress, choosing friends wisely, improving your faith life, and developing a good relationship with your mom.)
  • 4:30 - Listening and Responding to God’s Call (Ideally given by a sister who wears a habit, this talk covers her testimony on how she heard God’s call to her vocation and what her life as a sister is like.)
  • 4:45 - Q & A. One of the overall goals of the day is to protect the innocence of the most innocent girl in attendance. To make sure that happens, none of the speakers ever takes direct questions from the audience, but several times during the day, beginning with the Welcome, guests are invited to write questions and place them in the Question Box for the end of the Tea. In addition to answering questions of general interest, there are a few pre-arranged questions that we put in the box every year (What do I do if I get my period while I’m at school? How do I tell my mom that I think I need a bra? Where can I find modest clothing?), and we simply “run out of time” before any inappropriate questions can be answered. Girls are reminded that if their question wasn’t answered, they can always talk to their mom.
  • 4:55 Acknowledgements and Closing Prayer
There are a few other ways we protect the innocence of our young guests:
  1. All parents are required to come to the Parent Night I described here. It’s there that parents are given the opportunity to ask specific questions about what will be covered at the Tea and Barbecue events so they can make an informed decision about whether or not their children are developmentally ready to hear it.
  2. We have a Trial Run with all the speakers a week or two before the events. Speakers present their talk to the event coordinator(s) and are given feedback to make sure topics are covered in a sensitive way.
  3. We have a number of teen girls who volunteer to serve for the Tea. All are given clear guidelines for modest dress and reminded that they are role models for all the guests.
The boys' event should have the same four core talks (It's Great to be a Boy, All in God's Plan, When I Was Your Age, and Listening and Responding to God’s Call), and questions are handled the same way. I think they play an active game at some point in the day, and their food is a lot more casual. They served pizza for years, but a more involved new coordinator arranged for a wild game theme last year and this year they had some pretty outstanding barbecue.

In the bigger picture, these events are Tier I of a three-tier plan that spans all ages from pre-puberty through high school. You can see the overall plan in this pamphlet and contact the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis for more details.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Celebrating Sunday

I give you a new commandment: love one another.
As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.

[Jn 13, 34]

With unseasonably warm weather in New England, and limited potable water in Boston, I'm not cooking since pots and dishes can't be washed easily. Grill out, and enjoy this parish potluck classic on the side.

Ramen Noodle Salad

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 T minced fresh ginger (Church Ladies LOVE ginger)

2 packages uncooked ramen noodles, broken (seasoning packet discarded)

20 oz finely sliced mixed vegetables, such as cabbage, scallions, carrots, and broccoli stems, or use prepackaged coleslaw or broccoli slaw

1/2 cup slivered almonds

Whisk dressing together until it forms an emulsion. Fold in noodles, then vegetables. Let chill, covered, at least six hours. Stir almonds right before serving.

About Celebrating Sunday

Lucy Learns to Sew: Project 3

None, really

XL Skirt ($4.50, Goodwill)
Small amount of navy batiste (sunk cost from another project)

Other Notions:

Zipper (re-used original)
Interfacing (.50)
Hook and Eye: (1 @ $1.29 a dozen)
Negligible amount of white and navy thread
Sash from summer dressing gown (free)

Total Cost: $5.13
Time: About 2 hours
New Sewing Techniques: adaptive reuse

I found a brand new Coldwater Creek skirt at the thrift store awhile ago. It was made from an excellent quality fabric, but was too wide at the waist and too long.

I originally planned to turn this skirt into a tiered skirt, but after I trimmed off the beads and cut the skirt yoke pieces, I realized there was more fabric than I needed for a skirt and a lot of nicely finished seams. As an architect, I have long been intrigued by adaptive reuse. I saw the potential for a maxi dress- perfect for summer road trips and barbecues.

I turned the yoke upside down (the hips now became the bust). I cut out about 1/4 of the remaining fabric divided evenly over one seam, then gathered the remainder gently. I liked the current hem length, but needed a few extra inches at the top, so I raided the scrap bag for some navy fabric, echoing the skirt's original waistband. I folded it double and reinforced it with interfacing in between the fabric layers. I attached the band to the bodice and the assembly to the skirt, and worked in a few back darts. I sewed the new side seam, replaced the zipper, then made straps from the surplus skirt fabric. A few sash loops, a hook and eye, and this project was ready to go!

If you are starting without a pattern, this helpful tutorial demonstrates how to turn an ill-fitting skirt into a dress; the book New to Old is also full of adaptive reuse ideas with minimal sewing- always key in my book!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Holy Father's Prayer Intentions for May

General Intention: Human Trafficking
That the shameful and monstrous commerce in human beings, which sadly involves millions of women and children, may be ended.
Missionary Intention: Priests, Religious and Committed Lay People
That ordained ministers, religious women and men, and lay people involved in apostolic work may understand how to infuse missionary enthusiasm into the communities entrusted to their care.
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.