Monday, November 30, 2015

Christmas Novena

Hail and blessed be the hour and moment
In which the Son of God was born
Of the most pure Virgin Mary,
at midnight,
in Bethlehem,
in the piercing cold.
In that hour vouchsafe, O my God,
to hear my prayer and grant my desires,
[here mention your request]
through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ,
and of His blessed Mother. Amen. 

To be recited 15 times a day between St Andrew's Day (November 30) and Christmas.

Image Source: Antoniazzo Romano, Nativity with Sts Andrew and Lawrence

Saturday, November 28, 2015

2016 Patron Saints

Happy New Liturgical Year!  As has been our custom, the Church Ladies have compiled a list of patron saints for 2016, based on the Holy Father's Jubilee Year for Mercy.  You'll see some well known saints, but also saints from around the world and across history.  To use with your family or church group, simply print the image above and cut into slips for selection.  We wish you the best for the upcoming year, and regret that due to other obligations on our time, we can no longer draw saints for individuals.

On the first of January a new calendar year begins. On the first Sunday of Advent the new year of the Church begins. Therefore, the Saturday preceding the first Advent Sunday has something of the character of a New Year's Eve. One of the old customs is to choose a patron saint for the new year of the Church... We always choose them according to a special theme. One year, for instance, we had all the different Church Fathers; another year we chose only martyrs; then again, only saints of the new world....During the war we chose one saint of every country at war. 
After our first gathering around the Advent light, and the singing of the first Advent hymn, an air of expectancy spreads over the family group; now comes the moment when the mother goes around with a bowl in which are the little cards with the names of the new saints. Everybody draws a card... This saint will be invoked every morning after morning prayer. Everyone is supposed to look up and study the life story of his new friend, and some time during the coming year he will tell the family all about it...But the custom has become very dear to us, and every year it seems as if the family circle were enlarged by all those new brothers and sisters entering in and becoming known and loved by all.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Frugal Gift: Repurposed Apron plus Thrift Store cookbook

Four weeks til Christmas. 

Good cookbooks are hard to come by at my thrift store. At thirty cents a pop, they get snapped up very quickly, so I keep my eyes open year round. I do have better luck with magazines- hardly a week goes by without a few ten cent treasures making their way home with me.

From a skirt with a pretty embroidered hem ($1), a coordinating half yard print (25 cents), and a few yards of ribbon (25 cents)  I was able to make two aprons. I separated the skirt into two halves and top stitched the side seams. I added a panel for the top and used the ribbon for the neck and arm sashes. Paired with a cookbook or a few magazines, this pretty pair will make cooking dinner a pleasure.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thinking ahead for your turkey leftovers

I don't know about you, but I love to spend Thanksgiving weekend curled up in front of the fire, playing board games or watching movies with my extended family. Here are a few favorite turkey based recipes for when you want a change from straight up leftovers. Most call for pantry staples, but I plan to pick up the more unusual ingredients for these meals along with my Thanksgiving groceries.

Turkey Soup (our archives)
Turn your leftover turkey bones into soup!

Slow Cooker White Turkey Chili (Williams-Sonoma)
What could be easier than a slow cooker full of chili simmering away while you enjoy time with your family and friends? I simplify this recipe by soaking dried beans overnight, and giving them a head start cooking in homemade turkey broth (3 hours on low) before adding the remaining ingredients.

Turkey Tetrazzini (The Satellite Sisters)
This comforting casserole with a homemade Marsala cream sauce has been a favorite at our house for over a decade. 

D'Amico and Sons Turkey with Dried Cherries Pasta
My kids' favorite lunch.

Turkey ala King (Food and Wine)
My husband's favorite dinner.

Pulled turkey
Cook leftover turkey (I think  dark meat holds up better) with a little water or broth in your slow cooker for a few hours until it shreds easily. You can use this meat as you would pulled pork- in tacos/enchiladas, mixed with bbq sauce for sandwiches, tossed in minestrone soup...

What is your favorite way to use up leftover turkey?

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Christ the King

And to him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed. (Daniel 7, 13)

Image Source
Mosaic, Cathedral of Cefalu, Italy

Friday, November 20, 2015

Frugal Gift: Chai mix (plus thrift store mug)

Five weeks till Christmas. What could be more warming on a cold winter's day than a cup of hot tea? And among tea, chai is the favorite at our house. A jar of chai mix plus a pretty thrift store mug or tea cup can add a moment of beauty to a busy day. NB: It is more economical to purchase the spices in bulk, either from bins or an Asian grocery store.

Put the following dry ingredients in a clean jar:
3 T loose tea or 3 Darjeeling tea bags, torn open and bags discarded
3 cardamom pods
3 whole cloves
1 whole nutmeg
1 cinnamon stick
1 T crystallized ginger (optional)
1 T sugar

Make the following label:
Bring 2 cups water and 1 cup milk to boil. Reduce heat and stir in jar contents.  Simmer for 15 minutes, then strain and serve.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Parish toy sale

Our parish school recently held its annual toy and book sale fundraiser. It was a banner year for books! I paid $12 for all these books, most of which are brand new (extras from a book fair). I can't wait to spend some cozy winter afternoons looking through these books with my little boys. This is really a nice event for the community- prices are quite nominal, and it's a great opportunity to trade-in books and toys your family has outgrown. Does your parish or school have an event like this?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A $9 pork shoulder, 6 ways from Sunday

It took me a long time to come around to the idea of a Sunday roast. My parents grew up without refrigeration, and as a result, even once we immigrated to the US, each meal was cooked daily with no concept of leftovers. My first "how-to" encounter with a Sunday roast was about 10 years ago in a Nigella cookbook, where the roast was accompanied by several labor intensive sides, leading me to conclude, "Sunday, the day of rest for everyone but Mom." While I appreciated the low effort of Sabbatarian baked beans, I wanted the Lord's Day to have a more special meal. Eventually, by cooking my way through Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, I was able to get pretty quick at getting a braise underway. I came to realize that no thirty minute meal had anything on the Sunday roast and its trickle down effect making the rest of the week easier.

Pork prices have been low lately, and I bought a couple 7 lb bone in pork shoulders in COV for about $9 apiece. I consider myself a pretty frugal cook who doesn't waste food, but even I was surprised how many meals the roast contributed to for my family of four this week. (NB: We were supposed to have company over on the "roast" night, but they cancelled due to illness, so there was more leftover meat than planned).

1. Roast
This slow cooked pork shoulder recipe is about as easy as it comes and you wouldn't believe meat cooked for 6 hours could be so pink and tender.  Add a side of crockpot mashed potatoes and a cabbage slaw, and you would be hard pressed to find an easier Sunday dinner.
2. Pulled pork
I mixed half the remaining meat with homemade barbecue sauce for pulled pork sandwiches.

3.Pork fried rice
I used the remaining meat to make fried rice.

4. Pork Skin
There was a crisp pork skin on the roast that I used to flavor braised green beans, a side for the pulled pork.

5. Bone simmered into a stock
I simmered the pork shoulder bone with other kitchen scraps to make a couple quarts of stock for soup.

6. Fat rendered out 
When preparing the glaze for the roast, I skimmed about 2/3 cup of fat into a jar and refrigerated it. Just a spoonful has added a lot of flavor to sautees and refried beans, and has been the base for gravy.

So, to recap, a $9 pork roast provided the meat for three dinners and flavored several other dishes. Not too shabby.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

St Elizabeth of Hungary

Elizabeth was a lifelong friend of the poor and gave herself entirely to relieving the hungry. She ordered that one of her castle should be converted into a hospital in which she gathered many of the weak and feeble. She generously gave alms to all who were in need, not only in that place but in all the territories of her husband’s empire. She spent all her own revenue from her husband’s four principalities, and finally she sold her luxurious possessions and rich clothes for the sake of the poor. (Conrad of Marburg, her confessor)

Image top: The Charity of St Elizabeth, Bartolomeo Schedoni, 1611
Image bottom: The Prayer Book of St Elizabeth of Hungary, 1220

Monday, November 16, 2015

ISO: Pirate book recommendations for an almost five year old

A neighbor passed on this wooden pirate ship her children had outgrown, which I am planning to give my older son (almost 5) for Christmas. I'd like to give him some pirate or nautical books to go along with the ship, but would love any recommendations. The Little Fisherman by Margaret Wise Brown and The Maggie B by Irene Haas are favorites at out house; I checked out the Little Tim adventures from the library, but found them a but past his comprehension level. What are some books in this vein that have been enjoyed by your family?

Image source: The Salvation of Peter, Santa Maria Novella, Florence

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Some Thanksgiving books we are enjoying

Living in an agricultural community, my kids (ages 4.5 and 20 months) are familiar with the harvest, but this year I introduced the history of Thanksgiving. Here are some books we have checked out from our public library and enjoyed:

Hardscrabble Harvest (Dahlov Ipcar)
Fittingly, I first came across Dahlov Ipcar's work in the first book she illustrated, Margaret Wise Brown's The Little Fisherman. I was drawn to the book because the illustrations reminded me of the wonderful vintage Sanseau curtains in their nursery. From sowing the seeds in spring to the Thanksgiving meal, the rhymes follows the course of a year on the farm.

N.C. Wyeth's Pilgrims (Robert San Souci)
Full disclosure: this book is mostly for my benefit. NC Wyeth's murals for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company are amazing, but this is definitely a book for older children.

The Thanksgiving Story (Alice Dagliesh)
With charming woodcut illustrations, this book tells the story of coming to America from the perspective of the Hopkins children, which really brought the Pilgrim experience to life in my son's mind.

Sharing the Bread (Pat Zietlow Miller)
A sweet rhyming book about a 19th century family preparing Thanksgiving dinner.

Cranberry Thanksgiving (Wende and Harry Devlin)
For many years, we lived in Boston, and especially in the fall I get nostalgic about that part of the world. The Cranberry series have been a fun way to share some of that culture with my oldest son, who was born there. He finds the escapades of Maggie and Mr Whiskers hilarious, and I appreciate the subtle nods to collective memory, such as the singing of "Praise God from whom all blessings flow" at the Thanksgiving table.

Friday, November 13, 2015

St Frances Cabrini

Although her constitution was very frail, her spirit was endowed with such singular strength that knowing the will of God in her regard she permitted nothing to impede her from accomplishing what seemed beyond the strength of one woman.

(Pius XII, Canonization of St Frances Cabrini)

Frugal Gift: Church Lady Grocery Store Games


Six weeks from today is the Nativity of Our Lord. In my family, we alternate Thanksgiving and Christmas between various sides of the family. To reduce mailing costs (and to give gifts that can't be mailed) we often exchange Christmas gifts at Thanksgiving, even if they aren't opened until the end of December.

Here's a frugal gift idea, mostly purchased from the grocery store. The total cost was under $15, and it's local, comestible, and won't clutter up your house. What's not to love? Inspired by a visit to a local BBQ eatery, I put together a sauce sampler for my brother who enjoys smoking meats. 

Does your town have a local shelf stable specialty? Salsa? Chocolates? Preserves? When I lived in Boston, Trappist Preserves were for sale in the regular grocery store at the same cost as national brands. Spend some time poking around the next time you are grocery shopping- you might find a great gift!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

St Martin of Tours

"Lord, if your people still need me, I am ready for the task; your will be done."
St Martin of Tours

Image source: Bernini "The Charity of St Martin"

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

St Leo the Great

Virtue is nothing without the trial of temptation, for there is no conflict without an enemy, no victory without strife.
Pope Saint Leo the Great

"Alessandro Algardi Meeting of Leo I and Attila 01" by Alessandro Algardi, (Italian, 1598–1654) - Image from Web Gallery of Art. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -