Thursday, January 21, 2016

St Agnes Day cake

Don't wait until Easter to break out your lamb pan! This white cake was so simple my husband (whose cooking expertise starts and ends with pancakes) whipped it up after work. The lamb shape pays tribute to the lambs blessed by the Pope whose wool will become bishop's palliums.

Today is the birthday of a virgin; let us imitate her purity. It is the birthday of a martyr; let us offer ourselves in sacrifice. It is the birthday of Saint Agnes, who is said to have suffered martyrdom at the age of twelve. There was little or no room in that small body for a wound. Yet she shows no fear of the blood-stained hands of her executioners. She offers her whole body to be put to the sword by fierce soldiers. She is too young to know of death, yet is ready to face it. Dragged against her will to the altars, she stretches out her hands to the Lord int he midst of the flames, making the triumphant sign of Christ the victor on the altars of sacrilege. She puts her neck and hands in iron chains, but no chain can hold fast her tiny limbs. In the midst of tears, she sheds no tears herself. She stood still, she prayed, she offered her neck. You could see fear in the eyes of the executioner, as if he were the one condemned. His right hand trembled, his face grew pale as he saw the girl’s peril, while she had no fear for herself. One victim, but a twin martyrdom, to modesty and religion; Agnes preserved her virginity and gained a martyr’s crown. (On Virgins, Saint Ambrose)

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Today at the thrift store

"If possible, do not be concerned about what you are given to wear at the change of seasons, whether each of you gets back what he had put away or something different, providing no one is denied what he needs." (Rule of St Augustine, Chapter V, Para 1

Our local thrift store is a wonderful example of this paragraph in the Rule of St Augustine. It is operated by our parish, and provides about 10 percent of the operating expenses for our parish school- no small feat given that it is located in one of the poorest counties in the state. Garage sales are not very typical in our area so I am glad to have our parish thrift store for clothing my growing family. Children's clothes in particular are priced low to help families. 

At the start of winter, I calculated that I spent $6 on my older son's winter wardrobe, including parka and snow pants. And as I gathered up the outgrown summer clothes, he asked me if I was taking them back to the parish thrift store for another boy to use (yes- after his younger brother has a turn with them). 

"She is not concerned for her household when it snows—
all her charges are doubly clothed." (Proverbs 31, 21)

From bringing up a baby on a grad school stipend in Boston to living on one income in a rural town, over the last several years I have had the opportunity to hone my thrift store shopping skills. Each week, I'll share what I have been able to find for my family at the parish thrift store to encourage frugality. 

Today, for $2.94, I bought
-a ladies J Crew dress ($2)
-a toddler polo (.25)
-child's Wrangler jeans (.25)
-current issues of Cooking Light and Food & Wine magazines (2@.10)

Breakfast of Champions

Weekends are awesome when you have a Pious Man to make waffles or pancakes. 

But then the week starts up. Cold, dark mornings. People who need breakfast so they can get started with their day. What's a Church Lady to do?

Last winter, I started making a big pot of steel cut oatmeal and reheating individual bowls over the course of the week. But between heating water for the French press, warming up four bowls of oatmeal, and the baby's milk, this simple breakfast was taking me almost twenty minutes to get on the table.

capitalized on my family's fondness for steel cut oatmeal and scaled down my mother in law's recipe for overnight slow cooker oatmeal to make just enough for one meal. The following quantity works great for my family of four, but using a ratio of one part steel cut oats to four cups liquid, you can adjust the quantity to your needs. I find that the slow cooked dried fruit adds sufficient sweetness. Cooking in a stoneware bowl inside the insert makes clean-up a snap and eliminates burning. Now I pop this into my slow cooker before bed and wake up to a hot breakfast every morning.

Overnight Oatmeal for Four
Oil or cooking spray
2/3 cup steel cut oats
2 cups water
1 cup coconut or evaporated milk (regular milk can curdle)
1/3 cup dried fruit in bite size pieces (flavor ideas below)
1 tsp vanilla or extract of choice
Pinch each of salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg

Grease bowl. Combine ingredients in bowl. Cook on low for 6 hours.

Favorite flavor combinations
Dried cherries plus almond extract
Dried apricots plus grated fresh ginger
Dried blueberries plus lemon zest or extract
Dried cranberries plus orange zest or extract
Dried pineapple or mango plus coconut extract
Grated fresh apple plus raisins
Plain, served with sliced fresh banana and peanut butter

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Baptism in the Jordan

"Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (Jn 1, 29)

Image source: Simon Bening, Beatty Rosary, c.1530

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Twelfth Day of Christmas: Building our own Epiphany traditions

Epiphany has long held a special place in my heart. A dear Belgian family friend would hold a glorious Epiphany tea every January 6.   In my married life, especially as my children get older, Epiphany has become the Christmas of our domestic church.

We are fortunate to have so much of our extended family living within a day's drive and celebrate from Christmas Eve thru New Year's Day with them. Although Epiphany Sunday was celebrated on January 3, my husband and I opted to hold our celebration on the 6th because we got back in town late Saturday night and were exhausted/not prepared/waiting for packages to arrive. 

Last night (January 5, the vigil), we held a procession through the house with censer, candles, and bells, chalking the exterior doors 20+C+M+B+16 on our route.

Most of the Christmas decorations save the Nativity set and the tree have gradually been making their way back to the attic. I found this great image of the Adoration of the Magi in an old calendar and taped on our front door (we do have a storm door, so it's holding up well).

Tonight's celebration will start with Lessons and Carols, assisted by a set of discarded Worship hymnals. I developed this order of service based on this template. Then we will exchange gifts within our nuclear family- three for each of something you want, something you need, and something to read.

I find inspiration for my Epiphany menu in that the Magi came from the East. Some years, we have ordered Chinese take-out, but this year I am trying out slow cooker biryani- an Indian rice pilaf. Friends from the neighborhood will be joining us. I'll round out the meal with a winter vegetable slaw, and cheater's Buche de Noel- a chocolate rehrucken cake with a plastic baby Jesus hidden inside, plus chai and any leftover Christmas chocolates.

Happy Epiphany, from our family to yours!

Image source: Juan Reixach, Adoration of the Magi, 1450-90
Image source: Pieter Brueghel the Younger, Twelfth Night, c.1619